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Bloggingheads 09-20-2008 04:20 AM

Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 

David Edenden 09-20-2008 07:09 AM

Jennifer has John Horgan on her mind!
 
Watch out Sean, Jennifer has John Horgan on her mind!

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/145...0:00&out=00:07

Wonderment 09-20-2008 07:16 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Another spectacularly great Science Saturday!

Sean and Jennifer pondered how crackpot end-of-the-world narratives dominated media coverage of the LHC. Jennifer expressed frustration and despair, and Sean meted out some degree of responsibility to journalists, the crackpots themselves, and to cautious scientists who are disinclined to assert absolute certainty about anything.

Left out of the equation, however, is the publicís distrust of scientists, particularly physicists, particularly around issues of atom smashing. The scientific communityís credibility has been diminished not only by nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Hiroshima/Nagasaki, but more fundamentally by the very existence of nuclear arsenals.

It is not entirely irrational to wonder the following: If these scientists really knew what they are doing, would we have thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert which a) have already been used to inflict mass murder; and b) represent a grave threat to humanity; i.e., either the utter collapse of civilization or the actual extinction of the human species?

The dominance of the doomsday narrative reflects rational reservations about entrusting physicists with billions of dollars for gargantuan projects that entail messing around with atomic energy. A black hole devouring Earth is absurd, but holding scientists accountable for the more perverse applications of theoretical physics may not be.

JIM3CH 09-20-2008 07:52 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
I agree with you, well worth the watch!

I know you are aware of Oppenheimerís remorse. He held himself personally accountable. But of course he was not at fault. Truth will always out. The terrible (yet wonderful) secrets of matter and energy will be revealed one way or another. I would rather argue that those who remain wilfully ignorant of science and mathematics are more responsible for science gone bad than are the scientists who revealed the misused scientific truths in the first place.

Ocean 09-20-2008 11:35 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Nice piece! Good to have the LHC discussed again. And it never hurts to dispel myths, although this audience is probably aware of the irrationality of the fear about black holes swallowing Earth. I liked Sean's elaboration on the concept of fields, waves, and particles as ripples in their respective fields.

Of course, a nice interplay between Sean's scientific views and Jennifer's refreshing lay person's quandaries.

They make a nice couple... someone should tell them about it!

Simon Willard 09-20-2008 11:52 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
There was a stabbing in the local news the other day. I immediately recalled with scorn the stories of cavemen learning to forge iron into steel blades.

But this is silly. The real issue for scientists is explaining why we should provide billions of dollars to study things that have no (known) practical application. I'm all for the LHC and I'm opposed to funding manned space travel. But I admit others could reasonably disagree.

Late breaking news: the LHC will be down for repairs for two months -- so quickly after the arbitrary "start-up" celebration. This celebration may have been a mistake. I just hope the delay doesn't cause a big PR problem for CERN.

Ocean 09-20-2008 11:59 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Willard (Post 91719)
Late breaking news: the LHC will be down for repairs for two months -- so quickly after the arbitrary "start-up" celebration. This celebration may have been a mistake. I just hope the delay doesn't cause a big PR problem for CERN.

After waiting for so many years, a couple more months, although disappointing, isn't such a big deal. As a matter of fact, we are being optimistic in thinking that it will only be a couple of months. In eight days or so since the LHC was turned on, there have been two major technical failures. There may be more to come. The problem would be more serious if there are too many flaws, and as a consequence, doubts about the way the entire project is being planned start to appear.

harkin 09-20-2008 12:06 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
I think there were about a million GIs who didn't consider Hiroshima/Nagasaki as disasters (not to mention the million+ Japanese who would have died in defense of their homeland or in recreating the military-induced mass suicides of Saipan, Okinawa etc).



Regarding poker: For two very smart people, Sean and Jennifer barely scratch the surface of a subject that I would love to hear discussed here by the best poker players in the BhTV rotation (listening Bob?).

I heard the shameless NPR story a few weeks back talking about McCain as a craps player and Obama as a poker player, clearly implying McCain was a risk-obsessed loser and Obama a thoughtful calculating man who depended on relationships. Left out of the story was whether Obama regularly wins or loses, which would say alot more to me about him. I also prefer poker to craps but the most successful, intelligent, calculating and visionary man I've ever known personally loathed poker and was mad for craps and the absolute greatest poker player of the last 30 years, Stuey Ungar, would routinely skin the best players in the world only to lose all his winnings betting on the ponies and through drug addiction.

