Category Archives: Science

Tinbergen’s Four Questions

Tinbergen’s Four Questions are questions that can be asked about an organism and its evolution that help to explain its adaptations and behavior. They operate via a double dual of Static vs. Dynamic and Proximate vs. Ultimate.  Static is concerned with the current time whereas Dynamic considers a time series. Proximate is concerned with how the organism behaves currently or how its behavior changes over its lifetime, and Ultimate considers why the organism and its behavior/adaptations may have evolved the way they did. Both pairs are somewhat confusedly concerned with time: both Static and Proximate are concerned with either the current time or a short lifetime, and Dynamic and Ultimate are concerned with changes in that short lifetime or over evolutionary time.

  • Ultimate & Static: Function or Adaptation
  • Ultimate & Dynamic: Phylogeny or Evolution
  • Proximate & Dynamic: Ontogeny or Development
  • Proximate & Static: Mechanism or Causation

Ultimate is also called Evolutionary, to distinguish it from a connotation of telos or purpose. Static refers to the current form of the organism, and is also called Synchronic or Single Form or Snapshot or Contemporary, etc.  Dynamic refers to the historical changes of the organism, and is also called Diachronic or Sequence or Historical or Chronicle, etc.

Some compare these four questions to Aristotle’s Four Causes, see for example [1] and [2]. However, [1] seems less enthusiastic than the published paper [2]. However, I don’t agree with either completely on the assignment; it seems to me that the Efficient and Final Causes are Dynamic, and the Material and Formal causes are Static. I believe we all agree that the Efficient and Material Causes are Proximate, and Formal and Final Causes are Ultimate. See [3] for comparison. However, I am guided more by the definitions of Static and Dynamic than anything else.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinbergen%27s_four_questions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolaas_Tinbergen

https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/samples/animal-behaviour-an-introduction-online/index.html

https://www.reed.edu/biology/courses/BIO342/2014_syllabus_old/2014_WEBSITES/khsite/tinenbergen.html

[1] https://www.evphil.com/blog/consciousness-18-tinbergens-four-questions

[2] Vojtěch Hladký, Jan Havlíček / WAS TINBERGEN AN ARISTOTELIAN? COMPARISON OF TINBERGEN’S FOUR WHYS AND ARISTOTLE’S FOUR CAUSES,
Human Ethology Bulletin 28 No 4 (2013): Special Issue on Tinbergen 3-11

[3] https://equivalentexchange.blog/2015/07/29/evolution-and-genetics/

Aristotle’s Four Causes

Other Images of Tinbergen’s Four Question:

https://www.google.com/search?&q=tinbergen%27s+four+questions&tbm=isch

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The Main Sequence of Star Types

I will scan your star charts.

— Nomad, from Star Trek “The Changeling”

While reading “Entering Space” by Robert Zubrin, I chanced upon the subject of stellar classification. The Morgan-Keenan system goes from O-type, the hottest, to M-type, the coolest (Red dwarfs). Our own sun, Sol, is an example of a G-type star, which are on the cool side yet still hot and bright. Later, other types have been added, for example White Dwarfs are known as D-types. If humankind will someday journey to remote stars, it’s best to memorize this handy list!

The Morgan-Keenan system is as follows:

  • O-type
  • B-type
  • A-type
  • F-type
  • G-type
  • K-type
  • M-type

This is sometimes remembered by the mnemonic “O be a fine gal/guy, kiss me.”

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_classification

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_sequence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-type_main-sequence_star

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Jump_Cannon

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The Millennial Project: colonizing the galaxy in eight easy steps

The eight “easy” steps of the Millennial Project (MP) are:

  • Foundation (Institutions to promote MP)
  • Aquarius (Colonize and utilize Earth’s oceans)
  • Bifrost (To low Earth orbit and outer space)
  • Asgard (Build a large space station)
  • Avalon (Colonize and utilize the Moon)
  • Elysium (Colonize Mars)
  • Solaria (Colonize the Solar System)
  • Galactia (Then on to the Milky Way)

Further Reading:

