Falling for Science
Objects in Mind
336 pp., 5 x 8 in, 17 b&w photos
- Published: September 30, 2011
- Published: April 4, 2008
- Published: September 30, 2011
Passion for objects and love for science: scientists and students reflect on how objects fired their scientific imaginations.
"This is a book about science, technology, and love,” writes Sherry Turkle. In it, we learn how a love for science can start with a love for an object—a microscope, a modem, a mud pie, a pair of dice, a fishing rod. Objects fire imagination and set young people on a path to a career in science. In this collection, distinguished scientists, engineers, and designers as well as twenty-five years of MIT students describe how objects encountered in childhood became part of the fabric of their scientific selves. In two major essays that frame the collection, Turkle tells a story of inspiration and connection through objects that is often neglected in standard science education and in our preoccupation with the virtual. The senior scientists' essays trace the arc of a life: the gears of a toy car introduce the chain of cause and effect to artificial intelligence pioneer Seymour Papert; microscopes disclose the mystery of how things work to MIT President and neuroanatomist Susan Hockfield; architect Moshe Safdie describes how his boyhood fascination with steps, terraces, and the wax hexagons of beehives lead him to a life immersed in the complexities of design. The student essays tell stories that echo these narratives: plastic eggs in an Easter basket reveal the power of centripetal force; experiments with baking illuminate the geology of planets; LEGO bricks model worlds, carefully engineered and colonized. All of these voices—students and mentors—testify to the power of objects to awaken and inform young scientific minds. This is a truth that is simple, intuitive, and easily overlooked.
With characteristic brilliance, Turkle reminds us of the power of artifacts that change lives that go on to change the world. After reading this book, you will never look at a cherished old toy—or scientific discovery—in the same way again.
We live in the era of big science, with teams of hundreds of scientists poring over data on computer screens. In this sparkling collection, gifted students and world-class scientists remind us of the irreplaceable role of tangible objects, sensory impressions, and powerful experiences in the formation of the scientist.
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
'No ideas but in things,' wrote the poet William Carlos Williams. Sherry Turkle's eloquent and inspiring book brings the poet's insight to life. She shows us the things-to-think-with that brought generations of scientists to their vocations. Just as a butterfly may spark a hurricane, as wires and sockets brought a ten-year-old Richard Feynman to physics, objects spark the curiosity of young scientists. In an age when science education is in crisis, this splendid book offers us new insight about bringing young people into science. By looking at objects we see, in Turkle's terms, the connection between 'science, technology, and love.'
Ray Kurzweil, Inventor, and author of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
In the knowledge economy of the 21st century, a solid grounding in science and math is essential for our graduates to successfully compete in the global marketplace. The essays in Falling for Science deftly portray the impact that interaction with everyday objects—a cardboard box, a stop sign, or a ring of keys—can have on the cultivation of a lifelong passion for scientific discovery, a passion that led many of the essayists into careers devoted to finding solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
Lou Anna K. Simon, President, Michigan State University
Turkle's thought-provoking collection represents an admirable invitation to further exploration of science and human sensibility, of the mysterious web of human choice and feeling.