Category Archives: Science

Natural philosophy based on evidence.

Stratolaunch, the world’s largest airplane, takes first flight | NBS News

Stratolaunch, a giant six-engine aircraft with the world's longest wingspan , makes its historic first flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California on April 13, 2019

Stratolaunch, the world’s largest airplane, takes first flight | NBC News

Dreams often die with their visionaries: “Allen’s passing is cited as one of the main reasons for the shift in Stratolaunch’s plans at the beginning of this year. When the company announced in January that it was ending development of its own rocket engines and vehicles, Stratolaunch reportedly laid off more than 50 of its 80 employees.”

Those that inherit just live off the spoils.



The Case For Panpsychism | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

The Case For Panpsychism | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

Dr. Philip Goff summarizes the hypothesis of Panpsychism.

“According to early 21st century Western common sense, the mental doesn’t take up very much of the universe. Most folk assume that it exists only in the biological realm, specifically, in creatures with brains and nervous systems. Panpsychists deny this bit of common sense, believing that mentality is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the universe. Mind is everywhere (which is what ‘panpsychism’ translates as).”

“There have been panpsychists in Western philosophy since at least the pre-Socratics of the 7th century BC, and the view achieved a certain dominance in the 19th century. Panpsychism fared less well in the 20th century, being almost universally dismissed by Western philosophers as absurd, if it was ever thought about at all.”

“However, this dismissal was arguably part and parcel of the anti-metaphysics scientism of the period: the attempt to show that any questions which cannot be answered by scientific investigation are either trivial or meaningless. This project failed, and metaphysics is back in a big way in academic philosophy. At the same time, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the physicalist approaches to consciousness which dominated the late 20th century, and a sense that a radically new approach is called for. In this climate panpsychism is increasingly being taken up as a serious option, both for explaining consciousness and for providing a satisfactory account of the natural world.”

Read more at Phliosphy Now.

More by Dr. Goff is on his blog.

The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

This is an interesting article by Hedda Hassel Mørch on The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness asking what is IIT all about?

“According to IIT, consciousness is linked to integrated information, which can be represented by a precise mathematical quantity called Φ (‘phi’). The human brain (or the part of it that supports our consciousness) has very high Φ, and is therefore highly conscious: it has highly complex and meaningful experiences. Systems with a low Φ, the theory goes, have a small amount of consciousness – they only have very simple and rudimentary experiences. Systems with zero Φ are not conscious at all.”

Her essay is based on definitions by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, the originator of the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness, or IIT for short. IIT is now one of the leading theories of consciousness in neuroscience.

“The argument starts from a list of five axioms – claims about consciousness that Tononi holds to be self-evidently true upon reflection on one’s own consciousness. His first axiom holds that consciousness exists ‘for itself’, independently of external observers: it exists entirely for its own subject. The second axiom claims that consciousness is structured: it contains a variety of qualities at once; a mix of colors, sounds, emotions, thoughts, and so on (one might object that there are experiences of complete darkness that contain no qualities – but such an experience would still contain structure such as the left and right side of the empty visual field). The third axiom claims that consciousness is informative: like a painting, each experience specifies a ‘scene’ which is different from other possible ‘scenes’. The fourth axiom holds that consciousness is integrated: the qualities within consciousness are unified under a single point of view, or we might say, by belonging to one and the same ‘canvas’. Finally, the fifth axiom claims that consciousness is exclusive: the ‘canvas’ has an exact border, and any individual quality, such as a color or emotion, is either part of that canvas or not, never in between. Tononi holds that these axioms can be translated into a set of postulates that specify the physical counterparts of the properties they describe. These postulates are then given a mathematical interpretation, yielding the full version of IIT.”

Read it on Philosophy Now. Fascinating! 


Is the Hard Problem of Consciousness Connected to the Hard Problem in Physics? |

Is the Hard Problem of Consciousness Connected to the Hard Problem in Physics?

A great overview of an idealist hypothesis by Hedda Hassel Mørch. Consciousness and deep understanding of physics face the same challenges.

Here are excerpts. Read the article on

“Where does consciousness—in this most general sense—come from? Modern science has given us good reason to believe that our consciousness is rooted in the physics and chemistry of the brain, as opposed to anything immaterial or transcendental. In order to get a conscious system, all we need is physical matter. Put it together in the right way, as in the brain, and consciousness will appear. But how and why can consciousness result merely from putting together non-conscious matter in certain complex ways?”

