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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jack Briggs, Feb 10, 2005.
As long as you're going down, why should they care if you are fighting or not!
...Oh, they like it when you fight...it makes it more......sexy...
I suppose this is another issue of semantics, but are these "discoveries" actually new concepts that are requiring us to alter our understanding or are they merely new variations of the things of which we were already aware? For example, the "invisible galaxy" cited earlier is still just a collection of celestial objects orbiting around each other, correct? In all the research that has been conducted in the past decade or so on the human genome, has any of it led to a fundamentally new discovery about how DNA works? Sure, we've discovered new patterns within the DNA and learned to modify genomes to produce variations in the resultant life, but the basic building blocks of DNA are still the same ones we've used for 30 or 40 years, right? (Sorry about the vagueness here - not my field) When we landed that probe on Titan, did we discover anything new about celestial mechanics? Did the course correction thruster maneuvers have to get fundamentally changed due to a new understanding of gravitational forces? I don't think they did. Sure, we've gathered a lot of data on what Titan is composed of, but I haven't heard any press releases about new elements or chemical reactions that are unlike anything we've ever seen before. We're expanding our knowledge and growing our data, but I don't see anyone throwing away any longstanding theories or laws. "Discovering" a new moon around Saturn or a new pattern in the human genome is not the same as "discovering" the electromagnetic spectrum or DNA, but that is the vast majority of what science produces today. My suggestion that our scientific knowledge is rather mature and well-formed does not mean that the discovery of new data and phenomena will not continue on as they have for centuries. It means that the new data will have a place in our understanding. It means that we aren't left with gigantic gaps in our understanding of how the observed universe functions. We have much refining and confirming to do with each new data point, but there aren't many places left where we can replace the "gremlins" and "spirits" with "viruses" and "magnetism". That's the basis of my claim that our understanding is mature. I think much of your estimation of it's immaturity relies upon a belief that there are phenomena that we have never been observed which are therefore not a part of our current understanding. I'd love a few examples if you could conceive of them for me. Brad
Brad, that was a great post. It crystalizes my thoughts quite precisely. But it won't stop me from submitting another tome. In Joe's defense, I think he was commenting on our advancing ability to test our observations, not scientists' rejection of things they couldn't observe. Even so, Lord Kelvin, a prominent scientist in his day, called germ theory a “work of fiction.” He also said that flying machines were utterly impossible and that X-rays would eventually be proven to be a hoax. But then, I don't really consider Lord Kelvin to be a good scientist. He definitely was not open-minded. And scientists are required, above all, to be open-minded. If we weren't open-minded we certainly would never have come up with something as counterintuitive as quantum theory or as unappealing as the Standard Model. In fact, I can actually think of a great many things that many scientists believe exist that have never been observed in nature. The best example I can think of is Dark Matter. But there's a difference between Dark Matter and Giant Space Spiders. Dark Matter is theorized in order to explain observed phenomena, whereas Giant Space Spiders are proposed to exist simply because “anything is possible.” So everything – and I mean everything – in science must start with an observation. And for that, you need something you can actually observe. Proposing that Giant Space Spiders exist (and yes, Kenneth, I'm picking on you ) because their existence might just be possible simply doesn't cut it. But once you make an observation, even as a scientist, you get to make up any fool thing you want in order to explain the thing you observe. You can go hog wild! At least at first, you can. Instead of Dark Matter, we may as well have come up with giant pan-dimensional rubber bands that pull on matter in our universe, but exist in another dimension, making them completely unobservable. And lest you think I'm being flippant, there actually is a “Giant Rubber Band” theory to explain the universe's accelerating expansion. Dark Matter is an ultra-exotic notion that cannot be observed or experimentally verified, yet most scientists will agree that it exists in some form. Once we have the tools to verify or debunk the existence of Dark Matter, we will scrap or revise our theory of its existence, and proceed from there. In the mean time, I just thought it would be fun to point out that scientists are also capable of believing something exists that cannot be seen in the known universe – as long as it's wild-ass theory, and not baseless conjecture. Here's the difference: I believe in Dark Matter, which cannot be seen, tested, or otherwise confirmed to exist. You (the proverbial “You”, not anyone here in particular) believe in Giant Space Spiders, which cannot be seen, tested, or otherwise confirmed to exist. I am right, and you are wrong, at least as far as science is concerned because if (the proverbial) you don't start with an observation, then