Regarding poker theory: Of course every successful player employs arithmetic to a certain degree, but the absolute best no-limit hold'em players I've heard discussing theory almost always say they are playing the opponent more than the cards. One of my favorite players, Annette Obrestad, won a tournement without looking at her hole cards except on one all-in bet.

Havent seen her on ESPN? She won't be old enough to play in the US till Sept 2009.

I've won small tournaments and actually lasted three table closings in my only WSOP entry (straight losing to a straight flush on the river!), and while cards are definitely important, player tendencies and reading faces has been my method since high school.

Doyle Brunson has said that the most important thing to him is the ability to see the other players eyes.

My personal strategy in playing with good players for big (to me) money:

NEVER show your cards - unless required by the situation.
Be friendly and chat, but never about your play.
Vary your openings
Go with your reads
Call with suited small connectors - these are responsible for some of my biggest wins. If the flop hits, chances are it hit you alone.

And always mind your manners; never call for the card you want or against the card your opponent wants. Take your losses and congratulate the winner.

Never, ever utter the term "ONE TIME!"

ginger baker 09-20-2008 01:25 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
I Cant Wait To Hear What The Libertarians Have To Say About The Need For State Capitalism. I Cant Wait To See How Mccardle, Will, And Company Get To Spin The Free Market Panacea Now That Financials Have Been Saved From Themselves, And The Feddie Has Taken The Reigns.

State Capitalism Is Here To Stay.

Ocean 09-20-2008 01:35 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
You got the wrong number...

BeachFrontView 09-20-2008 02:29 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Great Diavlog you should have these 2 on again. Speaking of poker I play poker online for a living and blogglingheads.tv makes for a great listen everyday. I have read books some on game theory and its super interesting. Definately have a diavlog on poker and game theory!!!

Wonderment 09-20-2008 04:17 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

There was a stabbing in the local news the other day. I immediately recalled with scorn the stories of cavemen learning to forge iron into steel blades.
Not an apt analogy, in my view. The difficulty with public acceptance of large atom-smashing projects is that they have already led to doomsday machines (nuclear weapons). In the public imagination, these physicists may be the heirs to the Manhattan Project.

It does not seem absurd to people who grew up during the Cold War or who listen to the world's leaders repeatedly say that nuclear weapons are the gravest threat facing humanity to ask, "What if these physicists blow up the world?"

Since most people have little grasp of theoretical physics, what they are really asking, beyond the doomsday nonsense, is "Can we trust these guys?"

It's easy to dismiss the protesters as kooks, but to do so is to ignore the history of moral concern about the dangers of nuclear technology and the evils of weaponizing the atom.

The protesters are wrong about black holes, but they are right to worry about "pure" science at the service of governments with a history of wars of aggression.

They may also to right to wonder, "Who voted for the LHC? Am I paying for this instead of health insurance, pre-school education or aid to Africa? Who lobbied for it and why?

Personally, I love the LHC project, but I won't dismiss its critics as crazy.

AemJeff 09-20-2008 04:45 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91740)
Personally, I love the LHC project, but I won't dismiss its critics as crazy.

I'm not so generous. It's not that hard to understand the arguments pro and con. Those who don't bother to understand the simple facts don't have a right to an assertive opinion. (For example: there are far higher energy collisions occurring all the time in the upper atmosphere than the LHC is capable of. Orders of magnitude higher. If collisions of this sort really posed the sort of danger claimed by doomsday charlatans, the worst would already have occured.)

look 09-20-2008 05:34 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 91722)
I think there were about a million GIs who didn't consider Hiroshima/Nagasaki as disasters (not to mention the million+ Japanese who would have died in defense of their homeland or in recreating the military-induced mass suicides of Saipan, Okinawa etc).



Regarding poker: For two very smart people, Sean and Jennifer barely scratch the surface of a subject that I would love to hear discussed here by the best poker players in the BhTV rotation (listening Bob?).

