Friday, September 28, 2007

Communication

Communication is the glue that holds our society together. It is the interaction that makes the whole more than a sum of the parts. Communication - over increasingly longer distances in space and in time - is maybe the most important factor that sets humans apart from other species, and allows us to very efficiently use acquired knowledge. The word 'communication' goes back to the Latin 'communicare', which means 'to impart, share' and has the same roots as 'common', 'community' and 'communism' [1].

An exchange of information between the sender and receiver is the goal of a successful communication, which in most cases takes place on many levels. If my neighbor's wife is upset I can tell even without understanding the words, and if my husband had a second glass of wine he strats mingling up lettersin his emials. (Yes, you do!)See?


Not all channels (phone, email, pantomime) support every form of communication. An essential part of communication is the feedback that allows the sender to find out whether a message was received (given that he is interested in finding out). The possibility for such feedback is the Web2.0's large potential. However, evolution has trained us for face-to-face communication, and the absence of this visual channel is a severe drawback. Together with a multitude of cultural and social backgrounds in the virtual community (that most often are unknown), this poses a difficulty which gets significantly enhanced by being unaware of the problem. Though there are notable efforts to make use of more communication channels on the internet [2], the written word has without doubt an enormous importance in online discussions.

Yet how many people manage to express themselves in the written form? Do I? How many people actually try to find out the message that a writer had? How efficiently can one do this without knowing the person, at least from reading more than a paragraph? If I look around me, I see a lot of people sending out badly encoded information that, if received, is never decoded. It's a failure on both sides. What I'm trying to say is...


Of course, most of our communication is casual and has not a high information density. Many of our daily exchanges have simple meta messages, like: small talk to make somebody feel comfortable, listening to stories we already know just to be polite, or asking the same question again even though nothing can be added to it (some call it research). This however relies on a shared social understanding (your way to be polite might be my way to be insulting) - a 'common' ground, that occasionally needs to be confirmed.

Unfortunately, today we also have to deal (... new email...) with an increasing amount of background noise (... haven't I already refereed that paper?...) that is as distracting (... seminar in five minutes, do I finish this post? ...) as annoying (... can I drop in around 3pm?...). Our attention span (... I think I misunderstood him, does that matter?...) is getting increasingly shorter (... was that already the hard deadline? ...). It takes patience to understand (...yes, I got your email, but I don't have time...), and in a world where being hot is cool (... can I call back later, I'm somewhat short on time...) and being busy makes you look important (... no time...), being connected is (...no time...) just another icon (...time...) in the (...time...) sidebar (...time... time... time...).
Can you read between the lines?

Hence, the glue that communication provides has turned our society into a strongly coupled system with long range interactions [3]. But the actual information exchange fails in many instances due to multiple causes. When a large part of communication fails (nobody understands me!) for unrecognized reasons (they are all stupid!), the 'Zoon Politikon' [4] makes mislead attempts to improve the situation. What characterizes our century is not communication, but trying to get attention by all means, be that paid links, deliberate insults, undressing on TV, or shooting several classmates before committing suicide (the feedback doesn't really work optimally in all examples). All these are more or less desperate tries to be heard, and to be understood.

Exchanging information on the other hand has become a self-purposeful action. It's not about the actual content of the information, but about passing it on. It's not about what you say, but whether you are the first to say it. You can see this in the internet, on TV, on the blogosphere and you can witness it sinking into scientific research: Credits are increasingly given to working on the hot stuff, and having good networking skills - the scientific community after all is only part of our society. All that exciting talk about the Web2.0 looks to me like exchanging information about exchanging information, and I am waiting for such a glueball to collapse and form a black hole.

Along with the opportunities the online community offers us there come dangers that, when they remain unrecognized, can hinder instead of support progress and a healthy society. As in many other cases, these dangers are known and have been pointed out, yet are not appropriately addressed. For example Daniel Goleman wrote in his contribution 'Cyber-disinhibition' to the Edge annual question 2006 'What is your Dangerous Idea?':

"The Internet inadvertently undermines the quality of human interaction, allowing destructive emotional impulses freer reign under specific circumstances [...] The tech problem: a major disconnect between the ways our brains are wired to connect, and the interface offered in online interactions.
Communication via the Internet can mislead the brain's social systems. The key mechanisms are in the prefrontal cortex; these circuits instantaneously monitor ourselves and the other person during a live interaction, and automatically guide our responses so they are appropriate and smooth [...] In order for this regulatory mechanism to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams)."


Research, as every other human activity, is affected by these developments, for better and for worse. The changes in our ways to communicate influence our daily lives noticeably. Yesterday, I sat in a seminar and looking through the audience I noticed there were several nodders among them. It's a funny habit I have myself, unconsciously nodding or shaking my had depending on whether I agree with the speaker. (Most of the time though I frown my forehead - in case I listen that is - but this is hard to tell if one sees others only from the back.) I have a friend who told me when he gives a talk he always picks out somebody to check whether he got his message across, and a frowned forehead dissolves into an AHA! Most often, he said, women are easier to read than men, and younger people easier than older people. This kind of feedback which can significantly improve the information exchange in talks poses a severe challenge for audio conferences (like e.g. the ILQGS). Understanding how human communication works best matters for our daily lives, also in the scientific community. If our ability to communicate is what sets us apart from other species on the planet, shouldn't we take great care for it to work optimally?

