This weeks episode is straight physics. It's primarily about the work of Michael Faraday and finishes off with a little bit of Maxwell and his mathematical formulation of Faraday's concepts.
As with last episodes story of Marie Tharp verifying Wegener's ideas, this episode describes the ridicule Faraday faced before Maxwell came along.
Edited by NoNukes, : No reason given.
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)
I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass
In this episode, we got the story of Alfred Wegener, a man who had stunning insights into how the Earth is continually reshaped through continental drift. However, very few of his fellow scientists trusted his ideas on this matter. In fact, they even created an entire conference specifically to discredit this idea and Wegener ended up dying a laughing stock in his field ...
This version of history has been oversold.
It is true that Wegener didn't manage to convince a majority. It's also true about the conference. However:
* He did in fact manage to make converts, and his ideas got into geology textbooks as a minority opinion.
* Europeans gave him a much more considerate hearing than Americans. When we hear about how badly he was treated, this is an American-centric view.
* His field was actually meteorology. His textbook on the subject became a classic translated into many languages. The fact that some people thought his drift idea was wonky didn't prevent him from being internationally recognized as the great authority on other things.
* A Chair was created especially for him at a European university (I forget which one, I could look it up) so that he could basically be Professor Of His Own Ideas.
* He died relatively young (in his early fifties, IIRC) because he died of over-exertion doing field research funded with $1.5 million in today's money. Ironically, he might have lived to see himself vindicated if only people had had less faith in him.
* Some of the things he said were demonstrably wrong.
With the benefit of hindsight, maybe his ideas should have been treated with greater respect. But it is wrong to represent him as being an outcast and a pariah; he didn't convince everyone, or even a majority, but he did quite nicely in terms of his academic career. "Died a laughing stock" is an exaggeration.
I don't mind simplification for laypeople, but how watered down does science have to become before it's wrong. Is this targeted at 8-year olds?
My wife was a huge Cosmos fan in the Sagan days, so we watched the first few episodes and she had the same reaction. The animation as well as the oversimplification bothered both of us.
The discussion in this thread has been fascinating. I'm not sure I agree that the series needs more science and less history, but that just goes to show how dissatisfied I am with the quality of science essay writing in general. The popular notion that factoids constitute education is a big problem for me nowadays. The victory of the Sagan-Dawkins-Krauss conception of science (as the 'candle in the dark' that teaches us about reality) over the Gould-Eiseley-Lewontin conception (in which the cultural background of scientific research is as important as the discoveries themselves) is never more clear than when we're being told that science is "revealing the mysteries of the universe," rather than that science is a human endeavor that's just as fraught with bias as any other.
Our excuse? People waiting for accurate data. People looking for other causes like less albedo. Do we really accurately know the albedo data is since co2 emissions started skyrocketing? Albedo or lack of it is much more powerful at warming the planet than the greenhouse effect once Co2 concentrations exceed a certain point.
Our excuse? People waiting for accurate data. People looking for other causes like less albedo.
With all due respect. Not meant in the Woody-Allen context (ie, the running joke in "Broadway Danny Rose" in which he completely eviscerates someone as being the worst possible person, which he ends with "And I say that with all due respect".)
We are in the middle of an emergency situation where seconds stopped counting years ago, and you want to take absolutely not action until we can prove completely and without a shadow of a doubt that we are completely to blame? Again, I am truly and honestly disavowing that Woody-Allen Gestalt.
Think of a critically ill patient. We do not yet know what is causing the illness and hence how to ultimately cure it. But that patient is running an extremely high temperature, one which can fry brain cells. If you take no action to lower that temperature, then it will kill the patient. But you don't know what's causing that high temperature, nor even whether it's the disease's fault. What do you do? Concentrate solely on identifying the pathogen and how to treat it, in which case the patient will almost certainly die in that process? Or treat the symptoms in order to keep the patient alive?
There's yet another way to look at it. Have you studied calculus yet? Have you gotten to partial differentiation in the third semester? Understanding the basic ideas of partial differentials is key here.
George Orwell ("1984") pointed out that while we use language to express ideas, it is also true that if you lack the language to express an idea, then you cannot express it -- eg, if you succeed in restricting the meaning of "freedom" to that of a lack of something, like fleas or lice, then nobody can think of the concepts of freedom of speech or freedom of religion, etc. Within the context of "1984", the fact that Newspeak's vocabulary was rapidly diminishing means that the ability to express so many of the ideas that we value the most were disappearing.
In order to express an idea, you need the language with which to express that idea. That also means that in order to express an idea for which the language does not exist to express it, then you need to invent that language. Mathematics is a language *. As Isaac Newton was discovering the basic physics by which universe operated, there existed no language with which to describe what he was discovering, so he invented one. A mathematical language called calculus.
