Brian Greene’s big idea

How’s this for a motivational speech. Given by a scientist. A theoretical physicist!

It’s Brian Greene – author of the books The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory and The Fabric of the Cosmos. The video below is of his “What’s the Big Idea” speech at the Aspen Idea Festival last year.

His idea – to see the scientific endeavor as the greatest adventure story. And that our culture should give that story its rightful place alongside art, music and literature.


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5 responses to “Brian Greene’s big idea

  1. Great video, inspirational.

    Wider community appreciation of scientific achievement does seem to be lacking, no doubt for raft of reasons.

    Does the NZ education system have too much rigour, too soon? All that exam focus, ‘national standards’ etc etc. Too many ‘over-taught’ first year uni students?

    Maybe some practising teachers can comment?


  2. I’ve spent the last eight years developing a K-12 humanities program that goes through the history of the world in a four-year cycle. (See: We expect to be finished this 12,000 page product in February.

    Our big question has been whether it is possible to create a K-12 curriculum that teaches math and science in the same “history of the world” format. The primary goal is to make the ADVENTURE of science irresistible to elementary and secondary students. A secondary goal is to build math right into the science program so that they not only know how to do math, they understand WHY math is such an important tool.

    Any thoughts?


  3. Any thoughts?

    My thoughts: stay well away from it.

    As I’ve said before, the idea that you would teach anyone (science) is frightening.

    More seriously, from what you show on this blog you are an entirely inappropriate person to develop a science course. You have repeatedly shown a clear lack of understanding of the basics, coupled with a clear lack of inclination to check the basics first before stringing together things in a way that makes no sense, or even check the basics after they have been pointed out to you. What you have shown here hardly suggests you’d do any better with the history of science.

    Put another way, here’s a thought: spend the next, say, five years getting yourself versed in the basic science properly, then revisit the idea of teaching science or science history. You’re not in a position to right now.

    I worry about the standards, and real aims, of your home schooling program.


  4. Heraclides, for what it’s worth… my current thoughts are to spend about two years developing a “history of math” curriculum that teaches K-12 mathematics in the context of mathematical developments and scientific breakthroughs.

    The goal of this math program would be to make sure that students at each learning level (K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12) have the math they need to understand the science as it unfolds in their study of history.

    If (and only if) we could pull off such a math project, we would plan to hire a well-qualified science faculty to develop the history of science materials.


  5. I love that presentation! I used some similar quotes from him in an address I gave to a science teacher conference last year.

    Red Rosa: the current crop of achievement standards do have something to do with the strong focus on content that is often seen in schools. Mind you, even with the ‘old’ system, many teachers still ‘taught to the exams’. Not necessarily because they wanted to, but because it was expected by school admin (school rankings & all that), parents, & quite probably students themselves. (Certainly I – as a uni teacher – often get asked ‘Is this in the exam’ when I’m happily expounding on something :-)) The ASs probably just focused that a bit. It’s a real pity because they don’t have to be taught like that, & I know of some teachers who don’t.

    The new curriculum that’s to be implemented next year places very strong emphasis on students learning about the nature of science, & that’s partly why I used Greene’s words in my address – we do need to get that feeling of adventure. The curriculum changes have in turn driven changes in the achievement standards, which will be brought in sequentially over the next few years. Because there is this focus on process in the curriculum, there’s going to have to be a reduction in content – the question really is what? & how much? Something that I don’t believe the universities are really alert to yet, which is unfortunate as it means students coming in from this new system will most likely not match their lecturers’ assumptions concerning prior learning…


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