- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Linus Publishing; First edition (30 Jun. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1907843000
- ISBN-13: 978-1907843006
- Package Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.6 x 3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,571,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The New Optimists: Scientists View Tomorrow's World & What it Means to Us Paperback – 30 Jun 2010
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From the Publisher
It's amazing to think that in the future, people may live to be 1000 or that the Turing Test for artificial intelligence could be broken within decades and bots will be able to think for themselves. These and many other insights are revealed within the pages of this highly stimulating and thought-provoking book.
In The New Optimists, over 80 of the UK's leading medics, life scientists, engineers, chemists, computer and digital media scientists, environmental and energy experts have combined to share their views of a brighter future.
They give us a refreshing and positive view of the future and how it can be a better place for us all. From tackling increasing cancer rates to managing carbon emissions and living in harmony with our environment, the book reveals how scientists refuse to be cowed by obstacles and are exploring new ways of overcoming them for the good of humanity.
The New Optimists provides a spellbinding insight into the minds of some of the UK's leading scientists and shows just how much work is being undertaken on our behalf in some of the country's leading institutions. It will open your mind to the endless possibilities of focused and responsible research -- and help us all face the future with confidence.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
from Jenny Uglow's Foreword:
The New Optimists is the most exhilarating of books. It looks to the future, not through rose-tinted glasses, but with a clear vision, aware of difficulties and challenges yet convinced that research and experiment can help the human race to overcome them. It seems entirely right that scientists should step forth and speak out in this way, on the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society. Right too that the 2010 meeting of the British Science Association should be held in Birmingham, a place that has always been a town of forges and anvils, of making and invention, a crucible of ideas.
In 1660, the men who gathered at Gresham College in London, determined to explore the universe they inhabited, decided to form a society, said their historian Thomas Sprat, to enjoy `the satisfaction of breathing a freer air, and of conversation in quiet with one with another, without being engaged in the passions, and madness of that dismal age'. In Birmingham, that spirit was continued a century later in the men of the Lunar Society, among them James Watt and Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley and the chemist James Keir. Their interests ranged from astronomy, optics and electricity to chemistry, engineering and metallurgy, and to medicine and botany, and their long collaboration brought together their different experiences and skills, providing lifelong support. They too looked to the future, setting aside political differences, and concerned above all to make the world a better place.
The current collection of short essays - brief answers to the question `What are you optimistic about?' - is itself a kind of conversation. In the great tradition of the Royal Society it brings together a great range of specialists from the region, free from political agendas or mercenary aims. And just as the original Lunar Men felt they were changing their world, so these men and women are changing ours, and collectively they have far more impact than individually.
The list of contributors is dizzying. The majority work in medicine and life-sciences, the region's great strength. But they share this book with engineers, chemists, computer and digital media scientists, environmental and energy experts and the wilder shores of research into games programming or forensic linguistics. The topics covered are therefore varied and wide-ranging, from cell memory and genome sequencing to urban ecosystems, from vital ways to reduce carbon emissions to crop rotation and even the notion of `happiness'. And while `optimism' is a term that implies application, the importance of pure research becomes increasingly clear.
The future that is unveiled can also induce vertigo. It is extraordinary to think that people may live to be 1000, or that `we are about to enter an age when having a copy of one's own genome sequence is as common as carrying a mobile phone is today'. Scientists, it seems, are often visionaries. All these essays are imbued with a driving spirit of curiosity, combined with energetic analysis, and often with passion. Yet the most idealistic, or imaginative scenarios also coexist with a realistic toughness - a recognition that solving one set of problems, like improvements in health, can lead to others, like the challenges of ageing. That particular theme evokes a typical variety of response, with some contributions dealing with specific problems like `renewing' eyes, while others play with scary ideas of neurocognitive prostheses - or cheerier ones like the benefit of taking up the tango.
The issues are serious, but the answers will often make you laugh. All the writers convey their own excitement in their work, and we are privileged that this fascinating collection allows us to share it. New researchers and old hands all have their say, making no bones about the need for persistence, the long hours in the lab and the frequent frustrations. For some, the rare moments of revelation make everything worthwhile. For others, the greatest pleasure comes from slow, fruitful collaboration. No one here feels that their research is conclusive, or that final discoveries can be made. Like the early scientists, and the men of the Lunar Society, they are still voyagers, standing on the shore looking out towards misty horizons. There will always be new questions to answer - and this in itself is a cause for optimism.
Top customer reviews
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Professor Janet Lord, (we have more control over when we die that we think) Professor Chris McCabe (cancer is controllable and we can be ill and lead a high quality life) and Dr Tim Grant (understanding how people speak and write is improving justice) were speaking at the Lichfield Literature festival. I'd read a number of the essays before I went so was expecting soemthing good, but I found their ideas, energy and sense of how science can make the world better downright infectious.
There are 81 essays here, most of which will inspire you in some way, all of which will make you appreciate why science is one of our most important endeavours. A wonderful piece of work.
Jenny Uglow's forward definitely does the book justice and Spike Walker's pictures set off the nicely understated cover. These essays are cleverly put together by linguist and editor Keith Richards so that the book can also be dipped into as well as read straight through. The layout is also great - very classy. The first page of every essay is a single column, a taster that lure's you on to turn the page to discover just why these scientists really are optimistic. This book shatters the much held opinion that the future for the human race is a bleak one. It is clear that science really does prevail.
This I hope will be the first in a long line of books on current scientific research and thinking from The Linus Trust.