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Cornell Team Says It's Unified the Structure of Scientific Theories

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the i-think-therefore-something-something dept.

Science 115

An anonymous reader writes "Cornell physicists say they've codified why science works, or more specifically, why scientific theories work – a meta-theory. Publishing online in the journal Science (abstract), the team has developed a unified computational framework they say exposes the hidden hierarchy of scientific theories by quantifying the degree to which predictions – like how a particular cellular mechanism might work under certain conditions, or how sound travels through space – depend on the detailed variables of a model."

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Short answer (4, Funny)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year ago | (#45302089)

42

Long answer (4, Informative)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year ago | (#45302143)

in the paper at http://arxiv.org/abs/1303.6738 [arxiv.org]

Re:Short answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302321)

No, we all know the correct answer is God. Because God is perfect. And the Bible is the word of God.

That's Dog! (1)

Quasimodem (719423) | about a year ago | (#45302403)

Dyslexics, sheesh!

Re:Short answer (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | about a year ago | (#45305025)

42

... Great, now I have to build yet another Earth to get the question!

What I want to know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302105)

What I want to know is the science behind how this new theory works. Have they done any research into that?

Re:What I want to know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302227)

And if science didn't work, it might be called voodoo.
That's about the long and short of the whole thing I suppose.

Re:What I want to know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45303885)

I suspect they're light on research. Or *Soulskill* is, anyway.

"...or how sound travels through space..."

Damn! You mean they lied to us in the trailer for /Alien/?

Theories about science... (2, Insightful)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45302115)

...are by definition metaphysics.

So perhaps this belongs in a philosophy journal, not a scientific one?

Re:Theories about science... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302205)

Stop writing half your sentence in the subject, it makes it unreadable!

Metaphysics is a science and thus it belongs into a science journal. If it had been a physics journal only your question would have made more sense.

Falsifiable? (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#45302529)

Anonymous Coward wrote:

Metaphysics is a science

I'll believe you when you can devise a way that metaphysical results, such as the result presented in this article, can be falsified.

I agree... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302831)

...with you.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about a year ago | (#45302211)

Too bad I don't have mod points to give.

My question is "how is this research more useful than a phone sanitizer?"

Re:Theories about science... (1)

Zordak (123132) | about a year ago | (#45302549)

Hey, don't knock the phone sanitizers. You never know when a worldwide telephone-borne epidemic might strike.

Re:Theories about science... (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#45302755)

Not much from what I can see.
The buzzword laden title suggests a whole lot more than the (limited) information in the article or the summary, and it all boils down to:

they find that in an impossibly complex system like a cell, only a few combinations of those variables end up predicting how a system will behave.

Which translates into Wheat from Chaff:
  After evaluating every variable you can find, only a few of those will be found to be important.

Well DUH!
The statisticians figured this out a hundred years ago. Just about every statistical test invented is designed to figure out precisely which variables matter.

Now if the good professor could just predict which variables will be important in advance, we could skip all this messy data collection and analysis and simply leap to conclusions.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year ago | (#45303515)

The buzzword laden title

Don't forget: that's the title of the ScienceBlog article.

The title of the paper? Parameter Space Compression Underlies Emergent Theories and Predictive Models

Possible answer (5, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45302847)

My question is "how is this research more useful than a phone sanitizer?"

I can't speak of the article because it's paywalled, but if you like I can answer your question from my impression of the abstract.

Scientific theories are ultimately about data compression: they allow us to represent a sea of experiential data in a small space. For example, to predict the travel of a cannonball you don't need an almanac cross-referencing all the cannon angles, all the possible gunpowder charges, and all the cannonball masses. There's an equation that lets you relate measured numbers to the arc of the cannonball, and it fits on half a page.

Scientific models are the same: they allow us to predict results from a simplified description. The brain contains an id, an ego, and a superego which have their own goals and weaknesses, and from this we can predict the general behaviour of people.

The problem is that we don't have any way to measure how good a theory is, or even whether it is any good at all; viz, the second example above. This, and our society's desperate motivation to publish, has led to a situation where we cannot always tell whether some science finding is significant or even true.

