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Blogger William Orem wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 00:52 GMT


What an excellent couple of months it’s been for the science blogs. It seems like every few weeks we are being treated to another shiny new pebble, to borrow Newton’s analogy, from the endless beach of nature. Who would have thought the count of stars in the observable universe would plausibly be recalculated at a staggering 300 sextillion? Or that those stars found to be so much more common—red dwarves—would be the ones typically old enough to harbor life, opening the possibility of “trillions of earths” overhead? Or that the existence of alien species would finally be confirmed . . . ?

Oops.

Looks like some of those pebbles only appear to be new. On closer inspection they seem more familiar, and less shiny. Thus with a particular pebble that fell from the sky over what is now France and which, according to a much reported and blogged-about release this month, contains fossil evidence of alien bacteria.

Now, I try to keep a skeptical mind. (Not a cynical one: skeptical in the noble sense of the word, meaning an attitude that matches belief to evidence.) You say you found alien life? That’s fantastic. What’s your data?

And: Is it compelling? And, if so: Is it compelling enough to warrant so extreme an interpretation?

In this case, my money says no.

There were some warning signs from the start: Why did FOX News, hardly a beacon of scientific credibility, break this story? What exactly is The Journal of Cosmology, anyway? (Were you aware of this non-print journal before this week? Chime in.) As science sites go, the Journal has a certain . . . improvisational feel to it, let’s say. And it also seems to have an agenda—though not exactly a political one—in promoting the notion of Panspermia. Word is the site is also about to go under, and could really use a big, booming news release to shore up its funds and secure a buyer.

All of which is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of the report, of course; I’ve blogged before about the importance of avoiding logical fallacies when examining extraordinary claims. Nor, for that matter, is the fact that this article was submitted by NASA scientist Richard Hoover of the Marshall Space Flight Center in itself material. NASA people can be as goofy as anyone else. All that matters is: Does Hoover have the goods?

If these squiggly things that appear under the SEM are indeed alien fossils, then they are alien fossils, no matter where the story broke. (Gary Hart really was running around with Fawn Hall, regardless of the fact that the National Enquirer made the catch.) So if the humble Journal of Cosmology has the prize discovery of the century in its hands, more power to them.

But we remember the arsenic-eaters, and how that turned out. And, of course, we remember the 1996 claim of Martian fossils. And we remember cold fusion. And so on.

Within just a few days the initial excitement over this report passed quickly into incredulity, and even hostility, among many in the blogosphere. The sapid folks over at Pharyngula put it this way:

“[This] isn’t a real science journal at all, but is the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth.”

To say nothing of the succinct: “[t]his work is garbage.”

Ouch.



By coincidence, I spoke with Chandra Wickramasinghe (by email) a few years back when I was researching an article on Exogenesis. Which, I hasten to add, is perfectly plausible as a conjecture; though Hoyle et. al. were unable to get such notions into mainstream science, this isn’t crackpot stuff. We may still discover that the reason life popped up on Earth with such bizarre alacrity after the bombardment period ended is that it had been much more slowly evolving on a wet Mars well ahead of time.

(“Exogenesis” is a humbler supposition than Panspermia, merely positing that life on Earth got its initial start somewhere else. Panspermia posits that life travels, by various mechanisms, not only from planet to planet but even from star to star.)

Nevertheless, I remember that whenever I mentioned Wickramasinghe’s name in particular I was greeted by a polite raising of eyebrows. I wasn’t sure why, but I got the clear signal from folks in the Astrobio community that here I was venturing into “crank” territory. I have to say my experience in briefly communicating with Wickramasinghe, and others, at the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology did not support this harsh read: these were rational, polite, and even-keeled people. Of course, we never discussed the more speculative elements of their enthusiasm: Do viruses come from space? Is SARS extraterrestrial? Are interstellar clouds made of E. coli, and is space more akin to a Petri dish than a lifeless vacuum? Looking back on it, this kind of conjecture was surely what was lifting the lids of my fellow reporters.

Still, the proof is in the carbonaceous chondrite. If these meteorite fragments are somehow confirmed to be a treasure-trove of E.T. fossils, uncontaminated and correctly analyzed, well . . . then Newton’s ocean of truth just gave up one of its shiniest trinkets. Wouldn’t it be amazing!

