Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘natural sciences

Nature is worth a set of equations; (Nov. 17, 2009)

I have been reading speeches and comments of Albert Einstein, a great theoretical physicist in the 20th century.

Einstein is persuaded that mathematics, exclusively, can describe and represent nature’s phenomena; that all nature’s complexities can be comprehend and imagined as the simplest system in concepts and principles.

The fundamental creative principle resides in mathematics.  And formulas have to be the simplest and most beautifully general. Mathematical concepts can be suggested by experience, the unique criteria of utilization of a mathematical construct.

I got into thinking.

I read this dictum when I was graduating in physics and I have been appreciating this recurring philosophy ever since. The basic goal in theoretical physics for over a century was to discover the all encompassing field of energy that can unite the varieties of fields that experiments have been popping up to describing particular phenomena in nature, such as electrical and magnetic fields as well as all these “weak” and “stronger” fields of energy emanating from atoms, protons, and all the varieties of smaller elements.

I got into thinking.

Up until the first quarter of the 20th century most experiments in natural sciences were done by varying one factor at a time; experiments never used more than one independent variable and more than one dependent variable (objective measuring variable or the data).  Even today, most engineers perform these kinds of totally inefficient and worthless experiments: no interactions among variables can be analyzed, the most important and fundamental intelligences in all kinds of sciences. These engineers have simply not been exposed to experimental designs in their required curriculum!

Although the theory of probability was very advanced, the field of practical statistical analysis of data was not yet developed; it was real pain and very time consuming doing all the computations by hand for slightly complex experimental designs.

Sophisticated and specialized statistical packages constructs for different fields of research evolved after the mass number crunchers of computers were invented.

Consequently, early theoretical scientists refrained from complicating their constructs simply because they had to solve their exercises and compute them by hand in order to verify their contentious theories.

Thus, theoretical scientists knew that the experimental scientists could not practically deal with complex mathematical constructs and would refrain from undertaking complex experiments in order to confirm or refute any complex construct.

The trend, paradigm, or philosophy for the theoretical scientists was to promoting the concept that theories should be the simplest with the least numbers of axioms (fundamental principles); they did their best to imagining one general causative factor that affected the behavior of natural phenomena or would be applicable to most natural phenomena.

When Einstein mentioned that equations should be beautiful in their simplicity he had not in mind graphic design; he meant they should be simple for computations.

This is no longer the case.

Nature is complex; no matter how you control and restrict the scope of an  experiment in order to reducing the numbers of manipulated variables to a minimum there are always more than one causative factor that are interrelated and interacting to producing effects.

Currently, physicist and natural scientists can observe many independent variables and several dependent variables and analyze huge number of data points.

Still, nature variables are countable and pretty steady over the experiment. Unlike experiments involving” human subjects” that are in the hundreds and hard and sensitive to control.

Man is far more complex than nature to study his behavior.

Psychologists and sociologists have been using complex experimental designs for decades in order to study man’s behavior and his hundreds of physical and mental characteristics and variability.

All kinds of mathematical constructs were developed to aid “human scientists” perform experiments commensurate in complexity with the subject matter.

The dependent variables had no longer to be objectively measurable and many subjective criteria were adopted.

Certainly, “human scientists” did not have to know the mathematical constructs that the statistical packages were using, just the premises that justified their appropriate use for their particular field.

Anyway, these mathematical models were pretty straightforward and no sophisticated mathematical concepts were used: the human scientists should be able to understand the construct if they desired to go deeper into the program without continuing higher mathematical education.

Nature is complex, though far less complex than human variability.

Theoretical natural scientists should acknowledge that complexity. And studying nature is worth a set of equations!

Simple and beautiful general equations are out the window.  There are no excuses for engineers and natural scientists for not expanding their imagination and focusing their intuition on complex constructs that may account for many causative factors and analyzing simultaneously many variables for their interactions.

There are no excuses that experimental designs are not set up to handle three independent variables (factors) and two dependent variables; the human brain is capable of visualizing the interactions of 9 combinations of variables two at a time. 

Certainly, scientists can throw in as many variables as they need and the powerful computers will crunch the numbers as easily and as quickly as simple designs; the problem is the interpretation part of the reams and reams of results.

Worst, how your audience is to comprehend your study?

A set of coherent series of relatively complex experiments can be designed to answer most complex phenomena and yet be intelligibly interpreted.

It is time to account for all the possible causatives factors, especially those that are rare in probability of occurrence (at the very end tail of probability graphs) or for their imagined little contributing effects: it is those rare events that have surprised man with catastrophic consequences.

If complex human was studied with simple sets of equations THEN nature is also worth sets of equations.

Be bold and make these equations as complex as you want; the computer would not care as long as you understand them for communication sake.

I hate to talk, read, and write. Oh, and I hate math: Different teaching resolutions… 

 

I got this revelation. 

Schools use different methods for comprehending languages and natural sciences.  Kids are taught the alphabet, words, syntax, grammars, spelling and then much later, they are asked to compose essays.  Why this process is not applied in learning natural sciences?

I have strong disagreement on the pedagogy of learning languages. 

First, we know that children learn to talk years before they can read. Why kids are not encourage to tell verbal stories before they can read?  Why kids’ stories are not recorded and then translated into the written words to encourage the kids into realizing that what they read is indeed another story telling medium?

