Introducing "The Intersection": A Metamorphosis

Readers may have noticed that we've gotten a bit of a slow start to blogging in 2008. Sure, Sheril's been traveling and Chris has been, well...slacking, but we weren't actually being lazy. We've been plotting and scheming and setting an agenda for this blog in the new year and beyond! One that connects closely to the ScienceDebate2008 project, and we're finally ready to share our plans...


Introducing our new project called (gasp) "The Intersection." But it's a different beast than what you might expect. You see, when Chris originally created a blog with that name in 2003, he was referring specifically to the intersection between science and politics. But there's just so much more to understanding our world.

The new "Intersection" that we plan to cover here fosters many, many more collisions. Eighteen car pile-ups...that kind of thing. We're talking about the intersection between science and everything--politics, literature, the arts, music, law, business, culture... Life.

We think there's something wrong with science today because too often, it fundamentally fails to connect with the rest of American society. Science needs ambassadors, Intersection personalities, if you will, who combine science with something else--some other type of endeavor--making it much more broadly relevant. These individuals foster science that resonates across American society.

Just consider ScienceDebate2008--a fundamental "Intersection" endeavor--originally organized by a lawyer, a philosopher, a physicist, two screenwriters and, well, us.

American science ought to be systematically supporting Intersection personalities rather than just watching them sprout up spontaneously now and again. And now the direction of this blog in 2008 and beyond will be both to celebrate the "Intersection" and the people who occupy it. We'll continue covering politics and science, and we'll also be making the case for why we need more folks bridging gaps between worlds.

We also plan to launch an "Intersection" award--highlighting particularly innovative combinatorial personalities who combine science with something else. And we plan to blog constantly and make our argument publicly--beginning with our back to back presentations at the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference this coming Saturday.


So that's what we're up to. We're going to leave this post up top for a while, so we welcome your thoughts on this new blogagenda!

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Sorry, guys.

I like you both a lot, and I like your writing.

But I think the blog needs the focus on the intersection of science, technology, and politics. Throwing in some pop culture gives it pizazz, and literature, etc., gives it intellectual depth. But those are spices in the stew.

I'm afraid your recipe overdoes the condiments at the expense of the main dish.

My $0.02 (in whatever currency is weakest at the moment).

Marvelous. You're doing something real important. Most people spend their time staring at pieces without vision there's more to the full puzzle. You two look outward on a quest to understand deeper connections and find truth.

The two of you constantly keep your ideas fresh, innovative, and interesting. This all sounds great...

Hmmm. Have to see how you pull it off... The intersection of science and culture is interesting. Chris has waded into non-political areas before--academia, film, religion, etc. If I remember correctly, those are often areas where I disagree with Chris the most, but find his commentary the most interesting, too. Looking forward to it!

By Jon Winsor (not verified) on 15 Jan 2008 #permalink

In her last book, Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs warns: "If the rot of bad science continues to spread, to be tolerated, and even to be rewarded by corporations and centrally administered government grants, the heyday of scientific and technological achievement is inevitably drawing to its end in North America."

She talked of the separation between the science that we all give lip service to and a scientific state of mind that is increasingly absent in our society. I see two common pieces of evidence that she is correct. One is the increasing distrust of many when they hear of the latest medical breakthrough, study, new understanding that we learn two years later was not really true. This is underscored every time a product like Zetia identified as not doing what the "scientists" said it would and the distrust of science grows, perhaps a victim of too many talking heads giving too much advice.

The second piece of evidence is the fact that we, as voters, continue to express preferences of beliefs about the world. We choose to vote, and to act, based on beliefs that have little or no basis in any science. You don't have to get into the evolution vs. ID debate to see this. It is common in most areas from Global Warming to Immigration. People act on their beliefs and not expressly on what they would conclude if they ever tested the hypotheses that are supporting those beliefs.

I think that the task you have set for yourself is hugely difficult. As Dr Bortz commented , it may lose the ability to generate action just because its focus becomes diffused.

Does this mean that you will finally address what is going on with energy?

What do you think about inviting a guest poster?

Maybe Congressman Terry Backer or Congressman Roscoe Bartlett? Maybe geologists Kenneth Deffeyes or Jeffrey J. Brown? Maybe physicist David Goodstein? Maybe film-maker James (Jay) Wood? Maybe computer specialist and energy analyst Stuart Staniford? Maybe energy investment banker Matthew Simmons?

Let's see, that's two politicians, three scientists, one documentary writer/director, one energy banker, and one computer/energy analyst.

Maybe they need an ambassador that will help them to "resonate across America."

Just think, that could be you!

By Eric the Leaf (not verified) on 15 Jan 2008 #permalink

I'll second the calls for guest bloggers - or maybe a sub-blog where folks can submit longer pieces then just our comments (not that those can't be lengthy sometimes). And I am intrigued by your "new" definition of Intersection, especially the part about good science and . . .something. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Endangered Species Coalition had ESA experts up on Capitol Hill yesterday engaged in the "and Something" you hinted at. The scientists seemeed shocked - shocked I tell you - that they would have to comae all the way to the Capitol and explain the relevence of their science. Quoth Duke University's Stuart Pimm: "In the past, scientists have written their reports, said, 'This is what the science is,' and the policymakers made their decisions from it," he said. Now, he said, "decisions that come out of Fish and Wildlife ignore the science and fabricate evidence in the crudest, most unsophisticated way." One wonders if he's been over to the Nicholas Institute (shameless roomie plug inserted here) and talked to the DC office staff about framing his arguements before traveling.

You can read the rest of the Washington Post's coverage here:…

Horatio asks: "How about science-related poetry? -- goofy or otherwise."

I'm with you, H.

From the American Physical Society Centennial "Zero Gravity" Limerick Contest results at

First prize goes to Fred Bortz, physicist and author of numerous science and technology books for young readers, and a self-proclaimed "limerician at large." He offered the following as a replacement to any exam question asking for a description and explanation of the Anomalous Zeeman Effect:

The famed mathematiker Riemann
Shared manifold cocktails with Zeeman.
Their degenerate state
Split in six. (They saw eight.)
How anamolous can spectra be, Mon.

Advises Bortz: "It works best when read by a Leighton-type reader affecting a Carribbean accent, accompanied by a Feynman impersonator on bongos."

And if you click my name, you will find one of many limericks at my Science Shelf web site.

Bridging gaps is currently a salient topic in psychology due to an issue the field currently faces (fragmentation due to overspecialization), which according to Thomas Kuhn, characterizes the nature of scientific enterprises in their earliest stages. But mostly, I think its because psychology is likely the most information diverse discipline since it's difficult to identify an area in science or life that it isn't associated with. It's connected to the natural sciences in such subdisciplines as psychophysics, neuropsychiatry, and neuroscience; to the humanities (e.g., politics, literature, the arts, music, law, business, culture) primarily by the psychological reasearch and practitioners connected to these areas; and even to the environment in the subdiscipline of environmental psychology.

It's diverse enough that some have proposed unifying frameworks in an attempt to maintain the coherence of the discipline. One such prominent idea (fairly consistent with the current vision of this blog presented here) is the Tree of Knowledge System that was briefly discussed over at Mixing Memory.

By Tony Jeremiah (not verified) on 16 Jan 2008 #permalink