“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”—
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons createphyd within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
“‘If you put three pigeons in two pigeonholes, at least two of the pigeons end up in the same hole.’ … [However, the team] found instances when three quantum particles [were] put in two boxes, ‘yet no two particles [shared] the same box.’ … In conclusion, … the authors [have] ‘presented a new quantum effect that requires us to revisit some of the most basic notions of quantum physics—the notions of separability, of correlations and of interactions.’”
"You ask me if an ordinary person could ever get to be able to imagine these things like I imagine them. Of course! I was an ordinary person who studied hard. There are no miracle people. It happens they get interested in this thing and they learn all this stuff, but they’re just people. There’s no talent, no special ability to understand quantum mechanics, or to imagine electromagnetic fields, that comes without practice and reading and learning and study. I was not born understanding quantum mechanics — I still don’t understand quantum mechanics! I was born not knowing things were made out of atoms, and not being able to visualize, therefore, when I saw the bottle of milk that I was sucking, that it was a dynamic bunch of balls bouncing around. I had to learn that just like anybody else. So if you take an ordinary person who is willing to devote a great deal of time and work and thinking and mathematics, then he’s become a scientist!”
“Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”—Bertrand Russell
Russell’s teapot, sometimes called the celestial teapot or cosmic teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion.
Russell wrote that if he claims that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it is nonsensical for him to expect others to believe him on the grounds that they cannot prove him wrong. Russell’s teapot is still referred to in discussions concerning the existence of God.
Books that help clarify what science truly is, explain its history and methods, and inspire curiosity about our universe.
As well, the books that debunk the myths which lead to confusion about our world and how it works, that we may slowly change our relationship to nature: from fear and superstition to awe and understanding.
Emerging and proposed technologies such as human cloning and genetic engineering have drawn a chorus of objections from politicians, pundits, and scholars. … Russell Blackford eschews the heated rhetoric that surrounds these technological developments and examines them in the context of secular and liberal thought.
… Blackford argues … that the challenge is that fear of these technologies has created an atmosphere in which liberal tolerance itself is threatened.
“No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated… Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.”—Richard Feynman, The Meaning of it All (via worldken)
Older adults who took music lessons as children but haven’t actively played an instrument in decades have a faster brain response to a speech sound than individuals who never played an instrument, according to a new study by Northwestern University researchers.
Nice. So those piano lessons didn’t go to waste, after all.
““Atheism” is a fine word, and I’m happy to describe myself as an atheist. God is an idea that has consequences, and those consequences don’t accord with the world we experience any better than countless other ideas we’ve given up on. But given a choice I would always describe myself first as a “naturalist” — someone who believes that there is only one realm of reality, the material world, which obeys natural laws, and that we human beings are part of it. “Atheism” is ultimately about rejecting a certain idea, while “naturalism” is about a positive acceptance of a comprehensive worldview. Naturalists have a lot more work to do than simply rejecting God; they bear the responsibility of understanding how to live a meaningful life in a universe without built-in purpose.”—The Case for Naturalism By Sean Carroll | May 7, 2012 9:03 am
Besides the few famous ones in film and books, do theoretical physicists actually exist, happily, doing interesting things?
Or are they magical unicorn butterfly creatures that are only rumored to have been seen in the wild, but are only miserably locked away in towers, trying to get impossible tenure positions?
@ redcloud: haha. good one. yes.
@ thenoobyorker: the honest answer, I guess. I’m guessing it’s the latter. Janna Levin is one such unicorn that comes to mind, but… that’s just it. One. I don’t understand how one acquires the finances to live this life.
That applies to preference of products with natural ingredients, and extends to the belief that humans are separate from animals and nature — that human-created means unnatural. Whether it’s the cliche complaint, “Kids these days spend too much time with technology. It’s unnatural,” or naive religious/sexual views.
It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world, it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors. Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”
Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.
What’s the harm in believing in unproven concepts like Chinese medicine’s theory of Qi if its remedies seem to help?
