1039: "RuBisCO"

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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby ahammel » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:22 am UTC

Rotherian wrote:I agree with most of what you said (in the part that I snipped out). However, the part I quoted seems to indicate that you are implying that if one took all the chemical components which make up a living adult Homo sapiens and combined them in the proper proportions and locations, that one could produce a living Homo sapiens without needing to go through the messy process of procreation via fertilization and gestation.

I could be wrong, but even were one to combine those chemicals in exactly the right manner, the closest to the above outcome one would be capable of creating is a human corpse.

If you exactly chemically recreated a live human being, you would absolutely get a live human being. If you get a corpse, it's because you screwed up and some of the chemical processes aren't working correctly.

Why would it be otherwise? Because you forgot to add the elan vital?
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:23 am UTC

Scars Unseen wrote:
Moonfish wrote:Use “Bananas”

Most people use “Bananas” because it’s easy to say even if you have something in your mouth.
As an engineer can you think of other optimal safe words?
  • Short
  • Not typical in erotic dialogue
  • Doesn’t require your tong to be free


Not an engineer, but you could probably manage "hummus" in most circumstances.

I thought "Apple" was the universal safe-word.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Diadem » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:48 am UTC

cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:
Scars Unseen wrote:
Moonfish wrote:Most people use “Bananas” because it’s easy to say even if you have something in your mouth.
As an engineer can you think of other optimal safe words?
  • Short
  • Not typical in erotic dialogue
  • Doesn’t require your tong to be free


Not an engineer, but you could probably manage "hummus" in most circumstances.

I thought "Apple" was the universal safe-word.

Actually most people just keep it simple. "Red" for stop and "Orange" for time-out. Simple and universally understood. There's certainly people who use more fancy or personalized safewords. But they are a minority.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:50 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:If you can analyze your software in terms of abstract gates, and then it turns out you can create physical gates using electricity in transistors or water in pipes or air in ducts etc, I wouldn't think that the electricity or water or air are primary to the software. You can throw away all the details that aren't important for gates to work.

Yes, that's what abstraction means, and why multiple realizability is possible. But nevertheless, any instance of any bit of software doing something is identical with an instance of some sufficient hardware doing that thing. That different hardware can do the same thing, and that "software is what hardware does", is what makes software multiply realizable on hardware. Likewise, "biology is what chemistry does" and "chemistry is what physics does"'.

A bunch of physical processes interacting, in aggregate, in some way, can constitute some chemical process (or some non-chemical process too), and many (but not all) details of exactly what physical processes are involved are irrelevant. A bunch of chemical processes interacting, in aggregate, in some way, can constitute some biological process (or some non-biological process too), and many (but not all) details of exactly what chemical processes are involved are irrelevant. And a bunch of biological processes interacting, in aggregate, in some way, can constitute some psychological process (or some non-psychological process too), and many (but not all) details of exactly what biological processes are involves are irrelevant.

But every specific instance of every psychological process is realized in some specific instances of some biological processes which are realized in some specific instances of some chemical processes which are realized in some specific instances of some physical processes.

That many roads lead to the same place doesn't make that place unreachable by any road. It may not be at the end of any one road in particular, but only in the sense that that road is not special, there are many others which it is equally at the end of. But you still need to take some road or another to get there.

All we need is for physics to be the study of everything that can or can't happen in the real world plus everything that can or can't happen in hypothetical alternate universes, and then all the sciences are branches of physics. Along with chess, political science, business management, and poetry.


I wouldn't quite go that far, because besides questions of what can or can't happen, there are questions of what should or shouldn't happen, which are not reducible to questions of what can or can't (or does or doesn't) happen, nor vice versa. Political science, economics, and yes I'd even say business management as an extension of the that, can and should involve elements of the latter type of question as well.

And then there are -- I'm not entirely sure how to phrase this -- the sort of prototypical versions of those questions studied in mathematics and the arts; math is not concerned with what is really possible but with a more abstract kind of merely logical possibility, and art is not concerned with what is morally good but with a more abstract kind of merely aesthetic good. Chess is really an exercise in mathematics, to the extent that it is studied and not simply practiced; and poetry, obviously, is an art.

And then, to top it all off, there are second-order questions about what all these questions mean, what a correct answer to them would even look like, how can we go about finding such answers, and why we should even bother -- which are the domain of philosophy, which is thus not reducible to such questions, as they are its very subject matter.

You make a strong case that physics reduces to philosophy. Arguing that the physical system exists is a philosophical claim which might deserve very careful study.