Some specific problems with science:

.) There's no way to determine which observations are outliers that should be discarded: It's done "by eye" of the researcher.
.) There's no way to determine whether the results are significant. Thresholds like "p<0.5" are arbitrary, and 5% of those results will be due to random chance.
.) There's no way to determine whether the data is linear or polynomial. It's currently done "by eye" of the researcher.
.) Linear and polynomial regression are based on minimizing least-squared error, which was chosen arbitrarily (by Laplace, IIRC) for no compelling reason. LSE regression is "approximately" right, but is frequently off and can be skewed by outliers &c.

(Of course, there are "proposed" and "this seems right" answers to each of these problems above. A comprehensive "theory of theories" would be able to show *why* something is right by compelling argument without arbitrary human choice.)

To date, pretty much all scientific research is done using "this seems right" methods of correlation and discovery. This is not a bad thing, it has served us well for 450 years and we've made a lot of progress this way.

If we could tack down the arbitrary choices to a computable algorithm, it would greatly enhance and streamline the process of science.

Re:Possible answer (2)

Prune (557140) | about a year ago | (#45303219)

A momentary web search for the title immediately returns the free preprint version: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1303.6738v1.pdf [arxiv.org]

Re:Possible answer (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year ago | (#45303483)

I can't speak of the article because it's paywalled

How do people not know about arXiv [arxiv.org] ?

Re:Possible answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45304211)

You make some good points, but I think the article falls far short in answering them. It basically boils down to principal component analysis for some simple models that we can compute analytically. If that's the answer to science, I need to get out...

Re:Possible answer (0, Flamebait)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45304429)

As a cyberneticist and information theorist I was right with you on science (or signal processing in general) being a form of (de)compression until you went bat-shit insane:

The brain contains an id, an ego, and a superego which have their own goals and weaknesses, and from this we can predict the general behaviour of people.

Prove it! When I look in a head I see a complex neuronal network. I don't find "id" or "ego" or "superego" or any other unfalsifiable bullshit.

The problem is that we don't have any way to measure how good a theory is, or even whether it is any good at all

Fool. How accurately the theory predicts actual outcomes in reality is the measure of a theory. As for your other philosophical bullishit: Protip: That's not a science. It's not based in reality. The way you determine which observations are outliers is not with an eye of the researcher, but with a statistics. The way to determine whether the results are significant is to distinguish them from random noise: It's why we have the Standard Deviations, and degrees of certainty (sigma).

I would continue, but it's clear you're just talking out your fool ass.

Here's some philosophy for you: We are all the same universe, each phenomena an event reflecting upon the one self; We record echoes of our experience and others find them familiar, thus science is done.

Re:Possible answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305265)

I think you missed what he was saying there... That Id, Ego, Superego thing was an example of a theory, and that indeed we don't know how good of a theory that is.... He's not bat shit insane. You just missed what he was saying. And then you insulted him. Always classy.

Re:Possible answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305335)

There's no way to determine which observations are outliers that should be discarded: It's done "by eye" of the researcher.

Not exactly. Proper researchers use objective ways of defining whether something is an outlier or not (see "studentized residuals" and "leverage"), they don't "eyeball" it. Also, just because a sample is an outlier doesn't necessarily mean it should be discarded: many times, the most interesting data points are outliers (though often _can_ be discarded if they results from technical artifacts, for instance).

There's no way to determine whether the results are significant. Thresholds like "p

Not exactly. First, no one uses "pThere's no way to determine whether the data is linear or polynomial. It's currently done "by eye" of the researcher.

Protip: *data* is neither linear nor polynomial. Do not confuse the map (i.e. models, trend/regression lines, whatever) with the territory (i.e. Reality).

Linear and polynomial regression are based on minimizing least-squared error, which was chosen arbitrarily (by Laplace, IIRC) for no compelling reason. LSE regression is "approximately" right, but is frequently off and can be skewed by outliers &c.

The reason why least-squares estimates/fitting are often used is because, in most situations, it gives you the same results as maximum-likelihood estimates/fitting. But, again, that's not a problem if you know what you are doing.

A famous statistician named Cox once said "all models are wrong, but some models are useful". Your problem seems to be that you confuse science/models with Reality.

