Physics Professor Mano Singham directs us to this Nature science video.
It is a good video; note that it appears that what is actually being detected is akin to a type of vector calculus curl.
Workout notes -3 F outside but sunny; still I ran inside.
First I went on treadmill 1: ran at mostly 0.5 incline and changed speed every 5 minutes. Then at 10:10 mpm I did 10 x (2 minutes 0 elevation, 2 minutes at elevation) going 1-2-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3 and then 2 minutes to get to 1:01:55 (6 miles).
Switched treadmills then varied the speed to make 2 more miles (21:22).
the plan was to really gun the last 2 miles (at a tempo pace) but the hill repetitions took more out of me than I had anticipated. The intensity: what I call “projected marathon pace”: no I couldn’t actually run a marathon at 10:10 minutes per mile, but this is still a useful training intensity for me, especially for hill repetitions.
Note: I still have to focus; I almost stepped off of the treadmill surface when a nearby woman went into “child” pose (facing away from me, of course).
Stephen Hawking has some questions about black holes, with regards to the “event horizon”. Of course, it was known long ago that one could have some “Hawking radiation” from these; basically particles can materialize from the quantum vacuum (pair production) and then one of the newly created particles could get sucked into the black hole, leaving the other suddenly unpaired particle as radiation. (yes, this is grossly oversimplified)
But there are unsolved problems, and so Hawking’s new paper deals with these.
But the headlines read: “Hawking says that black holes don’t exist”. Uh…no. He didn’t say that.
I can say that one of the hardest things to do is to give up a preconceived notion based on new data and science.
So, I am seeing all sorts of “oh, hah, hah, where is your “global warming now” posts and articles.
(side note: here is an interesting article about so called “wind chills”. Yes, 10 F with a strong wind feels worse than 10 F with no wind, but I’ve always thought the wind chill stuff was a bit bogus. Remember that the wind makes it feel colder as this enables heat to be transferred from out of your body; in engineering class you learned that where is the mass flow rate of the fluid and the is the difference between the ambient temperature and the temperature of the object. You know this if you’ve taken a hot bath: in the tub if you are still, you might be ok, but you feel hotter if you move…..because if you move you are increasing the flow rate of the water around your body.
Well, wind does the same thing.
Back to the main argument:
So, people say “we’ve had record cold; how can the earth possibly be warming up?”
Well, for one, “global warming” is talking about a long time trend of average temperatures:
You can see the upward trend, but there are also ups and downs. For example, the next several years after 1998 were cooler years compared to 1998, mostly because 1998 was so blasted hot.
In fact, I took a similar graph, and started it in 1998 to “show” that the earth is really cooling!
I can easily see this being convincing to some.
Then one has to understand that warming means only small change in temperature per year and that how cold we are in winter largely depends on where the jet stream is, as it holds back that arctic air mass. And even if the arctic air mass is a degree or two “warmer”, it is still brutally cold (by our standards).
So, as you can see, the issue is a bit complicated. And yet, many conservatives deny it, just as they deny evolution.
Part of it is tribalism in action.
But part of it is philosophical; conservatives desperately want to believe that their deity is in charge:
They deny evolution for similar reasons: how can one believe that “every hair on your head is numbered by God” if you are the outcome of a stochastic process? (NOT a purely random process!)
So, one might say that philosophy matters. It certainly does to liberals; just look at the so-called “pro-science” liberals (so they tell you) who foam and the mouth about GMOs though, on the science issue part (whether the GMO foods are safe or not), they are dead wrong (more here)
Question them and once you get past their nonsense (IF that is even possible), you’ll find out that what they are really objecting to is the business practices of companies like Monsanto…and some are bound to an appeal to nature. Hey these mushrooms are natural; maybe we can get these woo-woos and crackpots to eat them?
So my frustration grows. It is ridiculous to resist facts (as currently understood) due to some philosophical point of view…..or is it?
This made me think of my post about Copernicus and the scientific objections to the Copernican theory of heliocentric astronomy.
My first reaction: why in the world would we view the earth as being special or different from the rest of the universe?
Oh oh…that is a PHILOSOPHICAL point of view. That is, the “null hypothesis” should be that the laws of science are basically the same everywhere; there are no “special” areas.
Yes, there is evidence that suggests that this is true, but why should this be the “null hypothesis”??? In fact, there is evidence that an aspect of this might not be true (albeit with tiny variations in our observable horizon)
I suppose that I should rethink my disdain for philosophy and point of view (lens of viewing things, if you will).
