Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Science, Fruit, Tool and Motivation of Philosophy

April 3, 2017

Can philosophy exist on its own? The cognitively challenged think so. See the somewhat dim-witted “Philosophy Tool Kit” in Aeon, by what else, a professional philosopher, somebody taught precisely to teach that “Thinking like a philosopher need not be a strange and arcane art, if you get started with these tricks of the trade… At a time when we are bombarded more than ever with specious claims and spurious inferences, clear thinking provides a much-needed safeguard that we should all strive towards. Philosophers place a premium on certain tools for regimenting our thinking, especially logic and probability theory.

In other words, like everything else, for the dim-witted, philosophy is a trade. Being wise, the Promethean essence of human spirit, is brought down to recipes. Apparently to “regiment” our thinking we have to acknowledge that “trade“. Everything is a “trade“. And why do we “regiment”? Well, according to all too many people paid to propagandize the official version of philosophy, we are in an army, apparently, “regimented” in the triumphing army of trade. Wisdom is a military trade. (The afore quoted “philosopher” comes from Australia, a place which made lots of money with coal and iron sold to China.)

Well… Trade is not the essence of humanity, wisdom is. And wisdom rests on science, knowing what is true. Not what a trade our disciplined regiments are.

(The author in Aeon self-defines as an “analytic philosopher”. “Analytic philosophy” is a branch of philosophy so stupidly arrogant that it thinks nobody else is analytical. Analysis actually means “deconstruction”, something ironic as “analytic philosophers” tend to despise Derrida… Bertrand Russel is often viewed as the father of analytic philosophy, although he thought it was not an activity worth having…)

I don’t esteem Plato very much, but on this one he got it right. Modern philosophers tend to not know modern geometry, because they are lazy dogs.. They prefer to ponder the meaning of “the”…

Accordingly, Plato thought that the first trick, the first tool, the first requirement, of philosophy was to learn “geometry” (which was NON-Euclidean geometry at the time, thus not that simple!). Please remember that Plato was notoriously friendly to tyrants. However, even him did not think philosophy was a regimented trade!

Another interest is that, by being exposed to science and mathematics, the spirit and culture of inquiry, fundamental to the love of wisdom, can be encouraged. Such is the fundamental toolkit of the philosopher.


Most so-called philosophers praise themselves for superior thinking. However human species have unceasingly deliberately perfected what superior thinking is, and provides with, for millions of years. Superior thinking is not a static achievement, a book one can learn by rote. Superior thinking is what humanity does unceasingly more of.

Philo-Sophy, Loving Wisdom, is an abbreviation for the excellence which is truly meant. (Just as an electron is an abbreviation for what is truly meant; Dirac’s meaning of the electron as an abbreviation was different from that of his immediate predecessors.)

Everybody loves wisdom, even cats. Especially cats. But wisdom as cats tend to have it, is different from wisdom, as Homo Sapiens tend to have it.

What’s ought to be truly meant by “philosopher” is someone who loves superior wisdom more than any other love, and has actually achieved that superiority. Cats are not philosophers, because, given a chance, they would rather eat the bearer of superior wisdom (namely Homo Sapiens).

The notions of “philosopher” and the “philosophical method” are distinct. A genuine philosopher will practice the philosophical method, which consists into using whatever it takes to advance wisdom, even poetry and the vaguest analogies. And what is wisdom? Superior understanding of what makes the universe tick.

Thus a towering philosopher will have to be a scientist, mathematician and logician, as Plato felt, and as towering geniuses of the Middle Ages such as Abelard and Buridan were (Buridan proved Aristotle physics wrong, introducing the heliocentric system, most of “Newton’s” laws… and successfully tackled the problem of self-referential statements, circa 1350 CE, amidst plague and war).


The average persons feel that exhibiting tribal appurtenance is the highest form of wisdom, that make them no better than baboons (be they jihadist, attached to Islam, or physicists, anxious to exhibit their quirky love for the local sport team). That does not qualify them as philosophers, because our ancestral baboon equivalents have been doing this for 50 million years, there is nothing superior about it.


Part of wisdom is not to stay a prisoner of the vehicle used to convey it, be it a person, a language, a theory, a sentence or a word. The question is not what wisdom is, but what wisdom means: analyze not the words, but what they are supposed to mean. What the interlocutor meant, and that interlocutor could be nature itself.


Any logic L, and thus, in particular any wisdom W, is relative to a context. Giving a context to that context is going meta. Going meta is not in general unique, and it is always possible, and even easy: pick up an axiom, say A of L, and consider the meta logic made of the union of L and what you get by adjoining non-A to L. This is the scheme to get non-Euclidean geometry, or non-standard arithmetic, or non-standard analysis, or complex analysis from real analysis, or even finite fields.


Nature is a sadistic god. Why not? We know nature is a sadistic god, because we have wisdom. Hyenas don’t have that luxury, condemning what feeds them. Hyenas have to eat the genitals of the uncooperative buffalo first, as hyena heuristics show  that they are delicious, and their absorption diminishes the vigor of the prey. Occasionally, though, a lioness will have the wisdom to protect a young prey animal, as a pet.

Even lions know nature is a sadistic god. But only us can go industrial, building a better god. Hint: it’s not to be obtained by just focusing on the word “the”, and equally puny tricks (cockroaches know tricks too; they don’t belong to superior wisdom, because, however correct, they are too puny).

Human wisdom enables to provide us with the tools to build a less sadistic version of nature. Sadism where we want it. Not where “it” wants it…

Patrice Ayme’


Real Science Hates Tribalism

August 24, 2016

To teach science, scientist should mimic the way children learn the best. And they should avoid precisely what they have been doing, pontificating as if they were superior beings belonging to a superior tribe. I have pounded this message in the past, and I was happily surprised that it is found in “Why scientists are losing the fight to communicate science to the public.” By Richard P Grant.  

The argument is that “scientists and science communicators are engaged in a constant battle with ignorance. But that’s an approach doomed to failure”.

Making science attractive by despising the plebs is doomed to failure, because it turns knowledge, the highest calling, into a “us” versus “them” struggle. And that, in turn, and indeed, comes from the fact that many who work in science are driven more by self-glory, tribalism, hence intellectual fascism, guys all looking together in the same direction, than they care to admit. 

Real Thinkers Look Everywhere Different. That’s Why Meerkats Are Meerkats, and Humans, Human.

Real Thinkers Look Everywhere Different. That’s Why Meerkats Are Meerkats, and Humans, Human.

A video did the rounds a couple of years ago, of some self-styled “skeptic” disagreeing – robustly, shall we say – with an anti-vaxxer. The speaker was roundly cheered by everyone sharing the video – he sure put that idiot in their place!

Scientists love to argue. Cutting through bullshit and getting to the truth of the matter is pretty much the job description. So it’s not really surprising scientists and science supporters frequently take on those who dabble in homeopathy, or deny anthropogenic climate change, or who oppose vaccinations or genetically modified food.

It makes sense. You’ve got a population that is – on the whole – not scientifically literate, and you want to persuade them that they should be doing a and b (but not c) so that they/you/their children can have a better life.