What you stated are not "problems with science" itself, but possible problems in how science (or models) are sometimes obtained/generated. Just because some researchers do not know better than to perform "blind" ANOVA tests or linear least-square regressions, doesn't mean that there's something intrinsically wrong with mathematical models or science in general (apart from the fact that they are just models, NOT Reality).

Have a nice day.

captcha: greedy

Re:Possible answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305447)

There's no way to determine which observations are outliers that should be discarded: It's done "by eye" of the researcher.

Not exactly. Proper researchers use objective ways of defining whether something is an outlier or not (see "studentized residuals" and "leverage"), they don't "eyeball" it. Also, just because a sample is an outlier doesn't necessarily mean it should be discarded: many times, the most interesting data points are outliers (though often _can_ be discarded if they results from technical artifacts, for instance).

There's no way to determine whether the results are significant. Thresholds like "p *less-than* 0.5" are arbitrary, and 5% of those results will be due to random chance.

Not exactly. First, no one uses "p *less-than* 0.5" as threshold for anything (more like "p *less-than* 0.05"). Also, p *less-than* 0.05 threshold does NOT imply that "5% of the results are due to random chance". A p-value does NOT give you the "probability of false rejection of the null hypothesis given *data*" (i.e. what you said), but actually the "probability of *data* given that the null hypothesis is false": it's slightly similar, but it is NOT the same.

There's no way to determine whether the data is linear or polynomial. It's currently done "by eye" of the researcher.

Protip: *data* is neither linear nor polynomial. Do not confuse the map (i.e. models, trend/regression lines, whatever) with the territory (i.e. Reality).

Linear and polynomial regression are based on minimizing least-squared error, which was chosen arbitrarily (by Laplace, IIRC) for no compelling reason. LSE regression is "approximately" right, but is frequently off and can be skewed by outliers &c.

The reason why least-squares estimates/fitting are often used is because, in most situations, it gives you the same results as maximum-likelihood estimates/fitting. But, again, that's not a problem if you know what you are doing.

A famous statistician named Cox once said "all models are wrong, but some models are useful". Your problem seems to be that you confuse science/models with Reality.

What you stated are not "problems with science" itself, but possible problems in how science (or models) are sometimes obtained/generated. Just because some researchers do not know better than to perform "blind" ANOVA tests or linear least-square regressions, doesn't mean that there's something intrinsically wrong with mathematical models or science in general (apart from the fact that they are just models, NOT Reality).

Have a nice day.

(sorry for double-posting, but Slashdot mangled my post, as always)

Re:Theories about science... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302275)

True, but scientists are largely the ones that need to understand exactly how their theories work as theories, in order to better make them, and explain them. Science is built upon Empiricism, which is purely a philosophy about how we can get answers from the world. This is very similar: a way to organize those answers better. Most of this is obvious, but it is nonetheless important for actual scientists to understand.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about a year ago | (#45302591)

It's not that obvious, or I wouldn't see so damned many posts on Slashdot where people insist that you can prove the scientific method itself from within science, and other such fallacies. Empiricism is not really at all the same as Naive Realism, and yet there are plenty of people here who argue as though they were classic Realists, but think they are arguing "Scientifically".

Re:Theories about science... (2)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about a year ago | (#45302991)

I don't think scientists need to understand how theories work in order to come up with better theories.
In reality, you discover exact places where your theory does NOT work in order to develop a better theory.

What they have discovered is statistical regression, not basic science. Sure, there are just a few factors of a cell that will predict--WITHIN A REASONABLE RANGE OF ERRORS--what a cell will do in the future.
That doesn't mean you can build a cell with only those parts and nothing else. If you want a working cell, you need all that 'irrelevant' crap.
imo, if you're going to try to prove proof, start with math. Read Godel then realize that Pythagoras was wrong about both of his major ideas--that the infinitely long and infinitely dense set of rational numbers describes every length possible and that the harmonics of a plucked string are self-consistent (read about the differences between the equal-tempered and well-tempered musical scales).

Theories about bacon: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302303)

Meatphysics

I can think of nothing brasher

Than a thick and hearty rasher

With which, and some gusto, to break fast

Along with egg so sunny

Side up, a little runny

Oh, would these magic moments ever last!

