A Kite’s Eye View

I noted ten days ago I had acquired a copy of Chiara Marletto’s first foray into popular “trade” science literature “The Science of Can and Can’t” and noted at the time that I’d already been following her work and that of David Deutsch her mentor and collaborator for more than a decade.

I’ve been putting-off opening it up because I knew (know) as soon as I did I’d have to make space to read the whole of it. Well, dear reader, here we are.

In fact I’ve only read a few pages as I type. Apart from the blurbs I already mentioned, from Smolin and Pullman, it has an index, acknowledgements and a short further reading list. Aside from the earlier works of Atkins, Dawkins and Deutsch, the latter includes Brockman’s Edge collection of “Possible Minds” and Pullman’s “Essays on Storytelling” along with her life-partner Vladko Vedral’s “Decoding Reality“. Intriguingly it also includes Pearl and Mackenzie’s “Book of Why – the New Science of Cause and Effect“.

Of the six pages I’ve read, four are Deutsch’s foreword, one is her “how to read” and one is the first page of her “prelude”.

It’s an impassioned recommendation from Deutsch as his protégé spreads her independent wings, from:

This is a major departure from the traditional conception of physics and science more generally […] which rejects such intangibles as causation, free-will and choice as being mere psychological props, or even mystical.”

“[The lack of anything fundamentally new in science for decades is the result of] a cautious and risk-averse culture in science [where] pessimism and fatalism have become the norm.

There has never been a time when there have been more blatant contradictions, gaps and unresolved vagueness in our deepest understanding of nature […] this will require us to adopt radically different modes of explanation.”

Modes of explanation” is key, this is meta to any specific physical theories, and the real reason for my interest in general. The “how to read” is also reflected in a reference to one of my heroes in Deutsch’s foreword:

“[Marletto argues] with great enthusiasm and precision, punctuating the non-fiction in the chapters with short fictional stories that, in a manner reminiscent of Douglas Hofstadter “Gödel, Escher, Bach”, elaborate the ideas and give the reader space to reflect.”

By Marletto’s first page we already have allusions to Dante and the Blakes Quentin and William, and a writer at home reflecting on the Red Kites’ perspective circling high overhead Oxford, England’s green and pleasant lands of the Chilterns and Cotswolds.

Loving the evocation already.

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