I would say that the study of physics (and everything reducible to it) is, maybe not "reducible to", but "applied" philosophy. But the things studied in physics are definitely not reducible to the things studied in philosophy: physical systems (such as a volume of ionized protons), are not reducible to philosophical systems (such as a fallibilist epistemology).

All the natural sciences reduce to the question "what is real, or at least, could be?"; which raises questions both about what "could be" in a broader sense (math), and a whole bunch of questions about what "real" means, what it is for something to be "real", how we can tell what is "real", and why we should care about "reality" (philosophy). Likewise, there are a lot of presently-disjoint points of inquiry which all reduce to the question "what is moral, or at least, may be?", which raises questions both about what "may be" in a broader sense (the arts), and a whole bunch of questions about what "moral" means, what it is for something to be "moral", how we can tell what is "moral", and why we should care about "morality" (philosophy again).

Those questions (what is real, what is moral?) reduce to questions about philosophy, aesthetics, and mathematics, but answers to the latter do not constitute answers to the former: they just tell you how to find them.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby The Boz » Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:28 pm UTC

I once watched an S/M porn where the safeword they agreed upon before the scene started was antidisestablishmentarianism.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby mric » Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:56 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
mric wrote:Indeed, you could also argue that the inability of chemistry to describe biological processes with the appropriate natural types of biological explanations combined with the reality of multiple realisability ensure that any epistemic reduction to chemistry is necessarily disjunctive. Though that isn't, in my view, a knockout blow for reductionism, it does point out the false assumption behind the word 'just'.

Multiple realizability doesn't refute reductionism.
[...]

"Psychology is no more than biology".
"Biology is no more than chemistry."
"Chemistry is no more than physics."

My point was rather different. I wasn't arguing against reductionism, I was criticising sloppy reductionism. To say that biology is no more than chemistry is clearly wrong if by 'chemistry' you mean 'the academic stuff known by chemists', since the majority of biological claims aren't reducible to current chemistry. Indeed, it is clearly wrong even if you mean 'the academic stuff done by an idealised perfect future chemist', because biology includes sociobiology, biophysics etc.

There are at least three mistakes in the 'biology is just chemistry' and 'chemistry is just physics' statements:
- Biology is a lot more than chemistry, and chemistry than physics, in their current forms and abilities. There are many, many things that are explicable in current biology that are inexplicable in current chemistry. So the more accurate statement is "chemistry is no more than a currently unachieved idealised physics" etc.
- Even when a chemistry reduction (or set of reductions, given the disjunctive nature of reductions) is available for a biology theory, the biology theory may have more practical explanatory use than any or all of the chemistry reductions. In that case the theory is 'better', not for its explanatory power, but for its practical applicability. The just/no-more-than is only evaluating along a rather narrow axis of predictive accuracy.
- A major mistake is to assume that physics/chemistry are the prototypical sciences, and that we can exclude from biology the study of intentional states. I don't think there is anything non-physical going on in intentional descriptions, just that reductive analyses lose the distinctive subjectivity of those intentional states.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby bmonk » Sat Apr 07, 2012 4:49 pm UTC

Kyreles wrote:
StClair wrote:
everycredit wrote:Biology is just applied chemistry.

Chemistry is just applied physics.


Physics is just applied math.

And Math is applied logic.

In that the appeal in each case is to the more "fundamental" science.

A more complete sequence: Logic < Math < Physics < Chemistry < Biology < Anthropology < Psychology < Literature < Philosophy < Theology.



On the other hand, due to chaos and similar complex effects, at each level we need to renormalize explanations and rules.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Metazoan » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:56 pm UTC

Ah, so that was what it was about. :oops:

Does that make them orgasmic chemists?
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:05 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:<snip argument that abstractions are nothing more than physical examples of those abstractions>

All we need is for physics to be the study of everything that can or can't happen in the real world plus everything that can or can't happen in hypothetical alternate universes, and then all the sciences are branches of physics. Along with chess, political science, business management, and poetry.


I wouldn't quite go that far, because besides questions of what can or can't happen, there are questions of what should or shouldn't happen, which are not reducible to questions of what can or can't (or does or doesn't) happen, nor vice versa. Political science, economics, and yes I'd even say business management as an extension of the that, can and should involve elements of the latter type of question as well.


I do go that far. To the extent that political science is the study of what happens as opposed to arguments about what ought to happen, it reduces to physics. Similarly chess. Since chess is played by physical people with physical brains, everything that happens in chess reduces to physical actions in brains and therefore can be studied by a branch of physics. Just like you argued for software. Anything that happens in a brain is in the domain of physics.

So, physics does not include what ought to happen in an economy. But physics does include the question of how physical people decide what ought to happen in an economy.