I heard the shameless NPR story a few weeks back talking about McCain as a craps player and Obama as a poker player, clearly implying McCain was a risk-obsessed loser and Obama a thoughtful calculating man who depended on relationships. Left out of the story was whether Obama regularly wins or loses, which would say alot more to me about him. I also prefer poker to craps but the most successful, intelligent, calculating and visionary man I've ever known personally loathed poker and was mad for craps and the absolute greatest poker player of the last 30 years, Stuey Ungar, would routinely skin the best players in the world only to lose all his winnings betting on the ponies and through drug addiction.

Regarding poker theory: Of course every successful player employs arithmetic to a certain degree, but the absolute best no-limit hold'em players I've heard discussing theory almost always say they are playing the opponent more than the cards. One of my favorite players, Annette Obrestad, won a tournement without looking at her hole cards except on one all-in bet.

Havent seen her on ESPN? She won't be old enough to play in the US till Sept 2009.

I've won small tournaments and actually lasted three table closings in my only WSOP entry (straight losing to a straight flush on the river!), and while cards are definitely important, player tendencies and reading faces has been my method since high school.

Doyle Brunson has said that the most important thing to him is the ability to see the other players eyes.

My personal strategy in playing with good players for big (to me) money:

NEVER show your cards - unless required by the situation.
Be friendly and chat, but never about your play.
Vary your openings
Go with your reads
Call with suited small connectors - these are responsible for some of my biggest wins. If the flop hits, chances are it hit you alone.

And always mind your manners; never call for the card you want or against the card your opponent wants. Take your losses and congratulate the winner.

Never, ever utter the term "ONE TIME!"

Interesting poker info. I found this a while ago:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politic...ker092407.stng

look 09-20-2008 05:38 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ginger baker (Post 91727)
I Cant Wait To Hear What The Libertarians Have To Say About The Need For State Capitalism. I Cant Wait To See How Mccardle, Will, And Company Get To Spin The Free Market Panacea Now That Financials Have Been Saved From Themselves, And The Feddie Has Taken The Reigns.

State Capitalism Is Here To Stay.

On the bright side, it will streamline the congressional-military-industrial complex. Makes me think of this:
Quote:

There is no reason, however, to suppose that the totalitarian capitalist regimes of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan would have proved inferior economically to the democracies had they survived. The inefficiencies that favoritism and unaccountability typically create in such regimes might have been offset by higher levels of social discipline. Because of their more efficient capitalist economies, the right-wing totalitarian powers could have constituted a more viable challenge to the liberal democracies than the Soviet Union did; Nazi Germany was judged to be such a challenge by the Allied powers before and during World War II. The liberal democracies did not possess an inherent advantage over Germany in terms of economic and technological development, as they did in relation to their other great-power rivals.

So why did the democracies win the great struggles of the twentieth century? The reasons are different for each type of adversary. They defeated their nondemocratic capitalist adversaries, Germany and Japan, in war because Germany and Japan were medium-sized countries with limited resource bases and they came up against the far superior -- but hardly preordained -- economic and military coalition of the democratic powers and Russia or the Soviet Union. The defeat of communism, however, had much more to do with structural factors. The capitalist camp -- which after 1945 expanded to include most of the developed world -- possessed much greater economic power than the communist bloc, and the inherent inefficiency of the communist economies prevented them from fully exploiting their vast resources and catching up to the West. Together, the Soviet Union and China were larger and thus had the potential to be more powerful than the democratic capitalist camp. Ultimately, they failed because their economic systems limited them, whereas the nondemocratic capitalist powers, Germany and Japan, were defeated because they were too small. Contingency played a decisive role in tipping the balance against the nondemocratic capitalist powers and in favor of the democracies.
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/art...tarian_gr.html

fedorovingtonboop 09-21-2008 02:00 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
no shit, man. maybe those annoying lala land libertarians will finally stfup. there! was THAT free enough for ya?!

fedorovingtonboop 09-21-2008 02:11 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
fantastic summary during "What the universe is Made of"
awesome awesome stuff, thanks sean, you are the man. you should interview some of your smart friends sometime for bheads.

JIM3CH 09-21-2008 03:49 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Simon Willardís analogy is spot on. The misuses of iron age technology and nuclear age technology differ only in magnitude. A steel blade can serve as either a scalpel or a dagger; the binding energy of the nucleolus provides human beings with exactly the same dichotomy of use.

