LA Packs The House For Science

By Carl Zimmer | April 27, 2009 12:12 am

I went to the Los Angeles Book Festival this weekend and was very impressed. Bibliophiles swarmed over the UCLA campus like literary army ants, and it seemed like every event of the day was packed. That included the panel discussion I was in, about science. My co-panelists were Avery Gilbert, a fellow finalist for the LA Times Science Book Prize, and Leonard Susskind, who won for his book on black holes. KC Cole, our moderator, managed to keep this herd of cats on the straight and narrow by having each of us answer her questions about science in general with our own particular examples from out books on black holes, the sense of smell, and E. coli.

The questions from the audience were fabulous. One person got up and said she had a two-part question. She wanted me to talk about the long-term evolution experiments Richard Lenski runs with E. coli, and she wanted Susskind to talk about whether the anthropic principle and the multiverse theory were compatible. One person. Incidentally, I answered first, prefacing my remarks by saying I think I got the easier question. When I was done, Susskind looked at me and said, “No, I got the easier question. Yes.”

You can read more about the event over at the LA Times book blog, but you won’t read much about multiverse theories or evolution experiments, or much of anything of substance, I’m afraid. Plus, I’m pretty sure no one’s ever called me a curmudgeon.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Microcosm: The Book, Talks

Comments (4)

  1. I have to agree with you about the LA Times blog–I learned much more about the panel discussion from your short entry. Sounds like it was an interesting discussion session, and I’m sorry I missed it.

  2. Is this what the person from the audience was referring to in terms of the compatibility of the multiverse and the anthropic principle ?

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2008/06/02/a-new-step-in-evolution/
    And their new paper makes clear that just because the odds of such a significant change are incredibly rare doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

    Natural selection, in fact, ensures that sometimes it does.

    The anthropic principle guarantees that it will happen once this universe is selected from the multiverse. IOW, the anthropic principle insures that natural selection insures that “sometimes it does”, and the multiverse has nothing to do with it, unless they are trying to apply anthropic selection to the “odds” the way that Richard Dawkins misuses it, which is the same way that Eugine Koonin misuses it.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/q-bio/0701023

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/04/leonard-sussking-carl-zimmer-and-.html
    What exactly is “real science”? Old, tired, boring and safe, according to Leonard Susskind

    If Lenny only practiced what he preaches… he’d be an IDist!… lol

  3. No one may have ever called you a curmudgeon, but isn’t pretty to think so? There you go again, you science thinker, you, insisting on the facts getting in the way of a good story :)

  4. I couldn’t have summed it up better myself….. your writeup was sent to me by two people, by the way….

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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