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Monday Links

  • XKCD Radiates
    Fun fact:

    For example, bananas are a natural source of gamma rays due to the decay of an isotope of potassium (40K).

  • Is Philosophy of Science Dead?

    In his latest book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking gives his opinion that the philosophy of science has outlived its usefulness - it is "dead". The reason he gives is that modern philosophers have not kept up with the cutting edge of science, and therefore their musings have become irrelevant.

  • TV Skeptic: The Medium and Oz
    Just when you thought it was impossible John Edward will prove you wrong and sink to a new low. And Mr. Dr. Oz happily lets him.

  • Don't Lose Your Cool

    The best-case scenario, and probably most likely, is that the Fukushima-Daiichi plant will limp along, but without any catastrophic events (such as a major Chernobyl-style radioactive explosion and fire).

    I hope so.



XKCD Radiates

If you check out the full chart he developed you see some interesting things

While most people are expereincing levels you can measure in bananas. others seems to be recieving much larger doses but still worlds lover than fatal.

The levels that chernobyl reached are pretty frightening.

The one problem that people forget is that radiation is a cumulative effect. This means the body stores it and cannot process the radiation out of the organs or tissue. Secondly, the children are at greater risk since their glands are smaller and both issues cause cancer. There is yet a lifetime quota for how much radiation a body can receive in a lifetime before it causes death.

re: "is philosophy of science dead"-

huh. i guess i'm glad the author of the article pointed out hawking's false assumptions, but this doesn't disprove his basic premise. this is interesting to me because i grew up in the 60's and 70's, when science was making exponential progress in terms of finer and finer detail, and more and more questions embedded in each new discovery, and the philosophy of science, per se, was seen by me as the more stable member of the relationship. my dad (now retired) was a science professor whose phd was in the "history and philosophy of science". he was a bit of a throwback, i guess, even in the late 70's/early 80's, teaching a course called "natural philosophy"- which is what they used to call, you know, science. his emphasis on a historical perspective, the history of ideas, in fact, permeated my youth, during which i read (and loved) much literature by what were then known as "naturalists", people who's main drive was curiosity and who could compellingly write about both science itself, and it's philosophical and historical underpinnings in ways that "just made sense" to a curious boy obsessed with fossils, paleontology, taxonomy, comparative anatomy, and other such things which are probably by now considered pretty simplistic or even naive by, say, "cutting edge physicists".

my impression from this article is that hawkings, in spite of possibly incorrect overgeneralization and what i have seen for some time as his disdain for philosophy itself (he seems to think there are such things as "facts" and that they trump any format or matrix or philosophical context for them) may, indeed, be right. i don't know enough about modern "philosophy of science" to say. is there still such a thing? can one still get a phd in "history and philosophy of science", as my dad did? i honestly don't know. i sent him the article to see what he might have to say about it.

just two things: philosophically speaking :) i can't help but notice that a. many "dead" things have more influence on our lives than "living" things, and b:

scientific "facts", on their own, provide no context and indeed cannot be fathomed (or attained?) without such context. and what do we now call this context? is it just the term "philosophy of science" that is "dead"? if so, what is the new term? because the need for context isn't going anywhere as far as i can see.

My response to such sentiments about philosophy usually starts with: "If you're starving, you can't eat philosophy."

this is not exactly the case. huge populations, much larger than that of the u.s., have been subsisting on little more than philosophy for a long time. and in the long run, i can see them kicking your well-fed asses good and proper. historically, it would be far from a precedent. vietnam, anyone? and, in the future, india, china...i wouldn't be so sure about the value of values over cheap eats when push comes to shove. human strengths do not boil down to nutrition and in fact the opposite has often been shown, historically, to be true.

addendum: a seige on a city, say, with literal starvation as it's goal, can and has been very effective. but never on the entire population of a country to the best of my knowledge. human stubborness trumps food almost every time, taking into consideration that people can and will eat almost anything- but they won't THINK just anything.

Interesting facts about the philosopy of science on wikipedia

Also here is an interesting list of philosophers of science.

This guy is the most recent philosopher of science mentioned.

In my experience, I had no knowledge about the philosophy of science while attending high school and university. It has only been in recent years that I have dipped my toes into these waters.

re: don't lose your cool.

too late, I've lost it. See

"At California Nuclear Plant, Earthquake Response Plan Not Required "

"Back when the California plant was being finalized in the mid-1980s, local activists and environmental lawyers sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an effort to slow the project, arguing that the clear risks from earthquakes nearby required additional planning....

The case made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., where a 5-4 majority -- including current Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Clinton independent counsel Kenneth Starr -- ruled that earthquakes did not have to be included in the plant's emergency response plans...."


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