Marshall T. Savage / The Millennial Project

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Millennial_Project

https://tmp2.fandom.com/wiki/Main_Page

Robert Zubrin / Entering Space: creating a space-faring civilization

Robert Zubrin / The Case for Mars

https://www.marssociety.org/

Carl Sagan / Pale Blue Dot: a vision of the human future in space

MP reminds me a bit of Olaf Stapledon:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaf_Stapledon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_and_First_Men

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Maker

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The Periodic Table of the Elements

The familiar periodic table of the elements may be overwhelming in its usual initial presentation. You may not have noticed that there are four blocks of elements in the table, and they even have names! All good atomists need to become facile with the chemical elements though, because they are indeed the building blocks of the universe!

The table is usually presented as a partial grid, consisting of 7 rows and 18 (or 32) columns, although there are alternate representations. But columns (C) are called groups (G) and rows (R) are called periods (P)!

Within the grid, elements are arranged in four blocks, with the following properties:

  • s-block: 2C x 7R = 14 (G1-2,18, P1-7) “sharp”
  • p-block: 6C x 6R = 36 (G13-18, P2-7) “principal”
  • d-block: 10C x 4R = 40 (G3-12, P4-7) “diffuse”
  • f-block: 14C x 2R = 28 (between G2 and G3, P6-7) “fundamental”

Note how columns (groups) increase (by four!) as rows (periods) decrease! Blocks are named after electron orbitals which are also named s, p, d, and f.

Thus there are currently 118 elements having a unique “atomic number” in the usual periodic table, with the rows or periods having the following number of elements:

  • P1: 2 (2s)
  • P2: 8 (2s, 6p)
  • P3: 8 (2s, 6p)
  • P4: 18 (2s, 6p, 10d)
  • P5: 18 (2s, 6p, 10d)
  • P6: 32 (2s, 6p, 10d, 14f)
  • P7: 32 (2s, 6p, 10d, 14f)

Note the number of groups increases as the period does. This is due to the properties of electrons and their shells. Familiar elements are scattered throughout the table, although they occur less and less as the atomic number increases. Elements can also occur as different isotopes due to having a differing number of electrons than usual, and so may have a positive or negative charge.

As an homage to the classical four elements, I’ve arranged the blocks as follows: the s-block has the reactive alkali and alkaline metals (fire), the p-block includes the noble gases (plus C, N, and O needed for life as we know it) (air), the d-block has the precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum (plus liquid at room temp mercury but not bromine) (water), and the f-block with the heaviest and often radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium (earth).

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodic_table

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_(periodic_table)#s-block

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_(periodic_table)#p-block

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_(periodic_table)#d-block

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_(periodic_table)#f-block

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodic_table_(electron_configurations)

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The Six Flavors of Quarks

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark

The Standard Model of Particle Physics

Working to Understand the Changing Flavors of Quarks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eightfold_way_(physics)

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Four-Dimensional Vistas

The Fourth Dimension has been an interest of mine since I was a child. I’m not sure when I first heard about it, but I still have my coverless copy of “Geometry of 4 Dimensions” by Henry Parker Manning that I bought in a used book store. (I wonder why it hasn’t ever been reissued by Dover?) Maybe I heard about the fourth dimension in some science fiction TV movie, or in some mathematical survey book like “Mathematical Snapshots” or “Mathematics and the Imagination”.

Once I tried to explain to my best friend about my newly discovered insight how a hypercube could be folded up in four-dimensional space from its so-called three-dimensional net consisting of eight cubes, just as a regular three-dimensional cube could be folded up from its two-dimensional net of six squares. This 3D net somewhat resembling a cross is famously seen in Dali’s “Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus),” although I probably didn’t refer to this painting in my explanation.

I’m not sure who came up with the take-away message from my exposition, but it remains clear in my memory that the “junk in the middle” of the hypercube was a piece of the fourth dimension, just as the faces of a cube enclose a piece of our normal third dimension.

