Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When did deep theory become synonimous with inane sophistry? The Rookie Error

In this article from that bastion of learned discourse, Discover Magazine, a physicist is interviewed regarding his 'scientific' theory that the universe is actually made of mathematics, or as he puts it, "there is only mathematics; that is all that exists." At first, this article caught my eye because i thought/hoped that he was making a clumsy epistemological statement regarding the necessity for formal, i.e. mathematical, explanations of physical phenomena, and that heuristic reasoning should be appreciated for its utility in guiding avenues of inquiry but should not be trusted if it can't be formalized. I had even naively hoped that, en route, he was simply going to point out that it is unwise to confer metaphysical significance to the various latent (explanatory) variables of a given theory. Or even to commit to a single theory but rather to accept them in proportion to their relative likelihood given observations, i.e. take a fully Bayesian approach.

Unfortunately, i was wrong on all counts. Honestly, i should know by now that far too many scientists really do believe that the latent variables of their theories have metaphysical significance. So much so that when fundamental theories begin to posit the existence of increasingly abstract entities, at least one physicist is forced to conclude that abstraction is the only thing with metaphysical significance and that all abstract theories (though presumably just the self consistent ones) give rise to universes in which those theories hold.

The article even includes a direct quote which I always affiliate with this kind of pseudo scientific cosmology. Regarding the level 2 multiverse: "No, they share the same space, but we could never communicate with them because we are all being swept away from each other as space expands faster than light can travel." Untestable is unscientific. The interviewer seems to sense that something is fishy and does ask about testable predictions to which the interviewee responds by saying yes there are testable predictions but then, instead of listing any, he effectively seems to say that all we have to do is figure out how things look from outside the universe....unfortunately, the interview ended before we could be told how to accomplish that without firing up a doobie.

Seriously, we need to remember that science is nothing more than prediction and data compression. At best we might say that the Data, being immutable, does have some special significance, but metaphysical significance, even of the data, is irrelevant to scientific inquiry. As such, we might as well take Occam's advice and shave away that pretentious beard, it looks better in a humanities department anyway.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Google Side Bar

In response to a few querries here's a screenshot of my desktop. I have been trying to keep it cleaner that i used to and Vista's launcher and integrated search make it pretty easy. The SimpleDrive is the external device which has all my reasearch and media files. Maxtor Manager is the tool i use to backup the external drive onto another external drive. On the right is my google sidebar which has the standard weather and gcalendar gadgets as well as the Google Desktop email Gadget and todo gadgets. Below that is gdTunes which controls iTunes (or winamp) and a wikipedia search window. I find the email gadget to be particularly useful. Not only can you expand it to view any particular email, but I use it to keep an ever present list of all the emails which still require a response.

UPDATE: Apparently there is a need to know what's going on with my Icon tray as well. Here is a closeup.

From left to right the icons are: Divx, Itunes, Last FM, Itunes again (I think that sometimes this happens when the Ipod is plugged in?), Safely Remove Hardware, Dell Support Center, Logmein (Best VNC ever!), SigmaTel Volume Panel, Fingerprint Software, Touchpad, GoogleDesktop, Webcam, maxtor Automated Backup, Trend PCillin, Agea Physics engine, Google Calendar Sync, Battery, Wireless, Global Volume Control. Of course, now that i've scrutinized this list i will probably remove Maxtor and SigmalTel. I still haven't decided about PCillin. On the desktop at home I also have Simplify Mobile media and the Signal Remote Control going on down there.

And here how, firefox quick access is setup:

Google is Google, Orb is for streaming media to the Ipod/Iphone. Remote access is Logmein for getting to my home pc and is social networking/music finding which I am only just now giving a try.