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Archive for November, 2014

[Programming Note: This post was written 2 years ago and has been stuck in limbo ever since. It is being published now as-is, so I hope I was right when I wrote this. If not, I have a million excuses.]

I have committed myself to finish my series on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. There are two last features left to deal with in Kuhn’s SSR, the choice of paradigm and the incommensurability of paradigms. This will occupy my final two posts on Kuhn, respectively. Specifically, a discussion of the incommensurability of paradigms will allow some summary comments on the crisis of rationality that Kuhn’s work provokes for the modern understanding of science that presents truth to the world. The previous posts can be found bunched together here.

Einstein, pointing out the errors in our ways

In the previous post, I mused on the nature of revolutions, political and scientific. I explored the relationship between the imagination and the material needs of a situation in the development of alternative conceptual schemes for both politics and science. But a question remains. Science and politics both are continually plagued by the shortcomings of the reigning paradigm. Einstein, for example, had problems with both Quantum Mechanics and Capitalism, the former because it introduced indeterminacy into the world and the latter because it tended toward cycles of growth and recession. He was right, at least about economics.

Sticking strictly to scientific issues, there continue to be major problems that plague contemporary physics despite its enormous successes. One such issue is the unification of the four fundamental forces: electromagnetic, weak and strong nuclear force, and gravity. In the 19th century, Michael Faraday’s work on field theory paved the way for James Clerk Maxwell’s equations that allowed for the unification of electrical and magnetic forces, culminating in the well-known theory of electromagnetism. The weak and electromagnetic forces were unified in 1968 into the Electro-weak theory, and they were united in 1974 with the strong nuclear force to produce the so-called “Grand Unified Theory,” or GUT. (more…)

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This post is from two years ago. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder, and I decided it was time to release it from purgatory.

I recently finished the re-imagined series Battlestar Galactica, an epic space opera that drew praise from a wide variety of viewers. I have also been on a Philip K. Dick binge of late, reading many short stories and several novels, including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

As a way of jotting down some of the thoughts I have running through my head, I want to try a short comparison of the criticisms that each face.

PKD’s greatest strength is his ability to weave intricate and complex plots in an effort to explore abstract philosophical ideas. One of the prime examples of this, highlighted in both Ubik and Stigmata, is the line between reality and illusion.

In the former, written in the same year as Electric Sheep, Dick tells a story in which the characters are never sure who is dead and who is alive. In Stigmata, a similar problem occurs, this time on the basis of drugs that create hallucinations that eventually make their way into sober reality. The characters are never sure if they are under the effect of the drug, seeing manifestations of Palmer Eldritch at the most inopportune moments.

(more…)

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