August 11, 2010

In Defense of the Hard Sciences

In the comments, Noah responds to my complaints that physicists haven't done any better than social scientists at delivering the impossible:
Whine whine whine.

Your teleporter and your faster-than-light starship are too expensive. Your time machine was always impossible, we told you that.

As for your antigravity device, we're working on it, but you wouldn't want to use it because it would cause you to be flung out of the Earth's orbit.

Come on, man, we gave you lasers, pain rays, moon rockets, flying cars (if the govt. would let you buy one), jet packs, and absurdly good data storage, not to mention the aforementioned city-vaporizing asskickery. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT???

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think all said and done, the ultimate purpose of human technology isn't really all that different from the ape's use of tools.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giNFCBl-1Dc&feature=fvst

Anonymous said...

Look, all the economist bashing has a reason and is not just gratuitous insulting for the sake of it.
I'm a big fan of Roman history, and the study of the economic collapse of the Empire under Diocletian is very interesting.Basically the Roman Empire experienced raging inflation under Diocletian, the reason being that the Roman treasury was so bereft of gold and silver (to pay for a huge standing army and to subsidize hostile enemies), the Romans were obliged to debase their coinage to the point of absurdity, thus increasing the money supply to an absurd level.History books usually conclude that little tale with a little moral lecture along the lines of "Of course, Romans were totally ignorant of modern economic sciene".
Flash forward 2000 years.The USA is teeming with hundreds of thousands of 'professional economists', whose professional skills apparently ar highly valued all over the place.There are economic depts after economics depts, economic professors by the score, thousands of textbooks and journals.Economists pebetrated at the very pinnacle of power.And yet - 2000 years later the American Empire is actually in a far WORSE economic state than Diocletian's Empire ever was (just look at the ballooning federal deficit and its intractability).
There must be a moral in it somewhere.

stari_momak said...

Forget teleportation .. how 'bout predicting an earthquake? Or figuring out how much oil can flow through a small hole in the ocean floor? Or how much of that oil will end up where when?

William Barghest said...

Quantum teleportation just means that I can encode an arbitrary superposition state of one system into another, if I am willing to destroy the coherence of the initial state. I am not completely sure, but I think people are too hot for quantum superpositions to play an important role in what constitutes an adequate description of you, so I wouldn't need to encode your full quantum state into a new system somewhere else to transport you, and I also wouldn't need to destroy the original copy (which makes for some interesting situations).

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/11/grab-to-be.html

That being said, how to actually scan and simulate enough of you or your brain to make a descent copy is a totally open engineering problem.

dearieme said...

"There must be a moral in it somewhere". Chariots are cheaper than economists?

AllanF said...

It's great comments like that one that I love about this place. Unfortunately they too often get overwhelmed in the vitriol of haters and idiots from both extremes.

I'm glad you at least fish out the +4 sigma (yeah, there's a lot of vitriol around here) ones for mention. Helps us working stiffs keep up with things.

Anonymous said...

This is but one of many topics concerning Blacks that there is every reason to suppose truly intelligent and honest Africans spending some time in the US and returning to Africa would perceive more clearly than it is easier for most of us to and would comment upon more candidly than our cultural atmopshere easily permits. ((As to candor about race and racial characteristics, see the writings of Eugene Valberg (Gehdalia Braun) recently published by American Renaissance (after a 15 year search for a mainstream publisher ). He notes the matter of fact way in which a great many Africans comment about racial IQ differentials and have utterly no problem with the notion that in many abilities directly relevant to science and technology, Whites as a group have better brains than Africans as a group ))

AllanF said...

Anon, point taken about the Roman Empire, but what's that got to do with Noah's hilarious post?

And concerning the US, while I agree with you completely, keep in mind the US is probably the best house in a bad neighborhood. Very few of us have the financial option of picking up and changing neighborhoods. And "they" know that.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the physicists will give us antigravity devices long before the social scientists figure out a way to fix the IQ gap.

Noah said...

Oh, AND nuclear power, GPS, the microwave oven, cell phones, fiber optics, CCD cameras, incredibly fast computer processors, ICBMs, spy satellites...

...and we invented the internet in our SPARE TIME.

Physicists FTW!!!

(Note that I got bored of theoretical physics and became an economist. Economics needs my help more...)

FuturePundit said...

What I want: rejuvenation therapies. But the physicists are too busy trying to raise the temperature of superconductors or smashing particles together at higher energies.

FuturePundit said...

Anonymous,

The social scientists will not figure out how to fix the IQ gap. It is not a social science problem. It is a genetic problem.

Anonymous,

Have you considered using a unique pseudonym?

Curvaceous, etc. said...

"Oh, AND nuclear power, GPS, the microwave oven, cell phones, fiber optics, CCD cameras, incredibly fast computer processors, ICBMs, spy satellites...'

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what have you done for us lately, huh?????

Kevin said...

Hubris is very SWPL.

Truth said...

"Have you considered using a unique pseudonym?"

a unique point of view wouldn't be the...worst thing you could do, either.

Noah said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what have you done for us lately, huh?????

How about cloaking devices, deflector shields, laser cannons, quantum computing, spintronic memory, memristors, superconducting power lines, and quantum cryptography?

And how about bitchslapping the heck out of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?

Physicists FTW!!!

Anonymous said...

http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1711/article_detail.asp

Steve, this is up your alley.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

"Have you considered using a unique pseudonym?"

a unique point of view wouldn't be the...worst thing you could do, either."

Raving maniacs have unique points of view. Unique does not mean right. In fact, in most cases it means wrong. Someone who has a unique point of view on Astronomy (that for example, the sun is really a big glowing marshmallow) is almost invariably wrong.

Or on water-powered cars, for that matter.

Truth said...

"Someone who has a unique point of view on Astronomy (that for example, the sun is really a big glowing marshmallow) is almost invariably wrong."

What if it'a a unique point of view on Astronomy such as The big bang theory is fiction?

And Anon, I mean, were boys and all, but are you and Bob still talking about water powered cars?

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

And Anon, I mean, were boys and all, but are you and Bob still talking about water powered cars?"

Do YOU still believe in water-powered cars? We are trying to point out - for the benefit of newcomers who might read your posts, and despite all evidence to the contrary take you for an intelligent person with a point of view worth consideration - that you are actually a credulous nitwit.

Curvaceous, etc. said...

Hey, "Truth,"

Who gave you permission to mess with the Iconic Image of the 20th Century, the Office Space Guys beating the go*da** fax machine to death?

That's sacrilege. You should be ashamed of yourself.

David said...

> the Office Space Guys beating the go*da** fax machine to death<

That scene shows what is probably the real relationship of technology and the lumpen.