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Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules

I have to make one comment and disagree in one aspect.

The comment is about determinism. The description we have of nature at the highest energies is based on quantum mechanics, which is deterministic in the sense that the wave function obey a well defined differential equation, but predictions of measurements are only probabilistic. Even considering this degree of determinism you would still not be able to make precise predictions. Of course, you might consider prediction of probabilities deterministic enough to threaten free will.

Now, I have to disagree that the views of the "laws of physics" as compressed descriptions of nature imply free will in the described way. All evidence points to the fact that there are, let's say, patterns in nature that are not disobeyed. Any decision one makes has to obey those patterns and the collected evidence up to now supports this. For instance, no matter what you decide to do, the firing of your neurons will obey the patterns we call collectively electrodynamics. Although that does not completely decides your actions, it put limits on it. Call it a partial lack of free will if you like, but it is not completely free.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)

That's more a question of taste, and there is nothing wrong with that. I also prefer theoretical physics, although I must admit that it's very exciting to be in a lab, as long as it is not me collecting the data or fixing the equipment.

My point in the sentence you quoted is that you can perfectly well carry on with some "tasks" without thinking to deeply about them, even in physics. Be it theoretical or experimental or computational. That is something I think is really missing in the whole spectrum of education, not only in science and not only in the universities.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)

It's actually the first time I read it. I would be very happy to say that the situation improved over there, but that might not be true in general. Unfortunately, the way I see it is the completely opposite. The situation became worse everywhere else. Apparently, science education all around the world is becoming more distant of what Feynman would like. Someone once told me that "Science is not about knowledge anymore, it's about production". Feynman's description of his experience seems to be all about that. I refuse to believe in that, but as the world embraces this philosophy, science education becomes less and less related to really thinking about any subject.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)


My name is Roberto and I'm a Brazilian physicist working in the UK. Even working in an academic environment, that obviously do not guarantee an environment where rational/unbiased/critical discussions can happen. Science production in universities not always are carried out by thinking critically about a subject as many papers can be purely technical in their nature. Also, free thinking is as regulated in academia as it is everywhere else in many aspects.

That said, I have been reading and browsing Less Wrong for some time and think that this can indeed be done here. In addition, given later developments all around the world in many aspects and how people react to them, I felt the urge to discuss them in a way which is not censored, specially by the other persons in the discussion. It promises to be relaxing anyway.

I'm sure I'm gonna have a nice time.

There's learned philosophers but not philosophical experts

I don't really agree with that.

To start with, the fields of every discipline are similar to an evolutionary tree. They branch out from ancestor fields and, even in Physics or Biology, can disappear without leaving any descendants. I think that the argument used that once a philosophical problem is solved it closes the field is simply a question of defining the entire field as that particular problem.

Fields are usually hierarchically organised, with subfields within fields. In addition, even if you can say that all problems in an entire field are solved, the way they were solved can be considered to constitute the field itself as each solution can help in other areas or other problems.

Examples in Physics, my field, are many, but I think that one in philosophy could be more relevant. For instance, I have no problems in identifying a philosopher who is an expert in philosophy of science. Even if this particular problem would be solved, I believe that someone who knew everything about it and how it was solved could also be called such.