And then there are -- I'm not entirely sure how to phrase this -- the sort of prototypical versions of those questions studied in mathematics and the arts; math is not concerned with what is really possible but with a more abstract kind of merely logical possibility, and art is not concerned with what is morally good but with a more abstract kind of merely aesthetic good. Chess is really an exercise in mathematics, to the extent that it is studied and not simply practiced; and poetry, obviously, is an art.


Both of them are mediated by human brains, so physics includes the study of how human beings do it and how human beings decide how good it is. Physics does not include the question whether human brains are correct in their processing of such things.

And then, to top it all off, there are second-order questions about what all these questions mean, what a correct answer to them would even look like, how can we go about finding such answers, and why we should even bother -- which are the domain of philosophy, which is thus not reducible to such questions, as they are its very subject matter.


The question how human beings pose such questions and how they search for answers is part of physics. The question what they should do that would be better than what they actually do, is not part of physics.

You make a strong case that physics reduces to philosophy. Arguing that the physical system exists is a philosophical claim which might deserve very careful study.


I would say that the study of physics (and everything reducible to it) is, maybe not "reducible to", but "applied" philosophy. But the things studied in physics are definitely not reducible to the things studied in philosophy: physical systems (such as a volume of ionized protons), are not reducible to philosophical systems (such as a fallibilist epistemology).

All the natural sciences reduce to the question "what is real, or at least, could be?"; which raises questions both about what "could be" in a broader sense (math), and a whole bunch of questions about what "real" means, what it is for something to be "real", how we can tell what is "real", and why we should care about "reality" (philosophy). Likewise, there are a lot of presently-disjoint points of inquiry which all reduce to the question "what is moral, or at least, may be?", which raises questions both about what "may be" in a broader sense (the arts), and a whole bunch of questions about what "moral" means, what it is for something to be "moral", how we can tell what is "moral", and why we should care about "morality" (philosophy again).

Those questions (what is real, what is moral?) reduce to questions about philosophy, aesthetics, and mathematics, but answers to the latter do not constitute answers to the former: they just tell you how to find them.


It looks like you are excluding things like philosophy-of-science from philosophy. I don't understand why you would do that.

If the question of how you ought to do science is part of philosophy, then isn't the actual practice of science part of that? If choosing morals is part of philosophy, aren't you committing philosophy when you actually make moral choices?
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:13 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:It looks like you are excluding things like philosophy-of-science from philosophy. I don't understand why you would do that.


Because historically speaking, it's proved to be a bit of a mess dominated by people who have fuck all idea about actually conducting science...
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:38 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:...physics does not include what ought to happen in an economy. But physics does include the question of how physical people decide what ought to happen in an economy.

[...]

...physics includes the study of how human beings do it and how human beings decide how good it is. Physics does not include the question whether human brains are correct in their processing of such things.

[...]

The question how human beings pose such questions and how they search for answers is part of physics. The question what they should do that would be better than what they actually do, is not part of physics.


It sounds like we agree completely. How then can you say that everything is reducible to physics, and maintain that there are questions which are not the domain of physics? Are you just dismissing those questions?

It looks like you are excluding things like philosophy-of-science from philosophy.


Not all all. Philosophy of science is the close examination of one particular (type of) epistemological theory and its difficulties, and epistemological theories are precisely what I was referencing with my phrase "how can we tell what is real". So philosophy of science definitely belongs in there. (I do think some "philosophy" of science is really more like sociology of science, e.g. Kuhn, but nevertheless some ideas in it can be reformulated in a more philosophical way).

If the question of how you ought to do science is part of philosophy, then isn't the actual practice of science part of that? If choosing morals is part of philosophy, aren't you committing philosophy when you actually make moral choices?

No... and actually, I use this as an argument that (normative) ethics shouldn't really be considered a philosophical topic either (as it currently is), only metaethics; akin to physics and metaphysics.

Philosophy tells you how to do physics, and how to do ethics; how to figure out what is, and what ought to be. It does not (or at least should not) tell you specifically what is, or what ought to be. How physicists get their results is very much something philosophy may have something to say about; but what results they get is equally much not.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:58 pm UTC

TheKrikkitWars wrote:
J Thomas wrote:It looks like you are excluding things like philosophy-of-science from philosophy. I don't understand why you would do that.


Because historically speaking, it's proved to be a bit of a mess dominated by people who have fuck all idea about actually conducting science...


Just because people do it badly is no reason to exclude it from the domain. Otherwise we would look at the mess people have made of physics and exclude chemistry etc from it.

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:...physics does not include what ought to happen in an economy. But physics does include the question of how physical people decide what ought to happen in an economy.

