Archivi categoria: Scienza

Il mio pensiero sulle scienze non-fisica — come la biologia evolutiva, neuroscienze cognitive, ecc.

Altre cospirazioni noti

Una teoria della cospirazione rimane una teoria e foraggio per eccentrici fino a quando non viene soffiata spalancata. A quel punto, i pazzi diventano pluripremiati giornalisti e dirigenti che erano considerati eroi nazionali diventano criminali sociopatici. Tale è la volubilità dell'opinione popolare, e così sarà con il 9/11 cospirazione quando diventa ampiamente noto (se mai) che si trattava di un complotto.

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9/11 Debunkers

Personalmente, one of the main reasons I started taking the conspiracy theories about 9/11 seriously is the ardor and certainty of the so-called debunkers. They are so sure of their views and so ready with their explanations that they seem rehearsed, coached or even incentivized. Looking at the fire-induced, symmetric, and free-fall collapse of WTC7, how can anyone with any level of scientific background be so certain? The best a debunker could say would be something like, “Sì, the free-fall and the symmetry aspects of the collapse do look quite strange. But the official explanation seems plausible. Almeno, it is more plausible than a wild conspiracy by the government to kill 3000 of our own citizens.” But that is not at all the way they put it. They laugh at the conspiracy theories, make emotional statements about the technical claims, and ignore the questions that they cannot explain away. They toe the official line even when it is clearly unscientific. They try to attack the credibility of the conspiracy camp despite the obvious fact that it has the support of many seasoned professionals, like architects, physics teachers, structural engineers and university professors.

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9/11 – Motives for Mass Murder

In the first post in this series, we saw that 7 World Trade Center building was the smoking gun of a possible conspiracy behind the 9/11 attack. The manner in which it collapsed and the way the collapse was investigated are strong indications of a conspiracy and a cover up. Tuttavia, when I first heard of the conspiracy theory in any serious form, the first question I asked myself was why – what possible motive could any person or organization have to commit mass murder at this scale? I honestly couldn’t see any, and as long as you don’t see one, you cannot take these conspiracy theories seriously. Naturalmente, if you buy the official story that the conspiracy actually originated in Afghanistan among terrorist monsters, you don’t need to look for any rational motives.

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9/11 Conspiracy

Some people are more susceptible to conspiracy theories than others. I am one of them. But even to me, il 9/11 conspiracy theories sounded ludicrous at first. I couldn’t see any possible motivation for anyone to go and murder 3000 persone, nor any possible way of getting away with it. But there were things that could not be explained in the way the buildings came down, especially the World Trade Center Building 7, WTC7. So I went through as much of the conspiracy literature, and their debunking as I could. After a month or so of casual research, I have to say that a conspiracy is plausible, and even likely. I thought I would share my thoughts here, with apologies to anyone who might find this line of thinking offensive.

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Autismo e Genius

La maggior parte delle cose nella vita sono distribuiti normalmente, il che significa che tutti mostrano una curva a campana quando si quantificato utilizzando una misura ragionevole. Per esempio, i segni segnate da un numero sufficiente di studenti ha una distribuzione normale, con pochissimi punteggio vicino allo zero o vicino a 100%, e la maggior parte raggrupparsi intorno alla media della classe. Questa distribuzione è la base per la lettera di classificazione. Naturalmente, questo presuppone un test sensibile - se il test è troppo facile (come un test scuola elementare dato a studenti universitari), tutti avrebbero punteggio vicino a 100% e non ci sarebbe curva a campana, né alcun modo ragionevole di lettera-classificazione dei risultati.

Se potessimo ragionevolmente quantificare caratteristiche come l'intelligenza, follia, autismo, Atletico, attitudine musicale ecc, essi dovrebbero formare normali distribuzioni gaussiane. Dove vi trovate sulla curva è una questione di fortuna. Se siete fortunati, si cade sul lato destro della distribuzione vicino alla coda, e se siete sfortunati, si dovrebbe trovare te stesso verso la fine sbagliata. Ma questa affermazione è un po 'troppo semplicistico. Nulla nella vita è proprio così straight-forward. Le varie distribuzioni hanno correlazioni strani. Anche in assenza di correlazioni, considerazioni di carattere puramente matematiche indicheranno che la probabilità di trovarsi alla fine a destra di molteplici tratti desiderabili è sottile. Vale a dire, se siete in cima 0.1% della vostra coorte accademicamente, e in termini di tuo aspetto, e in atletismo, sei già uno su un miliardo — che è il motivo per cui non si trovano molti fisici teorici straordinariamente bello che sono anche classificati giocatori di tennis.

