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Me & Isaac Newton documentry

  1. Jun 11, 2003 #1
    I was just watching a video documentary entitled "Me & Isaac Newton". It contains interviews with some experts in certain fields of science (for example, Michio Kaku was their to explain how he started out in Theoretical Physics and what he believes the future of Science is).

    One comment was made on that documentary that I really approved of - and I wanted others' opinions of it. Steven Pinker (one of the interviewees (if that's a word)) said that he viewed those brilliant moments of insight (or those "eureka!" moments) as just another tiny step in a series of previous tiny steps. I agree with him.

    He also made the point that, if our subconscious were really capable of understanding the Universe via these "Eureka!" insights, then there is no use of Science of Philosophy - as we could just sit around and wait for our subconscious to tell us the answers.

    Any/All comments are appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2003 #2
    interesting thread.

    i don't know if these 'eureka!' ideas just drop out of no where. even if the concious mind is unaware of a possible subconcious line of thinking, that doesn't mean that an perfectly rounded and thought-out idea can spontaniously appear. what i mean is: at some level we are thinking these thoughts out, even if we don't realize it.
     
  4. Jun 11, 2003 #3
    Right, and we couldn't possibly come up with these grand "eureka" thoughts, if we didn't have all of the preemptive thoughts before it.
     
  5. Jun 11, 2003 #4
    exactly, what are you trying to do, break it all the way down to how do we have thought in the first place?
     
  6. Jun 11, 2003 #5
    No, I'm just trying to get people's opinions on Pinker's comment.

    It would take much more than one thread to attempt an explanation at how thoughts occur.

    In fact, from my experience here, I would assume that even putting forth an hypothetical explanation would take at least a couple of threads.
     
  7. Jun 11, 2003 #6
    well then, the question is: are you the man for the job?
     
  8. Jun 11, 2003 #7
    Pinkerton is avoiding the fact we are social animals.

    It is an old argument, are advancements made by extrodinary people or do extrodinary people come to light when society is ready to accept what they have to say. By definition a genuis is someone whose work is valued by society.

    Obviously, the reality is a mixed blessing of both extremes. Sometimes the cloths make the man, and sometimes the man makes the cloths.
     
  9. Jun 11, 2003 #8
    Serendipity and eureka moments are, I think, intuitive leaps of thought or reason. Whenever I hear or think of the word serdipity I am reminded of Flanders discovery of penicilin. As the story goes he was about to throw the ruined petri dishes out when it struck him all at once what he had in his hands. We normally think liniarly with the left sides of our brains, the right side is intuitive, artistic and conceptual thinking. For whatever reason our right side suddenly make the leap sees the whole concept at once and overpowers or notifies the left side; "Eureka, I've found it."
    That moment with Flanders was not sitting and mulling over somthing that he didn't understand or know but a flash of recognition, of realization. It's rare but not as rare as we think. What causes it or where does it come from? What is intuition? I have no idea that a scientific materialist would except. I often think Jung was right that we do have a collective conscious. Another thing that always amazes me is that when we, mankind are ready for or need an advancement a number of people will come up with it at very nearly the same time. That, but of course, is nothing but coincidence.

    (Why is it that a scientific materialist can accept amazing totally improbable coincidences but not any universal or higher consciousness? I believe in miracles; you belive in coincidences. What's the difference? :wink: )
     
  10. Jun 11, 2003 #9
    Flanders was part of a concerted worldwide effort to find something exactly like penicilin. His petri dishes were contaminated by mold from a bakery two blocks away. Serendipity or the inevitable?
     
  11. Jun 11, 2003 #10

    well the scriber-bantam english dictionary defines 'miracle' as this:


    this differs greatly from the definition of 'coincidence', which is:

    basically, i don't believe that anything is a miracle (by this definition), because i believe everything must obey the laws of nature.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2003
  12. Jun 12, 2003 #11
    Okay, maximus, replace coincidence with accidental. I don't accept your difinition of miracle. Miracles do not have to depart from the laws of nature just depart from the normal and expected series of events. Of course everything must obey the laws of nature. Who or what made the laws and nature? Why do they have to obey the laws? There is logic and order in the universe Why? Why not chaos?

