Global warming contrarians gain new ally

July 31, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write a little note on a talk by Naomi Oreskes, available on YouTube, ever since it came to my attention via the comments on a blog (probably The Intersection or Pharyngula, though I regrettably don’t remember). Now the perfect excuse to do so has come up.

Two recent posts (one, two) at The Panda’s Thumb discuss contrarian views regarding global warming. The most interesting aspect is not the details of those views. No, the most interesting aspect is the person who holds those views: the intelligent design creationist William Dembski. Read the rest of this entry »

New law suit against The Pirate Bay

July 29, 2009

A new law suit against The Pirate Bay is reported in the news. Major movie studios have teamed up to stop TPB from providing torrents. Though TPB lost the previous court battle, the old torrents remain available and new ones are added every day. There’s also some bad news for the planned sale of TPB, as one player pulls out due to doubts about funding.

ZDnet even says the new law suit will block the sale of TPB to the dubious Global Gaming Factory, though no one else seems to have reported that. If true it would be a bit ironic since the new owner says it is negotiating deals with Hollywood studies to turn TPB into a legal file sharing site. Is this Hollywood’s answer to GGF? I guess it makes some sense to try to get TPB to cease activity as a torrent tracker, especially since GGF’s take over is still a bit unclear, but TPB is just one of several torrent trackers and users are already shifting attention to other trackers.

Jimmy Carter meets Prof. Steve Steve

July 29, 2009

This picture at Panda’s Thumb will make waves in the blogosphere. Prof. Steve, the world’s most educated science education mascot, met with none other than former President Jimmy Carter (or vice versa).

Is information, or constraints on inference, all there is?

July 26, 2009

“What is information? Is it physical? We argue that in a Bayesian theory the notion of information must be defined in terms of its effects on the beliefs of rational agents. Information is whatever constrains rational beliefs and therefore it is the force that induces us to change our minds.” — Ariel Caticha (eprint: 0710.1068)

“Perhaps physics is nothing but inference after all.” — Ariel Caticha (eprint: 0808.1260)

“Physics is the ability to win a bet.” — Attributed to J. R. Buck by C. A. Fuchs (eprint: quant-ph/0105039, p. 125)

Some theories present us with intruiging conceptual puzzles. This is the case with probability theory and statistics. Originally the notion of ‘probability’ was introduced in the study of games of chance, where players who are uncertain about outcomes in a game need to decide on a strategy. Read the rest of this entry »

Please stand up during take off and landing

July 23, 2009

Upright seating is again being considered for short passenger flights, this time by Ryanair. The same Ryanair that previously has considered charging extra for fat people and is currently mulling over a toilet charge. With the current financial crisis these ideas may have greater probability of being taken seriously by customers. I just hope the airline companies won’t start charging me for not losing my luggage… Or is that what travel insurance is for?

Science, metaphysical underdetermination, and religion

July 16, 2009

Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance has added his view on the compatibility of science and religion. In the past few days, many bloggers (PZ Myers at Pharyngula, Chris Mooney at The Intersection, Jerry Coyne at Whyevolutionistrue, John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts, …) have expressed views about the extent to which science and religion are compatible. See Coyne’s Accommodationism: onward and downward for a brief review of the issue with links to other blog posts.

Carroll makes a very clear argument for his view. Read the rest of this entry »

Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics of self-gravitating systems

July 13, 2009

It is not uncommon among scientists to consider philosophy of science to be an uninteresting distraction from more important matters. When it comes to the foundations of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, however, some philosophers have made genuinely useful contributions, doing an excellent job of summarizing the current situation and bringing clarity to the strengths and weaknesses of different foundations. Jos Uffink’s article on what, strictly speaking, is asserted by the second law of thermodynamics comes to mind—it has been well received by both philosophers and physicists. To specialists in the field, there may not be much new, but philosophers have at the very least managed to provide clear presentations of successes and problems to a potential wider audience of philosophers, physicists, and lay-men.

I’d like to highlight two preprints by Callender and Wallace, respectively, on the subject of thermodynamics of self-gravitating systems. Read the rest of this entry »