Self-organizing, art, and mathematical mutants

Deciphering the principles of self-organizing systems is often at the heart of new ideas in biology, including neurobiology. A complex, self-organizing system contains a large

number of elements that have predictable, local interactions with each other, but these local interactions create global properties that cannot be predicted from even the most well-understood local events. This […]

Number, insight, and the Riemann Hypothesis

The Riemann Hypothesis came to my attention again recently. More specifically I read a bit about the possibility that quantum mechanical measurements may provide a proof of a centuries-old hypothesis and one of mathematics’ most famous enigmas.

Within mathematics itself, without any reference to its physical meaning, the Riemann Hypothesis highlights the kind of […]

Infinity is not the problem

An article published in May in Quanta Magazine had the following remark as its lead:

A surprising new proof is helping to connect the mathematics of infinity to the physical world.

My first thought was that the mathematics of infinity is already connected to the physical world. But Natalie Wolchover’s opening few paragraphs were inviting:

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What’s the fuss about entropy?

In 2011 John Horgan posted a piece on his blog, Cross Check (part of the Scientific American blog network), with the title, Why Information can’t be the basis of reality. There Horgan makes the observation that the “everything-is-information meme violates common sense.” As of last December (at least) he hadn’t changed his mind. He referred […]

The conceptual plasticity of ancient Babylonian astronomers

A recent discovery in the history of science and mathematics has prompted a number of articles, links to which are provided at the end of this text. Astrophysicist and science historian Mathieu Ossendrijver, of Humboldt University in Berlin, made the observation that ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph. […]

Testable thoughts?

Quanta magazine has a piece on a recent conference in Munich where scientists and philosophers discussed the history and future of scientific inquiry. The meeting seems to have been mostly motivated by two things. The first of these is found in the diminishing prospects for physics experiments – energy levels that can’t be reached by […]

“…an anchor in the cosmic swirl.”

Looking through some blog sites that I once frequented (but have recently neglected) I saw that John Horgan’s Cross Check had a piece on George Johnson’s book Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order. This quickly caught my attention because Horgan and Johnson figured prominently in my mind in the late […]

Physics, Plato and epistemology

In a recent Scientific American article, the late physicist Victor Stenger, along with authors James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian argue that, while not acknowledged as such, some interpretations of quantum mechanics are implicitly platonic (with a lower-case p).

We will use platonism with a lower-case “p” here to refer to the belief that the […]

Computations can be very natural

A recent post on Mind Hacks challenged the perspective outlined in a NY Times op-ed by psychologist Gary Marcus with the title Face It, Your Brain Is a Computer.  The title of Marcus’ piece may be misleading. The brain/computer analogy that he proposes is more a strategy than a theory. But the rejection of brain/computer […]

The end of science?

Paperback and electronic versions of John Horgan’s 1996 book, The End of Science, have recently been published by Basic Books. Horgan wrote a bit about how the text was received in 1996 on his weekly Scientific American blog. I read the book in 1996 and wrote to Horgan about the impact it had on me. […]