Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend (yeah, this time’s a lot of ’em, I had some time to read during my recent vacation…):

According to David Freedman in the Atlantic, there is a war on stupid people. While this may sound like the latest expansion of the political correctness front, it isn’t. The guy makes perfectly valid points about what sort of society we should pursue, and in whose interests.

Over at Dissent Magazine, Matthew Sitman tells a wrenching story of how he grew up conservative in rural Pennsylvania, and why he gradually gave up his political and religious allegiance and embraced a more progressive political outlook.

Long article by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper in Aeon on the politics of transgenderism. While I think she oversimplifies the nature-nurture debate, her analysis is interesting and her conclusions compelling. As soon as I published the link on social media someone accused her of transphobia, of course.

Steven Poole in the Guardian writes about why bad ideas refuse to die, like, you know, flat-earthism! Apparently, the marketplace of ideas does not work as advertised…

Fredrik deBoer asks in Current Affairs when is it that pro-trade, neo-liberal journalists will begin outsourcing themselves, given that that’s what they strongly advice when someone else’s job is at stake.

The OUP blog published a piece by Richard Pettigrew on how people make little and big decisions in their lives, and why that has little to do with the “expected utility” discussed by economists.

Here is a review of a new book about how people have historically not just read, but made use of, books: The Reader in the Book, A Study of Spaces and Traces.

You probably heard that more than 100 Nobel laureates have told Greenpeace to quit making a fuss over GMOs. I would be stunned if Greenpeace actually listened.

Over at Quartz, Olivia Goldhill tells the tale of a man missing most of his brain, who nonetheless appears to lead a functional life. Explain that, current models of consciousness!

Rachel Premack explains in the Washington Post about the accumulating evidence that red meat is both an environmental disaster and not so good for your health.

Remember all those wild claims about fMRI scans showing this or that about how the brain works? Too bad that a recent study has found systemic issues with data analysis of most published research based on brain scans

Physicists are often confident of their understanding of the universe and how it works. Until one of them comes up with a new model that seems to question much received wisdom, of course.

Molly Worthen writes in the New York Times in defense of all fashioned lecturing, as opposed to all those peer-to-peer discussion and grading that has been the fad lately in higher education.

An interesting research paper by Mark Middleton, debunking the apparently widely circulating notion that vegan diets kill more animals than omnivorous ones.

Will Storr explains in the New Yorker why our own biological responses tell us that a eudaimonic life is better than a hedonic one.

The new Star Trek movie is about to come out, followed shortly thereafter by a new television series. So we are reminded of the fact that philosophical quandaries have always been at the heart of the interstellar saga.

Logic evolves!

Speaking of logic, apparently, teaching it does improve students’ logical skills, but only if they have been previously exposed to other courses on logic.

So why is it, exactly, that being middle aged is now a problem, no, make that a crisis?

It looks like there is finally a backlash about the mindless quantification of scientific output by way of “impact” factors. And it was about time, too.

Here’s another thing experts and the public disagree on: what sort of foods are healthy, or not?

Exhaustion has a long cultural history, and is not at all a peculiarly modern malady, according to Anna Katharina Schaffner in Aeon.

What is a public intellectual? Why does it matter? Should it?

Julian Baggini argues that one should not moralize about food, or at the least, not in a prudish Protestant fashion.

Finally, Jonathan Bate provides us in the Guardian with a short guide to Shakespeare’s philosophical background, which includes an appreciation of the ancient Stoics, a skepticism of the Christian idea of providence, and an acceptance of the Epicurean take on life.

Advertisements


Categories: Plato's Suggestions

81 replies

  1. Coel is right about QM and GR. Singularities are unlike to survive their unificantion.

    For what it’s worth no black holes actually form in our universe as from an observer perspective it takes forever for the horizon to form. You can ride into one in finite time. This is not recommended even though if it’s big enough you might eve survive the crossing. You can’t get back out. If you just go close enough for a while you’ll find yourself transported to the future (from which you also can not get back).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our ‘ethical systems’ are already rather different from each other. Indeed, to me this is the big problem – some of them appear rather evil.