Re:Theories about bacon: (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#45302815)

I think you meant Cosmonaut.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302345)

Perhaps it works as a sort of a Nash equilibrium. Understanding reality tend to produce best results, long term. In short term, people could play other hands due to other positions but in long term, the reality remains and the rest changes. Eventually, it is reality that is acknowledged.

That is why science wins eventually and every time over superstition and ignorance. Non-science can only win if no players remain ;)

Re:Theories about science... (2)

mbkennel (97636) | about a year ago | (#45302499)


"That is why science wins eventually and every time over superstition and ignorance."

Unless accompanied by massive barbarian hordes.

"Non-science can only win if no players remain ;)"

That's an accepted strategy: off with their head.

Re:Theories about science... (4, Interesting)

DriedClexler (814907) | about a year ago | (#45302563)

Scott Aaronson (of quantum computing fame) wrote a great paper on the implications of computational complexity theory [arxiv.org] for for philosophy, and he addresses a related issue, about "why should science work at all", specifically Occam's Razor.

He relates it to Valiant's PAC-learning model, which says that the more complexity your model allows (higher VC dimension), the lower the probability that any theory you match to the observe data will correctly generalize, hence why less complex theories tend to be more correct when going outside the sample data.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

itsme1234 (199680) | about a year ago | (#45302887)

Thank you Sir,

this is now on my top "to read" list once I manage to push away a little bit the usual clutter.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

Prune (557140) | about a year ago | (#45303177)

> the lower the probability that any theory you match to the observe data will correctly generalize, hence why less complex theories tend to be more correct when going outside the sample data

So what's old is new again, eh? The probabilistic justification for Occam's razor is far older than Mr Aaronson, dating decades back to decision trees. I suggest that next time you give credit where credit is due.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | about a year ago | (#45303275)

"He relates it to ... which says ... ".

Re:Theories about science... (1)

Prune (557140) | about a year ago | (#45303333)

Apologies!

Re:Theories about science... (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45305657)

[sig]> http://plover.net/~bonds/asdf.html (not mine, unfortunately)

Dang. The webmaster of asdf.org, asdf.fi, and asdf.ee (i.e. me) wants the rights to host that webcomic! Maybe I'll have to draw my own...

Re:Theories about science... (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#45303033)

More logic than philosophy.
Philosophy is unfortunately a pseudo-science, and is often in conflict with logic.

Re:Theories about science... (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45305469)

There's plenty of logic to be found in the gamut of topics under teh umbrella called "philosophy", but basically no philosophy in what's called "logic". However, I admit I'm biased. I remember at university the pure mathematicians (inc. me) used to get particularly wound up by the philosophy grads - they really were wackos (who were indulgin in metaphysics most of the time).

Re:Theories about science... (3, Informative)

ljw1004 (764174) | about a year ago | (#45303257)

If you take as axiomatic that all science should go solely in a science journal, and all discussion about science should go solely in a philosophy journal, and there exists science which is also a discussion about science -- then where should it go?

The authors are making the claim that science can be used to discuss science, and they back it up with a decent analysis. Either their claim is wrong, or your axioms are wrong. You can't make this go away just by waving your hands about definitions.

PS. Original definition of metaphysics was "the chapter in the book that came after [greek: "meta"] the chapter on physics". So no, not metaphysics by this definition either :)

Re:Theories about science... (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45305565)

One can contrive a middle ground that bridges the gap. There was bugger all posted to this thread, which I found boring, I'm glad I managed to whip up some interesting discussion. In particular getting the Aaronson link was a win.

Hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302155)

I predict hardly anybody will give a shit

Re:Hypothesis (1)

Quasimodem (719423) | about a year ago | (#45302467)

If this is the real deal, everyone will shit themselves when they see what can be done with it.

Brilliant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302191)

I propose for future theories we slice aways these so called "sloppy" details and focus on the the "stiff" details. We should only bother including additional details if they prove sufficiently "stiff" by adding explanatory power.

--Ockham [wikipedia.org]

Re:Brilliant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45303727)

--Ockham [wikipedia.org]

Isn't that the guy with no beard, who therefore must have had it chewed off by a squirrel?

Well that's a Hilbert Problem....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302193)

specifically the sixth problem:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilbert's_sixth_problem

And I'm VERY skeptical that they solved that problem. They should be able to solve all of the outstanding problems in mathematics then, specifically the Millennium Prize problems. They should either be able to give an answer if those problems are decidable, or prove that they are undecidable.

