The fifth biennial Science Matters (SciMat) conference “Interdisciplinary Education & Teaching in the 21st Century” Cascais, Portugal, October 28-30, 2015.

The conference was held in a hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean not far from Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of mainland Europe. Situated between Sintra and Cascais, 100 metre cliffs rise above magnificent beaches. It is a place where one can sit and listen to the waves of water crashing along the shore, while debating Art and Science the enduring subject of the present series of conferences.


According to John Steinbeck (1902-1968) “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” * This quotation formed the backdrop to Deidre Barrett’s (Harvard) talk on the role of dreaming in everyday problems and creative projects. From Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde to the sewing machine of Elias Howe Jr and from Paul McCartney of the Beatles to Mendelev’s periodic table – all these people and others have found successful inspiration through their dreams.

Many talks at the conference were concerned with Interdisciplinarity. Maria Burguete (Lisbon), cochair of the conference discussed integration – when ideas blend two disciplines together. Ana Moita (Lisbon) described her work on personality disorders in ex-addicts. António Saraiva and Ricardo Miranda (Portugal) analyzed “The Earth Chart” – a declaration promoting human rights. Elisa Guberti (Italy) focused on the training of engineers and interdisciplinary skills. José Carlos Quadrado (Portugal) drew attention to the importance of communication and teamwork in his discussion on Interdisciplinarity.  In complete contrast, but still on the theme of Interdisciplinarity, Marta de Menezes (Portugal) described the fusion of Art and Biology at the genetic level.


Manuel Mota (Portugal) gave a talk on his view of the history of Biology.


On educational issues: Annette Vogt (Germany) looked at science education and gender studies. Donghui Zhang and Tianying Xuan (China) elaborated the evolution of “General Education” in China and the rest of the world. This reviewer spoke about the relevance of textbooks in a digital world.


Jean-Patrick Conerade (UK & Europe) the other conference cochair spoke about Science and Poetry. Contrasting problems in understanding science from a poetic viewpoint, he concluded that “Science verges on Poetry when it starts to make truly fundamental principles”. Broadening the contrast to Science and Literature, Baudouin Jurdant’s (France) contribution examined the differences between science writing – an act of creation nearly blind to the reaction of the readership and literary writing, which is directed to the reader’s feelings, with poetry the hesitation between sense and sound.


Lui Lam (USA & China), one of the founders of the conference series, described an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural introductory course on the humanities and science which he designed and gave to students at Renmin University of China, Beijing. One of the students at Lui Lam’s course, Yue Guo (China) described a project she and her co-workers completed on a comparative study of the image of youth in films in China and the USA.


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