Lera Boroditsky, Does Language Shape Thought?: Mandarin and English Speakers’ Conceptions of Time
Posts tagged with science
English predominantly talks about time as if it were horizontal, while Mandarin … commonly describes time as vertical.
Answer by Jay Wacker:
Expect writing to be a lot harder than you imagine. What no one tells you when you’re a young and upcoming scientist is that communication is 90% of the job of being a professional scientist. …
What this means is that you should take your writing, and also your speaking, as a core part of your profession, not some auxiliary aspect to your job as a scientist. Ed Witten is amazing for his technical achievements, but as you get more experience with writing, you’ll be flabbergasted by his [writing] ability…. The ability to write amazingly well is a distinguishing characteristic amongst many of the greatest high energy theorists such as Steven Weinberg, Lenny Susskind, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Juan Maldacena, Savas Dimopoulos, and so on and so forth.
This need for good communication skills is a problem for many young scientists, because frequently there was this false dichotomy between being “science & math”-y versus “english & art”-y. Oftentimes language skills are simply not developed very thoroughly in students with strong science and math aptitudes during secondary school and university. Oftentimes I found that my graduate students were having to focus on communication for the first time halfway through graduate school. This is even more true for speaking ability where most people have never taken a class in speech, debate, etc.
Just to drive home the importance of this, I’ve been told of studies of success amongst physics graduate students is better determined by the verbal GRE than the physics GRE.
Werner von Braun, the greatest rocket scientist ever
- WP on WvB:
…von Braun was the central figure in the Nazis’ rocket development program, responsible for the design and realization of the V-2 combat rocket…. After the war, … taken to the United States…. Von Braun worked on the ... intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) program… … direct[ed] the …Marshall Space Flight Center … chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.
[Scientific theories can be accurate and even make novel predictions, whilst being ultimately wrong. Scientific theories can also be inaccurate, whilst being ultimately right.]
Consider specifically the state of ætherial theories in the 1830’s and 1840’s. The electrical fluid, a substance which was generally assumed to accumulate on the surface rather than permeate the interstices of bodies, had been utilized to explain inter alia the attraction of oppositely charged bodies, the behavior of the Leyden jar, the similarities between atmospheric and static electricity and many phenomena of current electricity.
Within chemistry and heat theory, the caloric æther … explain[ed] everything from the role of heat in chemical reactions to the conduction & radiation of heat and … standard problems of thermometry.
Within the theory of light, the optical æther functioned centrally in explanations of reflection, refraction, interference, double refraction, diffraction and polarization. (Of more than passing interest, optical æther theories had … made … startling[, true] predictions, e.g., Fresnel’s prediction of a bright spot at the center of the shadow of a circular disc: a surprising prediction which, when tested, proved correct. If that does not count as empirical success, nothing does!)
There were also gravitational (e.g., LeSage’s) and physiological (e.g., Hartley’s) æthers which enjoyed some measure of empirical success. It would be difficult to find a family of theories in this period which were as successful as æther theories. Compared to them, 19th century atomism … a genuinely referring theory … was a dismal failure. Indeed, on any account of empirical success which I can conceive of, non-referring 19th-century æther theories were more successful than contemporary, referring atomic theories.
[According to] J.C. Maxwell…the æther was better confirmed than any other theoretical entity in natural philosophy!
Larry Laudan’s A Confutation of Convergent Realism, Philosophy of Science, 48(1), 19-49
via David Corfield
The life forms on our planet have necessarily evolved to match the magnitude of [thermal] energy ﬂows. But while “natural man” is in balance with these heat ﬂows, “technological man” has used his mind, his back, and his will to harness and control energy ﬂows that are far more intense than those we experience naturally….
A society based on power technology teems with heat transfer problems.
It’s true that the financial sector enjoyed disproportionate rents but it’s not true that the smartest and brightest work there. …[T]he place is littered with failed scientists. Worse, it’s littered with idiot savants. There are once in a while people working there who have trained for the job — Very good PhDs in finance and economics, for example, or good M&A lawyers, and they usually strike me as the ones who offer the best contributions to their organizations.