Geo016 - Exploration of Mars

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Geo016 / Exploration of Mars / (M) 3:00-5:20 / Lincoln Field 105 / Prof. James Head

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Marshall Agnew (02/11/04)

To me the most interesting points discussed in class on Monday focused on the question of why we bother to explore and the role fiction plays in scientific discovery. I think everything we talked about could be related back to the idea that fiction has always played a major role in the scientific process even though science and fiction seem to be opposite ideas.

I like the concept that fiction writers often are the first to have the important creative ideas behind a lot of scientific discoveries. I also think the idea that scientists need storytellers to create a public enthusiasm about their research is an interesting concept. I think its good to realize that science needs the humanities as much as the humanities need science.

I also thought that the discussion comparing Carl Sagan to Percival Lowell was poignant. I think a lot of people look back at Lowell too critically and say that he was intentionally exaggerating his findings. I think its important to have some perspective on the ideas of each respective stage in history and realize that much of what we know now will be very different in no time at all. Humans have a tendency to feel superior to the people of the past and be over critical of past mistakes, not realizing that many of the failures of past knowledge are just as important as successes. Its important to realize that people like Lowell and Sagan do as much or more for science as scientist who take a safe view of everything in order not to be judged too harshly.

I liked having Professor Putnam come to class. It was neat to hear from someone who had been so involved in the field, and I think it is always good to get a humanities perspective in science.

 

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