[...]

...physics includes the study of how human beings do it and how human beings decide how good it is. Physics does not include the question whether human brains are correct in their processing of such things.

[...]

The question how human beings pose such questions and how they search for answers is part of physics. The question what they should do that would be better than what they actually do, is not part of physics.


It sounds like we agree completely. How then can you say that everything is reducible to physics, and maintain that there are questions which are not the domain of physics? Are you just dismissing those questions?


I am kind of dismissing them as an area of science.

Put it this way -- since chess happens inside human brains, how to win at chess is part of physics. And since esthetics happens in human brains, figuring out what it is about chess that people find satisfying is part of physics. And similarly finding rules for a game similar to chess that humans would find more satisfying is also part of physics. But whether you should publish the rules for a new chess is not part of physics.

Physics can look at what happens in an economy when people who run businesses try to maximize their income and try to avoid bankruptcy. Physics can look at effective strategies that people might use to avoid bankruptcy and maximize income. But it is not in the domain of physics to say whether people should try to maximize their income.

It looks like you are excluding things like philosophy-of-science from philosophy.


Not all all. Philosophy of science is the close examination of one particular (type of) epistemological theory and its difficulties, and epistemological theories are precisely what I was referencing with my phrase "how can we tell what is real". So philosophy of science definitely belongs in there. (I do think some "philosophy" of science is really more like sociology of science, e.g. Kuhn, but nevertheless some ideas in it can be reformulated in a more philosophical way).


I guess when philosophy-of-science describes how people actually do science, it is part of physics.

It still looks to me like philosophy tells you how to choose the rules for science, and that when you choose to play by those rules you're doing philosophy. But I found a metaphor that might fit your way. When you play basketball you have to learn enough of the rules of the game that you don't embarrass yourself. But to become a basketball referee you have to learn the rules well enough that people who second-guess you about them will be wrong. And the referee at a basketball game isn't exactly playing the game. So maybe scientists don't have to understand how to do science as long as they can limp along adequately, while the people who learn in great detail how science should be done are not actually scientists but some special kind of kibitzer.

If the question of how you ought to do science is part of philosophy, then isn't the actual practice of science part of that? If choosing morals is part of philosophy, aren't you committing philosophy when you actually make moral choices?

No... and actually, I use this as an argument that (normative) ethics shouldn't really be considered a philosophical topic either (as it currently is), only metaethics; akin to physics and metaphysics.

Philosophy tells you how to do physics, and how to do ethics; how to figure out what is, and what ought to be. It does not (or at least should not) tell you specifically what is, or what ought to be. How physicists get their results is very much something philosophy may have something to say about; but what results they get is equally much not.


I'm not at all sure that's a good way to divide things up. But it's clearly one possible way to do it.

I thought you said that since it's possible to build a Turing Machine in the real world, everything a Turing Machine can do is part of physics. I have an analogy that might seem far-fetched to you. I say that if it's possible to build a physics using philosophy, then anything the physics can do is part of philosophy.

The ways we define "philosophy" and "physics" are fundamentally arbitrary, but I like the symmetry of the way I do it. It just feels like it makes sense.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:50 am UTC

Metazoan wrote:Ah, so that was what it was about. :oops:

Does that make them orgasmic chemists?

That's a field of research I'd be well-qualified to write a dissertation on.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby thret » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:59 am UTC

Metazoan wrote:Why do chemists need safewords?
The only context I have heard of the term being used in is sadomasochistic sex games.


Safe words are useful for regular sex too. Particularly for things that are usually fine but sometimes not, like cunnilingus. Safe words are also used in a non-sexual context for flirting or faux-fighting over dishes or whatever.

I use pineapple.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Metazoan » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:13 am UTC

Congratulations cjmcjmcjmcjm, but do spare a thought for those less fortunate.

There are all those inorgasmic chemists who need love too.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Metazoan » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:15 am UTC

Too much information, thret,

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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby addams » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:29 pm UTC

How about, ''you win!''

Now; ''Get the Fuck off me! That shit is not funny.''

Except, when it is funny. It is funny when, I win.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:36 pm UTC

thret wrote:
Metazoan wrote:Why do chemists need safewords?
The only context I have heard of the term being used in is sadomasochistic sex games.


Safe words are useful for regular sex too. Particularly for things that are usually fine but sometimes not, like cunnilingus. Safe words are also used in a non-sexual context for flirting or faux-fighting over dishes or whatever.

I use pineapple.


There's nothing wrong with that.

