Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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How should science and arts be integrated in common life?

In India and the US, a certain drive towards STEM studies is adopted as an educational policy. While importance of science and its accountability towards population for long term betterment of world is beyond question, the study of humanities for betterment of life is possibly not something Governments are losing sleep on.
Is it not time for us to come out of the ‘Two Cultures’ ( and stand on a common ground to face the challenges of life?
It appears to be a dire necessity. Scientists and Artists should understand each other. The rift is pronounced since past centuries with commentaries showing how fundamentally incompatible the streams of consciousnesses of scientists and artists. Just read Einstein – Tagore conversation of July 1930.
It’s not that this necessity is entirely unnoticed.
But a utilitarian approach towards training human mind with science and technology without training humanistic appreciation of values through artistic expressions is like driving your car blindfolded. How long should we witness scientists shunning common literature fearing to be dabbed as not ‘serious publication’? Or conversely how long should an artist say, ‘I don’t do math’ without being frowned upon the way we do if someone says, ‘I don’t read novels’?
There seems to be a fundamental disconnect.
How should science and arts be integrated in common life?

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    Mar 6 2014: I LOVE this question Pabitra, because folks are often trying to separate science, art and various other disciplines that we CAN use together! As you insightfully say....we need to understand each other, and how we can integrate art and science, rather than being against one or the other.

    One of my favorite quotes, which I've posted on TED several times because I think it is so true and very relevant....
    "One of the great difficulties in the new order of thought is that we are likely to indulge in too much theory and too little practice".
    (Ernest Holmes - "The science of the Mind")

    We have theories and ideas about how to live more productively as humans, and it seems like we don't always apply the information we've had for a long time. I think part of the reason we do not apply the information, is because we separate so many ideas and practices that could be integrated to help support each other.

    For example, we have studies which tell us that people generally are more content with their life if they have an opportunity to be creative and feel good about themselves. We often fail to integrate this idea into various aspects of the life adventure.

    Here is a good example of how that can be done....Nalini Nadkarni brings art into a prison.
  • Mar 1 2014: Brew our own beer, do our own cooking from scratch, make our own music. That covers a lot of everything.
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      Mar 2 2014: You have almost hit the nail on the head Brendan. You have a very significant point in your seemingly simple comment. Technology sometimes is a two headed Hydra. It brings the fruits of human innovation and science so ready-made that we forget the tree of human faculty and creativity.
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    Feb 28 2014: I think scientists and artists are good representatives for two of the great mental abilities that makes us human, reasoning and feeling. It is admittedly, extremely difficult I think, to make those two reconcile once they've learned to live without the other. I would say a joint effort to teach the young how to appreciate both and to maybe maintain a balanced attitude toward both. I myself maintain a sort of two 'me's that switch whenever I choose to appreciate something depending on which perspective.
  • Mar 6 2014: I think you will find there are close relationships between stem and art - chaos theory, fractals, Mozart's formula, Beethoven use of group theory in the 5th symphony. I look at the enhanced images from the Hubble telescope and see tremendous beauty, similarly looking at an Audubon painting of a bird is beautiful. The symmetry of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings and Michelangelo's sculptures or Robin's sculpture are both art and science in my mind.
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    Mar 2 2014: well, pabitra, would you consider yourself more of an artist, or more of a scientist? Since you work in river cleanup, that's more scientific, isn't it? But you also have some awareness of being humane, or humanistic, in your work? But wait a second, being humane isn't exactly the same as being artistic, is it?

    I just attended a one-day Stanford event, and the president of Stanford was saying that soon every undergraduate will be required to take an ethics course.
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    Mar 1 2014: Here is part of the description of a literature elective at a local high school: "This class is an attempt to bridge two cultures: science/math and the humanities. To do so, we explore explicit and implicit connections between literary and scientific they have struggled with the dynamically changing intellectual landscape of the 20th century. The course looks at how mathematical concepts such as iteration, self-similarity, and fractals help unlock the metaphysically speculative fictions of Borges and Calvino...
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    Feb 28 2014: In the United States the STEM push does not mean that students actually take more math and science than they do humanities. Students in lower education (through 12th grade) still spend more time in studying humanities than they do studying math and science. The near universal requirement in high school, which is four years in the United States, is four years of English/Language Arts, at least three years of history, and very often two years of math and two years of science. Students may elect to take more of any of these subjects. College-bound students should expect to take in addition two to four years of foreign language. I don't know whether there are any public high schools with less than a year long arts requirement.

    The STEM push is meant not to displace humanities courses but rather to address what was seen as a striking imbalance against math and science in some students' programs. A quarter century ago there were millions of students who graduated high school having taken only one math class and one science class, neither rigorous.

    As an example, a typically 9th or tenth grade schedule for a student in the United States would be: One year English/Language arts, one year world history, one year foreign language, one year biology or physics, one year math, and the fifth course might be physical education or an arts class.
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      Mar 1 2014: I didn't know it was like that in the US Fritzie! I think that's the other extreme.
      However, I am more interested about a new education system where science and arts are taught as complimentary to each other not as separate.
      I have noticed that science has this noticeable indifference to its humanistic values. It went deep into its practitioners. In my opinion this does not really help in furthering science in the level of ideals and life views. I understand it is being worked upon but it should start early for a learner. The archetype of of a scientist of a dry ugly old man with goatee is a thing of past I guess. This can and should well be an attractive woman with lots of charm.
      Your country can be a good case study why science and maths seem to be so unpopular amongst students. After all its the same country where someone as colorful as Richard P. Feynman lived and worked.
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        Mar 1 2014: I actually don't know whether science remains unpopular. Because everyone is so interested in technology and as science has moved so much into the public eye in recent decades for people of all ages, I think science may now be well liked.

        Math remains an issue because many students struggle with it and can feel defeated by it.
        • Mar 6 2014: The problem does not lies with the Maths , but the problem lies with the education system. All the subjects which are taught and which the students learn whether in the form of language,science,geography and even history are all history in themselves which tell one or more stories of the past.

          The education system encourages and the students learn the following way.

          1. Read the Story
          2.Memorize the Answers of the Question
          3.Recall the Answers during the examination/tests
          4.Achieve Scores

          But, Math is the subject which is not just a calculation.Maths need the following.

          1.Observation of the problem
          2.Understanding the problem
          3.Analysis of the problem
          4.Finding the Logic and Algorithm to solve the problem
          5.Doing Calculation according to the Logic and Algorithm
          6.Synthesis of the solution.

          Now,Look at the following problem

          XYZ a seller bought 10 Television Sets at 5% discount whose cost price was Rs 100.Later on he sold all the Television sets at 10 % discount. Find the actual cost price of the 1 TV.Find the selling price of the 1 TV .How much profit did he made ?

          Is this a purely mathematical problem or a commercial problem of daily use ?

          What should be the first step to solve this problem ?

          This is where the problem comes into the picture with Mathematics.Here the main problem is from step 1 to step 4 which the students often face. Because these things have never been taught or have been encouraged.
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        Mar 6 2014: :):), have you worked through this problem yourself, identifying whether there is enough information presented to find a solution or draw conclusions? I think this is precisely the type of problem (word problem in a real world context) that students learn to solve in school. Is that not true where you live?