I have written a very lengthy review of The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book One (Metamodern Guides), by Hanzi Freinacht. Because it is so lengthy, it will probably have very few people who read the entire thing. But an argument I made in my review of the final chapter is something interesting that I thought deserved some of its own consideration, and so this post is adapted from my review of the final two chapters in The Listening Society. Keep in mind that although it is not a necessary requirement to have read my review of all the prior chapters to understand this post, it would be helpful.
Scientists and science enthusiasts can get exasperated by the conflation of definitions between the scientific conception of a theory and the colloquial definition. In the latter, a theory is sometimes considered no better than a guess, and at best what a scientist would call a hypothesis (an educated formulation of a mechanism or explanation). People will say things like “evolution is just a theory” as if that attests to some shortcoming of evolution. In the scientific conception, a theory is the gold standard. It is a set of inferences, explanations, predictions, and interpretations that bring together (sometimes disparate) data, evidence, and observations into a cohesive whole. Theories are what scientists use to make predictions in order to formulate new hypotheses and design new experiments. But what is the nature of a theory? And what is the ontological status of a scientific theory? In what way is a theory true?
A common refrain in the news media during these COVID years has been to “trust the science.” This is also a popular mantra when it comes to climate science. Yet, in the United States at least, trust in experts and institutions is at an all time low. The political right is skeptical of climate science, COVID vaccines, and scientific institutions like the NIH and CDC, seeing them as a means for the government to take away rights and for liberals to impose their will. The political left views science as a white colonialist means of subjugating those with other “ways of knowing” and upholding white, male privilege. So the question is: should we trust the science?
In science, objectivity is the greatest virtue. In an ideal world, a scientist would be impartial, disinterested in the outcomes, never desiring one result over another. They would run the experiment, gather the data, and report the findings, even if the data showed something that refuted the scientists’ hypothesis or gave an uninteresting negative result. Experiments would be replicated by multiple different people to more rigorously determine the veracity of the results. Negative results would get published as often as positive results. Topics for study would be determined by a mixture of intellectual curiosity and potential for improving society in some measurable way. Science, to say the least, does not live up to this ideal. But is science redeemable?
The popular, even ubiquitous metaphor used in cognitive neuroscience is that the brain can be likened to a computer. The similarities seem obvious: neuronal activity is binary (a neuron is either depolarized (ON) during an action potential or polarized (OFF) when inactive); our vision and hearing has many aesthetic similarities to a computer display (indeed, the monitor is made exactly to fit the human experience of colors, shapes, etc.); humans process information (we can sit down and think through a math problem, for instance). So on and so forth. But is the “brains are computers” metaphor accurate? And if not, then is adherence to this metaphor slowing down progress in neuroscience?
Information can be broadly defined as the reduction in uncertainty. The reason that the location and momentum of 100 particles in a 1×1 meter box contains less information than either A) the location and momentum of 100 particles in a 10×10 meter box or B) 1,000 particles in a 1×1 meter box is because, in case A, one must specify a greater number of microstates (i.e. there are more possible arrangements of particles) and in case B, there are more particles whose position must be specified. What can we say about cosmology using the integrated information of all particles in existence?
Here I am not talking about gender, or the mode in which a person self identifies. I have talked about the biological underpinnings of gender in the past. What I am discussing in this post is whether sex – being male or female as determined by primary and/or secondary sex characteristics – is a social construct.
Discover the science behind the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19 aka SARS-CoV-2) in these videos.
A series of videos explaining quantum mechanics, using math but with more emphasis on intuition than you will find in most textbooks. If you think you’re an idiot when it comes to learning these tough subjects, you might benefit by learning from me, a fellow idiot.
Listed here in reverse order (newest to oldest)
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This series of videos goes in-depth into the biochemistry and physiology of nutrition and metabolism. Starting with a quick primer on the general chemistry concepts needed to understand the basics of biochemistry and metabolism, I then go on to introduce all the key players involved – the macronutrients (carbohydrates, lipids and fats, amino acids and protein, and then nucleic acids and DNA) and micronutrients. After going through the biosynthesis of all the vitamins, as well as chemical properties of the minerals, I will then go into digestion, absorption, and metabolism, following the various molecules and metabolites throughout the body.
Listed here in reverse order (newest to oldest)
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I made a video going over some of the basic biochemistry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and how the Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162b2 RNA vaccine is supposed to work.
Resources and References:
The possible detection of phosphines in the atmosphere of the planet Venus has sparked interest in possible biogenesis of the compound. In other words, there may be microscopic extraterrestrial organisms living up in the Venusian clouds. This would be an amazing discovery. But, it also raises the question about what sort of biochemistry such organisms (if they exist) utilize in their Venusian flavor of metabolism. Here I will make some speculations about this.
The laws of physics, to the amateur science enthusiast, can sometimes seem like a disparate bunch of equations without any real underlying connection. That doesn’t seem good enough, so you dig a little deeper, and soon discover that there is this thing called Lie Theory, with Lie Groups and Lie Algebras. You want to find out what all this is, and the only things you can find just give you another bunch of equations and leave it there as if those unexplained symbols are good enough for you to understand. Well, I’m at that point, and here I am going to talk about Lie Theory and its connection to physics in hopes that explaining things simply and intuitively will help me to better understand it – and if that helps any readers understand it better, that’s good, too.
Einstein is one of the most famous scientists in history, and one of the most famous equations of this most famous scientist is E=mc2 which, although famous, most people don’t know what it means. It is, of course, the equivalence of mass and energy. But what does that mean?
If you have not yet heard of “the” Coronavirus you must not be paying attention. However, knowing about it does not necessarily mean you are informed about it. There seems to be a lot of misinformation regarding this disease. Perhaps here I can make things a little more clear.
Possibly the most important part of the mental model humans construct is their mental model of themselves. This is what we call our identity. It takes all the beliefs we have about ourselves and attempts to put them together into an internally coherent whole. Some of our most cherished political, religious, racial, and gender thoughts about ourselves tells us who we are and how we ought to interact with the world.
Nature reported that Russian molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov is planning to perform CRISPR experiments on human embryos. He’s running the experiments on the same CCR5 gene as Chinese scientist He Jiankui in 2018. This is once again raising questions on the ethics of human genetic experimentation.
What is quantum computing and why is it so damn difficult?