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Boris Borcic
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Boris Borcic

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In a very real sense, there are now two separate meanings to the colloquial use of the phrase Big Bang, but only one of them is certainly correct.

A vexing sort of ambiguity.
 
"We can extrapolate back to still higher temperatures, to where matter and antimatter spontaneously create due to the incredible energies and Einstein’s E = mc^2. Even earlier, the electromagnetic and weak nuclear force unified, the Higgs symmetry was restored, and, presumably, we can extrapolate all the way back to a single point containing all the radiation, matter, antimatter, energy, and even spacetime in the entire Universe. In other words, we can extrapolate back to a singularity, or a point from which all of this originated."

The overwhelming scientific conclusion based on the observable evidence is that the Universe is expanding and cooling, having emerged from a hot, dense state in the past. We can extrapolate back to a time before neutral atoms existed, before even nuclei could form, and if we continue the extrapolation all the way back, we arrive at a singularity. Only, that last step isn't necessarily one we can take, and the insistence of many on its existence may be the biggest mistake ever made about the Big Bang.
The question of where all this came from, as in the entire Universe, has been one of the biggest philosophical mysteries that humanity's ever encountered. After millennia of wrestling with this question, the answer finally became accessible through scientific inquiry, culminating in the Big Bang. The idea was nothing short of spectacular. Back [...]
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Strange case. What's opposing the conclusion that the crime was really just symbolical, like blasphemy, and - typical of blasphemy -  that justice brought more harm to the statutory victim than did the crime? 
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Confusion. This case is a problem for statutory rape cases where the age difference isn't nearly as great. Find an analogous case where the genders are reversed, and then we'll see trouble.
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Over the past decade, extremists have dedicated themselves to reducing the region’s complex identities to a simple Sunni vs. Shiite divide. It’s an invented history. But unfortunately in these efforts, success tends to breed success, and sectarian narratives quickly become self-fulfilling. Imagine how easily a liberal Shiite Alawite who hated Assad might conclude, after hearing rebels extol their commitment to killing Alawites, that his own survival was tied to the dictator’s. Cases like these are a depressing reminder that those who peddle bad history as an excuse for killing each other all too often succeed.

// This very much happened with Yugoslavia too. A misplacement of the authority of history allowed to time-transport the country back to a civil war embedded in WWII, meanwhile failing to justify that a generation of peaceful coexistence should be irrelevant.
Why centuries of calm between Shiites and Sunnis are being ignored.
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In the beginning, little was really made clear to the masses, of the causes of the enthusiasm of astrophysicists for ever more detailed maps of the CMB fluctuations. I was converted early to the general idea of going beyond the average value, at the observation that the dipole moment in the CMB admitted interpretation providing a legitimate answer to the question of an absolute speed of the Earth in the universe - the very question for which the Michelson-Morley experiment was designed but "derailed" by serendipitously revealing the constancy of the speed of light.
Gravitational lensing by foreground dark matter halos leaves an observable imprint on the cosmic microwave background, which can be used to determine their masses
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It's nice to know the Earth's speed relative to the cosmic rest frame - and even nicer to know that this concept makes sense.  But of course the real excitement surrounding detailed maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation is that they give us a detailed window into the history of the universe that nothing else can substitute for.
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In the name of transparency, I voice three things: One, I've spent more time with the Bible open before me than any other book. I would not be who I am today, whether for good or ill, apart from the book. Two, I draw a paycheck from my day job of teaching theology, and, moreover, teaching theology here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, in our beloved Nashville, which always makes for an adventure I can assure you. Three, I happen to believe the big claims of the Bible, though I would not hold myself up as any paragon of virtue with regard to the way of life to which the good book calls us.

With that said, I would like to say I think this bill is, in my carefully considered and nuanced vocabulary, altogether stupid. And I think the bill to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee is stupid for the following articulate and Biblical reasons:

One. (...)

Six. I am altogether dumbfounded by what can only appear as legislative hypocrisy, if there ever were such a thing. One legislator who voted in favor of the bill says that it is the "the morals, the values" that have "made me what I am." But one of the persistent "morals" and "values" of the Bible is justice, fundamental fairness, especially for those with less social capital. So, here we have a legislature that has voted to make the Bible the official book of the State; and yet when given an opportunity of late to provide health insurance to thousands and thousands of uninsured working-poor families, in a creative strategy that would cost very little to the state, would require zero increased revenue needs at the federal level, and would create and preserve thousands of jobs, all while protecting rural hospitals, the legislature has refused to even let that bill get out of committee for a full vote by the legislature.