We’ll see. But I suspect that particular gem remains somewhere farther along the beach.



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Steve Dufourny wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:27 GMT
Hello dear William,

Super this article, the astrobiology is fascinating and the secrets of this universal sphere still more fascinating.You imagine at this momment the lifes and creations in our universe, it's incredible that at this present, it exists so many creations on so many planets....it's wonderful,at this present they think, they dream, they live, they evolve, they create, they improve, they probably makes errors also, they communicate, they move, the eat, they reproduce themselves.....they continue also the road of harmonization and spherization.Hope they do not make the same errors than us.They have eyes, a brain, hands,.....brothers of our universal sphere.The future is incredible when the interactions shall be optimized in fact.We rae still young at the universal scale.

Best Regards and thanks for this beautiful article.

Steve

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 15:03 GMT
Dear TH , always the same problem with Latex, even my page of FQXi disappears it's not possible that , what was the other programm please?

Me also I dlike write my equations easily.What is this thing , bizare ,all disappears I can't even go to the home page of latex project,what is this circus?My computer becomes bizare and irrational.An it is not a problem of pc and its memmory Tom really.

Steve

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 17:26 GMT
I am at a loss as to what to tell you, Steve, except to buy a Mac. :-)

The other program I mentioned (the one I use) is MathType, which only works if you have Microsoft Office installed on your computer. It's from DesignScience; I think I paid about a hundred $US. Maybe 75 Euro?

Tom

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 11:47 GMT
:) thanks a lot Tom , I will buy a mac when I will can, always a problem of economy hihih.

Regards

Steve

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T H Ray wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 18:18 GMT
William,

Provocative, as always. :-) I've posted a link before to an essay I wrote in 1998. I think it's relevant here, as it refers to the Hoyle-Wickramsinghe hypothesis: We have met the alien and he is us

Tom

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 18:31 GMT
And yes, before anyone else catches it, I know that the citation for "Penzias and Mitchell," should be "Penzias and Wilson." I don't know how I made such a mistake. Doh!

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Bubba wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 19:48 GMT
Interesting article.

Obviously, the only way for any researcher to prove such structures and their associated chemical markers are biological in origin is to show that no other chemical or physical processes could have prduced the structure as a byproduct. Lots of similar sructures can be produced by different processes.

Since we lack detailed information about the physical and chemical processes that took place in the formation of the material and we have no way of knowing what environment the sample had found itself in over billions of years, you would be hard-pressed to draw conclusions. It is easier to disprove the hypothesis than prove it as you would only need to find some chemical marker or structure that rules it out as being a product of any known biological structure or process.

The best we can say is it is an interesting find worth extra study but we can't legitimately draw any conclusions.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 12:02 GMT
I found! you are an alien Bubba Gump hihihihi hello me I am a human.

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 23:21 GMT
Dear William Orem,

I would like to be able to read your articles and have scientific faith in them. But, you continue to put your personal, unscientific, biases into them. I followed the links provided. I see little importance to this article. It is the later confirmation or disproof that matters. I look forward to articles that deal with scientific, your field of expertise, 'meat'.

James

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 11:25 GMT
James,

Could you provide a one-sentence definiton of the word "science?"

Tom

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James Putnam replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 15:09 GMT
Tom,

Science consists of observing, understanding and using what is natural.

James

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 18:38 GMT
Define "natural."

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 13:45 GMT
The difficulty is that nothing is really conclusive. The Martian meteorite connection with life has turned out to be very unlikely. The forms which looked like bacterial type of cells are now known to be formed by more chemical means by heating hydrocarbons. Yet, it is interesting that hydrocarbons exist on Mars. Though there is no evidence of actual life.

The panspermia idea is of course somewhat silly. It does not really solve the problem of how self-organizing organic chemistry produced life. All panspermia does is to shove the problem to somewhere else. It really solves nothing, and frankly I think it is very unlikely that biology on this planet dropped out of the sky from somewhere else.

Cheers LC

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 18:42 GMT
Yet, how does "somewhere" differ from "somewhere else" in a self organized universe?