Second, we know that kids have excellent capabilities to memorize verbally and visually whole short sentences before they understand the fundamentals. Why don’t we develop their cognitive abilities before we force upon them the traditional malignant methodology?  The proven outcomes are that kids are devoid of verbal intelligence, hate to read, and would not attempt to write even after they graduate from universities.

Arithmetic and math are used as the foundations for learning natural sciences. We learn to manipulate equations; then solving examples and problems by finding the proper equation that correspond to the natural problem (actually, we are trained to memorize the appropriate equations that apply to the problem given!).  Why we are not trained to compose a story that corresponds to an equation, or set of equations (model)?

If kids are asked to compose essays as the final outcome of learning languages, then why students are not trained to compose the natural phenomena from given set of equations?

Would not that be the proper meaning for comprehending the physical world or even the world connected with human behavior? 

Would not the skill of modeling a system be more meaningful and straightforward after we learn to compose a world from a model or set of equations?  Consequently, scientists and engineers, by researching natural phenomena and man-made systems that correspond to the mathematical models, would be challenged to learn about natural phenomena. Thus, their modeling abilities would be enhanced, more valid, and more instructive!

If mathematicians are trained to compose or view the appropriate natural phenomenon and human behavior from equations and mathematical models then the scientific communities in natural and human sciences would be far richer in quality and quantity.

Rationality Fraud: Can our leading minds pass Socrates’ dialogue test? (February 3, 2009)

This is a challenge to all the scientific and research communities. 

My contention is that over 75% of all scientists and researchers (in all natural sciences, all social sciences, all human sciences, and all engineering fields) lack the experimental mind. 

I propose this simple test:

1. Submit to the subjects three peer reviewed research articles from a field different from his research or professional discipline. 

2. Test the subject on his comprehension and interpretation for each research paper.  To be more specific: test his general knowledge on the experimental design, his correct discrimination among the various variables and factors (dependent, independent, control and confounding variables), his interpretations of the graphs and statistical results and what practical design suggestions he can extract from the paper. 

The objective of the investigation is not merely to guarantee valid results and accurate interpretations; it is to guarantee that the leading minds of our communities can pass Socrates’ dialogue test for sound rational societies and policy making. 

If what I said is still not clear then please read my article for new angles and the basis of my challenge.

An Experimental mind

 

I recall my advisor telling me once in frustration “At your age I was professor and had raised a family“. 

I didn’t need this reminder to comprehend my desperate situation: I am just plainly stubborn with no imaginations on earning money. 

These long years in a PhD program, the specialty of Human Factors in industrial engineering, at the age 35 to 41, should be considered a waste of time for any career-minded student, but they were valuable for my mind: I was exposed to the methods and vocabulary of five other disciplines in various departments. I think that I acquired an experimental mind, a mind that not many could claim to explicitly have. 

When someone asks “how” (the mechanical process or procedure),

1. it is usually tacitly understood that he comprehend the why and what of the subject matter or the system;

2. that he knows all the factors and variables that may affect the outcome of a system, including the human element within the system. 

Maybe a practicing or a professional knows his particular system (as engineers learn), but the fundamental question remains “has he acquired the generalized method and rationality to investigate systems outside his discipline?” 

I know what I am talking about, but the difficulty is to express and disseminate the problem. 

I have taught engineers who had no understanding for discriminating among variables such as dependent, independent, or controlling variables.

You think that they implicitly know how to differentiate among the variables; wrong, they don’t. Even after three sessions, coupled with examples they were still in the dark and still wondering what is all the fuss about.

You think that they can interpret graphs, extract wealth of information and comprehend pages of written materials from one meaningful graph, they generally cannot.  

I can testify that 30% of my engineer classes could not read; another 30% could not understand what they read.  It was a pleasure to educate a couple of good minds.  I have written several articles on that subject in my category “Professional articles” for further detailed clarification.

Worst, undergraduate engineers are almost never exposed to research papers.  Most Master’s graduates barely comprehend or interpret correctly research papers. 

Graduates join the “work force” of the rational minds practically illiterate. They cannot resume any continuation learning programs for a simple reason: they are illiterate in reading and comprehending research papers.

My contention is this.  If you acquired an experimental mind, you should be eligible to comprehend any field of study by reading the research papers in the field. 

The major contraption devised my professions to discriminate among one another is a flimsy mask targeted in changing the technical terms and vocabulary; a secret ritual inherited from ancient times to creating castes of literates.

Other than that, the experimental methodology is fundamentally the same.  When you acquire an experimental mind then all disciplines are one course away; you need to learn the slang, a new language that sound familiar, but with terms that have different meanings and connotations. 

The ultimate goal in teaching is for every university graduating mind to be trained to comprehend research papers of other disciplines.

 

The “eminent” minds of Athens needed the stamp of approval of Socrates’ rational mind; they submitted to his dialogue test; an interview on the investigative and coherent experimental methods of the proclaimed leaders of Athens; most failed the test.  Socrates was put to death because Socrates failed Athens’ Gods of ignorance.

Our scientific communities could be failing the dialogue test; our schools and universities are not graduating experimental minds.  No wonder war zones, famine, apartheid, and genocides are still the landmark of our modern times.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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