Intro: September 2011 Archives

The Onion, America's premier source of fake news, reports that historians are recommending that before policy makers implement radical changes to our society, they ought to "Check real quick first to see if human beings have ever done anything like it previously...see if it turned out to be a good idea or not."

"In the coming weeks and months, people will have to make some really important decisions about some really important issues," Columbia University historian Douglas R. Collins said during a press conference, speaking very slowly and clearly so the nation could follow his words. "And one thing we can do, before making a choice that has permanent consequences for our entire civilization, is check real quick first to see if human beings have ever done anything like it previously, and see if turned out to be a good idea or not."

"It's actually pretty simple: We just have to ask ourselves if people doing the same thing in the past caused something bad to happen," Collins continued. "Did the thing we're thinking of doing make people upset? Did it start a war? If it did, then we might want to think about not doing it."

In addition, Collins carefully explained that if a past decision proved to be favorable--if, for example, it led to increased employment, caused fewer deaths, or made lots of people feel good inside-- then the nation should consider following through with the same decision now."

Should we add this to Lilienfeld's list?

Does Dr Who know about this?

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Screen shot 2011-09-25 at 2.58.56 PM.pngYou've probably already heard that physicists have measured particles traveling faster than the speed of light because communication on the internet also may travel faster than the speed of light. It's really awesome! But did you notice how five of the six principles of scientific thinking show up in the report that neutrinos travel faster than light.

First, characteristic of good scientific practice, there is well-established theory, Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, that proposes that absolutely nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This makes the theory FALSIFIABLE. Maybe it has been supported by a century of testing but find something that goes faster than light and...goodbye, theory! I've put up an image of Albert E. himself to remind us of the brilliance and solidity of that theory.

Next, the claim that neutrinos may go faster than light is EXTRAORDINARY and the researchers need to provide extradordinary evidence. So what kind of evidence did the researchers provide? "A total of 15,000 beams of neutrinos -- tiny particles that pervade the cosmos -- were fired over a period of 3 years from CERN toward Gran Sasso 730 (500 miles) km away, where they were picked up by giant detectors." and clocked at 60-billionths of second faster than light. I assume they checked the reliability of their clock, but measurement error is the first thing that occurs to me.

Third, being confident in their findings, having "checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements" the researchers are asking their colleagues to REPLICATE their findings. It looks like good science practice to me, and the world will be eagerly waiting for the next set of findings. Meanwhile, I am sure that physicists will be generating ALTERNATE HYPOTHESES to account for the the evidence.

For now, I'm a skeptic. The most PARSIMONIOUS answer is that the Theory of Special Relativity has not been falsified, that the finding, while real, is caused by systematic measurement error of some kind.

But, still, imagine we COULD travel in time! Where would you want to go?

Screen shot 2011-09-18 at 7.23.03 PM.png1) Obviously, first you need a photo. I've just gone to google images and found a photo of a young William James, founder of Psychology and the approach called functionalism. That's cool. [**Snap screenshot of James**]

2) When you click on the "insert image' link, you need to first "upload new image" by finding your image using "browse." Upload the photo and specify its size (try pixel width of 250) and where you want the photo to appear (left, right, etc.) I prefer left justified.

3) When the image is uploaded, you will see a stream of html code in your "create entry." Panic not! Preview to check the placement of your photo. If you like what you see, click on save. If you want to continue editing, click on re-edit.

4) SAVE when you are satisfied with your post.

TIP: You can cut the html text and paste it to vary its relationship to the text. For this post, I have pasted the code before the text.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Intro category from September 2011.

Intro: July 2011 is the previous archive.

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