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← The Poetry of Science: Neil deGrasse Tyson & Richard Dawkins

The Poetry of Science: Neil deGrasse Tyson & Richard Dawkins - Comments

ergaster's Avatar Comment 1 by ergaster

At last!

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:11:06 UTC | #536504

ptdc's Avatar Comment 2 by ptdc

Won-der-ful.

NdGT's exuberance makes him declare, "I have a couple of words to say to that", and proceed to deliver a 500 paragraph spiel.:-)

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:28:56 UTC | #536510

Ygern's Avatar Comment 3 by Ygern

Thanks for making the whole conversation available! It was great to listen to an uninterrupted unmoderated discussion.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:47:32 UTC | #536516

holalkere's Avatar Comment 4 by holalkere

Made my evening! Thanks! But without a moderator to interrupt, tyson took it upon himself. he interrupted so many times, some times valuable, but many times with some attempts of wasteful humor. Interrupting dawkins is such a waste! Every time he speaks he only utters brilliant, valuable thoughts. Tyson has good stuff to contribute too, and dawkins realizes that and doesn't interrupt.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:51:50 UTC | #536521

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 5 by Letsbereasonable

I think RD had a legitimate question which wasn't answered adequately. He asked what lay beyond the 'edge' of our expanding universe. My understanding is that what is expanding is existence itself, and therefore there is no 'beyond'. This as I understand it is the explanation for the Big Bang happening 'everywhere'. Yet I have great difficulty with conceptualising the edge of existence, if such a thing is meaningful.

And I thought there might have been a better explanation for our 'switched-off' sensory genes being switched off; by perhaps correlating these events with our developing intelligence. I have always wondered when humanness began, and perhaps it was the changeover from reliance on sensory apparatus to reliance on intelligence that marked the beginning of humanness. After intelligence becomes selected as the predominant survival equipment, much of the sensory apparatus is selected 'off'.

I don't agree with the odds of life elsewhere in the universe being high. One has to imagine the probability of the event-stream, indifferently capricious as the billions of incidental occurrences in our case were, happening in similar order again. I can't agree that this is the case, but it is only a hunch-like opinion. I don't think human ego-centrism has anything to do with it. It is a matter of reconciling imagined probabilities and improbabilities.

Still not sure about the discussion format. It's worth trying but for my taste there is too much recourse to banter and going for laughs. It sort of wastes valuable time considering, in this case, the quality of the information that must have been in these guy's heads. Sorry.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:59:52 UTC | #536527

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 6 by AtheistEgbert

Fantastic reply to the last question by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Worth quoting in future.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:03:39 UTC | #536531

The Plc's Avatar Comment 7 by The Plc

Fantastic chat, even if Dawkins was just a tad too quiet. I liked his veiled swipe at Philosophers who know absolutely nothing about science. Bloody reality deniers.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:13:22 UTC | #536537

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Comment 5 by Letsbereasonable

Yet I have great difficulty with conceptualising the edge of existence, if such a thing is meaningful.

It isn't meaningful, as you suspect.

I agree that the question wasn't well answered. I'll have a go, as it's a very interesting one.

What is beyond the edge of our expanding universe is probably more of the same, at least for a while. It depends on which model of the universe is true, if any. If the universe isn't infinite and relatively small then what you might eventually, in principle, see beyond the edge is the back of your head, as a finite universe could be "spherical" internally. This doesn't involve the universe being curved into anything, it's just that the topology of space would be that way. If the universe is big, then what you might see is areas with different physical properties - there might be a different value for some physical constants, perhaps. It's probably more likely that there is just more of the same for a very, very long way as a result of inflation. What you won't see is a "edge of reality". The universe either goes on forever, in which case there is no edge, or it wraps around, in which case there is still no edge.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:19:21 UTC | #536539

strubie's Avatar Comment 9 by strubie

I really do like Neil, but the does tend to go on and on and on.... Despite that fact, I found the conversation really stimulating and leaves me with much to think about. If I had been there, I would have asked Richard to give his view on how a scientist who adheres to the mainstream Christian belief that his or her god intervenes in the natural world can do a proper analysis of data collected in the laboratory seeing as how, at least as far as I have ever seen, there is no statistical tool to account for the possibility of such supernatural intervention.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:42:12 UTC | #536550

swimminglikeaquaman's Avatar Comment 10 by swimminglikeaquaman

beautiful two great minds coming together. =]

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:47:44 UTC | #536551

green and dying's Avatar Comment 11 by green and dying

Dawkins is wrong about kilometres and centimetres - anyone educated in Britain in the 90s or after is more comfortable with centimetres than inches. The only times I've ever used imperial are for human height and weight. My mum has no concept of grams and I have no concept of lbs, which makes baking with her interesting.

Interesting discussion though.

Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:56:08 UTC | #536553

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 12 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Thanks for your input. I think rather than trying to conceptualise I should accept, I'm loath to say, some things on faith rather than on personal understanding. One has to accept, for example, that the speed of light is the constant in the universe and not time. This is not an easy thing to accept intuitively - in fact it's impossible.

The topology of a closed universe is similarly impossible to visualise. Expansion suggests movement - going from somewhere to somewhere else. The obvious question is; from where to where? And if the entire expanding universe comprises expanding existence itself, the universe has always been infinite.

The popular model of the expanding universe often used is that of the rising currant cake. One can appreciate from this model the currants moving away from one another at an equal rate whichever currant is selected as a reference. But the currant cake has an 'edge'. If what lies beyond this edge we can say to be 'nothing'; that the edge is the edge of reality as you put it, then the currant cake model fails. There will be a currant right on the edge for sure. I simply can't think of a visualisable model that can take over.

And so if Anaximander is around he'll want to wade into this one as well. It is very interesting, as you say.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 00:05:47 UTC | #536558

Blondin's Avatar Comment 13 by Blondin

It sounded like that last question was some kind of atheist-foxhole trap. I got the impression he was trying to get one of them to say he would become a believer on his death bed. If that's not what he was up to then what the hell was he asking?

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 00:06:33 UTC | #536559

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 14 by Steve Zara

Comment 12 by Letsbereasonable

The shape of space is a bit of a problem to visualise. It's sometimes suggested we think of space as the surface of a balloon - as the balloon blows up, all points on its surface move away from each other with equal velocity. The problem is that the balloon model is misleading, as space can be curved like the surface of the balloon, but without curving into anything: there need be no 4th spacial dimension from which you can look at the curved 3d space!

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 00:12:53 UTC | #536561

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 15 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 11 by green and dying :

My mum has no concept of grams and I have no concept of lbs, which makes baking with her interesting.

And it made the operation of the Hubble space telescope interesting too!

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 00:22:00 UTC | #536564

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 16 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 13 by Blondin :

It sounded like that last question was some kind of atheist-foxhole trap. I got the impression he was trying to get one of them to say he would become a believer on his death bed. If that's not what he was up to then what the hell was he asking?

He thought he was being a clever ass, but I think it fell apart.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 00:27:29 UTC | #536565

Jah's Avatar Comment 17 by Jah

Video of Bonobo Communicating with Human

Time Article regarding the same Great Ape Trust: Link

Regarding communication with other species on Earth. Enjoy.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 01:52:23 UTC | #536606

speciman1729's Avatar Comment 18 by speciman1729

I agree with the others that Tyson didn't really answer the horizon question very well.

The way I'd say it is as follows: we can't see past our horizon because there is an opaque object in the way. Our horizon for electromagnetic radiation is the cosmic microwave background -- the heavily red-shifted glow of a cloud of ionized gas, similar in composition and temperature to the surface of a star. Cosmic neutrinos may be detectable slightly farther away, with the limiting surface being the quark-gluon plasma present just moments after the big bang. The fireball no doubt gets even more opaque from there. If all these things weren't in the way, we could look out and see what, if anything, was before the big bang, but then there would be no big bang in the first place.

Of course, what we see isn't what's there now. The standard model of cosmology says that loose strings of galaxies like the ones we occupy stretch uniformly outward far beyond the current location of the galaxies that formed from the gas that originally emitted the cosmic microwave background radiation. Hope this helps.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 02:30:24 UTC | #536611

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 19 by Alternative Carpark

Professor Dawkins disses the metric system.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 02:31:00 UTC | #536612

Letsbereasonable's Avatar Comment 20 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 19 by Alternative Carpark :

Professor Dawkins disses the metric system.

I think he was being facetiously reactionary. The overbearing EU has taken away such a lot of traditional 'Britishness' from British life in all manner of seemingly trivial areas that, especially among the older generation, there is stiffening of resistance, and in some cases a downright bloody-mindedness. It's a British thing.

RD will be as metric as they come in scientific life, but 2lbs of sugar and a pint of beer are sacrosanct.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 03:37:56 UTC | #536618

mmurray's Avatar Comment 21 by mmurray

Comment 20 by Letsbereasonable :

RD will be as metric as they come in scientific life, but 2lbs of sugar and a pint of beer are sacrosanct.

Having grown up imperial and converted to metric I don't see the problem. You just define a pint to be a serve of beer in a 568ml glass and move on. Just like a cup of flour means a 250ml container filled with flour.

There are problems with the euro sausage of course.

Michael

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 04:17:13 UTC | #536626

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 22 by Michael Gray

I thought that Tyson had quite the correct balance of humour for the audience. It made what might have been an interesting, but a bit dry, interaction reek of humanity.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 05:09:13 UTC | #536632

kyleclements's Avatar Comment 23 by kyleclements

Comment 20 by Letsbereasonable :

RD will be as metric as they come in scientific life, but 2lbs of sugar and a pint of beer are sacrosanct.

Speak for yourself. I'd take a litre of beer over a pint any day.

One thing I don't like about how the metric system has been implemented is how we are still using imperial measures and quantities, they are just labelled in metric units. I don't want a '1 gallon' pail with "3.78L" written on the side. Make it an even 4 litres. I don't want a 568 mL glass, I want either 500, or 1L.

Make things nice, round, even numbers.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 05:16:07 UTC | #536635

mmurray's Avatar Comment 24 by mmurray

Comment 23 by kyleclements :

One thing I don't like about how the metric system has been implemented is how we are still using imperial measures and quantities, they are just labelled in metric units. I don't want a '1 gallon' pail with "3.78L" written on the side. Make it an even 4 litres. I don't want a 568 mL glass, I want either 500, or 1L.

Make things nice, round, even numbers.

But you would have to throw out all the old 568 ml glasses. Maybe make them 600ml so everybody feels they are better off.

Out here the government fixed all that by allowing a short period of selling in both units and then just made selling in imperial units illegal. The tough one is changing all the road signage -- that gets expensive.

I was putting polyfilla on some cracks in a wall the other day and noticed the instructions say don't make one coat thicker than 0.6 cm. Why not 0.5 cm I wondered but then I realised 0.6 cm is 1/4 inch!

Michael

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 05:22:31 UTC | #536636

icouldbewrongbut's Avatar Comment 25 by icouldbewrongbut

(please correct me where necessary, space-cadets)

My current understanding of the universe via wikipedia is that: It is unknown how physically big "the actual universe" is and an infinite universe is still on the table. For a while I thought this wasn't the case since I often heard "the universe is x billion light years wide". It seems that scientists (or maybe its journalists =) ) are usually talking about the "visible universe" only, and often muddle things by calling it "the universe". Due to geometric stretching of space-time fabric, the distance to the 'edge' of the visible universe is about 46 billion light years away, not 13.7 billion. This means that the universe had to stretch geometrically faster than the speed of light as it were.

It is in the visible universe that there are an estimated 100B galaxies and 10^21 stars. It is unknown how big the 'actual' universe is - but in my mind, why would it be reasonable to presume that it is anywhere close to as 'small' as the visible universe, since that volume is arbitrarily limited and I don't think we see any lower density the further away objects are from us? It seems more likely to me that the actual universe (both volume and matter) would be vastly larger than the 93Bly diameter and 100B visible galaxies.

I think some of the confusion on this topic might be resolved by:

Clearly, constantly distinguishing that it's the visible universe that doesn't, in a sense, have an edge, since if you traveled 46B light years you'd be surrounded by stars with another distant visible-universe-horizon in all directions.

Constantly hammering home that it's just the visible universe that has 100B galaxies, but that there's no reason at all to assume that the actual universe isn't even infinitely more full of stars and galaxies.

There's also the notion of the shape of the universe and the theory that, regardless of the size of the 'actual' universe, it could wrap around on itself and not be infinite in volume. For me, this seemed to always get muddled with "there is no edge to the universe". I think that confusion arose when people were reporting information about the "visible universe" having no edge (really a moving visible horizon wherever you're viewing from) but calling it "the universe".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visible_universe#Misconceptions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 05:42:44 UTC | #536640

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 26 by Anaximander

It is unknown how big the 'actual' universe is

Yes. It is even unknown how big "our universe" is. Our universe here means our bubble in a multiverse. Outside of our bubble there is a region where inflation continues. And then very far away there are more bubbles where inflation has ended.

This according to some inflationary models. But we don't know which inflationary model is the right one. Or even if there was any inflation. But at least our measurements seem to indicate that our universe is at least few times bigger than we see.

This means that the universe had to stretch geometrically faster than the speed of light as it were.

If one object (galaxy) is going away from us at the speed of light, then an object that is more distant, will have a speed higher that the speed of light.

(My formulation is a little bit strange, but anyway.)

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 08:31:43 UTC | #536671

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 27 by Anaximander

Expansion suggests movement - going from somewhere to somewhere else. The obvious question is; from where to where?

If the Earth is expanding, then the distance between the cities would be bigger and bigger every day. But the cities are not going anywhere. (Their coordinates remain the same.)

There will be a currant right on the edge for sure.

That would be a strange place to live ;) What would they see? But maybe (if there exists such a place) there cannot be life there. It could be that such a place has a time coordinate about zero. (The temporal distance from the big bang would be very low - so that it would be very hot there.) But maybe I'm wrong.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 08:47:14 UTC | #536679

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 28 by Anaximander

Oh, now I understand. The time coordinate "at the edge" would be about zero and so the distance to the cosmic horizon (of the observable universe) there would be, for example, 1 millimeter. So that anything there cannot see "to the edge of the bubble."

(In this model that I just invented. It could be an entirely wrong and even meaningless model.)

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 08:54:49 UTC | #536683

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 29 by justinesaracen

I love to hear both of these guys talk, but I have to say I began to get really irritated by Tyson's constant interruption of Dawkins. Tyson is charming and humorous, but his showman personality turns into rudeness when he constantly stifles Dawkins' remarks. In this case, I did miss a moderator to rein in Tyson the showman.

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 09:33:54 UTC | #536695

Bribase's Avatar Comment 30 by Bribase

It was a really great discussion. Tyson's interruptions didn't bother me at all, I know his style and I think its a good way to 'disarm' the less science friendly members of the audience. Plus he can be pretty entertaining at times.

I really enjoy it when heavyweight science speakers decide to talk science instead of diffusing the latest bit of woo. I know its important for these guys to do their bit for the skeptical movement but to the convinced I much prefer to hear them talk about things that really matter. I genuinely thought we'd get through an entire public appearance with Richard without the mention of God, ruined by the final question.

Did anyone understand what his point was?

B

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 12:04:05 UTC | #536738