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) and the LHC projects are actually related in many ways. LHC is perhaps more leading edge, whereas ITER is both leading edge and application engineering. They share similar physical and engineering problems. They require similar infrastructure and organization. They evidence a kind of international scientific synergy that will help human beings to transcend rather than stagnate at the nuclear frontier and to learn how to control and utilize energy in ways that today are unimaginable, even to science fiction visionaries. They will also provide knowledge that might be misused.

ITER has as much or more implication for misuse of technology as does LHC, yet where are the ITER critics? If the LHC critics were really rational, would they not also be critical of the funding for ITER? Of course they would.

The LHC critics are simply loony.

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 04:19 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
I completely agree, Jim. The yammering from the yokels is just unbearable on things like this. I don't know what's worse, the " ZOMG!!! Black holes!!!" types, or those who fret about why we do any sort of experiments in the first place.

Cripes, this is what we humans do, or at least, what the best of us do -- we try to take the next step in learning about the universe. The cost is trivial -- it amounts to less than one month's worth of what the US is burning in Iraq, and it's been spread among among dozens of countries, over decades. And so what if there are no immediate practical applications? Basic knowledge always pays off in the long run.

Frickin' Stone Age types are really what's going to be the death of us all.

Wonderment 09-21-2008 05:52 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

The LHC critics are simply loony.
I am delighted that six or seven people chimed in to assure me of something I never disputed in the first place.

The question raised by the two Bheads was, Why did the doomsday story dominate the media's coverage of the LHC?

All I'm suggesting is that one of the factors that ought to be acknowledged is the public's fear (rational or not) of nuclear technology.

Ocean 09-21-2008 10:33 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91773)
All I'm suggesting is that one of the factors that ought to be acknowledged is the public's fear (rational or not) of nuclear technology.

I think that the people who initiated legal action against the LHC are probably a little loony, rather ignorant and also carry the burden of mistrust that the other side of science has brought to us in the last century.

I think our BhTV audience is mostly aware of the scientific arguments that dismiss this "paranoid" concern. But there is an aspect, which I think Wonderment is trying to address, that has to do with the lay person's perception of science as not always benign.

If we were to consider for a moment the narratives of myth, science has become, in the eyes of many, an obscure magician with a potential for evil. The stories of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, movies and cartoons about the evil scientist trying to conquer the world, etc, reflect the fear of the unleashed power of nature going wrong. In real life, the mistrust of traditional medicine, denial about climate change, and the LHC story, are all reflecting the same underlying paranoia. Nuclear power, both in its use in war as well as in the accidental mismanagement of plants, nuclear waste and other incidents, have created enough concern and disbelief in the standards of safety that should have been in place. During the cold war, Europe lived in fear while "sitting" on massive nuclear arsenals.

At the same time, the advance in scientific discovery creates an ever widening gap between the body of knowledge and what the lay person can conceive or understand. It has become more obscure. And the fear of the unknown grows parallel to the gap.

In addition, there are those that take advantage of the opportunity to gain influence over those that are ignorant. Such is the case of some religious and political leaders that feed into this fear and mistrust for their own interest.

So, yes, we can dismiss those opposed to the LHC as loonys, and they probably are, but that doesn't help with the more general problem that underlies this tendency. Leaving this topic at this point isn't very helpful either. This issue has to be taken seriously enough to engender action. What action? Education. Massive education about science. And denounce lies and misconceptions and superstition. We can't allow that gap to grow any wider.

There is a monthly "What's new?" publication at my workplace. I'm starting a one paragraph monthly commentary on a science topic. Why one paragraph? I want people to read it...

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 04:21 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91773)
I am delighted that six or seven people chimed in to assure me of something I never disputed in the first place.

There are times when you treat with too much respect irresponsible and ignorant points of view. The way you presented the negative views of science sounded too much like the Nixonian tactic of "Some say," or at least the MSM tic of acting as though "both sides" are equally respectable. Even though I am fairly sure you don't hold such views yourself, it's hard not to be irritated by this.

You did say, "but I won't dismiss its critics as crazy." You should.

Wonderment 09-21-2008 04:56 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

The way you presented the negative views of science sounded too much like the Nixonian tactic of "Some say," or at least the MSM tic of acting as though "both sides" are equally respectable. Even though I am fairly sure you don't hold such views yourself, it's hard not to be irritated by this.
Not at all. I am perfectly comfortable with scientists telling people there is zero chance of the LHC destroying the world. Zero.

