Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sense About Science

Sense About Science is, according to their website, an independent charitable trust that seeks to disentangle fact from fiction in public debates about scientific questions. They are UK based, though internationally active. Sense of Science has a board of trustees from various directions of science, an advisory council and a database with 2,000 more scientists whose judgement they can call upon. To me it presently looks somewhat dominated by medicine and biology, but given that this area receives the biggest part of public interest, it isn't so surprising. One also finds some physicists on their list.

According to their information sheet their aims are to:

  • work with scientists to respond to inaccuracies and attacks on science

  • work with scientific bodies to promote the benefits of scientific research

  • explain to stakeholders how and why science is different from opinion

  • bring scientists into direct contact with interested groups and opinion formers

  • provide a facility for every kind of organisation to contact scientists about controversial or worrying issues

  • arrange briefings on scientific developments for non-specialists


And they state:

"Scientific evidence should be central in debates about science, medicine and technology. It is vital for clear public deliberation, scientific development and good policy. Often, though, evidence is ignored or even misrepresented. From scares about the contraceptive pill, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation, society has paid with unfounded anxiety, poor decisions, and lost opportunities for research and development.

Sense About Science responds to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society. We do this by promoting respect for evidence and by urging scientists to engage actively with a wide range of groups, particularly when debates are controversial or difficult.

We also work proactively for a wider understanding of the nature of evidence and recognition of the value of scientific enquiry."


It probably tells about my pessimistic world view that I've expected their site to actually be a well hidden attack on science. Like, we just want a reasonable discussion about intelligent design, and all of our listed Professors who bought their PhD online, confirm the dairy compartment in my fridge was intelligently designed such that butter does *not* fit in. I've turned their site upside down, but could neither find any suspicious advertisements (buy your PhD HERE), nor any support of obvious crackpottism, or attacks on scientific methods altogether. They explicitly state they regard peer review as an essential ingredient of science:

"We promote:

  • the principle of independent peer review

  • scientific inquiry free from stigma and intimidation

  • constructive discussion"


They offer to answer to inquires by email and phone, and their administration and funding* seems to be sufficiently transparent. If you're a scientist you can join their database (called 'Evidence Base'), or contact them by phone and email with inquiries, questions or pointers to press articles that could be misunderstood.

Overall it looks to me like a great idea that I hope will fly.

www.senseaboutscience.org.uk
More Info from SourceWatch


* According to LobbyWatch: Funding is said to derive from 'corporations and learned societies'. Funders include the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the 'life science' company Amersham Biosciences plc, BBSRC, BP plc, GlaxoSmithKline, ISAAA, John Innes Centre, The John Innes Trust, Mr M. Livermore (a biotech PR consultant who formerly worked for DuPont and has links to Scientific Alliance and IPN), the biopharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca plc, Pfizer plc and Oxford GlycoSciences plc, Dr M. Ridley (links to IEA, Julian Morris etc.), and the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and the related Health and Science Communication Trust.



Thanks to Klaus!

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

And who authorised THEM to do so?
A.

Bee said...

what do you mean with 'authorized'? it looks to me mostly like a focusing of expertise that aims to be as reliable as possible. one can of course debate in which means that can be achieved best. i.e. it's not clear to me how and whether they screen their database etc, so there might be some bias in there. but in principle it looks to me like a good idea. it doesn't need to be 'authorized' it just needs to prove useful and accurate, at this stage it's mostly about reputation.
B.

stefan said...

Dear Bee,

that's an interesting link, thank you :-). I agree that your initial scepticims is justified - there is no name, or any known institution, within one click from the initial page, and that would have made me sceptical, too.

And yes, physical sciences are a bit underrepresented, but there is the former Editor of Nature, John Maddox, on the board of trustees, and writer Simon Singh, at least some names I have heard of. They even have a short Wikipedia entry. Hey, I just see, the chair of the board of trustees and founder, Dick Taverne, has written a book that might interest you, "The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism".

Best, Stefan

Bee said...

Dear Stefan,

Yes, thanks for mentioning the book. Let me get through with those piling up on my shelf first!

The entry from 'LobbyWatch' is somewhat critical about the independence of the funding, but the LobbyWatch site itself looks to me somewhat paranoid. Also, one shouldn't throw away a good idea because it's not perfect. As a device to provide a reliability check on media reports for people and organizations, I think it can be pretty useful as long as they make sure their science pool reflects the communities appropriately. Best,

B.

