Cover image for Mission to Abisko : stories and myths in the creation of scientific "truth"
Mission to Abisko : stories and myths in the creation of scientific "truth"
Publication Information:
Reading, Mass. : Perseus Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 194 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
Target Audience:
1280 L
A collection of essays by a group of scientists who write and science fiction writers who practice science, discussing the topic of scientific truth
Lexile Measure:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Book 501.4 MIS 1

On Order



In May 1997, acclaimed science author John Casti led a dozen gifted writers to a remote Swedish village called Abisko, far above the Arctic Circle, to discuss the nature of scientific truth. Their discussions and debates focused on one major question: How do the stories that scientists tell each other, and the public, affect the way they do their science? This book is the outcome of that lively meeting of the minds. Each chapter is by a noted scientist who writes, or science fiction writer who practices science, and the cast includes John Barrow, Greg Bear, Ian Stewart, Gregory Benford, Larry Niven, and John Casti himself. In this fascinating look behind the scenes of science, eleven of the world's top scientist-authors examine the phenomenon of science as storytelling.As these authors demonstrate, the tales scientists tell each other are often even more mysterious or fanciful than those they tell the public. Many of these tales are called "thought experiments," and their purpose is to focus and encapsulate large amounts of knowledge into short, pithy pictures, that capture the essence--and the shortcomings--of a scientific theory. Nevertheless, some of these tales--such as " Schrödinger's Cat " and " Hilbert's Infinite Hotel "--have worked their way into the public consciousness, almost to the point of being household words. Mission to Abisko is a must-read for people curious about our perception of scientific "truth."

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Casti (Santa Fe Institute) and coauthor Karlqvist arranged a retreat for a dozen science authors in the Swedish village of Abisko above the Arctic Circle. Their focus was on the notion of science narratives, those accounts told by scientists to one another and the public, and the science fiction tales of gifted writers. They explored how narratives--including a wide range of thought experiments, analogical devices, and other tools of speculative imagination--affect our theories and explanations of the world and our relationship to it. Topics such as Einstein and Cubism, algorithmic and ascetic storytelling, and information and metaphor are presented through the juxtaposition of the perspectives of scientists, mathematicians, and historians such as John Borrow, Kjell Jonsson, Per Johansson, and Ian Stewart with those of science fiction writers including Greg Bear, Paul McAuley, and Larry Niven. These two camps utilize different strategies for explaining the present and anticipating the future as well as preparing us for the challenges future developments and technology will bring. It is a lively discussion by excellent writers on topics of importance and substance with an abundance of material for intellectual reflection. General readers; upper-division undergraduates; graduate students; professionals. R. M. Davis Albion College

Table of Contents

John L. Casti and Anders KarlqvistJohn D. BarrowGreg BearGregory BenfordJohn L. CastiJack CohenPer-A. JohanssonKjell JonssonAnders Karlqvist
Prefacep. vii
Chapter 1 The Analogy of Naturep. 1
Chapter 2 Proving the Dreamp. 7
Chapter 3 Beyond This Horizon: Envisioning the Next Century, or Stories of our (Preventable?) Future(s)p. 17
Chapter 4 The Cambridge Quintet: The Chronicle of an Experiment in 'Scientific Fiction'p. 39
Chapter 5 Becoming Maureen--A Story of Developmentp. 49
Chapter 6 Algorithmic and Ascetic Storytelling: Alternative Approaches to Imagination and Realityp. 59
Chapter 7 Einstein at the Amusement Park: The Public Story of Relativity in Swedish Culturep. 101
Chapter 8 Telling Sciencep. 121