Link blog: science-fiction, the-expanse, television, sci-fi

The Science Behind “The Expanse” – 1/25/17 – YouTube
A panel with Caltech scientists and people from the show.
(tags: tv the-expanse science science-fiction sci-fi physics astronomy)
Abigail Nussbaum — Person of Interest – The Good Bits Version
If you want just the SF bits of Person of Interest (which are great, see Peter Watts’s review) without the police procedural/victim of the week stuff, Abigail Nussbaum has a useful list of episodes to watch.
(tags: person-of-interest artificial-intelligence science-fiction television)

Link blog: science, pseudoscience, physics, culture

What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists | Aeon Ideas
“A typical problem is that, in the absence of equations, they project literal meanings onto words such as ‘grains’ of space-time or particles ‘popping’ in and out of existence. Science writers should be more careful to point out when we are using metaphors. My clients read way too much into pictures, measuring every angle, scrutinising every colour, counting every dash. Illustrators should be more careful to point out what is relevant information and what is artistic freedom. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that journalists are so successful at making physics seem not so complicated that many readers come away with the impression that they can easily do it themselves. How can we blame them for not knowing what it takes if we never tell them?”
(tags: science physics culture pseudoscience)

Link blog: psychology, science, work, programming

The Human Cost of Tech Debt – DaedTech

(tags: programming work)

BPS Research Digest: 10 of The Most Widely Believed Myths in Psychology

(tags: psychology myths experiments)

Surprises of the Faraday Cage
Something Feynman got wrong, apparently (and which was repeated in the electro-magnetism lectures at university, as I recall).
(tags: physics science feynman electromagnetism)

Link blog: scott-aaronson, git, dance, jazz

What is this thing, called swing? | The Home of Happy Feet
Daniel Newsome geeks out about music.
(tags: lindyhop swing music jazz beats dance)
19 Tips For Everyday Git Use
Top tips for git
(tags: git software software-engineering tips)
Scott Aaronson Answers Every Ridiculously Big Question I Throw at Him – Scientific American Blog Network
A fascinating question and answer session with Aaronson.
(tags: physics quantum scott-aaronson philosophy computation mathematics)

Dancing: not just physics

A friend commented the other day that I don’t post much on here any more. I do occasionally write interesting stuff over on Reddit, so I thought I’d make some blog posts based on some of those comments. Here’s a little realisation I had about how we talk about the physics of lindy:

A follower was telling me how she always needs to create her own momentum or she won’t move anywhere, and I responded that if she does so, it breaks one of the most basic rules of following and causes confusion and miscommunication in the dance. — LindyEverywhere on Reddit

Followers aren’t on frictionless wheels. Naturally, they’d stop, but the game is for them to pretend to have a lot less friction than a body on legs actually does (and maybe a bit less mass, too, I think). They’re not just physically getting moved around by the leader without co-operating by playing that game. Shifting people who aren’t co-operating is martial arts, not lindy 🙂

What lindy teachers seem to be referring to when talking about keeping momentum and not injecting energy is that once you’re playing the game, you play it consistently. Maintaining that consistency is not a natural consequence of the physics of the situation, so the follower you were talking to was right to say physically, she’s actually moving herself a lot of the time, or, not having wheels, she’d just stop. Playing the game consistently is a learned skill.

Because this game is so engrained into the dance, a lot of experienced people abbreviate the description of what’s going on by speaking as if what followers do is just allow physics to take its course (when they’re not throwing in their own stuff, I mean), when what they’re actually doing is simulating being a different sort of body and allowing a simulated version of physics to take its course. I imagine this is a bit confusing for beginner follows. (The other thing is that I’ve heard balboa teachers talk about a different simulated physics for follows turning down a line, where they lose angular momentum and so curve in).

One good exercise I’ve seen for teaching this is to play “lindy tennis”: half of you get into a circle, half of you are the tennis balls. The people in the circle set the balls off across the circle with some direction and rotation, which the balls maintain (except for avoiding collisions with teach other). When the balls reach the edge of the circle, the people there catch them and re-direct them (gently!). Playing this fixed an awful lot of “followers stopping themselves” i.e. killing the momentum rather than continuing the line around beat 4 in swing-outs from open, because it teaches what the pretend physics is.

