Carlos

Bad, Bad, Science

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Every now and then while reading about our climate I stumble on a story that makes me want to wrench my hair out and shriek to the heavens in dismay over what are amazingly pathetic displays of science...

Here's the story:

Apparently around 1990 a very large number of the land based temperature stations that are used to calculate the "global" average temperature were simply removed, and this was primarily done to stations in rural settings.

Many scientists have contended that the urban located temperature stations are fundamentally flawed as they record higher temperatures than the rural stations because of urban heat island effects, and these heat effects will only grow over time as the city grows.

Take a look at this did to the "global" temperature:

http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Stationdropout.jpg

http://icecap.us/images/uploads/MSU_Satell..._Data_Bases.pdf

Here is a minute long movie that shows the locations of these temperature stations over time. Notice the vast majority of the stations are located not only in the northern hemisphere, but primarily in America. This is not even mentioning that they are only mounted on land... how this is supposed to give one a "global" average temperature (especially when stations move so often) is beyond me:

http://climate.geog.udel.edu/~climate/html...ges/air_loc.mpg

(notice the sudden station drop out around the 90's)

Now imagine this, during the 90's we had El Nino, a warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and a maximum in solar activity, and at the start of the 90's primarily rural temperature stations were discontinued... is it any grand surprise that "global" temperatures peaked in the 90's?

Sometimes words escape me on how stupid the smartest people on this planet can be...

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Sometimes words escape me on how stupid the smartest people on this planet can be...

When you need some words, do not worry as I have more than enough for the "stupid" people.

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Carlos, sometimes I like to pick up an old science text by Newton, Darwin, Lord Kelvin, et. al., and read how men of reason used to think. It's such a pleasure and contrast to today's hacks. It is fuel for the mind.

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Carlos, sometimes I like to pick up an old science text by Newton, Darwin, Lord Kelvin, et. al., and read how men of reason used to think. It's such a pleasure and contrast to today's hacks. It is fuel for the mind.

I'm not even sure that people today know how to critically think in a way that is coherent to reality anymore, whether it be a college student or a "leading" researcher.

100 years ago abstract Science was a quest to understand the universe; today abstract Science is about publishing as many articles as possible, getting those articles cited by other scientists to earn prestige, and using slick political skills to secure government funding and to destroy academic enemies.

Now that I'm in graduate school I find myself in a flux of sorts between two states of mind, one which enjoys finally being at this level of higher education, and the other which can't wait to get the hell away from academia...

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Carlos, sometimes I like to pick up an old science text by Newton, Darwin, Lord Kelvin, et. al., and read how men of reason used to think. It's such a pleasure and contrast to today's hacks. It is fuel for the mind.

I know what you mean though, as I continually find myself slowly going backwards in time to feed my mind's hunger!

Right now I'm studying a book published in the 50's called "Introduction to Theoretical Meteorology". It is simply delightful to read a rigorous account of the Earth's climate and atmosphere where the terms "global warming", "greenhouse gas" or "greenhouse effect" literally never appear!

Another delightful thing has been reading a biography of Einstein written by a close colleague of his. The image painted of Einstein is that of a supremely rational, benevolent, warm natured man who greatly valued the importance of an independent mind.

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Carlos, sometimes I like to pick up an old science text by Newton, Darwin, Lord Kelvin, et. al., and read how men of reason used to think. It's such a pleasure and contrast to today's hacks. It is fuel for the mind.

I know what you mean though, as I continually find myself slowly going backwards in time to feed my mind's hunger!

Right now I'm studying a book published in the 50's called "Introduction to Theoretical Meteorology". It is simply delightful to read a rigorous account of the Earth's climate and atmosphere where the terms "global warming", "greenhouse gas" or "greenhouse effect" literally never appear!

Another delightful thing has been reading a biography of Einstein written by a close colleague of his. The image painted of Einstein is that of a supremely rational, benevolent, warm natured man who greatly valued the importance of an independent mind.

I can agree with both of you. Some of the books I have, fiction and non-fiction, go back 100 to 150 years ago and are most pleasurable to read.

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I'm not even sure that people today know how to critically think in a way that is coherent to reality anymore, whether it be a college student or a "leading" researcher.

Some people do and the crazier the viros get, the quicker people with common sense realize what they really are.

100 years ago abstract Science was a quest to understand the universe; today abstract Science is about publishing as many articles as possible, getting those articles cited by other scientists to earn prestige, and using slick political skills to secure government funding and to destroy academic enemies.

