2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?

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co-founder of the World Science Festival and Chairman, Science Festival Foundation; Professor of Mathematics & Physics, Columbia University; author, The Hidden Reality, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Elegant Universe
Physicist, String Theorist, Columbia University; Author, The Fabric of the Cosmos

The Power of Our Creative and Analytic Abilities

As I help raise my two year old son, I witness a basic truth familiar to parents through the ages and across the continents — we begin life as uninhibited explorers with a boundless fascination for the ever-growing world to which we have access. And what I find amazing is that if that fascination is fed, and if it's challenged, and if it's nurtured, it can grow to an intellect capable of grappling with such marvels as the quantum nature of reality, the energy locked inside the atom, the curved spacetime of the cosmos, the elementary constituents of matter, the genetic code underlying life, the neural circuitry responsible for consciousness, and perhaps even the very origin of the universe. While we evolved to survive, once we have the luxury of taking such survival for granted, the ability of our species to unravel mysteries grand and deep is awe inspiring. I'm optimistic that the world will increasingly value the power of such rational thought and will increasingly rely on its insights in making the most critical decisions.