Posts Tagged ‘Construction’

Science: Discovery Or Construction? Discovery Of Construction!

April 13, 2016

In his book “To Explain The World: The Discovery Of Modern Science”, Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg asserts that modern science was DISCOVERED. Modern science was out there, under a bush, and a couple of physicists Weinberg esteem (Galileo, Newton), lifted the bush, and uncovered “modern science”.

This may not look like it, but that subtitle itself, that science was discovered, is a speculation on what reality is. In other words, it is a piece of bold philosophy… which, thanks to modern scientific advances in biology, can be philosophically shown to be, most probably, erroneous.

Indeed: is not the mind constructed? Modern experiments in neurobiology have shown this.

The Eye Is Only All-Seeing Because It Is Full Of Ideas And Theories About What It Sees

The Eye Is Only All-Seeing Because It Is Full Of Ideas And Theories About What It Sees

A kitten shown only a very distorted version of the world does not learn to see correctly.

(In an interesting case of cecity, Weinberg disparages the inventor of analytic geometry, Descartes, who made modern mathematics possible, including infinitesimal calculus, and Newton’s little activities: no Descartes, no Newton. However, once Descartes had invented analytic geometry, and another Frenchman deduced the correct universal attraction law, the work made by Newton was a matter of at most a couple of decades, since Kepler’s laws were already known. Kepler erroneously thought the attraction was 1/distance, when it’s actually 1/square of distance…)

Weinberg tried to clarify the subtitle of his book (‘the discovery of modern science’): science was not just ‘constructed’ but actually ‘discovered’. In truth, one should be careful. Take agriculture. Was it discovered, or invented? Both. Most agricultural products were not just discovered, but also literally engineered, through domestication. (A process which is still poorly understood: how can one get from a wild tree which could poison a human to death by eating twenty nuts, to a nutritious modern almond tree? Is not that an achievement more awesome than Newton’s? And the fact is, millions, nowadays, know how Newton did it, but none how Neolithic farmers made what was deadly, edible.)

Our apparent discoveries modify our brains, so, in a sense, they are constructions. Neurological constructions.

Now let’s ponder this: when something which has been constructed “discovers” something else, has that something else been uncovered, or constructed?

Are then what we think of the things of our world and the architecture our minds are made of, discovered or constructed?

No doubt, some will say, a bridge is constructed. Clearly so, when it is made by hand (as even Heidegger will understand). But, animating these hands are minds. Not just the ones of the builders, but the minds of those who made the minds of the builders. Because cultures, transmitted by languages, make minds.

Furthermore, what is the difference between a bridge made of stones, and a bridge between two neurons, or two systems of neurons? Philosophically speaking, not much.

The point is that we feel, or think we observed,  that things of the world are some way, and from that, we build bridges between neurons, or systems thereof.

Appearances are not just deceiving. Appearances we perceive lead to constructions of, and in, our minds. Shallow makes deep.

The process cannot be any different with “science”. From appearances, that we call “experiences”, we build explanations, connections between neurons, or systems thereof. So what did we truly discover, when we made a scientific discovery?

What we discovered is that we can build a mind in ways not suspected before. And that, somehow, it fits the real world better, meaning we can increase our powers on matter. This is all what modern science is. The same old same old which has made us evolve ever closer to the gods we are becoming at an accelerating pace. For better or worse.

Patrice Ayme

Save World, Construct

August 25, 2014

Krugman points out that the economic success of the South-West (Houston) and South (Atlanta) is caused by providing decent housing to the middle class: “Wrong Way Nation“.

Well, right, and very important. However, the problem is not restricted to the USA. It struck Japan very hard, 25 years ago: there was no more decent, affordable housing for Japanese workers in the main production centers.

And, yes, indeed. There is a housing crisis throughout most of the Western World, especially much of Europe. Massive construction programs there after World War Two promoted massive economic growth. A French saying goes:”Quand la construction va, tout va.” (When construction is OK, everything is OK.)

Instead of building increasingly better, denser cities, what happened in the last 40 years was an attitude of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). For example San Francisco built no skyscrapers for 30 years on the ground that they may throw shadows, sometimes (a curious idea in a city characterized by thick fog), or, horror of horrors, that San Francisco would turn into Manhattan.

The practical result has been that, not only quality of life of the middle class has gone down from Paris to San Francisco, but economies have stagnated, while lethal pollution has not been fixed (locally, or globally).

The middle class (let alone the lower class) has been increasingly unable to afford decent housing… in the most important cities. Instead an increasingly inefficient lifestyle of long range commuting ruled.

