No Gospel Truth in Science

A crucial point about science I couldn’t have put any better. Science is an ongoing conversation, not a series of absolute determinations. Anytime a radical result is announced, we should really think about its implications in terms of if the results are replicated or hold up under further analysis. Every paper is only part of that conversation.

Planet Pailly

Hello, friends!

So there’s this notion in the popular press that when a new scientific paper comes out, that paper should be taken as the final definitive word on an issue. Science has spoken. This is a scientific fact now. But that is not how science works.

When new research is published, you should expect there will be followup research, and then that followup research will be followed up by even more research.  A new scientific paper really shouldn’t be seen as a proclamation of fact but rather as the beginning of a dialogue among scientists, or perhaps as the continuation of a dialogue that’s already in progress.

The recent detection of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus has turned out to be a fantastic example of this ongoing dialogue in action.  The initial research was published in two separate papers (click here or here).  Basically, astronomers found the…

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A basic question on the black hole information paradox

Image of black hole

The black hole information paradox has been receiving some attention lately. This is the fact that information, that is any pattern of matter, that falls into a black hole is completely crushed as it approaches the singularity, losing whatever differentiation it might have had before. This has long been recognized as a problem, because in … Continue reading A basic question on the black hole information paradox

A PBS Space Time series on time and the block universe

Somewhat related to the previous post, I just saw this video from Matt O'Dowd discussing why the block universe is such a compelling concept. The second video in the series discusses the effect quantum mechanics might have on this concept. It reminds me why cosmologists seem to be more comfortable with the Many Worlds … Continue reading A PBS Space Time series on time and the block universe

The block universe is interesting, but not comforting

Click through for source and bonus red button caption at This SMBC gets at something that's often bothered me about the way many people talk about the block universe concept. The block universe is the idea that if the universe is fully deterministic, then its entire history from beginning to end exists in an … Continue reading The block universe is interesting, but not comforting

Voting in the general election, 2020 edition

I Voted sticker

I voted. I did early voting, although I would have preferred to have voted by mail. However, my state's Republican dominated legislature did everything they could to prevent that. The state only offered mail-in voting after they lost a lawsuit, and then only for relatively narrow cases. To do it, I would have had to … Continue reading Voting in the general election, 2020 edition

The centrality of fear in nature

Wolves eating a deer

Anyone who's ever interacted with a wild animal knows how skittish they are compared to any domestic animal. I think of the squirrels on my university's campus. In general, people leave the squirrel population alone there, so they tend not to be afraid of humans. Although there are still occasional predators, such as cats, dogs, … Continue reading The centrality of fear in nature

The consciousness of crows

Last week, Science Magazine published an interesting study on bird consciousness: A neural correlate of sensory consciousness in a corvid bird.  The study conducted an experiment where crows were trained to respond to a sensory stimulus.  The stimulus itself could be at the threshold of perceptibility, above that threshold, or missing.  After the stimulus (or … Continue reading The consciousness of crows