Maybe you are wondering why I am writing this. Well, at least I do. You see, besides my wish to share my thoughts and my hope for feedback (looking forward to your gluons), writing this blog is partly an autocommunication. And I had to notice lately that I've begun to only sloppily read other people's posts or comments before I leave a silly remark. Because in most instances it doesn't matter anyhow - the only fact people notice seems to be whether I leave a comment or not, nevermind the content. But I don't like myself for it. So here, besides trying to get my message across, I am telling myself I don't listen carefully enough, I am not patient enough, I fail to take into account other people's encoding system, and end up being insulted for no good reason. I deliberately misunderstand others and turn their words against them (I am really good with that). I don't take time enough to think about what others write (so that's why this blog is going slower the last months). Now that I am writing this, I think I should start listening to myself ;-)

Either way, despite my suspicion about the internet and its emerging properties, the glue it provides has without doubt opened exciting opportunities for our social lives. I - as many of you - got to know people all over the world, made friends online, and staying in touch is just a click away. Through this and other blogs, I had many interesting discussions, and learned a lot [5]. The Web2.0 definitely has a lot of potential, also for scientific research, and - if used wisely - can be a very powerful tool for our 'community': from Lat. communis "common, public, general, shared by all or many". You got it.

    "The problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished."


Meta: What I was trying to say
  • Successful communication requires effort on both sides, the sender and the receiver.
  • Most of online conversation happens in written form. Yet not everybody who writes is able to express himself clearly, and we don't all share a common social and cultural background to build upon. This significantly affects encoding and decoding. It requires patience and good will to have a constructive exchange.
  • Priority has been shifting from content of information to novelty of information. The exchange of information has become a self-purposeful action that (though it serves social purposes similar to small-talk) is of little value to increase knowledge.
  • The rapid technological developments of our century have a vast potential. But not all of these developments are necessarily good and can, if left without attention, lower instead of improve the quality of our lives.
  • These developments reflect in the scientific community.



[1] The German word 'Kommunikation' is essentially the same.
[2] That is only slowly extended to other means, like audio/video support for chats or use of avatars. SecondLive e.g. allows a set of hand gestures and facial expression. I personally like emoticons a lot :-). They efficiently abbreviate lengthy explanations to indicate a joke or a confusion. Unfortunately, they are considered silly and not suitable for a 'serious' communication. But seriously, how many discussions you had online went seriously wrong because a joke wasn't properly decoded?
[3] High viscosity.
[4] Unfortunately, the
Wikipedia site to 'Zoon Politikon' seems to exist only in German. The expression 'Zoon Politikon' (greek. ζῷον πολιτικόν, 'social animal') goes back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who used it to characterize human beings as animals that build social communities. According to his philosophy, the embedding in and organization of the communtiy is essential to the development and fulfilment of the human existence.
[5] If only about human communication ;-)



TAGS: , ,

56 comments:

Garrett said...

First post! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Bee,

Interesting and thought provoking post, I must admit I scrolled down to the "meta" after about 30% of reading through.

physically, comunication is every kind of event that can make something happen elsewhere...right?

C can happen through magnetic fields. #The dynamic microphone makes a coil vibrate in motion relative to a magnet. #An electric field does the tric in a condenser microphone, charged plates in relative motion. #Photons in fibreoptic cables makes for the backbone of the Internet, and yes! #you could "rattle" the moon to the tunes of "An die Freude" and hear the signal through an accelerometer on earth.

And how about entanglement? a useful means of comunication or not?

best

Klaus

Rae Ann said...

Thanks for this. You're so right that without visual clues it's very difficult to really know the intentions behind the words. That is why I try to be as clear and direct as possible, but that probably comes across as snappy or curt to some. But really, if I want to come across that way I'll choose the words that usually imply it. And sometimes it's even necessary to be rude and explicit. ;-) However, I find it as painful and difficult to have to do that as it might be to witness it happening. And that doesn't happen without some provocation. Well, anyway, it's always best to be honest and sincere, even if others find that uncomfortable or difficult to understand. I like emoticons too. :-)

Stephen Luttrell said...

Q. CAN YOU HEAR ME?

A. YES!

Bee said...

Hi Garrett:

*think* trying to decode that. Let me see: "I've been reading your blog, and now I know why you've been running away from the wine & cheese early". Fairly efficient your code ;-)

Hi Klaus:

Thanks for dropping in :-)

I must admit I scrolled down to the "meta" after about 30% of reading through.

Too bad. What I was trying to say is I'm not using all these words because I want to punish the reader, but because I find them necessary to explain the context, and to make the point. I can very well state my opinion in one or two sentence, but what good is that without an explanation, without an opportunity for a dialogue?

Regarding entanglement: who is sender, who is receiver and what is the information being transported?

Hi Stephen:

There is hope for mankind :-) You won a link in the sidebar. Have a nice weekend,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Rae Ann,

That is why I try to be as clear and direct as possible

I like your writings. You are very much to the point, and know how to get your message across. If I read your blog, I know what I'm at. Best,

B.

Garbarge said...

If that was about comunication, the post was a bit too long :) . Something I've learned throughout the years is stick to short emails and *one sentence* ideas. If you cant say it in a few words then there is not full understanding... :)

Garrett said...

