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Science Square
Mar 1, 2010

The semantic roots of a word may open up new horizons which relate it to a broader frame of reference, a frame we normally would not connect with this word. This is also true for subsidiary meanings of a word, which are usually overshadowed by the primary meaning. The Arabic word for literature is adab, for instance, which means a lot more than what we understand when we say “literature” in English. Adab refers to “good manners, gentleness, elegance, refinement, and perfection” as much as it does to literature, and it is “interpreted in relation to a person’s lifestyle, conduct, and integrity and as a means to the flourishing of that person in spirituality and the purification of the heart.” The lead article of this issue does not speak of “literature” in terms of a scholarly discipline alone, but expounds more on this interesting connection of “letters” and “good conduct.”

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Polkinghorne are our guests in Matter & Beyond this issue. Professor Tucker from Yale University correlates the spiritual crisis we face in modern times with the ecological crisis on the Earth. Tucker says we are obsessed with economic growth and this preoccupation is creating a number of different types of alienation, sadness, even addictions, because the emptiness of modern consumer life is suffocating the human soul. Polkinghorne, a Fellow of the Royal Society and the former President of Queens’ College, Cambridge, says that science does not tell us the whole story. For him science “needs supplementation by other forms of insight.” Further, he emphasizes how valuable we humans are when he says, “Obviously on the scale of the universe, we are very tiny creatures, and we inhabit a planet that is just a speck of dust, really in the great universe, but we are greater than all the stars because we know them and ourselves, and they know nothing.”

Each day new innovations in science and technology are introduced into our lives. It is often debatable whether scientific research is conducted for the sake of science to fulfill a human need, or if it is manipulated in a way to boost a consumerist economy by shoveling new products onto the market every day. Still, there are interesting findings and discoveries we can learn from the mass media and journals, which will inspire us each time with an appreciation of the glorious harmony found in the universe. Aiming to be a source of inspiration for those readers who seek knowledge through perceiving this harmony, The Fountain is launching Science Square, a new section which will feature a brief account of some of the most interesting scientific news, compiled from recently released papers and reviews. Proceed to the department and see how running barefoot is less damaging than running with shoes, see how pure water can remain liquid at temperatures down to –40 C, how cancer-causing DNA mutations are deciphered, and how scientists are inspired by the spider web.