All of Nathan_Myers's Comments + Replies

I should note for completeness that al-Haytham also lived centuries before Roger Bacon. It's not clear if Roger cribbed, also, but his exhortations to experiment described nothing like the complete system for establishing quantifiable truth found in the Optics.

It's typical, in the European tradition, to credit Francis Bacon with inventing Science. However, Bacon was explicitly cribbing from a man who lived centuries earlier in Egypt and Syria, who actually originated the ideas and methods, and who applied them in an enduring work. The man was Al-Haytham, and the work was his book on optics. He was known at the time in Europe as Alhazen or Alhacen.

Make no mistake: Al-Haytham was fully aware of the importance of his ideas. Bacon deserves credit for also recognizing that importance, and for popularizing the ideas among the notoriously insular English. He does not deserve credit for originating anything so profound.

Thank you, tcpkac, for your concise and clear exposition. All I have to add is that anarchy also leads directly to dictatorship.


The mystery of libertarianism being identical, in practice, to fascism is easy to solve. Simply ignore the expressed goals (i.e. wishful thinking), and concentrate on the predictable consequences of the advocated program. Lo and behold, the program is the same as the fascists', and must therefore lead to the same results. QED.

And no, I'm not "left-wing". The wings are for loonies.

The difference between "libertarian" and "right-wing" is a matter of degree. It corresponds precisely to the degree of honesty in the adherent. That is to say, the libertarian program and the right-wing program are identical in consequence, but libertarians pretend otherwise, through a process called "wishful thinking". An honest right-winger plans to hold a position of power in an ironclad dictatorship, where the libertarian hopes (or claims to hope) that the consequences of the policies he espouses won't actually be that ironclad dictatorship.

In other words, "numbers matter". But I suppose mentioning numbers eliminates most of your audience.

Michael V: I hope you can offer a brief hint by what criterion "dark matter" might be distinguished from "weird physics". (I suspect it will turn out to be very much on-topic, for the site if not the thread.)

Michael V: Dark matter exposes another sort of bias common among scientists. A wide variety of anomalous (or once-anomalous) astronomical phenomena are consistent with plasma fluid-dynamic phenomena at various scales ("geysers" on Enceladus, the Aurora Borealis, solar and galactic jets, too-fast galactic rotation). However, the mathematics of plasma fluid dynamics is fiendishly difficult, and effectively intractable. Progress is possible by performing tricky vacuum chamber experiments, and by simulations on very large supercomputers. Astrophy... (read more)

Certain observations about scientists' collective behavior long mystified me. Given an established theory that explains old evidence and but not new evidence, and a new hypothesis that also accounts for some new phenomena, scientists routinely demand (and defend demanding!) much more rigorous testing of the new hypothesis than the old theory ever withstood, before they will even accord it parity with the old. Also, when new data actually falsify an old theory, they will go to great lengths to try to rescue it, inventing no end of ad-hoc epicycles. Data ... (read more)

Regarding the quasar "in" NGC7319 - read here [] for a discussion on the stellar object. Needless to say, the reason it is ignored isn't because it contradicts mainstream cosmological theory, it's because it coincides with it pretty much perfectly given the state of our observational technology. When judging articles like this, a simple, lazy estimate of probabilities is very helpful. For example, which do you think is more likely, 100 years of highly successful physics and cosmology is flat wrong (which is required for the quasar to be inside NGC7319, everything from what quasars are made of to the physics behind how they emit EM radiation must be wrong), or that a handful of researchers jumped to conclusions in their excitement? My vote goes to the latter until some pretty extraordinary evidence is found confirming their claims. Modern telescopes aren't precise enough to rule their claims out completely, but the quasar doesn't deviate from known cosmological effects which fit the current theory of the cosmos. I'd wager a similar story for comets, I didn't look that up though as they don't interest me nearly as much as quasars do. There is also a fairly significant amount of rather difficult to refute evidence for the existence of dark energy and dark matter. Matter that both has mass (and therefore gravity) and also does not interact with ordinary matter certainly exists - the best example is the neutrino. There just isn't a known mechanism to produce enough of this type of matter to account for the amount observed in the universe. Hence the "dark" in the name (which, incidentally, many physicists don't approve of precisely because it sounds too much like "magic"). The existence of dark energy is even more definitive. Simply put, the universe is expanding at an accelerated pace. This is undeniable. The only way for acceleration to occur is for energy to be expended (unless you are willing to throw away therm

