Sunday, August 23, 2009

Amateur Science - Freeman Dyson on NYRB

A new issue in the podcast of the New York Review of Books was a charming interview with Freeman Dyson about amateur science, among others. Dyson explains why he thinks amateur scientists have good science to contribute in addition to the professional scientists.

Amateurs work with a different set of conditions than professionals. Dyson's example is astronomy, where the professionals have the better hardware, but very little time to spend there. Amateurs have plenty of time and with modern affordable technology have the chance to make reasonably accurate measurements. With their advantage of time, they can actually make measurements the professional do not come round making.

Once one has taken in this example, the principle of modern technology at low price combined with the internet, gives the idea that in any field of study a determined amateur can make good contributions. Taken that into account, I think again of the plea by Professor James Boyle for enclosing the commons of the mind. Currently much of scientific literature is actually not accessible on-line and he wants to change that. Arguing it is common property and it is for the good of all to have this body available.

More NYRB podcast:
Roger Cohen in Tehran,
Ronald Dworkin.

About the issue of copyrights:
James Boyle on RSA, and on Thinking Allowed,
Helprin on Copyright.