Still, as I understand it, the point of safewords in BDSM is that you pretend that it isn't completely consensual, even though it is. So you can say "No, no, don't do that. That hurts! You're hurting me, stop. Stop! This is rape. No. I said no! Stop. Please don't hurt me. I'll do anything you want, just please stop hurting me. " and so on. And all through the play-acting, nobody gets confused that the "victim" means it, because it isn't the safeword.

When you aren't pretending it's nonconsensual, you can just say "Hey, this time let's do it this other way". Because your partner isn't pretending they're completely in control.

That reminds me. A couple of months ago I heard a first-hand story from a woman who had joined a 24/7 master/slave relationship with a group of people that she later noticed she did not like. But at that point she had no money and they took her paychecks. She spent most of her off-work time naked. If CPS found out what was going on they'd probably take her child from her. She felt like if she tried to leave she'd wind up on the street. So for her, it was a nonconsensual relationship where they pretended that it was a consensual relationship which they were pretending was nonconsensual.

Following out the logic, I expect some people would probably enjoy a relationship that they pretended was a nonconsensual one that they were pretending was consensual and they were playing at nonconsensual.

I think maybe human beings do a lot of symbolism. And in my limited experience it looks like women do even more symbolic thinking than men. Maybe it's that the particular varieties of symbolism that men do less, tend to stand out for me.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Yakk » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:45 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Yes, that's what abstraction means, and why multiple realizability is possible. But nevertheless, any instance of any bit of software doing something is identical with an instance of some sufficient hardware doing that thing. That different hardware can do the same thing, and that "software is what hardware does", is what makes software multiply realizable on hardware. Likewise, "biology is what chemistry does" and "chemistry is what physics does"'.

Your reduction of software to hardware is in error.

Hardware requires physical existence. Software doesn't. You can reduce programs to mathematical theorems, and software can "run" on abstract mathematical objects. So unless you reduce philosophy to hardware...

On top of that, you claim that physics has things that exist. I don't see how you came to that conclusion. What experiment would distinguish a mathematical construct from something that exists?

It is generally supposed that if you built a simulation of reality that was sufficiently accurate, the beings inside of it would experience consciousness. And they would experience their environment and could create laws of physics, and dictate what "exists" from what does not. Yet the same simulation might store as much information about what does not exist as what does exist. The physics of the simulated consciousnesses would be the rules of what they experience -- a set of compression rules to describe their environment and predict what will happen next -- not rules about what exists or what does not exist.

You don't have to suppose this is actually happening to realize that there is nothing about physics that requires what it describes to exist. Physics is a compression algorithm on our sensory experiences that works because we seem to exist in a reality with non-maximal information content (ie, non-maximal Entropy). In fact, we seem to exist extremely far from maximal information, which implies that we can build compact compression laws that can, with high reliability, predict the state and evolution of our sensory apparatus using very little information in at least some circumstances.

Physics is applied information theory.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby dms33 » Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:01 pm UTC

evac156 wrote:I was thinking of my field, software development, and what would be a good/bad safeword.

I think it would be funny to give someone a safeword of "if-then-else." Because if someone yells out, "IF! THEN! ELSE!" in the middle of a scene, I could simply reply, "Oh no, I make the rules here!"

Okay. We all know, "Unhandled exception!" would be the best and most obvious choice.


As an older programmer when a safeword is required I'm partial to using "Control C!"
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby addams » Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:39 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
thret wrote:
Metazoan wrote:Why do chemists need safewords?
The only context I have heard of the term being used in is sadomasochistic sex games.


Safe words are useful for regular sex too. Particularly for things that are usually fine but sometimes not, like cunnilingus. Safe words are also used in a non-sexual context for flirting or faux-fighting over dishes or whatever.

I use pineapple.


There's nothing wrong with that.

Still, as I understand it, the point of safewords in BDSM is that you pretend that it isn't completely consensual, even though it is. So you can say "No, no, don't do that. That hurts! You're hurting me, stop. Stop! This is rape. No. I said no! Stop. Please don't hurt me. I'll do anything you want, just please stop hurting me. " and so on. And all through the play-acting, nobody gets confused that the "victim" means it, because it isn't the safeword.

When you aren't pretending it's nonconsensual, you can just say "Hey, this time let's do it this other way". Because your partner isn't pretending they're completely in control.

That reminds me. A couple of months ago I heard a first-hand story from a woman who had joined a 24/7 master/slave relationship with a group of people that she later noticed she did not like. But at that point she had no money and they took her paychecks. She spent most of her off-work time naked. If CPS found out what was going on they'd probably take her child from her. She felt like if she tried to leave she'd wind up on the street. So for her, it was a nonconsensual relationship where they pretended that it was a consensual relationship which they were pretending was nonconsensual.