“[…] the deep nature of consciousness appears to lie beyond scientific reach. We take it for granted, however, that physics can in principle tell us everything there is to know about the nature of physical matter. Physics tells us that matter is made of particles and fields, which have properties such as mass, charge, and spin. Physics may not yet have discovered all the fundamental properties of matter, but it is getting closer.”

“Yet there is reason to believe that there must be more to matter than what physics tells us. Broadly speaking, physics tells us what fundamental particles do or how they relate to other things, but nothing about how they are in themselves, independently of other things.”

“This suggests that consciousness—of some primitive and rudimentary form—is the hardware that the software described by physics runs on. The physical world can be conceived of as a structure of conscious experiences. “

“This view, that consciousness constitutes the intrinsic aspect of physical reality, goes by many different names, but one of the most descriptive is “dual-aspect monism.” Monism contrasts with dualism, the view that consciousness and matter are fundamentally different substances or kinds of stuff. Dualism is widely regarded as scientifically implausible, because science shows no evidence of any non-physical forces that influence the brain.”

“The possibility that consciousness is the real concrete stuff of reality, the fundamental hardware that implements the software of our physical theories, is a radical idea. It completely inverts our ordinary picture of reality in a way that can be difficult to fully grasp. But it may solve two of the hardest problems in science and philosophy at once?

For another take on radical idealism you might also want to read Bernardo Kastrup’s rigorous papers and books on the subject here.

The Creativity of ADHD – Scientific American

The Creativity of ADHD – Scientific American

“But ADHD may also bring with it an advantage: the ability to think more creatively. Three aspects of creative cognition are divergent thinking, conceptual expansion and overcoming knowledge constraints. Divergent thinking, or the ability to think of many ideas from a single starting point, is a critical part of creative thinking. Previous research has established that individuals with ADHD are exceptionally good at divergent thinking tasks, such as inventing creative new uses for everyday objects, and brainstorming new features for an innovative cell phone device. In a new study, college students with ADHD scored higher than non-ADHD peers on two tasks that tapped conceptual expansion and the ability to overcome knowledge constraints. Together with previous research, these new findings link ADHD to all three elements of the creative cognition trio.”

Clinically I am certainly not suffering from either ADHD or OCD. But when I look at my personal behavior, I seem to be bimodal at times. I may have a hard time focusing on s particular issue to be solved and may distract myself with task unrelated activities longer than I should. But once refocusing I often find myself with unexpected solutions. Once focused I may be absorbed to a seemingly unhealthy degree. But this is often required to bring the task to completion.

Ars Technica: Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

The documentary tracks how people form and maintain bizarre beliefs.

There’s a scene somewhere in the middle of a new flat Earth documentary that acts as metaphor for so much that surrounds it. Two of the central figures of Behind the Curve are visiting a spaceflight museum that pays tribute to NASA, an organization that they believe is foisting a tremendous lie on an indoctrinated and incurious public. One of them, Mark Sargent, sits in a re-entry simulator that suggests he should press “Start” to begin. He dutifully bangs away at the highlighted word “Start” on screen, but nothing happens.

He wanders away muttering even more about how NASA’s a giant fraud. Meanwhile, the camera shifts back to the display and zeroes in on a giant green “Start” button next to the seat Sargent was in.

I believe it’s not necessarily the seeing of facts that is the issue, it’s the underlying rules and patterns, the mental models that create selective attention and understanding.

Death of the calorie

Death of the calorie | 1843 Magazine – The Economist

“For more than a century we’ve counted on calories to tell us what will make us fat. Peter Wilson says it’s time to bury the world’s most misleading measure.

I always thought that digestion was extremely complex and not just dependent on the type of food we ingest, the physiology of multiple organ systems digesting, but also our microbiome and overall state. Inheritance certainly is a key factor.

“As a general rule it is true that if you eat vastly fewer calories than you burn, you’ll get slimmer (and if you consume far more, you’ll get fatter).“ But it is not that simple. “Each body processes calories differently. Even for a single individual, the time of day that you eat matters. The more we probe, the more we realise that tallying calories will do little to help us control our weight or even maintain a healthy diet: the beguiling simplicity of counting calories in and calories out is dangerously flawed.”

“The only major organisation to shift the emphasis beyond calories is one dedicated to helping its customers slim down: Weight Watchers.”