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Philosophy and physics may seem like polar opposites, but they regularly address quite similar questions. Recently, physicists have revisited a topic with modern philosophical origins dating over a century ago: the unreality of time. What if the passage of time were merely an illusion? Can a world without time make sense?
While a world without the familiar passage of time may seem far-fetched, big names in physics, such as string theory pioneer Ed Witten and theorist Brian Greene, have recently embraced such an idea. A timeless reality may help reconcile differences between quantum mechanics and relativity, but how can we make sense of such a world? If physics does indeed suggest that the flow of time is illusory, then philosophy may be able to shed light on such a strange notion.
British philosopher J.M.E McTaggart advanced this idea in 1908 in his paper titled, “The Unreality of Time.
Tag Archives | Science
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It was the most thrilling bureaucratic document I’ve ever seen for just one reason: it was dated the 21st day of the month of Thermidor in the Year Six. Written in sepia ink on heavy paper, it recorded an ordinary land auction in France in what we would call the late summer of 1798. But the extraordinary date signaled that it was created when the French Revolution was still the overarching reality of everyday life and such fundamentals as the distribution of power and the nature of government had been reborn in astonishing ways. The new calendar that renamed 1792 as Year One had, after all, been created to start society all over again.
In that little junk shop on a quiet street in San Francisco, I held a relic from one of the great upheavals of the last millennium. It made me think of a remarkable statement the great feminist fantasy writer Ursula K Le Guin had made only a few weeks earlier.
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There’s nothing worse than arguing with someone who simply refuses to listen to reason. You can throw all the facts at them you want, and they’ll simply dig in their heels deeper.
Over the past decade, psychologists have been studying why so many people do this. As it turns out, our brains have glitches that can make it difficult to remember that wrong facts are wrong. And trying to debunk misinformation can often backfire and entrench that misinformation stronger. The problem is even worse for emotionally charged political topics — like vaccines and global warming.
So how can you actually change someone’s mind? I spoke to Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol and co-author of The Debunking Handbook, to find out:
Susannah Locke: There’s evidence that when people stick with wrong facts, it isn’t just stubbornness — but actually some sort of brain glitch.
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Jack Parsons was a founding member of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab, with some crediting him as being one of the “fathers of rocketry” and others joking that JPL was actually Jack Parsons’ Laboratory, but you won’t find much about him on Nasa’s websites. Parsons’ legacy as an engineer and chemist has been somewhat overshadowed by his interest in the occult and, and has led to what some critics describe as a rewriting of the history books.
“He’s lived in the footnotes since his death. He’s a forgotten figure,” says biographer George Pendle, author of Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parson (Jack’s full name).
Pendle did an “archeological dig” into Parsons’ life after finding a mention of him in a science book.
It was our 14th expedition to the trenches of the Pacific Ocean, where depths can exceed 10,000m. And it was due to be our last for the foreseeable future.
We had been aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s (SOI) vessel RV Falkor for 30 days. It was almost over. Then, it turned out to be “the big one”.
For this was the expedition in which my colleagues and I discovered a snailfish living some eight kilometres below the waves, deeper than any fish we know of. My colleagues from the University of Hawaii even recovered some in their traps.
In the past six years we have made many discoveries in the depths, such as the missing order of Decapoda (shrimps) that were long thought absent from the trenches but are actually rather conspicuous.… Read the rest
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD) have frequent upsetting thoughts that they try to control by repeating certain rituals or behaviors.
Though healthy people also have rituals – including checking to see that the stove is off before leaving the house – people with OCD obsessively perform their rituals, even though they interfere with daily life.
“While some habits can make our life easier, like automating the act of preparing your morning coffee, others go too far and can take control of our lives in a much more insidious way, shaping our preferences, beliefs, and in the case of OCD, even our fears,” notes Prof. Trevor Robbins, a study author from the Department of Psychology at Cambridge.
He and Dr. Claire Gillan led a team of researchers to investigate the idea that compulsions in OCD result from an “overactive habit-system.”
Dr. Dennis McKenna is a scientist, author and living legend of psychedelic counterculture. He joined Midwest Real to wax philosophical on the ever-novel, topography of society, technology, medicine, the limits of science and why we should always remain humble.
Clearly, living a life of legends is far from simple. Just getting around the obligations and momentum that are built into being a modern human can be a tough, if not insurmountable task. Depending upon your roll of the dice, you might be grappling with debt, illness, family issues or any number of other inhibitory obstacles that coerce you into living your life in a way that’s less than ideal. But, aside from that, I’m willing to bet that most of us are actually holding ourselves back.… Read the rest
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In October 1984 I arrived at Oxford University, trailing a large steamer trunk containing a couple of changes of clothing and about five dozen textbooks. I had a freshly minted bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard, and I was raring to launch into graduate study. But within a couple of weeks, the more advanced students had sucked the wind from my sails. Change fields now while you still can, many said. There’s nothing happening in fundamental physics.
Then, just a couple of months later, the prestigious (if tamely titled) journal Physics Letters B published an article that ignited the first superstring revolution, a sweeping movement that inspired thousands of physicists worldwide to drop their research in progress and chase Einstein’s long-sought dream of a unified theory. The field was young, the terrain fertile and the atmosphere electric. The only thing I needed to drop was a neophyte’s inhibition to run with the world’s leading physicists.
Here’s one other DARPA-funded robotic limb controlled by thoughts alone — actually make that two, because Colorado man Les Baugh had two bionic arms attached from shoulder level. Baugh got them this summer, 40 years after losing both arms, as part of aRevolutionizing Prosthetics Program test run at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. The project’s researchers have been developing these Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPL) over the past decade, but they say Baugh is the “first bilateral shoulder-level amputee” to wear two MPLs at the same time. Unlike Jan Scheuermann who controlled a robotic arm with a pair of neural implants, though, Baugh had to undergo a procedure called targeted muscle reinnervation, which reassigned the nerves that once controlled his arms and hands.
via Mental Floss:
Last month, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a robot on a comet. While the exciting news seemed to come out of nowhere, you can be forgiven for sleeping through the initial launch—it happened in 2004. Scientists and engineers at space agencies around the world play very long games. Rosetta traveled 6.4 billion kilometers before rendezvousing with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Even on the starship Enterprise, that’s well over an hour away at warp speed. This raises the question: what else is going on up there? Here are 15 ongoing space missions you might not know about.
4. NEW HORIZONS
7. HAYABUSA 2
8. PIONEER 10 & PIONEER 11
9. VOYAGER 1
10. VOYAGER 2
13. MARS ORBITER MISSION
14. VENUS EXPRESS
15. INTERNATIONAL COMET EXPLORER