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The Unreasonable Success of Science: How Ignorance, Failure, Uncertainty and Doubt Fuel Scientific Progress


for Members

The Unreasonable Success of Science: How Ignorance, Failure, Uncertainty and Doubt Fuel Scientific Progress

Monday, November 3, 2014

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Lyceum Society


The Lyceum Society comprises the Academy's retired and semi-retired members.
Talks cover various scientific fields. All Academy members are welcome.

All Lyceum meetings (except December) are Brown Bag lunches.

Brown Bag: 11:30 AM
Brief-Brief: 12:50 PM
Lecture & Discussion: 1:15–3:00 PM

Brief-Brief Presentation:
Speaker: Joel Kirman

Main Presentation:
Speaker: Stuart Firestein
The Unreasonable Success of Science: How Ignorance, Failure, Uncertainty and Doubt Fuel Scientific Progress

Speaker Bios

Stuart Firestein

Dr. Firestein received his BS degree (Biology) from San Francisco State University, and his PhD degree from UC-Berkeley. He is the Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, where his laboratory is researching the vertebrate olfactory receptor neuron. He has published articles in Wired Magazine, Huffington Post, and Scientific American, is a fellow of the AAAS and an adviser to the Alfred P. Sloan program for the Public Understanding of Science. Firestein's writing often advocates for better science writing. In 2012 he released the book Ignorance: How it Drives Science. In that book, Firestein argues that science is driven by what we don’t know and that value of facts and knowledge is to provide ever better ignorance, i.e., questions. When asked why he wrote the book, Firestein replied, "I came to the realization at some point several years ago that... students... must actually think we know all there is to know about neuroscience... That’s not what we think in the lab. So I thought, well, we should be talking about what we don’t know, not what we know." The book was largely based on his class on ignorance, where each week he invited a professor from the hard sciences to lecture for two hours on what they do not know.

Joel Kirman

Joel J. Kirman received a BS from the City College of New York, and an MS from CUNY: both in Chemical Engineering. Professionally a Process Manager, he designed petrochemical plants, practicing a specialty in the heating and reaction of fluids at high temperatures. Through his own firm, Envirodactics Co., he was a consulting engineer.

He has served as Chair of the NY Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Chair of the Engineering Section of the New York Academy of Sciences. He is a Fellow of AIChE, a member of the Society for the History of Technology, and the Secretary of the Lyceum Society. For several years he taught a course in the History of Invention at The New School. His hobby is to delve into the history, technology, and development of our industrial culture. "I remain curious about how the material side of our civilization got to where it is."

He has made many presentations to the Lyceum Society: most recently: The Evolution of Rolling Vehicles

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