Posts Tagged ‘Imponderables’

Hawking, God, creation and gravity

September 2, 2010

There have been headlines today regarding Stephen Hawking’s new book The Grand Design (co-written by US physicist Leonard Mlodinow) to be published on 9th September.


Defense Meteorological Satellite Program

Image via Wikipedia


“God did not create the Universe”

is the BBC headline.

Citing the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun, he said: “That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions – the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass – far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings.” He adds: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. ….Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist…..It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

But if The Big Bang and  all the subsequent creation events flow naturally and inevitably from the law of gravity, what still remains is to explain where the law of gravity came from or from what it flows naturally and inevitably……….

No matter how much more is discovered by science we will still have the space of the “unknown unknowns” (a la Rumsfeld) where we do not even know what questions are feasible – let alone what question to ask.

The Octopus Strikes again

July 8, 2010

I returned just in time to watch the match. My forecast (hope) about Germany was wrong and Spain is in the World Cup final for the first time ever.

Good Luck to them but I pick Holland for the final –  3rd time lucky perhaps?

Ramos was a disgrace. A great pity that he does not just rely on his indisputable skill and feels it necessary to play dirty.

Germany had their chances but Spain just edged it. The burden of beating the prediction by Paul the Octopus was just too much for Schweinsteiger and his manschaft. Özil was impressive again- but he needs a little more stamina to last the entire 90 minutes.

Paul the octopus

Unknown Unknowns and the World Cup

June 28, 2010

After yesterdays glaring blunders by the referees, linesmen and 4th referees, first when England were denied a goal which every TV viewer around the world could see had crossed the goal-line and second when Argentina were awarded a goal when every TV viewer could see that Tevez was off-side, it is now going to be difficult for FIFA to resist bringing in the use of technology to assist referees’ decisions. It occurred to me that even though the final results seemed justified by the rest of the play, we cannot know what the impact of the correct decisions would have been. If England had been awarded their goal they would have started the second half level and in a different frame of mind. If Argentina’s goal had been disallowed and Mexico had scored first the players’ attitudes and the play could have changed in a fundamental way.

FIFA’s attitude to the use of technology borders on faith in a bygone age which no longer exists.

Like the proverbial ostriches – they do not wish to know what they do not know.

Thinking about what might have been, I was reminded of Donald Rumsfeld’s press conference at NATO HQ, Brussels  on June 6th, 2002., when as U.S. Secretary of Defence he said:

“The message is that there are no “knowns.” There are thing we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns”.

There is actually a compelling music to the words but this quotation is often mocked especially by opponents of the US invasion of Iraq. I have quoted it disparagingly myself in discussions and presentations about the dangers of forecasting.

But of course what he said is rather profound. (more…)

On comments to blogs and sticks and stones…

June 27, 2010

As a relatively recent blogger I find the nature of comments to posts is intriguing. So far less than 2% of the views have resulted in comments.

I categorise comments to blogs tentatively as:

  1. supportive – but with no other content
  2. supportive  with no relevant content but ingratiating
  3. supportive with relevant content
  4. supportive with an own agenda to propagate
  5. opposing and insulting with no content
  6. opposing with rational content but insulting
  7. opposing with rational content
  8. neutral but propagating own agenda

Types 5 and 6 are not very pleasant to read but perhaps they are better than no comment at all in that they represent people sufficiently engaged to comment. I think they cannot be fulfilling their own purposes  since every offensive remark  only seems to discount any content that might be present. Comments of Type 2 and 8 are the most irritating. Types 7 and 3 are the most appreciated.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but ………

Space and Distance: Imponderable Questions

June 2, 2010

A return to blogging after a month’s hiatus. Reading about the Big Bang Theory and other imponderable questions.

Does space or distance exist before the expanding universe expands into it?

If there is nothing and no communication and no transmission between two particles or two bodies how can separation between them be defined. Can an undefinable “distance” even exist – let alone increase?

Why should the speed of light be constant and distance the variable rather than distance being constant with a variable speed of light?

Is it not a circular argument to use the Doppler effect and its variation of wavelength – which requires a definition of distance – as the main evidence of an expanding universe defined as increasing separation distance? Is a constant speed of light merely a convenient fiction to make the imponderable tractable?

If a question – whether scientific or religious – is imponderable then why do we ponder them and go to war over them?

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