The Samovar

The science-technology fallacy
August 31, 2008, 12:47 am
Filed under: Academia, Epistemology, Neuroscience, Philosophy | Tags:

On the comp-neuro mailing list, James Schwaber writes about the science-technology fallacy:

A lot of the discussion about the ‘right way to model’ or what to model may be a version of what my friend Mike Gruber has termed a version of the science-technology fallacy, the idea that you have to understand a process analytically before you can use it, and he always quotes Carnot here–thermodynamics owes more to the steam engine than ever the steam engine owes to thermodynamics. Obviously, humans used and controlled fire for 100,000 years before Lavoisier explained what fire was, and planes flew for decades before there was a theory to explain how they did it. In fact theory ‘demonstrated’ that heavier-than-air flight was impossible.

This is an interesting point. Is it true? If so, what is the point of science?

I have some ideas, but I’d like to see what others have to say.

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Stupid holiday pictures

So I’ve been on holiday in the US for a couple of weeks, and I don’t have much to say about it so here are some photos for those who might be interested.

This place was useful when our rental car tyre burst:

My own version of shock and awe:

OK, maybe mild surprise and amusement is more accurate.

One of the first things we did was to visit The French Laundry restaurant. For those who don’t know, FL is one of the three restaurants that keep getting voted as the best restaurant in the world year after year. The other two are The Fat Duck (in the UK) and El Bulli (in Spain). It’s my goal to have been to all three. So far then I’ve managed The Fat Duck and FL. For what it’s worth, my opinion is that Fat Duck is far, far better than FL – it’s really in a whole different league. The meal I had at FL was good, amazing in fact, but it was just a very well executed version of classic Michelin three star cuisine (places like Gordon Ramsay in London).

Anyway, here’s a picture of me enjoying Moulard duck foie gras en terrine with royal blenheim apricots, jacobsen’s farm green almonds, baby leeks, frisée and toasted brioche, with three different salts. One nice feature of this was that as you ate it, they kept coming to replace your brioche so that it was always warm. Click it for a larger version.

You can also take a look at the menu:

And “our vegetarian friends” as the waiter rather patronisingly called them are also catered for:

To be honest, in many ways The Cedars Restaurant in Detroit, Oregon (that’s right, not the big detroit, the one with a population of 262) was more exciting. Only $7 for a Gourmet Burger, $3.50 for a malt shake and $3.25 for a cherry pie.

And if you look closely, you’ll see that none other than Yogi bear recommends it, and how could I argue with that?

Yep, that was one heck of a malt shake.

Maybe the most exciting part of the holiday was almost getting caught in a forest fire. The sky in California was dense with smoke the whole time we were there, and this fire that we drove past was part of a complex of 30,000 acres. They shut the road shortly after we drove past here. You could also buy fire t-shirts at the fire fighting headquarters about a mile down the road.

I also had some fun playing around with high dynamic range photography like I talked about in my last post, but they weren’t particularly exciting. More fun was using Photoshop’s Image Merge tool to automatically combine lots of overlapping photos into one single image to make panoramas like this one (you have to click to see the whole thing):

That was right near the unlikely named Bumpass Hell in Lassen National Volcanic Park.

Quite a contrast to Wales where we went on our return. It must be quite a hoot for Americans to come and visit Europe with buildings several times older than their country.

This church at Partrishow had a fantastic medieval wall painting of Death:

And this nearby church at Cwmyoy was fun too (recently restored, although it looks to me like it’s about to fall over):

Oh, and this also happened while I was in California, but I managed to escape OK.