The True Size of Africa


Fun facts! More here:

africa

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25th annual Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science.


That is a long title for a conference, but looks pretty interesting – coming up soon:

Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science

The Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science is an annual event focusing on a critical area of history and philosophy of science. Special invitations are extended to scholars in the Colorado area, but national and international participants are also welcome. Recent conference topics include Values in Science, Microbiology, Evolutionary Theory and Experiment.

The 25th Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science
University of Colorado at Boulder
October 9-11, 2009 Continue reading

Mindclones!


BrainScanCool article about mindcloning:

A mindclone is a software version of your mind. He or she is all of your thoughts, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values, and is experiencing reality from the standpoint of whatever machine their mindware is running on. Mindclones are mindfiles being used and updated by mindware that has been set to be a functionally equivalent replica of one’s mind. A mindclone is your software-based alter ego, doppelganger, or mental twin. If your body died, but you had a mindclone, you would not feel that you personally died, although the body would be missed more sorely than amputees miss their limbs.

We have absolutely no experience with mindclones. Never in history has there been anything like them. Hence, it is natural to find it difficult to understand the concept. From time immemorial we have thought of our identity as being limited to one instantiation, namely that contained within our body. To grasp mindcloning it is necessary to envision identity as being a unique pattern of thinking that can occur in two or more substrates or forms. If you can accept that a mind can be duplicated, with appropriate mindware and a rich enough mindfile, then you have accepted that a single identity can occur at least twice.

Creepy, isn’t it? There is more here.

What Happened Before the Big Bang?


Cool article about all things Big-Bangy:

And this is where scientists start to worry. A prediction of something infinite is often a sign that the theory you are using to make that prediction has reached the limits of its applicability. For example, imagine you are an aerodynamicist wanting to predict the speed of an air flow. If your model is very simple, for example if it ignores the friction of the air, then it might predict that something changes infinitely quickly in a finite time. But no aerodynamicist would believe that this is what really happens. They would take that prediction as an indication that you have to go back to square one and make your model a little bit better, for example by introducing the friction of air. When you then solve the equations you will find that things change very, very quickly, but not infinitely quickly.

So what cosmologists are working very keenly on today is a possible extension of Einstein’s theory of gravity, one which includes quantum theory, which can give a more accurate description of the apparent beginning of the Universe. Nobody agrees on exactly how to do this: it’s right on the edge of current research. Some theories predict that the Universe doesn’t have a beginning at all, but that if you follow it backward in time, it eventually bounces, almost like a ball, into a previous state in which it was contracting. The Universe may behave cyclically — contracting, expanding and contracting again — or it may be that it bounced into expansion only once and will keep on expanding forever. Another possibility is that the Universe began in some rather uninteresting stationary state, and then started to expand due to the effect of quantum fluctuations. In that scenario, the expansion has a beginning, but the Universe itself doesn’t necessarily have one.

Read the rest (and see some pictures as all, also helps me) here.

Eckart Förster’s Essay on Kant, “Transition” and Opus Postumum


As some might have already noticed and I was pretty slow to discover this, some edited volumed available for preview on Google Books sometimes have full essays avaiable for your scholarly interest. May I wholeheartedly recommend this essay by Eckart Förster, “Fichte, Beck and Schelling in Kant’s Opus Postumum” which begins with a nice summary of Kant’s view of science and, specifically, physics? Förster’s contribution to the study of Opus Postumum is well known, of course, and I think in light of the recent discussions of science, realism, so-called correlationism and such, it is important to understand what Kant actually wrote, as opposed to various crude misinterpretations of his philosophy. Kant, as is also well known, began his philosophical career as a philosopher of nature (a philosopher of science would be a good modern designation) and, as Förster, shows in his Introduction to the English edition of Opus Postumum and various essays on the subject, ended his philosophical career working on a manuscript that would complete his system. 

I think Förster’s opening citation from the second preface to the first Critique is essential, as far as I am concerned, in any discussion of the workings of science – because I’m lazy, here’s a text from Norman Kemp Smith’s translation available online: Continue reading

New Science Blog


I came across this intersting blog – check it out. Here’s an example of the post discussing Quantum Mechanics and some of it’s philosophical implications (old theme, I know, but nonetheless still very exciting for yours truly):

Foundational studies of quantum physics hold a deep fascination for anyone interested in questions about the ultimate structure of the world. Quantum mechanics (QM) is now hovering around its 100th anniversary (depending on whether or not you take the work of Planck, Einstein, or Bohr to mark its true birth). Unlike other theories, quantum mechanics has proven to be remarkably elusive in terms of pinning down what truly, absolutely, no-kidding-anymore, really exists.

[…]

The Many-Worlds Interpretation seems crazy to a lot of people, physicists and non-physicists alike. Personally, as a theorist of the astrophysical sort, I see its allure but remain suspicious of the enormous commitment it asks. What may be most interesting about it, however, is how, by taking things to an extreme, it raises two of the oldest and deepest questions we can ask:

What truly exists, and what kind of access do we have to it?