Margaret Wertheim - Director of the Institute for Figuring

Apr 22nd, 2003

What drives a man with no science training to think he can succeed where Einstein and Stephen Hawking have failed? For the past thirty years Jim Carter- gold miner, abalone diver, trailer park owner - has been developing his own alternative theory of physics. From the subatomic to the intergalactic, Carter has devised a complete theory of reality, presenting his ideas in self-published books and home-made computer animations. With his refusal to believe in gravity and his Rube Goldberg-like smoke-ring machines Carter could not be further removed from the orthodox world of research science. Is thisgenius, heresy, or lunacy? And who of us are equipped to judge the difference? In this talk, Margaret Wertheim will discuss the fantastical world of outsider physics. Through an exploration of James Carter's work and his idiosyncratic visualizations, Wertheim will explore the power of science to enchant our conceptual landscape. Margaret Wertheim is a writer who focuses on the interaction between science and the wider cultural landscape. She writes the Quark Soup column for the LA Weekly and is the author of Pythagoras Trousers, a history of the relationship between physics and religion, and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace:
A History of Space from Dante to the Internet. Last year she and her husband Cameron Allan completed a film, It's Jim's World ... we just live in it, about visionary outsider physicist James Carter. Carter's work was also the subject of an exhibition Wertheim curated in 2002 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. She is currently writing a book about the role of imagination in theoretical physics.

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