Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

The Brain and the Fancy

by PhilipJ on 26 June 2006

The truth is, the Science of Nature has been already too long made only a work of the Brain and the Fancy: It is now high time that it should return to the plainness and soundness of Observation on material and obvious things. It is said of great Empires, That the best way to preserve them from decay, is to bring them back to the first Principles, the Arts on which they did begin. The same is undoubtedly true in Philosophy, that by wandring far away into invisible Notions, it has almost quite destroy’d itself, and it can never be recovered, or continued, but by returning to the same sensible paths, in which it did at first proceed.

Robert Hooke in Micrographia, 1665

It is amazing to me that a complaint of science in the 1660s could, without the flowery language and odd punctuation, be said readily today as well. I’m not able to critique with any authority the trendy subjects in quantum gravity, but their lack of connection to experiment has made me question the validity of the entire enterprise. That the mathematics may be beautiful isn’t in question, but how long do we have to wait for some predictions to test before trying something new?

  1. Doug    3891 days ago    #

    I highly recommend the following article –
    ‘What Birds See’ by TIMOTHY H GOLDSMITH, professor emeritus of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University
    Scientific American, Jul 2006 Vol 295 Issue 1 p68, 8p

    Goldsmith has performed experiments suggesting that birds and reptiles [tetrachromatic opsins + UV + oils in cones] have vision superior to mammals [dichromatic cones but more rod reliance]. Further, some primates, including humans [trichromatic cones] have regained some of this lost vision.

    This appears to suggest that either genes were lost or, probably more likely, two cones were put to other brain uses [neocortex?] during this period of dinosaur domination.

  2. PhilipJ    3891 days ago    #

    Hi Doug, thanks for the neat reference. If you (or anyone else) wants to send stuff like that in the future, please feel free to use the Contact form linked to at the top of the page!

  3. Uncle Al    3890 days ago    #

    Galileo declared “science is empirical” in Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche Intorno a Due Nuove Scienze (Elsevier Press, Leiden: Netherlands: 1638). Physics is mathematical models constrained by empirical observations. Theory must be validated by surviving empirical falsification. Organic synthesis is not calculable but it is falsifiable.

    String theory is nonpredictive. String theory to date is applied mathematics. String theory, for its containing 10^500 acceptable vacua, must contain a fundamental flaw.

    String theory contains both gerade (e.g., metric) and ungerade (e.g., teleparallel) gravitation. Only one can correspond to empirical reality. Do compositionally identical left and right hands locally vacuum free fall along parallel trajectories? Gerade space is isotropic and they do. Ungerade space contains a chiral pseudoscalar vacuum background and they don’t.

    Do solid single crystal spheres of otherwise macroscopically identical space group P3(1)21 (right-handed screw axes) and P3(2)21 (left-handed screw axes) quartz fall identically? Do the parity Eotvos experiment.

    Two calorimeters near 45 degrees latitude can perform three months of exquisite physics as two days of scut chemistry. Melt little single crystal solid spheres of space group P3(1)21 and P3(2)21 benzil,

    Does anybody want to chance a Nobel Prize/Physics for a weekend’s work in an undergrad lab? Do P3(1)21 vs. P3(2)21 benzil enthalpies of fusion at 0600, noon, 1800, and midnight with the calorimeters aligned east-west then north-south. If there is a non-zero ΔΔH(fusion),

    1) its amplitude will vary sinusoidally vs. true local time of tropical (not sidereal) day.
    2) The nodes, zeros, and antinodes be 90 degrees phase shifted first day vs. second day.

    Is that sufficiently unambiguous?

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