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Scholars pick Science's "most beautiful theories."

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posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 05:32 PM
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Every January, John Brockman, the impresario and literary agent who presides over Edge.org, asks his circle of scientists, digerati and humanities scholars to tackle one question. This year's question? "What is your favorite deep, elegant or beautiful explanation?" Here are the responses:

"Darwin's natural selection" - Numerous Scientists

"Einstein's theory of relativity" - Numerous Scientists

"The discovery that the conscious, deliberative mind is not the author of important decisions such as what work people do and who they marry." - Terrence Sejnowski, a computational neuroscientist at the Salk Institute



Instead, he writes, "an ancient brain system called the basal ganglia, brain circuits that consciousness cannot access," pull the strings. Running on the neurochemical dopamine, they predict how rewarding a choice will be - if I pick this apartment, how happy will I be? - "evaluate the current state of the entire cortex and inform the brain about the best course of action," explains Sejnowski. Only later do people construct an explanation of their choices, he said in an interview, convincing themselves incorrectly that volition and logic were responsible.


"Emergence, in which complex phenomena almost magically come into being from extremely simple components." - Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University



For instance, a human being arises from a few thousand genes. The intelligence of an ant colony - labor specialization, intricate underground nests - emerges from the seemingly senseless behavior of thousands of individual ants.


"Pavlovian Conditioning" - Stephen Kosslyn, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford



A neutral stimulus such as a sound comes to be associated with a reward, such as food, producing a response, such as salivation. That much is familiar. Less well known is that Pavlovian conditioning might account for placebo effects. After people have used analgesics such as ibuprofen or aspirin many times, the drugs begin to have effects before their active ingredients kick in.


"Why teenagers are so restless, reckless and emotional." - Psychologist Alison Gopnik of the University of California, Berkeley



"A striking number of young adults who are enormously smart and knowledgeable but directionless, who are enthusiastic and exuberant but unable to commit to a particular work or a particular love until well into their twenties or thirties."


"Personality is largely shaped by chance." - Neurobiologist Sam Barondes of the University of California, San Francisco



"But there is also chance in how neurodevelopmental processes unfold - a little virus here, an intrauterine event there, and you have chance all over the place," he said in an interview. Another toss of the dice: how a parent will respond to a child's genetic disposition to be outgoing, neurotic, open to new experience and the like, either reinforcing the innate tendencies or countering them.

The role of chance in creating differences between people has moral consequences, says Barondes, "promoting understanding and compassion for the wide range of people with whom we share our lives."


"People become what they do." - Pyschologist Timothy Wilson of The University of Virginia



While people's behavior arises from their character - someone returns a lost wallet because she is honest - "the reverse also holds," says the University of Virginia psychologist. If we return a lost wallet, our assessment of how honest we are rises through what he calls "self-inference." One implication of this phenomenon: "We should all heed Kurt Vonnegut's advice," Wilson says: "'We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.'"


"Group Polarization" - Psychologist David Myers of Hope College



it explains how interacting with others tends to amplify people's initial views. In particular, discussing issues with like-minded peers -increasingly the norm in the United States, where red states attract conservatives and blue states attract liberals - push people toward extremes. "The surprising thing is that the group as a whole becomes more extreme than its pre-discussion average,."


"The "astonishing concept" that what we consider the universe "could be hugely more extensive" than what astronomers observe." - Martin Rees, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge



If true, the known cosmos may instead "be a tiny part of the aftermath of 'our' big bang, which is itself just one bang among a perhaps-infinite ensemble," Rees writes. Even more intriguing is that different physics might prevail in these different universes, so that "some of what we call 'laws of nature' may ... be local bylaws."


What are your thoughts on the above theories? What are Science's "most beautiful theories" in your eyes?

Reuters
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posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 05:51 PM
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Nice thread idea, and I will look further into you suggestions, some of which I am unfamiliar with. The one's that mystify me are more along the psychology metaphysical fields.

The Aether or Akashic Field:

Here are some informative quotes from and comments regarding the book “Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything” by Ervin Laszlo and published by Inner Traditions.
The overall idea behind the concept of an Akashic Field is that behind the materialistic and mechanistic world there is in fact another realm of interaction. This book presents compelling evidence for this from the fields of cosmology, quantum physics, biology and studies of consciousness. It is like a subtle communication network that underlies physical reality and that connects every point in space with every other point, and every thing with every other thing. This communication network operates in the realm of pure information that underlies empirical existence and thus does not rely on the transport of physical energy, hence, through this field, interactions can occur instantaneously regardless of physical separation and without any channel for the mechanistic transport of energy. Furthermore, like things tend to interact more strongly with like things, thus humans interact more strongly with humans, galaxies with galaxies and so on. The principle empirical and observable effect of this field is coherence between phenomena across any distances.

www.anandavala.info...