Following out the logic, I expect some people would probably enjoy a relationship that they pretended was a nonconsensual one that they were pretending was consensual and they were playing at nonconsensual.

I think maybe human beings do a lot of symbolism. And in my limited experience it looks like women do even more symbolic thinking than men. Maybe it's that the particular varieties of symbolism that men do less, tend to stand out for me.

Yeah. I have had this shit explained to me. It does not seem like symbolic language to me. It looks mean.

Manipulitive people seem to like it. Women do seem to be a bit more manipulitive to me.
The woman you drcribed managed to get herself into an abusive relationship.

She got out. Right.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby imantodes » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:12 pm UTC

Kyreles wrote:Physics is just applied math.


Math is just applied logic.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:06 am UTC

addams wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Still, as I understand it, the point of safewords in BDSM is that you pretend that it isn't completely consensual, even though it is. So you can say "No, no, don't do that. That hurts! You're hurting me, stop. Stop! This is rape. No. I said no! Stop. Please don't hurt me. I'll do anything you want, just please stop hurting me. " and so on. And all through the play-acting, nobody gets confused that the "victim" means it, because it isn't the safeword.

When you aren't pretending it's nonconsensual, you can just say "Hey, this time let's do it this other way". Because your partner isn't pretending they're completely in control.

....

I think maybe human beings do a lot of symbolism. And in my limited experience it looks like women do even more symbolic thinking than men. Maybe it's that the particular varieties of symbolism that men do less, tend to stand out for me.

Yeah. I have had this shit explained to me. It does not seem like symbolic language to me. It looks mean.


I have given some thought to this, but I don't have a lot of experimental data to test the theories. So beware.

First something that may look like a sidetrack. Gregory Bateson claimed that when animals communicate without words, they don't have a way to say negation. Like, when two dogs meet for the first time, they don't have a way to say "I don't want to fight you". They have a way to say "I cringe before your magnificence, do whatever you want to me" but that isn't what they want to say. What often happens is that they start a half-hearted mock fight. They notice how the fight goes, and each notices that the other isn't intent on hurting them. And then they settle down. Of course, when dogs do this meeting for the first time in a park with their owners nearby, the owners tend to go crazy and try to separate them on the assumption they're trying to kill each other.

The claim is that this communication is more true and honest than verbal communication. A whole lot of times people say "I don't want to hurt you" as a lie. We tell lots of lies. But if you actually get the chance to hurt somebody and they see you don't want to, they know that in a way that you can't tell them with words.

In that context, I can imagine the BDSM stuff as a carefully contrived approach to, yes, communication. Both partners prove their intentions. The controlling partner proves how much she cares about the controlled partner's feelings. They do lots of cuddles etc before and after the pretend stuff, that seem to mean more in context. Sometimes (maybe a lot of times, I have no statistics) the controlled partner freaks out and does the safeword, and the controlling partner stops everything quick. Maybe she gets out the EMT shears and cuts through ropes and gear that cost hundreds of dollars. This is proof how much she values her partner. It doesn't happen every time, maybe 1 in 3? I have no statistics.

Meanwhile the controlled partner lets the controlling partner test her "limits". She has a set of things that freak her out, that she normally would not do, and she lets the controlling partner come close to those limits and she tries not to freak out. She wouldn't do that for just anybody.

And it appears to be highly stylized. There are a set of, say, 200 or so activities that are regarded as safe done by normal people who know how, 20 or so that are considered too dangerous to do by any but skilled practitioners, a handful of things that are widely regarded as damaging or unsafe, and then there are various truly unsafe activities that don't get mentioned or fantasized about much. Entirely apart from individual "limits", the repertoire appears to be pretty much set in stone. The people who do it probably know precisely what to expect apart from what it feels like to do particular routines they personally have not experienced before.

It's a giant game of "let's pretend". Similar to, say rock climbing. There's the arbitrary goal of reaching the top. There are lots of known techniques, and people believe it's far riskier than it actually is -- for competent mountaineers. Far more rock climbers die in auto accidents returning from climbs than while actually climbing. There's a hierarchy from novice to expert climbers -- people who know the ropes. Climbing together, depending for your life on the other guy's belay, is an intense bonding experience. Maybe BDSM is almost the same as rock climbing in the important things, only you can do it in a comfy bedroom without having to drive out to a rock.

