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Michael Fox

The Curse Of Certainty In Science And Religion : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR - 1 views

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    "The only constant is change. It's the most basic fact of human existence. Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same.

    We feel it with each breath. From birth to the unknown moment of our passing, we ride a river of change. And yet, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we exhaust ourselves in an endless search for solidity. We hunger for something that lasts, some idea or principle that rises above time and change. We hunger for certainty. That is a big problem.

    It might even be THE problem.


    Religions are often built around this heartache for certainty. In the face of sickness, loss and grief, a thousand dogmas with a thousand names have risen. Many profess that if only the faithful hold fast to the "rules," the "precepts" or the "doctrine" then certainty can be obtained.

    Fate and future can be fixed through promises of freedom from immediate suffering, divine favor or everlasting salvation. Scriptures are transformed into unwavering blueprints for an unchanging order. These documents must live beyond question lest the certainty they provide crumble. When human spiritual endeavor devolves into these white-knuckle forms of clinging they become monuments to the fear of change and uncertainty.

    It would be symmetrical if I could point to science as the pure antidote to the rigid rejection of uncertainty. Science, in the purest forms of its expression as a practice, holds to no doctrine other than that the world might be known. In the ceaseless pursuit of its own questioning path, science asks us to allow for ceaseless change in our ideas, beliefs and opinions. It's this aspect of science that I value more than any other.

    But science does not exist alone as practice. It's also a constellation of ideas that exist within culture and those ideas can gain value, in and of themselves, without connection to actual practice. In this way science becomes something more and less. For some people the idea of Science offers a trumped up certainty that yields its own false de
Michael Fox

What Is Science? From Feynman to Sagan to Curie, an Omnibus of Definitions | Brain Pick... - 2 views

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    "'The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious - the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.'

    "We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology," Carl Sagan famously quipped in 1994, "and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That's a clear prescription for disaster." Little seems to have changed in the nearly two decades since, and although the government is now actively encouraging "citizen science," for many "citizens" the understanding of - let alone any agreement about - what science is and does remains meager.

    So, what exactly is science, what does it aspire to do, and why should we the people care? It seems like a simple question, but it's an infinitely complex one, the answer to which is ever elusive and contentious. Gathered here are several eloquent definitions that focus on science as process rather than product, whose conduit is curiosity rather than certainty."
Michael Fox

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Why We're Wired for Science and How Originality Differs in Scien... - 2 views

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    ""Every child is a scientist."

    Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson may well be the Richard Feynman of our day, a "Great Explainer" in his own right, having previously reflected on everything from the urgency of space exploration to the most humbling fact about the universe. In this short video, Tyson contributes a beautiful addition to this omnibus of notable definitions of science and explores subjects as diverse as the nature of originality and the future of artificial intelligence."
Michael Fox

Richard Feynman Biography - Best Mind Since Einstein (full version) - YouTube - 0 views

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    "Richard Feynman Biography

    Best MindSince Einstein"
Michael Fox

Horizon: Richard Feynman - No Ordinary Genius (full version) - YouTube - 0 views

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    "BBC Horizon 1993

    Richard Feynman - No Ordinary Genius "
Michael Fox

Happy Birthday, Richard Feynman: The Key to Science in 63 Seconds | Brain Pickings - 0 views

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    ""If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong."

    Richard Feynman - Nobel-winning physics icon, curiosity champion, graphic novel hero, bongo drummer, wager-maker, no ordinary genius - would have been 94 today. To celebrate, here is one of Feynman's most beloved classics, a 1964 lecture in which he distills with equal parts wit and wisdom the essence of the scientific method:"
Michael Fox

The decline effect and the scientific method : The New Yorker - 1 views

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    "n September 18, 2007, a few dozen neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and drug-company executives gathered in a hotel conference room in Brussels to hear some startling news. It had to do with a class of drugs known as atypical or second-generation antipsychotics, which came on the market in the early nineties. The drugs, sold under brand names such as Abilify, Seroquel, and Zyprexa, had been tested on schizophrenics in several large clinical trials, all of which had demonstrated a dramatic decrease in the subjects' psychiatric symptoms. As a result, second-generation antipsychotics had become one of the fastest-growing and most profitable pharmaceutical classes. By 2001, Eli Lilly's Zyprexa was generating more revenue than Prozac. It remains the company's top-selling drug.

