THE CONVERSATION, 18 March 2014
C.P. Snow’s pessimistic view of “two cultures” – the arts and the sciences at war with each other, glowering across no man’s land, entrenched in their embattled fortress of true expression (as each saw it) was a nihilistic prospect indeed. Fortunately, this view couldn’t be more wrong – wrong then, in 1956, and even further from the truth today.
Never have the arts and the sciences had so much cause to celebrate what they have in common and never has the opportunity for theatre particularly to engage with scientists, and with the scientific process itself, been higher.
Cambridge Science Festival, for example, are hosting a number of theatrical performances that cover topics such as immortality, computer hacking, melancholy and Albert Einstein.
In my opinion (I speak as a scientist), a critical reason for this bridging of the “void” is that academic scientists in particular are increasingly speaking directly to an audience beyond their peers.
Although “popular” scientists have always been with us, the scientific lecture as “performance” has become the norm in the age of university expansion. Audiences for a typical undergraduate lecture can top several hundred, enough to fill a medium-sized theatre, and many scientists, having honed their skills before 300 biology majors, have graduated from the lecture theatre to the theatre proper, trying their hand at stand-up comedy, or in directing or writing for the stage, as Jonathan Miller has done.
Canopy Arts Desk
Tammy Hampel (Isaacson)
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