    Wuli, we both think it inevitable. Someone was bound to find it sooner or later. Flanders found it because that particular mold spore from two blocks away just happened to fall into his petri dishes that his assistant just happened to leave uncovered and kill the bacteria culture he was trying to grow. He just happened to be in the right frame of mind at that particular moment to realize that he had accidently found what they were all looking for. Again a marvelous series of accidents that just happened at just the right time. Personally I'd rather believe in purpose and intervention than accidents and coincidences. Its so much more beautiful, elegant and grand.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2003
  13. Jun 12, 2003 #12
    Definitely. Understanding can't come without effort. Subconsciousness has only memory, recognition of something already there. That something is put there by hard work, education and thinking. Its all about intuition and building ground for it to work.

    But, he's right also in that sense, that if we'd just sit there, answers would come. It would only take awful lot of time. Understanding then would have to come from experience by means of hitting head against the walls. Subconcious understanding is a result of heavy practice.
     
  14. Jun 12, 2003 #13
    Ironic coming from a man who's own "scientific accomplishments" and "insight" seem to spawn out of long nights with a latex glove and lots of "ky jelly."
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2003
  15. Jun 12, 2003 #14
    How so?

    But are you saying that Relativity (for example) could have just come about in someone's mind, with no prerequisite knowledge (Maxwell equations, Lorentz transformation, etc), and without the need of building up towards a conclusion? That it would have eventually have found it's way into Einstein's mind, without any effort on his part?
     
  16. Jun 12, 2003 #15
    "Leaps" then, instead of another step in a series, right? If this were so, it would be reasonable to assume that one needn't do any study, in order to make grand, brilliant, breakthroughs in Science and Philosophy.

    Actually, the right side of the brain would just be that much more likely to lead us on wild goose chases, since it is always trying to see the full picture, while the details remain undefined.

    On the one hand, it would appear as though you think of Flanders as a special sort of person (a genius, perhaps), while on the other hand, it would appear that you think anyone could have made the same discovery he did, provided they recieved the same "flash". Which is your actual viewpoint?

    Well, I can't exactly be categorized as a scientific materialist, however I know that the difference is this: If you believe in coincidences (however bizzare they may be), then you needn't attribute any source, as they just "happened". However, if you believe in "miracles" then you must attribute a source - otherwise, why would something leave it's natural pattern, and do something "strange"? The attribution of "sources" (for "miraculous" events) is not scientifically feasible until some proof is found of their being a source.

    There's also the matter of Occam's Razor, but that seems much too evident, and isn't really a necessity anyway.
     
  17. Jun 12, 2003 #16
    well, now we're getting into questions of the anthropic principles which has the sole purpose of attemting these questions:
    and it goes: the universe is the way it is because if it were any other way, we couldn't exist! at first this may seem as a given, but think about it. and i quote einstein: the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comperhensible.

    but why must it be beautiful? and why is the falling together of events any less beautiful than divine intervintion?
     
  18. Jun 13, 2003 #17
     
  19. Jun 13, 2003 #18
     
  20. Jun 13, 2003 #19
    Alright, first you said:

    Then you said:

    Isn't that a contradiction. On one side, you have the idea that I could just sit there and wait for good luck give me the true ToE, and on the other hand, I have the typical reasoning that tells me I must study and work hard (thus making little steps) in order to make any breakthroughs (which would be the final little step in that set of little steps). Which is your opinion?

    First off, it is only according to "common" human opinion that the latter is more important, as it is not out of reach for science to know everything about the life of an organism by studying it's insides. After all, Paleantologists (sp?) do that all the time.