La recente campione mondiale di scacchi, Magnus Carlsen, è anche un modello di moda, che è una notizia proprio perché è l'eccezione che conferma la regola. A proposito, Ho solo capito che cosa misteriosa espressione "eccezione che conferma la regola" in realtà voleva dire - qualcosa si presenta come un'eccezione solo perché come regola generale, non esiste o accade, che dimostra che non vi è una regola.

Tornando al nostro tema, oltre alla probabilità minuscolo per genio come prescritto dalla matematica, troviamo anche correlazioni tra genio e patologie comportamentali come la pazzia e l'autismo. Un cervello genio probabilmente è cablato in modo diverso. Qualcosa di diverso dalla norma è anche, bene, anormale. Comportamento anomalo quando giudicato contro le regole della società è la definizione di follia. Quindi vi è un solo una linea sottile che separa la pazzia da vero genio, Credo. Le vite personali di molti geni puntano a questa conclusione. Einstein aveva strane relazioni personali, e un figlio che era clinicamente pazzo. Molti geni effettivamente finito nel cestino looney. E alcuni afflitti con autismo mostrano i regali sorprendenti come la memoria fotografica, abilità matematiche ecc. Prendete per esempio, il caso di savants autistici. O considerare casi come Sheldon Cooper di The Big Bang Theory, che è solo leggermente migliore rispetto (o diversi) il Rain Man.

Credo che la ragione per la correlazione è il fatto che le stesse lievi anomalie nel cervello possono spesso manifestarsi come talento o genio sul lato positivo, o come regali discutibili sul lato negativo. Credo che il mio messaggio è che chiunque lontano dalla media in qualsiasi distribuzione, sia esso brillantezza o la follia, dovrebbe prendere con né orgoglio né rancore. Si tratta semplicemente di una fluttuazione statistica. So che questo post non alleviare il dolore di coloro che sono afflitti dal lato negativo, o eliminare l'arroganza di quelli sul lato positivo. Ma qui sta sperando che almeno diminuire l'intensità di questi sentimenti…
Foto di Arturo de Albornoz

Vedere e Credere

Quando apriamo gli occhi e guardiamo a qualche cosa, vediamo che cosa maledetta. Che cosa potrebbe essere più evidente di quello, diritto? Diciamo che si sta guardando il tuo cane. Quello che vedete è davvero il vostro cane, perché, se vuoi, è possibile raggiungere e toccare. Abbaia, e si può sentire la trama. Se puzza un po ', si può sentire l'odore. Tutti questi indizi percettivi supplementari confermano la tua convinzione che ciò che state vedendo è il tuo cane. Direttamente. Senza fare domande.

Naturalmente, il mio lavoro su questo blog è di porre domande, e dubbi del cast. Prima di tutto, vedere e toccare sembrano essere un po 'diverso dal sentire e odorare. Non si sente assolutamente il vostro cane abbaiare, si sente il suono. Allo stesso modo, non è l'odore direttamente, si sente odore l'odore, la scia chimica il cane ha lasciato in aria. Audizione e odore sono tre posto percezioni — il cane genera il suono / odore, il suono / odore viaggia per voi, si percepisce il suono / odore.

Ma vedendo (o toccare) è una cosa a due posto — il cane si, e qui percepire direttamente. Perché? Perché riteniamo che quando vediamo o tocchiamo qualcosa, sentiamo direttamente? Questa fede nella veridicità percettiva di ciò che vediamo si chiama realismo ingenuo. Noi, naturalmente, sappiamo che coinvolge vedere la luce (così fa toccare, ma in modo molto più complicato), quello che stiamo vedendo è la luce riflessa da un oggetto e così via. È, infatti, non è diverso da sentire qualcosa. Ma questa conoscenza del meccanismo di vedere non altera la nostra naturale, vista del senso comune che ciò che vediamo è ciò che è là fuori. Vedere per credere.

