The Comedy Of Science
Ex vitio sapiens aleno emendat suum*
Crediting the sourceRupert Sheldrake wrote "The Dogma Of Science".
Interesting that he, or his publisher, felt the need for a different title on this side of the pond. Hence "The Dogma Of Science" got the Harry Potter I treatment and became "The Science Delusion".**
The Ten, Distilled"1. Everything is mechanical."
"2. All matter is unconscious."
"3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same."
"4. The laws of nature are fixed."
"5. Nature is purposeless."
"6. All biological inheritance is material."
"7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains."
"8. Memories are stored as in the brain."
"9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory."
"10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works."
The RevelationWhen I stumbled across Professor Sheldrake, on a Joe Rogan Experience podcast, I was floored.
The disease I had been running up against finally had a name.
Sure enough, when I went back over some of the comments I had made earlier, I found I had given it similar labels myself.
Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work
of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of
the temple of science are written the words:
Ye must have faith
It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
- Max Planck
Physics is religious?Yes. Physics is religious.
In fact, it is more religious than religion -- an occupation generally only practiced on Sundays.
A bit like learning that one's favorite breakfast had been made of vulcanized rubber and toothpaste, it was clear a colonic irrigation was in order.
The easy labelsThe Big Bang = Genesis.
The inflationary period = the miraculous resurrection.
Dark Matter / Dark Energy = the devil.
Cosmic Microwave Background = 'Hail Marys' fixing everything.
Quantum Mechanics = political correctness.
String Theory = going to Heaven.
The general state of physics today = Babel.
The Catholic Church had a hand in creating the scientific method.- Anon
"Scientific" names are all Latin for similar reasons. Not to mention
setting up the whole university system to begin with.
The harder bitThe book called "The Bible" was written by people.
And physics is what it is today because of people.
Pablo Picasso's "Every act of creation is first an act of destruction" gives us the way forward in physics.
Bring on the bloodbath, and quick with the changing of the guard!
Physics needs to lighten up
It would be different if physics had all the answers.
But clearly and increasingly it does not.
Humble pie time.
Better yet, let's roast some physicists!
Comedy Physicist Number ZeroI'll lead off...
I think my style is, at heart, like that of Red Skelton.
Both of us old in a (supposed) young man's field.
Where Red was never afraid to "put on the dog", I am never shy about calling bad science "bad science".
It takes guts, or extreme foolishness, to do this.
In a field as small as physics, there are limited chairs in the game, and many eager to play.
Why tape a naughty nickname to the back of each one?
Because physics today is a disaster, more resembling politics than science.
And there is no more fertile ground for comedians than the mushroom manure of politics.
Augmenting a legend
Sir Isaac's head score was so high he almost closed out the science category himself.
What was missing? Humor. Lightness. Humanity.
Newton was all work and no play.
So naturally Newton brings to mind Bob Hope.
In the sense that one side of a great brain needs a correspondingly great other side.
There was no more humanitarian a comedian than Bob Hope.
A "people person" in name and nature, Bob Hope brought kindness to comedy.
At age 88
If we evolved a race of Isaac Newtons, that would not be progress.- Aldous Huxley
For the price Newton had to pay for being a supreme intellect was
that he was incapable of friendship, love, fatherhood, and many other
desirable things. As a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb.
The UncategorizableEvery good metaphor meets its Waterloo.
Ours meets it here with Albert Einstein.
In addition to great science,
Einstein brought philosophy, humor and
humanism to an otherwise stuffy arena.
The only way to properly cover Einstein is with an entire team.
I suggest Michael Jordan, Henry Ford and
Thomas Jefferson on offense. Brad Park and
Bobby Orr on defense. And Jacques Plante,
the first ever masked goaltender, between the pipes.
Amadeus Mozart on pipe organ.
Second string: Babe Ruth (gotta stir up some controversy), Gordie Howe and
Jerry Rice. John Stuart Mill and Gandhi on defense. Rally Monkey on jukebox.
Or just Jack Benny.
Yeah, on second thought,
Einstein was the Jack Benny of science.
All he did was fiddle.
Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction. For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought. Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. To look for related facts means holding onto what one has instead of searching for new facts. Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge. Intuition, not intellect, is the 'open sesame' of yourself.- Albert Einstein
Back on metaphor
Richard Feynman was Jackie Gleeson.
And both were all that is wrong with America.
At least one of them was good at pool.
"Love 'em or hate 'em"
goes the saying?
I didn't love them.
Overrated and unfunny. Had they never existed,
their field would have been better off.