[British Celebrity physicist] Brian Cox was at it last week, performing a “smackdown” on a climate change denier…He brought graphs! Knockout blow. And yet … it leaves me cold. Is this really what science communication is about? Is this informing, changing minds, winning people over to a better, brighter future? I doubt it somehow… And I don’t think it’s as simple as people rejecting science.

What people increasingly dislike, nowadays, and rightly so, is members of the establishment, pontificating. And the so-called “scientific community” is fully part of it. … As Grant puts it: “Most science communication isn’t about persuading people; it’s self-affirmation for those already on the inside. Look at us, it says, aren’t we clever? We are exclusive, we are a gang, we are family.

That’s not communication. It’s not changing minds and it’s certainly not winning hearts and minds.

It’s tribalism.”

I have used nearly the same discourse many times in the past. Indeed, the scientists, and mathematicians clamor, all too much: We are a gang, we are family, you are not; you are outsiders, inferior types, you are (chuckle) ignorant buffoons whose ignorance amuse us.

This is wrong in two completely different dimensions: it does not persuade, quite the opposite, because it uses the Authority Principle, instead of the Scientific Principle.


Tribalism is fundamentally opposed to science:

Science is, and develops, knowledge. Science requires an open mind. That means a mind ready to change. Science, honestly pursued, requires to be skeptical about what one knows. Science is about going beyond. Beyond one’s own mind, away from common thought… Exactly not like meerkats looking all in the same direction.

Instead, tribalism is not questioning where we come from. Just the opposite; the tribe is god. Tribalism is about war, exclusion, xenophobia, intellectual fascism. And tribalism is not about the truth: tribalism is about one’s country, right or wrong, being always right.

Thus a brain in a scientific mood is fundamentally transverse to a brain in a tribal mood.

Tribalism has slowed science immensely. For example, the tribal Roman Catholic church tried to kill scientific inquiry at every chance it got. Why? Because a superstition in place, like Catholicism, claims to have the one and only truth, it’s not about ever better truths..

Yet, all too many scientists are about tribalism, indeed. Why? Because tribalism augments one’s power. Richard Feynman resigned from the US Academy of Science, after he discovered that most of the activity there was struggling for the fittest tribal promotion, to enhance the power of the group one belonged to.

Scientists love to evoke their appurtenance to the “scientific community”. In truth, that’s offensive; we, humans, are all scientists. We, indeed, all belong to THE scientific species.

Yet, as their usage of the expression “scientific community” demonstrates, many scientists flaunt their tribalism, and the power they have of excluding “non-scientists”.

Whereas, if really keen to advance science, they should exhibit humility, and understanding, not just for what they learned by rote, but humility and understanding when interacting with others, and of skepticism itself. Debates about GMOs or new insecticides such as neonicotinoids exemplify this: many scientists are pontificating, in spite of shaky evidence for their positions. So doing, they endanger science itself.

Verily, today’s scientists know all too little. In all too many ways. Arguably, The scientists’ own global ignorance about all too many things, is what science, and science communication, paradoxically suffers from the most.

Patrice Ayme’

MINIMIZING EVIL As the Greatest Good

January 27, 2016

Do the ends justify the means, or the means, the ends? Neither. A completely different answer awaits. We have to change our considerations of complex issues from unsophisticated, uncouth, flying blind, to something much more subtle, inspired by the turn towards more subtle analysis that physics itself had to take, in the last three centuries (just post-Newton).

“Maximization of agency towards greater good”… is the only good. Why?

Because the world is fast, and getting faster, exponentially. We are confronted to an increasingly violent shoot storm. Philosophy is not just a consolation anymore. Philosophy has become the only pragmatic way out of a gathering multidimensional cataclysm.

Yes, it is also an excretion storm. Humanity is excreting, all over the planet, creating lethal imbalances all over. Contemplate the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, one of the world’s greatest biological structures. 2,300 kilometers long, 350,000 square kilometers in area. Yet, it is suddenly threatened by utter destruction. Why? Australian agriculture, all these plants, eaten by all these hungry vegetarians, out there. (In full truth, sugarcane is the primary culprit.)

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Crown of Thorns, 35 Centimeters Across: Science Always Beats Fiction!

Yes, of course, the spikes will make you bleed, and they are venomous.

Massive production of plants requires a lot of phosphates, and other fertilizers. The latter gets into the sea. One thing leads to another. And then the babies of a killer starfish, the Crown of Thorn starfish, survive at roughly 100 times their natural rate. And the ladies Crown of Thorns are rather prolific: they produce up to twenty million eggs each. What is the Crown of Thorns prefered diet? Live coral. Crown of Thorns have already eaten their way through roughly half the Great Barrier Reef.

It is a science fiction situation, it requires a science fiction solution (philosophy will tell you as much). There are too many killer starfishes already. One needs killer robots. They are been developed: the starfish terminators have eyes, and they recognize Crown of Thorns with 99.9% precision, and inject them with bile, to which the Crown of Thorns is highly allergic.

Autonomous killer robots at sea: what could go wrong? Are sharks next? Of course! Not to terminate the species, but to make the swimmers safe (we could reprogram for plutocrats, some will insinuate…). Proper usage of philosophical evil optimization theory shows that, only this way, is evil minimized.

So welcome, killers robots!

Take another example: lack of awareness, and the evil Clintons, helped by the Bush of Oblahblah, let the financial plutocracy grow completely out of control. The silly ones will give money, clothing, even food, and feel emphatic, happy about themselves, and their pacific tendencies. Does the Will to Peace generate peace? A philosophical question. And the answer is awful: when a bushel of wheat goes from the American Middle  West to Africa, it is bought and sold virtually, by the financial traitors… No less than 2,000 times! Then they live in plush mansions. Of course those traitors are culprit. But so are those who let them thrive, namely all those ready to vote for crooks (names starting with “C”).

Shoot storm? Yes, not just animal waste and dirt that is flying, but outright bullets. To wit: extremely violent wars out of nowhere. Contemplate Rwanda, Somalia, the Islamist State. Worse could be around the corner: a (nuclear) war of India with Pakistan, quickly generalizing, is imaginable.

Science fiction, some will sneer, from the bottom of their feel-good ignorance.

But 2015 was considerably warmer than 2014, which was, itself, the warmest year, ever, by a long shot. Greenland is melting, fast. A collapse of ice shields in Antarctica, little talked about, looks imminent (at least to me).

Science fiction, some will scoff, and turn around, to study nothing. Yet, look at the Zika virus, propped by global warming. The USA is scrambling to study it. It did not exist six months ago, as a problem for WHO. Now it’s a total panic. Brazil just attributed 4,000 cases of microcephaly to that virus carried by mosquitoes. Four countries advised women not to get pregnant, more will follow. Tomorrow.

Genetic engineering may be a way to stop Zika. Otherwise, massive usage of poisons (which

already started). This sort of question are all highly philosophical, they are always choices between an evil, and the other.

