29/9/2011

Einstein Rules (again/still/more)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:43 pm

http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/einstein-bounces-back-as-doubt-cast-another-fundamental-theory-confirmed-20110929-1ky3o.html

(PS He was right about the speed of light, too, I confidently claim. Evidence pending…)

28/9/2011

Albums of My Life 2 – Watch

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:29 pm

A couple of years later than ‘Year of the Cat’, in 1978, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released the album ‘Watch’. It has a number of covers of songs written by other artists including Bob Dylan and members of The Band as well as some originals, and two live tracks.

It’s perfect prog, with extended renditions of songs that are complex and never self-indulgent.

Again, lots of great lyrics, but these from ‘Martha’s Madman’ are particularly cool:

Martha has a madman
Standing hidden in the shadows
He’s got a long curved Turkish dagger
With a bejewelled handle

He’s tellin’ her the world is full of freaks and geeks and simples and he’s
Hiding like a leprechaun under stones and in the ripples
In the pool of time she thought she knew it – but someone threw a stone into it
Which breaks up the surface and it’s making her nervous and it’s true
What can she do — yes it’s true
What can she do —
Martha yes I guess you’ll have to wait around – another thousand years

Bjork and the appeal of the bleak

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:58 am

It’s kind of a strange juxtaposition. Bjork’s song ‘Hyperballad’ does a lovely job of why I like to listen to grim, bleak stuff like black metal.

Here are the lyrics:

we live on a mountain
right at the top
there’s a beautiful view
from the top of the mountain
every morning i walk towards the edge
and throw little things off
like:
car-parts, bottles and cutlery
or whatever i find lying around

it’s become a habit
a way
to start the day

i go through this
before you wake up
so i can feel happier
to be safe up here with you

it’s real early morning
no-one is awake
i’m back at my cliff
still throwing things off
i listen to the sounds they make
on their way down
i follow with my eyes ’til they crash
imagine what my body would sound like
slamming against those rocks

and when it lands
will my eyes
be closed or open?

i’ll go through all this
before you wake up
so i can feel happier
to be safe up here with you

And that’s pretty much it, beautifully captured. I explore the dark and extreme so I can feel happier to be safe again with Her1.

1. Not Bjork, Suzie, ya goose!

26/9/2011

Good short article on the recent FTL news

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:55 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/24/einstein-e-equals-mc2

25/9/2011

Albums of My Life 1 – Year of the Cat

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:16 pm

An occasional series in which I talk about albums that have influenced me deeply that might surprise you. ;-) I’ll leave aside the metal, the Pink Floyd and so on, and go for stuff that’s mainstream but under-appreciated.

There are things – like ELO – that I enjoyed at the time that haven’t aged well. These have.

From 1976, an amazing album. Produced by Alan Parsons, as a number of my favourites are, it captures British folkie Al Stewart at the top of his form.

It’s light without being slight: mellow music with amazing, deep, poetic lyrics.

The problem I’m having is picking one favourite set of lyrics to share. ‘One Stage Before’ is awesome… in fact, they all are… but this will have to do (from ‘Flying Sorcery’):

With your photographs of Kitty Hawk
And the biplanes on your wall
You were always Amy Johnson
From the time that you were small.
No schoolroom kept you grounded
While your thoughts could get away
You were taking off in Tiger Moths
Your wings against the brush-strokes of the day

Well worth a listen, and available at the iTunes store if you want to check it out.

Science

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:29 am

David Hancock posted a longish post about science in a forum I frequent. It’s easier to do a bit of a line-by-line response here than there, I hope it’ll be interesting.

Science seems now to be venerated to the extent that religious writings used to be. IMHO science has become just another excuse for some persons to exert hegemony over others.

To the extent that science is used in either of those ways, it is being abused, not used. Science is about the on-going quest to understand the universe. Science itself is not about politics and power, but by its nature as a human endeavor it’s embedded in politics and power.

The difference between scientific findings and other forms of knowledge, including religious forms, is that they stand or fall on the empirical evidence. Anyone who cares enough can educate him-or-herself well enough to evaluate and understand the evidence. It’s not about canonical authority, it’s about evidence. We resort to trusted authorities simply because we don’t have time to fully educate ourselves in all fields, but if there’s a field in which we differ it’s worth putting in the work. It *never* has to come down to ‘trust me, I’m a scientist’ – it’s always about ‘what does the evidence say?’

Inductive logic is a myth because observations are always interpreted within the framework of existing beliefs.

Philosophers of science have known this for at least 1800 years, since Sextus Empiricus (look it up). Popper’s falsificationism, developed in the 60s and 70s (so many decades ago) didn’t solve the ‘problem of induction’, but it effectively side-stepped it.

See, this is the problem with so many of the ‘critiques’ of ‘science’: they attack something that simply is not an issue. This problem is long sorted.

