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Nancy Ellen Abrams

Nancy Ellen Abrams

Nancy Ellen Abrams is the co-author, with world-renowned cosmologist Joel R. Primack, of The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos (Penguin/Riverhead, 2006) and The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World (Yale University Press, 2011).  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 Mexican law and international trade from the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City, and she was a Fulbright Scholar and a Woodrow Wilson Designate.

Nancy has had a long-term interest in the role of science in shaping a new politics.  She has worked in this area for an international law firm, a European environmental think tank, the Ford Foundation, and the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress. With R. Stephen Berry of the University of Chicago she co-created the technique of Scientific Mediation, which permits government agencies to make informed and foresightful 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 decisions.  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 has become standard procedure in the Swedish Department of Industry.With her husband, Joel Primack, she developed the award-winning course “Cosmology and Culture,” which they have co-taught for a decade at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Together they 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  Nancy and Joel have given over 100 talks at universities, science museums, churches, synagogues, and other public venues around the world since the publication of their first book.  Their appearances are listed at, linked to  this website, along with interviews and feature articles.

In October 2009 Nancy and Joel gave the Terry Lectures at Yale University, a prestigious series in science and meaning that has continued for over a century. The lectures can be seen at  . The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World is based on those lectures.

Nancy has also 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 deeper level.  She is a singer/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 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 full lyrics to one she wrote for and performed at an astronomy conference.  Several songs on Nancy’s 2002 album, Alien Wisdom, explore themes of cosmology and culture.

Nancy served six years 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 active participation of artists.