Oh, I didn't know why you left early -- but I didn't question it or draw any offense since it seemed in character. (You're even more inclined towards introversion than I am, and I'm a hermit!) Mostly I read your detailed description of the benefits and problems with modern communication over the net, and tried to think up the most insightful and humorous comment I could make, which turned out to be "First Post!" My comment was utterly inane and devoid of information, of course, but that was the whole point. It's in my character that my humor has no lower bound. And now you have struggled to read more into it, which makes it even better in the context of your post, or worse, depending on perspective.

I did learn something from your post though. Your style of learning seems to be that you try to poke holes in things as you go along -- looking for inconsistencies. That's good, since proving things wrong is our job. It had me confused at first though why you were focusing on things right off the bat with this E8 connection theory that you thought might be bad, until I realized this is your general approach, and a good one. So now I'll understand better that when you kick my baby in the head, you're just trying to get to know it. ;) I think she can take it. But if not, better to find out sooner than later. And there are many things about it I don't understand well, so kicks from directions I haven't thought of do help.

Garrett said...

P.S. My computer's name is Eddie.

rafa said...

Hi Bee, you've already explained some time ago what good communication is
"......unless you can explain it to your grandmother." ~ Albert Einstein "

best

Plato said...

Ah but Bee.....sometimes, it is an "artistic effort"(Shakespearean perhaps) that we can push "other minds" to see beyond "certain communicative limitations?" :)

QUASAR9 said...

"It's not about what you say, but whether you are the first to say it."

lol, sadly true - the old adage:
no one remembers the name of the second man to 'step' on the Moon (supposing man has walked on the moon, of course)

I once did a direct (Real Time)translation of a documentary movie by a New Yorker about the first moon landing - many moons ago - at a film festival in Merida, Venezuela, and was amazed at how many of the public came to me afterwards and told me they had until then thought it had all been staged.

"You see, besides my wish to share my thoughts and my hope for feedback (looking forward to your gluons), writing this blog is partly an autocommunication."

Me too, I or rather my blog is slowly turning into an updated catalogue of Nebula, blackgoles and exotic phenomena.

the only fact people notice seems to be whether I leave a comment or not, nevermind the content.

Some people want to be read, some want to 'know' they've been read, a quick hello or comment is all some posts or blogs want (or merit)

Others stimulate or encourage, promote and welcome debate. Of course one has to be open minded about noise to signal ratios. Cosmic Variance has been good at that - welcoming comments from amateurs, would & should not discourage comments from more serious commenters who have anything important to add.

Being too selective about comments can leave one in a lonely & barren or 'empty space' - Not everyone has time to talk high brow maths or high energy physics with lesser mortals. And not many are attracted to high brow maths or high energy physics outside work.

Tomasso at A Quantum Diaries Survivor makes a nice attempt to make things more easily digestible

As with everything it is horses for courses - but anyone who attempts to make the complex simple or more approachable and understandable to the general public will get more readers.

That is an art form in itself. After all even when one is talking to students one has to start with lesson One (and repeat it every term or academic year) to reach the final phase, somewhere down the road. And the better lesson One is understood, the easier lesson Two becomes.

As for being the first, someone was the first to propose the big bang, or to talk of the planck scale, or strings M-Theory and other dimensions - but none has given us GUT, yet

I'd still be interested in reading more of your thoughts on Quantum Gravity and how gravity can or is counteracted. After all I'm not quite sure why this 'dark energy' is said to be pushing galaxies apart - or how.
If the space between two galaxies is growing, could it not simply be that the attraction (or gravity) is stronger (a stronger force) on their opposite sides.

QUASAR9 said...

Mysterious, unidentified burst of radio energy baffles astronomers
“The burst appears to have originated from the distant Universe and may have been produced by an exotic event such as the collision of two neutron stars or the last gasp of a black hole as it evaporates completely,” Lorimer said.

Supposing Blackholes 'evaporate' of course - what happens to that region of space if there is no longer that massive (and dense) gravity 'curving' space - the mass dispersed as particle energy or particulate dust.

What would happen to the solar system if the Sun not only ran out of fuel in billions of years time - but 'evaporated'

Bee said...

Hi Garbage:

If that was about comunication, the post was a bit too long :) . Something I've learned throughout the years is stick to short emails and *one sentence* ideas. If you cant say it in a few words then there is not full understanding... :)

Well, I too have learned that (therefore the 'meta' in the end'), but the whole point of the post is expressing my disliking of this development.

Getting a message across in little words is not always possible, and even if, it requires a talent for writing that not everybody has. Besides this, what I was trying to say is I'm not using all these words because I want to punish the reader, but because I find them necessary to explain the context, and to make the point. I can very well state my opinion in one or two sentence, but what good is that without an explanation, without an opportunity for a dialogue?

See, the question that I am facing here is do I reduce my blog to a standard that seems to have overtaken the internet, which is the fast food equivalent of writing? Yes, I know this would get me more readers, and I think I am able to produce a sufficient amount of monthly shallow and entertaining words that are aligned roughly in the right order. But I see no point in doing this. What good is having more readers if I can't communicate to them what I actually want to say?

Best,

B.

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

If you ask me - and you did not, but I'll answer anyway - please don't make the blog an end in itself. If it is a spin-off of everything else that you do, then the number of posts, number of readers, etc., is irrelevant.

Bee said...

