Weekend Diversion: More to Learn (Synopsis)

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” -Jiddu Krishnamurti

If you want to learn something -- whether it's abstract or concrete, solving a problem or creating something -- that you don't already know, it often involves ridding yourself of your preconceptions of how such a thing ought to work. Often, it outright involves unlearning or overriding something you previously thought was true. Have a listen to Ray Lamontagne, as he sings about this in matters of love with

Lesson Learned,

while you consider that this happened to me about the field of science I hold most dear.

Image credit: Riess et al., Astronomical Journal, pages 116 and 1009, 1998 and Perlmutter et al., Astrophysical Journal, 1999, pages 517 and 565. Image credit: Riess et al., Astronomical Journal, pages 116 and 1009, 1998 and Perlmutter et al., Astrophysical Journal, 1999, pages 517 and 565.

You see, when we first discovered, thanks to supernova data, that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating, I couldn't accept it. For me, the evidence wasn't strong enough to overturn what I perceived as a preferred, elegant and beautiful picture of the Universe: that it'd be cyclical, and end in a Big Crunch. And yet, not only did I come to accept it by laying out what criteria must be met and what objections needed to be overcome, but I'm getting together with other experts in various fields to talk about when we overcame biases and preconceptions to learn something new.

Image credit: Hand-Eye Supply Curiosity Club | Core77. Image credit: Hand-Eye Supply Curiosity Club | Core77.

Come learn about this one-of-a-kind event and come see me live, if you can, in just two weeks!

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Ethan. There is nothing wrong with waiting for extraordinary evidence before excepting a new paradigm as "probably correct". Science can't advance by flying off on a new tangent everytime some starling new data is announced. We have to doubt the data with the same spirit we may have to use to doubt the cherished theory when the time comes. We've seen plenty of recent examples where apparently startling results have eventually been found to be caused by some subtle problem with the data. B-modes, and superluminal neutrinos are recent examples. I'm confident that cosmologists are still examining the evidence for the quality of the SB-1a data, as well as exploring the potential for finding other observations that support or refute the new understanding.

By Omega Centauri (not verified) on 07 Jun 2015 #permalink

"Science can’t advance by flying off on a new tangent everytime some starling new data is announced"

*A* scientist definitely can, though. Velikowski would be a good example.

What *science* shouldn't do is just go rushing off, because there are lots of WAGs and Velikowskis out there and rushing after all of them means going nowhere.

But other individuals can, and do, go looking (see the investigations into the FTL neutrinos), even if it ends up saying to the rest of science "Yeah, didn't happen".

It's all happening and all working as well as you could expect.

I remember when I rejected the Copenhagen interpretation and wavefunction collapse, suddenly the cosmos became a lot bigger!

By david hurn (not verified) on 07 Jun 2015 #permalink