His basic idea is that for our world to reach any kind of consensus on what is right or wrong for the group and for the individuals, we have to be ready to take many decisions which do not "feel" right at first, which do not make sense to our instincts, and which in the camera metaphor, are decisions made in manual mode instead of automatic.
Really interesting video. A bit long, but worth the brain-salad :)
It is also important for new theories to make bold and unexpected predictions that can be corroborated experimentally and that can't be explained successfully by the old model.
The way a scientific theory improves reminds me of what programmers have to do often to their algorithms: they develop a new and more efficient code which replaces the previous one without removing functionality. Similarly, science constantly tries to improve itself without affecting the "good bits" which made the previous model useful.
In a way, it's all about reverse-engineering the cosmos :)
For decades biologists have known that mitochondria are a sort of "captured" organism inside an eukaryotic cell, similar to an asteroid which is captured by a planet and turned into a moon. The mitochondria has its own DNA, its own membrane, and it shares many unique genes with the bacteria family.
However, the big question now is how this merger between organisms happened in the first place. When it happened, and whether it was bound to happen as part of an ongoing eukaryotic evolution where some particularly viscous creatures dedicated themselves to swallow anything they could get their membranes on; OR whether this merger was a unique, insanely lucky and isolated event that happened only once in Earth's history, changing the biosphere forever.
One particularly intriguing idea of this latter argument is that it may help us explain the Fermi paradox, regarding why there doesn't seem to be signs of complex and intelligent life in the cosmos. Perhaps the mitochondria "accident" that gives rise to energetic, multi-cellular organisms is many orders of magnitude more improbable than the appearance of microbial life. So perhaps the galaxy is full of bacteria-like organisms which are unable to develop larger structures, and scarce in eukaryote-like ones capable of building rockets and developing pizza.
Interesting thoughts for current un-answerable questions :)
In the historical development of the living cell, I think there are many amazing steps that remain mysterious. Photosynthesis is an incredibly complex reaction cycle, and it had to have come about early enough to clear out the earth's heavy, Venus-like atmosphere to make a path for life's further development.
The implications of this revolution in biology are enormous. Sequencing genomes is a huge aid to categorization, but the common ancestry conclusion does not necessarily follow when similar sequences are found in different organisms, because lateral gene transfers may have played a significant role in life's development. This can happen through intermediaries ("courier microbes") or directly between two symbiotically related organisms. I suspect that we will learn that, in the entire history of our planet, there has never been life apart from a web of extremely sophisticated symbiotic relationships. That is certainly true of life today. Even in extreme, isolated locations, such as near deep ocean vents, we discover a rich myriad of interdependent living creatures
The idea that a rugged, pioneer bacterium came to life, divided (quite an incredible engineering feat in itself), and managed to sustain itself until the first fortuitous mutation, and finally another, . . . somehow bootstrapping itself to a "richer" life step by step . . . well, I don't find that story to be remotely credible. In addition to the fact that life always and only occurs in a complex web, there is the fact that the symbiotic mechanisms have to be so exacting from both sides of the partnership in order to function at all. Could there be an API guiding the process? If we want to make real headway in resolving these mysteries, we need to have our best computer scientists step into the midst of this exploration. I'm thinking of experts in algorithmic design, operating systems, virtualization and software engineering design patterns, because the evolution of life appears to be guided by some awesome software.
The author explains that as all-encompassing sources of knowledge like Google or Wikipedia have made it easier than ever to quickly learn any topic in hand; it has become harder and harder for actual experts in the field to expect that their opinions will have a higher priority in public discussions. The trend has gotten so far, that it has even become a social stigma to mention one's credentials or experience, making it exhausting for experts to start any discussion without an obligatory introduction about why their views are relevant.
What I find interesting about the article is that Nichols doesn't wants us to return to the "good old days" of academia-elitism, strict editorials, technocratism or similar phenomenon where experts would take the decisions without any input by the general population. Instead, he is basically presenting the problem in all its complications, taking both sides into account, and throwing the question in the air for us to think how can society balance the need for experts with good, reasoned, and informed opinions; with the need for a participative audience.
Thought-provoking read :) This century does seems to be starting with a lot of changes in social paradigms. We can only imagine how things will turn out.
Obviously, we all have different pain thresholds for how much our suspension of disbelief can stand. And one can only wonder if such childish tropes will ever get corrected given enough time.
Well, it turns out this phenomenon in film-making is basically unavoidable and perpetual. I recently read on the great website of Atomic Rockets (www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/) the insider's view of Todd Boyce who works for the special effects company of Ninja Magic (http://www.ninjamagic.com/). He wrote a great explanation about why Hollywood is so keen in throwing reality off the window without a second glance. I copied his text down below, but you can find the original thread in here: http://goo.gl/zTMIuN
I now give the microphone to Boyce:
The facts of life about media Sci-fi. To boil down all the possible reasons, it is because of one or more of the following:
0) It's a business
This is a business venture - you put money in with the expectation that more money will come out. The general audience is historically happier watching space ships woosh by shooting glowing bolts of energy than they are watching a slowly rotating spaceship lazily drift across the screen. If you're putting tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, you go for the shooty-wooshy space ships every time, pure and simple.
1) TPTB (The powers that be) don't care.
If whats on the screen looks good, and the storytelling is sufficient, then scientific accuracy rarely if ever matters. If they don't care that cars don't blow up when shot with bullets, why should they care about the theoretical effects of FTL travel.
2) There isn't time to dissect and fix scientific inaccuracies.
Once production on a movie is started, it is an unstoppable steamroller with a tight deadline. If the script says a spaceship wooshes by, the people working on the film don't have time to work out what kind of propulsion it uses - they just make the engine glow, push it across the screen in an interesting way and move on to the next shot.
