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Happy New Year!

Nantucket bizzard of New Year’s Day, 2014

Nantucket bizzard of New Year’s Day, 2014

Happy New Year, from the midst of a Nantucket blizzard, where I am working on revisions to my new book! With luck it will appear in late 2014 or early 2015. Stay tuned!

What a great way to start the new year: seeing that I landed on the 20 Most Popular Books of 2013 from Science Book a Day!

I was honored to be the first author interviewed by Science Book a Day’s George Aranda in May.

In April, the TED Talk I gave at TED Global in Edinburgh in June 2012 was put online at TED.com; it’s now been viewed over 650,000 times there, and 1.3 million over all venues!

It’s been an exciting year! And I’m looking forward to 2014! Hope it’s a great year for everyone.

Cartoon of my TED Talk

Giulia Forsythe drew this amazing pictorial summary of my TED Talk at TED Global 2012 for an upcoming TEDx event (TEDxUSagrado):

Philosophical Breakfast Club by @LauraJSnyder #TEDxUSagrado #viznotes

I think it’s fabulous! Thank you, Giulia!

Seven Groups of Friends who Changed the World

From yesterday’s TED blog, a fun piece on seven groups of writers/artists/philosophers who transformed their world—and ours.

Consilience and Scientific Confirmation

A nice piece on consilience is just out in Philosophy Now magazine.  Written by Toni Vogel Carey, the article highlights the different views of consilience held by Whewell/Herschel on the one hand and E.O. Wilson/Stephen Jay Gould on the other.  Definitely worth a look by anyone interested in scientific confirmation.

“Origin of Species” Published 153 Years Ago Today

In honor of the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species on November 24, 1859:

Footage of the moth that pollinates Angraecum sesquipedale, a Madagascar orchid, whose existence Darwin predicted 142 years ago. Because the nectar is so far down the neck of this orchid, Darwin knew that there had to be a species of moth with a “tongue” long enough to pollinate it. And now that moth has been found.

This is fascinating! Watch here.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!!

 

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

In honor of the day set aside to remember Ada Lovelace, friend and collaborator of Charles Babbage (and a major player in one chapter of The Philosophical Breakfast Club), I’m passing along two links: one serious, one a bit silly, but both apropos of Lovelace and her accomplishments.

First, the serious. A recent study by Yale University found that women in science are still discriminated against in classrooms and laboratories. How sad that perceptions of women’s abilities have not changed as much as we would like to think from Lovelace’s times in the 19th century. On this day we should remember that although women have come a long way since the 1800s, there is still much work to be done.

Next, the silly (but wonderfully so): a post on the relation between Ada Lovelace and her female friend and mentor, Mary Somerville by the talented Sydney Padua—who is writing a steampunk comic about Lovelace and Babbage.

Food for thought on Lovelace day.

Reforming Philosophy Now Available for Kindle

I am very happy to announce that my first book, Reforming Philosophy, is now available in an inexpensive Kindle edition.

Some readers of The Philosophical Breakfast Club might be interested in a more detailed discussion of William Whewell’s philosophy of science, and its relation to his view of moral philosophy, economics, and politics. In this book I discuss these issues in the context of Whewell’s decades-long debate with the philosopher, economist and Parliamentarian John Stuart Mill.

Here’s what some reviewers said when the book came out:

“Snyder’s book is history of philosophy at its best”–Times Literary Supplement

“In this impressive study of two major Victorian intellectuals, Snyder displays both analytical acumen and historical sensitivity; she has written a book that will be read with profit and pleasure by anyone interested in the history of moral, political, and philosophical reflection on science.” — Isis

“Snyder’s impressive achievement is not only to register a significant improvement in our understanding of the technicalities of this debate over the proper method of scientific reasoning, but also to bring the debate alive in a way that illuminates the whole terrain of mid-Victorian intellectual life.” — American Historical Review

“This is the definitive work and must be on the shelves of any library with pretensions to completeness about the [Victorian] age.” — Journal of British Studies

You can purchase the Kindle edition of Reforming Philosophy here.

Reading List: 12 books by recent TED speakers

TED’s list of “essential reading” for Fall—books by TED speakers:

With summer dwindling to its last few days, it’s time to put away the beach reads and get the mind back in gear with heartier fare. Why not start with some of the amazing books writer by recent TED speakers? Here, some picks.

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Retells the tale of a forgetful writer’s journey to becoming U.S. Memory champion, exploring the singular importance of memory in our lives along the way. Watch Joshua’s talk >>

Wired for Culture by Mark Pagel
For the past 80,000 years, culture has played an integral role in shaping the lives humans lead. Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel explains the evolutionary processes that are so ingrained into our culture, and explores its effects on life today. Watch Mark’s talk >> Read more

TED as an Intellectual Adventure

This article in the latest issue of the New Yorker gives a pretty balanced picture of the TED experience. It does leave out, though, something that struck me so strongly during the five days I spent at TED Global: the raw, unfettered intellectual curiosity of the attendees—who could, after all, spend their money and time on a vacation in Fiji, but who choose TED instead. As someone who has spent many years attending academic conferences, I have to say I have never experienced this kind of openness to ideas from all areas, from people with no particular axe to grind or their own intellectual agenda to promote.

One point the author makes is that ideas are presented apart from their academic connections and references to other works. Fair enough—these are short talks, after all. But what he doesn’t mention is the way that the experience encourages the connection between different disciplines and approaches—which may not otherwise have occurred to most of us. Even I was surprised to find that the talks in my session—by a historian and philosopher of science, an artist running the Rhode Island School of Design, a computational architect, a quantum physicist, a researcher photographing light, and a behavioral economist—all could be seen as having a common thread. (Hint: the way that different ways of representing reality, especially art and language, are related to scientific explorations of nature.) It was a heady experience, one I am still learning from.

TED Bookstore Curated List

The eight guest curators at the TED Bookstore

The eight guest curators at the TED Bookstore

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the folks at TED asked me to be one of eight “guest curators” of the TED bookstore. I put together a list of thematically-related books, and the books–along with my short descriptions of them–were featured on the bookshelves of the onsite bookstore. Here is my list of ten books, along with my “curation philosophy:”

Electricity and Water: Who says they don’t mix?

Throw in a dash of technology, engineering or science, and end up with a galvanising read.

Over the past few years, I’ve been reading and lecturing about the invention of modern science in nineteenth century Britain. Water—the power it generates, as well as the challenges it poses to an island nation—and electricity played crucial roles in England’s rise to scientific and imperial dominance in this period. On my bookshelf now are ten books—fiction and non-fiction—in which water, electricity, or both are central to the tales they tell.

Fiction:

1. Waterland, Graham Swift
Takes place in the Fen country of East Anglia, in bleak marshlands wrested from the sea—a sea that wants the land back. Spanning 240 years, the book weaves a tale of empire-building, sluice-minding, eel reproduction, brewing, incest and madness, adding up to a thoughtful reflection of the nature of history and memory. Both history and memory, like the sea, are fluid and ever-changing. A magical book.

2. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
On the shores of the beaches of Lyme-Regis, a young woman named Mary Anning distinguished herself in the early 19th century as a talented fossil-hunter, discovering the first complete skeletons of the ichthyosaurus and plesiosaur. Her discoveries cast doubt on the prevailing views about the age of the earth, helping to make Darwin’s theory of evolution possible. Chevalier does a fine job of fleshing out the lives of Anning and her main champion, Elizabeth Philpot (real people about whom we know little) and setting their story in the context of science and discovery in the nineteenth century. Read more