However, thanks to a new born common sense, young people are increasingly refusing the suburban, multi-car, long commute way of life, thus fleeing to live in ridiculous places such as Silicon Valley, characterized by having an affair with one’s car. Under pressure, San Francisco, I am happy to report, is Manhattanizing; youth devising new apps, prefer the City to unaffordable mansions in the woods, far from any trace of civilization.

Some of the new towers in San Francisco will provide the upper middle class with decent housing (instead of sky high rents in small, dank, mold ridden rabbit cages).

This, massive construction, is a solution for the entirely stagnating Western World: build more ecological, denser, high tech cities. Not only the economy will blossom, and society become more just, equalitarian and decent, but the biosphere outside of these more efficient centers of humanity, will be given an opportunity to recover.

Modern buildings can be not just energy efficient, but energy, and even food, producing. Especially tall skyscrapers. And to commute between city centers, 250 miles per hour electric trains are already a reality. London city center is just two hours from Paris city center, by the existing train, the Eurostar.

Off with anti-city mentality. Remember that civilization has to do with cities. Grow them right. To work!

Patrice Ayme’

Constructing TIME

June 3, 2014

How does one usually define time? Well, I will argue, it’s constructed by machines.

This has major consequences in physics, to be evoked some other time: Cosmic Inflation theory uses time, but has forgotten to define it. Thus a philosophical-historical review is in order.

The concept of time was developed experimentally over several millennia.  Time was important in agriculture: it allowed predicting when to do some specific activities essential to agriculture (planting, irrigation works, etc.).

Mayan Calendar: No Time, No Hydraulic Civilizations

Mayan Calendar: No Time, No Hydraulic Civilizations

The Mayas, and the Babylonians discovered that astronomy, observing stars and planets, allowed to predict the seasons. Thus, they defined time. The Mayan civilization depended upon highly technological seasonally constrained hydraulics, so time was of the essence. The Mayans thrived for millennia before an inordinate drought brought ecological catastrophe and the consequential mayhem (7C to 9C).

Shortly after the equal sign was invented (circa 1500 CE), time appeared in the equations of the Seventeenth Century physics. Time was fundamental to the equations of classical mechanics that described both how mechanical forces and gravitation-imparted trajectories: every dynamical phenomenon was a function of time, and its acceleration, the double derivative relative to time, was the force.

This classical time allowed to determine longitude in navigation. The more precise the time, the more precisely navigators knew where they were in the middle of the ocean. This (new) mechanical notion of time had grown from astronomical time, and was found, de facto, to be identical with astronomical time.

Mathematics and physics were deeply entangled. Time is truly an injection of the Real Line into the space(s) the equations are about. The concept of Real Line is implicitly central to calculus. Calculus was developed for physics.

However, in the Nineteenth Century, equations were derived for a force that was not found in Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism.

(17 C) Gravitation is what one could call (until 1916!), a “point force”: a planet of mass M can be replaced by a point of mass M (that’s Gauss theorem; it caused lots of trouble to Newton).

Electromagnetism was more complex than gravitation.  Faraday drew lines of force lovingly (and was despised for it). Maxwell transformed them into “field” equations.

A “field”, just as a field of wheat. The Electromagnetic field could turn in circles on itself, or make lobes.

Sometimes, electric charges behave like “point forces” too. But magnetic charges could not be found: they were never like point (“monopoles” in modern jargon). However, electricity would turn into magnetism, and varying magnetism into electricity. Electromagnetism was exasperatingly complicated.

A journalist asked Faraday what use the fact that a varying magnetic field created electricity had. Faraday retorted: ”What’s the use of a new born baby?

All our industry now rests on this new born baby. (By the way, Michael Faraday was directly supported personally by the top plutocrat in Britain, the king.)

A field is non local. Whereas it looked as if gravitation did not need to be described by a field (an impression Einstein would change, but that’s besides the points made here), it was certainly not the case for electromagnetism.

Any force generates an acceleration, hence a dynamic, hence a trajectory. So classical mechanics generated a notion of time (it had turned out that time from a mechanical force, a spring, was the same as from gravitation).

Similarly for electromagnetism: it’s a force, so it defines a notion of time. However, even classically, electromagnetism was non-local. So the clocks defined by electromagnetism are non-local. I call them holonomic. (Adjusting classical time to electromagnetic time is called Special Relativity; it turned out that gravity needed to be made into a field, and that time needed to vary with speed so that physics was independent of speed.)

This notion of non-local time, it turned out, was another excellent torpedo against Cosmic Inflation, and the naivety that helped built it. More later…

Patrice Aymé