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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:35 pm
by Redspear
JensAyton wrote:
Redspear wrote:
Disembodied wrote:I think so. If Theory X says that time should slow down if you put on yellow shoes, and you put on yellow shoes and time speeds up, instead, then Theory X isn't true.
With that example I'd say that it showed that X didn't appear to be true in that particular instance. What if the next time you tried them on time did slow down? Where would our 'proof' have gone?
Nowhere. If the hypothesis was that putting on yellow shoes necessarily leads to time slowing down, a single counterexample proves it wrong. This property is known as falsifiability, and is often claimed to be a necessary condition for a proposition to be a scientific hypothesis; this is the current orthodox position, although there are other schools of philosophy of science.
OK (and I note the "if" part) but did my next paragraph not cover that?:
Redspear wrote:I suppose you could disprove the idea that it always happens every single time but even that relies on the assumption that everything was tested and recorded accurately.
Mauiby de Fug wrote:
JensAyton wrote:I’ll give it about as much credence as a Daily Mail FAQ on nutritional theory.
*laughs out loud* I'm definitely going to have to use that at some point!
Yes, I rather enjoyed that one :D

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:52 am
by Disembodied
Redspear wrote:
Disembodied wrote:I think so. If Theory X says that time should slow down if you put on yellow shoes, and you put on yellow shoes and time speeds up, instead, then Theory X isn't true.
With that example I'd say that it showed that X didn't appear to be true in that particular instance. What if the next time you tried them on time did slow down? Where would our 'proof' have gone?
Proof is 100% certainty, right? So if the above seems pedantic then I'd suggest it's with good reason.

I suppose you could disprove the idea that it always happens every single time but even that relies on the assumption that everything was tested and recorded accurately.
Well, that's true - all coherent philosophies have to operate within their own assumptions, and for science, generally speaking, it's that the (measurable, quantifiable) universe is predictable, at least in terms of probability. The theory that yellow shoes = time slowing down in a regular, dependable fashion is disproved if time fails to slow down when wearing yellow shoes (although as Jens points out, other schools of philosophy of science exist).

Science also depends on repeatability, to check for experimental error: other people should be able to do the same experiment, and get the same result. If the effect happens sometimes, and not others, then you'd want to look for patterns, or at least get a handle on probability: the theory might be refined to "wearing yellow shoes, at sea level, gives a 10% chance of time slowing down". [Edited to add: plus, the more you do the experiment, the better your idea of the probabilities involved. If you do the experiment ten times, and it happens once, then "10%" is a pretty vague guess; if you do it 100 times, and it happens 10 times, then "10%" is a firmer estimate; and so on.] This is where an underlying theory would come in handy, to explain why shoe colour and air pressure affect time, and why the effect is greater with boots than with shoes, etc.

If things are not predictable, probabilistic, repeatable, quantifiable, and measurable, then science can't get a grip. Nobody is going to find an answer to a koan with a test-tube:

Hypothesis: That a dog has the Buddha nature
Materials and methods: We took one standard dog, and ... um ... om ...

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:41 am
by Cody
Disembodied wrote:Hypothesis: That a dog has the Buddha nature
I ain't having that! Cats, yes... dogs, no!

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:20 am
by ClymAngus
JensAyton wrote:
ClymAngus wrote:Ok we'll take this slow.
What does con stand for?
I believe it stands for “Hello; my name is Etymological Fallacy. Prepare to lie.”
Which it turn reminds me of another quote:

Engaging a egotist in debate is like playing chess with a pigeon; However clever your moves maybe, your opponent is still going to crap on everything and strut around like they've won.

I think it's time to back away from this one lest we are forced to decide who's the pigeon. We'll leave it where it should be; namely, up in the air.

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:18 pm
by Redspear
Disembodied wrote:Well, that's true - all coherent philosophies have to operate within their own assumptions, and for science, generally speaking, it's that the (measurable, quantifiable) universe is predictable, at least in terms of probability...

...If things are not predictable, probabilistic, repeatable, quantifiable, and measurable, then science can't get a grip. Nobody is going to find an answer to a koan with a test-tube:
OK, I think we're essentially in agreement there (including a similar basic understanding of statistical analysis).

Perhaps the original disagreement is an interpretive one?
Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence
I see two interpretations in particular (of course, correct me if I'm wrong here...)

One interpretation of this is that the extraordinary claim is one that must overcome skepticism; it appears in conflict to current, orthodox modes of interpretation and as such there is a reluctance to accept it (e.g. the yellow shoes example, telepathy etc).

Should such a claim ever acquire sufficient extraordinary evidence to be accepted then it could be argued that not only was the skepticism misplaced, it was also damaging to the development of our understanding. At best it delays our understanding of certain things, at worst it hides things from our understanding.