Tom

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Bubba replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 23:37 GMT
"It can be useful to refer to one effect as the cause of another effect. However, the second effect is usually a result of the same theoretically fundamental cause as is the first effect. Cause remains unknown"

Causality is a nasty subject. It was Bertrand Russell who opined that we should completely remove the word casualty from the discussion of natural phenomenon, as it leads to ambiguity.

To explain what this means, consider this example.

I came home from a heavy workout at the gym this afternoon and was thirsty and quite famished. When I got home, I poured a glass of milk.

Someone might conclude that the milk disappeared from the bottle because I was thirsty. However, had I had not gone to the gym at the time I did, I would probably not have poured a glass of milk at 2PM on Saturday March 12th.

If an engagement this afternoon had not been canceled, I would not have gone to the gym at noon on March 12th. And so on and so forth....In considering causality of the event of pouring a glass of milk at 2PM, we must also include the dropped engagement.

Non-events can also be included in the causal chain. I made it to the gym and back home because I did not get hit by a car on the way to or from the gym. If such an event had occurred, I would not have made it home to be a participant in the event which occurred at 2PM on march 11.

A synchronous chain of events in time and space led to the event of milk disappearing from the bottle at 2PM on Saturday March 12th at the location of my refrigerator. You cannot assign any fundamental cause to the event because there is no fundamental cause. An event in time and space occurred.



The same reasoning can be applied to any event which occurs in nature. We can speak of fundamental principles of behavior but not of fundamental causes. An electron moving in a magnetic field will alter it's trajectory due to known fundamental principles that we have come to observe and formulate regarding the behavior of electromagnetic phenomenon. However, we can never state that the fundamental cause for the event was the laws of electromagnetism as the history of the electron must also include a near infinite number of prior spacetime events. The stochastic nature of the processes implicit in Quantum Mechanics makes causality even more murky.



Each event can be understood by appealing to fundamental principals, but no fundamental(i.e. first cause) cause can ever be assigned to an event.

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 21:44 GMT
Tom, Fundamentally there is no difference. Life did somehow emerge by the principles of chemistry. I suspect there will comes a generalization of Darwin’s principle which digs into chemical complexity and evolution that will guide us somewhat in understanding the origin of life. Maybe evidence exists on Mars for pre-biotic chemistry. I don’t think it likely this occurred on Mars and got transferred here, but more likely in the early history of Earth and Mars there were parallel developments.

LC

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 15:36 GMT
Dr. Crowell,

An informative useful answer. It matters what your opinion is. It helps to hear different opinions by experts and to have other experts comment on them. A conclusion might be 'We don't really know, but here is what we think.' It works for me. Thank you for your opinion.

James

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 23:52 GMT
From Bubba's message above,

"The same reasoning can be applied to any event which occurs in nature. We can speak of fundamental principles of behavior but not of fundamental causes. An electron moving in a magnetic field will alter it's trajectory due to known fundamental principles that we have come to observe and formulate regarding the behavior of electromagnetic phenomenon. ...

I don't think that analogies are helpful. The physical problem either can or cannot be described adequately on its own. Your example of the electron and the magnetic field demonstrates a problem with theoretical physics. While I concur that the electron is real because it causes effects, your use of the word magnetic field for its cause is a philosophical choice. It stems from acceptance of lack of fundamental unity and the mechanical ideology that has been so detrimental to science.

"...However, we can never state that the fundamental cause for the event was the laws of electromagnetism as the history of the electron must also include a near infinite number of prior spacetime events. The stochastic nature of the processes implicit in Quantum Mechanics makes causality even more murky."

Here you can help me out: Why a 'near infinite' number of prior spacetime events. Why not inifinite?

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Bubba replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 00:34 GMT
As per an earlier post, it has nothing to do with philosophy or deduction. A charged particle in the presence of a magnetic field will undergo acceleration. One does not need to know anything about the principles of electromagnetism to draw this conclusion. The conclusion is drawn from empirical observations. The laws of electromagnetism were ultimately derived from observations regarding the behavior of material bodies.

Observation:

Electric charges attract or repel each other. The magnitude of attraction or repulsion can be MEASURED and the numerical measurements fit nicely into a mathematical relationship among the measured variables. The mathematical relationship is found to have the same form as the inverse square law of gravitation.



