Things To Ponder::Common Sense Atheism » On Seeking Truth

How should I be trying to find truth?

Truth is a difficult thing. Just a few centuries ago, the smartest humans alive were dead wrong about damn near everything.

They were wrong about gods. Wrong about astronomy. Wrong about disease. Wrong about heredity. Wrong about physics. Wrong about racism, sexism, nationalism, governance, and many other moral issues. Wrong about geology. Wrong about cosmology. Wrong about chemistry. Wrong about evolution. Wrong about nearly every subject imaginable.

Or so we believe. We think we are better informed than they were. Are we? Is our truth more reliable than their truth?

If we want to know the truth, we’d better have a good method for finding it. What’s the best method for finding truth? How should we be trying to find truth?1

via Common Sense Atheism » On Seeking Truth.

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Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For The First Time

Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For The First Time

ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2009) — Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie have, in cooperation with colleagues from Dresden, St. Andrews, La Plata and Oxford, for the first time observed magnetic monopoles and how they emerge in a real material.

Magnetic monopoles are hypothetical particles proposed by physicists that carry a single magnetic pole, either a magnetic north pole or south pole. In the material world this is quite exceptional because magnetic particles are usually observed as dipoles, north and south combined. However there are several theories that predict the existence of monopoles. Among others, in 1931 the physicist Paul Dirac was led by his calculations to the conclusion that magnetic monopoles can exist at the end of tubes – called Dirac strings – that carry magnetic field. Until now they have remained undetected.

via Magnetic Monopoles Detected In A Real Magnet For The First Time.

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Knowledge Seeks To Be Free::Walking Randomly » The ridiculous high prices of online journal articles.

One of the many things that I miss in being a student is the access all the IEEE journals through UP’s academic access. Nothing seems more against the principle of the academe than the way that research isn’t propagated because of cost. See I am interested in alot of things , this is because of an intense curiosity that tries to seek out as much knowledge as my little brain can grok. One of the themes that continously arises is how much progress made in the sciences are due to lateral or expansive grasp of present knowledge.

I use lateral in the way that alot of progress is due to connecting various seemingly independet events into a theory that explains both. I put Einstein’s theories in this category.

The expansive grasp means knowing all the pertinent techniques with respect to your problem. If you read Feynman‘s Nobel Lecture you see whaI mean here. He had a claim that(probably true) that he knew everything about the problem he was trying to solve, which help him connect the dots on the different approaches to the same problem.

Both of these are negatively impacted by the high cost of journals. The amateur/hobbyist is doubly affected , and what are most of us in fields that we are not actively trying to research further are we? Most of us are not experts in everything and some of us  (including me) are not even expert in anything.  How much progress is not being made because information is not readily available?

If this is a simple case of “It’s always been done like this!”, then I think we need to rethink this. In a way science has progressed. During the time of newton or darwin  they rarely collaborated with fellows, but we have progressed far faster because of openly available information. The thing is we are moving ever faster towrds an age where science would either stagnate or reach a point that people call a singularity. Stagnation means that there would be a return to malthus and that is something we cannot let happen, this for me means that we have a duty to ourselves and those that come after us to make sure that the future is aor near the singularity. This calls for cheaper if not free flow of information!

The ridiculous high prices of online journal articles.

I’m a lucky guy! I work for a major UK University and one of the perks of the job is that I (along with every other member of the University) get access to a massive array of academic journals and this is close to priceless as far as I am concerned. I’d rather take a salary cut than lose that particular perk (shhhh, don’t mention this to my bosses) and I don’t even do any formal research!

I have been blogging for almost two years now and one thing I have learned from the whole experience is that the world contains legions of amateur scholars – people who do research for personal rather than professional reasons. These scholars (and I like to think I am one of them) don’t want to publish papers or get qualifications, they simply want to learn about and discuss whatever subject takes their fancy. In my case I focus on subjects such as mathematics and physics since they are (and always have been) the subjects that float my boat and they are also the subjects I studied both at school and at University.

via Walking Randomly » The ridiculous high prices of online journal articles..

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rePost:Business and Snake’s Oil Men:Linus’ blog: SSD followup

I wrote this yesterday about my take on business and snake’s oil sales men and realize that sometimes they are not trying to fool you into a decision.  It is sad but sometimes people don’t try to think things through and investigate the stuff they are trying to say. Here Linus Torvalds shows us why a lot of reviews cannot be trusted, and judging from the way he says this I believe he is even referring to some people who are said to be professional reviewers. Things like this used to make me sad, then I realized that when something becomes useless they tend to become irrelevant to people and they tend to be cast off, like a year old fad. The thing is we need to try to live more aware of things and try to always go beyond what is obvious and easy to get. Do not subscribe to labels and pre conceptions, exercise that which we have that makes us more than animals!

Sadly, almost none of the reviews seemed to ever catch on to that, as they were all looking at the (totally irrelevant) throughput numbers that basically don’t matter in any real-life situation. Everybody just quoted the nice big marketing numbers, because finding the numbers that matter more to actual human perception (notably: average and maximum latency) was so much harder, and most disk benchmarks are crap and don’t even give those numbers.

Which is why I was so happy to see this review at AnandTech. Half the numbers quoted are still the worthless ones (I guess you can’t avoid quoting the industry standard benchmarks, even when they are horribly bad), but much of the actual discussion is about how unusable a drive is when it has maximum latencies in the hundreds of milliseconds.

via Linus’ blog: SSD followup.

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