LightweightsAristotle got us started
in the science movement.
Given respect out of deference,
Aristotle did little more than
call things as he saw them.
"Knock-knock" jokes get children
started in a similar way.
The rest of us have to aspire
to something greater.
You could give Aristotle a tutorial. And you could thrill him to the core of his being. Aristotle was an encyclopedic polymath, an all time intellect. Yet not only can you know more than him about the world. You also can have a deeper understanding of how everything works. Such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues. I'm not saying you're more intelligent than Aristotle, or wiser. For all I know, Aristotle's the cleverest person who ever lived. That's not the point. The point is only that science is cumulative, and we live later.- Richard Dawkins
And Phyllis Diller.
Are the choices we are given.
Phyllis Diller was never funny.
No Krauss book
Imagining living in a universe without purpose may prepare us to better face reality head on. I cannot see that this is such a bad thing.
- Lawrence Krauss
And deadweightsErnest Rutherford was tyrannical,
literally barring theoretical discussion
from his laboratory.
Sarah Silverman would be if she could
be, but for now must settle for just being
Rutherford contributed by firing stuff at other stuff,
so bears at least some of the blame for the LHC boondoggle.
Science will not progress by caveman-like rock smashing.
Nor from "She must be funny because I've seen her on the
comedy channel" baseless assumptions.
I asked a psychiatrist named Robin Skynner how many people in his profession he thought really knew what they were doing. He said about 10 percent. So for the next few years, every time I met somebody I thought was particularly sharp, I asked them the same question. The highest estimate I got was 20 percent. That explained so much. I spent so many years worrying about executives and critics, but once you realize very few of them know what they're talking about, everything is simplified.
- John Cleese
More substantiveCopernicus was a game changing,
mold-breaker and was foundational to
the future of science.
The 70's brought us Laugh-In, and the
comedic field has yet to recover.
In a good way.
When faced with ever increasing complexity
-- dark-ness obscuring lightness --
the way forward invariably involves thinking differently.
And more simply.
Time and time again Einstein filled me with amazement, and indeed enthusiasm, as I watched the ease with which he would, in discussion, experimentally change his point of view, at times tentatively adopting the opposite view and viewing the whole problem from a new and totally changed angle.
- Max Brod
Diversity pays offStephen Hawking and Josh Blue are wonderfully refreshing.
A positive side to Political Correctness.
It's not Josh Blue's fault
that he has CP.
And it's not Mr. Hawking's fault
that physics fails to see black holes
as an edge case governed by different rules.
Do not become the slave of your model.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Care to invest 75 minutes as Leonard Susskind explains the Higgs?
And I prefer a funny comedian, rather than angry man Jerry Stiller.
Susskind is highly respected, and probably one of the most capable. Dinosaurs.
Those who can't see the Higgs as an inelegant abomination will be left behind by those who can.
Susskind was great at standing up to Hawking, but what about his solo work?
Adapt or die must be this century's physics mantra.
If you focus on results, you will never change.- Jack Dixon
If you focus on change, you will get results.
Returning to our rootsIntuition is organic, healthy and Kosher.
Allowing us to avoid the personal God trap.
Michael Faraday, like Jonathan Winters, personified the adaptive, ear-to-the-ground, method.
Faraday's lab-to-visuals directness equalled Winters' improv-as-career-path essence.
We don't need to settle for "can't know" probabilities,
inflationary miracles and dark-aged physics.
We really don't.
Be regular and orderly in your life,- Gustave Flaubert
so that you may be irregular and original in your work.
Greatness is among usJames Clerk Maxwell and David Letterman
both had inauspicious beginnings.
Maxwell's upbringing was unconventional.
Letterman's style too far ahead of his time.
Still, both ultimately have had legendary finishes,
and are popular choices.
Perhaps we need to study their successes more closely.
The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained.- John Stuart Mill
That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.
Hiding behind underratedness
Ultimate scientist vs ultimate comedian, Max Planck and Bill Hicks are a study in contrasts.Quick witted, almost sneaky-good delivery.
Planck's discovery was almost a fluke, where Hicks' destiny was never in doubt.
Planck's life lived long, Hicks' life smoked short.
Still, both made epic contributions.
And have long, if not the longest, tails.
You never know who will bring the most.
Have you left room in your thinking for a great...smoker?
Or a non-academic physicist?
If you're careful enough,
nothing bad will ever happen to you.
Neither will anything good.
- Ashleigh Brilliant
Or obscured by randomness
There will always be a Michio Kaku.
And a Jackson Pollack.
