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History and Science: Facts, Fictions, and the Unknown (NYC)

September 22, 2019 10:00 AM – 1:15 PM

schedule

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
What We Don't Know About History

Caroline Winterer / Stanford University

Despite what the song "Wonderful World" says, there's a lot we know about history. But there are still some pretty big gaps in our knowledge, for the simple reason that a lot of information about the past gets lost over time. Wars, fires, floods, deliberate destruction, or just plain carelessness—all of these factors and more contribute to some pretty fascinating historical mysteries.

Together, we'll discuss the latest reliable evidence and theories for some major events, people, and buildings that fascinate all of us. Who were the first Americans, and when—and how—did they arrive? How on earth did Stonehenge get built? What did Cleopatra look like? What caused the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692? And what happened to the lost colony at Roanoke? All of these, and more, will be examined during this fun and fascinating talk. 

Caroline Winterer / Stanford University
Caroline Winterer is Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University and Director of the Stanford Humanities Center. Her latest book is, "American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason." She is a recipient of an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution for mapping the social network of Benjamin Franklin, and is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

11:45 AM - 1:15 PM
What Scientists Still Don't Know

Matthew Stanley / New York University

Scientists like to talk more about what they know than what they don’t know – things they are sure about rather than the mysteries. Hundreds of years of discoveries and insights are good reasons for this. But it is the unknowns at the edge of science that drive some of the most exciting research being done today. We do not know if we are alone in the universe, what the nature of consciousness is, where life came from, or why you are made of protons and electrons.

Those persistent mysteries, rather than causing us to question science, can help us understand how science works. They can help us ask deeper questions about how we know what we know, and why some things we don’t.

Matthew Stanley / New York University
Matthew Stanley teaches the history and philosophy of science at NYU. He holds degrees in astronomy, religion, physics, and the history of science and is interested in the connections between science and the wider culture. He is the author of "Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington" which examines how scientists reconcile their religious beliefs and professional lives. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, the British Academy, and the Max Planck Institute. Professor Stanley was awarded a 2014-2015 Gallatin Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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