In Libya, the West, led by France, destroyed a bloody despotic regime, practicing mass murder, but then, the West dropped the ball. On the philosophical ground of non-intervention, and Obama “leading from way behind” France, the West let the Natives argue between themselves to find out how they would organize this country, which is more than 4,000 years old.

That was a serious debate: Libyans have had some outstanding issues, of civilizational grade, for millennia (so do Algeria, Tunisia, even Morocco). One of these issues is whether the 3,500 years old alphabet could, or even ought, to be used, in parts where it still exists, rather than the youngish alphabet brought by the invading Arab armies, armed with their “Submission” (= Islam).

However, profiting from the chaos, the Islamist State moved in. And now it’s moving ever more, as the West is destroying it in the Orient.Now France wants to attack and destroy the Islamist State in Libya. Is this philosophically correct? (I think so, can’t wait!)

Philosophical questions are everywhere, and they are not just fascinating, but they have to drive policy. The situation is much more acute than when Seneca was advising emperor Nero, or when emperor Marcus Aurelius was playing stoic philosopher.

To all these questions, only one context in which to frame the answers: relativity. Relativity of knowledge, relativity of evil, relativity of consequences, relativity of action.

So yes, “maximization of agency towards greater good” is where it’s at. Not just where ethics ought to be at, but where action should be.

(Massimo P. and his friends have what seems to me roughly the same approach to goodness of “maximizing agency“; see: “From ancient to modern From ancient to modern Stoicism — part I“. It’s pretty clear that it was always the overriding principle of my approach to philosophy. I thank Massimo in passing for giving me the occasion of planting my claws and fangs into something juicy, in other word, making my thoughts more, well, effective by providing a debating ground.)

Can we find some inspiration in science? Yes, of course. Look at physics: energy is not of the essence. The essence is the potential, not the absolute energy. It is the potential which sits on the right hand side of the De Broglie-Schrodinger equation. Thus it’s the potential which acts (contemplate the Bohm-Aharanov effect).

Physics is dominated by the principle of least action (found by Maupertuis, during the Enlightenment). Least action of evil, such is modern stoicism. Keeping in mind that inaction is itself a form of action.

Notice that the old problem of the “ends which justify the means” has been completely reformulated in a much larger physical and philosophical universe. The entire, immense power of modern logic, mathematics and physics can then be brought to bear. It is not a question of carrying the equations over: equations constitute only logical foam. What is deeper than the equations, what really gets the logic going, is the context they represent.

For example, a way to formulate Quantum Physics, related to the Least Action Principle, is to consider the “sum over histories”… Well, just as human history itself. Causalities, entangled, are all over histories.

Ethics has got more complicated, but, in this vastly richer landscape, minimal energy, minimal evil solutions abound.

This is not just the great age of science, it’s the greatest age of philosophy. In the age of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the empire was in danger, from forces, in and out. Now civilization itself is in question, and even worse, the biosphere itself is threatened. It’s an ecology most propitious to a blossoming of philosophy. The greatest questions ever, await the greatest answers.

And much inspiration has to come from science, whose main job is not just to find the facts, but sophisticated logics to give them meaning. Today’s most sophisticated logics and mathematics are far ahead of the best known yesterday.

We want goodness? Let’s maximize agency towards goodness. The Principle of Least Evil, in other words.

Patrice Ayme’

Tribal Preferences Everywhere

December 18, 2015

Even In Science, Tribal Effects Dominate:

Human beings are tribal animals. A tribe is a small group of individuals, helping each other, cemented by deep emotions. Don’t say it’s over. A recent study demonstrates what some have guessed all along, namely that it flourished in science.

Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who launched quantum theory by discovering that energy radiation was quantized  — once made the cynical observation that science progressed “one funeral at a time”. Said he:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

(When Hitler started to devastate Germany, Planck visited the madman, and told that imbecile that his institute and university had been destroyed by Hitler’s racial policies. Hitler later had Planck’s son killed.)

Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a working paper — titled, “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?” Yes it does:

Even In Science Baboons Follow The Leader Profitably

Even In Science Baboons Follow The Leader Profitably

Mining citations in the PubMed database, the researchers found evidence that when a prominent researcher suddenly dies in an academic subfield, a blooming of new ideas and innovation follow. They identified 12,935 “elite” scientists — based on the amount of funding they received, how many times they’ve published, how many patents they invented, or whether they were members of elite groups, such as the National Academies of Sciences or the Institute of Medicine. They found 452 of these elite researchers died before retirement. As science leaves a dense trail of citations, publish dates, and authors’ hierarchies, it’s possible to track changes in publishing patterns after the permanent eclipse of a prominent star.

After the death of a rock-star scientist, their frequent collaborators and tag-alongs — the junior researchers who authored papers with them, often enslaved to them — suddenly see a drop in publications. At the same time, there is a marked increase in published work by other newcomers to the field.

Verily, a PhD is mostly a tribal rite. (Warning: Elites will scream!)


So Why Should Nations, Those Super-Tribes Of Europe, Vanish Under A Flood Of Invaders?

Plutocrats all over loudly clamoring that Syrian refugees should get preference over Natives so destitutes, they can’t even reproduce: contemplate Germany, with the world’s worst reproduction rate, and now one million mostly Muslim refugees admitted in eleven months (the European Union accepted hundreds of thousands more, including three whose calling was to kill as many people in Paris as they could).

It seems only natural that Natives would get preferential treatment above Non-Natives.

Some claim that open borders, the open society, welcoming invaders, is so superior in all ways, that it should be embraced at all costs. The argument was rolled out first by Pericles. However, within 30 years, half of the Athenian population was dead, the city occupied, and only Sparta saved Athens for eradication.

Opening up a country to the max works, as a complement. But, throughout the West, we observe decay, to the point the Natives cannot afford to reproduce. Instead, it is proposed to generously import millions of Middle Easterners… Many armed with a version of a religion which hates the West (9/11, the Paris and San Bernardino massacres were fully, or partly organized by such imports).

Who wins from importing invaders and weakening the Natives? International plutocracy, as above local laws as it is above decency, and the nations it crushes. Unsurprisingly, the same international plutocracy owns the Main Stream Media of the West. A tycoon such as Murdoch could move from Australia, colonize Britain, and then take over the USA (where he owns plenty, including Fox News and the WSJ…) And then the MSM tells the little people, and persuade them that, the worse their condition gets, the better, as long as they are generous to strangers from far-away lands (such as the aforesaid plutocrats).

The more the fate of the Natives of the West looks ominous, the more they will revolt against their oppressors. Hopefully.

And those oppressors are those who have molded minds in the West. Thus the minds of the people have to fight themselves.

This is why a site about cuddly kittens will get thousands of “likes” a day, and an enormous readership, whereas a serious site such as this one has generally to make do with none. Let the force be with you, and direct it first towards those poisonous moods and thoughts which have brought your stealthy demise.

Well, it could be worse: you could believe, as the Pope’s government does, that Mother Teresa cured cancer, because someone’s cancer supposedly went away after touching a medal of Teresa. (After that, you may want to chop off head of Shiites, should you be a Saudi prince! Because if one miracle can happen, so could any.)