The Non-Local Mind:

Cutting edge theory and research about the properties of mind and consciousness are melding
ancient wisdom (mainly from Asia) with contemporary quantum theory to provide a fascinating
and exciting blend of thought regarding mind and it's quantum holographic and non-local
properties. The human body is now considered to function as a quantum liquid crystal with
instantaneous intercommunication within the body and the potential to tap into the quantum
vacuum.
This melding of traditions provides a much more sophisticated approach to the mental abilities
that have been a mystery to mainstream psychology such as energy medicine and distance
healing, general parapsychological phenomena, savant syndrome, extraordinary human abilities
etc."
Starting with topics most immediate, our body, this paper then moves on to more “cosmic”
connections between us and “the all.”

www.rebprotocol.net...

Collective Consciousness:

Collective consciousness becomes most apparent in our ability to intuitively sense and work with the interactions between our and others' physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual “energy fields.” Although science has long been convinced of the existence of gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields, significant research in the frontier science known as parapsychology, or the study of psychic (“psi”) phenomena, indicates that other types of fields—including thought fields—may also exist.

www.enlightennext.org...

I guess the more we develop and learn about quantum physics, the more strange and beautiful the science will become.

Peace,
spec



posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 05:58 PM
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Richard Charles Hoagland

His writings claim that advanced civilizations exist or once existed on the Moon, Mars and on some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and that NASA and the United States government have conspired to keep these facts secret



posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 06:45 PM
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reply to post by speculativeoptimist
 


Interesting!



posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 06:50 PM
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reply to post by yamother44
 


Chaos Theory.

2nd.



posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 10:48 PM
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What a fantastic list, even if it is more psychology-heavy than it needs to be. I fully agree with the following:


  1. Natural selection

  2. Relativity

  3. "The discovery that the conscious, deliberative mind is not the author of important decisions..."

  4. Emergence

These are not just beautiful theories, they are also the ones that have changed our mental universe the most. One more, missing from the list, deserves to be added:
  • The gene theory of development and behaviour.
I don't have any more beautiful theories to add, but there is a really ugly one that should also be mentioned for having the same mind-altering effects. It is
  • Quantum mechanics



posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 10:57 PM
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Great thread idea!

String Theory. I read "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene, and fell in love with concept of reality and dimensions being mere membranes. I reel at the idea that other realities are only a micro-nano away from me.


edit on 15-1-2012 by windword because: to add the video

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posted on Jan, 15 2012 @ 11:11 PM
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reply to post by windword
 


That's incredible, I've never heard of that. Thanks for sharing!



posted on Jan, 16 2012 @ 04:28 PM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


Can someone help explain Quantum Mechanics?



posted on Jan, 16 2012 @ 07:56 PM
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Originally posted by yamother44
reply to post by Astyanax
 


Can someone help explain Quantum Mechanics?


Sure. In a nutshell, if you think you understand quantum mechanics, it means you're missing something important.

Profoundly elegant theory: Maxwellian electrodynamics represented in Einsteinian covariant form.
Stupendously important elegant theory: matter is made of atoms
Elegant theory: plate tectonics
Elegant theory sometimes ruined by facts: Crick's standard dogma of molecular biology: DNA->RNA->Protein
Elegant theory: Dirac equation
Elegant theory: Big Bang
Dirty, grubby, but somehow still sort of right theory: Standard Model particle physics
Elegant but dangerously wrong theory: neoclassical economics
Voodoo theory: supply-side economics

Elegant but wrong meta-theory which was believed for most of the 20th century: that all the right theories in the Universe must be elegant, and you can use that as a reliable guide to correct theories. The Universe is elegant only in unpredictably inelegant ways.

Mumbo jumbo non-theory:


Cutting edge theory and research about the properties of mind and consciousness are melding
ancient wisdom (mainly from Asia) with contemporary quantum theory to provide a fascinating
and exciting blend of thought regarding mind and it's quantum holographic and non-local
properties. The human body is now considered to function as a quantum liquid crystal with
instantaneous intercommunication within the body and the potential to tap into the quantum
vacuum.




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