Posted 12 hours ago

Cosmic inflation appears to have shifted from settled science back to speculation

Cosmic inflation appears to have shifted from settled science back to speculation

Probably the best thing to do is let the experts weigh in on this.

Planck team measurement consistent with our (Flauger et al.) estimates and extrapolations: polarized dust appears to explain BICEP2 results.

— David Spergel (@DavidSpergel) September 22, 2014

Results in from Planck: seems likely that the famous BICEP2 results were dust, not gravitational waves. http://t.co/5FwBqMoDCy

— Sean…

View On WordPress

Posted 1 day ago

The Great Recession was less severe than the Great Depression because we do learn from history.

The Great Recession was less severe than the Great Depression because we do learn from history.

As is quickly becoming usual, Tina at Diotima’s Ladder asks excellent questions: Roosevelt and Obama: Did we avoid a Great Depression? | Diotima’s Ladder.

For the past week I’ve been rushing home every night to catch The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Ken Burns. I’m not really a big Ken Burns fan. And yes, it’s the fiddle music. But this one is worth a watch. (And the music is not so…

View On WordPress

Posted 1 day ago

Free will persists even if your brain made you do it

Free will persists even if your brain made you do it

The free will debate has been going on for millenia and, like most philosophical debates, shows little chance of being settled anytime soon.  A significant part of the debate is definitional: what do we mean when we say “free will.”  We can argue endlessly about what the term should mean, but it turns out that what most of us actually mean by it is something that can be studied scientifically.

Fr…

View On WordPress

Posted 3 days ago

The effort at healthy living should be balanced against the fact that we are all mortal.

Ezekiel Emanuel has an interesting article at The Atlantic: Why I Hope to Die at 75 – The Atlantic.

Seventy-five.

That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But here is a simple truth that many of us…

View On WordPress

Posted 5 days ago

Survival machines versus engineered machines; why fears of AI are misguided

Survival machines versus engineered machines; why fears of AI are misguided #ArtificialIntelligence #AI

Bio-inspired Big Dog quadruped robot is being developed as a mule that can traverse difficult terrain. Image credit: DARPA

I’ve seen a lot of posts lately like this one by Ronald Bailey looking at Nick Bostrom’s book on the dangers of AI.  People never seem to get tired of talking about the dangers of AI.  And stories about AIs who revolt against humanity are pretty much a staple of science…

View On WordPress

Posted 6 days ago

What can evolutionary biology learn from creationists?

What can evolutionary biology learn from creationists?

Originally posted on Scientia Salon:

Irreducible-complexity-E-coli_472_308_80by Joanna Masel

You might expect a professional evolutionary biologist like myself to claim that my discipline has nothing to learn from creationists. And I certainly do find all flavors of evolution-denialism sadly misguided. But I also find it reasonable to assume that any serious and dedicated critic should uncover something interesting about the object…

View On WordPress

Posted 1 week ago

What are your philosophical positions?

What are your philosophical positions? #philosophy

Tina at Diotima’s Ladder put up a very cool entry: What’s Your Philosophy? | Diotima’s Ladder.

BLOGGING EVENT!

Tell the world. Don’t be shy. Yes, we’re used to piggy-backing off the famous philosophers, and that’s why I came up with this prompt. Those well-versed in philosophy will appreciate a grassroots approach, even those who spend every waking hour thinking about the transcendental unity of…

View On WordPress

Posted 1 week ago

The real goal and challenge of establishing off-world colonies

The real goal and challenge of establishing off-world colonies #space

David Warmflash (a very cool name) has a post up at Discovery looking at the issues with establishing off world colonies: Forget Mars. Here’s Where We Should Build Our First Off-World Colonies.

The collective space vision of all the world’s countries at the moment seems to be Mars, Mars, Mars. The U.S. has two operational rovers on the planet; a NASA probe called MAVEN and an Indian Mars orbiter…

View On WordPress

Posted 1 week ago

Farewell to determinism

SelfAwarePatterns:

An interesting post on why determinism is false. As someone who is not a hard determinist, I agreed with the author until toward the end when he declared that “superdeterminism” would imply that we can’t know anything about physics. I’m not a superdeterminist, but this didn’t seem to follow for me. I’m also a little suspicious of the references to free will and religion at the…

View On WordPress

Posted 1 week ago

Blindsight by Peter Watts, a review

Blindsight by Peter Watts, a review

BlindsightCover

I recently read Peter Watts’s book, ‘Blindsight‘, a hard(ish) science fiction novel about first contact with extraterrestrials.  This is a book that’s been out for several years, and was a Hugo Award nominee in 2006, so I’m a bit late to the party.  Indeed, since I started this blog in November, a number of people have recommended this book to me as an interesting commentary on the human mind…

View On WordPress