Teresa was somebody who accused tens of millions of women to be murderesses, among other exploits:

Christian Morality: Cruel & Demented Sado-Masochism, All Too Often

Christian Morality: Cruel & Demented Sado-Masochism, All Too Often

Following the leader materially helps, but can be entirely nefarious, morally speaking. By condoning the Catholic Church often monstrous morality, and the exploitation of women, the Catholic church has found another diabolical leader to make a saint of.

Mother Teresa was mostly a self-interested ambition sucker, anxious to make Pope John-Paul II feel good about himself (she was hanging around the Pope’s ear in the Vatican, a plushy place if there is any!). But she is a saint says the same tribal organization which promptly made “Saint” Louis (IX), who wrote that nothing would please him more than torturing to death “unbelievers” and Jews.

What’s the main reason for tribes? Death. Giving death, avoiding death. Just study Saint Louis. Just study Teresa, and her pain and death obsessions. And tribal effect can cause death to new ideas, not just people, all over, not just science.

Plutocracy is its own tribe, and its survival depends upon free markets, open borders, tini tiny local laws which big plutocrats can fly over, and the general world order the 99% suffer from in the West.

Planck and the economic researchers we quoted above push us towards the following conclusion. You want innovation, and a blooming of art, thought, ideas, and justice, and a young world? Please help visit upon plutocracy an early demise!

Patrice Ayme’

Solar Roads

October 15, 2015

Solar Roads Versus Objection Mars:

Long ago, when the sun had not set yet on the will of the West to progress, a poet was visiting my home. He read some of his poetry. Humanity had just reached the Moon. The poet loftily declared that we did not need the Moon, we needed to fight hunger.

Later, the malaria parasite mutated, becoming resistant to standard treatment. Now it kills more than 1.2 million people a year. A typical objection to colonizing the Solar System is this:

“as I see it – Scott’s movie (even if I’m a sci-fi fan and I love some movies of him as well: Blade Runner is definitely a masterpiece) is a mere conservative propaganda aiming for people to agree that these extremely expensive missions to Mars are more important than saving African children from ebola, helping Syrian refugees, letting Europe be democratic yet or supporting laws against free guns in the US … Save the “american” astronaut, guys!” The answer is crushing, it holds in one picture:

French Truck On Solar Photo-Voltaic Road: the Future Has Arrived

French Truck On Solar Photo-Voltaic Road: the Future Has Arrived

There is nothing “conservative” about missions to Mars. Quite the opposite: such missions are fully progressive. They force humanity to progress.

Disease in Africa has to do with lack of governance. Lack of hospital has to do with lack of governance. In the Ebola epidemic, the countries that were struck were struck from lack of organized health care.

Senegal got one, just one, imported Ebola case. The patient got cured, and that was it. Even Mali, with better governance, in spite of a Jihadist invasion, was able to contain a few imported cases. Meanwhile, several countries next door, which are intrinsically much richer (Sierra Leone, Guinea. Liberia) saw thousands of deaths, and containment came from the efforts of NGOs, France and the USA (mostly).

When France pulled out of Africa, some particularly smart critic told a senior French government minister that the argument of “freeing” Africa from alleged colonialism made no humanitarian sense: there was no “colonialism” to speak of, and who was going to pay for one hospital every 100 kilometers in the world’s second largest continent? The minister smiled, and said: “this is precisely the point, we will not incur that expense anymore.”

Two capabilities save children in general: a) good governance. b) science.

When considering a Mars mission in this connection, one has to answer if the Mars mission will improve governance and science. Governance itself is a science. A mission to Mars is “expensive”. How much? 100 million dollars? 200 millions? How much would a Mars colonization program cost to launch? Two trillion dollars?

According to the International Monetary Fund, subsidies for fossil fuels are more than 5.5 trillion dollars a year. Enough to set-up a village on Mars, with existing technology.

Now going to Mars would force drastic progress in, say, fuel cells. The technology of fuel cells was invented for the Moon mission. After Obama became president, the research funding on this field was yanked out (probably to send money to businessmen such as Elon Musk).

Mars colonization would force enormously innovative research in energy technology, for example fuel cells, and nuclear energy (both fission and fusion).

Nothing else will.

Syrian refugees? Mars will not save Syrians? Nothing is more removed from the truth. Mars, the god of war, is what is needed in Syria, fighting for Goodness, instead of having Mars fight in the name of the devil Assad, as was mostly done so far.

The 300,000 dead in Syria, the eleven million refugees, have been caused by the rule of a single, cornered man, Assad, son of Assad, and the clique surrounding him. To solve the Syrian refugees crisis, Assad’s rule ought to be terminated, so that he could be replaced by generals open to enough democracy to keep Syrians in Syria.

Unfortunately the Franco-American decapitation strike against Assad was called off by Obama, for reasons so far unexplained. So the massacre keeps on going, with forces under the orders of Assad killing at least ten times as much what the Islamist State kills.

Fossil fuels consumption, should it go on for a few more decades, will bring the global temperature up five degrees Celsius, and massacre the biosphere. It has to stop, but can be stopped only with plentiful, cheap, new energy sources.

That, or massive war (killing billions).

How? Science to the rescue. Without evoking the spectrum of nuclear energy (fission and fusion), Solar Photo-Voltaic (SPV) is here. Normal solar panels were developed for space missions. Without space colonization, they would not have been developed. Yet, solar panels are fragile. Or, more exactly, were fragile until now.

A giant French construction company (Bouygues) deposed patents to cover-up solar cells with various materials to make them tough. Glass can be made as hard as steel. Then Bouygues engineers drove more than a million vehicles above the toughened-up panels in a few test cities (Chambery, Grenoble). Now the first solar road is under construction. Four meters of said road can satisfy a house’s needs. 100 square meters (twenty meters of the linear road depicted) are enough to drive 100,000 kilometers with an electric vehicle. If 25% of French roads were covered, 100% of French electric needs would be covered.

The future, the good future, is here: it’s enough to let science roll. But science needs challenges. Such as Mars colonization. If (very serious) scientists and mathematicians need bananas, such as the Fields Medal and the Nobel Prize, certainly humanity needs bigger motivation, and bigger prizes than that!

You want morality? More morality? Then you need a bigger science. And the way to get a better science is by setting higher objectives, greater passions, more exacting thoughts. Progress, the Will to Progress, is a mood. It cannot be confined to moral progress, because the universe juggles with evil. Moral progress means technological progress.  Mars colonization is no moral objection. Objective Mars is a moral imperative.

Patrice Ayme’

The Folly Of Big Science Prizes

October 6, 2015

The New York Times published an article with that idea, a recurring theme on this site. It had very interesting content, adding to my general position, which the Times had the unusual kindness to publish. Here it is:

Why science prizes? To create celebrities in science, and thus, to make science famous, some point out.

But surely the reason for science ought not to be fame, but the search for truth? Therein the problem: using the celebrity principle, that fame matters most, one overwhelms the very reason for science, which is that truth matters most.