Estrapolato dalla versione ingenuo è il realismo scientifico, che afferma che i nostri concetti scientifici sono anche reale, vedevamo noi non li possiamo percepire direttamente. Così gli atomi sono reali. Gli elettroni sono reali. Quark sono reali. La maggior parte dei nostri scienziati migliori là fuori sono stato scettico su questo extraploation alla nostra idea di ciò che è reale. Einstein, probabilmente il meglio di loro, sospettavano che anche lo spazio e il tempo potrebbero non essere reali. Feynman e Gell-Mann, dopo lo sviluppo di teorie sulla elettroni e quark, espresso l'opinione che gli elettroni e quark potrebbero essere costrutti matematici piuttosto che entità reali.

What I am inviting you to do here is to go beyond the skepticism of Feynman and Gell-Mann, and delve into Einstein’s words — space and time are modes by which we think, not conditions in which we live. The sense of space is so real to us that we think of everything else as interactions taking place in the arena of space (and time). But space itself is the experience corresponding to the electrical signals generated by the light hitting your retina. It is a perceptual construct, much like the tonality of the sound you hear when air pressure waves hit your ear drums. Our adoption of naive realism results in our complete trust in the three dimensional space view. And since the world is created (in our brain as perceptual constructs) based on light, its speed becomes an all important constant in our world. And since speed mixes space and time, a better description is found in a four dimensional Minkowski geometry. But all these descriptions are based on perceptual experiences and therefore unreal in some sense.

I know the description above is highly circular — I talked about space being a mental construct created by light traveling through, get this, space. And when I speak of its speed, naturally, I’m talking about distance in space divided by time, and positing as the basis for the space-time mixing. This circularity makes my description less than clear and convincing. But the difficulty goes deeper than that. You see, all we have is this cognitive construct of space and time. We can describe objects and events only in terms of these constructs even when we know that they are only cognitive representations of sensory signals. Our language doesn’t go beyond that. Well, it does, but then we will be talking the language, for instance, of Advaita, calling the constructs Maya and the causes behind them Brahman, which stays unknowable. Or, we will be using some other parallel descriptions. These descriptions may be profound, wise and accurate. But ultimately, they are also useless.

But if philosophy is your thing, the discussions of cognitive constructs and unknown causations are not at all useless. Philosophy of physics happens to be my thing, and so I ask myself — what if I assume the unknown physical causes exist in a world similar to our perceptual construct? I could then propagate the causes through the process of perception and figure out what the construct should look like. I know, it sounds a bit complex, but it is something that we do all the time. We know, for instance, that the stars that we see in the night sky are not really there — we are seeing them the way they were a few (or a few million or billion) years ago because the light from them takes a long time to reach us. Physicists also know that the perceived motion of celestial objects also need to be corrected for these light-travel-time effects.

In fact, Einstein used the light travel time effects as the basis for deriving his special theory of relativity. He then stipulated that space and time behave the way we perceive them, derived using the said light-travel-time effects. This, of course, is based on his deep understanding that space and time are “the modes by which we think,” but also based on the assumption that the the causes behind the modes also are similar to the modes themselves. This depth of thinking is lost on the lesser scientists that came after him. The distinction between the modes of thinking and their causation is also lost, so that space and time have become entities that obey strange rules. Like bent spoons.

Photo by General Press1

Average Beauty

If you have migrated multiple times in your life, you may have noticed a strange thing. The first time you end up in a new place, most people around you look positively weird. Ugly even. But slowly, after a year or two, you begin to find them more attractive. This effect is more pronounced if the places you are migrating from and to have different racial predominance. For example, if you migrate from the US to Japan, or from India to China. As usual, I have a theory about this strange phenomenon. Well, actually, it is more than a theory. Let me begin at the beginning.

About fifteen years ago, I visited a Japanese research institute that did all kinds of strange studies. One of the researchers there showed me his study on averaging facial features. For this study, he took a large number of Japanese faces, and averaged them (which meant he normalized the image size and orientation, digitally took the mean on a pixel-by-pixel basis). So he had an average Japanese male face and an average Japanese female face. He even created a set of hybrids by making linear combinations of the two with different weighting factors. He then showed the results to a large number of people and recorded their preference in terms of the attractiveness of the face. The strange thing was that the average face looked more pleasant and attractive to the Japanese eye than any one of the individual ones. In fact, the most attractive male face was the one that had a bit of female features in it. That is to say, it was the one with 90% average male and 10% average female (or some such combination, I don’t remember the exact weights).