The abstract.. (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#45302197)

The abstract is a heck of a lot more clear than the description posted:

"We report a similarity between the microscopic parameter dependance of emergent theories in physics and that of multiparameter models common in other areas of science. In both cases, predictions are possible despite large uncertainties in the microscopic parameters because these details are compressed into just a few governing parameters that are sufficient to describe relevant observables. We make this commonality explicit by examining parameter sensitivity in a hopping model of diffusion and a generalized Ising model of ferromagnetism. We trace the emergence of a smaller effective model to the development of a hierarchy of parameter importance quantified by the eigenvalues of the Fisher Information Matrix. Strikingly, the same hierarchy appears ubiquitously in models taken from diverse areas of science. We conclude that the emergence of effective continuum and universal theories in physics is due to the same parameter space hierarchy that underlies predictive modeling in other areas of science."

Re:The abstract.. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#45302489)

"The abstract is a heck of a lot more clear than the description posted:"

It also actually makes sense. Looking at OP, I found myself thinking, "So? What's new about that?"

The abstract is indeed much more clear and coherent.

Re:The abstract.. (1)

mbkennel (97636) | about a year ago | (#45302523)

| I found myself thinking, "So? What's new about that?"

Quantification, a reasonably precise definition of predictive power, and empirical/observational results.

Re:The abstract.. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#45304391)

No, you missed the point.

I know what the paper is about. But the explanation given in OP and on ScienceBlog (OP's first link) are vague and in the latter case, actually confuse the issue.

Re:The abstract.. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#45302579)

Or rather, not OP but the first link in OP. ScienceBlog's "explanation" seemed to confuse the issue more than explain.

Re:The abstract.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302501)

Wow. A group of scientists actually engaging in... science. It's almost as though they believe in the Scientific Method. This... This is bizarre by modern standards. Especially for particle physics. Ordinarily, we're just expected to bow down to the golden idol known as Einstein and pray to Him for Enlightenment, but this might actually show us something.

Re:The abstract.. (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#45302841)

More like a group of physicists suddenly discovering ANOVA [wikipedia.org]

Re:The abstract.. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#45304633)

My wife's PhD required the MANOVA, which forced the use of R, which is a truly horrible language. But it does support MANOVA.

ANOVA is for for people who don't understand that the thing they're looking at is more complex than their test is designed for.

in other words (2)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#45302675)

Scientific theories only works when the minute details don't significantly affect the macro behavior (and vis-versa). That is, if there is a hierarchy of behaviors where theories can match the observations with some small uncertainty, the illusion of science is created with the assumed emergent continuum between apparently self-consistent levels of heirarchy.

Example of a simple hierarchy: the earth going around the sun is a macro-behavior, and testing molecular motion in a test-tube is a micro behavior. Although the hierarchy is not restricted simply to scale, but any aggregated parameter scientific model.

If a theory emerges for each where you assume the parametric effects on the other level of hierarchy are in the noise, you can discover a scientific theory (e.g., make hypothesis, test them, refine, etc), if no hierarchy emerges, you apparently cannot have scientific theory (e.g., cannot create testable hypothesis). Additionally, if you do have a scientific theory, you are implicity assuming that there is a continuum between the levels of your hierarchy (which is the underlying assumption of science).

These folks apparently assert that taking the eigenvalues of the Fisher Information Matrix predicts the emergence of a hierarchy. This apparently is because similar patterns result when analyzing the scientific modeling in other fields which have presumed scientific theories and they are theorizing that this is some sort of prerequisite of any model for which a scientific theory can be formed.

Why a scientist gets a "Ph.D"" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302199)

Ph.D == Doctor of Philosophy; which is exactly what this article sounds like to me.

Now they have applied their tools to physics theories, and found a similar division into stiff and sloppy: The former, stiff rules, comprise the useful information pertaining to a high-level or coarse description of the phenomenon being considered, whereas the latter, sloppy ones, hide microscopic complexity that becomes relevant at finer scales of a more elementary theory. In other words, Sethna says, “We’re coming to grips with how science works.

Oh brother!

