Saturday, November 18, 2006

Did you know... (II)


... that the Baconian method is suitable also for vegetarians?


Sir Francis Bacon, born 1561 in London, began his professional life as a lawyer, but became best known for his early investigations about the method of science, called the Baconian method. In case you had never heard from that guy before, here is what you definitely know:

It was Bacon was is who concluded


Scientia potentia est.
(Knowledge is Power.)


~Francis Bacon, Meditationes Sacrae, 1597

The Baconian method essentially suggests you clear up your mind from all prejudices before you try to do science (Idols of The Mind: Tribe, Cave, Marketplace, Theater), and then approach the issue constructively (pars construens) in three steps:

  1. The table of presence ("tabula praesentiae") lists all the cases wherein the phenomenon exists whose formal cause is sought [...]
  2. The table of absence ("tabula absentiae") lists all the cases in which the phenomenon under analysis does not appear to be present [...]
  3. The table of degrees ("tabula graduum") lists the increase and decrease of the given phenomenon in one object or in different objects.

This third table [...], should bring us to know the formal cause (law) of the phenomenon itself. It is not always easy to arrive at a formulation of the law [...]. In such a case we must be content with a temporary or working hypothesis, and await new instances, new experiments."


The recent results from high redshift supernovae, and the implications for our knowledge about the nature of dark energy (constraints on the equation of state), are a nice example for 'new instances' that can be included in the 'tables'. Hopefully, the new data will eventually allow us to extend our current 'working hypothesis'. So far, dark energy still is essentially a parametrization for some mysterious component of our universe whose origin we don't understand - but a parametrization which works annoyingly well! For more info about the new supernovae data, see Sean's post at CV or Clifford's post at Asymptotia.

But back to Sir Francis: early in the year 1626, he applied his method of scientific research to investigate the possibility of using snow to preserve meat. While stuffing the chicken with snow, he contracted a fatal case of pneumonia, and died on April, 9th 1626.


See also: Wikipedia on the Baconian method



TAGS: , , ,

27 comments:

Plato said...

Just wanted to add Developing Character in Rhetoric and Composition.

Tabula rasa :(Latin: "scraped tablet", though often translated "blank slate") is the notion that individual human beings are born "blank" (with no built-in mental content), and that their identity is defined entirely by events after birth.

Plato said...

But on the other hand, if you weren't sucha blank slate?

Innatism

Innatism is a philosophical doctrine introduced by Plato in the socratic dialogue Meno which holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a tabula rasa at birth. It asserts therefore that not all knowledge is obtained from experience and the senses. Innatism is the opposite of empiricism.

Plato claimed that humans are born with ideas/forms in the mind that are in a dormant state. He claimed that we have acquired these ideas prior to our birth when we existed as souls in the world of Forms. To access these, humans need to be reminded of them through proper education and experience.

Anonymous said...

I just started reading your blog and found this entry particularly of interest from the perspective of a geologist. They make turkey bacon now, although turkey would have been in Sir Francis' tabula absentiae. He died before the first Thanksgiving.

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

Thanks for that! You are right, instead of talking about Idols, Francis Bacon should have started with a zeroth step: tabula rasa.

Herewith I declare you "The New Bacon" ;-)

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Btw: I thought 'tabula rasa' (Lat) means 'ein leere Tafel' (Ger) that is 'a clean/empty blackboard' (Eng)?

Bee said...

Hey Don,

thanks for stopping by... :-)

although turkey would have been in Sir Francis' tabula absentiae. He died before the first Thanksgiving.

Were there no turkeys before Thanksgiving?

Best,

B.

PS: Why the funny photo from a hammer?

Plato said...

Herewith I declare you "The New Bacon" ;-)

We are all "Bacon's" at Heart? But thank you, that was a compliment. :)

As to the definition break down(latin or Ger), word play and creativity are deeply attached to the...whole....nother....level.

Some think the mind/blackboard/glass room "if held open" will allow ideas to emerge. Where do these come from? The blank slate?

Bee said...

Hi Plato,

it was meant as a compliment - I don't think we need a New Einstein. If you ask me, there are already sufficient people running around proclaiming that Einstein was wrong. A new Bacon would maybe more helpful.