    But the data presented at the Brussels meeting made it clear that something strange was happening: the therapeutic power of the drugs appeared to be steadily waning. A recent study showed an effect that was less than half of that documented in the first trials, in the early nineteen-nineties. Many researchers began to argue that the expensive pharmaceuticals weren't any better than first-generation antipsychotics, which have been in use since the fifties. "In fact, sometimes they now look even worse," John Davis, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told me. "
Michael Fox

Top 10 Most Famous Scientific Theories (That Turned out to be Wrong) | Top 10 Lists | T... - 1 views

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    "One of the best aspects of science has always been its readiness to admit when it got something wrong. Theories are constantly being refigured, and new research frequently renders old ideas outdated or incomplete. But this hasn't stopped some discoveries from being hailed as important, game-changing accomplishments a bit prematurely. Even in a field as rigorous and detail-oriented as science, theories get busted, mistakes are made, and hoaxes are perpetrated. The following are ten of the most groundbreaking of these scientific discoveries that turned out to be resting on some questionable data. It is worth noting that most of these concepts are not necessarily "wrong" in the traditional sense; rather, they have been replaced by other theories that are more complete and reliable."
Michael Fox

What is the Mpemba Effect? | TOKTalk.net - 1 views

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    In this edition I would like to explain why hot water freezes faster than cold water, when put into the freezer. It is a very counter-intuitive observation, it's a paradox. This is called the Mpemba Effect. The effect is named according to Tanzanian high-school student Erasto B. Mpemba who re-discovered the effect while making ice cream back in 1963. The Mpemba Effect is a nice example of how the change of one variable, the temperature, can have unexpected side effects. Most people assume that the difference between a hot glass of water and a cold glass of water is only the temperature. But this is not the case. Just by heating the water we are introducing a range of other variables that have an unexpected effect on the outcome.
Michael Fox

Hearing Bilingual - How Babies Tell Languages Apart - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    Once, experts feared that young children exposed to more than one language would suffer "language confusion," which might delay their speech development. Today, parents often are urged to capitalize on that early knack for acquiring language. Upscale schools market themselves with promises of deep immersion in Spanish - or Mandarin - for everyone, starting in kindergarten or even before.

    Yet while many parents recognize the utility of a second language, families bringing up children in non-English-speaking households, or trying to juggle two languages at home, are often desperate for information. And while the study of bilingual development has refuted those early fears about confusion and delay, there aren't many research-based guidelines about the very early years and the best strategies for producing a happily bilingual child.

    But there is more and more research to draw on, reaching back to infancy and even to the womb. As the relatively new science of bilingualism pushes back to the origins of speech and language, scientists are teasing out the earliest differences between brains exposed to one language and brains exposed to two.

    Researchers have found ways to analyze infant behavior - where babies turn their gazes, how long they pay attention - to help figure out infant perceptions of sounds and words and languages, of what is familiar and what is unfamiliar to them. Now, analyzing the neurologic activity of babies' brains as they hear language, and then comparing those early responses with the words that those children learn as they get older, is helping explain not just how the early brain listens to language, but how listening shapes the early brain.

