Posts

No New Worlds to Discover?

 Alexander at 30 something grieved that there were no more world's to conquer.  Robbert Dijkgraaf writing in Quanta, asks whether physics has reached that sad state.  While he concludes in the negative, his denial sounds more like "hey, we can still add a few decimal points here and there." Lubos Motl and Peter Woit both have commentaries up today, and Lubos is predictably outraged at his one time coauthor, and Peter is more measured. The Universe still has some puzzles for us of course, but it is not clear that their understanding will have the same kinds of revolutionary import that the discoveries of Newton, Maxwell, Einstein and the quantum theorists have had.  In particular, the Cosmos is starting to feel a bit cramped.  Of course it is indeed large beyond our imaginings, but there don't seem to be dragons out there, or at least not dragons that we don't already know about.  Black holes, quasars, gamma ray bursters all seem to fit pretty neatly under known la

Psychohistory

 ...is the creation of Isaac Asimov and the central element in his Foundation series.  I'm not much of a fan, but it seems that he was anticipated both by J. S. Mill and (negatively) by Marx.  Popper calls Mill's notion that sociology can be reduced to psychology "psychologism," and seems generally approving of Marx's rejection of it in favor of independent foundations for sociology, though of course rejecting Marx for the even greater crime of "historicism," the notion that the historical future is baked into the past, and determined by ineluctable laws of historical development. Marx apparently made it his project to discover those laws, but like many another philosopher discovered mostly those laws that he wanted to believe. I wish I could remember who said "prediction is hard, especially of the future.*" *Well of course it was Niels Bohr.  Google remembers all.

Good Intentions

 But bad results. The collectivists … have the zest for progress, the sympathy for the poor, the burning sense of wrong, the impulse for great deeds, which have been lacking in latter-day liberalism. But their science is founded on a profound misunderstanding …, and their actions, therefore, are deeply destructive and reactionary. So men’s hearts are torn, their minds divided, they are offered impossible choices. WALTER LIPPMANN. Popper, Karl R.. The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton Classics) . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.  Popper, like Lippman, gives Marx credit for good intentions, but attributes his failures to the fundamental error of his analysis.  Like Plato and Hegel, Marx was a "historicist" who was convinced that history was deterministic and headed inevitably in the direction that he predicted.  Marx, says Popper, was influenced by the determinism of Laplace and the physicists of his time, a notion neither justified by theory and law or even by

Hegel by Popper

Popper's Hegel is the most loathsome of philosophers.  He was the court philosopher of Fredrick Wilhelm III of Prussia and as such, his primary impulse was to justify the monarch's absolutism in a world turning against it.  Many diseases of German politics and history can be traced to him - the fascism, the racism, the bellicosity that plunged the world into two global wars and shattered the German empires. An obscurantist and a charlatan, he poisoned generations of German philosophy.  Not least of his crimes, I imagine, is his role in inspiring Marx, but I haven't gotten that far in the book yet. 

Things Fall Apart*

OK, I always wanted a post with a title stolen from Yeats "The Second Coming" but the punchline here is that when they do, they fall apart into roughly cubical shapes (on average).  Such, at any rate, is the claim of a geologist and a mathematician.  The core insight comes from pure mathematics.  If you slice any large scale object up with random plane slices, you tend to wind up with pieces with six faces and eight vertices. Oddly enough, this result seems to have been anticipated by Plato in his dialogue Timaeus , where he assigned each of his essences (earth, air, water, fire, and a fifth, cosmic essence) to one of the Platonic solids.  Earth got cubes.  So far as I know, there is no cosmic link with the dodecahedron. Some details here:   https://www.quantamagazine.org/geometry-reveals-how-the-world-is-assembled-from-cubes-20201119/

Girl Fight

 False advertising.  Really just Schopenhauer on Hegel. Schopenhauer, who had the pleasure of knowing Hegel personally and who suggested13 the use of Shakespeare’s words, ‘such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not’, as the motto of Hegel’s philosophy, drew the following excellent picture of the master: ‘Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to achieve the intellectual corruption of a whole generation.’ Popper, Karl R.. The Open Society and Its Enemies (P

The Most Hated President

 It is said that Biden does not want Trump investigated:  https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/president-elect-biden-wary-trump-focused-investigations-sources-say-n1247959 I predict that if Biden does some kind of Gerald Ford pardon he will instantly become the most hated President in history - Republicans will still hate him but not nearly as much as Democrats will.  His Presidency will instantly lose all credibility. Let the law do its work.  If Trump is guilty, let him be convicted.