What's your view? Do you think that all knowledge we have is obtained during education, or that we are born with some connection to the universe? Do we make new ideas? Or do we just discover things that have been there waiting to be found? You know, novelists often say they don't invent their stories, but they just tell a story that was waiting to be told by someone who was able, and willing, to listen. Best,

B.

QUASAR9 said...

Not just novelists
Painters & Sculptors too are said to see the finished painting or culture even before they put paint on canvass or chisel marble stone.

Sort of like your life is on film, your life is a play, and you + I are just playing our part, we either do so against our will, or we do so 'enlightened' knowingly of our own free will,

hence, some actors play their part better (more gladly) than others, because they took the time to read the script, unlike some who are trying to play it by ear, or make it up as they go along. lol!

Good old Shakespeare:
"All the World is A Stage..."

QUASAR9 said...

After all are we not trying to unravel the mysteries of the Universe: physics, particle physics, astr-physics, stellar chemistry, biology, maths et al.

In physics, maths & other sciences, if it were not there, it could not be revealed, we could not reveal it.

and yet the paradox, much of what we reveal especially in literature and or history (herstory) and the news, is made up lies, lies and damn lies, falsehood, fantasy, hollywood, CNN, ... or very ephemeral half-truths as in sat navs which are always 18 months out of date, or even languages which are always changing, I don't just mean new additions and new words/names/terms - have you ever tried reading the original version of Shakespeare's plays

QUASAR9 said...

Funny though, you'd think Bacon would have been prepared for pneumonia messing with snow -
guess he was just too clever for his own health, or too engrossed (focussed) in his 'research' to notice the side effects of catching cold

Or maybe like intrepid explorers of antartica he was friven on relentlessly despite the cold and 'frostbite' - lol!

Arun said...

The corresponding vegetarian method is the Broccolian method. It leads to

Arun said...

It leads to movies like this one.

wolfgang said...

Ahh, Broccoli,

if you saw the latest Bond movie, then you know that the center of the evil conspiracy is The Ocean Club on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas.

This is about 3 minutes to walk away from where I am typing this.
I should check if I am part of the evil conspiracy 8-)

Bee said...

Hey Wolfgang! How's the weather? Does the axis of evil now extend to the Bahamas? Best,

B.

wolfgang said...

> How's the weather?
Right now it is perfect.

> Does the axis of evil now extend to the Bahamas?
Yes, in a Bond movie.

wolfgang said...

PS: The route he drives from the airport to The Ocean Club is a bit unusual (to say the least).
Maybe Bond lives in a different branch of the Multiverse?

Rae Ann said...

Hi Bee,

great post! If I may, I'd like to touch on the questions you asked plato.

"Do you think that all knowledge we have is obtained during education, or that we are born with some connection to the universe? Do we make new ideas? Or do we just discover things that have been there waiting to be found?"

I like Jung's ideas on archetypes and the "collective unconscious." It doesn't seem too far-fetched to say that there is some innate knowledge contained in our dna that has evolved along with our brains. Actually, it seems pretty natural. Of course, our brains are also capable of generating new (to us) ideas, and the more education we have the more material we have to create with. Your last question is more difficult. I think that largely, yes, we are just discovering what is already there, but it is with these discoveries that we build/construct new ideas, etc.

And maybe Bacon didn't die of pneumonia. Maybe it was some early form of bird flu?

Bee said...

Hi Rae Ann,

It doesn't seem too far-fetched to say that there is some innate knowledge contained in our dna that has evolved along with our brains.

Yes, that I find plausible. But this would then be a knowledge that about our life on earth only, and most likely nothing about the rest of the universe that doesn't actually affect our evolution? How could it? How would that ever show up in our dna?

I think that largely, yes, we are just discovering what is already there, but it is with these discoveries that we build/construct new ideas, etc.

I guess Plato would have something smart to say about 'what is already there' and the 'ideas'. I think Plato (the real one) used the word 'idea' in exactly the opposite meaning to how I use it. I use the word 'idea' for something that only allows us to describe and understand something that 'is already there', but isn't really 'what is already there'. Such a description might be possible in several ways, might be realized through several ideas, but to a certain degree they all describe the same thing. Just when you look closer and closer they start to differ - so, you need a better idea, or a better model...

