The Sciences

Science and Culture at the White House

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollDec 7, 2008 7:57 PM

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It's going to feel so good to have a real grown-up as President.

"Part of what we want to do is to open up the White House and remind people this is the people's house," Obama told NBC's Tom Brokaw during a "Meet the Press" interview taped Saturday in Chicago... The president-elect said his administration is interested in "elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about." "Thinking about the diversity of our culture and inviting jazz musicians and classical musicians and poetry readings in the White House so that once again we appreciate this incredible tapestry that's America," he said. "Historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that sense that better days are ahead," Obama said. "I think that our art and our culture, our science--you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House."

I'm looking forward to having new results from the LHC explained at the White House and broadcast on C-SPAN. Relatedly, Dreams from My Father is an impressive book, well worth reading if you haven't already. Impressive not only for its content and candor, but because the guy can flat-out write -- he turns a phrase masterfully, but also has a talent for finding the illuminating perspective or a telling anecdote. And he has a writer's appreciation for ambiguity. Not always a good feature in a politician.

Obama was something unusual in a politician: genuinely self-aware. In late May 2007, he had stumbled through a couple of early debates and was feeling uncertain about what he called his "uneven" performance. "Part of it is psychological," he told his aides. "I'm still wrapping my head around doing this in a way that I think the other candidates just aren't. There's a certain ambivalence in my character that I like about myself. It's part of what makes me a good writer, you know? It's not necessarily useful in a presidential campaign."

After eight years of unshakable certainty, I'll take it.

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