Observation:

An electric current set up in a wire will cause the needle on a compass to act as if it were in the presence of a magnetic field. Two wires carrying current will attract one another as if they were magnets. Again, one can measure the magnitudes of the physical variables and form precise mathematical relations among the observables.

.

Observation:

Current is generated in a wire loop when it is placed in a magnetic field and upon undergoing translation. After further observations and measurements, one can conclude the the strength of the current depends on the orientation of the loop relative to the orientation of the magnetic field.

These are observed facts. Someone did not sit down one day and construct a proof that led to the laws of EM. There is no axiomatic necessity that the mathematical principles of EM must be what they are through some fundamental rational principle. This is the way it is because this is what we observe to be so.

The relationships among all of these observables eventually led to the realization that we are really dealing with one specific type of fundamental physical phenomenon -- electromagnetism. Maxwell's equations contain a precise mathematical blueprint that allows one to predict the classical behavior or EM phenomenon in the laboratory. Maxwell's Equations tell you how such things will behave when observed. The principles of EM are not some philosophical treatise on reality. The laws of EM accurately describe aspects of observed reality.

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 01:02 GMT
"A charged particle in the presence of a magnetic field will undergo acceleration. One does not need to know anything about the principles of electromagnetism to draw this conclusion. The conclusion is drawn from empirical observations. The laws of electromagnetism were ultimately derived from observations regarding the behavior of material bodies."

The laws of electromagnetism were...

view entire post


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Bubba replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 01:12 GMT
I don't know where you are going with this.

I am starting to get the impression that you really do not understand the aim and intent of science. As I said before, Science is not Philosophy. A law or principle is not arrived at by who comes up with the most compelling argument. A scientist is convinced by empricial evidence, not deductive proofs.

Theories begin and end with observations. If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's not a cow.

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 01:11 GMT
An amendment to my message just above. The example cited by Bubba is the correct way to measure electric charge, but, more importantly, it is the correct way to define electric charge.

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Anonymous wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 01:19 GMT
"I am starting to get the impression that you really do not understand the aim and intent of science."

I understand it allright. What is unacceptable is doctored up answers. By the way: Why 'near infinite' and not infinite?

"Theories begin and end with observations. If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's not a cow."

My point is that your theories look like ducks, act like ducks, and quack like ducks. So, you have a string of ducks. It is time to rid ourselves of ducks and develop a fundamentally unified theory. Call it the one and only goose or gander.

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Bubba replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 03:28 GMT
We don't need a fundamentally unified theory to do science. You're missing the point entirely. A scientific theory is a utilitarian tool that is entirely subservient to, and derived from, empirical observations. A scientific theory is not an absolute truth.

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 03:33 GMT
"We don't need a fundamentally unified theory to do science. You're missing the point entirely. A scientific theory is a utilitarian tool that is entirely subservient to, and derived from, empirical observations. A scientific theory is not an absolute truth."

If you can explain the effects of the universe using one cause, name it whatever you wish, then, you will have a scientific truth. You still will not know the nature of the cause; however, you will have captured its essence with regard to its effects. I am not missing any point. You are missing answers. I presume that 'utilitarian tool' refers to the crux of the mechanical ideology.

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 05:04 GMT
Bubba: "We don't need a fundamentally unified theory to do science."

Professional theory is useful for doing science because, it is fitted to patterns in empirical evidence. Yet, when someone does manage to unify parts of it such as Maxwell did, we learn important new science from it. That is an example of achieving something that points toward possible total fundamental unity. Each forward step in enveloping in fundamental unity what are otherwise disparate theoretical properties has the potential to reap important new science. The ultimate achievement of scientific knowledge, at least in so far as mechanical type effects are concerned, will be gained when there is one fundamentally unified physics theory.

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Bubba replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 05:32 GMT
Total fundamental unity is of value only to a select few. A fundametal unified physical theory will still be limited in its application. This theory would only provide a more abstract and fundamental forumulation of existing phenomenon.

This forumulation would NOT be a theory of everything, only a theory that relegates current expressions of physical laws to limiting apprxoimations of this more fundamental formulation.