If abstract scientists keep it up, they will be regarded by average Americans with the same contempt that they hold for philosophers.

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If abstract scientists keep it up, they will be regarded by average Americans with the same contempt that they hold for philosophers.

I would not consider this a good thing. Most people think they can make it in life without a philosophy, although they do have one. So, unfortunately, we will have people that think they do not need science. Common sense is not a replacement for either.

(Betsy, I know you already know these things, I was just trying to highlight them.)

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Carlos, sometimes I like to pick up an old science text by Newton, Darwin, Lord Kelvin, et. al., and read how men of reason used to think. It's such a pleasure and contrast to today's hacks. It is fuel for the mind.

I know what you mean though, as I continually find myself slowly going backwards in time to feed my mind's hunger!

I think this if very useful, with one caveat, which is to remember that science has advanced since then, so these earlier thinkers -- depending upon how far you go back -- are libel to be wrong on a point or two.

If you get a chance, you might want to check out some of Michael Faraday's lectures. He was known as a great lecturer. I have some of his lectures on physics which are contained in the Harvard Classics book set.

Right now I'm studying a book published in the 50's called "Introduction to Theoretical Meteorology". It is simply delightful to read a rigorous account of the Earth's climate and atmosphere where the terms "global warming", "greenhouse gas" or "greenhouse effect" literally never appear!

Yes, back when it was science! I think that field has been all but destroyed by environmentalists. I get the impression that Richard Lindzen is not happy about this.

Another delightful thing has been reading a biography of Einstein written by a close colleague of his. The image painted of Einstein is that of a supremely rational, benevolent, warm natured man who greatly valued the importance of an independent mind.

I'll bet, today "intellectuals" think they are being "objective" and "thoughtful" if they provide some dark side of a great thinker.

If abstract scientists keep it up, they will be regarded by average Americans with the same contempt that they hold for philosophers.

I would not consider this a good thing. Most people think they can make it in life without a philosophy, although they do have one. So, unfortunately, we will have people that think they do not need science. Common sense is not a replacement for either.

(Betsy, I know you already know these things, I was just trying to highlight them.)

So true. Science is vital to the foundation of an industrial society. Freedom is the other vital component, and both are under assault!

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I'm not even sure that people today know how to critically think in a way that is coherent to reality anymore, whether it be a college student or a "leading" researcher.

I disagree. So long as technology progresses and the lights stay on, someone has to be thinking. There is certainly a decline in the standards of what it means to think or to be educated, but the point is it is still a decline with more room to go, which implies that there are still some remnants of thinking out there. But even that is too harsh. I think most Americans are pragmatic: they think very well within the short range pursuit of their own goals and lives, less well in long-term goals, and even less when it comes to abstractions and principles. Put another way: the more concrete and immediate the issue, the more rational and objective their thinking.

I don't think there's ever been an era in which the majority of people are truly independent enough to judge abstract issues for themselves; rather, they absorb what they're taught in school. What's interesting is the political right's rejection of MMGW. I'm not sure why they reject it. After all, many of the same folk believe in even more irrational ideas, like God, prohibition of abortion, creationism, and so on.

I work with really smart people who are surprisingly good thinkers. Yes, they are engineers, and not Hollywood actors or New Age yoga instructors, as you might surmise. But what I get as a background is a pretty rational world. It ain't perfect, but it is good.

I hear this view often from other Objectivists, and used to voice it myself, but it is no longer my day-to-day sense of life take on the world. On an emotional level, holding this view will make a person more depressed, so it is worth making damn sure whether that view is correct or not. It took me a few years to get away from it, but I am a much happier person as a result.

So for your own sake, don't write off the world just yet. :D

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I'm not even sure that people today know how to critically think in a way that is coherent to reality anymore, whether it be a college student or a "leading" researcher.

I disagree. So long as technology progresses and the lights stay on, someone has to be thinking. There is certainly a decline in the standards of what it means to think or to be educated, but the point is it is still a decline with more room to go, which implies that there are still some remnants of thinking out there. But even that is too harsh. I think most Americans are pragmatic: they think very well within the short range pursuit of their own goals and lives, less well in long-term goals, and even less when it comes to abstractions and principles. Put another way: the more concrete and immediate the issue, the more rational and objective their thinking.