Of course, an expression of humility (we only know a little) does NOT open the door to wholesale crackpottery, woo-woo and nonsense.
I’ve seen a few debates about religion, theism (believing in an active deity) and atheism (denial of the existence of such a deity).
Yes, I’ve read the debates between “well, believing in God is good for you” versus “no, it isn’t”.
Of course, I have an opinion (which I think is evidence based) on whether or not religion or religious belief (or “spirituality”, whatever that means) is good or not, but, that is NOT the point of this post. It could be that, say, believing in Jesus makes you as smart as Stephen Hawking and being an atheist makes you, oh deeply depressed.
But that has nothing to do with “truth” though it might have something to do with “what one WANTS to be true”.
And no, I am not talking about the power of suggestion or the value of religious myth (here, “myth” means “story with deep personal meaning” rather than “falsehood”).
What I am talking about: does it make any sense to believe that some deity intentionally created humans and “cares” (in a human like way) about the welfare of humans (e. g., “loves us”)
Yes, I know about evolution being a directionless process and a belief in “guided evolution” really isn’t compatible with science.
So, yes, that is one reason that theism makes no sense to me; we were put together by a bunch of jerry-rigged steps (e. g. the Vagus Nerve) As an aside, I can recommend Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish for an excellent discussion of how humans are put together.
But perhaps there is some clever “work around” this.
But consider this: get a grip on the massive scale of the univers (this is a cool, well put together tool)
And you can watch this:
Now we are one planet orbiting a rather ordinary star in a rather ordinary galaxy. Each galaxy has roughly between 10 million (dwarf galaxy) and 100 TRILLION stars, and we know that there are, visible to us, over 170 BILLION galaxies.
So on an emotional level: am I to swallow that Bronze Age people, who knew so little, got such an immense question right? What is more likely: WE (what are “we” anyway: Homosapiens? Or all the other members of hominidae included too?) are the center of some creation, or that, well, we just aren’t that special? Why our life form? What about other life forms on other planets, or even other galaxies?
To me, theistic belief, as I have seen it practiced, is VERY ego-centric. Oh sure, “God centered, not me centered” I hear. But you are assuming that there is some super awesome “thing” that cares about you. Please.
It makes far more sense to assume that rather dull humans (as in: human beings, on the whole, really don’t know that much; not that believers are substantially dumber than anyone else) are just making stuff up so they can feel better about themselves.
I also wonder about all of the other gods relegated to the waste bin and wonder about a time when the current ones will be as well.
PS: if you say “see, you SAID that “humans don’t know that much”! True, I did. But “humans don’t know that much” in no way implies “therefore my conception of a deity is correct” or even “therefore my conception of a deity is plausible”.
Physics and Cosmology
Physics is not my specialty but I do follow it on a popular level. So when the cosmologists started babbling about “dark matter” I kind of wondered “is “the aether” making a comeback”? Well….no.
Yes, there is a similarity: neither has been directly detected; its existence has been inferred by observed effects. However both have been examined…and “the aether” has been discarded because experiments designed to detect it have failed (e. g. Michelson-Morley experiment)…in fact have provided evidence to show that it did NOT exist.
Roughly speaking, “the aether” was conjectured to provide some medium for light-electromagnetic waves to propagate in; at the time these waves were thought to be like sound waves (disturbances of some sort). Modern physics (relativity theory and quantum mechanics) have shown that these waves are very different from sound waves, though there are similarities.
On the other hand, evidence continues to pour in for dark matter and dark energy, as Sean Carroll explains:
Dark matter, in particular, is nothing at all like the aether. It’s something that seems to behave exactly like an ordinary particle of matter, just one with no electric charge or strong interaction with known matter particles. Those aren’t hard to invent; particle physicists have approximately a billion different candidate ideas, and experiments are making great progress in trying to detect them directly. But the idea didn’t come along because theorists had all sorts of irresistible ideas; we were dragged kicking and screaming into accepting dark matter after decades of observations of galaxies and clusters convinced people that regular matter simply wasn’t enough. And once that idea is accepted, you can go out and make new predictions based on the dark matter model, and they keep coming true — for example in studies of gravitational lensing and the cosmic microwave background. If the aether had this much experimental support, it would have been enshrined in textbooks years ago.