A more fundamental theory that unifies all interactions would not be able to provide any theoretical platform to model observations for all phenomeon for which we still lack answers. For example, one of the last unsolved problems remaining in classical mechanics is a theory of turbulence. We still cannot sufficiently model this phenomenon nor provide a theoretical framework that serves as a useful mechanism for explaining and predicting complex phenomenon such as turbulence and almost all other non-linear phenomenon. A TOE that unifies fundamental interactions will do nothing to shed light on this behavior.

A TOE will not explain unsolved problems in biological systems, the origin of life, or brain functions and structure. A TOE will not explain social dyanmics or the structure and function of the world economy.

In short, the phrase 'Theory of Everything' is a misnomer. It will actually be a theory of limited scope as it will have very limited heuristic or pragmatic value for the vast majority of those in the scientific community.

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James Putnam replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 06:13 GMT
I have not used the words 'Theory of Everything'. That is because in-so-far as theoretical physics is concerned it would only represent unification of mechanical knowledge. Theoretical physics has nothing to do with predicting or explaining intelligent life. Yes there will remain complex problems for which I cannot insist that we will ever be able to solve especially if we are not able to detail its data. My point has to do with fundamental unity. That means that there should be one cause at the beginning of theory and it should remain the only cause as further theory is developed. Since we do not have a fundamentally unified theory neither you nor I know clearly what we may expect from it. It may be the case that currently formidable complexity will remain complex but maybe not formidable. Anyway, throwing up a theoretical fogscreen is not a deterrent to pursuing a fundamentally unified theory. The disunity begins long before the fog is generated. It begins with f=ma.

James

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Bubba wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 06:06 GMT
As an example:

Immerse a smooth aerodynamic object in a fluid, whether the fluid is made of liquid or gas, At low(relative) velocities, smooth Laminar flow occurs around the boundary of the object. The steamlines are well-behaved and pressure gradients are linear.

Increase the velocity beyond a certain limiting value and the pressure gradients become non-linear, turbulent and chaotic.

For a given manifold, experimenters can determine the parameters but nobody has been able to come up with a theory to explain or predict the boundary layer between turbulent and laminar flow.

Why does this behavior of the fluid happen with the specific values determined from experiment? The answer is, nobody knows. We know the phenomenon exists and we can predict and model the behavior for many systems based on the existing theory of fluids and experimetal values. However, no fundamental theory for the phenomenon of turbulence exists. Our theoretical explanations are rather limited.

Appealing to fundamental unified laws of nature will do nothing to help us here. A complete and consistent theory for the observed phenomenon of turbulence has yet to be constructred.

Many such problems exist. Science and Physics represent much more than searching for fudamental unifications of Physical laws. Science will not stop and most of the currently unanswered questions will remain unsolved when and if a unification occurs. Such a theory will be of very limited value in a serach for a complete understanding of all observed phenomenon.

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James Putnam replied on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 16:53 GMT
"Science and Physics represent much more than searching for fudamental unifications of Physical laws. Science will not stop and most of the currently unanswered questions will remain unsolved when and if a unification occurs. ..."

This may very well be true. And, it is also very likely that I will not be the one who can help to solve such a problem.

"Such a theory will be of very limited value in a serach for a complete understanding of all observed phenomenon."

This, I say, is incorrect. Understanding is advanced greatly by removing guesses and inventions of the mind. Perhaps sometime you will consider reading my essay in the first essay contest and witness what can happen to something as fundamentally important as is electric charge. I make the case in an abrupt manner, but that is part of being limited to ten pages. For justification, I rely upon the results that I present. As I mentioned to you in a message above, those results include the necessary corrections to Maxwell's equations.

James

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James Putnam replied on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 03:35 GMT
Maybe this thread has ended and maybe not. But just in case it has I will post what I think is, and have used as, the necessary first step in correcting physics theory:

I believe that theory went wrong right from the start when it chose to make mass an indefinable property. Neither force nor mass can be indefinable except by arbitrary interference by the theorist. Both must be definable in terms of distance and time the properties of their empirical evidence. After that act there is no way for the rest of theory to remain the same.

James

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T H Ray wrote on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 10:34 GMT
A theory is an explanation of natural phenomena, not intereference with it.