I also have no problem with calling climate change deniers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, moon-landing deniers, and Holocasut deniers a little crazy (functionally paranoic).

But I won't say their critiques are culturally meaningless. For example, the 9/11 crowd (something like 50% of the population) is really asking, "What kind of secret stuff is our government up to and capable of that we have no idea about? Can we really trust guys like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?"

Quote:

You did say, "but I won't dismiss its critics as crazy." You should.
You're taking this out of context. What I meant, and what I think is clear if you read the whole post, is that if you're trying to find out why the crackpot narrative dominates the media, it is not enough to say "the doomsdayers are crazy." They are crazy for a reason. They are not the same people who are crazy over bird flu experiments of cell phone towers. They are crazy in the context of the history of atomic experiments.

In my view, telling all the people who are concerned with the LHC and nuclear technology in general not to worry because atomic bombs and nuclear plants are no more dangerous than knives and blacksmith tools (as was suggested and applauded above) is ridiculous.

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 05:27 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Wonderment:

Fair enough. I won't quibble about the details. My first response was driven by emotion. My second was just an attempt to tell you where that emotion came from, something which is virtually impossible to do completely.

Ocean 09-21-2008 05:36 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91811)
But I won't say their critiques are culturally meaningless. For example, the 9/11 crowd (something like 50% of the population) is really asking, "What kind of secret stuff is our government up to and capable of that we have no idea about? Can we really trust guys like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?"

And what's wrong with that?


But, seriously. I'll give this another round because there's an important (to me) piece that is getting lost when the topic is polarized.

Yes, as far as I can tell we are all in agreement that the people who wanted to stop the LHC are irrationally mistrustful of the scientific community supporting it. Some of us have called that crazy or loony, same thing, irrational and paranoid.

And then it starts to get more interesting. Some of us, stop there, dismiss this as craziness, and end of the argument. Some others, and I think that's where Wonderment and others pitched in, say, OK, it's crazy, but this craziness isn't coming out of nowhere. There are other situations that have made some people question the credibility or safety of scientific experimentation or scientific discovery. The argument says, these other "negative", destructive events are precedents that contribute to mistrust.

Furthermore, I introduced the topic of a more general form of paranoia and mistrust of science which originates in superstition and fear of the unknown. This fear has been illustrated historically quite well in various literary works, and more recently in films, and other forms of expression. It's also an aspect of conspiracy theories and popular myths. The fact that this phenomenon is so pervasive throughout history tells us that it is inherent to our human "condition". These fears are only made worse, I think, by a wider gap between what the lay person can reasonably grasp about science, and the progressively more complex body of scientific knowledge.

And lastly, I added the concept that, instead of dismissing this issue, that it be taken seriously, and that it should be addressed by increasing education about science, not only in formal education, but at all levels.

I'm in an educational mode these days. Perhaps generalized ignorance and deception are getting to me... :)

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 06:30 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 91818)
... instead of dismissing this issue, that it be taken seriously, and that it should be addressed by increasing education about science, not only in formal education, but at all levels.

I agree that the problems of ignorance, and the mistrust that it breeds, need to be taken seriously. But I don't agree that the specifics of their fears need to be given extensive voice. You don't correct people's misapprehensions of the shape of the Earth by starting with an hour-long discussion of all the reasons they think it's flat. It's a waste of time, and it gives too much credibility to the wrong ideas.

It is simply not credible to fear the LHC, or particle physics experiments in general, and much more importantly, it's irresponsible to connect those in one phrase to nuclear bombs. It's the same thing as saying people have "a right" to fear chemistry because of gunpowder and pollution.

Wonderment 09-21-2008 07:20 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

These fears are only made worse, I think, by a wider gap between what the lay person can reasonably grasp about science, and the progressively more complex body of scientific knowledge.
I'm not sure I agree. There's no question that there's a chasm between my meager lay person knowledge of physics and that of the physicists who have doctorates from MIT or Cal Tech. I will never be able to pass an exam on quarks, leptons and dark matter.

What I do know how to do is analyze the arguments in a debate and assess a scientific consensus about subjects like global warming, the collapse of the WTC buildings, evolution vs. intelligent design, or the cosmic dangers of the LHC. I know to what extent to take seriously alternative theories and when to dismiss them as preposterous or of extremely dubious merit.

