January 18, 2011

From Tibor R. Machan :

Re: From brain science, new questions about free will (July 1): Although I am no brain scientist, I have done a lot of work on the free will issue and the contention that because some unconscious motives are detectable when one thinks one is deciding unconsciously is a hasty generalization--commits what I call the blow up fallacy (taking a tiny picture an applying it to everything). As the saying goes, one swallow does not a spring make.

One can test this point easily enough. Just decide that after you see a purple car coming down the road, you will beep your horn. Then wait and when you do see such a car, you will beep your horn but not before. Well, if the beeping were motivate unconsciously, the sequence would be impossible. One needs to be conscious of the purple car before beeping the horn, as per one's plan.

Hundreds of other simple experiments confirm the point. Whatever Libet & Co. , have recorded must cover but a tiny fraction of human action, maybe at habitual levels, certainly not when it comes to complex behaviors (such as constitute most of what we do).

Tibor R. Machan
R. C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise
Argyros School
Chapman University

From Ray Mainer:

Re: Prehistoric bird used club-like wings as weapon, researchers claim (Jan. 4, 2011): Swans do this. Swans are the only flying bird known to have killed a human. They beat him to death with their wings.

From Pieter Folkens:

Re: Climate change to go on for at least "1,000 years" (Jan. 9, 2011): The title of the article is strangely axiomatic. Climate change has been going on for what, four billion years? With that track record, it is expected to last another thousand years, probably longer. The study was based exclusively on nothing but "what if" computer modeling. The relevant apophthegm in science is: All computer models are wrong, some are useful. It is disingenuous for these researchers to present such studies as some form of data-based predictions. They are simply computer game playing with nothing more than "what if scenarios" and the work is certainly not rigorous science.

Pieter Folkens
fmr Professor of Science Communication,
University of California, Santa Cruz

From John Polasek:

Re: Thunderstorms produce antimatter, scientists find (Jan. 10, 2011): This sounds like the normal pair production process which we cannot achieve in the laboratory because of the high electrical fields>10^18V/m required but apparently are attained in thunderstorms. Gamma Rays >1.02MeV can expel pairs out of the quantum vacuum, but they can only be detected as fuzzy curved tracks in magnetic field cloud chambers. Amazing that they can accomplish this in an orbiting capsule.

From Philip F Henshaw:

Re: Societies evolve a bit like organisms, study finds (Oct. 13): I'm a systems scientist, author of the Encyclopedia of the Earth overview article on the broad range of complex systems theories (1).

The sciences of how natural systems are organized and evolve is incredibly diverse, as diverse as the inherent complexity of natural systems.

The article in Nature, or at least as you summarized it, seems to take the simplest of all possible views of what comprises societal complexity.

That's very disappointing given how frequently historical complex societies have seemed to fail as a consequence of becoming excessively complex and unmanageable.

The number of levels of social hierarchy would accurately measure the degree of organizational complexity, if societies were simple top down control systems.

They never are, of course, but have quit numerous overlapping networks of organization.

The diversity of specializations and personal roles might be a better measure of the complexity of real societies, considered abstractly as organisms.

The true meaning of the word "complexity" would be better reflected, as a society grows, by the shrinking ability of members of a society to understand and communicate their increasingly complex environmental interactions and each other's roles, options and effects.

What seem missing from our thought process, and to often steer us away from appreciating the real complexity of nature, is taking the things nature seems to do so simply for granted, instead of considering such observations as discoveries of explorable parts of the fabulously intricate process nature uses and needs to make things "simple".

The most stunning example of natural complexity people generally take for granted, is the simple process of rapid spontaneous organizational multiplication we call "growth". Virtually everyone really does literally take it for granted, like nothing more than a check in a check box on some application form…

(1) Complex Systems -

Philip F Henshaw
HDS Systems Design Science
Ft. Washington Ave NY 10040

From Jordan Mondesir:

Re: Pollution causes four in 10 deaths, survey finds (Aug. 14, 2007): My name is Jordan and I read one of your articles. I read, "Pollution causes four in 10 deaths, survey finds." I was very shocked and just felt bad how many people have died even children from such a terrible environment. We are loosing people so quickly and more. Let's just hope that this will not continue and we find a plan to save lives and our world. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading one of your articles and how understanding it is. From a teenager's point of view, I believe that we can make a difference in the world a unleash the light in the dark. Thank you very much for reading this and keep up the great work.

From Jose Mireles:

Re: Mystery "solved": how honeybees fly (Nov. 29, 2005): Concerning the article stating that the honeybee altered the frequency of its wing beats to maintain flight which has had scientists puzzled for generations. I see how this can be disconcerting because the small wings of this insect do not seem to be able to sustain it aloft. However, in my own studies on this curious creature, I was under the impression that the honeybee was not capable of flight per se but manipulated the earth's electromagnetic currents. Indeed, In body weight and aerodynamic design. . it cannot possibly fly, yet it does so by literally manipulating the electromagnetic currents from the earth around it and performing a sort of levitation. Thus its wings do not sustain but merely alter the flight pattern or control it... like a rudder on an airplane. There have been a smattering of humans among us throughout history who have literally been able to accomplish just this feat via mind levitation which entails using the earths magnetic currents as well. A short study on the subject of levitation can help one arrive at that conclusion. I concede this conclusion may be erroneous or flawed regarding the honeybee, nonetheless I did want to share my opinion or belief as the act of flight as the majority of we humans have come to know it, is by far not the only method of doing so.