Perhaps it’s America’s humble, rural origins that produced this backcountry entertainment, such as livestock competitions and baking exhibitions. Or maybe it’s just the personal desire to win that has driven generations of Americans to town, county, and state fairs.
By tradition, State Fairs are a recreational gathering of competitors and patrons alike, seeking their amusement from musicians and farming oddities, but there’s a reason they award ribbons of eight colors. Competitors have traditionally been driven by the desire to display the fruits of delicate labor and achieve the respect of their friends and neighbors.
Society teaches us that science has no limits; that you and I can be whatever we want to be, do whatever we want to do, and that scientists are nothing but an utter bouquet of bright minds moving from grass to grace, sharing their knowledge with all and sundry, passing on the ‘Universalistic’ torch inscribed with the message: all is possible in the name of science. True to its nature, the more we learn about the physical world the smaller it gets, the more justifications we come up with for branching out of our egg-shell shaped Earth, for exploring the Moon, the stars, the Milky Way, the Universe. But whence come our limit, if any?
Hunger and malnutrition are ancient problems. So much has been said and written on the subject of feeding the 6.7 billion people on Earth that the discussion has progressed from an instinctual question of “what’s for dinner” into an unwieldy, amorphous cloud of questions — about nutrition, about politics, about the environment — for which there seem to be no easy answers.
At a time when Ann Coulter ’84 and Keith Olbermann’79 are butting heads over the legitimacy of the Ag School and the value of a communication degree, it seems appropriate for scientists to ask: Are there any facts in Ms. Coulter’s claims? I invite you to look at another (maybe, the third) side of the coin, what we call the narrative of science: Imagine Cornell without Agriculture, without the Life Sciences, without Communication (especially, in the life sciences)…
Economists are scientists. They take data. They run statistical tests. Then, they boil down human behavior to elegant mathematical models: G+I+Xn+C =GDP, MRS=-p1/p2 etc. However, as sophisticated as these models may be, they don’t always work in practice.
Several years ago, the returns of two portfolios compiled by a brie eating, Armani wearing analyst at Merrill Lynch and an innocent monkey throwing darts at a page of the Wall-Street Journal were compared, and the differences were negligible. The Subprime mortgage, created by intelligent Ivy League graduates fluent in computer programming and financial modeling, shattered the global economy and literally brought the house down. Your browser may not support display of this image.
“Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth.” Remember that quote? No? Well, at a time when scientists had lost all hope of solving the chemical structure of atoms, let alone compounds, Friedrich Kekule proved there was a way out. Not by hard work (although he did put in the effort) but by sheer serendipity — a DREAM, literally a daydream. Kekule had just taken a nap, and while napping, he saw a bunch of beads — six to be specific, stringed together — juxtaposed unto a snake figure. The snake wiggled and curled itself, and before you know it, the snake was biting its tail.