The ability to make these kinds of judgments about science and pseudo-science seems to depend mostly on reading and reasoning skills rather than specialized knowledge.

Ocean 09-21-2008 07:33 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 91825)
I agree that the problems of ignorance, and the mistrust that it breeds, need to be taken seriously. But I don't agree that the specifics of their fears need to be given extensive voice. You don't correct people's misapprehensions of the shape of the Earth by starting with an hour-long discussion of all the reasons they think it's flat. It's a waste of time, and it gives too much credibility to the wrong ideas.

I agree with the above. Perhaps, it isn't such a big deal for me. It's only a difference of "weight".

Quote:

It is simply not credible to fear the LHC, or particle physics experiments in general, and much more importantly, it's irresponsible to connect those in one phrase to nuclear bombs. It's the same thing as saying people have "a right" to fear chemistry because of gunpowder and pollution.
I don't agree with this. I sort of know where you are coming from with this, and know what your point is. I personally don't see these two topics as completely separate. And I don't think it's irresponsible to try to understand why people are apprehensive or fearful about something, even when one doesn't share those fears or apprehensions.

Brendan, this is about a difference in "appreciation" of the facts. There is no fundamental disagreement about the concrete topic of risk or lack of, related to LHC. You seem to worry about the effect of elaborating on the origin of the fear. I don't, especially if the appropriate disclaimers about where one stands on the initial topic are given.

As people say, we'll have to agree to disagree... did I get that right?

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 07:46 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 91831)
As people say, we'll have to agree to disagree... did I get that right?

Yes, especially since I'm not really saying what I want to be saying. I'm sounding more absolutist than I really think. You're right that it's important to understand the origin of these sorts of irrational fears.

I guess, in the end, that I'm just fatigued by how many people in politics and in the media are happy to play to, and prey upon, these fears, how richly rewarded they are for doing so, and how harmful this whole self-sustaining system of reinforcing ignorance is to our society. I think my frustration level is too high to talk about this sensibly for the time being.

Ocean 09-21-2008 07:55 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 91834)
I guess, in the end, that I'm just fatigued by how many people in politics and in the media are happy to play to, and prey upon, these fears, how richly rewarded they are for doing so, and how harmful this whole self-sustaining system of reinforcing ignorance is to our society.

Well, I do agree with this! I've been ruminating about this in different threads... It's extremely frustrating and certainly not something that has an easy solution.

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 07:57 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 91836)
Well, I do agree with this! I've been ruminating about this in different threads... It's extremely frustrating and certainly not something that has an easy solution.

Yes. I guess the only real point I've been trying to make in this thread is that there is an important difference between treating ignorant, irrational views as respectable and as understandable in origin.

Ocean 09-21-2008 08:15 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 91838)
Yes. I guess the only real point I've been trying to make in this thread is that there is an important difference between treating ignorant, irrational views as respectable and as understandable in origin.

Respectable vs Understandable: I'm totally confident in saying that you don't want to start a detailed philosophical discussion about the difference between these two. Am I wrong? :)

fedorovingtonboop 09-21-2008 08:41 PM

requests?
 
sean, a summary of entanglement and holographic theory next time would be sweet!

bjkeefe 09-21-2008 09:04 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 91840)
Respectable vs Understandable: I'm totally confident in saying that you don't want to start a detailed philosophical discussion about the difference between these two. Am I wrong? :)

Nope.

Simon Willard 09-21-2008 09:46 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Hi Wonderment,

Quote:

In my view, telling all the people who are concerned with the LHC and nuclear technology in general not to worry because atomic bombs and nuclear plants are no more dangerous than knives and blacksmith tools (as was suggested and applauded above) is ridiculous.
That's not really what I meant, though perhaps my first post was too snarky. Your original comment that got my attention was the claim that it may not be absurd to consider
Quote:

holding scientists accountable for the more perverse applications of theoretical physics.
That's an interesting claim that we could debate, but it rubs me the wrong way. Physicists see themselves as trying to illuminate nature's fundamental rules. If nature allows steel to be forged, or atoms to be split, it's a fact that has little to do with the guy who writes it up for publication.

That some of us are still cavemen, well, that's the real problem.

