Posts filed under “Science”

Carl Sagan’s Bullshit Detection Kit

As per our earlier discussion, here is Carl Sagan. He argues having a finely honed bullshit detector isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark has Sagan sharing nine of these tools:

The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method.

1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”

2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.

4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.

7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.

8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.

9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.


Source: The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking by Maria Popova

Category: Science, UnGuru

Behavioral Test: What Are the World’s Deadliest Animals?

Source: Gates Notes   Continues here  

Category: Digital Media, Psychology, Science

A Brief Timeline of EVERYTHING

A short video that puts things into perspective. Please note that the phenomena depicted here are extremely condensed. That should come as no surprise, of course, as 13.8 billion years of the universe’s history into just under four minutes.     Reuploaded with permission of King Crocoduck. Check out his channel for more excellent videos!…Read More

Category: Science, Weekend

Before My Time: Terrifyingly Beautiful

Mashup, Chasing Ice, Before My Time, Scarlett Johansson & Joshua Bell, – 800,000 Yrs of CO2, Climate Change This animation of historical carbon dioxide levels is terrifyingly beautiful Song: Before My Time Scarlett Johansson & Joshua Bell 800,000 Yrs of CO2

Category: Science, Weekend

MIT Model Recreates “A Virtual Universe”

Scientists at MIT have traced 13 billion years of galaxy evolution, from shortly after the Big Bang to the present day. Their simulation, named Illustris, captures both the massive scale of the Universe and the intriguing variety of galaxies — something previous modelers have struggled to do. It produces a Universe that looks remarkably similar to what we see through our telescopes, giving us greater confidence in our understanding of the Universe, from the laws of physics to our theories about galaxy formation.



Source paper: Properties of galaxies reproduced by a hydrodynamic simulation

Related article: Model Universe recreates evolution of the cosmos

Hat tip Guardian

Category: Science, Video, Weekend

xkcd: Randall Munroe asks “what if?”

Web cartoonist Randall Munroe answers simple what-if questions (“what if you hit a baseball moving at the speed of light?”) using math, physics, logic and deadpan humor. In this charming talk, a reader’s question about Google’s data warehouse leads Munroe down a circuitous path to a hilariously over-detailed answer — in which, shhh, you might…Read More

Category: Humor, Science, Weekend

The Rise of Carbon Dioxide

Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 800,000 years before until Jan 20140   Source: NOAA, Universe Today

Category: Science, Weekend

Guide to Spotting Bad Science

Great list:   Source: Compound Chem

Category: Digital Media, Science, UnScience

Deal Flurry Shows Drug Makers’ Swing Toward Specialization

Source: WSJ

Category: Digital Media, M&A, R&D, Science

Spaced Out

Spaced Out: The Energy Department’s Technology in Space

Category: Digital Media, Science, Weekend