Garrett! I couldn't kick a teddybear, not to mention a baby (worse, somebody else's baby). I would have put it this way: you've handed me a piece of a puzzle now I'm turning it around trying to figure out what to do with it. I'm not always as nasty as I was the last days. I'm just somewhat short on time and figured since you're around the easiest way to understand the stuff would be bugging you. see you,

B.

Bee said...

You're even more inclined towards introversion than I am, and I'm a hermit.

Rumors say there are people at PI even more introvert than I am. But one never gets to see them (you know, those that sit in the basement and write the papers).

B.

Bee said...

Hi Quasar:

Some people want to be read, some want to 'know' they've been read, a quick hello or comment is all some posts or blogs want (or merit)

Yes, sure. I too have a lot of posts that actually don't say much, and don't ask for anything than a *lol* :-) which is always nice to get. Your blog seem to have a lot of readers, friends that give you feedback - it is always nice to check out your comment section, I like the atmosphere there.

Regarding dark energy, ah yes, at some point I meant to put together some lines on it. However, I still haven't really made up my mind on the matter, so it might take some more while.

If the space between two galaxies is growing, could it not simply be that the attraction (or gravity) is stronger (a stronger force) on their opposite sides.

The problem is you can't do that for the whole universe. If the space between all galaxies is growing there is no 'opposite'. Also you might take into account that the gravitational force inside a shell of mass vanishes (a consequence of Birkhoff's theorem, but you already have that in Newtonian gravity. If the earth was hollow, there was no gravitational force in the inside, see e.g. here). It has nothing to do with the Faraday effect, but imagine it like this. You put a sphere of mass around an object, then it will *not* exert a force on the object directed to the outside. Thus, it's not possible to fake negative pressure this way.
Best,

B.

Bee said...

Dear Arun:

As so often, you're somewhat ahead of me, answering questions I haven't even yet asked myself ;-) One reason for writing this blog is that I like to explain physics stuff, and it's always good to know where the difficulties are in understanding concepts that we use (feedback!). I hope it's as useful for the reader to hear what theoretical physicists are thinking about as it is for me to realize where my explanations lack clarity.

The other reason is that I simply like writing. So, many of the posts are outcomes of questions that were on my mind (label: random thoughts), and writing down helps me clear my head. Even better if I can bounce it off other people, which sometimes works very nicely with the blog (works better with the not-so-scientific topics obviously). Rather selfish, isn't it? Well, I hope the readers have some fun along the way, and maybe I give one or the other something to think about.

So, the number of readers isn't completely irrelevant, but I'm not striving to maximize it. Actually, when it comes to the number of comments, if it was much more, I couldn't answer them any more. This is something that annoys me at larger blogs, e.g. at CV - most of the discussion is actually among the commenters and not with the author of the post you commented to. There have been various occasions where I left comments/criticism to a post, and the only reply that ever came was from other people saying he/she might have meant so-or-so or mayby this-and-that. And what's the point in that? Clifford over at Asymptotia on the other hand, seems to meticulously address every single comment, which gives the reader the feeling of being taken seriously.

Sorry, that was a rather long answer to a short comment. The bottomline is that the posts on this blog stay what they are, even if many readers think they are too long, too out-of-date, too weird, or too I-don't-know-what. After all, nobody is forced to read them.

Have a nice weekend,

B.

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

I hope you have and are able to use the opportunity to teach (maybe extra-curricular?) a small set (four-five) of bright undergraduate or graduate students.

IMO, that is far more effective than a blog :)
-Arun

Arun said...

Dear Bee,
Don't get me wrong, I would shed some tears were you to stop blogging.

Just trying to keep one step ahead as always :) :)
Best,
-Arun

Uncle Al said...

The first step in successful communication is separating data from information. Remember Sturgeon's Law and 90% of your problem disappears. (Alas, Sturgeon was an optimist. A 90% cull still leaves 90% to cull.)

stefan said...

Dear Bee,


thank you for the new set of photos, and the very thoughtful post! I admit that I was tempted to skip to the "executive summary" at the end (maybe I should add something like that to my posts also), but that would have meant, as always, missing a great and well-written text!

When I was in high school in the sixth grade, our German class teacher always plotted schemes on the blackboard: "sender - channel - receiver", and I never quite understood what he wanted to convey, and what should be so special about this... He was a bit ahead of our twelve-year-old minds...

By the way, "Kommunikation", to my German-listening ears, always implies two-way exchange - meaning, expressions like "communicating science", or "communicating decisions" (the sense of the word in which rafa is using it) don't come to my mind when speaking of communication as you do it in this post.

I have had some of the thoughts you express so clearly in this post when reading through the long comments of the "Aftermath" post. I had the impression of there of some not-so-efficient communication, and was wondering how this might come. I guess one of the reasons why it takes an effort to have a fruitful debate in the comments section of a blog is that it takes really time and energy to read and try to understand what others have written, and more energy and time to write down clearly what one wants to say.

The problem comes, as you say, from the missing "extra channels" of communication - gestures, mimic, but already such elementary a thing as intonation. I have read more then one sentence in a blog that I had understood in a completely different way than intended, just because a different intonation could change the meaning. That this can happen is, I guess, because we often assume, maybe unconsciously, that blogs and their comments are some kind of casual, verbal communication, what they are not. As a result, we tend to write a bit carelessly, as we would speak, and do not re-read. what we have written. But in fact, blogs and their comments are very different from verbal communication, because essential communication channels of verbal communication are simply not available...