    Recently, researchers at the University of Washington used measures of electrical brain responses to compare so-called monolingual infants, from homes in which one language was spoken, to bilingual infants exposed to two languages. Of course, since the subjects of the study, adorable in their
Michael Fox

EDGE 3rd Culture: Animal Minds - 0 views

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    "Harvard evolutionary psychologist, Marc D. Hauser, argues that to understand what animals think and what they feel, we must ask about the kinds of selection pressures which shaped their minds and see the creature for what it is, no more, no less. Using the tools of evolutionary biology, linguistics, neuroscience, and cognitive science, he asks questions such as Why can't animals be taught to speak? How do animals find their way home in the dark? Do animals lie or feel guilty? Do they enjoy sex? Why were emotions designed into animal systems? Why are certain emotions universal and others highly specialized? "
Michael Fox

Language in Apes: How Much Do They Know and How Much Should We Teach Them - 0 views

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    Humans have often asserted a fundamental difference between themselves and other animals. One of these assertions which has had many proponents into the twentieth century is that humans differ from animals in their use of language. In the past thirty years this assertion has been the subject of much debate as scientists have researched language use by apes. (I use the term "ape" to refer to "great ape" in this essay, as many of my sources do. There have apparently been no language experiments with gibbons or siamangs.) Extraordinary claims have been made by some researchers about the linguistic capabilities of their subjects, mostly chimpanzees. These claims have been refuted and counter-refuted many times, and the literature on the subject is extensive. In this essay I will examine the question of how much, if at all, primates are able to communicate using language. I will then examine the ethical issues surrounding the teaching of language to apes.

    What is language?

    First, what is language, and how does it differ from other forms of communication? There does not exist a universally accepted definition of language, or criteria for its use; this is one of the reasons for the disagreement among scientists about whether apes can use language. Language consists of various aspects which people believe are more or less important, for example, grammar, symbol usage, the ability to represent real-world situations, and the ability to articulate something new (Wallman 1992: 6). Duane Rumbaugh describes language as "an infinitely open system of communication" (Rumbaugh 1977b: xx). Some people say that anything an ape can do is not language; of course, if these are the same people who say that language defines us as humans, and an ape can learn sign language, then they are saying that deaf people who use sign language are not human (Patterson & Linden 1981: 119-120). One famous view of language is Charles Hockett's seven key properties: duality, productivity, arbitrariness,
Michael Fox

Can Chimps Talk: Can Konzi Go to College - 0 views

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    "MR. HOFFMAN: Konzi is a Benobo, a pygmy chimpanzee. He and his sister, Pambinisha, are the subjects of Doctor Sue Savage Rumbaugh's work. That work is questioning the widely accepted view that only humans are capable of language. For 20 years, she's been studying whether Benobos can learn language, working first with their mother, Matata, back in 1975.

    SUE SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH, Georgia State University: We were trying to do some very simple things like hold up an apple and teach Matata to hit the symbol for apple, and then we would give her an apple. She learned that. What we wanted then to be able to do was to have her use the symbol for apple whenever she was talking about an apple, whether she was intending to eat it or not, to know in a sense that the symbol represented apple, not just the fact that she was going to get apple. This, she couldn't learn, but fortunately, she had a youngster named Konzi, who was around and was playing while I was trying to teach her, and Konzi did learn, even though we weren't trying to teach him. What we found with Konzi was that simply by watching what we did with his mother, he was able to make this correlation so that he knew that the symbol apple represented apple, whether he got to eat one, whether his mother got to eat one, whether we were saying, no, Konzi, don't eat an apple, it still meant apple. "
Michael Fox

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science - Magazine - The Atlantic - 0 views

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    "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

    Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors-to a striking extent-still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science."
Michael Fox

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science | Mother Jones - 0 views

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    "In the annals of denial, it doesn't get much more extreme than the Seekers. They lost their jobs, the press mocked them, and there were efforts to keep them away from impressionable young minds. But while Martin's space cult might lie at on the far end of the spectrum of human self-delusion, there's plenty to go around. And since Festinger's day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called "motivated reasoning" helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, "death panels," the birthplace and religion of the president (PDF), and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.