Al: Diamond's point is, indeed, that the best approximation to a Singularity we know of is a downfall. He identifies dozens of examples in history and pre-history, from Petra to Yucatan to Easter Island, of exponential development causing collapse. The singular difference between the modern case and his examples that is a cause for hope is that we know the previous examples, and can quantify the process. That knowledge, thus far, is having little effect.

On the flip side, all the previous collapses were local; the Easter Islanders cut down all their own... (read more)

For an unbiased, science-based model of the Singularity, there is no better source than Jared Diamond, "Collapse" and "The Third Chimpanzee". The Americas and many Pacific islands have faced mini-singularies in the recent past. Among the more poignant is Easter Island, where every last tree was cut down.

Diamond identifies a round dozen worldwide crises, any one of which may cause a corresponding worldwide collapse in the next century. Among them are nuclear-weapon proliferation, water shortages, devastation of fisheries, global warmi... (read more)

Ben Jones: Dead Christian Transhumanists' souls await the Final Day, just like all the rotting Christian corpses' souls. If you thaw out their heads and turn them back on, the souls are right where they were before, to the extent they ever were anywhere, and might as well pick up where they left off. When the head finally gets used up, the soul may be presumed to be where the other corpses' souls are.

The real question is what happens when you scan the frozen head into a non-frozen-head simulator, and start it up: can the simulation exchange packets with ... (read more)

The standards of Brad DeLong, himself, would be something to aspire to. Sometimes they're exceeded here, often not. It's good to have a benchmark, but don't kid yourselves.

Wouldn't that make them "bio-reactionaries" or "bio-romantics"? Or has the equation of "conservatism" (which once denoted an inclination to preserve the status quo) with "reactionism" (desire to re-instate the status quo ante), "romanticism" (promotion of some vanished, idealized past), or raw fascism (power is its own logic) pervaded even these hallowed halls? Do we have a name for what was once called conservatism, or does the concept no longer have any meaningful referent?

Part of the problem is that reactionaries call themselves "conservative" even though, you're right, they really aren't. In the US, equal rights for women is really a conservative idea in the original sense, because it's something that our culture has already mostly accepted. People arguing against it aren't conserving the status quo, they are harkening back to some bygone halycon era. But think of how weird it sounds to say that feminists are conservative! So I think the term in practice has moved away from its original etymological meaning.

What disappointed me about the response to that posting was how many (mostly well-spoken, articulate) people obviously learned nothing from the experience. We even have ObL's video in which he patiently explained how the overreaction was the whole point of the operation: he estimated six orders of magnitude of direct cost to the U.S. vs. his organization's own costs, neglecting all the less quantifiable damage to American society resulting from that overreaction (Patriot act, acceptance of torture, etc.). It's clear Americans haven't finished processing ... (read more)

The value of a mode of inquiry lies as much in the value of the questions it generates as in the answers. Science sets a high threshold for answers, but a good question can be worth much more than any answer.

I'm afraid Francis Bacon cribbed essentially all of his scientific method from an Iraqi usually called "Ibn al Haytham" (or "Alhacen", or "Alhazen", in different contexts).

Al Haytham invented modern science as an adjunct to studying (i.e., creating the field of) optics, about a thousand years ago. Appealingly, instead of simply advocating the method, he demonstrated using it to investigate natural phenomena, and explained, alongside his results, how the method offered the reader both confidence in his results and a means to c... (read more)

Sorry, that's 1000 years before science. Cf. Ibn al Haytham.

With 7 beans in a hundred, I can just keep drawing beans until I get $14 worth, where with 1 in ten, the most I can get is $2. Not only that, I get to eat a hundred free jelly beans. This doesn't seem too mysterious to me.