Building Bridges

I like the way that Ahmed Zewail has answered the question of what it takes to get a Nobel Prize in his essay published in Nature. It is worthy of a good read regardless of what role in society you have with respect to research. At the end of the day, we all benefit from research, be that research in the natural sciences, be it in the humanities or the social sciences.

If you have the time, do read Ahmed Zewail’s recommendations about research and discovery. I would like to invite those in legal research to try to translate his recommendations to the field of legal research. Curiosity is what drives research, and it is the quest for new knowledge that drives innovation.


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Let me translate

José Saramago has now completed his work on earth (1922-2010). Fundacao Jose Saramago gives details of the funeral arrangements (in Portuguese) on its website.  I do wonder who wrote this piece in his blog dated today and that cites his words from an interview in 2008.

Outros Cadernos de Saramago: “Acho que na sociedade actual nos falta filosofia. Filosofia como espaço, lugar, método de refexão, que pode não ter um objectivo determinado, como a ciência, que avança para satisfazer objectivos. Falta-nos reflexão, pensar, precisamos do trabalho de pensar, e parece-me que, sem ideias, nao vamos a parte nenhuma.”

“I think that contemporary society lacks philosophy. Philosophy as space, place, method for reflection which may not have a predetermined objective such as science, but that advances in order to satisfy objectives. We need reflection, thought, we need thought’s work. In my view, without ideas, we will not go anywhere.” (1)

I have never been a fan of Saramago the man, but his work, that is on a different page. In my view, one can separate the man from the work. The man is that mortal part that eventually disappears, and the work is what remains. He was an annoying man, arrogant and with political ideas that I do not share, but he could think and he could write. A word of caution here is that I have seen some very bad translations of his work, but if you can, do read him in his original Portuguese, or find a good translation. German readers may find a few hints here.

It turns out that most thought occurs while writing, and some occurs in conversation. Inspiring ideas occur in sleep, under the shower or while playing. Thought is a solitary pursuit. I was exposed to Portuguese literature early in life and while the language is to me as difficult as any other language, it has a particular vernacular beauty that is all its own, and that for the life of me, I find very difficult to translate.

Saramago is right in my view in affirming that without ideas, we will not go anywhere. It is a good starting point. May Saramago rest in peace now that his work is complete.

(1) Translated by the author of this post.

What happened before the Big Bang?

What happened before the Big Bang?: Was the Universe before the Big Bang of classical nature, described well by a smooth space–time? Or was it in a highly fluctuating quantum state? This is one of the most basic questions that we may ask once it is accepted that there was something before the Big Bang. Loop quantum gravity applied to isotropic models has shown that the quantum evolution of a wavefunction extends through the Big Bang. Although a general demonstration is still lacking, this may suggest that calculations, and possibly future indirect observations, may allow us to see the Universe as it was before the Big Bang. Here, we analyse an explicit model with a pre-Big Bang era, indicating limitations that would imply that it is practically impossible to answer some of our questions. Assumptions (or prejudice) will remain necessary for knowing the precise state of the Universe, which cannot be fully justified within science itself.

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Why do I blog this? It ties in rather nicely to what I hinted at in the last paragraph of “social architects and practical visionaries” in