    Like

  3. I suppose that if one of the models where space and time are emergent from the way particles interact gets up, then the problem of singularities becomes moot.

    Like

  4. Coel,

    Wow!! You better tell the world!!!

    Start with wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redshift

    “Some redshifts are an example of the Doppler effect, familiar in the change of apparent pitches of sirens and frequency of the sound waves emitted by speeding vehicles. A redshift occurs whenever a light source moves away from an observer. Another kind of redshift is cosmological redshift, which is due to the expansion of the universe, and sufficiently distant light sources (generally more than a few million light years away) show redshift corresponding to the rate of increase in their distance from Earth. Finally, gravitational redshift is a relativistic effect observed in electromagnetic radiation moving out of gravitational fields.”

    Like

  5. Singularities also seem moot if ‘we are a simulation’. If a god-hacker is using a mash-up of general relatively and QM, he only needs it to run long enough to produce us and he can start It up a bit after the big bang singularity with a suitably selected set of initial conditions or if she has lots CPU at her disposal she could just try a lot of times.

    Durga, ” I bet my program makes conscious critters before yours’ Athena … and I can type faster too …”

    There’s no need for a consistent ToE if somebody coded us. It just has to not hit that lurking ‘floating divide check’ too soon. There’d be little point in searching for a unified, consistent theory and indeed getting everything consistent might slow It down.

    I don’t think any of my programs would have worked, if they had to be perfect.

    Like

  6. Coel,

    Reading through it, it is an interesting article. I suppose your point is along the lines of;

    ” As a result, photons propagating through the expanding space are stretched, creating the cosmological redshift.”

    Yet doesn’t seem to address my concern; That the speed of this light that is redshifted, does not remain constant to this expanding space. So what is the basis of that vacuum through which light travels at C, if it is not the space of the expanding cosmos?

    I’ll certainly agree I’m thick headed at times and so reminding me of it is like water off a fish. I’m just trying to figure out how this issue is addressed.

    Like

  7. I don’t know if I’m just not making this point clearly, or you chose not to consider it, so I’ll make it as simply as possible;

    In all the decades I’ve followed the subject, admittedly haphazardly, I have never heard anyone say that even though the universe is expanding, if it takes light x years to go from galaxy A to galaxy R, it will always take light about x years to go from galaxy A to galaxy R. The argument is always that as the universe expands, it takes light longer to cross these distances and one version being that eventually it will expand so much that the other galaxies will fade from view.

    So what is the metric(vacuum) which light measures, if it is not cosmic space?

    Like

  8. Galaxies close enough to ‘go to’ at speed o light in a few 10’s of millions of years are not much affected by expansion of the universe. Some are even coming toward us and we are bound together in a ‘local’ group.

    Light from red shifted galaxies has already reached us. That’s how we see the red shift. At no point along its way to us was it traveling faster than the speed of light (even though it would now take longer to go back than it did to get here as the universe has expanded during the interval).

    Like

  9. Brodix,

    I suppose your point is along the lines of; ”As a result, photons propagating through the expanding space are stretched, creating the cosmological redshift.”

    Exactly. Draw a wave on a piece of elastic, then stretch the elastic, and the wavelength is stretched, which is the redshift. Thus your repeated statements such as: “… the premise of redshift being explained by light taking longer to cross this space …” are just misunderstandings of the most basic concepts in cosmology.

    And yet, whilst repeatedly displaying such basic misunderstandings, you have an amazing conceit that *you* are the one who *does* understand, sufficiently so that you call cosmologists “blinkered” and make sarcastic retorts such as “Wow!! You better tell the world!!!”. Amazing! Can anyone think of a pithy word which summarises this sort of behaviour?

    So what is the metric(vacuum) which light measures, if it is not cosmic space?

    Well I don’t really understand the question (it probably has several misconceptions behind it). But, one answer, as synred says, is that one can examine space without the cosmological expansion just by taking a local chunk of it (the expansion is sufficiently small that it is only detectable on the large scale of distant galaxies).