The researcher went one step further, and created an average caucasian face as well. He then took the difference between that and an average Japanese face, and then superimposed the difference on an average face with exaggerated weights. The result was a grotesque caricature, which he postulated, was probably the way a Japanese person would see a caucasian for the first time.

This reminded me of the time when I visited my housemate’s farm in a small town in Pennsylvania – a town so small that the street in front the farm was named after him! I went with his parents to the local grocery store, and there was this little girl sitting in a shopping cart who went wide-eyed when she saw me. She couldn’t take her eyes off me after that. May be, seeing an Indian face for the first time in her life, she saw a similar caricature and got scared.

Anyway, my conjecture is that an averaging similar to what the Japanese researcher did happens in all of us when we migrate. First our minds see grotesque and exaggerated difference caricatures between the faces we encounter and the ones we were used to, in our previous land. Soon, our baseline average changes as we get more used to the faces around us. And the difference between what we see and our baseline ceases to be big, and we end up liking the faces more and more as they move progressively closer to the average, normal face.

Here are the average male and female faces by race or country. Notice how each one of them is a remarkably handsome or beautiful specimen. If you find some of them not so remarkable, you should move to that country and spend a few years there so that they also become remarkable! And, if you find the faces from a particular country especially attractive, with no prolonged expsosure to such faces, I would like to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments.

[I couldn’t trace the original sources of these images. If you know them, please let me know — I would like to get copyright permissions and add attributions.]

There is more to this story than I outlined here. May be I will add my take on it as a comment below. However, the moral of the story is that if you consider yourself average, you are probably more attractive than you think you are. Than again, what do I know, I’m just an average guy. 🙂

If you found this post interesting, you may also enjoy:

  1. Why is seeing not quite believing?
  2. Sophistication

Do You Believe in God?

I got in trouble for asking this question once. The person I asked the question got angry because she felt that it was too personal. So I am not going to ask you whether you believe in God. Don’t tell me — I will tell you! I will also tell you a bit more about your personality later in this post.

Ok, here is the deal. You take the quiz below. It has over 40 true-or-false questions about your habits and mannerisms. Once you answer them, I will tell you whether you believe in God, and if so, how much. If you get bored after say 20 questions or so, it is okay, you can quit the quiz and get the Rate. But the more questions you answer, the more accurate my guess about your faith is going to be.


Once you have your Score (or Rate, if you didn’t finish the quiz), click on the button corresponding to it.

         

Here is how it works. There is a division of labor going on in our brain, according to the theory of hemispheric specialization of brain functions. In this theory, the left hemisphere of the brain is considered the origin of logical and analytical thinking, and the right hemisphere is the origin of creative and intuitive thinking. The so-called left-brain person is thought to be linear, logical, analytical, and unemotional; and the right-brained person is thought to be spatial, creative, mystical, intuitive, and emotional.

This notion of hemispheric specialization raises an interesting question: is atheism related to the logical hemisphere? Are atheists less emotional? I think so, and this test is based on that belief. The quiz tests whether you are “left-brain” person. If you score high, your left-brain is dominant, and you are likely to be more analytical and logical than intuitive or creative. And, according to my conjecture, you are likely to be an atheist. Did it work for you?

Well, even if it didn’t, now you know whether you are analytical or intuitive. Please leave a comment to let me know how it worked.

[This post is an edited excerpt from my book The Unreal Universe]

Photo by Waiting For The Word

Are You an Introvert?

Here is a simple 20-question quiz to see if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts tend to agree with most of these statements. So if you get a score of close to 100%, you are a confirmed introvert, which is not a bad thing. You are likely to be a quiet, contemplative type with strong family ties and a generally balanced outlook in life. On the other hand, if you get close to 0%, congratulations, I see stock options in your future. And you are a party animal and believe that life is supposed to be wall-to-wall fun, which it will be for you. I’m not too sure of those in the middle though.

These questions are from Susan Cain’s best seller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and a prelude to my review of it. The questions are copyrighted to Cain, and are reproduced here with the understanding that it constitutes “fair use.” If you have any concerns about it, feel free to contact me.