In the university I attended, calculus was divided into three semesters -- I would assume that most schools divide the subject up pretty much the same. The first semester covers the definition of a function, the basic properties of functions, and differentiation. The second semester covers integration, which is basically the inverse of differentiation. The third semester covers more advanced subjects, such as power series, multiple integration (which my ex-wife could do in her head even though she totally rejected algebra for purely ideological reasons), and partial differentiation. And at the same time, you work with analytic geometry (studying the X-Y-Z curves of geometric shapes and the equations that describe them).
Differentiation is nothing more than looking at the rates at which a function changes at various points along its curve. When I was studying first-semester calculus on my own (the only way I have ever studied it: first with a Schaum outline and then through the local university's correspondence course, since I had arrived in the area very shortly after the date for registering), the proofs for differentiation made an enormous amount of sense since you can understand them mainly through algebra.
Now for the challenge. Do you remember graphing in high school math? You're on an X-Y grid. You draw a line that represents the equation that you are graphing. OK, so on that line/curve, pick two Xes. Look at each X's Y. Draw a line form one X's Y to the other's. That line has a slope, which is (y1-y0)/(X1-X0). Now -- and this is the calculus part -- what happens when that value, (X1-X0), goes to zero? That's the mind-blowing part that calculus plays here. That is what differentiation does for us. It figures out, for any point along the curve of a function, how rapidly that function is changing.
This paragraph is for everybody who will go on to study the mathematics. First semester calculus students learn what a function is (ie, for any single X-axis value, there is one and only one Y-axis value, among other things) and what limits are (ie, division by zero is not defined, but what happens when we approach zero? And what is the difference between approaching zero from the left and from the right?). That is handled in first semester calculus.
In the first two semesters, each function only has one parameter. The third semester deals with situations in which there are multiple situations. For example, in an equation in which there are four variables, we find that varying this variable caused the outcome to vary by this much. If we vary a variable that has less influence, then we find that outcome will vary less. And if we vary a variable that has more influence, then we will see that the outcome will vary more.
OK, in partial differentiation, the more influential factors will have more influence and the less influential will have less influence.
Let's return to our hypothetical sick patient,AKA "our planet". If we determine that we are not at fault, do we allow our "patient" (ie, our planet) to die? Or do we try to do everything we can to keep that patient alive?
Have you studied calculus yet? Have you gotten to partial differentiation in the third semester?
Yes, I took three semesters of calculus!
Unfortunately, all three were all Calculus 101.
There are some minds that grasp Calculus, and some that don't. I got lost about the time the professor said, "It is intuitively obvious that..."
But after that I managed a MA and Ph.D. in Anthropology, with specialties in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology, quite easily. Those fields fit!
If you take off your skin and all that other useless stuff I can tell a great deal about you just from looking at and measuring your bones! Don't believe it? Just try me! And the math I'll use is far from calculus.
With all your calculus training, could you do the same?
Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
Belief gets in the way of learning--Robert A. Heinlein
How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?--Robert A. Heinlein
It's not what we don't know that hurts, it's what we know that ain't so--Will Rogers
If I am entitled to something, someone else is obliged to pay--Jerry Pournelle
If a religion's teachings are true, then it should have nothing to fear from science...--dwise1
"Multiculturalism" demands that the US be tolerant of everything except its own past, culture, traditions, and identity.
Simple differential calculus, we see what effect variance of a single variable will have of the function. Partial diffentiation allows us to see what effect the variance of multiple variables will have on the function. That is the point being made.
A number of different factors figure into the total equation of climate change. Some of what we are doing is having an effect, while some other factors outside our perview are also having a factor. Our lifeboat is being swamped and is sinking. We could either try to bail out our lifeboat, or sit back smugly saying that we have nothing to do with the situation. I don't know about you, but I'd be bailing out as fast as I could.
The US Conservative position about what causes climate change and that we should wait before acting is really pretty stupid.
In terms of making their corporate overlords happy by pandering to voter resentment, and at the same time denying the existence of a pretty overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change, I'd say the right wing has been anything but stupid.
I'm with you on the magnitude of this problem. The ironic thing is that we should be taking drastic steps immediately whether or not we affirm the validity of the climate change model itself; resource management and infrastructure investments are essential for many reasons apart from the threat of global warming.
And the problem isn't that the facts aren't out there, it's that they don't fit into the neoliberal narrative of deregulation, enabling private capital, and plundering the environment for short-term return on investment. Since pop-science educational programs like Cosmos and Nova are sponsored by folks like the Koch Brothers, FOX, Samsung, and Chrysler, don't expect to see them make more than a token mention of the problem either.