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A Post-Scientific Thought Experiment

Can the incredibly concrete and the totally abstract coexist?

Real estate seems to be as concrete as it gets.  It’s the land that we stand on, and yet, on the other hand, it is as abstract as it gets.  It is something that somehow we own in spite of the fact that it existed before us and will be around long after we are here.

Science is also in a strange paradoxical situation that it seems to me might potentially be a way of thinking about and looking at real estate. And real estate in turn might be a way of thinking about and looking at science.  Science was initially the most basic thing we could possibly do – to look at the world around us and then to come up with a theory about how something happened and then to use that theory as a tool with which to look at the universe more closely, which might lead to another theory, and so on until finally we get to this point where string theory seems to be the next thing.  But any theory that has come up as the next big thing seems to require a degree of observation tools that may never be available to us.

For instance, to probe at the ten to the negative thirty-fifth meter scale would require energy levels that would require a particle accelerator the size of a galaxy.  So we’re in this strange paradoxical situation where this scientific process seems to maybe have brought us to a post scientific moment, one in which the incredibly concrete and the totally abstract coexist in this sort of uncomfortable way that I believe we need to confront and to contemplate and that the coexistence in something as basic and everyday as real estate potentially is a way of reflecting on that in science and vice versa.

This is in general one of the strategies that I use to take two worlds that don’t encounter each other on an everyday basis and probably for good reason and to allow those worlds to brush up against each other in a way that each one of them can disrupt the other.  Each one of them can make the other a little bit less familiar, perhaps absurd. And that absurdity, the discomfort in the absurdity ideally with a little bit of laughter as well can lead us to cross-examine from one world to another from a perspective outside of these worlds, whether that world is big science or big money. Then we can think about them without the assumptions that are built into each one in its own right.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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