Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


The media is abuzz, and friends have been calling me, about the so-called Super Moon. There’s nothing to get excited about here, folks: the (full) moon will be at perigee (its closest point to the Earth) and about 14% larger in diameter than it is at apogee (its farthest point from the earth), and only about 7% larger than the full moon is on average.

If they didn’t read the hype, and hence didn’t expect to see something, very probably 99% of people wouldn’t notice this rather subtle difference. And the other 1% would be amateur and professional astronomers who’d be aware of it, but wouldn’t get excited about it.

There are lessons to be drawn from this.

As Oscar Wilde put it in The Critic as Artist, “[Journalism] keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

And as Wilde put it so well in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, “[T]he public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.”

There’s very little to add other than that journalism has advanced significantly since Wilde’s day and now manufactures things not worth knowing.


Stanislav Andreski

“So long as authority inspires awe, confusion and absurdity enhance conservative tendencies in society. Firstly, because clear and logical thinking leads to a cumulation of knowledge (of which the progress of the natural sciences provides the best example) and the advance of knowledge sooner or later undermines the traditional order. Confused thinking, on the other hand, leads nowhere in particular and can be indulged indefinitely without producing any impact upon the world.”

* * *
–Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences as Sorcery, quoted by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in the introduction to Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science


We put up our 1,000th post a couple of weeks ago. Since then, we’ve been looking through everything we’ve posted, and have been putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the eighth of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science Fiction, HumorMusicInterviews, AtheismEconomics, and Addictions lists, and will shortly be putting up our final “best ofs”: Politics and  Religion.

Best Science & Skepticism Posts


snakeoilcoverChris Edwards, author of Spiritual Snake Oil: Fads and Fallacies in Popular Culture and (under the pseudonym S.C. Hitchcock) Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheismhas two reviews in the new issue of Skeptic magazine.

In the new issue, Chris reviews The Invention of Science A New History of the Scientific Revolution, by David Wootton, and The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind, by A.C. Grayling.

To introduce readers to Chris’s work, we’ve put up sample chapters in pdf form from both Spiritual Snake Oil and Disbelief 101 on the See Sharp Press web site.

Disbelief 101: A Young Person's Guide to AtheismOf late, Chris has been concentrating on works for professionals in the education field, but he’s now working on an as-yet-to-be-titled science fiction novel which we hope to publish in late 2017.

 


Skeptic Michael Shermer

Skeptic Michael Shermer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“But isn’t the history of science . . . strewn with the remains of failed theories such as phlogiston, miasma, spontaneous generation and the luminous aether? Yes, and that is how we know we are making progress. The postmodern belief that discarded ideas mean that there is no objective reality and that all theories are equal is more wrong than all the wrong [scientific] theories combined.”

–Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic), “At the Boundary of Knowledge,” Scientific American, September 2016

* * *

For an amusing illustration of the pretentious vacuity of postmodernism, see physicist Alan Sokal’s hoax article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” which he describes as “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense … structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernists he] could find about mathematics and physics.” Sokal approached a prominent — “prestigious” would be inaccurate — academic postmodernist journal, Social Text, which thought highly enough of the piece that  they published it in their Spring/Summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue.

As Richard Dawkins noted in Nature:

Sokal’s paper must have seemed a gift to the editors because this was a physicist saying all the right-on things they wanted to hear, attacking the ‘post-Enlightenment hegemony’ and such uncool notions as the existence of the real world. They didn’t know that Sokal had also crammed his paper with egregious scientific howlers, of a kind that any referee with an undergraduate degree in physics would instantly have detected. It was sent to no such referee. The editors, Andrew Ross and others, were satisfied that its ideology conformed to their own, and were perhaps flattered by references to their own works. This ignominious piece of editing rightly earned them the 1996 Ig Nobel prize for literature.

For a bit of fun, Communications From Elsewhere has a postmodern text generator, and you can generate your own computer science postmodern masterpiece with the help of an online gibberish generator created by pranksters at MIT. Just fill in the names of the “authors,” and voilá: a correctly formatted “academic” paper that makes sense only occasionally and inadvertently.

I pulled up the generator, fed in the names of a few lesser known cult leaders and serial killers (yes, there is overlap) and came up with a paper titled:

Decoupling the Turing Machine from Consistent Hashing in Byzantine Fault Tolerance

Authored by
Fritz Haarmann, Michel Petiot, Charles Dederich, Ervil LeBaron and Luc Geret

Abstract
Many physicists would agree that, had it not been for linked lists, the deployment of the Ethernet might never have occurred. In this paper, we confirm the investigation of Byzantine fault tolerance. In this position paper, we concentrate our efforts on validating that public-private key pairs and Lamport clocks can agree to surmount this grand challenge.

So, there you go. Have fun with the postmodern text generator and the computer-science gibberish generator.  (Thanks to UA astronomer Jess Johnson for alerting me to the latter wonderful resource.)


(It’s shocking, we know, but we made critical typos when we put up this list a couple of weeks ago, and as a result  “404ed” our readers when they clicked on the links. Our apologies if you were one of them. All of the links work correctly now, so . . . back to the original post.)

We’re in the process of extracting and posting pdf excerpts from our approximately 35 in-print books. All of the samples are good sized, ranging from one to six chapters. For ease of access, we’ve divided the books into categories; there is some overlap, as some of the books fall into more than one category. Here’s what we’ve posted so far:

HumorBible Tales for Ages 18 and Up, by G. Richard Bozarth, front cover

Music

Politics

Psychology

Religion / Atheism

Science Fiction

Skepticism

For more free samples and complete books and pamphlets in html format, check out the See Sharp Press Texts on Line page.


We’re in the process of extracting and posting pdf excerpts from our approximately 35 in-print books. All of the samples are good sized, ranging from one to six chapters. For ease of access, we’ve divided the books into categories; there is some overlap, as some of the books fall into more than one category. Here’s what we’ve posted so far:

 

HumorBible Tales for Ages 18 and Up, by G. Richard Bozarth, front cover

Music

Politics

Psychology

Religion / Atheism

Science Fiction

Skepticism

For more free samples and complete books and pamphlets in html format, check out the See Sharp Press Texts on Line page.