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Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?

  1. Jan 15, 2008 #1

    SF

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    Wtf do these guys want?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/science/15brain.html?_r=2&8dpc&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2008 #2

    wolram

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    They want to know what no one can know yet.
     
  4. Jan 15, 2008 #3
    In my opinion, these scenarios are the result of far too much brainpower chasing far too few facts. When 99% of the assumptions are supplied by imagination or mathematical extrapolation, one loses touch with reality.

    The primary value I see in these explorations is that they help to highlight the community's quiet but ongoing dissatisfaction with the current shape of certain mainstream theories, such as eternal inflation and dark energy. This ought to motivate the community to put more resources into looking for more rational explanations for, or adjustments to, these mainstream theories. For example, if even a fraction of this brainpower were put to work on exploring Wiltshire's theory and Chernin's theory (just to mention two particularly interesting and observationally-grounded examples), we might be able to solve some really tough puzzles while moving towards a less absurd model of the universe.

    But the attraction of trying to explore the metaphysical is just too compelling for many people in this field. I also think that the morbid and arcane fascination with the concept of entropy has become more distracting than enlightening, in the present state of cosmology. They should just give it a rest for a while.

    Jon
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2008
  5. Jan 15, 2008 #4

    marcus

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    That article is so unfair! Especially the headline.
    It focuses on people who (in my view) do not represent the Cosmology mainstream. And yet it makes a slur suggestion in the headline about Cosmologists in general! "have they lost their mind". This is odious and not responsible journalism.

    For the most part, the people Overbye features in the NYT article didn't even show up at the last big conference----which was GR18 Sydney, where about 600 mainstream General Relativity, Cosmology, Quantum Cosmology etc people gathered. People that Overbye covers with the blanket term "Cosmologists" are largely just STRING folks and speculators about exotic inflation scenarios. People like Leonard Susskind and Andrei Linde---string landscapers, eternal inflation multiverse type fantasizers.

    Real cosmologists are people like David Spergel, Ned Wright, Bruce Bassett, Joanne Dunkley, George Ellis, Charles Lineweaver, and scores of others. They represent the mainstream of professional cosmology. They don't promote themselves on blogs like Cosmic Variance and maintain a high media profile in the manner of Stephen Hawking. They fit data to cosmic models and mind their own beeswax.

    Not one of them was quoted, or even mentioned, in the NYT article.

    It infuriates me to see the field of cosmology smeared with garbage from people who simply don't matter to the field.

    With the possible exception of James Hartle. He just shouldn't have been involved in this. Those people are mostly string-related speculators.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2008
  6. Jan 16, 2008 #5

    Chronos

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    Cosmology has always suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. On the other hand, it has drawn the attention of more than a few popes. Strange bedfellows. I try to avoid the string thing. I believe ST folks are passionate, well intended . . . and hopelessly lost in an infinite 'landscape' of mathematical artifacts.
     
  7. Jan 16, 2008 #6

    wolram

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    Would people like Ned Wright want to go on tv? I might even purchase one just to watch a program made by such people, it is sad that our heads are filled with any old c**p a producer, or any other media thinks will make program/story. would people watch Ned Wright etc? perhaps not many to begin with, but when the general public know it is reliable and what is going on, may be it would become popular. people may even rebel about cuts in science spending if they know the facts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2008
  8. Jan 16, 2008 #7

    Fra

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    philosophical reflection

    I've got no comments on the politics in this but as I skimmed this I found this to be a good observation on the type of reasoning in this discussion:

    It essentially means that reasoning is relative to the premises. Somehow, just by making a slight abstraction, here I see a direct analogy between the notion of

    "initial conditions vs laws"

    and

    "premises vs rules of reasoning"

    A classical thinking is that initial conditions vary but laws are invariants, but is that really so, what is the physical justification fo this? If not, what is the really the difference between initial condition and law? or is the rules of reasoning just a special case of initial conditions, that evolve along with everything else, and the decomposition is about as arbitrary and non-physical as the choice of "coordinate systems" where from the physical point of view, any valid coordinate system is as good as any other?

    Wouldn't this suggest that the holy grail we seek, is not some set of laws, but in strange sense, rather some set of evolutionary self-adapting laws?

    One one hand, this seems to suggest the horrible thought maybe that logic itself is relative in a certain sense.

    How does this comply with the experience that certain things nevertheless comes out as fairly objective truths? How does objectivity emerge our of subjectivity, and can apparent uniqueness emerge out of ambigousness? :surprised

    /Fredrik
     
  9. Jan 20, 2008 #8

    Nereid

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    FWIW, the blogs BackRe(Action) (Hossenfelder and Scherer), Not Even Wrong (Woit), and Cosmic Variance (Sean Carroll et al.) all discuss this NYT article.
     
  10. Oct 12, 2009 #9
    Re: philosophical reflection


    Well, darwinian principles. whatever works. Or in another sense, however information gets ordered in a way thats consistent.

    The freak observers thing is metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. If a boltzmann brain imagines a consistent history and perceives a consistent future, it's functionally the same as a "real" universe. If the universe observed is inconsistent, then it seems unlikely observation could be possible. The infinite monkeys can write as many words as they want, but they need to write a consistent, logical story to have consciouss observers (which they do!)


    Edit: Sorry, i realized i just bumped a really old thread. Not sure why I even found this. My bad.
     
  11. Oct 12, 2009 #10
    Do I understand this correctly? They are saying that there is more chance that some conscious - observing entity to be created in quantum -time can go every way- chaos field, then there it is for our Universe to be created in the same field, and to evolve to present state together with us in it, and to be observed by us as we see it?
     
