It is the function of science to discover the existence of a general reign of order in nature and to find the causes governing this order. And this refers in equal measure to the relations of man – social and political – and to the entire universe as a whole.
– Dmitri Mendeleev
The initial quote I had in mind was:
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” — Richard P. Feynman
Cold, when all is said and done, makes a disappointing superweapon.
I mean, the comic book movies are pretty convincing. The hot superhero shoots a lava jet at the cold supervillain, whose ice ray (not to be confused with a freeze ray) sets out an opposite jet, they meet in the middle and cancel each other out in a brilliant contest of CGI. You get Frozone making walls of ice out of thin air. Or you get the Terminator, freezing in liquid nitrogen and shattering like the hopes of a Hillary voter on election night.More
“All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” – Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford was a physicist. (You could tell, couldn’t you?) Yet he hits on one essential truth with this quote: the more rigorous and replicable experiments in a field of science are, the more reliable the results. With physics, mathematics provides the rigor, and if an experiment is not replicable, there better be a really good reason — some reason that when factored in makes the result replicable. Stamp collecting is Rutherfords’s shorthand for ordering and collecting, which is about all you can do absent mathematics and rigorous analysis.More
And it’s even translated from German: “If God had wanted man to explore the universe, he would have given us a moon….TADA!” More
I think x-rays have had their dramatic potential shortchanged by the way they’re actually useful. You hear “gamma rays” and your mind is drawn to the Incredible Hulk and how he gained his bright purple shorts. Cosmic Rays? Space madness! But when your mind turns to x-rays you start thinking “dentistry.” Much less exciting.
Right. Computers. Today we’re going to spend one more post on Electron Microscopy, and another way these things are useful. This one is actually pretty straightforward from topics we’ve already covered. I’m sure y’all have been taking notes, and know immediately that I’m referring to Computers 5: Fundamental Chemistry, where I described the process of prodding electrons into giving up photons. I’ll save you the reread, even though jokes about New Jersey never get old. Here are the useful bits:More
Some blooms are millennia in the making. Take, for example, this desert rose.
https://www.bbc.com/news/video_and_audio/must_see/48060788/finland-s-new-generation-of-climate-heroes Play on words: Actually that is the name of a Finnish town which has achieved “zero waste” and has therefore proven that if a town of 10,ooo can do it, according to a person in the video (teacher?) we can do it globally and so we have “no more excuses.” Well, there isn’t enough […]
Thank goodness we have intrepid scientists uncovering the secrets of the universe! Okay, I was being flippant, because this is a genuine study. However, note the headline refers to the study as “Controversial”: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6845991/Controversial-study-finds-brain-differences-sexes-begin-womb.html More
“The history of π is a quaint little mirror of the history of man. It is the story of Archimedes of Syracuse, whose method of calculating π defied substantial improvement for some 1900 years, and it is also the story of a Cleveland businessman, who published a book in 1931 announcing the grand discovery that π was exactly […]
James A. Lindsay is a co-author of the Grievance Studies, a project designed to expose the politicized corruption within social justice geared humanities scholarship by creating bogus academic papers and submitting them to academic journals in the areas of cultural, queer, race, gender, fat, and sexuality studies. He and Bridget have a fascinating discussion about […]
I got an idea for a sci-fi novel the other day. But it relies on wormholes and I am not the astrophysics junky, nor sci-fi aficionado, that some of you are. So perhaps you can answer a couple questions. Bear in mind, because this regards a fictional setting, I am more concerned with believability than […]
Science cannot tell us whether we should or should not do or allow something, but it can help us understand what that thing is. Science shows that fertilization creates a unique living human, but it has nothing to say about what rights that human has. The argument against abortion is simply that all humans have […]
“It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them.” — J. Robert Oppenheimer, opening quote of Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Science is a profoundly amoral exercise. Scientific merit has nothing fundamentally to do with morality. Basic research is driven primarily by what can be done, not what should be done. This has largely always been the case. Even in the modern world, the fundamental questions are decided less by patronage or granting agencies or moral concerns, since no one knows the full application yet. Some people might be researching something revolutionary right now, while people mock their work for being impossible.More
Jacob Falkovich, of PutANumOnIt fame, published a post-mortem on the Harris-Klein debate over IQ and race in Quillette. Not just the Quillette article, but the blog post inspiring it, The Context is the Conflict, are both worth a read. As Falkovich sees it, the Harris-Klein debate was merely one example of conflicting forms of political reasoning, pitting those who see political opponents as mistaken against those who see political opposition as conflict, and also pitting cognitive decoupling against contextualizing. To summarize the story the way Falkovich sees it, Sam Harris tells Ezra Klein, “Ezra, it’s dishonest of you to be so concerned with the social implications of the data that you discount what the data has to say,” and Klein shoots right back, “Sam, it’s dishonest of you to be so concerned with what the data allegedly says that you discount its social implications,” that is, whose interest is served by treating the data in question as reputable, and whose interests are harmed.
Both Klein and Harris have a point. We on the right are fairly open in our mistrust of “scientism,” after all. We know that, no matter how much data might seem to speak for itself, the scientific validity of data can’t be entirely separated from the nonscientific interests of the ones gathering, analyzing, publishing, and popularizing the data. Who funded a study, we wonder? Would funding have biased it? Was one study widely reported on while studies contradicting it were not; reflecting media bias? We aren’t fools for asking these questions, merely fools if we take them to their paranoid extreme: at some point, data must matter, even though it’s collected and interpreted by biased humans. Nonetheless, we suspect, probably rightly, that even good science can’t be wholly divorced from its social implications once it’s fodder for political dispute.More
We all love blasting things with ions, and most of us could spend all day shooting at wafers, but eventually someone is going to ask you to build something useful. What am I doing with all this mess of silicon anyhow? Here’s where we see the use of all that stuff. What do you suppose happens when you put a p-doped chunk of silicon next to an n-doped chunk of silicon?
Diodes to Kill ForMore
Heather Mac Donald joins Brian Anderson to discuss how universities and the scientific community are being pressured to alter the gender and racial balance in STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and math—and the implications for America’s future. For decades, multiculturalism, quotas, and identity politics have been pervasive in humanities departments at most major universities—but not in scientific fields. Now that’s changing, as […]
I’ve written about the scientific basis for why I’m skeptical about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change before — have fun reading that one! — but if you didn’t find my rationale convincing, the reasons to ignore catastrophists are really piling up. If it’s true that “tomorrow’s technologies will solve today’s problems,” we live in an age of wonders.
Why is that? Harvard scientists have announced the invention of an energy-efficient means of carbon capture:More
I am an armchair physicist, meaning that when inertia and a good group of books about new physics material take over me, inertia captures my body, while science captures my mind. Now there are worries that the constant clamor for equations to explain such modern physics dilemmas as string theory or the “multi verse” are […]