Seven. This brings to mind some other words of the Bible, about "white-washed sepulchers, full of dead men's bones," and "ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"

Eight. Dang, I shouldn't have gone there. Once I start quoting those fire-breathing passages it gets me all worked up, gets me all tempted to go John the Baptist on you, refuse to shave, fantasize about standing on the lawn of the Capitol wearing nothing but some sack cloth underwear, maybe eat some grasshoppers for lunch and wash it down with some wild honey, and start shouting: "You brood of vipers! Somebody ought to warn you of the wrath to come! Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not say to yourself, 'we have the Bible as our state book,' for I tell you, God is able turn all that limestone of your Capitol building into Bibles if He needs them. Why don't you just read the thing and do what it says?"

Nine. Dang it again, now that I started pseudo-quoting John the Baptist, I want to start calling even more names, want to start saying "you fools," and all that. But I am reminded that the Bible says I must not do that, lest I be judged myself. So I shall not. But I do confess the rather strong desire to do so.

Ten. Hmm. That confession on my part, and the counsel of the Bible not to call such names does, in fact, make me pause long enough to recollect that, no doubt, those who voted for the bill, have good intentions. But brothers and sisters who voted thus, please listen to the many brothers and sisters around you who are asking you not to make Tennessee legislative play with our faith tradition. Please do not. Please do repent. Let it go. There's much better work for us to be doing all together.
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Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts – Richard Feynman // from +Charles Filipponi's tagline

He really said this? Beautiful in any case (for different reasons). It most reminds me of the similarity between Archimedes' principle, and Einstein's E=mc^2, modulo the shift of relevant ignorant experts, from being contemporary Syracusans to being contemporary physicists.



Some years ago, playing with this similarity lead me to this enigmatic poem that's in fact not true to it, since it's not intended here that F(Sycaruse) be the physicists (although they may be in hearing distance).

8/6/45 How does it sound
to F(Syracuse)
if F(Eureka) is the =
the = in E=mc^2?
-- Cosmetic, cosmic, comic,
not beautiful, true or good!
Cosmetic, cosmic, comic
cmc, mc^2, E = Albert!
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Quantum Mechanics as Generalised Theory of Probabilities
Michel Bitbol

First, quantum mechanics is not a physical theory that happens to make use of probability calculus; it is itself a generalised form of probability calculus, doubled by a procedure of evaluation that is probabilistic by way of its controlled usage of symmetries. Secondly, quantum mechanics does not have merely a predictive function like other physical theories; it consists in a formalisation of the conditions of possibility of any prediction bearing upon phenomena whose circumstances of detection are also conditions of production.

[...]

What conditions permitted the collective elaboration, from the seventeenth century onward, of probability calculus? Ian Hacking has furnished an extensive list of such conditions [The Emergence of Probability], but he insists upon one in particular. This crucial condition is the development, in the sixteenth century, of sciences of signs or of secondary qualities.

[...]

As Heisenberg wrote, quantum physics confronts a situation where even spatio-kinematic variables of the position and quantity of movement, which were considered at the time of Descartes and Locke as direct and 'primary', must be taken as indirect manifestations, relative to an instrumental context—in short, as secondary.

[...]

If man must content himself, according to Pascal, with 'perceiving some appearances from the middle of things, in an eternal despair of knowing either their beginning or their end', he cannot denigrate the appearances in favour of an ungraspable backworld governed by principles. Man must learn to inhabit his milieu; he must know how to focus his attention upon the play of his experimental manipulations and the phenomena that result from them; he must admit the inconsistency of cutting up the world into separate and intrinsically-existing objects, since phenomena are so tied one to another that it is impossible to know how to grasp one without grasping all; he must understand, also, that no cognition can free itself from the nexus of interrelations, but can only situate itself within it, remaining cognizant of the perspective from which it derives.

[...]

The image of the perturbation of the object by the measuring agent [...] begins by bringing into play a universe of objects endowed with primary spatial and kinematic qualities, and then invoking their mutual alteration so as to subsequently justify the putting aside of the concept of primary quality and the generalisation of that of secondary quality. In this image, then, one puts forward the representation of a universe of figures and movements, with the unique aim of demonstrating its inanity, or (what comes down to the same thing, for a verificationist epistemology) its in-principle inaccessibility.