Tom

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 11:58 GMT
AND WHERE ARE THE EXTRADIMENSIONS IN THE REALISM??? DETERMINISTIC???.....ANYWHERE!!!

Conclusion it exists good theories as it exists bad theories, be rational please about our real foundamentals.

Cheers

Steve

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 14:58 GMT
Where are the real dimensions in the determinism?

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 18:25 GMT
Hi Tom ,

I have already explained you the determinism, but apparently it's not your choice.You prefert The Bell' ideas and these violations where the rationalities disappear.I don't understand you , you are skilling thus why? The scales are in 3D and a time constant.This evidence is universal. I think really that the real error is the confusion with computing and on the other side the realism.

The observations are always in 3D and a 4D relativistic space time due to evolution. The nature shows us the truths by our contemplations of the 3D creations. We aren't on Earth to travel in time but for an improvement, an optimization of the present and its locality, that permits to harmonize the globality.The realism is the sister of the pure objectivity where the determinism is a child of evidence.A theory is an essay to arrive at the best rationalities, of course many theories are jokes or pseudo sciences.But sometimes theories explain the natural phenom.....sometimes they try and they do not arrive simply.As what the foundamentals shall be always the best road.

Regards

Steve

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 21:41 GMT
Theory presently interferes with understanding the nature of the universe. Not in all ways. Plus, theory certainly has appeared to be very useful. But, there is a major mistake that pervades all of theory. That mistake causes theory to misrepresent the properties of the universe. So, we end up with theoretical inventions and appear to remain stuck with them unless we pursue removing that major mistake. So, theory must return to f=ma and get it right. The problem is with the units. The units must reflect nature's data. They must be firmly anchored to that data. They must be expressible in the units of that data. The reason the units are crucial and cannot be played around with is because that is the way that theory becomes a part of the equations. The names given to properties matter only to our ears. The equations know only numbers and units. Units must be correct right from the start and they must always balance. Most importantly, it can be done. However, it has not been done.

James

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Bob wrote on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 23:44 GMT
Lawrence B. Crowell wrote:

"The panspermia idea is of course somewhat silly. It does not really solve the problem of how self-organizing organic chemistry produced life. All panspermia does is to shove the problem to somewhere else. It really solves nothing, and frankly I think it is very unlikely that biology on this planet dropped out of the sky from somewhere else. "

You mentioned what seemed to be likely to you but what we think is likely can be biased by our perspectives. Because we only know of life on this planet so far we assume that the most likely explanation is that life started here from scratch. We have no working model to explain that and the timescale is very short. It seems much more likely to me that life abounds throughout the universe and came here and took root on the early earth.

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James Putnam replied on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 00:03 GMT
Hi Bob,

Welcome: While I know that Dr. Crowell can speak much better for himself, I think I will step in here. I am certain the Dr. Crowell and probably almost anyone else would not suggest that life exists only here on earth. The point is whether or not our life had its origins on this planet.

James

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Bubba replied on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 12:53 GMT
We simply don't know how prevalent life is in the Cosmos. Anyone who says they do know is fooling themselves. Without observational evidence to back up our assertions and claims, we end up with a free-for-all of speculations and opinions.

Most of the arguments for an abundance of life in the cosmos(and especially intelligent life) stem from personal incredulity -- e.g. "I find it hard to believe that we are the only example of intelligent life in the Universe."

Such arguments are appealing but we must remember that our Intuition and instinct is often at odds with reality. Anyone can just as easily appeal to intuition and incredulity and proclaim, "I find it hard to believe that a measurement of time is relative or 'bits' of matter can behave like a particle and a wave at the same time. "

Sometimes our intuition serves us well. Often, however, it lets us down big time. It's not that we should be afraid of holding opinions or speculating. We just need to be careful about confusing opinions with facts. Intuition and speculation is no substitute for empirical evidence when it comes to making declarations of fact.

I prefer to appeal to the Copernican Principle on such matters. Since there is nothing special about our location and we hold no unique or privileged position in the Cosmos, I see no reason to assume that organic life, in some for or another, does not exist at other times and places. As to the abundance of life in the Cosmos--Past, present, and Future -- , this question is currently so far beyond our ability to test that I won't even speculate. Assuming life does exist elsewhere, are we a representative sample of Life in the Cosmos or a statistical oddity? Again, I have no idea.