Publicitus Interruptus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302407)

"stiff and sloppy" variables.

I think they're saying they got a stiffy when they got published but didn't take that so far they got sloppy

This Just In (0)

The Cat (19816) | about a year ago | (#45302245)

Scientists learn to fellate themselves. Our call for a quote was not immediately returned.

Re:This Just In (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302351)

Better scientists fellating themselves than priest forcing kids to fellate them.

Car analogy? (3, Funny)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#45302269)

Can someone explain this with a car analogy?

Re:Car analogy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302441)

someone hits the gas pedal, the wheels spin and the car goes forward...

Re:Car analogy? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302465)

A quantum mechanic is a person who works on really tiny cars.

Re:Car analogy? (2)

sharknado (3217097) | about a year ago | (#45302551)

Easy. Cornell physicists say they've codified why cars work, or more specifically, why car theories work – a meta-car-theory. Publishing online in the journal Science (abstract), the team has developed a unified driving framework they say exposes the hidden hierarchy of car theories by quantifying the degree to which predictions – like how a particular cellular battery might work under certain conditions, or how sound travels through the car's subwoofer – depend on the detailed variables of a model car.

Re:Car analogy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302999)

They built a car that uses other cars as roads.

Re:Car analogy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45304467)

If you're driving an incomplete vehicle, invariably, you'll need to guess if you're going to make it to where you're going. This meta-theory is a way to count how many things might go wrong on the journey, and possibly what those things may be. This explicitly shows the reliability of the said incomplete vehicle. This meta-theory hasn't been discovered before because there are a vast variety of vehicles, most of which are capable of more than one function.

Re:Car analogy? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45304665)

Can someone explain this with a car analogy?

In what some deem a massive effort of Not Invented Here syndrome a Cornell Team completes its quest to re-invent the wheel by independently rediscovering information theory.

Sorry, it's too straight forward to understand, so I could only fit the wheel of the car in there.

In space, no one can hear you scream (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a year ago | (#45302279)

Sound travels in a medium not empty space.

Re:In space, no one can hear you scream (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | about a year ago | (#45302435)

Sound travels in a medium not empty space.

In some theories empty space _is_ a medium, so does this mean that some theories are just a little more sound?

Re:In space, no one can hear you scream (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a year ago | (#45302711)

You're starting a whisper campaign aren't you....

Re:In space, no one can hear you scream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302473)

Atta boy! Here's a fortune cookie. Let's see what it says... "The only completely empty space is the one between mdsolar's ears." How appropriate!

Can anyone help me find something I lost? It is a word, I dropped it in the summary, but I can't seem to find it. It starts with "e".

Damn paywalls! (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45302287)

Damn! That article might be centrally relevant to my research right now, but I can't tell from the abstract (it might also be an unrelated specific corner of physics).

It's behind a paywall, they want money just to find out.

Can anyone find a free copy that we can examine?

(I'm wondering how useful it is to post news articles about papers that the public can't read. We could, as a group [i.e. - Slashdot], help promote open science by not publicizing closed-source articles.)

Re:Damn paywalls! (2)

mghiggins (61851) | about a year ago | (#45302365)

> Can anyone find a free copy that we can examine?

Archive link [arxiv.org]

Thanks! (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45303003)

I did search Arxiv before posting, but somehow missed it.

Thanks a lot!!!

Double Pendulums of Reality (4, Interesting)

deathcloset (626704) | about a year ago | (#45302341)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_pendulum [wikipedia.org]

There is so much redundancy in the universe. It looks chaotic to us, but I think that really everything is just looping (orbiting/spinning) asynchronously so it appears that all this complicated random stuff is happening, but really it's all just a crap-ton of super-simple systems interacting. I think that science and reality are so obvious sometimes that we just can't see them - like air. The ancients knew that there was wind, that they could blow paper off a table and that it was hard to breath at high altitudes, but they didn't know until Empedocles (500–435 B.C.) used a clepsydras, or water-thief, to discover air that these were truly the same things.

And gravity, the overused example, was thought by the ancients to be a set of unrelated actions and happenings - to quote Disney's "the Sword and the Stone"

Merlin: Don't take gravity too lightly or it'll catch up with you.

Arthur: What's gravity?