Myself, I took up caving for the excitement of the caves. In the process I found myself doing thousand-foot crawls, crawls through cold muddy water, climbing up and down ropes wearing rope harnesses, contorting myself into strange positions while keeping three points of contact on exposed climbs, and on occasion while helping other cavers freeclimb they would climb up me with their muddy lug-sole caving boots. Knee, hip, shoulder, head. Physically it may not have been very far from BDSM. But I noticed people did not use safewords. When somebody didn't want to do something, typically they would sniff and say "I think there's bad air here.". Everybody else would sniff and some other people would think there was bad air too. So we didn't do it. This way nobody had to admit they were wimping out.

Manipulitive people seem to like it. Women do seem to be a bit more manipulitive to me.
The woman you drcribed managed to get herself into an abusive relationship.

She got out. Right.


I didn't ask her what she did next, but I noticed that another woman -- a dom -- was being very protective of her. It was a big deal for her to talk in semi-public about her bad experience, and she was feeling real emotional. I could make up stories about what it all meant but they'd be stories I made up, just like your story only more detailed.

A BDSM outreach meeting at a science fiction convention. I got the impression the BDSM community was feeling threatened, and wanted to increase their numbers and improve their image among nonparticipants. (I thought this from a single event with a particular group of people.) They explained a lot about their point of view. Her story fit into that as follows: She had met her abusive Gorean nest pretty much by accident. It took her 2 years to find the regular BDSM group in her community, that taught people how to safely screen potential play partners and that somewhat policed its members etc. They described how to use the web to find a local group that ought to be safe to join. So by describing how she had been abused, she furthered the group's goals.

They made it all sound fairly plausible given their initial assumptions. I didn't stay for the demo with the whips, floggers, canes, feather boas, etc.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:09 am UTC

Metazoan wrote:Congratulations cjmcjmcjmcjm, but do spare a thought for those less fortunate.

There are all those inorgasmic chemists who need love too.

There's always physical chemists who get to study cuddling.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:34 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:It sounds like we agree completely. How then can you say that everything is reducible to physics, and maintain that there are questions which are not the domain of physics? Are you just dismissing those questions?


I am kind of dismissing them as an area of science.

...whether you should publish the rules for a new chess is not part of physics.

...it is not in the domain of physics to say whether people should try to maximize their income.

Yes, I agree completely. But the question I'm posing then is: if these things are not the domain of physics (and all [natural] science reduces to physics), what are they the domain of? Possible answers are "something not physics (and thus not [natural] science)", or "nothing". Which is your answer?

I guess when philosophy-of-science describes how people actually do science, it is part of physics.

Yes, and thereby not really part of philosophy, but more sociology.

It still looks to me like philosophy tells you how to choose the rules for science, and that when you choose to play by those rules you're doing philosophy. But I found a metaphor that might fit your way. When you play basketball you have to learn enough of the rules of the game that you don't embarrass yourself. But to become a basketball referee you have to learn the rules well enough that people who second-guess you about them will be wrong. And the referee at a basketball game isn't exactly playing the game. So maybe scientists don't have to understand how to do science as long as they can limp along adequately, while the people who learn in great detail how science should be done are not actually scientists but some special kind of kibitzer.

That seems like a pretty appropriate analogy, though not perfect. Referees of a sport don't have extensive debates about what the correct rules of the sport are or objectively should be, about what sports are objectively better and should or shouldn't be played in what circumstances and why; they just have some authoritative reference to what the arbitrary rules of this arbitrary game definitively are, and are tasked with knowing and applying them. They are, to mix metaphors, an executive branch, not a legislative branch. Then again that metaphor doesn't fit too well either because unlike real legislatures, philosophers don't think that whatever a majority of them decide is right magically becomes right because they decided it to be... they're more like scientists in that they're looking to find answers, not looking to make them up. Except they're more like mathematicians than scientists in that their search is conducted entirely a priori. Except...

Yeah, not a perfect analogy. But the "player:ball::referee:rules" part is nicely illustrative.

I thought you said that since it's possible to build a Turing Machine in the real world, everything a Turing Machine can do is part of physics. I have an analogy that might seem far-fetched to you. I say that if it's possible to build a physics using philosophy, then anything the physics can do is part of philosophy.


I've already agreed that the natural sciences are all sort of "applied philosophy". The only point I'm arguing is that the things physicists study do not reduce to the things philosophers study, the way chemistry relates to physics, etc.

A psychological process is something biological processes do, and a biological process is something chemical processes do, and a chemical process is something physical processes do, but a physical process is not something philosophical processes do, any more (to adapt your sports analogy) than 'hit fly balls' is something the infield fly rule does. Hitting fly balls is a subject which batters study; the infield fly rule is a subject that umpires study; the infield fly rule applies to the fly balls which the batters hit, but an infield fly ball (the actual event of an actual ball flying through the air in a certain way) does not reduce to the infield fly rule; rather, the latter says something about the former.

