Author / Cosmologist
Nancy Ellen Abrams is the co-author, with world-renowned cosmologist Joel R. Primack, of The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World (Yale University Press, 2011) and The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos (Penguin/Riverhead, 2006). She has a B.A. in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Chicago, a law degree from the University of Michigan, and a diploma in international trade and law from the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City. She was a Fulbright Scholar and a Woodrow Wilson Designate. She is a writer whose work has appeared in many journals and magazines and several book anthologies. With Primack she co-authored a prize-winning article on quantum cosmology and Kabbalah, as well as numerous articles on science policy, space policy, and possible cultural implications of modern cosmology. The most recent ones are posted at http://physics.ucsc.edu/cosmo/primackabrams.html. Abrams and Primack have given over 100 talks at universities, science museums, churches, synagogues, high schools, and other public venues around the world since the publication of their first book. Their appearances are listed on the website http://viewfromthecenter.com along with interviews and feature articles.
In October 2009 Abrams and Primack were invited to give the Terry Lectures at Yale University, a prestigious series in science and meaning that was established in 1905. The lectures can be seen at http://new-universe.org/TerryLectures.html . The New Universe and the Human Future grew out of those lectures. A special website http://new-universe.org/ links readers of the book to all the astronomical videos used in the lectures, keyed to the chapter. Those readers with the appropriate e-readers and a wifi connection can simply touch a special symbol that appears in the electronic text to start the relevant video running.
Nancy Ellen Abrams is also a songwriter who has performed at conferences, concerts, and events in nineteen countries, released three albums, and been featured on National Public Radio and television. Her song lyrics were used as chapter headings in the book Powerline by the late Senator Paul Wellstone. New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye’s bestseller, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, describes Nancy’s songs and closes with the complete lyrics to one she wrote for and performed at a major astronomy conference. Together Nancy and Joel developed the award-winning course “Cosmology and Culture” and have been co-teaching it since 1996 at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Several songs on her 2002 album, Alien Wisdom, explore themes of cosmology and culture. She has been intrigued by science’s border with myth since studying with Mircea Eliade at the University of Chicago. She works as a scholar to put the discoveries of modern cosmology into a cultural context and as a writer and musician to communicate their possible meanings at a deeper level.
Nancy has also had a long-term interest in the role of science in shaping a new politics. She has worked in this area for the International Juridical Association in Rome, a European environmental law think tank, the Ford Foundation, and the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress. With R. Stephen Berry of the National Academy of Sciences she co-created the technique of Scientific Mediation, which permits government agencies to make informed and insightful policy decisions on issues where science is crucial but disputed. Scientific Mediation aims not to resolve scientific controversy, which can only be done by scientific research, but to make the essence of the dispute transparent to the non-scientists making the practical political decision. She has consulted on the use of this novel procedure for Sweden, the state governments of California and Wisconsin, Exxon Nuclear, and others, and Scientific Mediation became standard procedure in the Swedish Department of Industry.
Nancy served from 2003-2009 on the Board of Directors of Shakespeare Santa Cruz and is a patron of the arts, knowing that there cannot be a new picture of reality, whether cosmological, political, or spiritual without the creative participation of artists.