3) The decisions are made in too many places, and it isn't even thought about except by people who aren't in positions to make judgment calls.
A jet fighter shoots missiles at a big space ship hovering above a city. The director tells the visual effects supervisor to make it happen. The visual effects supervisor tells the digital effects supervisor to make a space ship and to make a jet fighter woosh by and shoot some missiles at the space ship while he goes off and directs the on-set pyro effects.
The digital effects supervisor tells the modeling supervisor to have his team make a space ship and jet fighter and tells the FX supervisor to have his team make some missiles shoot, engine effects, vapor trails, smoke trails and whatnot.
The modelers build a jet fighter and give it harpoon missiles. The modeling supervisor says it looks good. The digital effects supervisor says it looks good. The modelers are done with their job and get put on another production.
The FX supervisor hands the model to the FX team who look at the fighter and say "um...that's not really the right kind of missile to do an air-to-air attack..." "Sorry, the modeler is off the show and these have been approved. Can't change it now" is the response. So the FX team launches harpoon missiles at the space ship.
The final shot is shown to the director/visual effects supervisor and it looks cool, but don't pick up on the fact that the wrong missile is being used. It's approved and put into the film.
(You're probably sensing that this is a true story and know what movie I was working on at the time.)
4) The script-reader's gauntlet
Writers use descriptive language to express action in their script. They don't often get into technical details because each page of a script is supposed to represent roughly one minute of screen time. A writer who spends his time describing the intricacies of a space ships propulsion system is a writer who finds his scripts in the script-reader's trash can.
People who write heavily technical novels are almost always terrible script-writers as they have difficulty working within the confines and limitations of that medium. The scripts that pass through the script-reader's gauntlet will likely be of the less technical variety.
5) People in film making have education in film making, they don't usually have PhD's in physics/astrophysics. And people who have PhD's in physics/astrophysics don't usually know how to make a good film.
It's not that they aren't smart enough, it's that their focus of expertise is in other areas. That's why they hire consultants if they're trying to do something with any degree of accuracy, but even then, accuracy is desirable only if it doesn't interfere with the storytelling. Often, things are set in motion that can't be changed after the fact anyway and you just have to shrug your shoulders and say "That's the way it has to be" if you learn too late of some scientific ramification.
6) The power of ego
You know how people fall all over themselves when a famous actor is nearby? Its worse when companies deal with well known directors. Just yesterday we were kicked out of the screening room during our dailies because Michael Bay was parking and MIGHT be needing it. With that sort of hysteria going on, are you going to be the one that walks up to him and say "this is totally unrealistic and you need to change it" knowing that saying so will mean the end of your employment?
What the director says goes, and few people have the will or the power to contradict him. Film making isn't usually done by committee, it is done by imperial decree and if the decree is that cars blow up when shot with bullets, then that is the way it is.
I'm sure there's a few others I've missed but, speaking of unrealism in Hollywood movies, I need to get back to work on a sequence involving bits of LA breaking off and sliding into the ocean because the Earth's magnetic field has collapsed.
I'm not kidding.
It is sad to learn that movies will never aim for grounded, well-thought hard sci-fi.
But it is good to know that we are now warned about it :)
Why can't aliens speak English? Couldn't they learn the language and, if necessary, build the appropriate prostheses to speak it if not biologically capable?
I admit that humans and a creature with a radically different brain structure and psychology might not have all that much to talk about. But still...
Also: The general audience is historically happier watching space ships woosh by shooting glowing bolts of energy than they are watching a slowly rotating spaceship lazily drift across the screen. Not me. Give me 2001: A Space Odyssey or Gravity anytime.
Also: Despite my snark, this is a very good and eye-opening essay.
It is really easy to dismiss internet girl's complains over haters. The Internet is after all, still thought as an ethereal, nonexistent arena where everything said is never truly meant. This may be true for most cases of trolling, but it is nonetheless an argument which is doomed to fail in the long run. As the Internet turns more and more into a home, personal heaven, public space, or simply a workplace for people; continuous harassment, no matter how hollow, is still harassment. And for people to preach that victims should ignore it is still failing to address the issue.
This article made me remember about a text I read something like 10 years ago, which said that the Internet (at the time) was similar to the idealized vision of the american wild west: Lawless, full of opportunity, adventure, and unlimited potential; yet utterly horrible for the regular people who wanted to live unremarkable lives in it. People who were all carving for civility, security, and a remnant of governance.
It is fascinating, and slightly depressing, that a decade later, the internet is still quite wild westy. It is amazing for the proportional few who like to live on the blurriness of social rules, covered in anonymity. Yet it is awful for everyone else who is not trying to discover gold in the California rivers and canyons, and who want to get by without constant shoot-outs, bank robberies, and noon duels.
I'll leave you with one of many great paragraphs from the article. I think it sums up pretty nicely just what kind of lie are we living right now:
"Opponents of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 characterized its workplace protections as unconstitutional and bad for business. Before workplace sexual harassment was reframed as discriminatory under Title VII, it was written off as harmless flirting. When Title IX was first proposed to address gender discrimination in education, a Senate discussion on the issue ended in laughter when one senator cracked a co-ed football joke. Until domestic violence became a national policy priority, abuse was dismissed as a lovers’ quarrel. Today’s harmless jokes and undue burdens are tomorrow’s civil rights agenda".
"So the victim faces a psychological dilemma: How should she understand her own fear? Should she, as many advise, dismiss an online threat as a silly game, and not bother to inform the cops that someone may want to—ha, ha—rape and kill her? Or should she dutifully report every threat to police, who may well dismiss her concerns?"
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