Merlin: Gravity is what causes you to fall.

Arthur: Oh, like a stumble or a trip?

Merlin: Yes, it's like a stumble or a- No, no, no, it's the force that pulls you downward, the phenomenon that any two material particles or bodies, if free to move, will be accelerated toward each other

So, does that make it a...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302401)

So, does that make it a "Grand Unified Theory" theory?

Re:So, does that make it a...? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#45302459)

No, just a bit more unified.

Re:So, does that make it a...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45304319)

No, it would be Grand Unified Grand Unified Field Theory Theory.

MMmm pi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302413)

This sounds a bit like a formalization, or maybe an expansion of, the Buckingham Pi theorem.

I, for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302469)

Welcome our gorge-traversing overlords.

And then, there's another standard (0)

unfortunateson (527551) | about a year ago | (#45302485)

Long since documented by our buddy Randall: http://xkcd.com/927/ [xkcd.com]

http://xkcd.com/927/ (1)

TopSpin (753) | about a year ago | (#45302665)

So we're just randomly posting that link to every Slashdot story now?

Re: http://xkcd.com/927/ (2)

bluewhale (764435) | about a year ago | (#45302975)

Ok, here you go : http://xkcd.com/793/ [xkcd.com]

say whay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302511)

'or how sound travels through space'

I thought that in space noone could hear you scream?!?

When I see "...unify..." in an article's title (1)

theatrociousone (3010499) | about a year ago | (#45302525)

All that goes through my head is Bad Religion's "The Answer [wikia.com] ". And yes, I know the song is referring to religious zealotry, but it just happens any time I hear anything about "the answer to everything is...".

Hidden leap (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about a year ago | (#45302535)

Does their theory explain how their own theory works?

Cause' otherwise its really something else that "works".

Like an opinion or belief or something subjective like that.

Re:Hidden leap (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about a year ago | (#45303083)

If their own theory explains how it works, then perhaps they can fix the logic problem of Godel's ;-)

As far as real science is concerned, I think physicists miss the idea of looking for limits. Predict or derive Chemistry from classical physics.
It can either be done or not (I think it is impossible). If it cannot be done, then physics does NOT describe the entire universe.
Get that layering of emergent reality locked into your head and perhaps physicists will find ways to decide which of the layers of quantum physics are truly separate from each other and non-derivable from the next lower level. That will end up being the foundation of the next revolution in science.

Re:Hidden leap (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about a year ago | (#45303179)

Is your suggestion that physics is not granular enough to describe the entire universe?

Re:Hidden leap (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about a year ago | (#45303991)

No, I am not looking at the granularity.I am examining fundamental assumptions.
If you are going to have the basic building block of the universe, then that means it can build the _entire_ universe, including Chemistry and Biology.
imo, we cannot derive either of those from physics so there is a limit to what physics can build of the universe.
My 'logic' is that if there is a limit at one end, I suspect there is a limit at the other, that there are more separate layers that cannot imply or be derived from others.

The problem of basic granularity is different. If matter equals energy, then the very smallest piece of matter must be whatever the smallest piece of energy could be. (Matter might actually be bigger than Planck's constant, but it cannot be smaller). imo, if you want to get smaller, then you will be inside a different sort of science that cannot talk about matter at all. And once you are there, I don't believe you can derive matter from that stuff any easier than you can derive Biology from Chemistry.

imo, the universe includes everything. It isn't just to describe things outside of the earthly domain.

Re:Hidden leap (1)

lennier (44736) | about a year ago | (#45305653)

If you are going to have the basic building block of the universe, then that means it can build the _entire_ universe, including Chemistry and Biology.
imo, we cannot derive either of those from physics so there is a limit to what physics can build of the universe.

That statement would raise a lot of eyebrows among the materialists. The whole point of computer simulations of chemical molecules is that the behaviour of substances can be derived from physics.

