In May 1995 this profound and far-reaching concern brought together a small but select group of scientists in a remote scientific outpost in Abisko, Sweden, a village far north of the Arctic Circle. Boundaries and Barriers captures the spirit—and the content—of the talks given at the meeting. Included are contributions by John Barrow on the limits of science, John Casti on the search for the “unknowable” in science, James Hartle on quantum cosmology, Harold Morowitz on complexity and epistemology, and six more fascinating chapters that illuminate the possible limits to what we can know by using the tools of science. The issues discussed here challenge the very foundations of science, but the conclusions are optimistic. When the dust clears, science remains standing—our best bet for understanding the way the world works.
The 1997 annual Abisko seminar brought together scientists and science fiction writers to discuss the use and importance of narrative in science. This collects together some of the participants' papers. Most are interesting, but maybe not quite long enough to develop their ideas in full. I suspect the conference itself was quite fun.
All the participants agree that story-telling is important in how we understand science, at whatever level. The fiction writers also reckon that SF is important for insulating us from surprises when new technology appears in our lives, for allowing us to have already had the ethical debates in fiction. However, Paul McAuley points out that the media and the public tend to go for the emotional horror slant, rather than the more rational SFnal perspective -- so maybe SF insulates only SF fans?