Another interpretation however, might be that the claim is extraordinary in that it is not easy to test with orthodox methods, e.g.
Disembodied wrote:Hypothesis: That a dog has the Buddha nature
Materials and methods: We took one standard dog, and ... um ... om ...
(Nice pun by the way :wink: )
In which case the evidence would be extraordinary by virtue of its source (the extraordinary experiment). No skepticism with this scenario, rather the inventiveness to conceive the extraordinary experiment (or otherwise acquire the extraorinary evidence).

In the first scenario, I currently consider the requirement of extraordinary evidence to be unfair; in the second, reasonable.

Does that follow or am I missing something?

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 6:49 am
by spud42
Disembodied wrote:It's not really the same thing, because in Shakespeare's time they didn't really have science, in the modern sense.
I can envisage in 400 years someone saying EXACTLY the same thing about our current level of science.. which was my one and only point.

flat earth, earth as center of solar system etc these were the current widely accepted facts, some very smart mathematicians came up with elaborate ideas on how to MAKE the orbits work with the earth as the center. MAINSTREAM science tends to be very conservative and its the crackpot ideas that push the boundaries. granted that the vast majority of ideas dont pan out

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 9:52 am
by Disembodied
Redspear wrote:Perhaps the original disagreement is an interpretive one?
Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence
I see two interpretations in particular (of course, correct me if I'm wrong here...)

One interpretation of this is that the extraordinary claim is one that must overcome skepticism; it appears in conflict to current, orthodox modes of interpretation and as such there is a reluctance to accept it (e.g. the yellow shoes example, telepathy etc).

Should such a claim ever acquire sufficient extraordinary evidence to be accepted then it could be argued that not only was the skepticism misplaced, it was also damaging to the development of our understanding. At best it delays our understanding of certain things, at worst it hides things from our understanding.
This is the interpretation I would go with, myself, but I would disagree that the skepticism was misplaced. It might be wrong, but still entirely justifiable. I think high levels of skepticism regarding extraordinary claims (i.e. those which contradict a large amount of established knowledge, and/or lack any sort of theoretical underpinning to connect them to established knowledge) is necessary, and healthy. Science should be (and generally is) open-minded, but it can't be a free-for-all. The number of extraordinary claims out there is very high (although the number of them with any sort of quantifiable evidence to support them in any way is much, much smaller). I think it's entirely reasonable for science, as a body, to require substantial proof that there is anything worth investigating, before scarce resources, lab time, etc. gets spent on what historical experience tells us is almost certainly chasing after moonshine. Most scientific advances do not come from existing theories being completely overturned by some revolutionary new idea, but from existing theories being gradually refined.

I'm not sure that there are many examples of any extraordinary claims which are shut out from mainstream scientific research because they are being held to an unfairly high standard of evidence. I know that there have been some curious statistics produced by some experiments into what are claimed to be psychic phenomena (although if you read The Men Who Stare at Goats, you'll see there have also been tons of time, effort and money chasing after crackpottery); I also know that, on occasion, a few mainstream scientists who have expressed an interest in these curious statistics have had their careers more or less blighted. As a human undertaking, science is naturally prone to human failings (envy, greed, ambition, fraud, etc.), and it inevitably falls short of its ideals. Max Planck once said, "Science advances one funeral at a time": the Old Guard are resistant to new ideas, which threaten to render their lives' work irrelevant. But science has also been plagued by dozens, if not hundreds, of charlatans, especially in the fields of medicine and in psychic research; humans are a lot trickier to study than gases or even electrons. Open-mindedness is a virtue, to a degree, but there have to be quality controls. Mental hygiene is important! :)
spud42 wrote:I can envisage in 400 years someone saying EXACTLY the same thing about our current level of science.. which was my one and only point.
No, I don't think they would. Science - the scientific approach - in the modern sense didn't really exist in Shakespeare's day (although it was just starting to come into vogue). The modern scientific, empirical, experimental approach - observing, recording, hyopthesising, testing, recording; the requirement for quantifiable and verifiable data - will be the same in 400 years (assuming a continuity of civilisation). That's what science is; that's what works. It's an approach to the study of the universe, not a body of knowledge. 400 years from now, a technological, scientific society won't have a different way of doing science. They'll have a larger body of knowledge, and better equipment and techniques, but the scientific approach will be the same. Because that's what works.

In Shakespearean times, the academic approach was very different. For example, they didn't need to go and count the lobes on a human liver: they knew there were five, because that's what was implied by reading the ancient Greek physician Galen. Even though there are quite clearly only four lobes on the human liver, everyone went with five, because of what Galen had said more than a thousand years before. Observation and quantifiable data didn't matter: Galen was an Ancient Authority, and therefore what he said was true.

