Posts tagged science

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Sorry about my last post. I’ve been informed that it doesn’t make any sense. I still like it, though, so I’m not changing it. Instead, I’ll just offer my apologies to anyone whose IQ was lowered because of reading it, and I’ll try to give you a serious related post to try and make up some of those lost brain cells.

I’m not very far into Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, but I have noticed something about the way he explains some of the more controversial scientific ideas (such as the big bang). He never insults or discredits religious ideas because of scientific discovery. He is especially courteous and careful about it, trying to be clear that science does not discredit religion, but just adds new understanding.

Take the following excerpt for instance. Hawking has just explained that we can observe that the universe is expanding. From that we know that the universe was once closer together than it is now, and from that we can deduce that there was once a time when the universe was “all at exactly the same place”. Now the big bang (when the universe started expanding from being all in exactly the same place) is often treated as being at odds with the idea of divine creation, but Hawking doesn’t explain it that way at all.

One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!

I’m very impressed that Hawking doesn’t try to say that the big bang discredits the creation, and even offers an explanation of how they can both be true.

One of the reasons that this is so thought-provoking to me is because I realize that the scientific community seems to be much more considerate of the religious community than we are of them. Hawking (himself an atheist) is very careful not to discredit the religious views of his readers, but it seems common to me that religious people are eager to discredit science as “just a theory” and to disbelieve the whole of scientific discovery rather than figure out how to reconcile their beliefs with the new knowledge that mankind is developing.

Science is bunk

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I’ve started reading “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. In the first chapter he describes the goals of science and scientific theory. Unfortunately, I think he’s wrong about a crucial assumption. Here’s (a misrepresentation of) an excerpt from the book:

The eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the [construction on I-80]. However, the approach most scientists actually follow is to separate the problem into two parts. First, there are the laws that tell us how [the construction on I-80] changes with time. (If we know what [I-80] is like at any one time, these physical laws tell us how it will look at any later time.) Second, there is the question of the initial state of [I-80]. Some people feel that science should be concerned only with the first part; they regard the question of the initial [creation of I-80] as a matter for metaphysics or religion. They would say that [the government], being omnipotent, could have started the [I-80] any way that [they] wanted. That may be so, but in that case [they] also could have made [the construction] develop in a completely arbitrary way. Yet it appears that [they] chose to make [the construction move along] in a very regular way according to certain laws. It therefore seems equally reasonable to suppose that there are also laws governing the initial state [of I-80].

See? Sure, he starts off reasonable enough, but did you see how he thinks that the construction moves along in some way that actually makes sense? Sorry, Stephen, but if the construction is really done “in a completely arbitrary way”, then science can’t hope to discover any laws to understand it nor to predict when (if ever) it will be completed.

Ok, maybe Stephen Hawking wasn’t really talking about the construction on I-80, but if science can’t even make sense of the construction, there’s no way it can describe the whole universe.

The Life and Death of the Darth Cannon

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A little over a month ago my ward had a dumb activity in which I didn’t want to participate. So, instead of going to the activity, Tyler and I built a gun.
My friend Ryan and I had built a potato gun in high school, and I think Tyler had done the same, so we both knew the basic operations and what we needed. At the hardware store, we discovered that this is not only a very common practice, but that they don’t necessarily like helping with this, so they don’t readily sell the parts that we needed. We ended up compromising and making due with what they had, but in the process, we developed a new kind of potato cannon.
The Darth Cannon TM had a fail-safe. In the event that the pressure in the chamber was too high, instead of breaking the combustion chamber, it would blow-off the barrel to relieve the pressure. We were invincible. We couldn’t hurt ourselves with this.
So, as any good college students who had built a gun, Tyler and I did science experiments on it. (I bet you thought we were going to use it to break things, huh?) We took it to the baseball field and measured the distances it traveled with different fuel-filling styles, until we’d figured out how to best use the Darth Cannon.
Unfortunately, the Darth Cannon met its end this weekend. We’d gone up the canyon to sit around a bonfire, and I’d gotten bored. So, naturally, I pulled the Darth Cannon out of my trunk (where everyone keeps their home-made guns) and loaded it up. I readjusted the barrel because it had gotten a little crooked in my trunk, but I guess I didn’t tighten it up enough afterwards. When I shot it, instead of the potato flying out, the barrel itself shot off. This was good, of course, because it proved that my fail-safe would work, but in all of the excitement, I kind of broke off the trigger ignition that we’d put on it.

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