    Secondly, if the right brain is Plato, and the left is Aristotle, then which one of them makes the breakthrough? And why is it that one that must make the breakthrough?

    Well, IMCO (in my current opinion), you are either lucky or you are a genius, but you cannot be both. A genius is capable of conceptual leaps, because of a superior mental ability, a lucky person was just at the right place at the right time.

    Not really true. You see, Science is incapable of answering "why" questions (it was not designed to have anything to do with them). Thus, if you ask a scientist, "what is the purpose of ______" (no matter what phenomenon you use to fill in the blank spot), s/he will tell you "it's just that way", because s/he cannot possibly find a scientific reason why something is the way it is.

    Thus, if you ask me, "why did _______ happen", and ask for a scientific answer, I must tell you "it just happened".

    My good buddy knows me rather well. In fact I both am and am not a scientific materialist.
     
  21. Jun 13, 2003 #20
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2003
  22. Jun 13, 2003 #21

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    I'd like to refer to my new thread: Evolution of Knowledge
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3012

    I think of the Eureka moment as a moment of mutation in thinking, when a random insight occurs that may or may not be correct. This insight is usually wrong, but looking at statistics we select the small number of cases where it was correct.
     
  23. Jun 14, 2003 #22
    beauty is a human invention. the universe is the way it is, it cares not about beauty. it is humans that make the distinction.
    also,what's beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another. how can the universe be described in such a variable language?
     
  24. Jun 14, 2003 #23
    I agree with Pinker on step by step insight and disagree we should then sit around and wait for it to just pop up.
    I think everyone has little bits of insight everyday, add up some bits and one has a big insight. For me personally the most rewarding little bits of insight are simple everyday occurances like figuring out a new way to get my car keys out of the locked car or a new way of remembering not to lock them in the car in the first place. Most likely it's direct experience of reward that's more important than the study of supposedly difficult and esoteric knowledge.
     
  25. Jun 15, 2003 #24
    Uh-uh, this implies that we start off needing to make small steps (in gaining knowledge) and then we become able to continually make intuitive "leaps".

    I still disagree. You see, if "leaps" or "Eureka! moments" are a result of looking at "the big picture", then one shouldn't ever have to learn the details, since the real answers are to be found on the most basic "surface".

    It is possible in principle (which means regardless of how long it takes to achieve the appropriate scientific understanding and technology) to know what someone is thinking (for example) by examining his/her brain. Just because we definitely cannot do it now, doesn't mean we cannot do it in the future.

    Isn't this contradictory to your previously stated opinion? Either we are subconsciously "walking up" the "little steps" toward understanding, or we just "jump over" a bunch of the "steps" without ever using those "intermediate steps". You were saying that we could "leap" toward right conclusions, without ever using the "intermediate steps", but now you are saying that we need to subconsciously go over all of the steps.

    Besides, again the question of why we ever do any research at all arises. While you did attempt to account for it in your analogy (and did a fair job of it, if I may say so), you still allowed for the "leap" to occur subconsciously, and thus not necessitating a good many "steps" that others would have to take to arrive at the same conclusion. Thus, what determines when one is ready to "leap" over a bunch of "steps"? Why could I not just "leap" over arithmetic and understand Calculus?

    btw, I'd like to point out, merely for the purposes of clarification, that two of my I.Q. tests have shown that I use both sides of my brain equally. So, it's not necessary that a man use only the left side, but it's probably typical.

    Prove it.

    But I wasn't talking about the "how", and your analogy reveals that you may have misconstrued slightly the distinction between the two types of question. You see, if I ask "how did the penicillin spore travel..." then I am asking a question that is entirely unrelated to whether it was a coincidence or not, and that's the issue we were discussing - coincidences and miracles. However, if you say that something was not a coincidence, then you have to explain why it happened.

    No, I'm just constantly uncertain. It relieves me from having to change my belief system, since (for the most part) I don't really have a set belief system.
     
  26. Jun 15, 2003 #25
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2003
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