Ratchets Within Rachets

For those interested in political philosophy, or Trump’s travel ban, I recommend this discussion on Scott Aaronson’s blog, which features a commenter calling himself Boldmug (see also Bannon and Moldbug in the news recently ;-) Both Scott and Boldmug seem to agree that scientific/technological progress is a positive ratchet caught within a negative ratchet of societal and …

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The story of the Monte Carlo Algorithm

George Dyson is Freeman’s son. I believe this talk was given at SciFoo or Foo Camp. More Ulam (neither he nor von Neumann were really logicians, at least not primarily). Wikipedia on Monte Carlo Methods. I first learned these in Caltech’s Physics 129: Mathematical Methods, which used the textbook by Mathews and Walker. This book was …

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Feynman’s War

Radar and nuclear weapons could not have been developed without the big brains. Feynman’s War: Modelling Weapons, Modelling Nature Peter Galison* What do I mean by understanding? Nothing deep or accurate—just to be able to see some of the qualitative consequences of the equations by some method other than solving them in detail. — Feynman …

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Deep Learning in Nature

When I travel I often carry a stack of issues of Nature and Science to read (and then discard) on the plane.The article below is a nice review of the current state of the art in deep neural networks. See earlier posts Neural Networks and Deep Learning 1 and 2, and Back to the Deep. …

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Technically Sweet

Regular readers will know that I’ve been interested in the so-called Teller-Ulam mechanism used in thermonuclear bombs. Recently I read Kenneth Ford‘s memoir Building the H Bomb: A Personal History. Ford was a student of John Wheeler, who brought him to Los Alamos to work on the H-bomb project. This led me to look again …

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One Hundred Years of Statistical Developments in Animal Breeding

This nice review gives a history of the last 100 years in statistical genetics as applied to animal breeding (via Andrew Gelman). One Hundred Years of Statistical Developments in Animal Breeding (Annu. Rev. Anim. Biosci. 2015. 3:19–56 DOI:10.1146/annurev-animal-022114-110733) Statistical methodology has played a key role in scientific animal breeding. Approximately one hundred years of statistical …

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Wandering physicists

This is funny, and does capture the tendency of physicists (not just old ones) to wander into other fields. But the cartoon avoids the hard question (perhaps best addressed by historians of science) as to the actual value brought to other fields by physicists. See, for example, Physicists can do stuff, Prometheus in the basement, …

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Is science self-correcting?

More fun from our man Ioannidis. See earlier posts Medical science? , NIH discovers reproducibility and Bounded cognition. A toy model of the dynamics of scientific research, with probability distributions for accuracy of experimental results, mechanisms for updating of beliefs by individual scientists, crowd behavior, bounded cognition, etc. can easily exhibit parameter regions where progress is limited …

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Nobels for Higgs and Englert

Congratulations to Peter Higgs and François Englert on their Nobel prize. A bit of background from an earlier post How the Higgs boson became the Higgs boson: IIRC, I met Peter Higgs in Erice in 1990. He was quite a nice fellow, but the story below by Steve Weinberg illustrates how capricious is the allocation …

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