I recently came across Claude Fayette Bragdon, architect, author, draughtsman, stage designer, and mystic. At first I was interested in his drawings found on-line. His book “Four-Dimensional Vistas” started off with a good if overly wordy introduction to the concept of the fourth dimension. But then he suggests that many esoteric concepts such as the meaning of dreams, reincarnation, past-life regression, prognostication, ESP, etc. could possibly be explained by higher dimensional space or even higher dimensional time.

Even though I initially found many of these hypotheses too far-fetched for my tastes, I still found some interesting ideas to mull over in this little book.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Fayette_Bragdon

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/4128

https://theosophy.wiki/en/Claude_Fayette_Bragdon

https://theosophyart.org/2018/03/30/claude-fayette-bragdon/

https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/bragdon-family-papers-claude-bragdon-architectural-drawings

The art of Claude Fayette Bragdon, 1866–1946

https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/3514

https://bauarchitecture.com/research.loshuworldofwonderous.shtml

Claude Fayette Bragdon / Four-Dimensional Vistas (1930)

Claude Fayette Bragdon / The Beautiful Necessity (1910)

Claude Fayette Bragdon / Architecture and Democracy (1918)

For my gratuitous anime tie-in, Bragdon’s world-view suddenly reminds me of the anime character  Haruhi Suzumiya, who wished for her aliens, time-travelers, and ESPers so much that she willed them into being. If only she had known about the fourth dimension!

https://reelrundown.com/animation/Anime-Philosophy-1-Melancholy-of-Haruhi-Suzumiya

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Maxwell Relations

Maxwell Relations are commonly known as a set of four partial differential equations between four thermodynamic quantities or potentials: pressure (P), volume (V), temperature (T), and entropy (S). So for example the expression (∂T/∂V) |S  means the partial derivative of T with respect to V while keeping S constant.

    • (∂T/∂V) |S = -(∂P/∂S) |V
    • (∂P/∂T) |V = (∂S/∂V) |T
    • -(∂S/∂P) |T = (∂V/∂T) |P
    • (∂V/∂S) |P = (∂T/∂P) |S

In my diagram above, the expressions that are equal are on either side of the common leg of adjacent isosceles right triangles.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell_relations

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2021/09/17/maxwells-relations-part-1/

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2021/09/18/maxwells-relations-part-two/

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2021/09/22/maxwells-relations-part-3/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermodynamic_potential

Thermodynamics and the Four Thermodynamic Potentials

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Linear Process Algebra

One of computer scientist and Professor Emeritus Vaughan Pratt’s most recent conference papers is on “linear process algebra,” which relates several of his previous interests on linear logic, Chu spaces, concurrent processes, events and states, etc.

The paper opens with a nice overview of computer science research primarily concerned with concurrent processes. Computation itself divides into the aspects of logical and algorithmic, formal methods into the logical and algebraic, concurrent computation into operational and denotational, and then the author gives a brief list of models of processes by a variety of mathematical structures until he comes to his theme of using Chu spaces.

As an example, he presents processes as Chu spaces over the set K, where K = { 0, T, 1, X}, with names and meanings :

  • 0: Ready
  • T: Transition
  • 1: Done
  • X: Cancelled

and then details four binary operations as working in Chu spaces over K:

  • P ; Q: Sequence
  • P + Q: Choice
  • P || Q: Concurrence
  • P ⊗ Q: Orthocurrence

Further Reading:

Vaughan Pratt / Linear Process Algebra

Click to access bhub.pdf

Click to access lpa.pdf

Click to access bud.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/2663060_Chu_Spaces_A_Model_Of_Concurrency

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222310260_Types_as_Processes_via_Chu_spaces

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaughan_Pratt

https://dblp.org/pid/p/VRPratt.html

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On the Death of a Giant

Renowned physicist Steven Weinberg passed away recently. He was a giant in the world of physics and winner of the Nobel prize, advancing knowledge about the Standard Model and the unification of physical forces. He was also, famously, a materialist and atheist.

In his book “The Sophist”, Plato wrote (metaphorically?) about the battle of the gods and the giants. He related how the gods were friends of Platonic forms (perhaps being close to forms themselves) whereas the giants were materialists. Plato, being partial to forms, painted the giants as militant and unreasonable materialists, and the gods as a friendly and peaceful sort.

