The Greek government loves to invest in the Parthenon, and Greeks love to visit it. But Indian sites are more likely to remind Americans of the Trail of Tears and treaty violations than appeal to their nationalism.
“Cahokia doesn’t mesh with the narrative of what the U.S. was like,” explains Dr. Adrienne Keene, a Native scholar and activist. “We are taught that nothing was here, so Native people deserved to have their land taken away. There would be less excitement about making Cahokia a national monument: that’s how white supremacy and colonialism work.”
But we’ve moved beyond merely thinking orders at machinery. Now we’re using that machinery to wire living brains together. Last year, a team of European neuroscientists headed by Carles Grau of the University of Barcelona reported a kind of – let’s call it mail-order telepathy – in which the recorded brainwaves of someone thinking a salutation in India were emailed, decoded and implanted into the brains of recipients in Spain and France (where they were perceived as flashes of light).
You might also remember breathless reports of a hive mind emerging from the depths of Duke University in North Carolina during the winter of 2013. Miguel Pais-Vieira and his colleagues had wired together the brains of two rats. Present a stimulus to one, and the other would press a lever. The headlines evoked images of one mind reaching into another, commandeering its motor systems in a fit of Alien Paw Syndrome.
Some science books explore new science, or neglected science, or enduring puzzles, or forgotten adventures in science. Levenson’s is a fresh, smartly-paced account of a story much of which has already been told in different forms many times and especially last year, on the hundredth birthday of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.
Don’t discount it for that. By making Vulcan the star turn, so to speak, Levenson shines a light on how science really happens. Other histories of planetary discovery speed past the mistakes and get to the great achievements. Levenson follows the twists and turns of the Vulcan pursuit – including the newspaper reports, the academic bickering and frustration – and with a light touch delivers serious lessons. One of them, which should be a comfort to us all, is that scientists keep on testing their own assumptions, and questioning their own observations. Yes, if they expect to find something, there is a likelihood that they will see what they are looking for, but they don’t like to be the only people to see it. The lesson is that good science is replicable.
In some ways, the high profile critical debates that surrounded these novels and placed so much importance on them, actually reinforced George W Bush’s assertion that “on September 11 night fell on a new world”. And in doing so, some argue that they undercut the complex prehistories and aftermaths of 9/11, giving it inflated importance in the world narrative.
Generations of parents before me have come to understand that the proverbial days are long, but the years are short. Still, I can’t help but feel that catch in my throat, especially as she begins to become curious and asks about weightier subjects, like the vastness of the universe as she looks into her telescope or about her paternal grandfather’s Parkinson’s Disease as she plays hide-and-seek with him.