Philosophers of science have been preoccupied for a while with what they call the “demarcation problem,” the issue of what separates good science from bad science and pseudoscience (and everything in between). The problem is relevant for at least three reasons.The first is philosophical: Demarcation is crucial to our pursuit of knowledge; its issues go to the core of debates on epistemology and of the nature of truth and discovery. The second reason is civic: our society spends billions of tax dollars on scientific research, so it is important that we also have a good grasp of what constitutes money well spent in this regard. Should the National Institutes of Health finance research on “alternative medicine”? Should the Department of Defense fund studies on telepathy? Third, as an ethical matter, pseudoscience is not — contrary to popular belief — merely a harmless pastime of the gullible; it often threatens people’s welfare, sometimes fatally so. For instance, millions of people worldwide have died of AIDS because they (or, in some cases, their governments) refuse to accept basic scientific findings about the disease, entrusting their fates to folk remedies and “snake oil” therapies.
“Screw writing “strong” women. Write interesting women. Write well-rounded women. Write complicated women. Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner. Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman who doesn’t need a man. Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong. Write characters who are people.”—madlori via; read the rest.
“The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind.”—Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities, 1938 (via inthenoosphere)
She told me that she could no longer bear living on this planet. She wanted to be caught high up in the gravity, weightless, orbiting afar; appreciating the marvel, the splendor of it all—a hypothetical, transcendent, post-biological being of sorts. She wanted the Earth and its glowing spark to…
“There is a great irony in building palaces and monuments. These structures are essentially constructed by the poor, overseen by the fortunate and enjoyed by the elite. Such architecture, once completed, only serves to reinforce and venerate this sorry exploitation and unfounded reverence.”—
Years ago, I used to think that all the futuristic architecture in Dubai was sooo cooool… until a guy in one of my classes did a presentation about how shitty and horrifying that entire situation is. u_u
“In addition, she said, her colleagues need to recognize the potential of women who discover a passion for science relatively late. Studies show that an early interest in science doesn’t correlate with ability. You can be a science nut from infancy and not grow up to be good at research … or you can come to science very late and turn out to be a whiz.”—Eileen Pollack Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?
“The history of philosophy has always been the agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the repressor’s role: how can you think without having read Plato, Descartes, Kant and Heidegger and so-and-so’s book on them? A formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought—but which makes those who stay outside conform all the more to this specialism which they despise. An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it stops people from thinking.”—Deleuze, ‘Dialogues’ (via aidsnegligee)
“Socrates started the conversation about philosophical conversation. This shabby eccentric who wandered the marketplace in fifth-century Athens accosting passersby and cross-questioning them in his celebrated style set the pattern for philosophical discussion and teaching. His pupil Plato crafted eloquent Socratic dialogues that, we assume, capture something of what it was like to be harangued and goaded by his mentor, though perhaps they’re more of a ventriloquist act. Socrates himself, if we believe Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, had no great respect for the written word. He argued that it was inferior to the spoken. A page of writing might seem intelligent, but whatever question you ask of it, it responds in precisely the same way each time you read it — as this sentence will, no matter how many times you return to it.”—
Understandable. After all, everything is always in flux. Shouldn’t our conversation be fluid as well?
On the other hand, it’s why I love writing: rather than floating words and confusion, writing is set down. Mistakes are fewer. There’s time to craft a sentence into what you really mean, instead of going back and forth uselessly repeating things and stumbling over impolite interjections by an impatient listener. You didn’t catch something? Read it again — it’s all there.
And more so, isn’t writing “digitally” the best of both worlds? Quick and fluid like conversation, direct and anchored like print, but without the concrete irreparability of the latter.
“Whenever philosophical education lapses into learning facts about history and texts, regurgitating an instructor’s views, or learning from a textbook, it moves away from its Socratic roots in conversation. Then it becomes so much the worse for philosophy and for the students on the receiving end of what the radical educationalist Paolo Freire referred to pejoratively in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) as the ‘banking’ of knowledge. The point of philosophy is not to have a range of facts at your disposal, though that might be useful, nor to become a walking Wikipedia or ambulant data bank: rather, it is to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves, questions about reality and appearance, life and death, god and society. As Plato’s Socrates tells us, ‘These are not trivial questions we are discussing here, we are discussing how to live.’”—Without conversation, philosophy is dogma – Nigel Warburton – Aeon (via wildcat2030)