Another aspect, related to this misunderstanding of the nature of the scriptural communication on blogs, is the time aspect: we often write down comments fast, as we would say something fast. While we cannot catch the spoken word, it is quite easy in a verbal communications to add a more precise formulation of what one wants to say. In a blog comment, everything stays written as it is (unless we delete our imprecise formulations), and not everyone may take note of later clarifications. This means that one should write very to the point and precisely right from the beginning, what is not always so easy and takes an effort...

By the way, I managed to avoid to much typos although I had a glass of wine ;-)

A nice Sunday to all of you,

Stefan

QUASAR9 said...

ok Bee, I'll try to be brief
nice to have loads of comments, but as you (and Stefan) point out, this requires more time and energy to read or reply to.

I suspect at CV they are selective about which comments they bother to read - depending on how much time they have to doodle or kill...

The same for all of us, we will visit sources of information or other blogs according to what we are searching for or how much time we have - and needless to say with our limited minds, we still do not have time to read everything we want to be up to date on, and we read (or engage in) small talk as we walk or surf thru the day. Where an asteroid hit, which country has been invaded by who, where Madonna is playing tonite...

As for nuances, amazing really that even when communicating information, even science, what emotions can be raised via the written word - whether you are from the pro or anti camp.

PS - Bee, I meant if one galaxy (billions of light years away) appears to be redshifting away (from our point of view), it does not by 'necessity' require conjuring up a dark energy that is gently pushing galaxies apart. And where is the said dark energy when two galaxies collide. And if the universe is expanding (supposing this dark energy is like the water on earth - the analogy simply being it is what is in between visible land) would said dark energy not become more diffuse and less dense.

Or is the source of dark energy something more exotic and out of this world, from a parallel sister universe - lol!

Anonymous said...

Dear Bee,

To continue what Arun says above - could you please enlighten this (and possibly many others as well) graduate student who is about to become a postdoc? (I work in Cosmology - data analysis, simulations and instrumentation).

Cheers
S

Bee said...

Dear Stefan:

The topic of this post has been on my mind for a longer time, but yes, it goes partly back to the Aftermath comment section, though more notably to Tommaso's sexist scandal that lead Arun to remark it's "On the whole a massive failure in communications.".

As you say the missing "extra channels" of communication - gestures, mimic, but already such elementary a thing as intonation" play imo a much bigger role than many people might think. I know about myself that in case I have the impression I caused confusion (frowned forehead) instead of getting my message across, I will try some other explanation (sometimes just a different wording). However, this is something I can't do in the written form. So, if somebody misreads what I've commented because he doesn't really try to understand what I meant to express the only outcome are bubbles of anger about nothing. Which is not only annoying, but also a waste of time.

Speaking of waste of time, you of course raise the crucial point there. Yes, it takes time to read through these words and think about them. And yes, it is temptingly easily to just skip to the end, I do so frequently. But when I came to ask myself why so, I had to realize it doesn't lead anybody anywhere, except that it might make the Web2.0 a modern version of the tower of Babel. So, as so often, I find myself asking: Is this good?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Dear Plato:

I meant to say much more about the role of Art in our communication, but I decided to do this some other time.

Dear Arun:

I certainly don't plan on blogging for the rest of my life. It just currently fits in somehow. I kind of dislike the format of this journal style. If I had the time I would use something different, maybe mingle it together with my homepage or so (e.g. I wish there was a 'sort by' option, or something like an index, or a possibility to order posts in sections and subsections etc).

Hi S,

In this post I've tried to 'enlighten' you about communication, in case you didn't notice. I'm not an information office, and I actually see no reason why I should take the time to give you an advice if you so clearly didn't read a word of what I wrote, neither any other post, and probably have not even looked at a single of my papers. If you want 'unsolicited advice', you know where to look, and good luck with following his advices. But since I'm a nice person, here is my advice: Listen and think before you comment, try to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Dear Quasar:

You raise an interesting point there "we will visit sources of information or other blogs according to what we are searching for or how much time we have - and needless to say with our limited minds, we still do not have time to read everything we want to be up to date on" - in the overflow of information we more or less have to be fast and skim over a lot of things, trying to filter out what we regard essential. I have mentioned earlier (see The Right not to Know) that this poses a significant problem to our society, where the 'relevant' information can drown while we are trying to swim in an ocean of search results without finding what we are looking for. Unfortunately, both factors: badly ordered information and skim reading, amplify each other, so another example for a positive feedback. And again I find myself asking: is this good?

Regarding your question about dark energy: I promise to have a more detailed post on that sooner or later. You write

And if the universe is expanding (supposing this dark energy is like the water on earth - the analogy simply being it is what is in between visible land) would said dark energy not become more diffuse and less dense.

The whole point of dark energy - the cosmological constant - is that it's constant and does *not* become less dense. This is exactly what makes it different from all other stuff we know, and what makes it so hard to understand what it 'really' is (if that question makes sense). Best,

B.

amaragraps said...

Thanks, Bee. I think honest communication is one of the most difficult and also rewarding skills that humans can learn. In _any_ medium. My suggestion to anyone is not to cut off themselves from expressing their opinion, in the means that's true to them (playing music and painting would work too). The corollary is to be open to hearing that their communication expression wasn't informative and effective, sometimes and to some people.