Bee said...

That is to say, I like the idea and physics could profit from such an organization. I just need to think of Peter's series of 'This Week Hype's, and how many people stumbled on this blog after reading in The Telegraph (UK) and NewScientist (UK) about the surfer who allegedly found the Theory of Everything. Wouldn't it be handy to have a database of 'experts' that people could use for inquires (is it right what I read...?), and a place to collect all the corrections? Like, similarly to the 'Urban Myths' site or so? I keep hoping the internet must be good for something after all. We presently can create hypes rather easily, maybe there's a way to clean up with them more efficently than presently.

Anonymous said...

simple:

they are an organisation, and therefore are NOT independent, as they claim to be.

science is not property of no one.

and who said they can speak for any scientist?

Anonymous said...

i forgot to sign post above,
A.

ChickenBreeder said...

You have reasons to be suspicious. I used to regularly donate to charitable organizations until I found out that some of the organizations I had made donations to spend only 30% of the money on their causes while their CEOs earned $500,000+ annual salary. (These are *nonprofit* organizations, of course.)

The problem is that there are many people today who make a career out of organizing foundations and politicizing whatever subject that's hot that comes in hand. Columbia University now offers a degree on fundraising. How could a scientist who is devoted to solving real scientific problems compete with career activists and fundraisers? The result is that whenever you see a so-called pro-science organization 90% of its key members are the career activists and fundraisers and only 10% know a little bit about science.

Too bad this said organization is based in U.K. If it were based in the United States, you can write to the government to request how they (being a nonprofit organization) spend their money. You will be surprised.

Hope this does not add further to your pessimism. Happy New Year.

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous:

'Independence' is pretty much an illusion. Every organization needs to be funded somehow, and thus is subject to lobbyism. Can be a one-man lobby. That doesn't necessarily mean all the people in their database are corrupt.

As I said above, one has to be careful in populating the database, that's not easy, but doable.

I can't imagine any group could ever 'speak for any scientist' one way or the other. The scientific community is much too diverse for that (well, scientists basically live from arguing with each other). As I mentioned above, it's about how good their reputation will be in clarifying matters. Could turn out to be very useful. And if I think about some kinds of media reporting, there are many misunderstandings that can be clarified rather easily with little disagreement in the communities.
Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Chickenbreeder,

No, it doesn't add to my pessimism, since you're not actually telling me much new, except for the degree in fundrasing. Maybe I should get one.

As I said, I mostly like the idea. One can criticise aspects of the the realization, but I still like the idea. Best,

B.

stefan said...

Hi A., Chickenbreeder, Bee

they are an organisation, and therefore are NOT independent

I do not see how being an organisation interfers with being independent or not in a different way than for individuals?

you can write to the government to request how they (being a nonprofit organization) spend their money

Googleing for "UK law charity" has directed me to this site, where your can check out their Accounts Listing.

But I agree that the the statements at lobbywatch.org are welcome for an alternate view about the organization.

However, the label "GM lobby group" seems a bit unbalanced to me. At least, then the group has enganged in a lot of other acitivites and topics to blur their pro-GM lobby purpose ;-)

I would say, while about scientifc facts, as far they have been established with the usual restrictions by agreed-upon methods, you can speak "for any scientist", but any practical conclusions drawn from these facts may be subject to political bias.

But the general idea of a is it right what I read...? database with sober evaluations backed by accepted facts may be a good idea...

Best, Stefan

Klaus said...

Danke gleichfalls!

Noticing the end of the address; ".org.uk" I had a sence that quality had better odds.

I trust the limeys more than I trust us-americans.

Best
Klaus

John G said...

I don't know, I still think I'd like to look at a more "open" review system too (like Wikipedia). More chance of seeing both sides and having more expertise with the particular issue. The Wikipedia entry for Lisi's theory is fairly well balanced for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Exceptionally_Simple_Theory_of_Everything

Phil Warnell said...

From what I can see this is all well and good. However, I’m sure it won’t go far enough in addressing the real problem, which is the continued expansion of pseudo-science. For instance I’m confronted by people (mostly young) regularly that swear that no one has ever landed on the moon and further are convinced there is sound evidence to back their claim. It only gets worse when documentaries like “What the Bleep” dupe even serious scientists into the propagation of false perception. I don’t think things like attempting to explain the value of peer review to the masses will go far to address this new manifested group of superstition and supernatural believers. I think it’s only a matter of time before I meet people that not only deny the moon landings yet will insist that the world is flat as well.