The Greek gods were friendly and peaceful? Perhaps the giants of the legend were the easy-going and reasonable sort, since the gods of the Greeks seemed the opposite. They say that history is rewritten by the victors.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg

With Steven Weinberg’s death, physics loses a titan

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/learning-to-live-in-steven-weinbergs-pointless-universe/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/steven-weinberg-nobel-winning-physicist-who-united-principal-forces-of-nature-dies-at-88/2021/07/26/75d8d24a-ee31-11eb-bf80-e3877d9c5f06_story.html

A very nice article:

Steven Weinberg (1933-2021): a personal view

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0172%3Atext%3DSoph.%3Apage%3D246

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Our Demarcation Problem

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

— Carl Sagan from The Demon-haunted World

As science is confused with pseudo-science, as real news is conflated with fake, we need much better ways to judge the truth of the information we require to be good citizens. Unfortunately, in this age of nontraditional television networks, kitchen-sink cable, and internet news sources, our information sources can be subverted by entities that wish to bend our mindset to their agenda, rather than giving us measured and reasonable knowledge. When these entities wish to fracture and divide our polity, our social fabric strains and unravels.

Here are four (or five minus one) distinctions for information or knowledge claims, based upon their type of warrant, or context of truthfulness. Three of them are modalities from Kant’s doctrine of judgments, and I suggest that Dialectic could reasonably be added to them, but I do not know if they form a complete set or not. I would suppose they can be ordered by their level of assurance, from low to high. Another more scientific option might be Probablistic instead of Dialectic, based upon measurements or even theoretical arguments. Certainly there must be something between a bald assertion or the questionable and the certain.

  • Assertoric: assert to be true or false without (inherent) proof
  • Problematic: assert as possibly true (or false)
  • Dialectic: philosophically reasoned as true or false (qualified?)
  • Probabilistic: quantified or theoretically argued as mostly true or false
  • Apodictic: clearly provable as true (or false) or logically certain

From Wikipedia:

Apodictic propositions contrast with assertoric propositions, which merely assert that something is (or is not) true, and with problematic propositions, which assert only the possibility of something being true. Apodictic judgments are clearly provable or logically certain. For instance, “Two plus two equals four” is apodictic. “Chicago is larger than Omaha” is assertoric. “A corporation could be wealthier than a country” is problematic. In Aristotelian logic, “apodictic” is opposed to “dialectic,” as scientific proof is opposed to philosophical reasoning.

For example, the president’s language (“many say”, “everyone knows”, “we’ll see”) is full of assertoric and problematic claims (to be extremely generous), and perhaps that’s the limit of his ability. I don’t think he could manage part of a measured dialectical argument if pressed, and if he manages an apodictic statement it would be like a clock that tells the time correctly twice a day. To have the head of the executive branch of our government to be so untrustworthy in providing information and knowledge hurts us all, and misleads those that takes his words at face value.

And then there are the news sources that cater to the president and his followers. Perhaps they present some warranted information, but mix plenty of misleading punditry in to tickle the fancy of unquestioning minds. As a result we have citizens who only digest information from sources that appeal to their sensibilities. Some of these news sources disseminate their fabrications via a flood in social media and the internet, because our ability to stifle them is almost nonexistent. And when these news sources originate from foreign countries wanting to influence us for their own purposes, how is it that they are allowed to continue?

In truth, people can be misled on scientific topics like the coronavirus and COVID-19, vaccinations, face masks, climate change or global warming, environmentalism and pollution, pseudoscience, and political topics like mail-in voting, Russian meddling with the 2016 and 2020 elections, conspiracy theories such as QAnon, etc. The lists seem almost endless.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apodicticity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assertoric

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-logic/

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-judgment/

Immanuel Kant: Logic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conspiracy_theories

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_conspiracies

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_interference_in_the_2016_United_States_elections

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_interference_in_the_2020_United_States_elections

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAnon

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