Prizes in science teach the identification of fame with truth.

We Are Far From Understanding Sun’s Thermonuclear Physics. Coronal Mass Ejection, Aug. 31, 2012. Such a CME Would Wreck Civilization, If Pointed At Earth

We Are Far From Understanding Sun’s Thermonuclear Physics. Coronal Mass Ejection, Aug. 31, 2012. Such a CME Would Wreck Civilization, If Pointed At Earth

Civilization depends upon truth, thus science. The confusion between fame and truth brought the near-collapse of civilization before.

Aristotle (320 BCE) taught physics which was obviously false (Aristotle taught that a force had to be continually applied for continuous motion; Buridan overturned this in 1320 CE). I have argued that the very fact that Aristotle’s physics was obviously false taught the suspension of common sense (and that was exactly what the powers that be wanted!)

However, because Aristotle was immensely famous, his false physics was viewed as the obvious truth. In turn, because Aristotle’s physics was so stupendous, Aristotle’s erroneous ideas in politics (that monarchy, thus dictatorship, was the best political system) were viewed as obviously true, too. In turn, these false ideas were used to demolish the idea of the Republic for more than two millennia.

Hence we can see who confusing fame with science advantages: those who view fame as the end all, be all. Naturally enough, celebrities set-up prizes to celebrate celebrity. In turn, such people are the best and most obsequious servants to the established order. And this is exactly why, throughout history, some of the worst tyrants have heaped praise on the few (and especially those they made famous).

There are more huge prizes in science nowadays, because some of the most influential people in the world today have a very dark, sinister and troubling relationship with science.

In turn a reader, “RamS”, had the kindness to offer the following compliment: “This is the best comment, and this is the real issue the author is worried about. It is not the prize but the fame that comes with…”

Here is how The Folly of Big Science Awards, by VINAY PRASADOCT started:

“On Monday, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will go to a few scientists for work that untangles the intricacies of the human body and may advance treatments for cancer, heart disease or other major illnesses. The prize comes with a sizable check and virtually ensures that the winners’ research will be well funded for the rest of their careers.

Every recent recipient has undoubtedly deserved the honor. But that doesn’t mean that prizes for medical research are a good idea.

The Nobel, along with the Dickson, Lasker-DeBakey, Canada Gairdner and other major awards, honors the scientists who are usually in the least need of recognition and funding, which squeezes out opportunities for other scientists.

More important, by emphasizing the importance of scientific breakthroughs — serendipitous occurrences that rely on decades of research — these prizes play down, and diminish, the way that great medical advances build on one another.

All scholarship is, to some extent, built on prior work — but this is especially true in scientific research.”

This is exactly why I have fought the hyper celebrity status of Copernicus and Newton. Copernicus’ work, viewed on a historical scale, is little more than plagiarism from Buridan (who was madatorily taught at the university where Copernicus was an undergraduate). Similarly, although Newton was giant, he invented neither his so-called first nor second law (that was Buridan again), nor the universal attraction law (as he himself insisted he did not).

Mis-attributing discoveries is not just a question of justice. It is a question of falsifying the causality chain of evidence, and the very way the human mind works. Thus it undermines science, by giving the impression “excellence” is just a matter of the solitary genius. In truth, “excellence” is a matter of civilization.

Actually Ms. Tu, who just got the Nobel in Medicine, pointed this out. By reading a two thousand year old treaty, she had realized that her method of preparation — boiling the wormwood — damaged the active ingredient. She then prepared it using an ether-based solvent, which boils at 35 degrees Celsius. When tested on mice and monkeys, it proved 100 percent effective.

Dr. Tu, with two colleagues, were the first human subjects. Suffering no ill effects, she conducted clinical trials with patients.

“We had just cured drug-resistant malaria,” Dr. Tu told New Scientist in an interview in 2011,“we were very excited.”

In spite of her very important success, Dr. Tu was later shunned by the Chinese scientific establishment, for her lack of a PhD. The “PhD” is a stamp certifying one belongs to a tribe.

However, researchers who are truly extremely original tend to not have a network, or less of a network (“scientists” and “thinkers” always exist; simply, in some periods of history, lasting centuries or more, they can all be wrong, in no small part from pleasing the oligarchies above… When the oligarchies themselves do not think that they think enough for all of society… As seems to be happening in the West presently, from lack of a dissenting intellectual class!)

Prasad gives a detailed example of how celebritism masks the thinking process:

“Consider James P. Allison, the winner of this year’s Lasker-DeBakey prize in clinical medical research. His work helped clarify one way cancer cells hide from the immune system.

Around 1990, a team of scientists found a protein on the surface of immune cells and proposed that it stimulated the immune system. Dr. Allison’s lab and a third group suggested that the protein put the brakes on immune responses. A fourth group confirmed that it halted the immune system, rather than stimulating it. Dr. Allison later showed that blocking this protein with an antibody could unleash an immune response in animals that could lead not only to rejection of but also immunity to many kinds of cancers. A decade later, similar antibodies to this protein and other related ones were found to prevail against several types of human cancers.

Dr. Allison’s work is surely impressive. But it occurred alongside and in dialogue with a number of related findings. Researchers analyzed the citations that led to Dr. Allison’s drug and concluded that it relied on work conducted by 7,000 scientists at 5,700 institutions over a hundred-year period. Yet only he was recognized.”

People are social primates, they are ambitious. The most meditative and contemplative ones tend to produce the breakthroughs, those who are more ambitious tend to exploit them.

Prasad: “The prize industry contributes to a deeper problem in scientific research: We throw resources at a privileged few who have already achieved enormous fame.

…80 percent of research funds in basic medical sciences are concentrated among the top fifth of researchers… We especially need to dispel this myth now because the scientific community is in the midst of a replication crisis. Nearly all published medical papers report significant or positive results, but many efforts to duplicate the findings failed… The regular occurrence of false leads also hints at the enormous role serendipity plays in discoveries, which some Nobel Prize winners have acknowledged in their acceptance speeches. In one study of 101 basic science discoveries published in top journals that claimed a drug had promise, just five led to approved drugs.

… science is hard. It’s like exploring an unknown land; we’ll never know whether over the next hill lies an expansive vista or just another hill. A finding that seems mundane or trivial may become immensely important years later… Or we could break up big prizes and give out many smaller awards. This may be more effective in supporting science, a view shared by Terence Tao, a mathematician who won $3 million from the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics but tried to talk the man who gave it to him into spreading it around to more people. Alternately, instead of giving out big science awards, let’s use the prize money to study better ways to fund science.”

I have excoriated the Breakthrough Prize (although Tao himself is a great mathematician competing with computers… Some of the “discoveries” that prize celebrated are probably… errors).

Prize money is not about science. It’s about celebrating the oligarchic principle. If we want a great scientific society, we need a great scientific mood, all over the land. And that means, first of all, no BS.

Today the physics Nobel was given for the oscillation of neutrinos. For the reason that authorities (of physics) had proclaimed neutrinos had no mass (that augmented the authorities of the authorities, as they were talking as if they were gods), it had been decided neutrinos could not oscillate (until major discrepancies were found in the Sun’s output).

