Nobel Prize Dialogue Singapore 2022 – Nobel Prize laureate lecture at Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
This student lecture is part of the Nobel Prize Dialogue Singapore 2022 which is taking place on 13 September. Watch that event online here: nobelprize.org/the-future-we-want-together.
Nobel Prize Dialogue is an open, cross-disciplinary meeting bringing together a unique constellation of Nobel Prize laureates, world-leading scientists, policy makers and thought leaders to discuss global issues that affect us all. A forum for scientists and non-scientists alike, the meeting aims to deepen the dialogue between the scientific community and the rest of society.
About the talk “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”
Basic and applied science are traditionally opposed. The former, driven by curiosity and satisfying the desire of mankind for knowledge, is supposed to be useless for all practical purposes, a luxury of sorts. The latter, directly aiming at developing devices helping us to acquire power over the world, is supposed to be the only kind of research really useful and hence worth being financially supported, especially in times of economic hardship. This vision of science is short sighted, as has been pointed out almost a century ago by Abraham Flexner, the founder of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, from whom I have borrowed the title of this lecture.
Most of the inventions which have revolutionised our lives would have been impossible without fundamental discoveries. Reciprocally, the development of precise instruments has often opened the way to new basic advances. I will illustrate this symbiotic relationship between “useless” and “useful” science by examples coming from the development of quantum physics during the last hundred years.
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