Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Quote of the Year

Talking to a brick wall with a PhD hanging from it is still talking to a brick wall.

Louise Riofrio

9 Comments:

Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

One could not put it better! The basic problem of modern science is that it is understood as building of a career or even a paradigm so that people are talking to brick walls, not to each other.

The first year students should learn to listen attentively, to be present. To listen to everyone, not only to the professor. This would be the first step to cure the situation. LHC will not help.

November 08, 2007 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Louise said: "Talking to a brick wall with a PhD hanging from it is still talking to a brick wall."

As to why such attitude is common, not only in the theoretical physics community, a 6 November 2007 article by John Tierney in The New York Times said:
"... cognitive dissonance, has been demonstrated over and over by researchers ... in general, people deal with cognitive dissonance - the clashing of conflicting thoughts - by eliminating one of the thoughts. ... The cognitive dissonance is gone; you are smug. ... there isn’t always much conscious thought going on ...
researchers at Yale report finding the first evidence of cognitive dissonance in monkeys ... Once a monkey was observed to show an equal preference for three colors ... he was given a choice between two of them. If he chose red over blue, his preference changed and he downgraded blue. When he was subsequently given a choice between blue and green, it was no longer an even contest - he was now much more likely to reject the blue. ...".

In other words, once a monkey/human decides that something (red or superstring theory or conventional cosmology or etc) is good and alternatives (including blue or Clifford algebra physics or varying-c or other-etc) are bad,
then
from then on the alternatives are rejected without "much conscious thought going on",
hence the Brick Wall against alternative ideas.

They are like Sean Carroll, who said in his recent CV blog post about Dark Matter that he "is not going to bother ... to figure out what’s going on".

As Robert Heinlein said:
"... Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal. ..."
and
"... Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion - in the long run these are the only people who count ...".

Tony Smith

November 08, 2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

...the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well

That's me!

November 09, 2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Hear hear on the sad ability of the human animal to think. What's sadder is that we also have the ability to know how similar to brick walls we are.

November 09, 2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kea said that she was among "... the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well ...".

Actually, my opinion is that Kea is in the "... extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion - in the long run these are the only people who count ...".

Tony Smith

November 09, 2007 10:33 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Gee, thanks Tony! You're a great gentleman and a scholar.

November 09, 2007 10:37 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thanks to Kea and everyone! As we have seen with equations, a simple expression can catch on.

November 09, 2007 1:09 PM  
Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

One could speak about mechanical thinking as a skillful application of existing methods, kind of playing piano piece faster and faster (science as it is mostly understood in my own country), or at best producing more complex variants of existing structures (evolution of super string models).

Then there is creative thinking starting from scartch and imagining completely new views. Very difficult and unrewarding since most imagined possibilities are simply wrong!No wonder so many choose the easy alternative and get sooner or later their postdoc position.

One positive outcome is however certain: alternative thinker becomes gradually very conscious about how full of anomalies the existing world view is.

I see the fuzziness of imaginative thinking as unavoidable. It is like quantum computation producing superpositions of different thoughts (in the sense of hyper-finite factors of type II_1 of course;-)!). You do not and cannot select just single option but only a smaller superposition corresponding to a better cognitive resolution. Too high a precision too early could lead to a wrong solution from the beginning. The evolution of super string models comes in mind again unavoidably.

November 09, 2007 6:04 PM  
Anonymous a quantum diaries survivor said...

Hi Kea,

duh, only now do I understand why you said "you saw it first". I have been a bit careless with checking up on friends' blogs..

Cheers,
T.

November 13, 2007 8:43 AM  

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