Books et al.SCI COMMUN

Divining science

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Science  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6319, pp. 1539
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1557

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The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility," Albert Einstein famously mused in 1936. "The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle." The understandability of the natural world is all the more impressive when one considers the fact that fundamental human assumptions about time and space—the idea that there are 60 minutes in an hour, and that a circle can be broken down into 360 degrees—come from a time with "no articulated sense of nature … no reference or word for it," according to Francesca Rochberg, professor of Near Eastern studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In Before Nature, she argues that the cuneiform world deserves to be included in scientific history.