Like, you know, one of these stupid analogies: Men are like... (...Parking Spots - All the good ones are taken, the rest are handicapped.... Plastic wrap - Cheap, clingy, and very easy to see through.... Horoscopes - They always tell you what to do and are usually wrong.... etc).

But when you look into the details, then men are just, well, MEN (alias, the biggest mystery of the universe.)

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Maybe Bond lives in a different branch of the Multiverse?

If I recall how frequently Mr. Bond breaks the laws of physics I know and love, he certainly does...

Best,

B.

PS: I think I need a vacation. Thinking about Florida with a trip to the Bahamas. Is it worth it?

Bee said...

Hi Arun,

my office-mate has scheduled me to see the Bond movie... Interestingly, not only is the producer's name Broccoli, but the director's name is Campbell. Should be quite a good ad for Campbell's Broccoli soup, eh?

Best,

B.

wolfgang said...

> Thinking about Florida with a trip to the Bahamas. Is it worth it?

If you are looking for tax-free investments it *might* be worth the trip, but if you are into scuba diving it is certainly worth it.

Rae Ann said...

Hi Bee,

"But this would then be a knowledge that about our life on earth only, and most likely nothing about the rest of the universe that doesn't actually affect our evolution? How could it? How would that ever show up in our dna?"

An example of an archetypal symbol that seems to be innate to humans is the spiral. Petroglyphs of spirals have been found all over the world, and spirals certainly are universal, not only on earth. The spiral is everywhere including our dna. *How* it would be encoded in our dna might have to do with evolution itself and the increasing complexity of organisms. It seems I've read that most of our dna is really considered kind of like leftover junk or fillers- not what actually makes us human, but maybe the 'knowledge' of archetypes or whatever comes from that 'stuffing' instead of the 'important' dna? But I'm just letting my imagination run a little wild here.

LOL, yeah, men. They are quite the mystery, but they can be fun to play with. ;-)

Thomas D said...

And how can we forget the film (oh, movie) 'Canadian Bacon'? Perhaps that might be a good description of one research field at the PI.

stefan said...

Dear Bee,

thank you for this exciting piece of useless knowledge ;-)

About the tabula rasa / blank slate: I finally looked up slate in the dictionary - it is Schiefer, that dark-gray stone blackboards used to be made of. Learned something :-). BTW, I remember I had a real small slate as a kid, although in school, we used already the plastics ones.

Bacon's end is really quite tragicomic - catching a deadly cold while experimenting on keeping food fresh by cooling... I have read this story, I remember, in a small popular book about the history of low-temperature physics. The book tells the story that hours before his death, he wrote in a letter to a friend that his experiment into the ability of snow to preserve the flesh of the chicken succeeded excellently well...

Besides this, I only know that one of his books has one of the most beautiful cover illustrations I know of...

Best, stefan

Plato said...

Well Stefan, maybe there is something of value in the arch of inductive/deductive operations?

And on idea's Bee,

Betrayal of Images" by Rene Magritte

There's a "diagram" there I set to the painting, as well as, another diagram here

Of course it may not be right, but what the heck...?

Tony Smith said...

Freeman Dyson, in his new book "The Scientist as Rebel", says about Bacon:
"... According to Bacon, scientists should experiment … and collect facts … until the accumulation of facts would make clear the way nature behaves. …"
which is consistent with Bee's statement of the Baconian method "... It is not always easy to arrive at a formulation of the law ... we must be content with a temporary or working hypothesis, and await new instances, new experiments."

Bee went on to say, about recent "new experiments" showing Dark Energy:
"... So far, dark energy still is essentially a parametrization for some mysterious component of our universe whose origin we don't understand - but a parametrization which works annoyingly well! ...".

An hypothesis that I like to think of as being Baconian is a "working hypothesis" of Dark Energy (DE), Dark Matter (DM), and Ordinary Matter (OM) being related to the conformal group used by Irving Segal in his cosmology, on the web at
http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/Aug06SuppDMDE.pdf
in which the ratio DE : DM : OM is calculated to be at the present time 0.75 : 0.21 : 0.04

Tony Smith
http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/