Bee said...

AAAAAAAAAAARGH, I just wrote an lengthy answer to John, and it all vanished into digital nirvana. Breathe in, breathe out, 10, 9, 8, ....1 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH. Okay, John, here is roughly what I wrote:

Hi John,

I think you are mixing up two different things. Wikipedia doesn't 'create' knowledge, it just collects it. It works well in case there is a pool of information available, but it doesn't provide peer review.

Further, I regard anonymity in peer review as an essential ingredient. There might be scientists who don't care about their colleague's frustration, anger or possible personal friction, but many might. If somebody is fine with publicly commenting on a colleague's paper on a blog, great, but I wouldn't expect everybody to do so. Anonymity in peer review does allow the referee to focus on the scientific questions. I would support a double blind referee process (name of author not known to the referee), just that I think in practice it wouldn't make any difference, given that most papers submitted to a journal are on the pre-print server and Googling the title would reveal the author (if it isn't already obvious by topic or writing style).

I had more to say about Wiki, but I am about to write a post on that anyhow. Just a sentence on the Garrett entry, it is actually a mystery to me according to which criteria the English version of Wikipedia ranks relevance of topics (the German entry has been deleted because it didn't meet the criteria. It's only coincidentally that I know that, I've never contributed to any Wikipedia neither German nor English.)

Besides this, I find it interesting that apparently a large fraction of the US citizens increasingly relies on a tool that is pretty much communistic, and that does nothing than looking for the least common denominator, washing out individualism. I am waiting for somebody to suggest planning economy online, maybe rename it from 'planned economy' to something people wouldn't immediately recognize. Wikonomy, or maybe vertical economy? Because, hey, the masses can do what the individual can't, who needs experts if there's Wikipedia?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil:

But they can be pretty damned amusing. I mean, look at this argument from the 'Flat Earth Society':

"Using the "round Earth" theory, setting an object on the earth would be like setting grains of sand on a beach ball. Certainly a few grains would stay - right around the top, the surface is nearly horizontal - but when you stray too far from the absolute top of the ball, the grains of sand start sliding off and falling onto the ground. The Earth, if round, should behave in exactly the same fashion. Because the top is a very localized region on a sphere, if the Earth were in fact round, there would be only a very small area of land that would be at all inhabitable."

Okay, more seriously, I share your concerns, that's why I like to talk about the 'illusion of knowledge'. It's okay not to know, but problem is that there are increasingly people who believe they 'know' because they read something somewhere in that vast, badly organized information pool, and never question it. It was never easy to figure out right from wrong, but it's never been so easy to distribute wrong knowledge as today. And badly ordered information is no information. Best,

B.

Neil' said...

So, how will SAS (or have they) weighed in on whether string theory is a viable fundamental theory like LoMo says, or bunk like Woit says? IOW, there are internal controversies, so I guess they have to be fair?

Phil Warnell said...

Bee,

In thinking about all what you’ve said, I’ve come up with a new theory. That is the explanation for humanity being trust into the dark ages. It has been confirmed by a team of archeologists who have been reported to have discovered that the ancient Roman’s had developed their own internet just before the fall :-)

Regards,

Phil

Klaus said...

Just came to think of it..

do u know:

http://www.venganza.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster


best

Klaus

Plato said...

Besides this, I find it interesting that apparently a large fraction of the US citizens increasingly relies on a tool that is pretty much communistic, and that does nothing than looking for the least common denominator, washing out individualism.

Ouch!

Maybe I mistaken what you just wrote about Wikipedia? What about open source?

Why would you attribute such a thing to such a system? Do you know that when it comes to health care in the United states any attribution to thinking the way Canada does, "they with an agenda?" attribute our thinking to such a system? Oui? Non!

It can't be help our histories. The colourings of our past?

What if we were to mistake what is descent and right for each other, hidden behind profitability may actually be working to present what is not leftist/communistic in design? But "our responsibility" to ensure every human being is treated the same?

Plato said...

Any thoughts Stefan and Bee? These are "changing times."

