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popular science and science education

String theory skeptic Peter Woit reflects on Stephen Hawking

Peter Woit on Hawking's 2010 The Grand Design, co-written with Leonard Mlodinow: " I wrote about this book in some detail here. Put bluntly, it was an atrocious rehash of the worst nonsense about M-theory and the string theory landscape, with an argument for atheism thrown in to get more public attention. This is the sort of thing that has done a huge amount of damage to both the public understanding of fundamental physics, and even to the field itself." Read More ›

Dr Selensky on a Tour vs Cronin debate on OoL

He writes: >> Participants: From the naturalists’ camp: chemist Lee Cronin (University of Glasgow, UK). From the skeptics’ camp: chemist James Tour (Rice University, USA). Okay, origin of life research. Like in any other research, there should be no magic: garbage in — garbage out. Between 25:00 and 26:00 Lee said something like this: We found in a laboratory how chemicals can be steered towards decision making. (emphasis mine). This is already telling. I am fine with experiments in a test tube. But as soon as naturalists need to explain something non-trivial like the alleged naturalistic emergence of decision making or information translation, they use imagination. Closer to the end of the debate, Cronin gives way to it: in 5 Read More ›

The Solar System, to scale, on a dry lakebed

Typical images of the solar system are NOT to scale, showing the planets at grossly exaggerated sizes. Here is a typical case, HT Wikimedia, WP and Planet User: So, some video makers did a little project to show it to scale, out to Neptune . . . beyond, lies vastly more of course, but Pluto has been demoted to “dwarf planet.” Video: A Pandemic Sunday reflection from scripture comes to mind: Psalm 19:1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the Read More ›

L&FP39: How the folded structure (and then the “loading”) of tRNA corrects attempts to reduce protein synthesis to “mere” chemistry

One of the more astonishing rhetorical gambits of objectors to the design inference is to try to suggest that the alphanumeric, code-using, algorithmic information system we see in the D/RNA of the living cell and linked protein synthesis is not really an information system, it all reduces to chemical reaction trains. A common associated gambit is to assert that terms like “code” etc are all readily dismissible analogies. As a first reminder, protein synthesis as graphically summarised: Of course, it never hurts to remind such objectors of p. 5 of Sir Francis Crick’s $6 million, March 19, 1953 letter to his son, Michael: Notice, his belief right from the outset of discovering the double-helix stricture: “. . . D.N.A. is Read More ›

Betelgeuse dims, astrophysicists speculate

Since about October 2019, Betelgeuse (the bright reddish star at Orion’s shoulder in the brightest constellation in the sky that is about 600 – 700 ly distant from us) has begun a sharp dimming that has now gone beyond what has been seen in modern observations. As of the end of January, it was down about 2.5 1.4 in apparent magnitude (corrected from the added graph). Here is its “portrait” — it is one of the few stars we have seen as a disk: ADDED: a plot of apparent magnitude: Discussion at WUWT suggests that by about Feb 21 we should see an uptick if this is something that is near-normal. Odds are, we don’t have a long enough instrumented Read More ›

BBC swings and misses: “Why is there something instead of nothing?”, pt. 2 ( –> Being, Logic and First Principles, 24b)

The exploration in-the-wild on Heidegger’s pivotal question is turning out to be quite fruitful. Here, we see BBC swing and miss, leading to dancing stumps. Dancing stumps: Video, with one of the greats at bat: First, context, we are discussing here popularised forms of the idea that “nothing” has been defined by physicists to denote in effect a sub-universe that gives rise to quantum fluctuations and thus expanding sub-universes. Let’s clip from the parent thread LFP 24: [KF, LFP 24, 41:] Let us continue our “in-the-wild” exploration, here a Robert Adler BBC article (as representing what we might find in high-prestige media): [BBC:] >>Why is there something rather than nothing? By Robert Adler 6 November 2014 People have wrestled with Read More ›

“Why is there something, instead of nothing?” (–> being Logic & First Principles, 24)

Heidegger famously posed this question, giving it redoubled force as a first question on critical analysis of worldviews: To philosophize is to ask “Why are there essents rather than nothing?” Really to ask this question signifies: a daring attempt to fathom this unfathomable question by disclosing what it summons us to ask, to push our questioning to the very end. Where such an attempt occurs there is philosophy. [ M. Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press, New Haven and London (1959), pp. 7-8.] Let’s explore, first pausing to see Prof Dawkins (dean of the notoriously unphilosophical new atheists) making needlessly heavy weather of the matter: Clearly, the pivot of the matter is — again — logic of being: Read More ›

Moon first, then Mars — a path to Solar System colonization?