I don't think there's ever been an era in which the majority of people are truly independent enough to judge abstract issues for themselves; rather, they absorb what they're taught in school. What's interesting is the political right's rejection of MMGW. I'm not sure why they reject it. After all, many of the same folk believe in even more irrational ideas, like God, prohibition of abortion, creationism, and so on.

I work with really smart people who are surprisingly good thinkers. Yes, they are engineers, and not Hollywood actors or New Age yoga instructors, as you might surmise. But what I get as a background is a pretty rational world. It ain't perfect, but it is good.

I hear this view often from other Objectivists, and used to voice it myself, but it is no longer my day-to-day sense of life take on the world. On an emotional level, holding this view will make a person more depressed, so it is worth making damn sure whether that view is correct or not. It took me a few years to get away from it, but I am a much happier person as a result.

So for your own sake, don't write off the world just yet. :D

I appreciate your encouraging and positive post, and these are thoughts I try to remind myself of as well.

But in regards to the continual progress of technology, how long can it last? So much of the unending explosion of technology that we've enjoyed over the last 50 or so years came from revolutionary advances in theoretical physics that are now nearly a hundred years old. What great new advancement in Physics has happened since then, other than simply exploring the applications of the old theories? I sometimes seriously wonder if the advancement of technology will begin to slacken or even plateau simply because we've exhausted all the known applications or possibilities given our state of knowledge of Physics, and it will take a new revolution similar to what happened in the beginning of the 1900's to open up fresh possibilities.

Basically, if the progress of Theoretical Physics dies (and it really looks like it has) then does that not cast a death sentence (in the long term) for the unending progress of the other sciences and technology itself?

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Basically, if the progress of Theoretical Physics dies (and it really looks like it has) then does that not cast a death sentence (in the long term) for the unending progress of the other sciences and technology itself?
How many times in the history of physics has the end been predicted? Revolutionary ideas, especially in a field like this, are few and far between. Maybe tomorrow a new theory comes out or a new discovery is made. Or maybe it'll be 40 years from now. The timing can't be predicted. Maybe a Swiss patent clerk will get a good idea that won't be accepted for a long time.

I think there's a lot of merit to closer examination of TEW, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves. Even among Objectivists it has its opponents, so its advocacy will be a long journey. It may be wrong, but it should be given more attention.

I mention TEW because although I don't follow the literature, I think there's hope for further good work, and good ideas are still possible. So reports of the death of physics are premature.

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Basically, if the progress of Theoretical Physics dies (and it really looks like it has) then does that not cast a death sentence (in the long term) for the unending progress of the other sciences and technology itself?
How many times in the history of physics has the end been predicted? Revolutionary ideas, especially in a field like this, are few and far between. Maybe tomorrow a new theory comes out or a new discovery is made. Or maybe it'll be 40 years from now. The timing can't be predicted. Maybe a Swiss patent clerk will get a good idea that won't be accepted for a long time.
The problem is that the best and brightest of minds in Physics get squandered on String Theory or Cosmology. We've had plenty of geniuses (Stephen Hawking) but they spend their time researching garbage.
I think there's a lot of merit to closer examination of TEW, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves. Even among Objectivists it has its opponents, so its advocacy will be a long journey. It may be wrong, but it should be given more attention.

I mention TEW because although I don't follow the literature, I think there's hope for further good work, and good ideas are still possible. So reports of the death of physics are premature.

The prospects of TEW are exciting but I know next to nothing about it, and have too many things on my plate as it is to take that on! Whatever "opponents" that may exist in Objectivism though I doubt they could have any significant negative effect for the advancement of the theory.

I bet TEW needs what any new theory needs, a great experiment to test it and give it a big break to the world :D

But no, Physics will never die, but until something substantial changes in our culture I don't think we should be expecting anything great on the horizons of Theoretical Physics for now, those guys are too busy creating imaginary theories for a universe that exists only in their head...

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If abstract scientists keep it up, they will be regarded by average Americans with the same contempt that they hold for philosophers.

I would not consider this a good thing. Most people think they can make it in life without a philosophy, although they do have one. So, unfortunately, we will have people that think they do not need science.

I don't think so. The best of people know they need ideas, ideals, and science but they have the good sense to reject bad ideas, and that is a start. That alone, will not provide them with good ideas, but the defaults of the intellectuals and scientists are creating an intellectual vacuum and an unmet need that only we can really fill.

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If abstract scientists keep it up, they will be regarded by average Americans with the same contempt that they hold for philosophers.

I would not consider this a good thing. Most people think they can make it in life without a philosophy, although they do have one. So, unfortunately, we will have people that think they do not need science.