The Open Access (OA) tenets of granting unrestricted access to the results of publicly-funded research are in contrast with current models of scientific publishing, where access is restricted to journal customers. At the same time, subscription costs increase and add considerable strain on libraries, forced to cancel an increasing number of journals subscriptions. This situation is particularly acute in fields like High-Energy Physics (HEP), where pre-prints describing scientific results are timely available online. There is a growing concern within the academic community that the future of high-quality journals, and the peer-review system they administer, is at risk.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

All that is truly important in this debate is that, in the end, what should be held central as the key element in the decision of such be what your namesake said more then two millennia ago:

"And the arts of measuring and numbering and weighing come to the rescue of the human understanding-there is the beauty of them --and the apparent greater or less, or more or heavier, no longer have the mastery over us, but give way before calculation and measure and weight?"

Regards,

Phil

Anonymous said...

These sorts of organizations pop up all the time. Well intentioned as they may be, they invariably fail in their fundamental purpose.

That is to actually spread the information that they recieve. Joe layman invariably ends up still being completely in the dark.

Skeptics magazine and their society is probably the most well known, and they do alright in debunking and setting the record straight in what we do or do not know. Unfortunately most people see a rather dry magazine, and aren't excited about it (hence won't read it).

I don't really have a good solution, other than emphasizing that our k1-12 teachers should be more forceful in explaining the scientific method and what it says about pseudoscience (ufos etc)

Plato said...

Hi Phil,

I liked your quote of course. As I like your other one as well. :)

” Whereas our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.”

If, "the truth of it be told," how modern is our views today that we would dispense, with all the colloquial dressings of words that we would only speak to the math of things? Find it "dryer then the anonymous version of the Skeptic" would have you referred?

Can we know the "true dimensions" of the "allegory of the Cave?"

Maybe, it is in more "abstract thinking" that we might loose our way, without adding the basis of wording that supports the language of math?

Hence "the procedural" may be like adopting this or that writer and their views, without ever knowing their may be a more deeper dimensional attribute we assigned to seeing the "greater depth of our world?"

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

Maybe I mistaken what you just wrote about Wikipedia? What about open source?

Why would you attribute such a thing to such a system?


I don't understand your question. I don't know what you might have mistaken for what or what thing you think I attributed to what a system. I just find it interesting that in a nation where people make a big point out of individualism a lot of them happily rely on a source that, by its very construction, is made such that everybody can agree with it, or can at least remain silent - a source that doesn't allow for any individual expression or diversification. The entries aren't 'owned' by anybody, that's why it's communistic (no private property, in the responsibility of everybody). I am not saying it doesn't work, I am just saying (as so often) it has it's range of application and one should be aware of its limitations (i.e. it needs some criteria about what a good article is, and some supervision on the editing... laws? democracy? who watches the watchers?).

As I mentioned above, Wikipedia certainly is useful in some regards, it's just funny to me how little criticism there is, and how excited some people get about this, start talking about things like Wikinomics, and I am waiting for somebody trying to use it for political means. It's a dangerous way to go, and it seems people don't notice it. (Don't get me wrong, the book is actually about global collaboration, which I agree has a potential to vastly improve present collaboration schemes by combining knowledge in a way that previously wasn't possible. That opens resources that up to know couldn't be accessed, thus a boost in productivity. But that in itself doesn't actually create anything new, it just optimizes use of what is already available.)

Regarding open access, sure I have thoughts on that, but I guess most won't like to hear it. If financing by selling for profit fails, but there is need for something the society considers important, it ought to be governmentally supported. Neoliberalists will jump up and down and yell at me, but to me it's the only way to go. Every other source of funding will cause dependencies that are potential influences which ought to be avoided. Unbiased scientific journals, and scientific reporting generally, are one of the most important (if not *the* most important) information sources in our present society and one should take great care in preserving them. The open access discussion, together with the financing problems that print magazines/newspapers face is imho a serious problem that, if not addressed appropriately, can result in a huge drop of quality.

Best,

B.

Low Math, Meekly Interacting said...

Perhaps it speaks to my pessimism about my fellow citizens, if not humanity in general, that I feel more confident about this organization because it is NOT based in the United States.

Bee said...

Hi Klaus,
Yes, thanks, I know the FSM. Dawkins did a good job advertising it. Best,

B.

John G said...

