Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Saul Perlmutter: critical thinking for all

Understanding how people work is as important as learning how the world works

What can we learn about the process of learning? This is the question that Saul Perlmutter, winner of the 2011 Physics Nobel Prize, has been trying to address in the past few years. He is no stranger to attempting to solve deep and complex questions. He was awarded with the Nobel prize for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.

Perlmutter is looking for a way to teach critical thinking used in science, not only to future scientists but to everyone. In a podcast interview with EuroScientist, Perlmutter shares his vision to build a curriculum to transmit the scientific research culture to students of all levels and backgrounds.

Perlmutter, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, and a faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, believes that if society would use science as a toolbox to solve some of the public policy or economic problems, it would have high chances of success.

Reflecting on what science has taught him, he thinks that there are three important lessons. First, difficult problems are worth working on for a long time. Second, people have to be open to being wrong. And third, teamwork is fundamental when making decisions.

Concluding his lecture to the hundreds of young researchers that attended the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, in June 2015, in Germany, he pointed out: “Science as a collection of heuristic tricks continually being invented to side-step our mental weaknesses and play to our strengths.”

Featured image credit: CC BY NC 2.0 by Adrian Schröder

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