I don't think so. The best of people know they need ideas, ideals, and science but they have the good sense to reject bad ideas, and that is a start. That alone, will not provide them with good ideas, but the defaults of the intellectuals and scientists are creating an intellectual vacuum and an unmet need that only we can really fill.

I would consider Richard Feynman one of the best and brightest non-Objectivist and even he stated many times that he loved physics the best and that he loved philosophy the least. I cannot find the exact quote right now, but I remember him stating something like, he had no use for philosophy. So, I agree that there is a need that only Objectivism can fill. I just do not know if there will be enough time in my life time, but that unknown will not keep me from attempting to make changes for the enhancement of my life and those that I care about.

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But in regards to the continual progress of technology, how long can it last? So much of the unending explosion of technology that we've enjoyed over the last 50 or so years came from revolutionary advances in theoretical physics that are now nearly a hundred years old. What great new advancement in Physics has happened since then, other than simply exploring the applications of the old theories?

What great advances happened before Einstein's revolution? Such advances have always been rare and have been the work of rare men.

As for the next great advance in theoretical physics, Lewis Little's book on the Theory of Elementary Waves is being printed as I write this, pre-release promotional copies with be out on January 23rd, and the official publication date is February 20th.

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I would consider Richard Feynman one of the best and brightest non-Objectivist and even he stated many times that he loved physics the best and that he loved philosophy the least. I cannot find the exact quote right now, but I remember him stating something like, he had no use for philosophy.

Something I remember Feynman saying was philosophers argue about things science has already proven. My impression was that he did not understand the role of philosophy, but this was probably due in large part to the sad state of the study of philosophy today.

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I would consider Richard Feynman one of the best and brightest non-Objectivist and even he stated many times that he loved physics the best and that he loved philosophy the least. I cannot find the exact quote right now, but I remember him stating something like, he had no use for philosophy.

Something I remember Feynman saying was philosophers argue about things science has already proven. My impression was that he did not understand the role of philosophy, but this was probably due in large part to the sad state of the study of philosophy today.

I agree. It seems that he thought philososphy dealt with some type of religious or spiritual (non-Objectivist) answer(s) to the same type of questions he was attempting to answer.

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Basically, if the progress of Theoretical Physics dies (and it really looks like it has) then does that not cast a death sentence (in the long term) for the unending progress of the other sciences and technology itself?
How many times in the history of physics has the end been predicted? Revolutionary ideas, especially in a field like this, are few and far between. Maybe tomorrow a new theory comes out or a new discovery is made. Or maybe it'll be 40 years from now. The timing can't be predicted. Maybe a Swiss patent clerk will get a good idea that won't be accepted for a long time.

I think you are going too far in the other direction. There is no question that the quality of science has fallen from the 1800s. In fact, if you look at physics in the 17 and 18 hundreds, you see continual and solid advancement. Integrated, coherent theories were being discovered: the law of electromagnetic induction, Ampere's law, the Biot-Savart law, the gas laws, etc. While you saw some of that in the 20th century, it wasn't nearly to the degree it was prior. Thinkers today aren't looking for principles of operation beneath things like they were in the 1800s. Complexity worship seems to be the order of the day.

This is not to say there isn't great work being done today. There is plenty to inspire us, but the advance of science has definitely been held back due to a non-integrated approach.

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But in regards to the continual progress of technology, how long can it last? So much of the unending explosion of technology that we've enjoyed over the last 50 or so years came from revolutionary advances in theoretical physics that are now nearly a hundred years old.

I do not think that the new technologies are solely due to old theoretical advances. Perhaps this perception comes from the lack of a face of science the way there was when Einstein or Edison were alive, which makes it less visible. It could also be that the breakthroughs are smaller in scope, yet more numerous.

I know in my field of Materials Science, there have been more breakthroughs in the past twenty years than I could count. From LCD screens to carbon nanotube applications to new materials which become opaque or transparent under the application of electric current, there has been a LOT going on! Theoretical physics isn't dead yet, thank god!

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...to carbon nanotube applications to new materials which become opaque or transparent under the application of electric current, there has been a LOT going on! Theoretical physics isn't dead yet, thank god!

This would be the field of Solid-State Physics or Condensed Matter Physics which is applying the principles of Quantum Mechanics to bulk matter. Exciting new applications based on old theories of Physics.

But yes, the things they can do are quite fascinating; it's almost like modern day alchemy!

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