Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

A Farewell and Remembrance

Uncommon Descent began in the summer of 2005 as my personal blog. Before that, I had a personal website, designinference.com. The latter site began in 2002 and was a place for my longer writings. But by 2005, blogging was the rage, and I jumped in with both feet at Uncommon Descent. The very name was at once a play on Darwin’s idea of common descent, but also a play on descent being a homophone of dissent. In 2004, I had edited an anthology for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute titled Uncommon Dissent, so the name Uncommon Descent tied in with my then current interests and activities. And it clearly called to mind that living organisms have an origin beyond the naturalistic causes of Darwinism, indeed, Read More ›

Dragonfly Ornithopters

As fans of Dune will readily see, an ornithopter is a flapping wing flying machine, as a helicopter is a rotary wing flying machine. Where of course we have seen how Dragonflies are elliptical winged insects capable of up to 56 km/h speed. They also have pterostigmas that control flutter, gaining up to 25% speed [in gliding mode]. Then, there are airflow and wing flex sensors that indicate sophisticated, highly tuned control loop networks. These insects are capable of forward and reverse flight, hovering and sideways flight. They also have up to 97% success rate in predation. Such a natural model will of course inspire engineers. So, we can see here, a Dragonfly robot ornithopter: A clip: Resemblance to a Read More ›

Dragon Fly Wings also have air flow and wing deformation sensors

The Dragonfly is amazing: As Fabian et al summarise: Animal wings deform during flight in ways that can enhance lift, facilitate flight control, and mitigate damage. Monitoring the structural and aerodynamic stateof the wing is challenging because deformations are passive, and the flow fieldsare unsteady; it requires distributed mechanosensors that respond to localairflow and strain on the wing. Without a complete map of the sensor arrays, itis impossible to model control strategies underpinned by them. Here, we presentthe first systematic characterization of mechanosensors on the dragonfly’s wings:morphology, distribution, and wiring. By combining a cross-species survey ofsensor distribution with quantitative neuroanatomy and a high-fidelity finiteelement analysis, we show that the mechanosensors are well placed to perceivefeatures of the wing dynamics relevant Read More ›

L&FP, 71: The island of function, fitness peak trap

We have been using a 3-D printer-constructor formalism, and now we can use it to see how hill climbing leads to local trapping. Again, the core formalism: Now, let us modify by allowing some sort of local random mutation to d(E) case by case within an n-run, now seen as a generation, so E1 to En are all incrementally different, and in effect are a ring around E in a fitness landscape. From this, we can see a survival filter that on average selects for superior performance. This leads, naturally to hill-climbing, perhaps even to several related peaks in a chain on an island of function. But now, we see: Here, we see that hill climbing leads to peak trapping, Read More ›

L&FP, 70: Exploring cosmological fine tuning using the idea of a 3-D, universal printer and constructor (also, islands of function)

Last time, we looked at how Kolmogorov Complexity can be used to quantify the information in functionally specific complex organisation, by using the formal idea of a 3-D universal printer and constructor, 3-DP/C: . . . it is but a short step to imagine a universal constructor device which, fed a compact description in a suitable language, will construct and present the [obviously, finite] object. Let us call this the universal 3-D printer/constructor, 3-DP/C. Thus, in principle, reduction of an organised entity to a description in a suitably compact language is formally equivalent in information terms to the object, once 3-DP/C is present as a conceptual entity. So, WLOG, reduction to compact description in a compact language d(E) is readily Read More ›

L&FP, 69: A way to understand Functionally Specific Complex Organisation and/or associated Information [FSCO/I] i/l/o Kolmogorov-Chaitin Complexity

It seems that it is exceedingly hard for some to understand what FSCO/I is about. In responding to an objector, I wrote as follows just now, and think it is worth headlining for reference: Where, K-Complexity is summarised by Wikipedia, as a first level point of reference that would have been immediately accessible all along: <<In algorithmic information theory (a subfield of computer science and mathematics), the Kolmogorov complexity of an object, such as a piece of text, is the length of a shortest computer program (in a predetermined programming language) that produces the object as output. It is a measure of the computational resources needed to specify the object, and is also known as algorithmic complexity, Solomonoff–Kolmogorov–Chaitin complexity, program-size Read More ›

L&FP, 68: Cognitive Dissonance and fallacies of projection etc

It is a sub-study of logic, to address fallacies. Accordingly, as it has come up, it seems helpful to highlight cognitive dissonance and certain associated fallacies. First, [HT: Montecinos et al, fair use] here is a recent framework for cognitive dissonance: This is a simple but powerful model. As an example, it has been argued that certain free trial period software, by involving the user in considerable effort to register and use the product, then shifts attitudes towards reluctance to give up the product. Of course, many attitude, thought, belief or behaviour changes can be influenced by the need to reduce inner pain, and some of these are more justifiable in the cold light of day than others. However, some Read More ›

L&FP, 67: So-called “critical rationalism” and the blunder of denying [defeat-able] warrant for knowledge

IEP summarises: “Critical Rationalism” is the name Karl Popper (1902-1994) gave to a modest and self-critical rationalism. He contrasted this view with “uncritical or comprehensive rationalism,” the received justificationist view that only what can be proved by reason and/or experience should be accepted. Popper argued that comprehensive rationalism cannot explain how proof is possible and that it leads to inconsistencies. Critical rationalism today is the project of extending Popper’s approach to all areas of thought and action. In each field the central task of critical rationalism is to replace allegedly justificatory methods with critical ones. A common summary of this is that it replaces knowledge as justified, true belief, with “knowledge is unjustified untrue unbelief.” That is, we see here Read More ›

Of Dragonflies, Spitfires and Elliptical Wings

The Dragonfly is a marvel of nature, rated to be one of the all time most effective predators. Similarly, the Spitfire was a breakthrough, fighter-interceptor in the skies over Britain, just under eighty-three years ago. And, oddly, both share a common design feature, elliptical wings: This is of course an interesting convergence of natural and human technologies. Though, the advantages are with the Dragonfly, a natural helicopter. The Spitfire’s wings: (More details, here.) U/D, Mar 23: Note the clipped wings and radial engine of the Hawker Sea Fury (many later Spitfires also had clipped wings): Notice, the P-47: also, the MiG 15, showing where onward technological evolution would go: The Dragonfly: It’s worth noting on the Pterostigma, a counterweight often Read More ›