Edit: Thinking about it some more, it seems more “real” at high speeds and when the connection is transmitting an impulse, and more “faked” at low ones and when the leader isn’t exerting a force: in the first case, it may be that it feels like your upper body is being moved by the connection to the leader and you’re just keeping your legs under you so you don’t fall over (which is still kind of a choice, but a natural one), but the thing where follows are told to keep moving at a slow pace having been given a small impulse seems like something you learn to do so as to pretend you’re a frictionless follow moving in a vacuum.

Elsewhere: God, cosmology, complexity

Spot the godOver on top cosmologist Sean Carroll’s blog, there’s a guest post by his fellow top cosmologist Don Page, who is a Christian. Page was responding to Carroll’s debate with William Lane Craig. Page does not find Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument persuasive, but has his own reasons for being a Christian, which you can read about over there (spoilers: maybe God is the simplest explanation for the fact that the universe is orderly; also the Resurrection happened).

The comment thread beneath the post is huge and goes off in all sorts of interesting directions. Page makes use of Bayes’ Theorem in his arguments. There are some people who use in their day jobs (rather than just reading Less Wrong and bullshitting, as I do) who respond to him, notably Bill Jefferys, staring here.

I’ve been commenting on and off. I reconstructed the threads I got involved in as the lack of threaded commenting over there makes it difficult to follow. I’ve been reading Peter Boghossian’s “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I hope to post about at some point) so I was trying for some Socratic dialogue and questioning of “faith” as a means of knowing. See how I got on:

Mathematicians wanted

I was interested in Daniel Kerr’s comments (for example, here, here, and finally here, in response to one of mine). He says that simplicity depends on a choice of mathematical language, but I thought this was just a constant factor. However, the comments rapidly go off into model theory and stuff about the Axiom of Choice, so I got lost. Can anyone comment on what he’s saying and whether he’s right?

Link blog: reddit, jobs, deconversion, ex-christian

Ex-Communications – Recovering From Religion – You Are Not Alone
A new blog written by de-converts from various religions. Looks quite interesting so far.
(tags: ex-christian religion deconversion christianity)
Physics – Arrow of Time Emerges in a Gravitational System
“Standard approaches to the arrow of time typically require a rare statistical fluctuation, or, often, the smuggling in of assumptions about initial conditions. Their work offers evidence that ordinary gravitational dynamics may itself be enough to produce the simple “initial” point that can give time a direction.”
(tags: entropy time physics gravity)
Science AMA Series: We are a Group of Researchers Exploring Auditory Hallucinations – People Who Hear Voices. Ask us Anything! : science
Interesting comments on benign hallucinations.
(tags: hallucinations psychology reddit science)
cartesiandaemon – December Days: Dream Job
CartesianDaemon on what makes a good job. I think I agree with all of these. Where can I get one of those?
(tags: jobs dream employment software software-engineering)

Link blog: funny, C, philosophy, shuffle

Modern Microprocessors – A 90 Minute Guide!
Nice article about how modern microprocessors work.
(tags: microprocessor cpu hardware memory cache)
The Aural Majority: Do You Want to Swing, Virginia?
What makes music swing? With sound samples.
(tags: swing music shuffle rhythm)
Our quantum reality problem – Adrian Kent – Aeon
An article about quantum theory and the philosophy of science.
(tags: physics quantum research philosophy science everrett)
Printable True Bugs Wait Posters | natashenka
Abstain from strcpy! Wait for the string handling functions which are right for you.
(tags: programming funny security bugs C stdlib)

Link blog: mechanics, lindy, biology, newton

The science and magic of Lindy Hop | Andy Connelly | Science | theguardian.com
“Great partner dancers may not know it but they are masters of space, time and Newton’s laws of motion.” Of course we know it: for example, I’ve decided my “dance name” is “The Oncoming Storm”. (I also suspect I know who the Alistair credited at the end is, as he’s a Cambridge person).
(tags: lindy physics dancing lindyhop guardian newton mechanics)
liv | Against Dawkins
Is the gene centred view (of which Dawkins is a major proponent) the best one?
(tags: genetics genes richard-dawkins selfish-gene biology science genotype phenotype)