Ocean 09-21-2008 10:07 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91830)
What I do know how to do is analyze the arguments in a debate and assess a scientific consensus about subjects like global warming, the collapse of the WTC buildings, evolution vs. intelligent design, or the cosmic dangers of the LHC. I know to what extent to take seriously alternative theories and when to dismiss them as preposterous or of extremely dubious merit.

The ability to make these kinds of judgments about science and pseudo-science seems to depend mostly on reading and reasoning skills rather than specialized knowledge.

I had missed your comment!

I will assume that you do understand that my original comment was making reference to the lay person who doesn't keep informed about science like you or me, at least, try. For them, any degree of informed consideration about the more complex aspects of science would be beyond reach.

And now, let's come back to people like you or me. We are curious and try to keep informed, as much as possible about the progress of science or other topics of interest. We may be more or less thorough and hard working at it. However, there is no way that we can have an authoritative opinion on the safety or unsafety or risks involved in a particular experiment or application of highly specialized scientific knowledge. The same applies to making judgments about what constitutes science vs pseudo-science with the exception of very basic gross misconceptions in areas that one can reasonably understand. For example, it doesn't require a great degree of erudition to dismiss the literal interpretations of creationism vis-a-vis evolution. But when it comes to more complex scientific concepts, I can only assess who is saying what and based on indirect data, reputation, credibility, etc, decide about which one to "believe".

The way I interpret your comment is different from what I say above, but perhaps it's just a play of words. So please, clarify.

Wonderment 09-21-2008 10:25 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Hi Simon,

Quote:

Physicists see themselves as trying to illuminate nature's fundamental rules. If nature allows steel to be forged, or atoms to be split, it's a fact that has little to do with the guy who writes it up for publication.
Well, that is almost always the case. But sometimes scientists are called upon to serve the interests of the state. The Manhattan Project is such an instance.

A lot of physicists have written and agonized over their participation in that endeavor: Oppenheimer, Einstein, David Bohm and Nobel Peace Laureate (1995) Joseph Rotblat and others.

(Rotblat, by the way, was the only physicist to quit the Manhattan Project on moral grounds)

So when physicists today try to argue in favor of projects like LHC or nuclear energy, they must do so in the context of Hiroshima, Chernobyl and the nuclear arms race. They've got a rap sheet, so to speak.

Try this analogy: Let's say Barack Obama becomes president. He wants to restore trust in the USA, but post-Bush a billion or so people are outraged at America. When he says, "I really want peace for the Middle East," some crazy people are going to respond that Obama has concocted a more diabolical Zionist-American plot to control the world. They are wrong, of course, just as the LHC doomsday people are wrong. But Obama will not win them over by pretending Bush never happened.

Wonderment 09-21-2008 10:35 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
I think we're in agreement, Ocean.

Quote:

But when it comes to more complex scientific concepts, I can only assess who is saying what and based on indirect data, reputation, credibility, etc, decide about which one to "believe".
Yes, but it's not a crap shoot. We know where to look for credible expert opinion, where to look for a debate on that opinion, and we know how to interpret a consensus (or lack of) among peer-reviewed serious scientists.

Ocean 09-21-2008 10:45 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91855)
I think we're in agreement, Ocean.

Yes, but it's not a crap shoot. We know where to look for credible expert opinion, where to look for a debate on that opinion, and we know how to interpret a consensus (or lack of) among peer-reviewed serious scientists.

Yes, I can agree with that.

As an aside, I loooove this forum because I'm learning all these colloquialisms that I had never heard before, like
Quote:

... crap shoot...
What the heck!

It's OK, I can figure the meaning...

bjkeefe 09-22-2008 12:06 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Shine On You Crazy Large Hadron Collider
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 91853)
So when physicists today try to argue in favor of projects like LHC or nuclear energy, they must do so in the context of Hiroshima, Chernobyl and the nuclear arms race. They've got a rap sheet, so to speak.

This is an argument on the level of saying atheists and vegetarians have to apologize for Hitler. The LHC is not a weapon. Neither is nuclear energy. There is a debate to be had about the pluses and minuses of nuclear energy in terms of safety and security, among other issues, but nuclear power plants are not designed to kill people. It's not even in the same ballpark. And the LHC is not even the same sport.

Why do you keep protesting you don't believe these things, and then go on to repeat them?


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