    The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience (PDF): Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call "affect"). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds-fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we're aware of it. That shouldn't be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It's a "basic human survival skill," explains political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself."
Michael Fox

The Ashtray: The Ultimatum (Part 1) - Errol Morris - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    "It was April, 1972. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. J. The home in the 1950s of Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel. Thomas Kuhn, the author of "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" and the father of the paradigm shift, threw an ashtray at my head."
Michael Fox

'Molyneux's question' gets answered after 300 years | Space, Military and Medicine | Ne... - 1 views

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    "RESEARCHERS say they have solved a conundrum about human perception that has stumped philosophers and scientists alike for three centuries.

    Irish politician William Molyneux first posed the question in a letter to the great British thinker John Locke written 323 years ago.

    Imagine, Molyneux wrote, that a man blind from birth who has learned to identify objects - a sphere and a cube, for example - only through his sense of touch is suddenly able to see.

    The puzzle, he continued, is: "Whether he Could, by his Sight, and before he touch them, know which is the Globe and which the Cube?"

    For philosophers of the time, answering "Molyneux's question", as it became known, would resolve a fundamental uncertainty about the human mind.

    Empiricists believed that we are born blank slates, and become the sum total of our accumulated experience.

    So-called "nativists" countered that our minds are, from the outset, pre-stocked with ideas waiting to be activated by sight, sound and touch.

    If a blind man who miraculously recovered his sight could instantly distinguish the cube from the globe it would mean the knowledge was somehow innate, they argued.

    More recently, this "nurture vs. nature" debate has found its counterpart in modern neuroscience."
Michael Fox

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.: 8 Surprising Facts About Parenting, Genes and What Really M... - 0 views

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    "In 1990, Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota published a striking finding: About 70 percent of the variance in IQ found in their particular sample of identical twins was found to be associated with genetic variation. Furthermore, identical twins reared apart were eerily similar to identical twins reared together on various measures of personality, occupational and leisure-time interests, and social attitudes.

    Bouchard's study, along with many others, has painted a consistent picture: Genes matter. The studies say nothing about how they matter, or which genes matter, but they show quite convincingly that they indeed do matter. Genes vary within any group of people (even among the inhabitants of middle-class in Western society), and this variation contributes to variations in these people's behaviors.

    Let's be clear: Twin studies have received much criticism. Even though the proliferation of advanced statistical techniques (such as structural equation modeling) and the implementation of additional controls have allayed some of the concerns, they haven't allayed all of the them.

    Even so, the findings from twin studies should not be understated; it counters many a prevailing belief that we are born into this world as blank slates, completely at the mercy of the external environment. Because our psychological characteristics reflect the physical structures of our brains and because our genes contribute to those physical structures, there are unlikely to be any psychological characteristics that are completely unaffected by our DNA. "
Michael Fox

Beautycheck - characteristics of beautiful faces - 0 views

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    "What is it that makes a face look beautiful? What are the differences between very attractive and less appealing faces? For every historical period and every human culture, people have always had their own ideal of beauty. But this ideal has never been constant and is still subject to changes. In our research project we adopted an empirical approach and created prototypes for unattractive and attractive faces for each sex by using the morphing technique. For example, the prototype for an unattractive face ("unsexy face") was created by blending together four faces that had previously been rated as very unattractive. The "sexy face" was created by blending together four of the most attractive faces, respectively (see report).
    In order to find out the characteristic differences between attractive and unattractive faces, we presented pairs of one "sexy" and one "unsexy" image for both sexes to test subjects. The task was to report which facial features were perceived to be different between the two faces. For the results see the list below. "
Michael Fox

Robert Tornambe, M.D.: What Is Beauty? A Plastic Surgeon's Perspective - 0 views

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    "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~ Confucius

    The word "beauty" is the most overused, misunderstood, poorly defined word in the English language. What makes a woman beautiful? The Holy Grail of beauty has never been completely understood. The cliché, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," is incorrect in my opinion. Perception is the key. It is "perception of beauty" that is in the eye of the beholder. Each of us, however, has a different perception of beauty. We all have different tastes, likes and dislikes, and this affects our definition and perception of beauty with regard to the American woman. As a plastic surgeon, it is my job to counsel people about this perception of beauty because so many misconceptions exist."
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