Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Reason We Do Science Is To Be Able To Predict

 Sure, you can conceptualize science as a philosophy, a way to think.
And you can think of science as a discipline, the classic "scientific method":

High school science course

In the last twenty years or so the pesky issue of 'Falsifiability' has been subjected to a full-frontal attack, partly because the elimination of the concept is required to make something like psychology a science and partly to address a major criticism of climate study: that much of what is called science can't be proven using the high-school template and thus, be it right or wrong in its conjectures is closer to religion (a belief in things unseen) than to scientific method. 

This has given rise to what's called "Post-normal science"*, an approach favored by futurists among others who can't prove what they are saying is true but still want to be called 'scientists.' This framework has also been adopted by folks looking at the most complicated and arcane bits of complexity 'science.'

Be all that as it may be here is a snip from a 2013 post: 

The Next Time Someone Tells You Economics is a Science Remind Them of Mendeleev

From the Royal Society of Chemistry:

What is a mark of a great scientist? Good scientists discover new information and make sense of it, linking it to other data. They may go further by giving an explanation of this linked data which, maybe not immediately, other scientists accept as a correct explanation. However the outstanding scientist goes further in predicting consequences of his ideas which can be tested. This boldness identifies the great scientist if the predictions are later found to be accurate. One such person was Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.....
If an economist can't make falsifiable predictions then what he's doing is something between religion and mental masturbation. From the ridiculous to the sublime, back to the RSC:

....Correct predictions

The greatness of Mendeleev was that not only did he leave spaces for elements that were not yet discovered but he predicted properties of five of these elements and their compounds. How foolish he would have seemed if these predictions had been incorrect but fortunately for him three of these missing elements were discovered by others within 15 years (ie within his lifetime). The first of these Mendeleev had called eka-aluminium because it was the one after aluminium (eka = 1 in Sanskrit) and was identified in Paris (1875) by Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran who named it gallium after the Latin name for France.....MORE

And today's link, from Shtetl Optimized, July 24, another of the great predictors: 

Steven Weinberg (1933-2021): a personal view

Steven Weinberg was, perhaps, the last truly towering figure of 20th-century physics. In 1967, he wrote a 3-page paper saying in effect that as far as he could see, two of the four fundamental forces of the universe—namely, electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force—had actually been the same force until a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, when a broken symmetry caused them to decouple. Strangely, he had developed the math underlying this idea for the strong nuclear force, and it didn’t work there, but it did seem to work for the weak force and electromagnetism. Steve noted that, if true, this would require the existence of a new particle that hadn’t yet been seen — the Z boson — and would also require the existence of the previously-proposed Higgs boson.

By 1979, enough of this picture (in particular, the Z boson) had been found that Steve shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Sheldon Glashow—Steve’s former high-school classmate—as well as with Abdus Salam, both of whom had separately developed pieces of the same puzzle. As arguably the central architect of what we now call the Standard Model of elementary particles, Steve was in the ultra-rarefied class where, had he not won the Nobel Prize, it would’ve been a stain on the prize rather than on him.

Steve once recounted in my hearing that Richard Feynman initially heaped scorn on the electroweak proposal. Late one night, however, Steve was woken up by a phone call. It was Feynman. “I believe your theory now,” Feynman announced. “Why?” Steve asked. Feynman, being Feynman, gave some idiosyncratic reason that he’d worked out for himself.....

 *Here's post-normal science showing up in medicine, March 2020:

Post-normal pandemics: Why COVID-19 requires a new approach to science

I'm not sure it helped,