    More generally, physics is not “foundational” in that it is not a matter of establishing something independently of everything else in physics, and then proceeding from there. So if the question is “can we establish a metric of space independently of all of the rest of physics?” the answer is no.

    Instead, physics is a Quinean-web ensemble where we compare the whole model to observations. General relativity (and hence cosmology) is very well established because it does an excellent job of explaining and predicting a vast array of observational data (some examples being: the precession of Mercury; behaviour of GPS satellites; the period decay of the binary pulsar; gravitational lensing; Big Bang nucleosynthesis; fluctuation spectrum in the cosmological microwave background, et cetera). Then of course there was the prediction of the specific inspiral pattern of gravitational waves expected from colliding black holes, which was then found and verified exactly as predicted.

    Anyone thinking that there are basic flaws in the model, or preferring a model in which the speed of light varies, is invited to produce an alternative set of calculations (actual numbers) which do at least as well in all these comparisons with data. As you say the wiki pages are a good starting point.

    Like

  10. Arthur, Coel,

    Einstein said, “Space is what you measure with a ruler.” So if the speed of light is the ruler and space expands, why doesn’t the ruler stretch as well?

    In Relativity, the measured speed of light in a moving frame slows, as the distance shrinks, so it remains constant to the distance. Is that right?

    So if the distance were to expand, why wouldn’t the speed of light increase as well, in order to remain constant?

    ” Draw a wave on a piece of elastic, then stretch the elastic, and the wavelength is stretched, which is the redshift.”

    That is the spectrum of the light, not the speed. If it takes light longer to cross this stretched distance, then the lightspeed is based on a vacuum that is not stretched, because it does not remain constant.

    Like

  11. Let me try this another way;
    There is this metric/volume/dimension, aka the vacuum, through which light travels at C. There are units of distance derived from this, such as lightyears. If I recall correctly, a lightyear is about a trillion miles.
    So if two galaxies go from being x lightyears apart, to 2x lightyears apart, then, in this metric they would seem to be going from x trillion miles apart, to 2x trillion miles apart.
    The ruler of this vacuum/metric is not being stretched. The number of units of this vacuum/metric are increasing.

    Like

  12. One more point;

    I realize there is a lot of institutional authority around the concept of an expanding universe, based on the premise of expanding space.
    Yet there is equal institutional authority around the concept of the speed of light as a measure of cosmic distance.
    So to say that space itself expands, but that the units of measure based on the speed of light, do not, is a conflict between these two concepts.

    Like

  13. brodix,

    So if two galaxies go from being x lightyears apart, to 2x lightyears apart, then, in this metric they would seem to be going from x trillion miles apart, to 2x trillion miles apart. The ruler of this vacuum/metric is not being stretched. The number of units of this vacuum/metric are increasing.

    This is a rare and notable event; perhaps a first! In that comment you managed several sentences in a row about physics without any error *and* with it being clear what you were trying to say! Wow! If I were you I’d print that comment out and have it framed!

    So yes, what you say in that comment is correct. But why is that a problem? Yes, space stretches compared to some metric of space. So?

    [One can also say that if that *didn’t* happen, if all metrics stretched in proportion to space, then the statement “space stretches” would be literally meaningless; it would be exactly the same in all respects as if space did not stretch, or stretched by any arbitrary amount.]

    As for the preceding comment:

    Einstein said, “Space is what you measure with a ruler.”

    Yep, so one measures a region of space with a ruler and gets one unit, and then after cosmological expansion by a factor two one measures it again and gets two units. So?

    Did Einstein ever say: if you use the same metric then you’d always get the same measurement? No he didn’t; if he had said that he’d have been arguing that space was static, whereas actually he concluded the opposite. [Indeed the whole point of the LIGO detection of gravitational waves is that one can use a laser beam to watch the slight expansion and contraction of space as a gravitational wave passes.]

    So if the speed of light is the ruler and space expands, why doesn’t the ruler stretch as well?

    Why should it?

