Class notes, pt. 1

I’ve been reading Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and he talks about the public-relations problem inherent in all scientific paradigm shifts. “Big Ideas”, he argues, have historically been delivered in big books written for a reasonably generalized-but-intelligent audience — such as Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity, or Darwin’s Origin of Species. Only later do the intellectual paradigms ossify and you get dusty academics delivering increasingly narrowly-focussed papers that nobody but initiates can read.

I dunno — seems like Einstein’s theory of relativity is a massive example that contradicts this theory. It started out as a pretty esoteric and rarely-read theory, studied only by those close to the field, but decades later became something almost every high school student knows (or pretends to know, anyway.)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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