Can we colonize Mars? Interestingly, there is a connection with a refined knowledge of neutrino physics. At least, so I think.

We do not just like science, because our species evolved into truth machines. Truth has always been necessary to, although not sufficient for, survival. With existing technology, and the eight billion humans we enjoy, we can neither quite colonize Mars, nor survive on Earth (except as a much more reduced population).

Science is not a call, it’s a life raft. The one and only. And thus less folly in its financing is not just a question of reason, but of morality. Pure and simple.

Patrice Ayme’

Art, Philosophy, Science: Joy Of Knowledge

July 9, 2015

As Ludwig Van said: “O Freunde, nicht diese Toene! Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen und freundenvollere!” (“Oh friends! Not these tunes! Instead let’s strike more pleasant and friendly sounds”)  [My translation of Beethoven’s 9th lyrics introduction.]

Oh friends, not this Germanoid Greek Euro tragi-comedy! Enough of those critters so unworthy, they can’t conceive of themselves, independently of America!

Considered abstractly, and in essence, philosophy, art, science, and even engineering are extreme aspects of general cognition.

This Is Not Just Art, But Discovery. Grotte Chauvet.

This Is Not Just Art, But Discovery. Grotte Chauvet.

[Chauvet cave is up to 32,400 years old, according to Carbon 14 studies; some of the paintings are 12 meters wide, more than 3 meters tall; the cave was discovered just 20 years ago. Picasso once said after exiting the Lascaux cave back in 1940 that “we have discovered nothing”.]

When intellectual property lawyers describe inventions, they use the term “art”. Was the art innovative?

Each of philosophy, art, science, engineering is both knowledge and method. They are tied together, and go together being the opposite poles of cognition. Science as a body of knowledge, is what is known, for sure. Philosophy, as a body of knowledge, is what ought to be true.

Science as a method is the category (Aristotle!) of all ways to ascertain what is absolutely true.

Science, as a category of established facts, enables a plane to successfully take off, more than once a second, worldwide.

Philosophy, as a method, determines not just what “ought” to be true morally, but what “ought” to be true, as an educated guess. Thus, all and any application of the scientific method, requires the philosophical method. The philosophical method is the first approach, always.

An obvious, and state-of-the-art example, is the notion of infinity, where the debate is not just still on-going, after 25 centuries. Progress is made, in the sense that logical subtleties, which lay uncovered for millennia, were recently revealed. Uncovered for the first time, just as those Chauvet lions. Looking differently at Archimedes’ axiom, 23 centuries old, Model theorists discovered something new about numbers. (Model Theory is a part of pure logic which interface strongly with mathematics; actually I just found, as per Archimedes himself, that it should be called Eudoxus Axiom.) I have proposed to go much further with a different philosophical insight in Number Theory (in still another direction Archimedes could not have imagined).

And what of art in all this? Well, it’s the third pole of cognition, where emotion finds truth, before philosophy and, a fortiori, science, ever can. More than the logos, it depicts, or resounds with, the logics of emotion.

Both art and philosophy need just one fact, one intuition, to make a world. Science finds, painstakingly and patiently, what this world is really made of. Just as patiently and painstakingly, mathematics imagine, what this world is really made of. And then philosophy and art lash back further far out.

Cognition is one, approaches to it, and possibilities, are many. There are many possible worlds in our future minds than we can imagine, and they will blossom, as long we take joy in doing what we do best: “Plus Oultre” (“Plus Ultra”)!

Patrice Ayme’

With Physics Like That, Who Needs Reality?

June 9, 2015

The quest for reality has been exemplified by science. However:

From a recent New York Times op-ed, “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics:”

“DO physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories?

You may think that the answer is an obvious yes, experimental confirmation being the very heart of science. But a growing controversy at the frontiers of physics and cosmology suggests that the situation is not so simple.”

In December 2014 famous physicists George Ellis and Joseph Silk, published in the journal Nature…Scientific Method: Defend the Integrity of Physics…Attempts to exempt speculative theories of the Universe from experimental verification undermine science.”

Science is immensely old. I pointed this out for dogs in “Very Ancient Relationships“. The Ancient Greeks had more than six breeds of cattle which had been evolved in Greece, specifically, to genetically modify them in a suitable manner:

Obtained By Ancient Greece Artificial & Natural Selections

Obtained By Ancient Greece Artificial & Natural Selections

[The Greeks were famous for their mix of natural and artificial selection of cattle.]

Ellis and Silk wrote that:

“This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue — explicitly — that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical. We disagree. As the philosopher of science Karl Popper argued: a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.

Actually, Ellis and Silk are completely wrong there. The theory that the Earth turned around the Sun, originated by Aristarchus of Samos (a Greek island in sight of Anatolia, presently swamped by refugees). Its competitor was the geocentric theory. However, there was a strong argument against geocentrism: it stretched credulity. Indeed, the Greeks could compute that the Sun was much much larger than the Earth. It made sense that the little thing turned around the big thing as Buridan pointed out (around 1330 CE). To this geocentrists could only reply with silly arguments such as: man and his creator are big, etc.

So Karl Popper was also wrong. In the most spectacular case.

The Heliocentric Theory was a full blown scientific theory, so was the Geocentric Epicycles. However only a careful study of the illumination of the phases of Venus showed definitively that the the latter was wrong. This happened only in the mid-Seventeenth Century.

Ellis and Silk: “Chief among the ‘elegance will suffice’ advocates are some string theorists. Because string theory is supposedly the ‘only game in town’ capable of unifying the four fundamental forces, they believe that it must contain a grain of truth even though it relies on extra dimensions that we can never observe. Some cosmologists, too, are seeking to abandon experimental verification of grand hypotheses that invoke imperceptible domains such as the kaleidoscopic multiverse (comprising myriad universes), the ‘many worlds’ version of quantum reality (in which observations spawn parallel branches of reality) and pre-Big Bang concepts.”

In other words, many leading physicists are arguing for leaving behind the search for evidence, the old fashion way, leaving no stone unturned, just like smart prehistoric men did. Instead:

“These unprovable hypotheses are quite different from those that relate directly to the real world and that are testable through observations — such as the standard model of particle physics and the existence of dark matter and dark energy. As we see it, theoretical physics risks becoming a no-man’s-land between mathematics, physics and philosophy that does not truly meet the requirements of any.

The issue of testability has been lurking for a decade. String theory and multiverse theory have been criticized in popular books1, 2, 3 and articles…. In March 2014, one of the founders of inflation theory, theorist Paul Steinhardt wrote5 in Nature that “the theory of inflationary cosmology is no longer scientific because it is so flexible that it can accommodate any observational result”.

As I said above, Popper was wrong: falsifiability is neither necessary, nor sufficient to qualify a theory as scientific.

Another example of untestable theory was biological evolution through natural selection: they Greeks knew it to be true. One can read the theory explicitly stated in Lucretius’ giant poem about the universe. However the Greeks did not. know how to test it. The only tests they knew were indirect, they had to do with ARTIFICIAL selection.