nothing you propose exists is worth considering. Yeah, I know. It doesn't seem fair. The scientists get to make up and believe in stuff that cannot be proven to exist, but nobody else can. Yippee for us! I think it's worth noting that many incredibly exotic theories – theories we had no ability to test at the time they were proposed – have endured the test of experimental verification. The Standard Model, for instance, was proposed to explain the existence of a small handful of newly-discovered particles. The theorists and mathematicians began working the Standard Model theory, taking it to its most extreme logical and mathematical conclusions, and they didn't at all like what they found. The Standard Model, it turns out, predicted the existence of many dozens of particles that had never been observed in nature. This was unacceptable. The theory was ugly, complicated, inelegant, and it predicted the existence of particles that in all likelihood could not possibly exist. But it worked to explain the things we did observe, so it stood, waiting for the tools to be developed that could debunk it. And the tools did indeed become available. Every time we built a more powerful particle collider, we've enhanced our ability to further test the Standard Model. We've been able to smash particles with increasing energy, and as a consequence, we've been able to see more and more particles in the wreckage. Remarkably, we ended up seeing exactly the same particles as those predicted by the Standard Model. The Standard Model was experimentally confirmed, except for (I think) only three particles, which we don't yet have the collision energies to produce. Dang. I mean, much of the scientific community actually wanted the Standard Model to fail. It was ugly, inelegant, and nobody wanted to come up with names for all the stupid particles that actually turned out to exist, much less live in a universe so complex as to support the existence of such a particle zoo. It was a lot of crap to memorize, and physicists never really had to memorize much before. Even physicist Richard Feynman remarked that if he had known it would be like this, he would have become a botanist. But scientists go where the data takes them, regardless of how inelegant, absurd, or unthinkable the consequences are. This is the essence of keeping an open mind, and the journey of discovery is quite unpredictable and exhilerating, indeed. On the other hand, when a theory is proposed, and its far-reaching consequences are explored, and it turns out that the theory predicts seemingly ridiculous, totally absurd, and utterly unbelievable stuff, it can be really gratifying when the theory, including its unthinkable consequences, is shown to be valid. The Standard Model is one, but the most famous, of course is Einstein's theories of Relativity – untestable at the time he proposed them, but internally correct and mathematically irrefutable in its illogical and counterintuitive predictions. Through the years, we've had opportunities to test several, though not all, predictions of Einstein's theories, and they have been experimentally corroborated, proving that the universe is even stranger that we would otherwise have imagined. Mind you, when we come up with these theories, we don't intend for them to predict such nonsense. But when a theory is steeped in mathematics and based on known constants and relationships, its far-reaching consequences are most often not seen. Only when it is run through its many calculations under different scenarios do we discover that, of all the fool things, time slows down, or gravity bends light, or the universe requires positive electrons and negative protons to be able to exist (or some other fool thing). Then there are other theories, like Dark Matter, that are, I must confess, mostly hand-waving. Unfortunately, there's not much math we can do to guide us to testable predictions regarding Dark Matter. But that's perfectly okay. If we ever get to the point where we can test the existence of Dark Matter, and it turns out that the universe doesn't allow for its existence, we can always declare the Giant Space Spider to be a theory explaining the same observations and believe in that instead. And we'll do it, because we can.
Man, I take a break to watch Survivor with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and it becomes pick on Kenneth day It's a good thing I just fed my Baby Cthulhu and its his nap time or he would send his mamma (the Giant Space Spider) after you :p) Of course, I am sure after all that Alien probing you'd be willing to say almost anything I forgot with all the subject shifting, which side am I on again Kenneth
Damn, what's happening today? I'm having trouble keeping up with the pace. You were not kidding. Interesting read.
Never really cared about how I am perceived. People who don't like me don't like me. People who do like me do like me. I deal in numbers. No matter the person's feelings about me, the numbers never change. Besides, I learned a long time ago that if 50% of the world likes and respects you and 50% doesn't, you are batting .500 (better than Barry); which is pretty good for a guy who uses steroids, never mind me who does not. Even better if you like and respect the 50% that like and respect you. Considering my anecdotes about the people who have called me arrogant in the past and my feelings towards them, I'll take my .500 average and feel ok. Considering my profession, I'd rather be judged by a non-scientist to be arrogant than judged by a scientist to be stupid.
Okay, but the real problem with you is that you're a Bruins' fan. Now, that's unacceptable!