    [And again, see previous point that General Relativity, which says that space stretches while c remains constant, is validated by the fact that it explains a vast array of observational data. So if your complaint is that you’d prefer the universe to work another way, with c increasing to match expanding space, then feel free to complain to God or whoever designed the universe.]

    Like

  14. Yet there is equal institutional authority around the concept of the speed of light as a measure of cosmic distance.

    No actually, there isn’t. The speed of light is not used as a measure of distance on cosmic scales — and cannot be for the simple reason that photons do not come “time-tagged” with their time of emission. If we don’t know their time of emission, then we can’t use the speed of light to measure distance.

    [Where we *do* know times of emission, such as in bouncing laser beams off reflectors on the Moon left by the Apollo missions, then we *can* use light speed as a measure of distance.]

    Your problem, brodix, is not that you have one or two misconceptions about cosmology, it is that you have whole messes of them, all feeding off each other.

    Like

  15. Okay guys, enough of your perennial disagreements about physics. Please move to the next post…

    Like

  16. Massimo,

    Super selection! But because of my lateness and the temporary closing of comments I’ll only comment two points briefly.

    “According to David Freedman in the Atlantic, there is a war on stupid people”

    I agree. I think that as a social species it is to our detriment that we shove down part of ourselves. The whole IQ distribution, barring dysfunction, is what works in my opinion and it’s much more productive for everyone than a capitalistically driven meritocracy.

    “100 Nobel laureates have told Greenpeace to quit making a fuss over GMOs. I would be stunned if Greenpeace actually listened”

    I would be surprised too but because I think Green Peace is doing us a favor as long as we have things like 100 Nobel laureates helping white wash the activities of for profit corporations — tit for tat.

    But more seriously, I think they’re all doing us a disservice — Corporate biotechnology, Green Peace, and the laureates — they’re all stretching the truth or making stuff up, and science be damned.

    Like

  17. Marc,

    The new rules is that comments don’t close. I only suspend them if I want to direct people’s attention to the next topic and I sense that the discussion has gotten into a pattern of circles. (Not that that ever happens here…)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hey!, It’s back open!

    Coel,

    “So if your complaint is that you’d prefer the universe to work another way, with c increasing to match expanding space, then feel free to complain to God or whoever designed the universe.”

    I assume I’m complaining to the cosmologists. If they have a direct connection to God, that would make their theories astrology based, not astronomy based..

    My complaint is that these two metrics are based on the speed and the spectrum of the very same intergalactic light. One with more units, one with expanded units.

    Your argument seems to be that they are simply two unrelated metrics. Now even if it is some eleven dimensional space and the speed and the spectrum travel through different dimensions, it is still the same light, traveling between the same points. Between those distant galaxies and our telescopes.

    Do you have an explanation for why they would not be related? Other than the cosmologists talked to God and that’s just the way it is.

    Like

  19. It seems to me that the case of the man missing most of his brain is devastating to any theory of consciousness that relies on natural selection to have created dedicated modules. It would be bad news for evolutionary psychology were it not for EP’s success in ignoring all previous bad news from other fields in favor of their own Popperian refutation of hypotheses in statistically controlled observations and experiments. It strongly supports any evolutionary view of the brain as selection for a general purpose regulatory organ, especially of the body. The correlation between encephalization and life span in mammals seems to ask important questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Addendum to my last comment,

    “The whole IQ distribution, barring dysfunction, is what works in my opinion and it’s much more productive for everyone than a capitalistically driven meritocracy”

    What I meant was something closer to ‘everyones participation is valuable’. I was focused on the IQ mesure as a proxy for stupidity and I didn’t realize that by adding ‘barring dysfunction’ to the ‘whole IQ distribution’ I was in fact implying an overarching system of functional demerit.

    Like

  21. Last addendum to my last comment 🙂

    Blame wasn’t what I meant by “capitalistically driven meritocracy”, I don’t think my words were very condemning but I still feel it’s good to point it out because it happens all too often.

    I realize this tread is a bit old to comment on, nearly 3 weeks old — and I’m working on catching up

    Like

%d bloggers like this: