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Thread: Mathematical model vs 'visualisation'

  1. #1 Mathematical model vs 'visualisation' 
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    I cannot fail to notice the way in which so much basic misunderstanding of deep science is caused by the need on behalf of teachers and especially the producers of pop science programs to try and help us 'visualise' objects or processes. At School we are shown models of atoms and molecules, then at university we learn that actually these are merely visualisation and that all that is really known, is that there are some mathematical laws and equations which enable us to make testable predictions about how these entities will behave. I think it may have been Feynman who said ';if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't'.
    Wave particle duality is another one, it can clearly be demonstrated but there is no easy way to actually visualise what is going on, in fact 'visualise' in this sense is actually nonsense.
    So, why then do we feel the need for things to be made 'visual' and does it really help? I contend that scientists would get better press if firstly they admitted more often that they don't 'understand' the deep issues and secondly that they took more time to describe what science actually is, ie a process or system for increasing understanding and not a belief or dogma.


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  3. #2  
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    All true. But as it stands, current education levels do not account for a strong grasp of the sciences. This being the case, analogies and visualizations become necessary for even those without a background in higher math that vote to be made aware of the importance of the sciences.

    It is easy to dismiss that which you do not understand.


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  4. #3  
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    You're talking about what Stewart and Cohen call "lies to children".
    A simple visualisation is needed, at the beginning stages at least, to give a working idea of how things are.
    The mathematical version, and the loss of simplified visuals are only required if someone intends to make a career out of the discipline.

    I contend that scientists would get better press if firstly they admitted more often that they don't 'understand' the deep issues
    And how well would that go down?
    How many people - those that aren't noticeably interested in science plus, far more importantly, those with a vested interest in proclaiming science to be wrong/ worthless/ misleading - would jump on the bandwagon of "See! They just admitted they don't understand it! Why should we listen to them?" while completely ignoring the fact that what science does works.

    While I agree that better science education would be (generally) a Good Thing 1 how many people need to know the ins and outs in their daily lives? How would deeper, more accurate knowledge affect their job/ lifestyle?
    Would knowing the chemistry of hydrocarbons and thermodynamics of internal combustion engines alter/ affect the average car driver?


    1 Capitalised because I've just finished re-re-re-re-reading Sellar & Yeatman.
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  5. #4  
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    Yes and I do broadly agree with what you say, however: I keep coming across this idea that scientists 'understand it all' when actually they don't, in fact all we have as scientists are 'current theories' which fit the best available data. For the public to really comprehend what science is about there should be more emphasis put on the fact that there is a very great deal which is still to be explained. And in all of my science education ( I am, for my sins, a 'science professional', sigh) there was never any real emphasis on teaching the basic philosophy and methodology' of science, we were left to absorb this by a kind of intellectual osmosis and now I find myself interviewing and selecting fresh graduates for my employer it seems that most of them dont seem to have a clue about these issues even if they have a first from a decent uni.
    And this is a particular issue when arguing atheism vs theism. The theists seem tio think that science is just another dogma.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeaunse23 View Post
    Yes and I do broadly agree with what you say, however: I keep coming across this idea that scientists 'understand it all' when actually they don't
    Oh that.
    Another pet peeve of mine.
    Apart from the previously-mentioned problem with that it's down to presentation.
    We get told what science does know.
    People like certainties.
    Because the "there's some (many) things science doesn't yet understand" isn't explicity stated then people tend to extrapolate - "I've just heard that science does know this. They haven't said there's things it doesn't know. Therefore it obviously knows it all".
    Meh, logic...

    now I find myself interviewing and selecting fresh graduates for my employer it seems that most of them dont seem to have a clue about these issues even if they have a first from a decent uni.
    Oh god! Don't start me on the new kids. Not if you value your ears.

    And this is a particular issue when arguing atheism vs theism. The theists seem tio think that science is just another dogma.
    That could be, and in my experience actually IS, a fish of a different kettle.
    Theists generally tend to hold to the idea that since their "certainties" are based on belief, so are everyone else's.
    I've knocked heads with a (large) number of theists who claimed that EVERYONE believes in something 1 and that not believing in god doesn't (in their view CANNOT) mean that the belief is lacking but that it has been "transferred" to a belief in science.
    They use the argument that "Okay, I'll admit that my belief in god is 'just' a belief if you admit that your 'belief' in science is equally 'credulity/ innate need to believe based'" - with the intent (possibly) that if you can show that your "belief" in science isn't a belief as such then, by extension, their position is equally rational. Relativism in action: we just hold different, equally valid, points of view on the subject.


    1 Trivially 2 true.
    2 For variable values of "trivial".
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeaunse23 View Post
    I cannot fail to notice the way in which so much basic misunderstanding of deep science is caused by the need on behalf of teachers and especially the producers of pop science programs to try and help us 'visualise' objects or processes. At School we are shown models of atoms and molecules, then at university we learn that actually these are merely visualisation and that all that is really known, is that there are some mathematical laws and equations which enable us to make testable predictions about how these entities will behave. I think it may have been Feynman who said ';if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't'.
    Wave particle duality is another one, it can clearly be demonstrated but there is no easy way to actually visualise what is going on, in fact 'visualise' in this sense is actually nonsense.
    So, why then do we feel the need for things to be made 'visual' and does it really help?
    If you can understand things without any sort of mental picture, then more power to you. If I have to rely on just mathematical abstractions, I'm going to struggle, and often do.
    I contend that scientists would get better press if firstly they admitted more often that they don't 'understand' the deep issues and secondly that they took more time to describe what science actually is, ie a process or system for increasing understanding and not a belief or dogma.
    This is a whole different subject. I don't see a real connection between this and people learning by use of visual models.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeaunse23 View Post
    Yes and I do broadly agree with what you say, however: I keep coming across this idea that scientists 'understand it all' when actually they don't, in fact all we have as scientists are 'current theories' which fit the best available data. For the public to really comprehend what science is about there should be more emphasis put on the fact that there is a very great deal which is still to be explained. And in all of my science education ( I am, for my sins, a 'science professional', sigh) there was never any real emphasis on teaching the basic philosophy and methodology' of science, we were left to absorb this by a kind of intellectual osmosis and now I find myself interviewing and selecting fresh graduates for my employer it seems that most of them dont seem to have a clue about these issues even if they have a first from a decent uni.
    And this is a particular issue when arguing atheism vs theism. The theists seem tio think that science is just another dogma.
    I hope you aren't arguing athesim vs theism with prospective employees.
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  9. #8  
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    Hi jeaunse#
    et.al.

    Some of us do not want simple certainties, nor simple answers.
    "The journey is the thing" or "don't try and give me the answer without telling me how you got there."

    And, yes there is indeed scientific dogma. Denying this is as ludicrous as claiming that there is no religous dogma, or philosophical dogma.
    Every human endeavour is built upon precedence, and therein lies dogma.

    as for visualization
    wow
    i cannot imagine any other viable approach
    it has to do with dimensions
    .............................................

    Equating religous dogma with theism is ludicrous
    just as
    equating scientific dogma with science is ludicrous.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    I hope you aren't arguing athesim vs theism with prospective employees.
    I read it as an additional statement.
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  11. #10  
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    I disagree with just using the math and don't try to understand the concept behind it. I think of the ball rolling down a slope to a flat surface. The angle the ball takes when it reaches the flat surface represents the deflection of light going through a glass of water. Math is good but the concept was entirely wrong as shown by Maxwell. I would rather get our concepts right.
    I tried that with my proto-science concept of describing energy in terms of subspace. Am I right or wrong? I do not know. The math still fits only now I can "understand" wave/particle duality. My ideas are at Subspace Science - Home
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  12. #11  
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    Nobody can 'understand' wave particle duality. I am deeply suspicious of people who say they can.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeaunse23 View Post
    I am deeply suspicious of people who say they can.
    Click the link and confirm the suspicion.
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  14. #13  
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    Ah yes, I see... we have a science fiction author in our midst.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidAuthor View Post
    I tried that with my proto-science concept of describing energy in terms of subspace. Am I right or wrong? I do not know.
    I do.
    You're wrong.
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  16. #15  
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    Good - Prove it!
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  17. #16  
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    Oh, you really don't know how science works, do you?
    Your speculations in that book require YOU to show they're correct.
    If you can't show they are they, they're not.
    That's how it works.
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  18. #17  
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    OK so: Lets change the way we think here. Lets start working from the premise that if you can't prove a theory is wrong then it must therefore, by logical inference be correct. This opens up whole new vistas of theoretical science!
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    I is a elf.
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  20. #19  
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    My invisible pink unicorn needs feeding!
    I'll be back in a couple of minutes.
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  21. #20  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    BTW, made up "equations" don't quite cut it, either.
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  22. #21  
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    Yeah but complicated diagrams are pretty convincing .....
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  23. #22  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    But if they were irrefutable scientific diagrams wouldn't they have more green in them?
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  24. #23  
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    And maybe a few Greek symbols?
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidAuthor View Post
    Good - Prove it!
    How about this:
    Description of Subspace
    [How can you "describe" something that has yet to be shown to exist?]
    A subspace [yet to be shown to exist] is a two dimensional space who’s inside is larger than it’s outside [what? Too much Dr. Who here methinks. You have to SHOW that this is so] ; the larger the circle, the smaller the outside circumference. [again: what? by definition a larger circle has a larger diameter - if you're going to redefine basic geometry you have to SHOW how it works] It is different than anything that we have seen in the physical universe. [yeah, it's also different from actual reality]
    It has a force on the outer circumference of nhc/2πr2 [see what I mean about "made up equations? Your units don't match ergo this "equation" is complete crap] where n is an integer number {1..infinity}, h is plank’s constant, c is the speed of light, and r is the radial distance from the center of the circle to the outside as measured in regular space [you mean we have to measure something that that we can't access and hasn't yet been shown to exist? How does one manage that, I wonder?] .
    Last edited by Dywyddyr; April 26th, 2013 at 01:00 AM.
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  26. #25  
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    Well I'm convinced, this changes everything. I look forward to reading about the forthcoming Nobel prize.
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  27. #26  
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    @davidAuthor - I recommend, strongly, that you stick to posting only in Pseudoscience or Trash from now on.
    Or, preferably, refrain from posting altogether.
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  28. #27  
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    The double helix bit is good, very original that.
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    The irony of this thread is it paints a false dichotomy between "higher math" and visualization." I don't think anyone can do higher math without the ability to do visualization, nor have I ever met a good mathematician who wasn't excellent at visualizing both real and abstract space--you can't do vector calculus without it, you can't do any of the geometries (e.g. elliptical or hyperbolic) without it--and by extrapolation you can't do science without also a strong ability to visualize physical processes.
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