Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Important science news of 2015

I have to thank Jason Soon for the link to this long, long list of (mostly) famous scientists and commentators talking at Edge about the big science stories of 2015.

Unfortunately, the format makes reading it a bit of a slog, so I'll just link to the ones that I think are particularly interesting:

1.   Frank Tipler:   I haven't read anything from him for a good few years, I reckon.  I had assumed he had retired, and perhaps he has; but here he is, still holding out in his somewhat peculiar reasoning style on the matter of what problems associated with black holes would be solved if the universe will stop expanding and head back into a Big Crunch (an essential part of his long standing "Omega Point" theory, which few people pay attention to anymore ever since it appeared the expansion of the universe is accelerating.)    Frank has always had trouble convincing other physicists he was onto something; probably because he always seems to be working backwards from the end result he wants, rather than the more routine way of dealing with evidence.   But it is true, some physicists have argued that the poorly understood dark energy might do a switch around in future.  (I'm sure I've posted to some arxiv papers along those lines, years ago, for those who can search this blog successfully.)   It's hard to know who's right until the nature of dark energy is understood, I guess....

2.  Jim Holt:  a good science writer whose books I have always intended to buy but keep forgetting to.   Here's he's writing about the somewhat amusing matter of a Japanese mathematician who thinks he has come up with a profound proof of something important, but hardly any other mathematician in the world can work out whether he really has, or not.  Lectures on the topic apparently mystify most of the mathematician audiences.  (I posted about this before, but it's such an odd and amusing story it's worth noting again.)

3.  Richard Muller:   the grandstanding physicist who said he was skeptical about global warming, but then did his own BEST re-analysis of temperature records and decided climate scientists were right after all, is here again hedging a bit by not saying that the risk of AGW is the reason why coal burning has to stop, but rather arguing that the millions of Chinese and Indians already dying from air pollution gives an immediate incentive to move to gas or nuclear.   I think he sounds unduly "down" on renewables, but the figures he cites for the health effects of current pollution are startling, if accurate.

4.  Joel Gold:  never heard of this psychiatrist before, but he talks here about how Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (which I knew was considered good for mood disorders and depression) actually works rather well for psychosis too.   That's a counterintuitive idea, and the first I have heard of it, but very interesting.

5.  Michael McCullough:  again, someone I haven't heard of, and talking of social research I haven't much heard of.  Apparently, religion is mostly "below the belt".   I'm not entirely convinced, but its worth more reading, I guess.

In other articles, lots of things I have written about over recent years get a mention:  fecal transplants (yay), gut microbiome (poo related again); but yes, the single weirdest entry in the post is the one by a South Korean guy fancifully suggesting an economy based on powdered poo.

Perhaps he trips out after eating kimchi?

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