Physicist Brian Greene visits MSU to kick off Science Festival

Apr 11, 2016

What do courage and perseverance have to do with science? Lots, according to renowned theoretical physicist and author Brian Greene. He’ll explain in an address that opens the MSU Science Festival.


This week’s MSU Science Festival will focus on the STEAM subjects: science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. The cluster of subjects has got more attention in recent years because American employers commonly struggle to fill technical jobs involving science.

Current State talks with Dr. Brian Greene, an internationally known string theory physicist. He is the keynote speaker at the opening event on Tuesday. His presentation, "Stories from the Frontiers of Discovery," is about innovation, exploration, and discovery. Tickets are free but must be reserved at the Wharton Center.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

What makes a science fest successful?



“It’s the quality of the programming. You need programming that feels nothing like the classroom, that allows kids and adults to have an experience of science that really can touch them emotionally, get them fired up - doesn’t make them feel like they’re under the gun to memorize facts or take exams. It’s really the joy and wonder of exploration.” -- Brian Greene

On perseverance and courage in scientific discovery

“Well, it’s huge. Einstein is the wonderful example of that. We are now in the 100th anniversary of his discovery of the general theory of relativity. It’s the theory of how the force of gravity works. Einstein was advised by friends and colleagues to not work on it! He would never crack the problem they said. 'Even if you do make headway, nobody will believe the insights that you come to!' Yet he had this internal compass where he knew where he wanted to go; and he pursued where that compass was directing him. And in doing so, he changed our understanding of space, time, matter, energy - and the universe. It’s a wonderful story that will be the backbone of my remarks.” -- Greene

On STEAM (Science, Technology, Enginnering, Arts, Math) subjects

“I think it’s a great thing to focus on. There was a focus which initially began as STEM, without the arts side of things. I think it’s vital that we have a more holistic approach to how we think about our explorations of the universe. Scientists approach truth one way, and artists approach it in a different but allied way. Ultimately, it’s the insights of everybody that helps us have a deeper appreciation of the universe and our place within it." -- Greene

Do American schools not emphasize STEAM subjects enough?

“There are a lot of great teachers around this country - so I’m always reluctant to generalize. But I have to say that when I talk to kids around the country, many of them have no idea what science really is. They just think it’s something about memorizing the facts that are in their textbook. They don’t realize that science is about trying to figure things out - that it’s puzzling through, battling against the universe. When we’re lucky, we emerge on the other side with a spectacular new understanding of things.” -- Greene