Sunday, September 25, 2011

Physicists are drama queens

Scientists at CERN, the world's largest physics lab near Geneva, stunned the world of science on Thursday night by announcing they had observed tiny particles known as neutrinos travelling slightly faster than light.

Wouldn't "recorded" be a little less misleading than "observed?"

Brian Cox, the TV presenter and physicist, told BBC Radio 6 Music: "If it is confirmed it will be the most important discovery in physics in at least the past 100 years.
"It is a very big deal, it requires a complete rewriting of our understanding of the universe ... it is such an extraordinary claim that it is difficult to believe."

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mapping the Conceptual Terrain

A recurring theme in philosophy is something like this: philosopher x proposes some properties that constitute concept C (more specifically I guess we'd say that the possession of said properties is individually necessary and jointly sufficient to constitute C).  Ahh yes, but philosopher y has an example that shows that our intuitions about C go further; philosopher x's account leaves something important out!

This came to mind while watching an episode of The Twilight Zone this evening. The inmate's robot has all the qualities that (we think) a mental life comprises: rationality, learning abilities, emotions, qualitative conscious experiences like perception, pain and hunger.  So does the robot have a mind?  Well, perhaps some will disqualify the robot on account of lacking a soul. Regardless, if you feel the chill at the conclusion of the episode, ask yourself why.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Naturalism and the scientific spirit