Weirding Way

2 Day. The electromagnetic audio-visual receiver projected that today is “National Coffee Day”. Blatant corporate arrogance? Does this mean that we can now recognize all holy days as propaganda and maskarovka? I shall nonetheless journey to Walker’s for a bit of brew. 

The gym was quite sparse. I enjoyed an episode of the Guardian’s science podcast that presented an interview with a fellow named David Wootten (sp?) who has written a new book about the Scientific Revolution. Not at all sure I like that term.

But he did raise the question of whether science can survive the internet? This seems a good question. My current hypothesis is NO! Too much propagation of boggery. But waiting is. 

In the interim I shall be continuing to do science. I suspect that I shall even when it is criminal or at least nekulturny.

Is science a form of talking nerdy?

Weird day I suspect.

Part of A Herd

The dihydrogen oxide sorta falleth. More a heavy mist than an actual rain. Enough to soak rather a bit after a full constitutional, happily uninterrupted by boscos and haggis brains. 

In my youth walking in rain was uplifting, exhilarating. Now it is only distracting. Sometimes the weight of existence is enough to crush life. But I did manage to exert a bit of attention direction to consider an article [Link] by Brian Greene entitled “The Theory of Relativity, Then and Now”. It’s basically a bog article with the physics almost missing. But sometimes making contact with colleagues is a useful thing even if all we talk about are stomach aches.

The article is about Einstein’s closing difficulties with the theory of relativity. This is a useful thing. We get taught how to work on problems and research but we don’t always get told about the problems – other than monetary and bogs – that crop up. Sometimes it’s a mental block of sorts; sometimes it’s an attack of delusional fidgets. And we think that others don’t have these so we don’t mention them. We don’t discuss them. And we all have them.

It doesn’t seem to matter what we are working on, and certainly most of us don’t work on things as complicated or big as gravity. It’s more a matter of how we work. And that is pretty common. 

So let’s review some of what Greene had to say about the specific:

“Leveraging results from the mid-1800s that provided the geometrical language for describing curved shapes, Einstein created a wholly novel yet fully rigorous reformulation of gravity in terms of the geometry of space and time. .. But then it all seemed to collapse. While investigating his new equations Einstein committed a fateful technical error, leading him to think that his proposal failed to correctly describe all sorts of commonplace motion. For two long, frustrating years Einstein desperately tried to patch the problem, but nothing worked.”

In statistics (or sadistics as some call it behind their hands,) we are taught that errors are both positive and negative. Fluctuations in research and thinks are the same. Sometimes they are constructive and sometimes destructive. And we all get them. The problem is that it takes a long time to get them wrestled into submission. We have all had brilliant epiphanies (well, all nerds, at least) that seem instantaneous but built over unappreciated time and then take agonizing time to apply. We also have what seems a brilliant epiphany that turns out to be a false worry but we still have to worry it into submission. Over too long a period of time.

“His estranged wife, Mileva Maric, finally accepted that her life with Einstein was over, and had moved back to Zurich with their two sons.”

Marriage is an intriguing process. It struggles to exist, usually successfully, in spite of all the things we do to destroy it. I am quite in favor of it but I do have to admit that I seem to get more done when FD SCP is absent.

“By November, this freedom bore fruit. Einstein corrected his earlier error and set out on the final climb toward the general theory of relativity. But as he worked intensely on the fine mathematical details, conditions turned unexpectedly treacherous. A few months earlier, Einstein had met with the renowned German mathematician David Hilbert, and had shared all his thinking about his new gravitational theory. Apparently, Einstein learned to his dismay, the meeting had so stoked Hilbert’s interest that he was now racing Einstein to the finish line.”
I have difficulty understanding how theoretical folks can work in coveys (or whatever a collective of theoretical physicists is called?) I can understand it for experimentalists since they have to borrow tools and get help bailing or whatever, but theorists works best alone IMHO. That is not to say that discussions are not useful. Sometimes until you utter something you don’t realize how whacked it is. But you run the risk of sparking ideas in your colleagues and losing your stuff. It happens. And the etiquette of it is difficult. Especially since nerds are so contra-social. I know there have been several times I got ideas from colleagues that let me beat on a problem of common interest. I try to make sure they don’t lose their chance and give them credit but it is still a difficult thing. 
“To his friend Heinrich Zangger, Einstein confided, “In my personal experience I have not learnt any better the wretchedness of the human species as on occasion of this theory….””
Even when it turns out right – whatever right is, it is unpleasant. This is one of the reasons theoreticians need to work alone. It hurts too much otherwise. And we lose our smarts in the pain.
“Of course, the credit would only be worth having if the general theory of relativity were confirmed through observations. Remarkably, Einstein could see how that might be done.”
This incidentally is the nutmeat of physics, its duality of theory and experiment. This is why neither mathematicians nor engineers are physicists. The one never gets beyond “the maths say so” to “observed reality says so” and the other never worries about why, just how. We need both but neither can do physics. 
Which is rather like marriage.