I always responded to Yankee fans who crowed about their 26 championships by responding "Yes, but we had Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived". Now I see I'm going to have to break out the same type of retort to Canadien fans. Being you know hockey, I only have to mention a number - 4 - and I wouldn't trade 100 cups for missing one second of the time I saw him on the ice. If anything in this world was divine, it was him.
People who believe in alien visitors (especially without a shred of evidence for it) usually do care quite a bit. You're unusual in that regard.
#9 is my guy--but I'd not disagree on #4 providing sublime moments.
Just to be clear (and, yes, I'm quoting myself -- how pathetic is that?), I was refering to Brad's "Known vs. Unknown Universe" post. It completely settles the debate for me. Jeepers, things move quickly here. -------------------------------- Just to keep things interesting, I'll throw out the following: 1. Time travel appears to be possible, but with limitations. 2. Even though the universe appears to allow time travel. it is impossible to go back in time and create a paradox. This suggests that any time travel yet to be has already been taken into consideration by the universe. (Yes, it's weird.) 3. Photons "know" where they are going to arrive before (or the instant) they are emitted. 4. It is possible to detect the presence of an object without interacting with it at all. (In other words, no photons striking, being blocked by, or reflecting off the object.) 5. Astronomers are currently searching the skies for evidence of violations of the Law of Conservation of Energy. Really! (Who says science isn't open-minded?) I'll elaborate on any of these topics if anyone cares to discuss, or I'll shut up if you've all heard enough from me.
#33 for me. He won two Cups for us (Habs) just by himself.
Wow Brian... I guess everything is bigger in Texas, including your internet posts. fanboys! I wonder if it's finally time for another "Who would win in a fight?" thread over in the Polls Area? Would #4, #9 and #33 stand a chance fighting against a beer soaked #91 (Ron Artest)? Brad
Who the hell is #33? Didn't he play around the same time as #99 and #88, when the best players were protected and didn't have to fight?
If pressed, I'd probably take Gordie in his prime (Howe beat Orr to a pulp his rookie year, but Bobby had it coming), but one of my childhood idols, Johnny "Pie" McKenzie once said that Bobby Orr was the greatest fighter that ever laced up skates and "he could have licked anyone he wanted, if he wanted." That's just enough hyperbole for me to believe it. Anyway, #91 would not stand a chance (and #33 was a goalie...I think)!
See, who says science debates are boring Where else can you hit everything from transporters, black holes, aliens, to Hockey As an aside, I do not believe a time paradox is possible because I subscribe to the interpretation of dimensional theory that says there is an infinite number of dimensions where everything possible has occurred. The act of trying to create a paradox in your dimension would move you to an alternate timeline where that act is not a paradox. Also, since we are part of a home theater forum, here are my favorite science fiction movies: Best Hard Science/Sci Fi - 2001: A Space Odyssey Best Humanist Sci Fi - Contact Best Cold War Sci Fi (tie) - Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still Best Horror Sci Fi - Alien Best Fantasy/Epic Sci Fi - Star Wars Best Sci Fi Dystopia (if that's not an oxymoron) Tie - Dark City, Blade Runner Best Time Travel Sci Fi - Twelve Monkeys Best Morality Play Sci Fi (tie) - Edward Scissorhands, Forbidden Planet Best Reality Bending Sci Fi (tie) - The Lathe of Heaven (original, not the remake), Altered States That's all I can think of for now. Cheers, Kenneth
Actually, Kenneth, it is thought that, at least with respect to time travel (as opposed to quantum probability theory), the universe doesn't allow paradoxes to occur, and it doesn't require multiple dimensions to make this happen. There is only one time line, and it is unchangeable. Hockey is that game where they skate around on ice, like the Ice Capades, right?
I remember reading a Larry Niven essay on the theory and practice of time travel, where he made such an argument. Multiple dimensions and paradoxes are so messy and complicated, and the universe would take the path of least resistance and do the simplest, easiest thing to avoid them--simply not allow changes.
Yes, quite right. Except every once in a while a fight breaks out (Damn Texans, I thought they knew about real sports - No offense Lew). BTW, BrianW, nice "tome". I think you summed up the complex simplicity of the "scientists vs. non-scientists" debate beautifully with your statement "scientists go where the data leads them". I agree that the real reason scientists get to say what is possible and others do not is because they have hundreds of years of data and theories (that they understand) which have been tested and retested to back them up. Add a willingness to abandon theories that do not work and the willingness to pursue theories that are counterintuitive when they do work and you get a license to write the "possible". Anyone who does not put the work in does not. THe simple fact that Steeve only replied "Interesting read" should tell you something.