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Sheldon Glashow: Does science evolve through blind chance or Intelligent Design?

Five months ago or so, Honeywell organized a series of lectures by the Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow at the Czech Technical University (ČVUT) in Prague.

The lecture you can watch now asked the question whether science evolves by chance or by design.



It's a sort of a fun, light, philosophically and historically loaded talk.




Maybe the number of the historical episodes will be boring for you: he could be a professional historian of science right away.



Typical Czech engineering students are listening to Glashow. ;-)

But if you like the first part, continue with Part 2 and Part 3. If you make it to the third part, there will be some examples of his point from modern physics. Around 18:00, he also talks about Gell-Mann and quarks' and string theorists' delight when they deduced that string theory predicted gravity. Glashow doesn't count it as a prediction because he had known about gravity before string theory was born. Of course, from the viewpoint of the history of science, it wasn't a (new) prediction: the chronology guarantees that. However, from the viewpoint of science and the strength and validity of its hypotheses, the fact that string theory implies general relativity is exactly as important and consequential as a prediction! The chronology is just a part of the history, social science, it was accidental, and a scientist simply can't pay attention to such things.

On the other hand, I agree that both accidental discoveries as well as "planned research" have been important and will be important.



Some other not-too-demanding physics news: Australia opened the world's fastest radio telescope.

Robert Christy, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and the first one who became hostile against Edward Teller after he identified Oppenheimer as a communist, died.



An 11-year-old maľchik (=Russian boy) discovered the mammoth of the century (the best preserved one in 100 years).

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reader chico said...

Retrodiction is a better term in this case.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrodiction)


reader Mephisto said...

My brother works as a development engineer for Honeywell and he didn't mention the lecture. But I am not going to watch it anyway, since I do not find these philosophical topics that interesting, especially if presented by physicists who are mostly not that good in philosophy (with exeptions like Feynman, Einstein).
I imagine that the advancement of scientific theories is similar to the process of evolution. At every moment, there are several candidate alternative theories. As new experimental developments happen, some theories are eliminated and some survive and are refined. Observations generate hypotheses by induction, predictions are made by deduction from the hypotheses and are tested. Successfully tested hypothesis become theories etc. For me personally, it is more interesting how the creation of theories happens in the brain.


reader chico said...

Postdiction is a better term in this case.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrodiction


reader Mephisto said...

My brother works as a development engineer for Honeywell and he didn't mention the lecture. But I am not going to watch it anyway, since I do not find these philosophical topics that interesting, especially if presented by physicists who are mostly not that good in philosophy (with exeptions like Feynman, Einstein).
I imagine that the advancement of scientific theories is similar to the process of evolution. At every moment, there are several candidate alternative theories. As new experimental developments happen, some theories are eliminated and some survive and are refined. Observations generate hypotheses by induction, predictions are made by deduction from the hypotheses and are tested. Successfully tested hypothesis become theories etc. For me personally, it is more interesting how the creation of theories happens in the brain.