An unpopular position in these popular times: Pop-science has existed for some time and seems to have become a well-defined feature of public education since the atomic age. It’s rarely been done right and most often written so poorly, that much of it deserves that withering label of “not even wrong.” With the rise of YouTube we’ve witnessed the rise of YouTube scholars, technology allows for scale and dilettantes are abound. Many people now bandy about the trappings of a scientist and wear the markings of that caste. The presentation of this information lends itself more to an image of understanding than understanding and an image of curiosity than curiosity. Explanations often satiate and questions are more a matter of clarification(to seem insightful), than a pointed argument to break the teaching presented(any theory breaks down if you ask the right questions). So we wear science as a sophistication of our image, the intellectual as a social type. And once man has a well fed and gratified image, he needs very little else to satisfy him.
Man’s greatest ability in this material world is to a create a mind, it’s unfortunate that most choose to barely create one. In reality a plurality of views are attainable and can be well developed simultaneously. There is a familiarity with the ‘legal mind’ or a medical one—a variety of intuition that arises from knowing ten thousand forgotten and unnamed things to know one. There are also scientific views(minds) and many are born and die without reaching the atrophied state of ‘field.’ There are quite necessary fields like plasma physics which are aging and dying off, as the more senior faculty retire faster than post-docs and funding can replace them. During the heyday of imaging, many groups were formed, perhaps only a few dozen scientists in each, and developed a view collectively, separate from the activities of another group across the world. Popular presentation does not foster a view or even suggest that one might exist, it offers an image, a shell outside the mind, somewhere in the social world. There is a great joy as a teacher to feel the student has ‘understood.’ And no didactic tool helps a student ‘understand’ as easily or certainly as analogy. What’s exchanged between student and teacher is less like knowledge or more like validation. The poor way we teach this understanding is information presented multiple times in degrees of correctness. That first layer is skimmed for appearances and packaged by public intellectuals. Learning a process to take an integral and some cute quirks to check your answer might grant the student a fantastic ability to pass an exam, but they won’t remember that process two years hence, much less in the twilight of their lives. What is needed is an intimate familiarity with concepts, rumination on the images implied by the material until they alter and color your thoughts. The drive for an intimacy with all conceptual forms was the original motivation behind my eclecticism.
The world is complex, but it is understandable up to some context, you are not at the edge of knowledge and the topology of knowledge is not contiguous.
Featured Image: Bubble Chamber