But we're not forced to Look, Listen and Learn from them.
Both are, kindly, all over the place.
Fantasy often underlies science fiction,
but should never underly science.
Just because they're among the best paid doesn't mean we must stoop to touch their cloth.
Let's leave them in the dime novel section, shall we?
When I go to the movies, and have to sit through ten previews of films that look alike and tell the whole story, you know that we've reached an age of consensus. And consensus is the worst thing for us. We all agree to agree. That's where we lose it as a culture. We have to move away from that.- Oliver Stone
So what defines worthiness?
Monty Python was considered unfunny, if not impolite.
In Britain anyway.
The rest of the world didn't require their knighthood to give them the royal treatment.
Aether theories suffered a reverse indignity.
Obvious to all at first, their unofficial retirement came on the heels of one of Einstein's relativities.
Such pigeonholing doesn't fit,
and both remain first choices of the young-minded today.
Seems the best physics did happen in its youth.
The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.- John Stuart Mill
Equations kill brain cellsThe status of Roger Penrose and Jay Leno is about the same.
Much too high.
"Liked by many" propaganda aside,
this pair are ultimately in the way of better stuff.
Pages filled with formulas
or punchlines always talked through
cause people to tune out, without really knowing why.
We need to begin with what works, and that means that
Mr. Tawdry Physics Model needs a makeover.
In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model.- R. Buckminster Fuller
You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.
Be like Buster
Henri Poincare and Buster Keaton may have been born forty years apart, but their styles were those of peers.
"Very old," moans modern man.
"Unmistakebly good" sayeth the sage.
It wouldn't hurt to brush up on our legends.
Greatness is timeless.
Galileo called doubt the father of invention.- Christian Nevell Bovee
It is certainly the pioneer.
Praise the critical
Richard Pryor shattered the comedy mold.
Controversial, then accepted,
Pryor went on to become a comedy legend.
Lee Smolin has also taken on convention.
In 2006 he wrote "The Trouble With Physics".
He then elevated his warning in his 2013 book
"Time Reborn: From The Crisis In Physics To The Future Of The Universe".
Lee Smolin gets my vote for most underrated physicist.
He's a guy that truly 'gets' his field. Just as Richard did.
Give them credit. Show them some respect.
It will help you more than it will help them.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that they have results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results.- Michael Crichton
Balance is imperative
Paul Dirac turned down a knighthood because he
didn't want people using his first name.
His daughter, Monica, never once remembered him laughing.
"This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful," Einstein said of him.
So who better to balance out Dirac than Brian Regan, the ultimate "child comedian".
Except that Brian is brilliant, clean and hilarious.
Truly an everyman's funnyman.
Physics could be aimed at everyone.
If it had a dead simple model.
Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity- Isaac Newton
and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.
All-Rounders reign supremeSo who should we model our ultimate 21st Century physicist after?
I'd suggest Leonardo Da Vinci.
AKA Robin Williams.
Was there ever a better physics all-rounder than da Vinci?
Was there ever a better comedy all-rounder than Williams?
These true renaissance men were the real deal.
Real progress in understanding nature is rarely incremental. All important advances are sudden intuitions, new principles, new ways of seeing. We have not fully recognized this process of leaping ahead, however, in part because textbooks tend to tame revolutions. They describe the advances as if they had been logical in their day and not at all shocking.- Marilyn Ferguson
One other thing...
Physicists are among the most unapproachable people in the world.
Unless you want to pat them on the back.
like Jim Gaffigan,
is among the greatest thinkers alive.
Does anyone more seamlessly present their point of view?
But Sean doesn't want to hear about your new theory.
And he's not the only one.
No physicist wants to hear your new theory.
Frank Close's "The Infinity Puzzle" gives some insight into
the bizarre world of Nobel seekers. I mean, "modern physicists".
The physics we have today is like the rest of life today.
The product of hundreds of years of selfishness,
with a smattering of generosity.
We tend to think of science as a collection of esoteric information, but science is best understood as a process for figuring out the workings of the universe. Scientists look at the world, think of models to explain their observations, test those models with further observations and experiment, and tell each other the results.- Source
Some bright spotsAlex Filippenko is exceptional. A true physics enthusiast. And eclipse chaser.
Yet he's given about as much recognition
as Carrot Top.
Apparently originality counts for nothing.
It's just not good enough.
We must be more than enthusiastic. We must be...what?
We act as though comfort and luxury were
the chief requirements of life.
All that we need to make us happy is
something to be enthusiastic about.
