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Tell Me About (Spring 2018)

What popularly held “fact” is just plain wrong when it comes to your field of study?

photo of David Kaplan“One of the biggest surprises people have about our field is that it is so collaborative. Many people picture a physicist sitting at their desk for years until one day, they shout ‘Eureka!’ Of course it (mostly) isn’t like that. Ideas start roughly, and if you decide that it isn’t completely crazy, you tell a couple of people about it. If you are lucky, they start arguing with you about it. The more critical people are, the more interesting the idea must be. Eventually, if nothing wrong is found, those arguments become collaborations. The arguments are never personal—they are always in pursuit of the truth (as, after all, we are in the truth business).”

David Kaplan
Physics and Astronomy

photo of Sylvia Montiglio

Myth: Greek literature is for the elite only. Fact: Until the age of Alexander the Great, when authors were catalogued in libraries and became objects of specialized study, Greek literature was intertwined with political and social life. Greek tragedy is the most striking example of this integration: Sophocles was actively involved in politics, and Athenian citizens were expected, possibly even required, to attend the performances. What we call literature was mostly performed, that is, circulated orally in religious and other public and private settings: So was Homer, so was Pindar. Orators spoke in front of the assembly of citizens or the courts to address communal issues.”

—Silvia Montiglio
Basil L. Gildersleeve
Professor of Classics

photo of Daniel Schlozman

Myth: The rise of independents dooms the two-party system in the United States. Soon the independents will rise up and form a third party. Not so fast. Even if, as of a Gallup survey in February 2018, 42 percent of American adults call themselves ‘independents,’ they are mostly closet partisans. Only 10 percent are pure independents, who do not ‘lean more’ to one party or another. Pure independents are hardly a bloc of socially liberal deficit hawks; their politics more typically looks like a grab-bag of often-extreme positions. Whatever electoral convulsions the United States has in store, the oft-predicted revolt of the independents is unlikely to be among them.”

Daniel Schlozman
Joseph and Bertha Bernstein Assistant Professor
Political Science