There's an article by Matthew R. Francis in Symmetry magazine garnering a lot of attention asking whether falsifiability is a useful criteria for scientific theories. Popper wrote in his classic book The Logic of Scientific Discovery that a theory that cannot be proven false—that is, a theory flexible enough to encompass every possible experimental outcome—is scientifically useless. … Continue reading The relationship between usefulness and falsifiability
Ethan Siegel at Starts With a Bang has a post up arguing that the multiverse must exist. His reasoning has to do with cosmic inflation. Inflation is the theory that the universe expanded at an exponential rate in the first billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of the big bang timeline. … Continue reading Is cosmic inflation settled science?
At Aeon, Nevin Climenhaga makes some interesting points about probability. After describing different interpretations of probability, one involving the frequency with which an event will occur, another involving its propensity to occur, and a third involving our confidence it will occur, he describes how, given a set of identical facts, each of these interpretations can … Continue reading Probability is relative
Nathaniel Stein has an interesting article at Aeon, The why of reality: The easy question came first, a few months after my son turned four: ‘Are we real?’ It was abrupt, but not quite out of nowhere, and I was able to answer quickly. Yes, we’re real – but Elsa and Anna, two characters from Frozen, … Continue reading Why are we real?
The Neuroskeptic has an interesting post on a paper challenging theories of mind based on strong emergence. A new paper offers a broad challenge to a certain kind of ‘grand theory’ about the brain. According to the authors, Federico E. Turkheimer and colleagues, it is problematic to build models of brain function that rely on ‘strong … Continue reading Strong vs weak emergence
Ross Pomeroy at Real Clear Science discusses five logical fallacies that often get misidentified and abused in arguments. Identified by Steven Novella in his book The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, one of these is the old Correlation and Causation fallacy: 2. Correlation and Causation. Correlation does not prove causation. To say that it does is a logical fallacy. … Continue reading How do we establish causation?
Aeon is currently highlighting articles from throughout 2018 that are editor favorites. This morning, they highlighted one by Gloria Origgi, Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now: There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that … Continue reading We entered the reputation age a long time ago
In the discussion on the last post on measurement, the definition of knowledge came up a few times. That's dredged up long standing thoughts I have about knowledge, which I've discussed with some of you before, but that I don't think I've ever actually put in a post. The ancient classic definition of knowledge is … Continue reading What is knowledge?
It's a mantra for many scientists, not to mention many business managers, that if you can't measure it, it's not real. On the other hand, I've been told by a lot of people, mostly non-scientists, and occasionally humanistic scholars including philosophers, that not everything knowable is measurable. But what exactly is a measurement? My intuitive understanding … Continue reading Are there things that are knowable but not measurable?
One of the things that's exciting about learning new things, is that often a new understanding in one area sheds light on what might seem like a completely separate topic. For me, information about how the brain works appears to have shed new light on a question in the philosophy of of science, where there has long … Continue reading What do scientific theories actually tell us about the world?