Dark energy is conceptually closer to the aether idea — like the aether, it’s not a particle, it’s a smooth component that fills space. Unlike the aether, it does not have a “frame of rest” (as far as we can tell); the dark energy looks the same no matter how you move through it. (Not to mention that it has nothing to do with electromagnetic radiation — it’s dark!) And of course, it was forced on us by observations, especially the 1998 discovery that the universe is accelerating, which ended up winning the Nobel Prize in 2011. That discovery took theoretical physicists around the world by surprise — we knew it was possible in principle, but almost nobody actually believed it was true. But when the data speak, a smart scientist listens. Subsequent to that amazing finding, cosmologists have made other predictions based on the dark energy idea, which (as with dark matter) keep coming true: for the cosmic microwave background again, as well as for the distribution of large-scale structure in the universe.
Of course, there is a long way to go in developing this theory.
Physics and Philosophy
Here is yet another “play nice” plea to physicists (Jim Holt in the New York Times):
Why do physicists have to be so churlish toward philosophy? Philosophers, on the whole, have been much nicer about science. “Philosophy consists in stopping when the torch of science fails us,” Voltaire wrote back in the 18th century. And in the last few decades, philosophers have come to see their enterprise as continuous with that of science. It is noteworthy that the “moronic” philosopher who kicked up the recent shindy by dismissing the physicist’s book himself holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.
Physicists say they do not need any help from philosophers. But sometimes physicists are, whether they realize it or not, actually engaging in philosophy themselves.
Here is my take. Physics is hard. Only the smartest among us do original research in physics and these people spend years in training to able to start. In fact, it takes an intelligent person with great math/science aptitude years of focused effort to even become conversant on the questions.
Those who haven’t spent that much concentrated time (and frankly, who have a lower aptitude for this subject) really don’t know what they are talking about; they really aren’t qualified to give comments that are worth listening to.
Note: I am talking about the science itself and its interpretation; I am NOT talking about, say, the ethical issues that come up (e. g., the use of nuclear weapons, the production of weapons of mass destruction, experimentation on humans, animal research, etc.) On these issues, I am happy to listen to philosophers because in these areas THEY have put in the concentrated long term effort and they have displayed some aptitude for this sort of thinking.
Statistics and Data: what does one consider when one tries to make sense of data?
Here is a baby case: suppose you want “the average household income of a neighborhood”; what do you use?
Well, it depends on what question you are interested in. If you are interested in, say, how the typical person lives (spending habits, energy use, etc.) then median income might be what you want, especially if the standard deviation (minus an outlier or two) is small.
If you are talking about, say, the total money that is spent from that region, then perhaps the mean (average) is better.
One uses the data germane to the problem at hand.
Paul Krugman patiently explains this:
Just a quick note on a question that comes up in some comments: why do I sometimes look at percentage changes in unemployment, sometimes at changes in absolute levels? Isn’t that inconsistent?
The answer, of course, is no. When you do stuff with data, here is the universal rule: do what makes sense given the question you’re trying to answer. It’s like the issue of where the y-axis in a diagram starts — it depends on context. Starting at zero isn’t a universal rule, certainly not when changes of a few percent up or down are in fact crucially important for the policy discussion.
So on unemployment, one favorite story out there is that we have lots of unemployment, and must have lots of unemployment, because the pre-crisis structure of the economy was unsustainable: too many people were building houses in Nevada, too few doing other stuff in other places, so there has to be unemployment as workers move from the occupations/localities that were oversized to those that were undersized.
OK, so what would be the “signature” if this story were true? There would be lots of job losses among construction workers in Nevada, of course; but for the story to make sense there should be rising employment in those other sectors people are supposedly moving to.
But of course, that’s not at all what you see. Instead, you see job losses everywhere, with most of the total job loss taking place in sectors that were clearly not overinflated by the bubble. And that is the relevant comparison: if non-bubble sectors are losing rather than gaining jobs, and in fact account for most of the job losses, then this story is just wrong.
But as I said, the universal rule for using data is to think about the question you’re trying to answer. A foolish consistency here really is the hobgoblin of little minds.
The problem here is
1. All (or at least 99.99 percent, myself included) of those who comment on his blog are significantly below him in intellectual level and many are completely unaware of this and
2. The pundit class does not constitute our finest minds. And from what I can tell, our pundits are blissfully unaware of this as well (left and right, I am sorry to say). Just read what they have to say about ANY technical matter; they almost always get it wrong.
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