A Survey of the Sciences and Arts
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form. Against it are discharged all the shafts of a materialistic sophistication which clings to frequently felt emotions and external events, and of a naively insipid idealism which deprecates the aesthetic motive and calls for a didactic literature to uplift the reader toward a suitable degree of smirking optimism. But in spite of all this opposition the weird tale has survived, developed, and attained remarkable heights of perfection; founded as it is on a profound and elementary principle whose appeal, if not always universal, must necessarily be poignant and permanent to minds of the requisite sensitiveness.I've already acquired several of the classics he mentioned and will read them whenever I next feel the need to be weirded out. His only work of fiction that I recall reading was The Dunwhich Horror which was so creepy that I was never able to bring myself to read anything else by the author, despite my appreciation for the quality of his writing.
|Lovecraft in 1934|
|Digital photograph; arrow shows the penetrating injury to the maxilla|
|Richard III in Better Days|
I did not dare to think that it was false, but I knew it was rotten!The Fate of the Quantum by Nobel prize winner Gerard 't Hooft is a sophisticated critique of quantum mechanics which also touches upon philosophical issues such as Free Will. The standard interpretations of quantum theory often invoke the free will of experimenters to make independent decisions at the last second. 't Hooft complains that alternative interpretations are sometimes dismissed, on grounds more philosophical than scientific:
This explanation is usually also dismissed. It is called a ‘conspiracy theory’, and that is considered to be disgusting. But are ‘disgusting’, or ‘ridiculous’, valid arguments in a mathematical proof? We have reasons to doubt that.More concretely the paper mentions the concept of Superdeterminism, which probably eliminates the possibility of free will and also evades the assumptions behind Bell's Theorem.
When Newton saw an apple fall, he foundIn contrast, William Blake found Newton's work deeply offensive. I had of course seen reproductions of the Blake monotype many times and had always thought of it as a rather heroic depiction, until Holmes pointed out Blake's actual opinion of Newton. He showed a slide of Blake's image along with a photo of the Eduardo Paolozzi bronze at the British museum.
In that slight startle from his contemplation --
'T is said (for I'll not answer above ground
For any sage's creed or calculation) --
A mode of proving that the earth turn'd round
In a most natural whirl, called "gravitation;"
And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple.
The variational principles of mechanics are firmly rooted in the soil of that great century of Liberalism which starts with Descartes and ends with the French Revolution and which has witnessed the lives of Leibniz, Spinoza, Goethe, and Johann Sebastian Bach. It is the only period of cosmic thinking in the entire history of Europe since the time of the GreeksThe Action Principle may be the most profound principle in all of nature. The 18th century origins of the principle were colorful and controversial. Characters who were deeply involved included Émilie du Châtelet, an aristocratic lady; her lover, the writer Voltaire; and Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia! See The Berlin Academy and forgery.
I WANT to end on a positive note. Mathematics, both pure and applied, is integral to our civilization, whether the realm is aesthetic or electronic. But for most adults, it is more feared or revered than understood. It’s clear that requiring algebra for everyone has not increased our appreciation of a calling someone once called “the poetry of the universe.” (How many college graduates remember what Fermat’s dilemma was all about?)He's absolutely correct here, college graduates don't remember anything at all about Fermat's dilemma - that's because it was never mentioned! He probably meant to say Fermat's Last Theorem, a widely known mathematical curiosity. The end of algebra by Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post is a clever and funny response to Hacker's screed.
|"Now where did I leave that screwdriver?"|
--- the other Big Higgs Question
The total cost of a bat and ball is $1.10; the bat costs a dollar more than the ball; how much does the ball cost?Most people answer this one quickly and alas, incorrectly. Kahneman attributes this to using System 1. The correct answer is at the bottom of this post.
The correct answer to the bat and ball puzzle is 5 cents - however, the most common answer given is 10 cents.
|Barth approaching Timbuktu|
After a new study failed to find nanodiamonds, impact experts are flatly rejecting outsiders' claims that an impact 12,900 years ago devastated the megafauna.However the proponents of the impact hypothesis have not surrendered! Evidence from central Mexico supporting the Younger Dryas extraterrestrial impact hypothesis in PNAS (2012) details new evidence from lake sediments in Mexico.
My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful; but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful.Contemporary physicists (in particular String Theorists) have been known to go on about how "beautiful" they find some theory (typically their own haha) especially when hard evidence to support that theory is nowhere in sight. There's usually a kind of tacit implication that the expositor is better in touch with the mysteries of the cosmos than the great unwashed who don't appreciate the "beauty" of their revolutionary new theory. After all the great Weyl valued Beauty over Truth didn't he? Peter Woit points out in a recent blog post Dyson on Fringe Physics, String Cosmology and Hermann Weyl that the context of that quote is quite significant and it's more than a little misleading to take it out of that context. It was published in a paper by Freeman Dyson in Nature on the occasion of Weyl's passing:
Characteristic of Weyl was an aesthetic sense which dominated his thinking on all subjects. He once said to me, half joking, ‘My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful; but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful’. This remark sums up his personality perfectly. It shows his profound faith in an ultimate harmony of Nature, in which the laws should inevitably express themselves in a mathematically beautiful form. It shows also his recognition of human frailty, and his humor, which always stopped him short of being pompous.A particular example of this was Weyl's gauge theory of gravity, which turned out to be fatally flawed, but which he was reluctant to abandon because of its beauty. As it turns out, some of the principles that he used in this unworkable theory of gravity found use later on in other areas of physics. However, just because Weyl liked one of his theories that didn't work out at first, but some of the ideas later proved to be useful, doesn't mean the odds are particularly good at all for contemporary theorists with pet theories they claim to be beautiful. The libraries have aisles and aisles full of journals and dissertations which haven't turned out to be significant and it's extremely likely that the vast majority of them will never turn out to significant, not least because they often contradict each other!
Some may furthermore feel it necessary, for standards compliance, to demand an absolute guarantee that values returned by RdRand reflect independent entropy samples within the DRNGwhich goes on to list a couple of techniques
to guarantee that the random value returned is based on an entropy sample independent from the prior function invocation, and independent from the subsequent function invocationwhich may enable one to circumvent the DRBG.
A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.--- Elbridge Gerry
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho' it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble