Archive for science

The Second Law

Take a tennis ball and drop it on the floor; it will loose height with each successive bounce until it comes to (a complete) rest. You needn’t do this. From experience you know with absolute certainty this is what will happen. With equal absolute certainty, you also know (your experience has “overdetermined” this observation) that the resting ball will not – at any time – ever – began to bounce with ever increasing successive height (an earthquake may be an apparent exception that actually proves the rule). The process will not reverse itself; it is irreversible.

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self directed discovery

Another title option for this post – “education of an atheist”.

While I was brought up attending a Presbyterian church, catechism class,  and was “confirmed” (all in all – a wonderful memory!), I pretty much believed only in the “believing” part.  None of it made any sense to me and the questions I had were not answered by religion or the bible.

I suspect that our religious attendance to church was driven by my mother for reasons other than a devout faith.  Around the age of 11 or so, titles in the Life Nature Library began to show up on our bookshelves and were a wonderful source of entertainment for me on rainy days. I still have the series to this day and even without opening the covers, I can recall most of the  pages contained in those volumes.  The “Evolution” volume explained what religion could not explain.  And it confirmed my thinking about things – as a 12 year old adolescent in 1962.  I never looked back.

I thought this was true for everyone.

 

Richard Dawkins is wrong!

“nakedness is a small matter”*

For some intellectual amusement, I began to outline an essay on the anatomy of a transaction. Ostensibly this was for an esoteric analysis of some economic principle. A transaction, of course, is a mutually beneficial exchange of goods or services such as when we trade a few dollars for a loaf of bread and some cheese. More sophisticated transactions are just that – more sophisticated – but still transactions. For example, purchasing a house or a car. Immediately we may encounter some objections to the model for any particular type of transaction; it may not benefit each party to the transaction equally, or it actually represents a complex theory (game theory?) that overshadows the transactional nature of the exchange, etc. So, as a reductionist type of thinker, I thought about what might constitute the most basic transaction or exchange and serendipitous-ly came across this cute comic strip post on Greg Mankiw’s Blog, under the tag line “Principle 5” (I have no clue as to what the preceding four principles are!)

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Can’t fix stupid

About a month ago I came across a post at “Watts Up With That” blog on “science safety run amok”. It was about a chemistry set with no chemicals. There were more than 120 comments of good reading. Many of the black powder making experiences were reminiscent – bringing back fond memories of some incredibly stupid stuff we would do as kids. And I realized that with all the accumulated wisdom – maybe we call it maturity – given the opportunity to do the same stupid stuff again, we would. No doubt our group of stupids were lucky – no one lost a finger or blew off his face (although it would have helped some of my friends) but apparently this was a common occurrence. So no more chemistry sets with chemicals.

Apparently for some science educators, this makes a lot of sense since “chemistry can be dangerous”; DO NOT TEACH THIS STUFF TO YOUR KIDS.

If our hope is for innovation – to spur our sluggish economy along – based on STEM – and this is the best science educators can offer…

neutrinos?

My first major was physics so this stuff is extremely interesting to me. By theory we should be able to detect a certain neutrino flux from our sun – but theory rarely matches up. But here is something entirely new – entirely unexpected – and without theory. And we thought we had all the answers! Go figure!

Steven Hawking’s Extraterrestrials

With everything else we have in the news these days, you may have missed Steven Hawking’s “concern” over Extraterrestrials. I suppose we needed something else to add to our social fear quotient – but I suspect that it made little real impact.

Never-the-less, it is interesting. And much has been written about it. But is it something we should be concerned with? No.

There are many ways to look at the issue. Certainly given the known size of the universe, our understanding of stellar and galactic evolution, the chemistry of life, and so forth – we can formulate various statistical postulates and arrive at the conclusion that somewhere and at some time, other advanced life forms exist – the odds are simply in favor of that conclusion. But a lot of other factors besides “when and where” come into play considering if two extraterrestrial life forms are likely to interact. And those arguments are likely to make the odds very long.

My take on this – any life forms sufficiently advanced to be able to interact with our own – would avoid us like the plague.


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