[...]

In hidden variable theories, the determinist stance does indeed seem to have been lost, even at the level of its epistemological fecundity. The determinist stance was only fruitful because it compelled researchers to conceive of networks of univocal bonds underlying phenomena, to design the type of experiment that would allow these bonds to be brought to light, and to thus define often unprecedented classes of phenomena. [...] Once the reciprocal current of information between the determinist project and the definition of new domains of experimentation dries up, the attempt to pursue this project formally becomes nothing more than a jue d'esprit whose principle (if not sole) interest is its serving as an intellectual stimulant for specialists in the foundations of modern physics.

This situation does not justify, for all that, the inverse excess—namely, indeterminist dogmatism. All one is within one's rights to observe is that henceforth, in the physical sciences, the advantage of epistemological fruitfulness will belong to the stance that consists in maximally developing predictive capacity to the detriment of descriptive ambition, the calculus of probabilities rather than determinist models of evolution.

It is true that many thinkers do not stop there; they tend to extrapolate the epistemological observation of the fecundity of the indeterminist option into an ontological affirmation of the intrinsically stochastic character of the laws governing the world. But their position is easily acceptable on the methodological plane, without it being necessary to follow them in the metaphysical aspects of their conclusions.

[...]

To each experimental context is associated a scale of possible determinations and a scale of attributive propositions which belong to a classical, boolean, sublogic; and to each determination chosen from the set of possible determinations corresponding to a given context, can be attached a real number that obeys Kolmogorov's axioms of probability. But these sublogics and these probabilistic substructures cannot be fused together, for they depend on distinct contexts that cannot, in general, be conjoined. Under such conditions, we seek to articulate them with each other, respectively in the framework of a metalogic and a metacontextual probabilistic formalism. What is remarkable is that when one constructs such a metalogic, in taking account only of the impossibility of conjoining the diverse scales of possibilities, one arrives at structures isomorphic with the celebrated nondistributive 'quantum logic' of Birkhoff and von Neumann.

[...]

In its function as a theory-framework, quantum mechanics is consequently nothing less than a metacontextual form of probability theory. It brings together the conditions of possibility of a unified system of probabilistic prediction bearing upon phenomena inseparable from sometimes incompatible contexts.

[...]

In truth, none of the epistemological constraints exerted by the standard quantum mechanics of 1926 have been relaxed by contemporary varieties of quantum theory, and that new constraints of a similar order have even been added to them. Whatever representations they may give rise to, current quantum theories always operate as generalised, metacontextual instruments of probabilistic prediction. And this stems from the fact that they are always confronted with phenomena inseparable from their context of manifestation.

[...]

As to state vectors in Fock space, they allow not only the calculation of the probability that this or that 'property' of a particle will manifest itself in a given experimental context, but the probability that a certain number of particles will be detected under the appropriate instrumental conditions. This number itself is treated as an observable, the set of whose possible values under appropriate conditions of detection is identified with the set of whole natural numbers. To the contextualisation of the predicate of objects typical of standard quantum mechanics, then, quantum field theory adds the contextualisation of the nation of the denumerable bearers of predicates.

That one must from now on hold the very concept of 'particles', and not only that of 'properties of a particle', to be relative to a context of manifestation, is rendered particularly evident by the relativistic phenomenon of so-called 'Rindler particles'.

[...]

Every quantum theory contains an invariable element—a metacontextual form of probability theory—and a variable element—a set of symmetries. [...] As soon as one accepts that there is nothing more to be understood in quantum mechanics, a whole world of non-physical applications of the theory opens up, in game theory, perception theory, or linguistics. Conversely, the very success of these exotic applications testifies that quantum mechanics is indeed in its essence a metacontextual form of probability theory.

http://www.urbanomic.com/pub_collapse8.php
Volume VIII of Collapse, the journal of philosophical research and development, brings together philosophers, artists and scientists to address the themes of gambling, risk, probability and contingency.
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Boris Borcic

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For later contemplation...
 
Twin dodecahedra

Here Greg Egan has draw two regular dodecahedra, in red and blue.  They share some corners - and these are the corners of a cube, shown in green! 