Still biological evolution was a valid scientific theory, although untestable for millennia, and perhaps even hundreds of thousand of millennia. Many a shaman is bound to have stumbled upon it.

New York Times: “Implicit in such a maneuver is a philosophical question: How are we to determine whether a theory is true if it cannot be validated experimentally? Should we abandon it just because, at a given level of technological capacity, empirical support might be impossible? If not, how long should we wait for such experimental machinery before moving on: ten years? Fifty years? Centuries? …

Are superstrings and the multiverse, painstakingly theorized by hundreds of brilliant scientists, anything more than modern-day epicycles?”

Not even that. Epicycles were useful and observable. They actually are true in some sense, because they reflect Fourier Analysis of periodic motions.

Today’s most brandished “scientific” theories have nothing good about them, and worse of all, they don’t pass the smell test. Just as the Geocentric Theory did not pass the smell test. Just much worse. Theories were a gazillion universes get created in every cubic millimeters are just insane. Arguable even more insane as the worst from Daesh.

And guess what? Both insanities are related. If all what our supposedly best minds, our most rational, most scientific minds can produce, and brandish, is sheer insanity, why can’t Islam Fundamentalists, Saudi despots, North Korean dictators, and hordes of degenerated plutocrats not be crazy too?

So why not go with the flow? There are jobs to be had there. Saudi Arabia is looking for more eight more executioners to execute those who “insult Islam“. No experience necessary. Just a willingness to whip and “amputate”.

Patrice Ayme’

Humans: Naturally Born Scientists

June 5, 2015

Philosophers, through the ages, have tried to distinguish man from beast. The soul was suggested as a possible distinction (that was an old Middle Age theory, later adopted by Descartes). Tool usage was proposed (Bergson). And then language was offered as characteristic of humans. But animals were found to have theories of mind, tools, and language. How is man going to feel proud and different?

What about science? Does the inbred ability to produce it characterize us? I think so.

What Is Science? It Is Not To Be Confused With Scientific Theories:

Science is the body of certain facts. Science is the body of facts which have been proven experimentally to be true.

Curiously, many people do not get this simple statement. Is it because primary school is not taught adequately?

We Have Been Scientists, All Along, Ever More

We Have Been Scientists, All Along, Ever More

Science is the body of certain facts. Science is the body of facts which have been proven experimentally to be true. How hard is it to understand this?

Newtonian Mechanics for example is science because, within its domain of application, all its predictions are, and have been proven to be, indeed, what is observed.

Same thing for classical thermodynamics: facts are predicted, and observed to be true, time and time again. Same thing for continental drift: it predicts that continents are moving, and they are observed to move, indeed. At the exact rate predicted.

Biological evolution, too, is science. It says species have evolved. This is indeed what is observed. Thus, evolution is science. It’s not just a theory. Biological science says even more: that species are still evolving, as observed.

And so on:

Science is the body of facts which have been proven time and time again, to be indeed, occurring.

Then there are so-called “scientific” theories.

Scientific Theories Are Not Science, But, First, Theories:

Theory means: a point of view. Theories are not just facts anymore, but a way to organize them according to a perspective. That calls onto pieces of logic which are not proven. A “scientific” theory can be made of a mumbo-jumbo of facts, and completely unproven, even outrageous hypotheses.

Evolution is science. But scientific theories of how this evolution exactly happens are debatable, and debated. They are not sure. They are just theories. (Is evolution just from “natural selection”, haphazardly, or is there more, such that intelligent steering by Quantum epigenetics, as I believe?)

Most Quantum mechanics is science: it’s a set of rules, a logos, which has been checked, time and time again. However, as soon as one steps a bit away from it, it becomes uncertain (for example the Many Interacting World, MIW, a theory is handy, but it assumes that particles are points; that latter point is not a proven, certain fact).

String Theory, Supersymmetry, Multiverse, for example, are theories which include some “scientific” or “mathematical” facts. But they cannot even be checked, let alone capable of making predictions which are observed.

So those “scientific theories” are not “science”. They make a body of knowledge of some sort, like a game. But they are not allowing to make predictions observed in nature.



There are so-called “demarcation problems“, always. It happens within science: Newtonian Mechanics makes superbly exact predictions about where space probes go as engineers use planets as slings to launch them further. However, if one wants to find out about GPS drift, one has to use the more general version of gravitation of Einstein (the latter reduces exactly to Newtonian Mechanics inside the solar system; so the theory changes from Newton, for rockets, to General Relativity (GR), for GPS).

A more subtle demarcation is found, within the body of any given science. For example, part of Einstein theory of gravitation is science, as it predicts exactly what is exactly observed (say with the Geo Positioning System). However, the same set of ideas when applied to, say, Black Holes, comes short: it runs out of enough ideas to make exact predictions, runs out of experiments to be checked, and observed facts.

Thus the theory of gravitation, GR, is science (the closest one stays to Newton), and also a hoped-for scientific theory (but not as disconnected from reality as String Theory, Susy, Multiverse, etc.). However, GR, as a general scientific theory, has disappointed: the unified theory which Einstein tried to develop did not work. (Instead it morphed into something else the general fiber space theory with Ehresman connections, known as Gauge Theory, also know as Quantum Field Theory, etc.)


Science is what we know for sure:

How do we know that a logic is true, for sure? By conducting experiments.

By that token, archery was a science (launched just right, an arrow goes where it’s supposed to). Archery later blossomed into gunnery, ballistics, Newtonian Mechanics. Nowadays we would not consider archery as a science, but it’s among the simplest cases of dynamics.

For millions of years, our ancestors have used plants to help with their health. (Ethology has shown many animals do this, not just upper primates.) At this point, around 60% of our medical drugs come from plants.

The European iceman was found carrying general purpose antibiotics. Not by accident. He died more than 5,000 years ago.

And so on. Science is what is sure. We have been sure for a long, a very long time. If we were not so sure, we could not do much.

An artisan making a work perfectly is a scientist, in the particular domain in which this artisan excels. A prehistoric man striking a stone, just so that the force would split a crystal perfectly along pre-determined planes, was a scientist. A rock scientist. He, or she, was engaging in an application of a science we now know as crystallography. (And also in the theory of the mechanical forces, vector calculus.)

Humanity has blossomed, because humanity has learned how to establish, for sure, certain truths which required artificially devised experiments, and the proclivity to push the last frontier of truth, ever more, by being ever more subtle.

We evolved to become an intentionally scientific, that is, prone to experiment, species.


And philosophy and its philosophical method, in all that? It’s the category of all the wild guesses, absolutely indispensable to suggest the next experiments, to feed tomorrow’s truths.


Science Is Starting To Address Ethics, And Theory Of Mind:

Long the rage smoldered between the so called “humanities” and science. How obsolete. Clearly science is making inroads in the humanities, and clearly the humanities can ask pointed questions to physics, biology, even engineering. Let’s consider the first point, how science is informing humanities.

