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Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli.

I wrote about this guy last year: http://clantilyscad.com/2012/05/25/science-is-not-about-certainty/

He’s back with an Edge Conversation about Free Will and Physics.

Via Rovelli on a new Edge.org article:

Any attempt to link this discussion to moral, ethical or legal issues, as is often been done, is pure nonsense… There is no contradiction between saying that a stone flew into the sky because a force pushed it, or because a volcano exploded. In the same manner, there is no contradiction in saying we do not commit murder because something is encoded in the decision-making structure of our brain or because we are bound by a moral belief.

Free will has nothing to do with quantum mechanics. We are deeply unpredictable beings, like most macroscopic systems. There is no incompatibility between free will and microscopic determinism. The significance of free will is that behavior is not determined by external constraints, not by the psychological description of our neural states to which we access. The idea that free will may have to do with the ability to make different choices on equal internal states is an absurdity, as the ideal experiment I have described above shows. The issue has no bearing on questions of a moral or legal nature. Our idea of being free is correct, but it is just a way to say that we are ignorant on why we make choices.”

I haven’t studied philosophy formally at all, but I like what this guy has to say about it so far. I’ll tab Rovelli on my list of favorite scientists who also know how to write.

From what I understand from my superficial philosophical dialogue-watching, I agree with Sam Harris that free will is an “incoherent concept.”

But free will is a mindfuck of a thing to get your head around. Even without any discussion of quantum mechanics.

Categories: Knowledge has vagina dentata so don’t you fuck with it, Science Tags: Carlo Rovelli, determinism, Edge, free will, metaphysics, philosophy, physics, quantum mechanics

Don’t understand the Higgs boson? Watch the best animated explanation video I’ve seen so far on the Higgs:

The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Basically:

  • The Higgs Boson is important because it is the (until recently) undiscoverd particle that under the Standard Model of Particle Physics is expected to give mass to other particles. Mass is just a property of matter, like a charge. Mass is a gravitational “charge.”
  • The theory is that everything, everywhere is filled with something called the Higgs field.  The reason why particles have mass is because while they propagate, they are swimming in this “cosmic molasses,” and this interaction gives them inertia. (Not all particles interact with the field. Photons and neutrinos, for example, don’t and have no mass.)
  • In order to actually verify this model, we need to produce an excitation of the field. This quantum excitation is what we call the Higgs boson.

  • So that’s why we built the Large Hadron Collider, to create lots and lots of particle collisions and analyze the data. That little bump on the graph, which lasted only a fraction of a second, is what they think is the elusive particle, hopefully to be confirmed as the Higgs Boson.

There’s a great Reddit discussion going on about the discovery for the more technically-inclined:

If it’s really a Higgs, then we need to solve the Hierarchy problem or abandon the idea of naturalness. The problem is that the Higgs is “unaturally light”, since quantum corrections would “naturally” make the Higgs mass as big as the Planck scale (1019 GeV compared to the 126) and to make it light we need a an arbitrary cancellation that is heavily fine-tuned. The best candidates were supersymmetry and large extra dimensions, but it seems that both are very unlikely now.

If it’s not a Higgs, then we probably will see more signals in the future, and the greatest theoretical challenge will be to figure out what exactly it is!

Categories: Knowledge has vagina dentata so don’t you fuck with it, Nerd Out Tags: CERN, god particle, Higgs Boson, higgs boson particle, higgs video, PHD Comics, physicists, physics

I had a long weekend.  And day at work.  I tried to make this one super extra happy fun yay.

With a Crazy

Fucking

Panda.

—-

Aquaman riding a narwahl:  http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/1146894.html

Send anonymous e-mail for your no-good deeds:  http://www.sendanonymousemail.net/

Google WAVE is coming.  It’s like Facebook meets Google Documents:  http://interestingandusefulwebsites.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/google-wave-is-coming-soon/

Woodrow Wilson is the shit:  http://people.virginia.edu/~dr3f/the_object_of_liberal_training.jpg

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Mr. Rogers:  http://www.wimp.com/rogersinterview/

A graphical representation of terminal degrees:  http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/

Physics is sexy.  Drowning mice makes me sad.  http://www.cracked.com/article_17476_7-man-made-substances-that-laugh-in-face-physics.html

Alas, I should have bought these for college.  Bitches stole my sandwich:  http://mthruf.com/2010/07/09/job-fails-useful/

Personality Disorders caused by the Internet:  http://www.cracked.com/article_17522_6-new-personality-disorders-caused-by-internet.html

Categories: Fun Link Friday, Viral Things Tags: aquaman, google wave, Mr. Rogers, narwahl, panda, personlity disorders, physics, woodrow wilson