So, I was reading this nonfiction book (because I was kind of procrastinating) and I'd expected...well, I hadn't expected much from it initially, but it kept pelting me with its insights nonetheless. Or, more accurately, the book's author--K.C. Cole, a physicist and talented writer--kept forcing me to expand my worldview by sharing her unique one...and this uncomfortable sense of agitation set in (because I was being given a fascinating scientific window and unable to tell anyone about it), so I decided I'd better start blogging.
[Side note: I always understood the allure of reading other people's blogs, but it's taken me a year and a half to finally know WHY people get addicted to blogging themselves. I just HAD to share this book with someone...]
The book, Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos, is a collection of 92 short essays from Cole's Los Angeles Times science column. The column no longer exists, but the essays remain--divided into four sections and revolving around concepts like "the subjectivity of inquiry" and "the politics of science."
Publishers Weekly can better explain the premise. They write:
Cole's technique is to set her stage with a scientific factoid or news blip and then ruminate on the unexpected insights, inversions or ironies she finds there. Her themes include uncertainty, the limitations of measure, fragility, illusion, humility before nature, complacency. A solar eclipse "exposes our fragility" and dispels illusion "like turning up the houselights during a movie." The millennium, indeed the notion of time itself, is an artificial concept, and "it's a fine line," the author writes, "between discovering something and making it up." Ever the navel gazer, Cole seeks the wondrous in the stuff we mistake for just ordinary. Her piece on clouds ("wind made visible") segues inevitably to dying stars ("a cosmic-scale cloudburst") and atoms (a nucleus "engulfed by a cloud of electrons"); her piece on wind leads her to the hurricanes on Jupiter and the complicated "weather" of galaxies.
Maybe having a dad who was a scientist and getting (from him) a Periodic Table of the Elements as my very first poster (yep, it's true) influenced my opinion, but I was intrigued by the merging of human drama and scientific revelation in every essay. The piece on "Uncertainty" was one of my favorites. But there was another piece--one writing-related and on the topic of "Simplicity"--that especially held my attention.
Cole was relaying the discovery of her female mathematician friend that math and poetry boiled down to much the same exercise: "You discover some essential truth, distill it to its pure form, and figure out how to communicate it to others."
YES!! At least that's the goal, isn't it??? Isn't everything we write just another way of trying to prove some theorum we hold dear? Some emotional truth about humanity we hope will be verified? Those of us who are novelists, of course, get 400 or so pages to try, whereas poets are allowed but a handful of lines and mathematicians only an equation...but I think we're on the same team. And I think so many of us are trying--across disciplines, across cultures--to find those kernels of truth. To link them. And, when possible, to let each other know we're not alone in our search.
Has anyone else read this? Other recommendations?