Some dates are being discussed in a May 18th 2019 Phys-dot-org article: “The Moon is the proving ground for our eventual mission to Mars,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a conference this week. “The Moon is our path to get to Mars in the fastest, safest way possible. That’s why we go to the Moon.” According to Robert Howard, who heads up the lab developing future space habitats at the legendary Johnson Space Center in Houston, the hurdles aren’t so much technical or scientific as much as a question of budget and political will. “A lot of people want us to have an Apollo moment, and have a president stand up like Kennedy and say, we’ve got to do Read More ›

The Fourier series & rotating vectors in action (with i lurking) — more on the mathematical fabric of reality

The Fourier series is a powerful technique that can be used to break down any repeating waveform into sinusoidal components, based on integer number harmonics of a fundamental frequency: Video: This is already amazing, that by summing up harmonically related sinusoids (with suitable amplitudes and lagging) we can analyse any repeating waveform as a sum of components. This then extends to any non-repeating pulse, once we go to an integral, which brings in the idea of a continuous spectrum where some wave “energy” is found at every particular frequency in a band. However, something subtler lurks: As the illustration based on clips from the video shows, a sinusoid can be seen as the projection of a rotating vector (= a Read More ›

Revealing in-thread exchanges on the imposition of evo mat scientism/ naturalism (and on the tactics to deflect attention from that)

The imposition of evolutionary materialistic scientism (aka naturalism) is one of the key issues driving the march of folly in our civilisation. It is also very difficult to discuss as there are some very powerful rhetorical deflectors at work. Sometimes, then, the best thing we can do is to clip from one of UD’s exchanges and headline it so we can see what is going on from the horse’s mouth: _________________________ It is amusing at first (then on deeper reflection, quite saddening) to trace some of the onward discussion in the thread from which the OP comes: JDK, 94: >>Hi JAD. I don’t think there has been anything in this thread about purposelessness. The OP has been about teleological explanations Read More ›

UD’s Weak Arguments Correctives page passes 50,000 visits

As I checked the dashboard, I just saw that the current visit-count for the “Frequently raised but weak arguments against Intelligent Design” page stands at 50,307. Worth noting, even as onlookers are again invited to ponder its remarks. END PS: Table of contents: WEAK ANTI-ID ARGUMENTS: 1] ID is “not science” 2] No Real Scientists Take Intelligent Design Seriously 3] Intelligent Design does not carry out or publish scientific research 4] ID does not make scientifically fruitful predictions 5] Intelligent Design is “Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo” 6] Since Intelligent Design Proponents Believe in a “Designer” or “Creator” They Can Be Called “Creationists” 7] Because William Dembski once commented that the design patterns in nature are consistent with the “logos Read More ›

A note on eugenics, social darwinism and evolutionary theory

Notoriously, the Second International Congress on Eugenics [1921] defined Eugenics as the self-direction of human evolution and saw eugenics as applied evolutionary science with intellectual, logical and factual roots in several linked branches of science, medicine and scholarship. If you doubt this, simply examine the logo to the right. Perhaps the best summary of the then prevailing mentality comes from Scientific Monthly, in an article on the congress — noting how it highlights a keynote by a son of Darwin: >>THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF EUGENICS In this journal special attention has always been given to problems of evolution, heredity and eugenics. As older readers of the THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY will remember, it gave the first American publication to Read More ›

Sev, JDK, the value of philosophy [esp. metaphysics] and addressing the intersubjective consensus challenge

In the PZM on the state of atheism thread, some key fundamental issues have emerged: JDK, 12: >>to both ba[77] and kf: because I think your belief in the power and importance of metaphysical philosophy is excessive and misguided . . . >> Sev, 17: >>[to BA77,] You consistently ignore the possibility that a consensus morality can be achieved through inter-subjective agreement.>> Both of these deserve notice, and I responded. This, I now headline, as it goes to the core of the many vexed debates that are going on not only in and around UD but across our civilisation. Pardon, JDK, I here redirect to the correct source: KF, 26: >>a long time ago now, I realised that if one Read More ›

GUN, UD News, Wikipedia and the sources credibility question

It has been said that 99% of practical arguments rely on authorities, i.e. sources. We can start with dictionaries, parents, teachers, officials, records and serious writings, or even the news and punditry we all follow. (And yes, this paragraph is a case in point, here, C S Lewis making a general point; which I amplified.) The context is, that News just reported how Wikipedia (the po mo encyclopedia we love to bash that has driven traditional encyclopedias to despair and sometimes to ruin) is having a dispute that has gone to its highest internal tribunal. GUN and I had an exchange on sources that is worth headlining, not least as ID disputes often have to deal with quality of sources Read More ›

Can Wikipedia be fixed? (And, should we care? [Is it time to walk away and lock it out like a virus?])

By 2012, the longstanding Encyclopedia Britannica had published its last print edition. Microsoft’s Encarta has long since bitten the dust, and so has Collier’s notable effort. Wikipedia, like it or lump it — mostly the latter — seems to have taken over that go-to first source slot. Indeed, for a great many subjects a Wikipedia article will dominate a Google search (or the like), to the point where one gets the impression that if it is not in the top three or so references, that was programmed in by the search engine’s programmers. And yet, as PJ Media reports, co-founder and original author of Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view [NPOV]” policy, Larry Sanger has gone on record, regarding Wiki’s entrenched Read More ›