The Sciences

Categorically Not! - Uncertainty (Revisited)

Cosmic VarianceBy cjohnsonAug 21, 2006 3:19 AM


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The next Categorically Not! is Thursday 31st August. You may recall my post on the Categorically Not! series of events, started by K. C. Cole, and held at the Santa Monica Art Studios. They're fantastic, and I strongly encourage you to come to them. Have a look at the last two descriptions here and here. It is important to note that this one is a USC event, and not a Santa Monica event! It is on a Thursday and not a Sunday! You might wonder - why these changes? Ah! I promised to reveal what was going on behind that photo shoot I told you about a long time ago (with K.C., Tara McPherson, and myself - recall the fun we had with that picture?), and now realize that I did not get around to it. This is it. There is a series of wonderful events going on throughout the year on the USC campus - the embodiment of our new Provost's "Arts and Humanities Initiative". It is called "Visions and Voices", and I'll tell you more about it on Asymptotia. Our program within that larger program is not called Categorically Not! but "Science and Serendipity". Anyway more on that elsewhere. So will the old Categorically Not! series stop? No. The Santa Monica series will continue, but there will be some gaps to accommodate the USC events. We hope that the regular Santa Monica crowd will make the short trip across the city to USC on those nights. For more information, visit the Categorically Not! website. More about the relation to the Categorically Not! events can be found in this post on Asymptotia. Anyway, here is the blurb for the upcoming event on the 31st August:

It's a natural human tendency to want to know for sure. Is it Yes or No? Are you with us or against us? He loves me, he loves me not. Alas, uncertainty is woven into the very fabric of our universe. Every bit of certain knowledge comes at the price of ignorance. The answers we get depend on the questions we ask. At the fundamental scale of subatomic particles, it becomes all too clear that the building blocks of the cosmos are unfocused, elusive, slippery. Truth (and yes, there is such a thing) can only be glimpsed as a kaleidoscope, presenting many faces. Perhaps ironically, the people most at home with uncertainty are physicists, who've had to deal with it since the introduction of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. On August 31st, science writer K.C. Cole of the Annenberg School of will engage in a conversation with USC physicist Clifford Johnson on uncertainty as it is used, abused and misunderstood in journalism and physics. Having set the stage, we will add religion to the mix. Religion has been far less tolerant of uncertaintyâ€"thriving instead on unbending faith. Or has it? "The three great monotheistic religions are convinced that there is only One True Godâ€"even if they cannot quite agree on any of the particulars," writes Jonathan Kirsch, author of five books on the history of religion. Jonathan will talk about the "war of God against the gods"â€" the centuries old struggle between monotheism and polytheismâ€"and the subject of one of his recent books. Finally, actress Chloe Webb, who starred in the film "Sid and Nancy" and appears on TV shows ranging from House to Medium to Two and 1⁄2 Men, will explore the role of uncertainty in drama, and demonstrate how it can be used to both comic (Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First") and tragic effect.

Please note that this program will take place at the Annenberg School at USC at 7PM, and is free. Some directions can be found on the USC website here. It is recommended that you enter at gate 6, and apparently, you can follow the yellow "Annenberg Event" signs to the Annenberg building. (I'd make sure to have an idea of where it is beforehand though. Look on the maps.) -cvj

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