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The Role of Place in Discovery and Innovation

The Kauffman Foundation's Samuel Arbesman on his new book, The Half-Life of Facts.
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If you ask most people, they’ll tell you facts are facts. But the reality of the matter, as Samuel Arbesman points out in his brilliant new book, The Half-Life of Facts, is "[f]acts change all the time." To cite just a few of Arbesman’s most compelling examples: We used to think that the earth was the center of the universe, that Pluto was a planet, and that brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. Arbesman is an applied mathematician and network scientist by training, as well as a senior scholar with the Kauffman Foundation and fellow at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. I talked with Arbesman, who writes a great deal about cities and is a frequent contributor to this site, about the role of place, community, and cities in the way we know, discover, and innovate.

Does place factor into the development of new knowledge and new facts? Why do some places develop an advantage in developing new science? How and why has this changed over time?