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 17:57 GMT
James,

You wrote, "Every effect that occurs as a result of the origin of the universe has to be due to the properties that have existed from its beginning."

In the first place, why? In the second place, how does one know that?

"I do not allow for latter miracles to be snuck in either in favor of religious beliefs or in fear of religious beliefs."

So for you the miracle is continuous rather than discrete. Right?

"Have you yet figured out how we discern meaning from the photon storm that crashes into us at the speed of light?"

If you actually did read my essay, you know that I allowed that events (information) discretely encoded and processed in brain mechanics have an evolutionary advantage over continuous experience, because discrete categorization facilitates rational choices ("loaded dice"). So yes, we (not I, but scientists studying evolution and consciousness) have figured out how we "discern meaning from the photon storm."

Tom

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Bob wrote on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 00:31 GMT
Hello James.

Yes I understand that. It seems more reasonable to me to conjecture that life, if it exists throughout the universe, does not evolve independently from scratch in multiple locations but evolved in the early universe and seeded the rest of it over time. I would not dogmatically say that but only that seems more reasonable. Life could have started from scratch on this planet but frankly we just don't know so we should not take a position that it did as dogma. We should leave it as an open question. I don't think it is considered as an open question.

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 00:47 GMT
Bob,

Thank you for your reply. I think it is being left as an open question. I didn't think that I saw dogma, but, it is nice to have you participate and help in these discussions.

James

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Dr. Cosmic Ray wrote on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 15:45 GMT
Hi William,

It doesn't matter if there are 300 sextillion stars. We only know of one planet with life (Earth), and the sampling error in 1 is 1=SQRT(1), so our sampling uncertainty is 100%.

You mentioned Gary Hart. Donna Rice (Hughes) (the scandal that really ended Hart's Presidential run) and I were in the same 1st grade class together at Ruediger Elementary School in Tallahassee back in 1964. We both moved away, but I ended up coming back home.

You mentioned the "Life on Mars" meteorite. I was performing Cosmic Ray research at Marshall Space Flight Center when that controversy arose.

Have Fun!

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 23, 2011 @ 22:17 GMT
A mac a mac he says my friend Tom , and a mustang also or a ferrarri hihihih.It's so slow oh myyy God!!!

Dr Cosmic Ray,At the MSFC...What kind of research they make?

Regards

Steve

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Dr. Cosmic Ray replied on Mar. 24, 2011 @ 02:09 GMT
Hi Steve,

MSFC was an interesting place. I had to go through Army security checkpoints to get on campus. I performed computer simulations (sometimes we theorists become specialized programmers - it usually pays better than teaching) for their Cosmic Ray research program - the Scintillating Optical Fiber CALorimeter (SOFCAL), that eventually became NASA's backup plan for an ISS Cosmic Ray experiment. My office was at the same end of the building as some of the Astrobiologists, so I heard some of this "Life on Mars" controversy first-hand back in the 90's.

Really - Donna Rice (Hughes) was in my 1st grade class - I have a class photo to prove it. You were very young in 1987, and I think that most people have long since forgotten about Gary Hart and why his Presidential run ended, but you can Wikipedia either name for more historical information.

Have Fun!

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 24, 2011 @ 10:57 GMT
Hi Dr Cosmic Ray,

Thanks, the astrobiology is fascinating.Do you know Oparin and its experiments and ideas about the hydrospheroid and its primordial soup.....

Best Regards

Steve

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Mar. 23, 2011 @ 20:40 GMT
Please FQXi administration, could you create an other blog as continuity of this one "Digital VS Analog:essay..."

It will be better for the speed , really there it's too long.

Steve

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Steve Du!fourny wrote on Mar. 25, 2011 @ 12:26 GMT
News: the professor John W.Milnor won the abel prize of maths for the 7 exotic spheres.Congratulation Stony Brook University and dear professor.Apparently Prof. Perelman and his discovery is linked also with sphere.I am happy for them, it's well.They won a big prize.2X 1 millions wawww it's not nothing that.Me and my 600euros /months of course is

Steve

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