All of Sam_B's Comments + Replies

The Meaning of Right

Just so I'm certain - why does this post end "A=A", and why does the author feel the need to apologise for that ending?

(I think I know the answer to both questions - but there seems to be a rather large coincidence involved, which is why I ask.)

When (Not) To Use Probabilities

Was this speaker a believer in Discworldian probability theory? Which states, of course, that million-to-one chances come up 100% of the time, but thousand-to-one chances never. Maybe those numbers weren't plucked out of the air.

All we have to do is operate the LHC while standing on one foot, and the probability of the universe exploding will be nudged away from million-to-one (doesn't matter which direction - whoever heard of a 999,999-1 chance coming up?) and the universe will be saved.

Lawrence Watt-Evans's Fiction

Why do you think these characters are trying to be "rationalists", even a misguided idea of "rationalists"? I don't watch Star Trek, but as far as I know Mr Spock never describes himself as a rationalist. He may use words like 'logical' and 'probability', but - unless there's something I don't know, which is very possible - he does not come out and say 'I am a rationalist', or claim to adhere to any of the principles that make up rationality. I'm similarly unaware of any character that explicitly sets out to be a rationalist, and repea... (read more)

Against Devil's Advocacy

Is devil's advocacy just another get-out-of-argument-free card, like "Well, that's just my opinion" and "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree"? That is, something you say when you've "lost" the argument, or are about to lose, and want to withdraw without conceding social status (from the debate-as-game perspective) or altering your opinion (from the debate-as-truth-seeking perspective). That certainly looks like Phillip's use of it above, although he's obviously joking.

Even if you start out by saying "I'm just playing ... (read more)

Thou Art Physics

The question "do we have free will", which as I understand it is more precisely described as "does the fact that you only ever get to make one choice and experience one outcome make choice an illusion", has two important properties. One, it's completely unanswerable, there being no imaginable evidence that would shift your belief one way or the other. And two, whether your belief is right or wrong has no direct consequences, positive or negative.

A rationalist might see this as a bad thing - a "wrong question" - and so ignore it. But a philosopher might look on this as a biscuit tin that never runs out of biscuits.

Living in Many Worlds

Quantum immortality seemed to work when I was imagining my consciousness as a thread running through the many worlds, one that couldn't possibly enter a world where I was dead. But if I understand rightly, consciousness is not like this, it is not epiphenominal, it is not a thread that runs through one world and not the others, it is splitting along with the world around me and the rest of my body.

So if I undergo the classic 50/50 decaying radioactive particle + gun experiment, it would seem to me that I have a 50% chance of my consciousness surviving and ... (read more)

4UnholySmoke13y
Just by the by, it might be a good party piece for you, but it would be a truly horrible party piece for half the people you performed it to.
To Spread Science, Keep It Secret

This post assumes a very positive view of humanity. It assumes that people aren't studying science in large enough numbers because the knowledge isn't exciting and attractive enough. The alternative assumption is that people aren't studying science because they're thick, or lazy, or both.

In Britain, fewer and fewer young people are choosing to study science at A-level (16-18) and university, despite the increased number of them continuing education after compulsory education ends (16). This is mainly blamed on them choosing to do new, 'soft' options, of wh... (read more)

4jschulter12y
I think you might have failed to realize what will determine which cult people will choose. When the Media cult makes their presentation, they'll be reduced to showing a movie (or equivalent, maybe a lo-fi virtual reality) and saying "look at this fancy media we can create, wouldn't you like to be able to do that?" But then the Physics and Mathematics cult (I really do fail to see how they could be separated successfully) presents a light bulb, a tesla coil, and possibly a miniature sun and gets to say "this isn't even the half of what we could do if we wanted to. If you want to know how to do it, you'll have to deal with us."