21 NOV 2017 by ideonexus

 Evolutionary History Through Macro and Micro Observations

Everything in the cosmos has a history. The old dichotomy between the "historical" sciences (like geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology) and the (for want of a better term) "functional" sciences (like physics and chemistry—some would call them the "real sciences") was always supposed to be that fields like physics study dynamic processes and discover immutable laws of interaction among particles composing the cosmos—while the historical sciences study, well, history—the suppose...
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30 MAY 2015 by ideonexus

 Are the Humanities Political?

It is very easy to argue that knowledge about Shakespeare or Wordsworth is not political whereas knowledge about contemporary China or the Soviet Union is. My own formal and professional designation is that of "humanist," a title which indicates the humanities as my field and therefore the unlikely eventuality that there might be anything political about what I do in that field. Of course, all these labels and terms are quite unnuanced as I use them here, but the general truth of what I am po...
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24 JAN 2015 by ideonexus

 Technology is Preserving Our Ghosts

Our technology is giving us progressively greater power to keep alive our ancestors' ghosts. First the invention of writing allowed us to preserve their words. Painting and photography allowed us to preserve their faces. The phonograph preserves their voices and the videotape recorder preserves their movement and gestures. But this is only the beginning. Soon we shall acquire the technology to preserve a permanent record of the sequence of bases in the DNA of their cells. This means that we s...
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13 MAR 2014 by ideonexus

 The Composition of Planets

As to your reasoning of the inconvenience that a centre would become further removed from another centre than from the circumference of his own globe, though centres are of the same species while the centre and circumference are of contrary nature and should therefore be furthest removed from one another, I reply as follows: Firstly, that contraries need not be at the furthest distance one from another, inasmuch as one may influence the other or may be patient of influence therefrom; as we se...
Folksonomies: history astronomy
Folksonomies: history astronomy
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And why we do not see them orbiting other suns.

12 APR 2013 by ideonexus

 Prediction VS Forecast

The official position of the USGS is even more emphatic: earthquakes cannot be predicted. “Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake,” the organization’s Web site asserts.24 “They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.” Earthquakes cannot be predicted? This is a book about prediction, not a book that makes predictions, but I’m willing to stick my neck out: I predict that there will...
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One is a definitive statement, the other a probabilistic one.

26 APR 2012 by ideonexus

 The Second Law of Thermodynamics

There is only one law of Nature—the second law of thermodynamics—which recognises a distinction between past and future more profound than the difference of plus and minus. It stands aloof from all the rest. ... It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organisation; and it is in connection with organisation that a direction of time-flow and a distinction between doing and undoing appears for the first time.
Folksonomies: physics thermodynamics
Folksonomies: physics thermodynamics
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A beautiful comment about it.

25 APR 2012 by ideonexus

 Seeing VS Observing

I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. 'When I hear you give your reasons,' I remarked, 'the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.' 'Quite so,' he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an arm-chair. 'You see, but you d...
Folksonomies: observation mindfulness
Folksonomies: observation mindfulness
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Sherlock Holmes explains the difference between taking your world for granted and observing it scientifically.

29 MAR 2012 by ideonexus

 Distinguishing Personal Religion from Institutionalized R...

In critically judging of the value of religious phenomena, it is very important to insist on the distinction between religion as an individual personal function, and religion as an institutional, corporate, or tribal product. I drew this distinction, you may remember, in my second lecture. The word “religion,” as ordinarily used, is equivocal. A survey of history shows us that, as a rule, religious geniuses attract disciples, and produce groups of sympathizers. When these groups get stron...
Folksonomies: religion
Folksonomies: religion
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Two very different things of different merits.

30 JAN 2012 by ideonexus

 The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses

It will be observed that the distinction [between hypothesis and theory] is not such as to prevent a working hypothesis from gliding with the utmost ease into a ruling theory. Affection may as easily cling about a beloved intellectual child when named as a hypothesis as if named a theory, and its establishment in the one guise may become a ruling passion very much as in the other. The historical antecedents and the moral atmosphere associated with the working hypothesis lend some good influen...
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By maintaining many hypotheses, the scientist does not fall in love with one over the others and fall into the trap of confirmation bias.

12 DEC 2011 by ideonexus

 What is a "Law of Nature"?

Our modern understanding of the term "law of nature" is an issue philosophers argue at length, and it is a more subde question than one may at first think. For example, the philosopher John W. Carroll compared the statement "All gold spheres are less than a mile in diameter" to a statement like "All uranium-23 spheres are less than a mile in diameter." Our observations of the world tell us that there are no gold spheres larger than a mile wide, and we can be pretty confident there never will ...
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Many laws of nature are conclusions drawn from the larger "interconnected system of laws."