WHY I LIKE THIS by Alain De Botton
This intriguing scientific instrument reminds us of something that the Enlightenment kept well in mind but which we have rather neglected: that our reasons for liking art and science can be remarkably similar.
When this model of the heavens was made, art and science were understood to be cousins, with interest in one leading inexorably to the other. The reasons for being interested in science were not dissimilar to the motives for which one might turn to art: a search for beauty and a grander order of things that could encourage us and put our lives into context.
Scientific work was not reserved for the laboratory. It could enter daily life and be a talking point over dinner. You didn’t need to understand every last detail to feel that you had the right to join in and one could have an aesthetic relationship with science - often neglected in our era, but suggested by this model of the solar system.
The object signals that it’s not enough for a scientific theory to be true: complex concepts (in this case the movements of the planets) need to be presented with elegance and charm if they are to live in our imaginations.
We need today’s scientists to hang out more with artists.
Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life.’ He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. Alain’s latest book, published earlier this year, is titled The News: A User’s Manual.
Image: Model of the transit of Venus, 1748-1761 © Science Museum / SSPL
Posted 4 months ago on Wednesday, 11th June 2014