Here's a hippy, new-agey, communication book that I like a lot: _Messages: The Communication Skills Book_ by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning, 1983, New Harbinger Publications.

Greetings from Tallinn,
Amara

Arun said...

YES I CAN, LOUD AND CLEAR!

paul valletta said...

L
O
U
D
&
CLEAR!

QUASAR9 said...

"If I had the time I would use something different, maybe mingle it together with my homepage or so (e.g. I wish there was a 'sort by' option, or something like an index, or a possibility to order posts in sections and subsections etc)."

I guess 'sort by' is what Tags and Labels are meant to do. You could just add the blog to your homepage

PS - There are some blogs around that have got rid of the blogger navbar (and next blog) ...
and added their own nav bar, with Home/Topics/News/Options/Humour...

at the moment you have that running down your right hand side:
Previous Posts/Recent Comments/Labels/Archives/Other Blogs...

PPS - hmm dark energy unified with the cosmological constant, and the flat Open universe expanding. I know you are saving it for another post, but I repeat if dark energy IS gently pushing galaxies apart, how come galaxies can and DO collide - food for thought.

Anonymous said...

smart, very smart - too bad the lady is already married... ;-)

ps: i too love emoticons B-)

http://www.astro.umd.edu/~marshall/smileys.html

pps: great blog

Kaleberg said...

There is something to communications. I recently read an article in Science on the big brain mystery. Why do animals develop big brains? Interestingly, larger brained animals, be they birds, reptiles or mammals are more likely to be monogamous. That's something that takes serious communication, and it seems to have some payoffs. (Yeah, I'm a hopeless romantic).

As for visual cues in conversation, I've never figured out how to use them. I know that if someone looks you straight in the eye, they are lying, but beyond that I can only guess. I can interpret tone of voice relatively well, but it is HARD work. Long phone conversations are exhausting. Give it to me in writing. Let me think about my response. I'll understand you better, and you'll understand me better.

And, leave out the emoticons. I've never been able to figure them out. Are they faces or what?

Ingvar Åstrand said...

Quasar and Bee,

It is not the universe that is expanding – it is the galaxies’ radiation that is expanding!
So you don’t need dark energy.
This is the entropy effect (that Clausius’ searched but never found) which forces radiation towards equivalence.

Hubble discovered that the galaxy-radiations’ spectral lines are displaced proportional to their distance.
The only known explanation at that time was the Doppler effect which implying recession velocity.
So Hubble multiplied the size of the displacement with the light’s velocity.
This was Hubble’s misinterpretation.

Planck discovered the same wave displacement phenomenon in the heat radiation from an oven but interpreted the radiation’s fractional displacement difference between the wave-units as constant discrete energy-units.
To demonstrate it as radiation’s effect (energy per time and area unit) he related the measuring of temperature (energy) to its related wave-lengths but transform the measuring of the lengths of the wave-units to frequency-units which implying time-units.
This was Planck’s misinterpretation.
The definition of Planck’s quantum unit is a bad hypothesis (read his Nobel lecture).

Both discovered the same radiation entropy phenomenon but both misinterpreted it different and wrong.

Read more at
http://www.theuniphysics.info

Ingvar Astrand, Sweden

Lee Smolin's book support me.

Plato said...

I was thinking about the facial expressions it threw me back to a conversation about that.

While doing a search for those same pictures I came across this and found it pretty interesting? It's taken from here.

You see a lot of animation being done through the use of cartoon characters. Have we divested ourselves of the real emotive content by doing such things?

QUASAR9 said...

Hi ingvar astrand,
thanks for the link.
My argument was based more around the fact that if the universe is said to be expanding and even accelerating because 'dark energy' is pushing galaxies outward, and said 'dark energy' is between the galaxies, then there should be no galaxy pile-ups. Do we need to summon 'dark energy' from the big bang - and if 'dark energy' grows or has grown - what does it feed on.

Of course if there is no dark energy - the question is mute.

amaragraps said...

Kaleberg: for visual cues in conversation, I've never figured out how to use them. I know that if someone looks you straight in the eye, they are lying, but beyond that I can only guess. I can interpret tone of voice relatively well, but it is HARD work. Long phone conversations are exhausting. Give it to me in writing. Let me think about my response. I'll understand you better, and you'll understand me better.

That's really interesting! So with that, I"m curious to know what culture you are from. Anglos have difficulty with subtlety.

In the latin cultures there exists a way of communication that involves large quantities of indirect methods. Every hand signal, eyebrow lift, body language, and tone of voice is very important. I joke with my friends, that if you tie an Italian's hands behind his back, he cannot speak.

In addition, in latin cultures, to convince someone to do something that has an end goal one likes, one applies the near environment of other people, activities, events. You ask someone a particular thing, who will follow through, doing something with someone else, who will respond another way, to eventually result in what you wanted.

The Italians would view this way as 'richer', full of music and style and flare and cleverness, while any American observing such a performance would consider it complicated and tiring. They would think: "why go to such long efforts when the direct way to communicate is cleaner and more efficient?" I suspect some of the answer to that question is because of an inherent trust between strangers in anglo cultures and an inherent distrust between strangers in latin cultures (say in the Italian culture, which is what I know best of the latin cultures).