There is a science called ethology. It comes from “ethos” which means character. Ethology is the logic of character. Ethos also gave the notion of ethics.

Ethology originally was the study of character of animals, from their objective behavior. A number of methods pertaining to the field were developed, Nobel Prizes in biology and medicine were awarded to ethologists.

Then, in the following decades, it dawned on ethologists that the methods of ethology could be extended to the study of the human character.

This is why I am surprised when I hear that one needs a metaphysics to have an ethics. Instead, ethics is something that is determined by the bottom up (instead of top down).

First, through trial, error, and natural selection, human ethology evolved in the last 500 million years. Nature played scientist to evolve us.

Second, human beings observe, and make theories, even social and ethical theories, and then they apply what is basically the scientific method to them.

The scientific method consists in establishing with reasonable certainty facts. As it becomes ever more subtle, it can address ever more sophisticated domains, which used to be exclusively philosophical.

An example? The Theory of Mind. That is a subject long exclusively philosophical. However, scientific research published in recent years showed that children exposed to a second language have, in the average, a better theory of mind. Here is a fresh example, published in 2015:

Here is an abstract of the research:

HUMAN beings are not born with the knowledge that others possess minds with different contents. Children develop such a “theory of mind” gradually, and even adults have it only imperfectly. But a study by Samantha Fan and Zoe Liberman at the University of Chicago, published in Psychological Science, finds that bilingual children, and also those simply exposed to another language on a regular basis, have an edge at the business of getting inside others’ minds… Some objects were blocked from the experimenter’s sight, a fact the children could clearly see. With a large, a medium and a small car visible to the child, but the small car hidden from the adult, the adult would ask “I see a small car” and ask the child to move it. Both bilingual and those in the exposure group moved the medium-sized car (the smallest the experimenter could see) about 75% of the time, against 50% for the monolinguals. The successful children were less likely even to glance at the car the experimenter could not see.

Why is this happening? Multilingual children observe that different languages provide with different perspectives, thus different theories (theory means literally, to “see” (horan) a “view” (thea)). So multilingual children are more apt to consider which view others see, when considering others.

Multilingual children have a theory of theories of behavior, and we can prove it scientifically. Epistemics” is now a science. And it informs morality.

We are the scientific species. No science, no man. Now, more than ever. And at last smart enough to understand what it means. It means: “Plus Oultre!”, as emperor Charles Quint put it, five centuries ago. Wherever we arrived, in place, time, or understanding, we have to go beyond. It’s not just what ecology requires, it’s what we are.

Patrice Ayme’

Tech, Science, Thinking, Stalled By Plutocracy

May 26, 2015


Technology, Energy, Science, Economy all entangled, & Stalled:

Some have observed tech is bringing up more hype than progress: we did not get flying cars, but 140 characters. Productivity is stagnating. The Internet hype led a devolution of thinking, for all to see. Some sites seem popular, mostly because they induce a parody of thinking (even on “academic” sites).

Against the will to stupidity, genius roars in vain.

So much of the “high Tech” is not truly high tech, or at least new tech. It’s no big deal, indeed. The “high tech” monopolies, with their “big data” will allow to make with robots what our ancestors used to have with domesticated animals (an ass, horse, or an ox are clever, and respond to voice commands, like the day after tomorrow’s robots).

There is not enough financing of the possible avenues of futuristic research. Here is one:

Real high tech would mean progress in energy production: this is the core of what defines our species. An obvious possibility, indeed, is thermonuclear fusion. H-Bombs work splendidly, and are very small. Making a thermonuclear engine has been difficult, but propulsion in space could turn around a lot of the difficulty we presently have.

Krugman noticed some of this in “The Big Meh” [I sent wise comments, therefore all censored by the New York Times; the Times later sent me kindly an unsolicited letter to justify its censorship; there is no excuse: the New York Times should not censor serious and cogent comments, this is a misuse of technology].

Krugman: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”… began with some technology snark, dismissing Earth as a planet whose life-forms “are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”… Since then we’ve moved on to much more significant things, so much so that the big technology idea of 2015, so far, is a digital watch…

O.K., I’m snarking, too. But there is a real question here. Everyone knows that we live in an era of incredibly rapid technological change, which is changing everything. But what if what everyone knows is wrong? And I’m not being wildly contrarian here. A growing number of economists, looking at the data on productivity and incomes, are wondering if the technological revolution has been greatly overhyped — and some technologists share their concern.”

We evolved as a technological species: weapon and tool usage precedes the apparition of Homo:

Technology preceded the apparition of Homo Erectus, two million years ago. So we can only conclude that technology, and its attached science, and scientific method, created the ecological niche in which Homo, even homo Erectus, evolved.

The fundamental evolutionary niche our very distant ancestors, pre-Homo Erectus, chose was to improve the quantity and quality of energy at our disposal. They went to explore, far from trees and cliffs, armed with stone tools and weapons, with a bias towards a much more carnivorous diet.

Technology and science are us. This is as human as we get. That does not mean anything goes. Just, that’s how humanity gets going.

Thus, our very evolution is entangled with our mastery of energy. Neanderthals used coal (lignite!) already 80,000 years ago. When our ancestors learned to domesticate animals and then invented agriculture, we improved our mastery of energy considerably. In the last 2,000 years, wood was progressively replaced by fossil fuels.

However, fossil fuels have become unsustainable. It is not just that they have put so much CO2 in the lower atmosphere, warming it, melting the ice, rising the seas, and into the ocean, making it acid.

The Return On Investment (ROI) of fossil fuels is now terrible. Major oil companies do not make much profits on new fields: they cost too much to find and exploit. Fracking makes money, but only because the states, and others, pay the price. Remember: 5.3 trillion dollars of fossil fuel subsidies out there.

However progress in economic matters is all about ROI in energy. Without energy we have no food, no shelter, we die.

We don’t have flying cars because we did not improve our mastery of energy as much as that would require (the very first plane, part of a French military program, did not fly very far: it used a heavy steam plant; shortly after, the internal combustion engine allowed to take-off more clearly; right now Airbus sells an electric plane, and intents to develop that technology much further).

Fundamental progress in energy technology has been stalled by lack of advances in fission, fusion, and batteries. Only solar photovoltaics is making really spectacular progress.

This stalling of major technological progress where it counts, in energy management is why society, and the planet, are threatened. This stalling is directly related to a dearth of fundamental research funding, itself related to the rise of a non-tax paying plutocracy. We are in whirlpool of disaster, and the greed of an oligarchy is its nature.

Patrice Ayme’

P/S: Latest News: Amazon Inc. just announced it would stop hiding its European profits in Luxembourg, and would set-up tax paying subsidiaries in various countries: it was threatened by incoming British and French laws. However, skepticism is widespread about the fine print in Amazon’s proposal…

The future was not stalled in the past: Contrarily to what happened around the era from, say, 1900 to 1970, when many futuristic technologies were researched; the USA operated nuclear rocket engines, France flew a “statoreacteur” (“ramjet”) plane, etc.; the inception of motorized flight, from the French steam plane, all the way to jet engines, took around 50 years!