Eight Tales for Technophiles: Examples of Success and Failure in Using Technology to Help the Poor

Presented by:

Dr. Freeman Dyson

Friday, April 12, 2002 - 8:00 p.m.
104 Keller Building - Penn State University - University Park, PA

         Freeman Dyson is a theoretical physicist, born in England, settled in America, who has worked in particle physics, condensed matter physics, nuclear and optical engineering, astrophysics and pure mathematics. He specializes in being unspecialized. He is now Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Since reaching the age of fifty he has spent half his time as writer, writing popular books about science and scientists. Among his books are "Disturbing the Universe," "Infinite in All Directions," "Origins of Life," and "The Sun, the Genome and the Internet."

Eight Tales for Technophiles: Examples of Success and Failure in Using Technology to Help the Poor

        A hundred years ago, George Bernard Shaw published “Three Plays for Puritans,” to entertain and instruct the wealthy theater-goers of London as they entered the twentieth century. “Eight Tales for Technophiles” aims to do the same for the twenty-first. I have collected eight stories of well-intentioned efforts to improve the condition of the poor by beneficent use of technology. Some of these efforts succeeded and some failed. At the end, I try to extract from the examples some general lessons that may guide future efforts, so as to increase the chances of success and avoid disastrous failure''. 

Looking for Life in Unlikely Places: Reasons Why Planets May Not Be the Best Places to Look for Life

          At the present time there is very little overlap between space-missions designed to explore the universe and missions designed to search for life. The life-search missions are narrowly focused on Mars, Europa and extra-solar planets, while universe-exploring missions aim to cover a wide variety of objects without any narrow focus. For a heathy future development of space science, it is desirable to plan missions that will combine the two aims. This means exploring the universe with tools that will also pick up evidence of life wherever it may exist. I describe various possible habitats for life away from stars and planets. As Tsiolkovsky said more than a hundred years ago, the planet earth is life's cradle but life will not remain forever in the cradle.

  For more information contact Linda Becker at 814-865-6337 or llbece@engr.psu.edu.
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