Word Disagrrement

I ran across an article [Link] entitled “The Difference Between a Fact, Hypothesis, Theory, and Law In Science” that illustrates that there are differences in science. It presents the definitions:

  • Fact: Observations about the world around us. Example: “It’s bright outside.”
  • Hypothesis: A proposed explanation for a phenomenon made as a starting point for further investigation. Example: “It’s bright outside because the sun is probably out.”
  • Theory: A well-substantiated explanation acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation. Example: “When the sun is out, it tends to make it bright outside.”
  • Law: A statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some phenomenon of nature. Proof that something happens and how it happens, but not why it happens. Example: Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.

It’s quite close but it rather widely misses the mark. The problem seems to be that it ignores testability. Until something has been tested it is untrustworthy, and the degree of trustability and accuracy is a matter of how much it can be trusted.

For example, consider fact. In particular consider Boyle’s “matter of fact” which IMHO is a more useful approach. Something is a matter of fact if it has been tested/verified/validated under several conditions. This speaks primarily to the inherent untrustworthiness of the individual human. It speaks to why articles are refereed. In Boyle’s case the way he established a matter of fact was to have a group of people watch his experiments and independently tell what they observed.

Now let’s consider conjecture. This is a term unconsidered by the article author. What he calls a hypothesis is actually a conjecture. A hypothesis is an explanation of some phenomena that has been tested a significant number of times but not to the point of being a theory.

Now it’s someone else’s turn to add on.

Sleeves and Systems

Week out. Saturn’s day. Mixing Greeks and Norse? Feta Danish? Herring Pizza? Or is that Italian? Anyway, chilly constitutional this morning in park. Frawg again. Bracing and I managed to get through before becoming chilled to tremor. But not very conducive to cogitation, I fear.

On which subject a couple of cartoons. First, [Link]

which addresses my habit of lecturing with one sleeve – the right – rolled up above the elbow. This dates back to the days when I wore a suit every day and a dress shirt with tie. I acquired the habit from one of my professors, John David Jackson, who lectured this way. It made eminent sense to avoid getting chalk all over one’s suit by transfer. I was fortunate to have Jackson as lecturer for non-linear mechanics which served to launch me, at least partly, on a career in dissipative physics. Being an INTRO it’s about the only form of dissipation I can enjoy.

Of course this was back in the days when there were still chalk boards. That is mostly gone and is one of the primary reasons I don’t care to lecture.

The second cartoon: [Link]

rather puts me in mind that the cartoonist is a benighted Winders serf. If he would switch to Linux this would not have been needed, which would have been a mitzvah since it isn’t particularly funny. Just sad.

I have no great expectations of the day. I suppose that is evident.

Alien Truth

Saturn’s day. Off to park for constitutional. Moderately enjoyable – slight breeze to abate the muggishness. Managed to walk off the path and fall a bit – thinking too much about weak delta functions and not about where I was. Good sign that I can still think. Some times it doesn;t feel that way.

I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Are Science And Truth At Odds?” on a Yankee government (unsupported due to Council of Thieves’ greed) national wrieless (NPR) web site. This article is written by a purported physicist – I don’t know the fellow but since there are o(3E5) physicists in the Yankee republic that isn’t surprising – and it rather disturbs me that a physicist could mumble such rot. I hope that this is a case of “dumbing down” as outreach to bogs and not an actual world view.

Simply put science and truth are orthogonal. If that constitutes “Odds” then so be it. Truth is a religionist thing, misappropriated and misused by the legal instrumentality for its own purposes, fundamentally revealed not obtained. Science is about understanding (and engineering is about doing, anticipating the next question.) 

Truth is stationary; science is not. The biggest thing the two have is common is the limitations of the human mind/brain. Truth is filtered through what humans can learn. Science is conditioned on human thought. Truth is passive in that it may not be found, only delivered. Science is never delivered, only found. 

So yes, they are different.

