Sunday, April 30, 2023

In Defense of Merit in Science

Biology professor Jerry Coyne writes:
In the end, we’re grateful that our paper will be published. But how sad it is that the simple and fundamental principle undergirding all of science—that the best ideas and technologies should be the ones we adopt—is seen these days as “controversial.”
They had to publish their paper in the Journal of Controversial Ideas. More mainstream journals rejected the paper with comments like “the concept of merit ... has been widely and legitimately attacked as hollow.”

I do think that the XX century will be a high-water mark for science. We will never see another century with so many exciting scientific advances. Our civilization is in decline.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Cosmology of a Communist

Here is a new paper:
The Cosmology of David Bohm: Scientific and Theological Significance

We discuss David Bohm's dual contributions as a physicist and thinker. First, de Grijs introduces Bohm's universe, with an emphasis on the physical quest that led Bohm to the elaboration of an original cosmology at the nexus of science and philosophy. Next, Costache takes his cue from de Grijs' explorations by highlighting the affinity between Bohm's scientific cosmology and patristic ideas that are central to the Orthodox worldview. It is our hope that this approach will stir the interest of Bohm scholars in the Orthodox worldview and also lead Orthodox theologians to nurture an appreciation for Bohm's cosmology.

David Bohm has a cult following.

The paper does not mention that he was a Communist, and those philosophical ideas are outgrowth of his Marxist and Communist ideas. He was a student of J.R. Oppenheimer, and refused to testify before Congress. Because of his Communist activities, he fled the USA.

Among physicists, he is mainly known for a nonlocal hidden variable theory. His followers call it "causal", but it is the opposite of causal. Local theories are causal. Bohm's theory had action-at-a-distance, where events cannot be attributed to causal influences. It generates a lot of research papaers, but no one uses it for any practical work.

Bohm is dead, but there is an Irish organization that tries to keep his mystical ideas alive.

I am not trying to cancel a scientist for his terrible political views. His contributions to Physics are wildly exaggerated for reasons that are not political. At least I don't think that they are political. I am not sure why he has a cult following. Maybe it is partly political, I don't know. I am just pointing out the shortcomings of his Physics, and his politics.

Monday, April 17, 2023

How geometry created modern physics

Here is an elementary new lecture:
How geometry created modern physics – with Yang-Hui He

The Royal Institution

2,019 views Apr 13, 2023 THE ROYAL INSTITUTION

What's the story behind the five axioms of Euclidean geometry - and how is post-Euclidean geometry linked to modern physics?

From geometry’s classical beginnings, via the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, to the present day, Yang-Hui He takes us on a journey through time and space, culminating in our understanding of spacetime itself. In the 19th century, mathematicians such as Carl Gauss and Bernhard Riemann considered what would happen if we relaxed Euclid’s axioms. The result was the explosion of post-Euclidean geometry, which paved the way for Einstein’s theory of relativity and the birth of modern physics.

Here is the Q & A.

It is a nice expository lecture. It makes me wonder if modern Physics would have even been created, if not for Euclid's Elements. He says it is the most read book ever written, next to the Bible.

Historically, I wonder who first realized that XX century Physics was so dependent on geometry. Surely Hermann Weyl understood it a century ago. Einstein did not accept it, and particle physicists of the 1960s were slow to accept it.

Eventually the theorists were taken over by string theorists who want to do everything with geometry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Logical Implications of Strict Physicalism

Here is a new 5-minute podcast on Stephen Barr - What is Human Mind in a Theistic World?.

The guest argues that if you want to be a strict physicalist, then you are forced into the many-worlds interpretation, with infinitely many copies of you.

Normally I would say that he is using bad Physics to justify his spiritual beliefs, but there are many respected atheist physicists who say the same thing.

I may be in the minority, but I say that strict physicalism means just believing in what is physically observable, and that rules out many-worlds. Believing in unobservable parallel universes and many copies of yourself is just another spiritual/religious belief, about like believing in the Bible. Believe in it if you want, but do not pretend that it is scientific, or logical, or strictly physical. It is not.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Yudowsky Says Shut AI Down Now

Top rationalist Guru Eliezer Yudowsky writes in Time magazine:
This 6-month moratorium would be better than no moratorium. I have respect for everyone who stepped up and signed it. It’s an improvement on the margin. ...

Many researchers steeped in these issues, including myself, expect that the most likely result of building a superhumanly smart AI, under anything remotely like the current circumstances, is that literally everyone on Earth will die. Not as in “maybe possibly some remote chance,” but as in “that is the obvious thing that would happen.” It’s not that you can’t, in principle, survive creating something much smarter than you; it’s that it would require precision and preparation and new scientific insights, and probably not having AI systems composed of giant inscrutable arrays of fractional numbers. ...

We are not ready. We are not on track to be significantly readier in the foreseeable future. If we go ahead on this everyone will die, including children who did not choose this and did not do anything wrong.

Shut it down.

He goes on to tell about how his partner sent him an email about a little girl losing her first tooth.

Maybe I am stupid, but I did not get the point of this little anecdote at all. Is this partner his wife, or a business partner? Is the girl their daughter? What is the big deal about the tooth? Why did he have to tell us he got persmission to tell this story? Maybe someone can explain it to me.

His concern is that super-intelligent bots will take over the world, and not be aligned with human values.

My fear is that lizard people have are already taking over the world, and they do not have my values.

I couldgive examples but I try to keep my political opinions off of this blog. I refer to this essay by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss:

Astrobiology: The Rise and Fall of a Nascent Science

Premature claims, distorted results, and ‘decolonizing’ the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. ...

