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Marrying the Humanities to Physics for Optimal Innovation

March 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 98

The ideal of the Renaissance man has permeated western education for centuries. It is symbolic of our longing to nurture human potential to its highest level through a well-rounded education in science, philosophy, art, mathematics, and ethics.

This ideal has been embodied by such intellectual giants as da Vinci, Galileo and Newton. Their innovative accomplishments grew out of their integration of advanced knowledge in several fields.

Modern Questions Require Innovative Answers

Our modern dilemmas of environmental destruction and weakening global economies, beg advanced and creative solutions. Such ideas and strategies arise from a balance of science and the "softer" disciplines. Technology and culture are at their best when integrated for the good of mankind.

An encouraging sign of the times is the fact that almost 40% of Yale's student body chooses to major in the Humanities. They realize that academic training and research in subjects like history, languages, comparative cultures and rhetoric will not only enrich their lives, but hopefully the lives of generations to come.

Yet the practical value of humanistic studies is still questioned on a regular basis.

Swedish Enterprise Prefers Technology to the Humanities

Recently, The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Sweden's leading business advocacy group) published a report called "The Art of Messing Up a Life." This report presents data showing how education in the Arts and Humanities puts students at a disadvantage because of the limited earning potential these degrees offer. Graduates also take longer to find employment according to the report. Even the quality of coursework in the Humanities is questioned.

The Dean of the School of Humanities at Lund University in southern Sweden, Prof. Lynn Akesson has commented on this report. Her data refutes the conclusions in it. Facts show a more positive prognosis for students of the Humanities as regards employment and future earnings.

Above all, Professor Akesson is surprised that debating the value of technological education versus cultural studies, is still happening. In our times, well-educated humanists are clearly needed (and also employed) in all sectors and most organizations.

Bringing out the Best of Both Worlds

The dean would like to see students of the Humanities have more contact with technical subjects at the University. Integrating cultural and historical perspectives in the development of new technologies, can result in unique, highly lucrative innovations in both business and society.

Will Sweden Be the First to Take This Bold Step?

Dean Akesson would also like to see Lund University propose to the government, that for every new, major investment in scientific laboratories, a percentage be earmarked for research in the Humanities. This would help counter the tendency to overlook humanistic contributions to society, while favoring the more easily quantified contributions of science and technology.

Lund University in a Unique Position

In Lund, there are two, very large scientific laboratories in the pipeline: Max Lab IV for studying accelerator and nuclear physics, and the European Spallation Source (ESS) which will expand our knowledge of material science at the neutron level.

When these state-of-the-art laboratories make new discoveries in the decades ahead, we need to study how they will affect us, our culture, and the generations to come.

In the spirit of the Renaissance, this will deepen and expand our understanding of the world and our place in it.

Then - as now - the Humanities are a strong component in the mix.

Lund, Sweden

March 2012

About the Author: Janet Boynton Runeson is a freelance web copywriter and director of Entrepreneurial Copy. With several advanced degrees in the humanities, fine arts and economics, she has extensive experience in international marketing and specializes in cultural awareness.

Source: EzineArticles
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