Mindful that I had the Le Guin panel at two, I trekked back to the hotel to book another night. This involved borrowing an umbrella, as I was in my posh clothes and the sleet was still heavily falling. The checkout person informed me that the rooms weren’t quite ready, so I spent about twenty minutes in the bar eating a veggie burger, anxiously checking the clock and trying not to grind my teeth.
The room was eventually sorted, and I headed back to the Le Guin panel. Edward James, who was chairing the panel, had asked us to pick four ‘favorites’ and I’d made notes abecause I didn’t want to make an idiot on myself on a panel with Nnedi Okorafor!
Other panellists were Ruth Booth and my friend Kari Sperring, a committee member who’d stepped in a little late to replace another panellist. Kari said on the panel that she was a little tired, which was understandable because she’d been working really hard all weekend, running hither and yon like a fast moving thing.
The panel went well and I think people enjoyed it, although I was glad to have taken notes. Le Guin’s essay titles aren’t always very rememberable, as in ‘A non-Euclidean view of California as a cold place to be.’
We’d been asked to name favorites, Kari naming ‘The Tombs of Atuan,’ one of the Earthsea books, Ruth ‘The Word for World is Forest’ and Nnedi the short story ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.’ I was really glad I’d asked them about favorites before the panel, as the last two works were on my list! I ended up talking about ‘Always Coming Home,’ which I read over about six weeks earlier this year.
Stan’s lecture on Galileo and the scientific method was immediately afterwards. This was interesting and included some great slides of Jupiter from the Juno probe, Venice, c16th paintings and illustrations from Galileo’s books. Stan’s claim was that Galileo had basically invented the scientific method in Venice over about twenty years.
This involved rejecting the erroneous theories of Aristotle and concentrating on phenomena that could be easily demonstrated in a practical way. It also involved the invention of physical devices, in a part as a substitute for the complex maths of physics like calculus that wasn’t invented until the subsequent generation.
I think the case he made is strong, at least for physics, but I’d agree with Paul Feyerabend and others that there’s not really any such thing as the scientific method. What exists is a range of ways of systematising and making sense of the empirical world. Darwin’s method in ‘The Origin of Species’ was also empirical but differed significantly from Galileo’s. It involved reasoning by analogy and example, and stitching together observations into a broad tapestry to present an overall picture that supported natural selection. This is still science, but done differently than Galileo. One has to adapt one’s method to the situation.
Anyway, the account of his trial was interesting. Galileo was argumentative and basically managed to piss off the Pope which, given that you could be burnt for heresy was not a good idea. Stan also mentioned his poor daughters who’d been dispatched to a nunnery that specialised in poverty. One died young and the other stopped talking to him, which was unsurprising given the circumstances....
By the end of Stan’s talk, I was seriously suffering from sleep deprivation. Returned to the hotel and popped into the gym, hoping a run would wake me up but it just made me more tired. Slipped into bed at about half seven and fell fast asleep until morning, so I missed the after party.
Eastercon’s been quite an experience, if rather intensive, and I think I’m still processing it really. Still, the sun is shining in the hotel window, and spring is finally here. Must dash!