- Albert Einstein
I happen to like Carrot Top. And Alex Filippenko.
Both are fun, and full of life.
Our doctors would approve of us being more like either.
A wise man once said:
"Come out of the shadows in your thinking.
Principles are pure light."
Outer versus Inner truth
Ridiculously unearned levels of popularity hide a dark secret.
The idols offered us aren't wise.
Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Cosmos" is more like "Seinfeld".
A couple of shows about nothing.
Both failing to stand up to scrutiny.
Fancy graphics, and celebrity, do not a revolution make.
Tenure is like syndication, delivering a never ending stream of banality.
There is a great difference between knowing and understanding.
You can know a lot about something and not really understand it.
- Charles Franklin Kettering
Penetrating to the core
Wikipedia doesn't even have an Amit Goswami page.
Allan Bloom probably just let out a sigh.
But George Carlin wouldn't have been surprised.
These two were category makers, with deep legacies.
Long brilliant careers, yet always current.
Both will be worth listening to fifty years from now.
Wiki doesn't have an Amit Goswami page? Seriously?!
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas.
If your ideas are any good, you'll have to
ram them down people's throats.
- Howard Aiken
Convoluted ain't the half of it
One look at Peter's photo says it all.
Etymology: Quantum Flavordynamics came from Quantum Chromodynamics that came from Quantum Electrodynamics that came from an endless string of infinities.
House of cards enough for you?
The good news is we have a new three-letter acronym: QFD.
The bad news is we have to mention Gilbert Gottfried.
Fingernails on a blackboard had to come from somewhere.
New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.- Max Planck
At least we have...
Physicist number one.
The Man-God himself.
He. Will. Save. Us.
So goes the Edward Witten hype.
And I bought it. Until I heard him talk.
Which is the only option since he never publishes. Really.
Go ahead, hop on over to Amazon and give it a try. I'll wait.
Back so soon?
Professor Witten is the only Ringer I've ever seen whose job it is to keep the bench warm.
So why does he remind me of Billy Crystal?
Both turn out to be too good to be true.
Oh, Billy has the smoothest comedic delivery I've ever heard.
But I rarely laugh at his jokes.
Ed Witten is promoted as the best physics has to offer, but (delivery issues aside) I think he needs to rethink his material:
String theory, M-theory, Quantum gravity, Quantum field theory, Supersymmetry
- his wiki
"Can I have '5 things that don't exist' for $200, Alex?"
The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Last and certainly least
Brian Greene is bright. Expressive. Loquacious even.
A veritable Barnum & Bailey of physics.
If anyone has earned his 15 minutes of fame, it's Brian.
Honestly, the PBS series "The Elegant Universe", based on Brian's 1999 book, is rather wonderful.
I can see where his following came from.
Same with Johnny Carson. The late night time slot was just
waiting to crown its emperor. And Johnny was perfect.
We need more than good physics filler.
We need something that makes sense. Something testable.
And most of all, something simple.
String Theory is so far from elegant, the Elegant estate could sue. And win.
Career men do not a theory make.
It takes hard work.
And a very long stubborn streak.
Fermat's best needed an Andrew Wiles.
Who will prove that physics can be simple?
Before the 2007 crash, I consulted for a company that made software that helped banks analyze risk. The software did work really well. The problem was, nobody bought it. In spite of its brilliance, nobody was interested. When we talked to the heads of risk at investment banks, we found out why. They'd spent years learning the old way. They weren't going to give it all up for something any fool could read. If only wed found a way to make the interface acceptably difficult to use, they wouldn't have felt threatened.- Source
Back to basics
about as well known as the Unknown Comic,
is more like Dave Allen.
Dave Allen hit the comedic nail on the head. Every night. For 30 years.
Yet who has heard of him?
Similarly, Dr. Vignale is quite simply masterful in
"The Beautiful Invisible: Creativity, Imagination, and Theoretical Physics".
Yet Amazon ranks it '#575,274 in Books'.
Q. "Does Journal Peer Review Miss Best and Brightest?"
A. The finding confirms that unconventional research that falls outside the established lines of thought may be more prone to rejection from top journals. It's typical human politics and ideology at work. What would you expect from a large group of people, all with vested interests?
Professor Vignale so gets the importance of intuition, I think even Einstein would approve.
And no, Wikipedia does not have a page for Giovanni Vignale. I kid you not.
* - The wise man corrects his own fault from the fault of another
- Publius Syrus
** - The subtitle of "The Dogma of Science" rename?
"Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry".
For more on comediansCheck out Floydcast #8.
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