It becomes an argument from ignorance. There is nothing wrong with ignorance: it’s the state we’re all born in. What is wrong is wilful ignorance: when someone has been shown that their view is not informed, and pointed to appropriate resources to further inform themself, and still makes an ignorant claim… that’s a problem.

Science (along with its political wing -secular humanism) has become the new orthodoxy and persecutes or derides non-believers in the same way that religion used to do.

Firstly, there is no logical or other link between science and secular humanism. Secular humanists have a wide range of views on science – including quite a few who profoundly distrust it – and scientists have a range of philosophical perspectives. Secondly, there is an immense difference between ‘derides’ and ‘persecutes’. It’s pretty ingenuous to just conflate the two. Derision never killed anyone…

Just like the blokes with white dog collars the PhDs have done some good things but they have also done much evil (eg. invented nuclear weapons and napalm).

Yep. Human beings do bad shit. Not because they’re scientists, because they’re human beings. How do you think the balance stands, though? Average life expectancy in Australia was 50 in 1900, and now it’s pushing 90. As Tim Minchin so elegantly and beautifully puts it: “Twice as long to live this life of mine, twice as long to love this wife of mine.”

People with “scientific training” have used concentration camps for their experiments.

Science is also not ethics, though science needs ethics to guide it. Ethics are a whole other challenging area, but again, humans do unethical things. We wish they didn’t. But the tools they use are tools. A hammer is not a weapon, but it can be used as one. When a tool is used as a weapon, we don’t blame the tool we blame the weilder. Is it possible to use science for evil? Absolutely. The same applies to any other tool. The appropriate response is to work to stop evil-doers, not to ban or complain about the tools.

They have spent 30 years looking (unsuccessfully) for “Dark Matter” because, on the basis of their “beliefs”, it must exist (talk about blind faith).

Not beliefs, evidence. The ways in which galaxies rotate are not consistent with the laws of physics and the visible matter in them. Dark matter by its very nature is expected to be very difficult to find. It is a tentative hypothesis, held until it is supported or refuted by the evidence, or until a better alternative explanation comes along. It is not an article of faith: if it was, the search for evidence would be unnecessary.

Its takes just as much “faith” to believe that everything “magically” originated from a “big bang” than it does to believe that everything originated from a “God”.

No. This is such an ancient and refuted cannard that I’m not even going to bother, at least not here, getting into it in any detail. Let me just say ‘evidence’ and leave it at that.

The whole notion of “evolution” contradicts the second law of thermodynamics and is a 19th century myth whose historic credibility was destroyed at such places as Verdun, Passchendeale and Ypres.

On the war argument, I’ve addressed it above… and this sentence is incoherent on its face. How do battles refute a theory about how species arise? No logic at all. On the ‘thermodynamics’ argument, I already wrote: “The second law of thermodynamics is that in the universe as a whole, disorder increases. This is true. The claim made, then, is that evolution is impossible, since it involves an increase in order. The problem is, the 2nd law is about the *net* effect across the whole universe: in particular locations, order increases, but only at the expense of a greater increase in disorder elsewhere. The *net* amount of disorder increases, but the *local* amount of disorder can decrease. It takes a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the science to which someone is supposedly appealing to make this claim. it’s just flat wrong in scientific terms – and it’s a scientific claim, or masquerading as one.”

Frankly I don’t trust a scientist any more than I’d trust anyone in a position of religious authority. In the end its all about power and ego – all is vanity.

Nope, once again, it’s about evidence. You don’t have to trust a scientist: you have to look at the evidence. It’s not about power and ego, it’s about what can be supported.

23/9/2011

Following the Evidence Wherever It Leads (Even If It’s In The Opposite Direction)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:31 pm

Listening to ABC Radio National’s excellent ‘Counterpoint’1 program on the radio in the car the other day, I heard this interview with Peter Sounders: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/counterpoint/stories/2011/3318416.htm

He’s written a book called ‘When Prophecy Fails’, which is a critique of another book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett called ‘The Spirit Level’.

Wilkinson and Picket’s thesis is that the greater the level of social and material equality in a country, the greater the peace, safety and quality of life. And vice versa.

They present a lot of graphs and statistics from 23 countries around the world and from the US states to support this contention.

As an old leftie, that’s a compelling message, and one I’d be inclined to believe, embrace and share.

But this interview addresses Saunders’ critique of their approach to data analysis. I really enjoyed it (not everyone will, because it’s all about the data), and he makes a very strong case that the authors have cherry-picked their measures and data, and if a few outliers are removed and more data they omitted included, their claimed effect disappears.

It’s the kind of argumentation I like, just calmly looking at what the evidence says, and it convinced me, against my will, that of the many benefits of an equal society, there’s little evidence to support the ones Wilkinson and Pickett describe.

  1. I think I’ve mentioned before that this program is ‘conservative done right’. It allows me to listen to the views opposite to my own without my head exploding at the lies and vitriol in so much right-wing media. Well worth a listen.