Galileo, who has a fair claim to be regarded as the first modern scientist, spent much of his time performing difficult mathematical calculations in order to cast horoscopes for the Medici. It was a massive waste of time, and he had to spend more time explaining why his horoscopes failed to match up with the way reality actually turned out - but people bought it, because everyone knew that astrology was true because it was handed down by the ancients (even though it had recently been gussied up with some fancier mathematics). Theirs was largely a magical, not a scientific, worldview.

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 7:52 pm
by Redspear
Disembodied wrote:This is the interpretation I would go with, myself, but I would disagree that the skepticism was misplaced. It might be wrong, but still entirely justifiable....I think it's entirely reasonable for science, as a body, to require substantial proof that there is anything worth investigating, before scarce resources, lab time, etc. gets spent on what historical experience tells us is almost certainly chasing after moonshine.
Well, in the sense of allocating study resources to chase after evidence, I might be able to agree with you (in fact, I think I do).
But that's substantial evidence, not extraordinary evidence, right?
Disembodied wrote:...skepticism regarding extraordinary claims (i.e. those which contradict a large amount of established knowledge, and/or lack any sort of theoretical underpinning to connect them to established knowledge) is necessary, and healthy
If we compare that to the idea of falsifiability (as flagged up by Jens earlier) then it might appear rather contrary.

This might seem a strange claim for the likes of telepathy etc., but if we consider instead the established scientific model to be the subject, then evidence of extraordinary claim X might falsify that model, might it not?

Of course, we'd really want to test such results before we threw out (or at least refined) the current model but isn't that partly due to our current investment in it?
Disembodied wrote:I'm not sure that there are many examples of any extraordinary claims which are shut out from mainstream scientific research because they are being held to an unfairly high standard of evidence.
I'm not sure what the difference is between 'extraordinary evidence' and 'an unfairly high standard of evidence'; it sounds like there is one but it's not clear to me...
Disembodied wrote:Max Planck once said, "Science advances one funeral at a time"
I like that :-) And yes, I agree there are both the closed minded and the charlatans, sadly :-(
Disembodied wrote:Open-mindedness is a virtue, to a degree, but there have to be quality controls. Mental hygiene is important!
Perhaps it's that degree that we have different ideas about... or maybe I'm mentally unhygenic :-P

In any case, this is my first real internet 'argument' and may I say that, from my perspective, it has been entirely contrary to the negative stereotype (so far :| :lol: ).
A pleasure, sir. Thank you :) (doffs cap)

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:35 pm
by Disembodied
Redspear wrote:Well, in the sense of allocating study resources to chase after evidence, I might be able to agree with you (in fact, I think I do).
But that's substantial evidence, not extraordinary evidence, right?

[...]

I'm not sure what the difference is between 'extraordinary evidence' and 'an unfairly high standard of evidence'; it sounds like there is one but it's not clear to me...
I suppose, given that these things are ultimately subjective, what is "substantial" and what is "extraordinary" will vary from person to person. Ultimately, it might be better to regard the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" as a simple warning, to check, and re-check, and check again, before telling the world about something which contradicts solidly established science. And in the end, if the evidence is there - solid, tested, repeatable, verifiable - it will be extraordinary simply by virtue of the fact that it will have falsified something that had been regarded as a basic fact. If this engine does work, for example - if they test, and re-test, and calibrate their equipment, and other labs do the same thing, and the numbers continue to say "reactionless thrust" - then that would indeed be extraordinary. Then let's put one of these babies in orbit and see if it flies; if it does, tear up the textbooks, and Nobel prizes all round! :)

So far, the scientific process seems to be working. NASA, it's true, only jumped on the bandwagon after a Chinese experiment suggested that something might be going on - and they've done their own tests, and, indeed, something might be going on. As a space nut, I would love this to be true - but if I was going to put any cold hard cash on it, personally, I'd bet on "experimental error", just because it's so unlikely.
Redspear wrote:A pleasure, sir. Thank you :) (doffs cap)
Likewise! (lifts lid) :)

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 5:23 pm
by Redspear
Disembodied wrote:I suppose, given that these things are ultimately subjective, what is "substantial" and what is "extraordinary" will vary from person to person.

...it will be extraordinary simply by virtue of the fact that it will have falsified something that had been regarded as a basic fact.
That sounds reasonable to me.
Disembodied wrote:I would love this to be true - but if I was going to put any cold hard cash on it, personally, I'd bet on "experimental error", just because it's so unlikely.
Yeah, that may well be wise :)
Disembodied wrote:(lifts lid) :)
:lol: :D

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:17 am
by CommRLock78
Diziet Sma wrote:
spud42 wrote:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio
Always a favorite of mine :).

Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:02 pm
by spud42