The once-great science magazine, Scientific American, which has degenerated in recent years as social justice concerns have taken priority over science, published an article entitled “Cultural Bias Distorts the Search for Alien Life” (“‘Decolonizing’ the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) could boost its chances of success, says science historian Rebecca Charbonneau”).

Okay, no one cares about Astrobiology anyway, but more important sciences are being ruined.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

How to Avoid Giving an Opinion on New Research

Physicist turned philosopher Sean M. Carroll posted his monthly podcast rant.

He gives this excuse for ignoring a surprising research paper:

So, when you have a claim in a scientific paper that goes entirely against everything the reader might have expected to be true, it is your job as the author to do two things. ...

So, when I read a paper like this, I'm looking for an acknowledgement that here's what you might expect and here's why we are different. And then, the other thing of course is that, that latter part here is why your expectations are not going to come true in this particular case. Here is why your intuitions are off. And I didn't see that in these papers. [chuckle] ...

0:22:02.7 SC: I'll give you a completely other... And the second example I do with great trepidation, 'cause I don't want to tar people with bad associations, but it sticks in my mind, The Bell Curve. Remember The Bell Curve? You know that book, Charles Murray and James Herrnstein from the '80s, and it came out in the '80s and it was talking about a distribution of IQ etcetera, and what the implications of that are for public policy. And I'm not an expert in this stuff and I was just a college student when it came out, but you know, I'm curious, it was a big deal when it came out. People are still talking about it today. And so, one of the... I didn't read the whole book by any stretch of the imagination, but I did look at it.

0:22:42.2 SC: I opened it and paged through. Again, to do this judgment, is this worth my time? Right? That's the question. And one of the very first questions I asked myself was, you know, look, there have been a lot of claims over the years that I can do science and show that some people, some racial groups are dumber than others, right? And these claims have a very bad history of being bad science badly done, because people wanted the results to be true, because it's a bunch of white people saying that black people are dumb. Usually, historically, that's what it's been. And these historical examples have been used to justify some terribly racist things. So, when a book comes along in the 1980s, which purports to be super duper modern and scientific, but yet reaching conclusions that are very similar to conclusions that have been reached a hundred years ago by pseudoscientific nonsense people, what I'm looking for is, once again, an acknowledgement.

0:23:45.8 SC: You might worry that this is just pseudoscientific racism, because that's been... We've had a long history of pseudoscientific racism and here is why we are not that. So, when you open The Bell Curve, you do not find that discussion. In fact, you find that they cite some of the pseudoscientific racism of the past approvingly. And at that point. I said, meh, this is not really gonna be worth my time.

It is true that the field of Psychology has a history of bad science badly done. Many textbook results could not be replicated, when done more carefully.

But IQ research has held up better than all the other areas of psychology. And the research is not necessarily what people wanted to be true. It says that Jews and Chinese are smarter, on average, in studies done by people who are not Jewish or Chinese. Blacks have done studies also.

Perhaps research was used to justify some terribly racist things, but denying the research was also used to justify racist things.

This whole example was to justify dismissing a paper on black holes!

The main point of the Bell Curve book was not about race. It was that spending on social programs will not raise IQ, so the money could be better spent on other goals. Rejecting that point has led to policies like No Child Left Behind, a big failure. More people should have read the book.

Carroll exhibits a peculiar closed-mindedness. He believes in parallel universes, but refuses to read evidence for group differences in humans.

Update: Here is a Jordan Peterson video clip explaining why IQ is important, and why no one wants to talk about it.

I am not blaming Carroll for not wanting to talk about it. I am blaming him for using it as an example of something that scientists should disregard.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Pythagorean Theorem Proof is not so New

MSN reports:
The Pythagorean Theorem — discovered by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras in the 6th century BCE — is a cornerstone of mathematics. Simply stated as a² + b² = c², the theorem posits that the sum of the two shortest sides of a right triangle (a² and b²) is equal to that triangle’s longest side (c²). For centuries, this idea has been proven by some of history’s greatest minds, such as Albert Einstein, U.S. President James Garfield (of all people), and even Pythagoras himself.

In fact, there have been hundreds of proofs of the Pythagoras’ groundbreaking theorem, but almost none of them — if not none at all — have independently proved it using trigonometry. That’s because the fundamentals of the theorem are what the entire field of trigonometry is built on, and so, the thinking goes that to use trigonometry to prove the theorem is to employ what’s called “circular reasoning.” It’s essentially using the Pythagorean Theorem to prove the Pythagorean Theorem.

Some mathematicians argue that using trigonometry to independently prove the theorem is actually impossible, including Elisha Loomis, whose book on the topic (originally published almost a century ago) states that “there are no trigonometric proofs because all the fundamental formulae of trigonometry are themselves based upon the truth of the Pythagorean theorem.”

No, this is ridiculous. There are lots of trignonometric proofs.

Here is one.

sin α = a / c
cos α = b / c
Area = ab/2 = c²(.5 sin α cos α)

This means that the area of any right triangle is given by the square of the hypotenuse, multipled by a trigonometric function of the angles.

Now drop a perpendicular from C to c, dividing the triangle into two smaller similar triangles. The area of the big triangle equals the sum of the areas of the two smaller ones. The big one has hypotenuse c, while the smaller ones have hypotenuses a and b. Thus a² + b² = c², after dividing by that common trigonometric factor. The factor is the same for all three triangles, because the angles are the same.

This uses trigonometry, but does not use the identity (sin²α + cos²α = 1).

The supposed new proof is much more complicated, and uses limits.