But interestingly, I was startled to find that even something as fairly basic as the chemical properties of atoms isn't actually derived from the lower-level quantum-mechanical equations for those atoms, the way I thought it worked in high school. Although theoretically science is a layered model, with physics at the bottom, then chemistry, then biology, then psychology/sociology at the top - it actually wasn't constructed like that and hasn't really been fully validated all the way down. In chemistry, we have a big lookup table of empirically-derived constants that we're pretty sure could be computed from the lower levels, but actually aren't. In fact, it's considered something of a very hard computational problem to run the actual QM equations of even a couple of atoms, so everything is done with approximations. And when there's a workable theory at a higher level that approximates its own domain reasonably well, and fits with a lower theory at at least a couple of points, that's usually considered good enough.

It is a bit of an illusion, the claim that all of science is fully derivable from maths plus physics. It's really a set of linked abstractions and approximations, and like most abstractions, the interfaces between them tend to hide a lot of subtle complexity that each abstraction itself might not include in its own model.

It sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45302869)

They are intentionally trying to set themselves up to explain the differences between Physics on the large scale and the quantum level (which some would have considered a Holy Grail "Explanation of Everything").

Re:It sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45304373)

Nahhh, it's more like the Theory of the Theory of Everything.

Quake 5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45303183)

now with the RealLife © engine!

AKA: Mathematics (1)

Myu (823582) | about a year ago | (#45303293)

Scientific models tend to express a common computational relationship. That's because we like to quantify things in scientific models, and perhaps unsurprisingly, we have a fairly standard paradigm for quantitative analysis in our mathematical algebraic, geometric and topological models.

The physicists here are discussing a feature of using information theory to generalize how certain fixed parameters can take values at different scales while still preserving most of their predictive structure. That's all.

Science journalists need to stop sensationalizing mathematically interesting results. This is a neat account of scale and pattern matching in applied mathematics, but it's not a "unified theory of all scientific theorising" any more than, say, Bayesian Inference is.

For the rest of us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45303381)

I wonder if anyone will ever be able to explain what they're saying to the rest of us. Looks like total gibberish, or Wolfram's NKS.

Re:For the rest of us? (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | about a year ago | (#45303785)

It's a complicated equivalent of Hank Occam's shaving system, explaining why even if butterfly flutters can cause hurricanes, they cannot do so in the next few minutes. Any theory that says they can is likely to be wrong.

Can't "Come to grips with how science works" (1)

surd1618 (1878068) | about a year ago | (#45303737)

The point of science ought to be to train you to think deductively, if your intellectual interests lie in the natural world. I am glad that most of the variables in most scientific models are irrelevant, and as others have commented, statisticians make much hay of this fact. But the next time someone comes along and shows why some tiny discrepency in calculated values is actually due to some effect that nobody understood before, there will be tremendous ramifications. The most famous example would be that the actual mass lost in uranium fission is 0.1%. Sure, only a few things matter to make fission happen, but that's not the science, that's engineering. The science is checking all the things we think are true, and then comparing our assumptions to our observations. So maybe, as in the case of a cell, if you want to design drugs *a lot like the ones we already have* you can ignore most of the variables in cell biology and just focus on the relevant ones. But that's not science, that's the application of science. Science comes from applying patterns that nobody even considered before. I'm studying group theory right now, so quantum mechanics comes to mind. New logic==all bets are off. That's it.

Predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45305493)

Science can make some interesting predictions about the possible future states of a system without necessarily telling you the future state the system will take. For example, if an isolated astronaut were in space and threw a baseball in one direction he will move in the opposite direction such that angular momentum will be conserved. Our oversimplified physics and chemistry model may not be able to tell you the exact location the astronaut - ball system will be in twenty hours from now but it can tell you that angular momentum will be conserved so we should not expect the isolated astronaut (with no other forces acting on him) to be traveling twenty miles an hour in one direction without the ball traveling at some predictable speed in the other. So a simplified model of physics may give us an array of possible (or impossible) future states a system can later take without necessarily telling us the exact future state the system will take. This can help us make (generalized) predictions about what the future may and may not hold without telling us exactly what the future will hold.

Another example is if you spill a bucket of water onto the ground. Science may not tell us exactly where each water molecule is going to land but it will, statistically, tell us that the water molecules will tend to go down and land in this approximate location. Or if you mix two chemicals for a chemical reaction. You may not know exactly what molecule will interact with each and exactly when and how each and every molecule is going to behave but chemistry can give you a useful approximation of their tendencies (products, reactants, etc...) to get a pretty good and useful idea of the future state of the reaction.

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