I certainly understand the importance of the individual. I just use Wikipedia like a dictionary for a concept that comes up I've never heard of before. Hopefully Wiki would allow competing experts in cases where there's disagreement and hopefully the only deleting criteria is how widely useful it is (to the masses and/or experts) rather than a particular viewpoint on correctness (course needs good research/writing techniques like references, etc too).

I've spent thousands of hours on Tony Smith's site, all his ideas are not exactly mainstream. One of Tony's references, Ark Jadczyk, is a physicist with an off the beaten path world view I'm into even more than Tony's (still like Tony's physics better but Ark's physics could be compatible with Tony's for all I know).

I have three papers myself on John Fudjack's website, the last of which is crackpotish in the mainstream sense (it actually does need lots of updates). I think once you've got the mainstream understood it can be good to go off in seemingly crackpotish to some directions like Wolfram and Penrose have for example. Brian Greene gave an interview in Fudjack's journal where their seemingly unrelated work was related in a perhaps crackpotish sounding way.

Your "group theory" very much relates to Fudjack's use of "The Wizard of Oz" foursome (www.tap3x.net is his URL). Dorothy would I guess be the asshole pushing the scarecrow into a brain, the tin man into a heart and the lion into courage (soul/gut/instinct in other models including yours). Dorothy also represents humanity not realizing we can go back home any time we want. As to what home really is, you would have to ask Ark (and his wife Laura), but I like that you are depressed and looking for it. The main idea is that world leadership is bad, really bad, even without understanding crackpotish but perhaps true ideas (like 9-11 conspiracy theories).

Is that too much individualism?

Bee said...

I think once you've got the mainstream understood it can be good to go off in seemingly crackpotish to some directions like Wolfram and Penrose have for example.

I'd agree on that. The problem is with those people who think it's unnecessary to first understand the basics, before one can fiddle around with them.

Anonymous said...

hi bee,
'disagreement' is over something I care (believe it or not) about: philosophy of science.

This idea means introducing social element as deciding factor in deciding 'good science', and every, I repeat - EVERY organisation has its flaws, which can only grow exponentially in time.

Question is: what is science? or 'good' science? what is criterium?
first answer that, and then build something that will defend that everlasting truth. otherwise, you'll have flawed people in a flawed system no matter the organisation-it will be very very far from perfect, or even moderately good.

Anonymous said...

best,A.

Anonymous said...

and btw, after so mauch effort over centuries,so far answer to that question is like that celebrated answer with time: I know what is good science only when no one asks me about it.
A.

Bee said...

Hi A,

If you follow this blog, you will know that I have discussed the problem of finding out what 'good science' is in various places, I have no 'solution' and I certainly acknowledge that every organization has its flaws. My suggestion is simply to ensure these flaws do *not* increase in time, but to set up a management that is flexible enough to incorporate feedback, and can improve over time instead of get worse.

But either way, this is actually not what I meant to express here. This is not about deciding what 'good' science is, but how scientific research is communicated to the public. This is not about judging on research, but about accuracy. As I have mentioned e.g. in the post about 'fact or fiction', this also includes that people come to live with uncertainties where scientists are still discussing the matter. Best,

B.

nad said...

Hi Bee,

thanks for the interesting post.
Incidentally I wrote a blogpost
which is related to the above issue.
you can find it at:
http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=1639

Herzliche Gruesse aus Berlin

nad said...

Hi Bee

there is an answer to your comment on randform. just to let you know - i dont know wether you see the incoming links.

nad

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

So you have looked at some of my jumbled blatherings. For that I extend both my apologies and condolences:-) With that aside, I believe we do have some people that have stepped up to the plate as far as guiding science away from ambiguity and contrivance. One such person, although no longer among us, was J.S. Bell. Although not here himself, he has influenced so many who remain to continue his vision. I recall Smolin in his book complaining about the huge attention and resource afforded String Theory. To be truthful none of this has ever disturbed me as that whether right or wrong they are still in pursuit of what I find to be a model of reality.

One the other hand the group that has me most troubled is the quantum computing crowd, who insists all is a waste of time and that it is only the information that holds true as being relevant or worthwhile. For me this is no more then a veiled attempt to return to the philosophically bankrupt vision of the likes of Neils Bohr when he said:

“There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”

I apologize in advance Bee if you may find this strays too far from the topic. I feel however that some aspects of this, in part, also forms part the problem.

