An enlightening encounter with Saul Perlmutter, Laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2011

published by Equipe FORCCAST on 24 Oct 2017

filed under Events

Nicolas Benvegnu and Thomas Tari met Saul Perlmutter, Professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and astrophysicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Laureate of 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In October 2017, Saul Perlmutter was in Paris to receive an Honorary Causa Doctorate from the University Paris Diderot. He also gave a well attended conference at Science Po “ The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Hunting for Where One is Wrong: How open-minded methods of science could help our societies tackle their difficult challenges.”

In Sciences Po, he spent time with Nicolas Benvegnu, Director of the Forccast program, to start the exchanges defined within the France-Berkeley fund framework. Last june, Forccast and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) were indeed awarded a France-Berkeley Fund grant to develop collaboration between the two groups. Funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UC Berkeley, the France-Berkeley fund promotes the scientific and academic exchanges between UC Berkeley and French research institutes and higher education institutions.

The project submitted to the France-Berkeley fund aims to develop research and teaching collaborations between the Forccast program – and, in more general terms, to Sciences Po’s Medialab – and the recently created Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS), directed by Prof. Perlmutter,  around the questions of controversies and conspiracies in the digital world.

This meeting between with Prof. Perlmutter followed the 3rd Forccast Summer school which took place at Sciences Po in september 2016 on the theme of Controversies and Conspiracies. Conceptual boundaries and empirical practices. Charlotte Mazel-Cabasse, a BIDS researcher  was invited to participate to the summer  school. Her presence was an  opportunity to start a collaboration  and to build a common Berkeley/Forccast relationship for the France-Berkeley fund. Charlotte played a key role in establishing this relationship.

The meeting between Saul Perlmutter and Nicolas Benvegnu was an opportunity for both parties to have a better understanding of the pedagogical experiments undertaken on scientific and public issues within both institutions.

  • Saul Perlmutter explained in detail how his interdisciplinary course on “Science, Sense and Sensibility” works, and what are its aims.
  • Then, Sciences Po’s “Science and Society” course, which is currently in preparation, was presented by Nicolas Benvegnu. This course will be proposed as soon as the next academic year to all of Sciences Po’s second-year students.

To illustrate this new course, Saul Perlmutter was invited on a “scientific stroll” in the streets of Paris, tailored just for him by the Forccast team. The theme was The sky seen from Paris. Astronomy and politics in 19th century France. Nicolas Benvegnu and Thomas Tari prepared the itinerary. Thomas is now a full member of the Forccast team and has just been hired within the Active Pedagogies Lab of Sciences Po. His main task will consist of promoting the “Science and Society” course as well as developing the environment necessary for this experiment to take place.

The first exchanges were thrilling, by all means. The encounter lasted several hours, during which some common objectives for the future were identified. Most importantly, these exchanges meant a first concrete step towards tightening the bonds between both institutions.

The next step will consist of welcoming Berkeley researchers at the Sciences Po Medialab next winter. Then a Forccast delegation will visit California in spring 2018. Judging by this first meeting, whatever may come next sounds truly promising!