Science

Chaos can create order

Link: digg.

According to a computational study conducted by a group of physicists at Washington University in St. Louis, one may create order by introducing disorder. The physicists' research is not only hard to grasp for non-physicists, but puzzling for physicists, too. "Every physicist who hears this is surprised."

Pretty interesting!


Is Indian philosophy a broken clock?

Atanu Dey talks about how there is a convergence between modern cosmology and ancient Hindu wisdom:

The ancients in India dreamt all that stuff up, of course. And the physicists of today are dreaming more such stuff. And from time to time, there are surprising convergences between the two.

He quotes Carl Sagan, explaining the one episode of COSMOS focussed on India,

As far as I know [India’s] is the only ancient religious tradition on the Earth which talks about the right time-scale. We want to get across the concept of the right time-scale, and to show that it is not unnatural.

In the West, people have the sense that what is natural is for the universe to be a few thousand years old, and that billions is indwelling, and no one can understand it. The Hindu concept is very clear. Here is a great world culture which has always talked about billions of years.

 

Finally, the many billion year time-scale of Hindu cosmology is not the entire history of the universe, but just the day and night of Brahma, and there is the idea of an infinite cycle of births and deaths and an infinite number of universes, each with its own gods.

 

And this is a very grand idea. Whether it is true or not, is not yet clear. But it makes the pulse quicken, and we thought it was a good way to approach the subject.

I keep coming across such claims and from very respected people. About how Maharshi Kanad talked about atoms and molecules well before the modern science. About how Ayurveda had surgergical procedures well before modern medicine and so on. I don't doubt all this. In fact, I am pretty sure these claims are true.

But sometimes I wonder if Hindu (ancient Indian) philosophy is more like a broken clock. Getting it right exactly twice a day alright but its hands not moving at all!

Maybe we are all responsible for not making it move, busy as we are admiring its ancient wisdom. We have made it a vintage piece in a museum. Marvelous but dead!


Darwinism, anyone?

Link: EconLog, Resolving the Sibling Paradox, Bryan Caplan: Library of Economics and Liberty.

Intelligent critiques of evolutionary theory are extremely rare, but they do exist. Probably the best of the lot is philosopher David Stove. Stove has zero sympathy for religion; his complaint about evolutionary theory is that it makes false predictions.

In an excellent essay, "So You Think You Are a Dawinian?", he points out ten predictions/propositions of Drawinism that are obviously false:

 Most  educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians.  If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing   enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things,  especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.

....

I  give below ten propositions which are all Darwinian beliefs in the  sense just specified. Each of them is obviously false: either a  direct falsity about our species or, where the proposition is a  general one, obviously false in the case of our species, at least. Some of the ten propositions are quotations; all the others  are paraphrases.

...

1. The  truth is, ‘the total prostitution of all animal life, including  Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these  minute virus-like substances’, genes.
2    '…it is, after all, to [a mother’s] advantage that her child should be adopted’ by another woman.
3. All  communication is ‘manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender.’
4. Homosexuality  in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality  is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children.
5. In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings               towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism  (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring.
6.  '…no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers  [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins.'
7.  Every organism has as many descendants as it can.
8. In  every species, child-mortality - that is, the proportion of live births which die before reproductive age - is extremely high.
9. The  more privileged people are the more prolific: if one class in a  society is less exposed than another to the misery due to food-shortage,  disease, and war, then the members of the more fortunate class will have (on the average) more children than the members of the other  class.
10.  If variations which are useful to their possessors in the struggle  for life ‘do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals  are born than can possibly survive), that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance  of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we  may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed.’
...
The point, namely, that if most educated people now think they are Darwinians, it is only because they have  no idea of the multiplied absurdities which belief in Darwinism requires.

I absolutely loved David Stove's essay, "What is Wrong with Our Thoughts? A Neo-Positivist Credo", in which he tries to construct a nosology of human thought!


Is Global Warming really man-made?

Robert Matthews (in Telegraph) tells us that:

Two of the world's leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.

A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds.

Link: Adam Smith Institute Blog - Too hot for objectivity.


Simulation study about formation of ethnic enclaves

Via Sepia Mutiny, this post at GNXP discusses a simulation application to study how ethnic enclaves are formed:

Natural Intelligence has developed an application called the "Ethnic Simulator" that models the residential behavior of people in the hypothetical ethnically diverse city of Metropolis....

The premise of the Ethnic Simulator is that ethnically distinct groups have a modest preference to live among their own kind.

Link: Gene Expression: Race Against Time.

Go here to read the details about the Ethnic Simulator and download a freeware copy of the application.

You will find that the different groups congregate relatively quickly in their separate enclaves -- within about ten years. It is important to note that this occurs without any assumption of discrimination by one group against another! All that is required is that each group have a modest preference for its own kind.

One of the counter-intuitive results is that the preferences of the dominant majority do not make as much difference as the preferences of the minorities. Blues are the largest group (about 65%), so that they will tend to have mostly Blues for neighbors, no matter their preferences. But the preference of a small minority will cause its families to clump quickly into segregated neighborhoods.