Regards,

Phil

Plato said...

Bee:I don't understand your question. I don't know what you might have mistaken for what or what thing you think I attributed to what a system.

Wikipedia, to communism.

Coming from backgrounds, being raised in societies, if we were raised with the "iron curtain," how would we see aspects of other cultures and societies based on what we grew up with?

Bee:I just find it interesting that in a nation where people make a big point out of individualism a lot of them happily rely on a source that, by its very construction, is made such that everybody can agree with it, or can at least remain silent - a source that doesn't allow for any individual expression or diversification.

Ah! you are talking about "the source" of your blog post. I am sorry.:(

I did see you mention previously that you might be doing a blog post on Wikipedia, so I look forward to that. But from what I understood "with your knowledge" you may be able to correct something that you may see as wrong in Wikipedia?

Allow me, if you had thought Wikipedia to fall into such a category as source equal your blog post, the following.

Can you qualify,"doesn't allow for any individual expression or diversification"

Is it necessary to advance thinking based on "my name" or, "on the content?" Freedom of expression, is based on "Human rights?"

The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

Thanks for responding. I do not have a chance to see how Europeans see Canadians/Americas in their society very often.

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

Well, this blog should provide an opportunity to see at least how one European sees Americans. Can't say very much yet about the Canadians, they are a somewhat weird mixture. Very progressive as far as I can tell, but maybe living in Waterloo isn't exactly average.

The source of this blog post was not Wikipedia. Also, I usually mention my sources.


I did see you mention previously that you might be doing a blog post on Wikipedia, so I look forward to that. But from what I understood "with your knowledge" you may be able to correct something that you may see as wrong in Wikipedia?

I am not doing a post on Wikipedia but on the hidden politics on the internet (roughly, not done yet, so don't know where its going). I didn't say there is something 'wrong' with Wikipedia. I am saying, as often, one has to keep in mind what it can be good for, and what not. Wikipedia is by construction a tool to find what is 'common' sensus. Nothing less, but also nothing more. It works as long as those who are not experts shut up, or stay out, and as long as there are some guiding criteria people can refer to (helpful also to get those who are not experts to stay out). Wikipedia heavily relies on previous publications, textbooks, newspaper articles etc, and it's usefulness stands and falls with the availability of these sources. It can't replace it. I wonder how come some people (see above) fail to notice that Wikipedia doesn't provide any new conclusions, it just collects them more or less efficiently.

I mostly use Wikipedia to outknock Google and find sensible references. I.e. I scroll to the bottom of the page and check the journal references. But then, I am in the lucky position to have free access to almost all scientific journals. And it's useful to find futher keywords. I am actually much more critical of Google than of Wikipedia.

Hope that clarifies my opinion. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Wikipedia is information prioritized by human consensus and mitigated by human referees. Google is information prioritized and mitigated by a referee that constitute to be an algorithm. The former reflects humanity as it is and the later as it is becoming. This may represent a turning point in our evolution or could be the flash point to our fall. How should we decide or rather on what bases can we?

Plato said...

Thanks Bee for the clarifications. I appreciate it.

Plato said...

"Not often in life has a man given me so much happiness by his mere presence as you have done," Einstein wrote to Bohr. "I have learned much from you, mainly from your sensitive approach to scientific problems."

Phil writes:Google is information prioritized and mitigated by a referee that constitute to be an algorithm. The former reflects humanity as it is and the later as it is becoming.

IN regard to google's "search function," yes maybe, but in Wikipedia's new entrance as a competitor of that search function?

This takes me back to the beginning of Microsoft and Open Source. The ideas behind communities and a kernel, versus, the Microsoft platform first install without regard, until "that choice" was open up for buyers?

Alas, Netscape or Mircosoft?

How and what system would help the development of computers, in regard to it being used "as a tool for information processing?"

Of course this discussion would ultimately lead to questions by Sean Carroll in regards to the "complexity of the universe" as we have come to know of it in it's microstate beginnings?

What use for us humans, the complexity, as we learn and process this information?

Glast? Entanglement? Cryptology? Calorimeters? Yes, I like Bell too.

Sorry Bee for going offtrack of your post.

Plato said...

For example:

A number of scientists have published criticisms of Afshar's interpretation of his results. While united in their rejection of Afshar, in many cases they explicitly disagree among themselves as to why he is wrong.