More regarding the subtlety: Sometimes a close Italian friend and colleague who visits me tells me about the goings-on in our workplace. She tells of who did what for what reason and why and when, and she'll spend hours about that, and after 30 minutes, I begin to have a headache. I also begin to feel paranoid, because it is layer of communication and interaction that I mostly did not see and detect myself when she told me of that particular behavior between our workplace people. It was too subtle for me, and I begin to wonder what else my 'detectors' missed.

Amara
from a bus with wifi somewhere in the countryside of Estonia

Bee said...

Dear Arun, dear Paul:

Thanks for lending me your ear :-) This comment section was meant as kind of an experiment, but I didn't expect so little people would read the previous comments. It's kind of depressing, isn't it?

Hi Ingvar,

I made the mistake to look at your website, congrats for re-introducing the aether. Nothing of what you write makes any sense, and btw (in case you didn't notice), this post is about communication failures, so I'd appreciate if you distribute your ToE elsewhere.

Dear Quasar:

Yes, wordpress doesn't have the navbar, the tags and labels work imo only very insufficiently. Regarding the DE: in the simplest and most widely used model dark energy IS the cosmological constant. Further, usual matter still attracts. If there is dark energy it doesn't mean galaxies will never collide, but it becomes increasingly unlikely the more space there is between them. More some other time.

Hi Kaleberg,

Sounds as if you were born for the internet age. I definitely do prefer talking, but I fail easily if I can't see the person I talk to, so try to avoid phone calls (combine this with my husband living some thousand miles away, makes for a fun relationship). Either way, what's weird about online discussions today is what Stefan mentioned above: people use the written word (almost) as fast as they would talk, but don't get the same feedback (visual), plus it's harder to correct if a message came out wrong which increases danger misunderstanding.

btw, I had a look at your website, great photos!

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

Thanks, this is definitely interesting. For whatever reason I find the movie really scary, the guy is totally zombie like. I've been wondering for some while whatever will happen to the movie industry once they can build up characters entirely on the computer. I have never been a fan of animation movies, so I'm not looking forward to drown in a sea of virtually real movies just because the actors are easier and cheaper to deal with on the computer. Best,

B.

Christophe de Dinechin said...

Bee wrote: Getting a message across in little words is not always possible, and even if, it requires a talent for writing that not everybody has.

Pictures are good:
First, the idea of using pictures (of yourself, of apples) is great. You do that regularly now, and I think it's very helpful in making a long post more readable.

Adding headlines?
Another simple trick which practically any written medium uses is to use headlines to give the high-level structure of what you are saying when the post becomes a bit long. I must admit that like Klaus and others, I found this post a little long, I have the rest of the Internet to read today, after all. I tried to illustrate this technique in this short comment :-)

Just another 2 cents.

Bee said...

Dear Christophe:

You are of course correct. I am aware that pictures and headlines improve the readability of my writings, I have been doing this regularly all the time -- try a random post from the sidebar, e.g. this or that, but thanks for pointing it out nevertheless. What I was trying to say here is I'm not using all these words because I want to punish the reader, but because I find them necessary to explain the context, and to make the point (if you check the comments above you'll find that I have repeated this sentence several times), so maybe there's a reason why I did *not* use headlines?

Either way, have fun with the rest of the internet :-)

Best,

B.

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

I've been wondering for some while whatever will happen to the movie industry once they can build up characters entirely on the computer.

I actually wanted to show you what music can do to invoke facial expression. To me, emotively there is a connect at a subtle level inside us to how music changes us.

While they are doing this in a computerized setting they recognize the emotive feature of our communicative expressions.

You recognize the facial expressions of those listening in lectures or you yourself in wonderment or amazement when something is gotten.

I have seen many of the animations being produced for a segment of our younger population, being a grandfather, so I understand how emotively our children are being "tempted to expression."

May of us "laugh at Shrek" or, recognize some association in the Simpson's?:)

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

Argh, the guy looks so creepy, I thought you meant to point me towards simulations of facial expressions. You definitely have a point there, in many regards other means of communication (music, painting etc) are much more powerful and more universally applicable than the written word. Best,

B.

stefan said...

Hi Kaleberg,

Give it to me in writing. Let me think about my response. I'll understand you better, and you'll understand me better.

I can fully subscribe to that. The point is, in my opinion, if you engage in such a written communication, it is clear from the beginning that you try to find a clear, unambigous wording, and think carefully about what you write, and how. That's completely consistent with what I wanted to say about the risk in written communication in blog comments.

In such a context, if you use the language as if you were talking, that can go wrong. Casual writing of sloppy comments bears a higher risk of misunderstanding - and thus, a waste of time if the intension was to establish some meaningful conversation.

And, leave out the emoticons.

Sorry, I like emoticons ;-)


PS: Where on Earth have these great photos on your website been taken?

PPS: Of course, the "on Earth" in the PS has a double meaning. I wonder if this gets as clear in this written form as it would be if I had said it? In such cases, emoticons can be helpful.


Best, Stefan

Plato said...

Bee said,"I thought you meant to point me towards simulations of facial expressions.

Yes of course. I do not see a difference, between the emotive states that arise from music, facial expressions, and what we are wearing emotively on our sleeve.