I learned some cool facts about this from Adrian Ocneanu when I was at Penn State.  First some easy stuff.  You can take some corners of a regular dodecahedron and make them into the corners of a cube.  But not every symmetry of the cube is a symmetry of the dodecahedron!  If you give the cube a 90° rotation around any face, you get a new dodecahedron.  Check it out: doing this rotation switches the red and green dodecahedra.  These are called twin dodecahedra.

But there are actually 5 different ways to take a regular dodecahedron and make them into the corners of a cube.  And each one gives your dodecahedron a different twin!  So, a dodecahedron actually has 5 twins.

But here's the cool part.  Suppose you take one of these twins.  It, too, will have 5 twins.  One of these will be the dodecahedron you started with.  But the other 4 will be new dodecahedra: that is, dodecahedra rotated in new ways.

How many different dodecahedra can you get by continuing to take twins?  Infinitely many!

In fact, we can draw a graph - a thing with dots and edges - that explains what's going on.  Start with a dot for our original dodecahedron.  Draw dots for all the dodecahedra you can get by repeatedly taking twins.  Connect two dots with an edge if and only if they are twins of each other.

The resulting graph is a tree: in other words, it has no loops in it!  If you start at your original dodecahedron, and keep walking along edges of this graph by taking twins, you'll never get back to where you started except by undoing all your steps.

Ocneanu's proof of this is very nice, using some 4-dimensional geometry and group theory.  I will have to outline it somewhere, because Ocneanu is famous for not publishing most of his work.  But I like how you can state the end result without these more sophisticated concepts.

#geometry  
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"But coming home to the countries of the West, where nobody dies for a moment’s lapse in fealty to a prime minister or a president, it can be depressing beyond words to hear the loyalists of a given political creed — whether of the left or the right — adopt the unyielding certainties common in totalitarian states. Our rights to think and speak freely have been won at great cost, and we abuse them at our peril."

Via +Tara Nelson 
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/the-things-i-carried-back.html?wt.mc_id=2015-APRIL-FB-SR_PROPENSITY&WT.mc_ev=click
From 40 years of reporting, a revulsion for ideology that smothers free thinking in both the totalitarian world and the West.
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A parsimonious statement.
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"The fact that the Universe started with fluctuations, that gravity pulls on normal matter and dark matter both, but only normal matter gets pushed out by interacting electromagnetically gives rise to this “special scale” in the Universe. Today, we can see that special scale by noticing that you’re slightly more likely to have galaxies separated by a certain distance, and that distance has evolved over time as the Universe has expanded.

Measure that preferred scale not just today, but at all the distance scales you can measure as far back as you can, and you’ll learn the entire expansion history of the Universe."

When it comes to measuring the expansion history of the Universe, the concept is simple enough: take something you know about an object, like a mass, a size, or a brightness, then measure what the mass, size or brightness appears to be, and suddenly, you know how far away that object has to be. Add in a measurement of the object’s redshift, and you can figure out not only what the expansion rate of the Universe is today, you can figure out the entire expansion history, and therefore what makes the Universe up. Move over, supernovae, there's a new king in town!
They’re our best measurement of dark energy, even better than supernovae!
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I love these explanations. I feel a little better educated when i read them.
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Graphics in reverse: Probabilistic programming does in 50 lines of code what used to take thousands

Researchers can demonstrate that on some standard computer-vision tasks, short programs -- less than 50 lines long -- written in a probabilistic programming language are competitive with conventional systems with thousands of lines of code.
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Fascinating!
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hope achieves the square root of the impossible
Introduction
Born a twin and somewhat later, first distracted of girls by computers with ram capacity in the kilobytes range; that is, truly parsimonious computers.

Former Taglines

Dark energy is relic pollution from warp drives! Solve two cosmic mysteries - the Fermi Paradox and Dark Energy - by each other. Transpose the AGW issue to the Universe, to defuse the illusion we can turn our back on the problem by moving to exoplanets. Make fun of Dark Energy etc having inspired the possibility of warp drives, by assuming cosmic history has already articulated both together, but in reverse order.

Does God Sexist? - The misogyny of many religious texts and traditions, entangles the matter of affirming God with that of affirming misogyny.

Ambiguities are like microbes: the pathogens steal attention! - most people will equate microbes with the tiny fraction of pathogens, and will ignore in particular the helpful microbes without which we wouldn't even survive. I claim a similar situation applies to ambiguities, even more remote from awareness.
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