Would google's algorithm supply the relevant information for Afshar's experiment and considerations?

Phil Warnell said...

Plato,

"Not often in life has a man given me so much happiness by his mere presence as you have done," Einstein wrote to Bohr. "I have learned much from you, mainly from your sensitive approach to scientific problems."

Plato, could you quote the source so I might at least evaluate the context. I have read much of Einstein and from my knowledge of his position I would expect he was softening him up before the blow.

As for Wikipedia verses Google, with Google there is no human hand that relates to content. Nothing that is considered beyond the parameters set. Also, I see no mechanism that could have these parameters change. One thing I have noticed if you use Microsoft Word 97 its spell checker does insist that Google begin with a capital. I wonder is this a result of human decision or does source code develop respect? :-)

As for the discussion that relates to Seth Lloyd suggesting that the universe is a computer; I wouldn’t have bothered to ask what it was running, yet rather asked if it had become self aware? :-) Actually I was at that lecture and considered much of it pretty lame.

“Would Google’s algorithm supply the relevant information for Afshar's experiment and considerations?”

Interesting question, so I checked it out and found that in either case Wikipedia or Google lead me to discover that Bohmian Mechanics might be the most straight forward explanation as to the experiment’s results. Now this for sure is way off topic and I suspect the human element may intercede.

Neil' said...
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Neil' said...

Right, it’s deep, and I agree with those who think we still haven’t solved Schrodinger’s Cat and the “collapse of the wave function.” I have seen descriptions/explanations of “decoherence” various places, and they always use a fundamentally circular argument (a complaint that cannot be brushed off by appeals to the deeper finery of a particular argument.) The Art Deco always references density matrices and other probabilistic concepts and even saying “if a measurement occurs then” and etc, in a way which slips in the collapse or others in effect before explaining itself etc. As I said, waves interacting and interfering with other waves, absent a particular incidental localization or quantization “added by hand” (of mathematician or “God”) just stay a bunch of waves rippling through each other. I will be impressed by anyone who can show me how it works without "cheating."

Also, as I have argued various places before (see http://cosmicvariance.com/2008/01/10/is-the-universe-a-computer/), the universe cannot be a computer/program or just “mathematical structure” pace Max Tegmark for the following reason: true randomness cannot be produced by mathematical processes, because mathematics is a logical system. All presumptive randomness from “random variables” etc. is either just declared output without producing the goods, or the “goods” (genuinely random sequences) must be put in by hand, as by digits of roots etc. The decay of specific muons (not to be confused with the percentages left over time, I mean the actual “hits” themselves) in a computer model would require highly contrived arrangements to be put in by hand, like carefully selected roots and reseeding and all that to avoid artifacts that would blow the output as being phony. That’s all she wrote, really. The universe is “mystical” to some extent because of genuine randomness (and, if there’s something special about “material existence” such that modal realism is wrong, the also because of the bare fact it exists.)

John G said...

A quantum computer, perhaps with "preexisting" many-worlds playing the part of Bohm's hidden variables plus some GRW, etc.-like mechanisms for decohered "thoughts".

Plato said...

Phil:Plato, could you quote the source so I might at least evaluate the context.

I usually link the quotes. Anyway I've provided the source with another quote. You can go down the page to the Einstein/Bohr debate image.

Keeping the historical in perspective is important. Mouse over Quote.

"Of all the communities available to us there is not one I would want to devote myself to, except for the society of the true searchers, which has very few living members at any time."

Phil:in either case Wikipedia or Google lead me to discover that Bohemian Mechanics might be the most straight forward explanation as to the experiment’s results.

From what I read, you already believed this?:)Something had to confirm it for you?

For some reason I thought of João Magueijo, and his book. His VSL theory. IN the beginning he spoke of a dream Einstein had. I would not do it justice, without the source written by Joao. I do not have the book.

Time to read Bee's current post.

Plato said...
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stefan said...

Via "Make your own debate" at Steinn Sigurðsson's Dynamics of Cats (that post actually is a case in point to the awsome The Spirits that We Called post), here is a link to a similar initiative in the US, it seems:

Science Debate 2008

Best, Stefan

nad said...

Hi Bee,

just to let you know there is a new addition on the discussion at
http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=1657

bye nad