Amerikan Failure

Lower temperature of air this morning. Gym sparsely populated. Podcast, and episode of “Big Think” was mediocre, which is a substantial improvement over the past two weeks.

Not the subject but put me in mind of our education system. I am now of the hypothesis that it is a failure. At least the public schule system in Amerika. The situation is that less and less is taught to fewer and fewer.

The basic idea of public education is simple and, on the exterior, good. Provide an affordable environment where the young of the nation are taught what they need to survive and participate in society. The promise of success is intellectually and observationally fallacious. Success cannot be guaranteed. The appearance of success can be guaranteed with money, at least in a capitalist environment.

There has always been disagreement of what needs be taught in public schule. Even reading and writing and maths are debatable. And are. Sturgeon’t rule of parents are antagonistic to any literate level of maths, even algebra, which I consider preliterate. And writing is is dis-fashion these days. Which explain the ignorance and failure of students’ composition.

In fact ignorance and failure are the general characterization of the students. The only things they are required to learn is what is on the standardized tests, which determine funding of schules and faculty. Much, not all, of the faculty are careerists solely. Those who decline to learn are rewarded with promotion on social justice grounds quite ignoring its effect on mind programming of the entire student population. There is no incentive nor freedom for students to learn anything. Except the standardized tests. 

The grades on these tests are falsehoods, indicative of wrongful measure. Graduating students with high marks cannot do college work nor once out of college, do real work. 

It is not that idealism and a sense of right are absent from the educationalist system, just sorely depleted and suppressed. The apparent problem is over-regulation, the result of several centuries of natural progression. If a rule is good, a hundred are better. And an asentient population is more complaint than a rational one. Nebbishism is encouraged both actively and passively.

Can it be changed? Not without disaster, I fear. So we may as well write off the nation if not civilization and the species as a whole.


Days Past Remembered

Back to Mundane day. Passable at gym. Sparse population. Few educationalists or weight bouncers. Podcast was passable, an episode of the CBC’s “Best of Ideas” on the evils of the processed foods industry. Firing parties needed for the executives. 

Down side was getting tailgated by some schmuck who illuminated his long distance beams continually. Out me in mind of adolescents whose parents should have frequented Planned Parenthood. And the need for parent certification prior to insemination. As a prerequisite. 

Which put me in mind of the time of year. Schule initiation. The public baby sitting service of Greater Metropolitan Arab commenced a week or so ago and several colleges, including the Campus of the Tennessee have commenced fall term. And I made the rounds of several office and schule supply stores to stock up on paper goods only available this time of year. But the media is overwhelming with all sorts of nonsense. I noted this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday and compared it to my freshman days. For one thing, there was a lot more variation in noses.

As I recall I had to go to campus (Black Warrior) for a 2.5 day “orientation” during the summer. Of this I recall almost nothing except being overwhelmed. And then about this time of year down to move into the actual dorm I would reside in. Registration was a bit painful, mostly because of having to deal with an adviser who kept telling me what not to do but was unforthcoming of what to do. The actual exercise of jostling in a gymnasium for IBM 5081 cards for each course was novel and easy if one divorced oneself from any social entanglement. See! Physics even then.

I was fortunate to have a junior (class) roommate who was arrogant, pseudo-sophisticated (wanna-be Greek,) and eager to impress his knowledge as a cadge to his insecurity who told me how to buy books and more importantly, how to take notes. This latter, I understand, is now a lost art, one with the classical Egyptians’ gold alloys. So I knew to trot off to the “Alabama” book store (not affiliated with the university – its book store was the “Supe” store) to purchase books and at least one notebook per course (extra for lab courses,) and plenty of pens and pencil leads and erasers (Pink Pearls.) Highlighters were just coming in then and I never cultivated the obsessive underlining that is too many people’s substitute for learning. In those days we got actual lectures and learning those was the key to grades. Not the textbook. Except for problems. And I found out about Schaum’s Outlines. 

And I di lots of things wrong. One was to not discipline myself with outside activities. Like guest lecturers and such. No problem with social activities. Didn’t have many of those. Saturday morning walk (no car permits for freshmen) to downtown Tuscaloosa to purchase necessities (and a non-cafeteria meal.) And mandatory (?) attendance at home football games. 

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me this link. [Link] to an excellent essay/monologue on being a freshman. I rather wish I had something akin in my day. But I also acknowledge that I probably wouldn’t have hearkened to it. Mental overload. Until at least Thanksgiving. Maybe Solstice.

Wish I could go back and do it again.