  12. Oct 14, 2009 #11
    The New York Times tends to get cosmology wrong because it tends to get everything wrong.

    There's a lot of really cool and interesting stuff that is happening in cosmology, and the cool and interesting stuff is happening because we are simply awash in data. When you talk about the big bang, you get into philosophical speculation more than anything else, but the really cool parts of cosmology (at least to me) are the areas that are very well grounded in experimental data.

    So how did the galaxies form?
     
  13. Oct 15, 2009 #12
    I recognize this post was written months ago, but I wanted to point out that the "lost their minds" things seemed like a joke- as in "boltzmann brains", lost their "minds".
     
  14. Oct 22, 2009 #13
    Old post? Not to me. Time is relative surely you have heard? Valuable information comes to us at times and manners not usually of our choosing.

    For reasons far to great in number and not in the scope of this post I have come to believe in the Fractal Nature of reality. All of reality is interconnected, information is able to move across space and time in strange manners. If at the moment of the bang everything was possible given time which was wrapped up and waiting to expand then would it be impossible for this matter or energy to have a consciousness or the potential for a developing consciousness to evolve?

    I am new to the forum (Self educated layman). I'm happy to have found this site.

    No matter where one goes in the human world we are subject to emotion. If one is human then one has emotions. Whether or not that emotion is appropriate in a given circumstance is a matter of group consensus. An individuals emotions are 100% valid at all times. No one can rightfully say that an emotion being experienced by an individual is "wrong" anymore than winter or an exploding volcano are "wrong".

    Emotion is tied to an individual's history just as winter and volcanism are tied to the history of Earth, Solar System, Galaxy and ultimately the Universe.

    I am saddened to see negatively charged emotional outbursts on Forum boards anywhere, but especially so when some common good is the implicit purpose of coming together. I am both amused and saddened when an IQ snob resorts to using illogical arguments augmented by name calling, poisoning the well, begging the question and questioning the opponent's credentials. This type of behaviour speaks volumes about the speaker.

    The ultimate scientist would realize that everyone has something of value to contribute - it is only through our own shortcomings that we fail to look, listen or learn. The ultimate scientist (in my opinion) would be grounded in Logic, Philosophy and be familiar with ancient knowledge (religions included) and open to new ideas. Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind. Unfortunately in todays world the amount of information available in any one field of interest is mind-boggling, it is difficult (if not truly impossible) to stay on top of even a portion of one field. Perhaps focusing on the minutia of our endeavours can blind us to events in our periphery - especially if we harbour negative emotions regarding the existence that vision.
    We can all progress if we treat each other with respect, equality and if not love then at least Like.
     
  15. Oct 22, 2009 #14
    Hi, i am also relatively new here, and also a layperson. I would recommend reading the guidelines, as the goal of this board is to learn and teach about current mainstream physics.
     
  16. Oct 22, 2009 #15
    Thank you Galteeth, perhaps I should lurk and learn before imparting my humble thoughts.

    I am always open to learning about mainstream science that's why I'm here.

    I feel that the biggest problem in science today is myopia. If you love science then improve it, is my attitude. So I put all my thoughts out for discussion. The entire point of my entry was promote goodwill and the use of logic in the absence of formula.
    I can only assume that you are testing how strongly I believe in my own words. The good and bad thing about writing is that we can re-read and examine the text. I feel that my text is generally on-topic and timely.
     
  17. Oct 22, 2009 #16
    I think you misunderstand how science progresses. Anytime a theorist comes up with an idea, the first thing that they do is to come up with about five or six ways of demonstrating that that idea is *totally wrong*. Once you are done beating up on your ideas, then you can get your friends to beat up on those ideas, and whatever is left standing tends to be what works.

    The problem with your thoughts is that I can't see how to falsify them. Can you come up with an experiment or set of experiments to show that they are *totally wrong*? If you can't then you are outside the realm of science, and there is nothing to discuss. Numbers are useful for this. If you predict that the answer is 5, and you do the experiment and then answer is 6, then *you are wrong*. It's very hard to do science without formula since without formula and numbers, it's hard to come up with things that are easily falsifiable.

    A "fractal" is a mathematical object with a precise mathematical definition, and it is well known that galaxies do not arrange themselves in fractals. There's a whole set of mathematical tests that you can do to test for fractality.

    Belief in your own theories is a good thing in some fields of human endeavor, but it's really bad for a scientist to believe their own theories very strongly.
     
  18. Oct 22, 2009 #17
    Good scientists are extremely negative people while they are doing research. A lot of science involves gladiatorial fights, and if you really get into it, you start enjoying the process of getting intellectually beat up.

    If you are a boxer and you end up in the ring with Muhammed Ali or George Foreman in their prime, you will get very disappointed if they don't take a swing at you.

    That's not true.

    I really don't think there are negative emotions. There are negative ways of handling emotions, but there are no negative emotions. Also, there is a very, very strong element of sado-masochism in science, so somethings too people will be screaming at each other but they actually have a very respectful relationship. It also works the other way in that you have people that are extremely polite with each other, but in truth absolutely detest each other.

    Science has it's own culture and baroque social rules, which can be strange and bizarre to outsiders. It's very confrontation and very negative. It is what it is.
     
  19. Oct 24, 2009 #18
    How can one refer to initial conditions (classical) for the early universe, when one obviously has an evolving quantum experimental environment. It is not necessarily somehow an universal experiment starting. Even if it were so, still mixing talk of initial conditions with an evolving quantum world would seem inappropriate.
     
  20. Oct 24, 2009 #19

    Vanadium 50

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    But "IQ Snobs" is name-calling. Aren't you indulging in exactly the sort of behavior you decry in others?
     
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