Bryan Appleyard

Fascinating Algorithms

Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art


W W Norton 424pp £22 order from our bookshop

This book may be the only extant publication in which the word ‘electrifying’ and the name C P Snow appear in the same sentence. ‘Tweedy’ maybe, ‘donnish’ certainly, but ‘electrifying’ never.

In fairness, Arthur I Miller, a physicist and historian of science, is not referring to Snow the man but to his 1959 lecture ‘The Two Cultures’. Again, however, electrifying is hardly the word for a rather liverish complaint about how people in the humanities know nothing about science (and, sort of, vice versa). This became for a while ‘an issue’ and Snow’s analysis is still occasionally evoked to describe what is seen as a lamentable intellectual failing.

It wasn’t and it isn’t. For at least 250 years the impact of science on the humanities has been immense and fundamental, though often negative, and, in the last twenty-five or so years (since the publication of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History

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