Faster than Light? – Potentially Very Interesting

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:27 am

http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/particles-found-to-break-speed-of-light-challenging-laws-of-physics-20110923-1kntb.html

Little bit of ‘science by press release’, which is worrying, but the quoted scientist is appropriately cautious and measured. If true it’s the seeds of a scientific revolution… but my best guess is its a non-replicable artefact.

Hope I’m wrong.

19/9/2011

Gamers FTW

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:00 pm

Coolest story for a while: harnessing the power of games and gamers to do real and serious – potentially lifesaving – science: http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/games/online-gamers-crack-aids-enzyme-puzzle-20110919-1kgq2.html

15/9/2011

In case we needed reminding…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:43 pm

J.B.S. Haldane said “…my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”1

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/lifestyle/the-other-side/gordon-ramsays-dwarf-porn-double-percy-foster-dies-in-badger-den/story-e6frfhk6-1226137701868

  • Someone will pay to make, and watch, porn featuring the likeness of Gordon Ramsay
  • The dwarf likeness of Gordon Ramsay
  • Who was found, dead, inside a badger’s den

  1. He died in 1964, so he meant it in the ‘weird’ way, not the ‘gay’ way

Bumpity

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:39 pm

I think this thread may still have some ‘legs’ as a focus for discussion…

http://www.bravus.com/blog/?p=2580

14/9/2011

More Good Sense on Terrorism and Economics from Ross Gittins

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:38 am

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/a-vast-cost-in-feeling-just-a-little-more-secure-20110913-1k7l1.html

12/9/2011

This Book Sounds Fascinating

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:01 pm

http://www.salon.com/books/what_to_read/index.html?story=/books/laura_miller/2011/09/11/swerve

What Am I?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:03 am

I mentioned to some friends on Facebook that the label ‘Christian’ doesn’t really fit me well these days. People tend to assume I’m a Christian when I say I believe in God, and to then interpret what I say from that perspective, which means they tend to miss what I’m really trying to say.

My friend James asked ‘So what are you?’, and here’s my best attempt at a reply:

Thanks for the question, James. Unfortunately the answer is far from simple. I’ll give it my best shot, though, because I know my vagueness is a source of frustration for many people.

I believe in God: a god who is literally infinite. God contains the universe, and indeed the multiverse, rather than the other way around. Our universe is a small local phenomenon within God, because it is finite within infinity.

God is also omnipresent and omniscient: everywhere, all at once, and knows everything, all at once: not through specific looking and attention but in the eternal present.

Being infinite, God contains all possibilities of good and evil, male and female, hot and cold, light and dark, large and small, from the quantum level of quarks and photons to… the multiverse.

Being infinite, any knowledge of God, no matter how large, is finite divided by infinite = zero. No-one knows anything fundamental about God (including me), and being infinite, anything we claim to know, God also embodies the direct negation of.

Given that, as well to call me a Buddhist or Muslim or Zoroastrian or… whatever any person trying to come to grips with the universe has ever believed: and its negation.

Calling me a Christian, when I very explicitly say that God embodies the negation of everything Christian, just seems perverse.

Call me a ‘quantum theist’ if any label be required, but that includes the possibility of ‘classical theist’ and no doubt many other possibilities that our fledgling quantum physics, less than a century old in a 14 billion year old universe, has never even contemplated.

7/9/2011

I Used To Be Smarter

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:08 pm

Occasionally I dig back through the archives of this blog, and that’s the conclusion. There’s some great stuff there, if I do say so myself! I feel bad about the more recent posts, which are all pretty brief. I used to write a page or so of thoughtful stuff bringing together lots of ideas.

Part of it, of course, is that I hate to repeat myself, and with over 1500 posts there’s an awful lot that I’ve already said. I tend to link to that rather than write new stuff, sometimes.

The other thing may be too many venues: ideas get discussed on Facebook or the WGB before they’re fully ripe, and never develop into blog posts. Plus I spend more time in other discussions.

I dunno: no promises, but there could be a renaissance at some point. It’s cycled a fair bit so far, so change is probable. I think maybe I need new and better input… and it’s kinda hard to blog much about physics, which is my main non-work input at the moment.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, faithful readers… there’s more to come. Always more.

We’re Stuffed (and that’s the polite version)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:44 am

H G Wells said “We are in a race between education and catastrophe”. These ^$^#es are quite happy to put weights on education’s legs for a profit. Match fixing with the death of society as a side effect.

http://www.salon.com/life/education/index.html?story=/politics/feature/2011/09/06/shockreform

Cool Dudes and Cool Ions

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:27 am

5/9/2011

From Verse to Worse

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:19 am

Our beloved nation
Indubitably diverse
Is, to my frustration
Going from verse to worse

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/in-a-land-of-sweeping-plains-poetry-is-hardly-thriving-20110904-1js5r.html

2/9/2011

Archaeological Dig

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:35 pm