A tear can go through a long emotive sequence played over in the mind, yet it is a physiological consequence that we have this evidence(fluid from the eye) before us. Like a facial expression.:)

You can play all kinds of things over in your mind, and attached to them are the emotive connections that you have combined. This solidifies experience. No one mentions how powerful the emotive forces can run through us like a river. Turbulent, or placid lake mirrored.

What is released through our endocrinology? "Flight or fight response," although primitive," is still an effective force within our cultured society.

We, are "not perfect" any of us.

So we had to learn to deal with anger(what kind of facial expression?), and what arises within us? Relive the memory? One might say, in the future I will met this situation differently? So we see where we educate the emotive part of ourselves.

It is still a "powerful force in our lives" so, the emotive struggle is never an easy one. Why one should not cast dispersions on another from the "point of view" from what another grew up with.

Language(sound with intonations) does change the way we think, and Amara has pointed this out for us.

Cultural differences do make a difference on how we see each other in terms of the hand, arm, body movements.

I have gone on to long, sorry:)

QUASAR9 said...

"PS: Where on Earth have these great photos on your website been taken?

PPS: Of course, the "on Earth" in the PS has a double meaning. I wonder if this gets as clear in this written form as it would be if I had said it?"


lol Stefan, and if you'd said "those photos are Out of This world"
I agree - great photos.

Arun said...

If I may - about information, not communication. It always seemed to me that e.g., statements like "Bell-type quantum correlations cannot transport information faster than the speed of light", and so on in various physical situations, the result is established in a ad hoc sort of way. Is there some more general way of seeing this kind of result?

Plato said...

Klaus:And how about entanglement? a useful means of comunication or not?

I was just responding to Arun's,"If I may - about information"

I had to go back through the comments to understand possibly "what the question" was being put forward?

Getting "ribbed for a perspective about E8"....hmmmmm.

Don't mind me:)

stefan said...

Oh no, all of a sudden all these strange captialized comments start to make sense! And maybe it's not by chance that the first guy to understand the hidden message uses his own blog to post mathematica codes that solve the New Scientist "enigmas"!

Of course, you usually don't use initials, and insert headlines in between paragraphs in your posts.

That's the first blog post I've ever seen to come with a riddle :-)

But to my defense, I plead that I was too much detracted by the photos to get the message earlier ;-)

Great, thank you!

Stefan



PS: Actually, instead of having a flash of insight I wanted to add to the comments tonight that I had realized another possible source of potential misunderstandings in the communication on blogs:

It's that one often knows nothing at all about the background of a commenter, and the context in which he or she has come to write a comment. It's as if some stranger enters into the room and says something. Hopefully, he has followed the conversation before, but you do not know. You do not know either what he has been doing before he popped in - what he has been reading on the net before, what he was thinking about, etc. Without this context, it may be easy not to get what he want says - even so it is completely obvious to him.

Bee said...

Dear Stefan:

I knew I could count on you... It's less a riddle than an experiment on the willingness of the reader to get the message of the writer. Well. It's always nice to be confirmed ("the actual information exchange fails in many instances", "What characterizes our century is not communication, but trying to get attention") but I didn't expect it to be so depressing. I mean, I thought it might take a while for somebody to get the point, but after this I did not expect that almost nobody of the commenters read the previous comments, nor did anybody (not even the frequent readers) get the clues in my answers. Summa summarum, from 3214 visitors 4 'heard' my question. Do you think there is still hope one or the other will get it? Or is this post already out-dated...

Regarding your PS: That's what I meant to say with "Together with a multitude of cultural and social backgrounds in the virtual community (that most often are unknown), [the absence of visual feedback] poses a difficulty which gets significantly enhanced by being unaware of the problem. [...] How many people actually try to find out the message that a writer had? How efficiently can one do this without knowing the person, at least from reading more than a paragraph?".

Best,

B.

PS: You did it again, even THOUGH I told you like a million times...

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

When I come across an incomprehensible comment on a blog, that too, not by anon. but by a named person, I assume it is a coded private communication and move on.

Christine said...

[Y]our message can be heard, but only by a few... That's human nature...

[E]very post of you is cleverly written, but there must be someone on the other side in some kind of harmony with you to get it through.

[S]ome day I wish I can better communicate my ideas. Only a few can hear me. Sometimes even I can't hear myself.

Bee said...

Dear Christine:

Nice to hear from you. Thanks. I sometimes think we're all just way too busy (...no time...)

Best,

B.

Plato said...

Once you start on a subject does it really ever end?:)


Were it Perfect, Would it Work Better?-Bruno Bassi

5.1. Communication vs Formalization

The idea of applying achievements from symbolic logic to the design of a complete language is deeply linked to a strong criticism towards the dominant 20th century trend of considering formal languages as a subject matter in themselves and of using them almost exclusively for inquiries about the foundations of mathematics. "In spite of Peano's original idea, logistical language has never been used as a means of communication ... The bounds with reality were cut. It was held that language should be treated and handled as if its expressions were meaningless. Thanks to a reinterpretation, 'meaning' became an intrinsic linguistic relation, not an extrinsic one that could link language to reality" (p. 12).


See:Lingua Cosmica

vinouz said...

As you write "All that exciting talk about the Web2.0 looks to me like exchanging information about exchanging information", I may want to add one more indirection.

Indeed, if web 2.0 is about meta-information, then that talk about it is exchange of information about exchange of information about exchange of information.

And in the strong sense, I would pretty much characterize this present exchange as non-informative after all...