Stephen S

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Stephen S
Posted over 1 year ago
Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence
When an animal picks up a stick and uses it as a tool, we would generally agree it is a sign of intelligence. But in doing so, the animal is not motivated by a desire to maximize future options, but rather to solve a problem. It seems to me that the more fundamental hallmark of intelligence is problem solving. A second failing of Wissner-Gross' theory is that according to his criterion for intelligence, politicians must be surely the most intelligent people in the US, given their penchant for keeping their options open. Political preferences aside, can anyone seriously accept that on face value?
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Stephen S
Posted over 1 year ago
Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence
Great comment! One can take it even further: whereas the secret of flight is in the shape of the wing, something that early airplane designers borrowed from birds, the secret to submarine operation owes precisely nothing to fish. Fish employ fluid dynamic principles (such as Bernoulli's law) to change the shapes of their bodies for propulsion and steering. Even the diving planes and rudders on submarines are symmetrical, accomplishing their purposes by means of drag rather than lift. But alas Mrr. Wissner-Gross was too engaged in his own theoretical pursuits to recognize the inaptness of his example.
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Stephen S
Posted over 1 year ago
Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence
I don't really know what Shannon has to do with this talk, aside from the fact that he used the word "entropy" in the context of his theory. Of course, you know how that came about so I need not repeat the story. In developing information theory, Shannon actually analyzed blocks of text to observe patterns of occurrence of the various letters in combinations with others, and came to the realization that the summation of p log p, where the p are the probabilities of occurrence of the various letters, letter pairs, and so on, represents the efficiency of a language as a conveyer of information. From that he was able to define the properties of ideal codes, in which the probability of occurrence of any character, character pair, and so on, is equalized so as to resist decryption.
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Stephen S
Posted over 1 year ago
Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence
Alas, the reason why physicists (not physics!) make blunders in economic systems (monetary systems are not physical) is because they attempt to apply physical laws and statistical principles in a regime that is governed by emotional behavior and for which the underlying statistics are not in accordance with the set of assumptions. For instances: 1. The behavior of stock prices, or prices of groups of stocks, or even market indices, do not all behave according to a single statistical distribution. 2. Moreover, the distributions for aforementioned the time series are not time stationary, meaning that the statistics for last month and those for this month are unlikely to be the same. The consequences of these facts are explained best when one realizes that the behavior of such artificial markets is dominated by human psychology, including herd behavior. If there is anything that is indicative of a lack of intelligence, it is just that. Some time ago, Didier Sornette did a TED talk on the markets as a chaotic process. You might want to look it up.
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Stephen S
Posted over 1 year ago
Alex Wissner-Gross: A new equation for intelligence
I have to agree with Gregg. As a physicist myself, I found Wissner-Gross getting into trouble with his story about the aliens observing the asteroid deflections. Anyone with a technology developed well enough to enable the observations described would not be so foolish as to attribute the observations to an undiscovered force; they'd likely surmise that a civilization existed on the planet, and that the civilization had advanced to the point that they could deflect the asteroids. But the fundamental issue is that the definition of intelligence involves but a single aspect of behavior. For example, keeping options for future action open is one of the classic descriptions of a good politician. How can anyone living in the US then consider that to be the primary mark of intelligence, considering the state that our political system has brought us to?
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Stephen S
Posted almost 2 years ago
Where is objective, non-political "anthropomorphic global climate change" research?"
Yes, of course the fossil fuel sources once existed as living material, and it was sequestered over hundreds of millions of years as a result of geological activity (such as plate subduction). Saying what the "natural state" of the earth is or was is a tricky question, because again of geological processes. For instance, volcanism releases massive quantities of gases on an episodic basis, and some animals, e.g., corals, remove carbon to form their calcium carbonate exoskeletons. Looking at the history of the last 425,000 years based on ice core samples (as reported in Nature in 1998), we know that the CO2 level in the atmosphere has fluctuated in the past, and has been increasing almost monotonically since the industrial revolution began. With the industrial revolution, we started using sequestered carbon at a high rate, first by burning coal, then later adding petroleum to the mix. At the same time, we are cutting down rain forests in the tropics and generally removing forests elsewhere, which reduces the rate at which plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Adding CO2 or methane, for that matter to the atmosphere decreases the infrared transmissivity of the atmosphere and results in retention of more heat from the sun - the so-called greenhouse effect. It is what is called a positive feedback system, in the sense that as the temperature rises, arctic tundra melts, releasing more methane which in turn causes retention of more heat. Think about this: Even the oil industry agrees that within the next several years, we will reach the point of having removed more than 50% of all the petroleum from the earth. It took hundreds of millions of years to form, and we'll have burned half of it in just over a century.
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Stephen S
Posted almost 2 years ago
Where is objective, non-political "anthropomorphic global climate change" research?"
These kinds of studies are useless. For example, in the 1920s when Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Bohr, Born, Pauli and Dirac were developing quantum mechanics, the great majority of scientists were skeptical, even though the theory solved some great problems with classical physics and correctly predicted a number of otherwise unexplained phenomena. Einstein, for instance, remained skeptical to the day of his death. What establishes scientific truth is the ability of a model to predict experimental outcomes, and climate science is doing just that. Sure, there are errors, because the earth system is extraordinarily complex. But look at what the opposite "side" is saying: denial only, no experimentally verifiable models, no quantitative explanations for their positions that will stand the test of analytical scrutiny.
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Stephen S
Posted almost 2 years ago
Where is objective, non-political "anthropomorphic global climate change" research?"
Your statement about the attribution of global warming to human activity is incorrect. By burning carbon based fuels at a rate many orders of magnitude more rapidly than the CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere by plants (and other natural processes), we have increased the CO2 level in the atmosphere with probability P = 1. Whether that has resulted in an increase in the surface temperature relies on an understanding of a physical process called radiative transfer. If you wish to educate yourself on this, might I suggest the book by the same title written by S. Chandrasekhar in the 1930s, that has been experimentally verified science for seven decades now.
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Stephen S
Posted almost 2 years ago
Where is objective, non-political "anthropomorphic global climate change" research?"
In answer to the question you asked, and without commenting on the rest of your post, the place to look for the most factual, truthful information on global climate change is in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Examples of such journals are Nature, Science, and the Journal of Geophysical Research. Prepare yourself in advance: these journals are technical, as they are intended for research professionals and not so much laymen. There are often articles in technical society magazines that are written at a lower technical level while still preserving the facts. I don't know about a lot of them, but Physics Today, published by the American Physical Society, has articles on the topic several times per year. Since you mentioned the name of Richard Feynman, please allow me to share with you some of the things I have learned from him. First and foremost, that mother nature is what she is, whether or not we understand it, approve of it, or want it. Second, beware of experts, especially people who tout their expertise. A true scientist is humble in the face of the awesome ignorance that even the most knowledgeable people bear. And thirdly, that every great truth is immersed in a cloud of uncertainty. That last is something that the climate change deniers use as a weapon in their campaign, to prevent environmental issues from being addressed. A lesson they learned from the tobacco industry, which successfully evaded regulation for more than a half century.