Physics is the process of telling what physical processes there are and what they do, and it -- physics, not the physical processes it studies -- is a philosophical process. Chemistry is the process of telling what chemical processes there are and what they do, and it -- chemistry, not the chemical processes it studies -- is also a philosophical process. The same one, in fact -- some kind of critical, empirical, realist epistemology that we call "the scientific method" -- applied to a different subject matter. Likewise biology, psychology, etc. Their subject matters may reduce to one another down to the subject matter of physics, but their methodologies all equally share the same core principles, which are the subject matter of philosophy, and to which the subject matters of the various sciences to not reduce, any more than an infield fly ball reduces to the infield fly rule.

Yakk wrote:Your reduction of software to hardware is in error.

(This is highly tangential, but I found it amusing and thought you might too: for some reason, I can't help but read your post in the voice of Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager).

Hardware requires physical existence. Software doesn't. You can reduce programs to mathematical theorems, and software can "run" on abstract mathematical objects.


You seem to be driving at a philosophy of mathematics issue, e.g. "In what sense can numbers be said to 'exist'?" That's an interesting question that I have opinions on, but I think we can sidestep it for now.

In the sense that software is abstract mathematics, and abstract mathematical objects can be said to "exist", then every program that could ever be written, including ones which will never be written (if any), already exists, has always existed since before "computer" was even a term for someone who did arithmetic for a living, will always exists even if physical reality was somehow unmade, and could not have helped but exist in any possible reality. In that sense of "existence", possibility is actuality.

I don't think that's the sense anybody means when they talk about software. There are programs which haven't been written yet, which we'd say "don't exist yet". I need a program to demux an old proprietary video container on a modern operating system, but there is no such program; it does not exist. It could, someone could write it, so in the abstract mathematical sense "a program exists" like "a theorem exists" even if nobody's worked out the details yet -- but that's not the sense people use when they talk about software.

Any program which has been written and is actually executing in the real, physical world, has no more ontological import than some hardware doing something.

On top of that, you claim that physics has things that exist. I don't see how you came to that conclusion. What experiment would distinguish a mathematical construct from something that exists?


The (in)ability to run experiments to test them is what distinguishes a pure mathematical construct from an actually existing instantiation of that mathematical structure. You can't observe an Abelian group floating out there in space somewhere; but you could perhaps observe some physical phenomenon that can be modeled as an Abelian group.

It is generally supposed that if you built a simulation of reality that was sufficiently accurate, the beings inside of it would experience consciousness. And they would experience their environment and could create laws of physics, and dictate what "exists" from what does not. Yet the same simulation might store as much information about what does not exist as what does exist. The physics of the simulated consciousnesses would be the rules of what they experience -- a set of compression rules to describe their environment and predict what will happen next -- not rules about what exists or what does not exist.

You don't have to suppose this is actually happening to realize that there is nothing about physics that requires what it describes to exist. Physics is a compression algorithm on our sensory experiences that works because we seem to exist in a reality with non-maximal information content (ie, non-maximal Entropy). In fact, we seem to exist extremely far from maximal information, which implies that we can build compact compression laws that can, with high reliability, predict the state and evolution of our sensory apparatus using very little information in at least some circumstances.

Physics is applied information theory.


I agree with most of this, except this part: "there is nothing about physics that requires what it describes to exist". There very much is. We can come up with an infinite variety of mathematical models all day every day forever, but only some of them will match up with observations. Those observable things exist, and may instantiate some mathematical model; but the models are still only models of things which might exist, and have no ontological import themselves.

To put it in a more information-theoretic way: the information that constitutes the universe will compress to certain patterns and not to others. That information is what exists; the patterns it compresses to are another representation of the same information and therefore also exist. The patterns it does not compress to, on the other hand, do not.

(And on the subject of simulated realities: even if we are all in the Matrix, brains in vats, deceptions of an evil genius, dreams, or whatever, everything we're experiencing still exists and is still real; there's just more to reality than we think there is, in that case. If the apparently physics of this "reality" are radically unlike the physics of the broader reality, then we have a big topic to study: what are the physics of the broader reality, and how did they give rise to the system which we mistook for reality?)
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Eternal Density » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:17 am UTC

PaulBurnett wrote:"Dihydrogenmonoxide" is a good safeword, as it's not a "normal" word that one might accidentally utter.
I use that word a lot and have it on my aperture science water bottle, so I guess it works as a safe word but several stages earlier.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Haylo » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:29 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:There's a hierarchy from novice to expert climbers -- people who know the ropes. Climbing together, depending for your life on the other guy's belay, is an intense bonding experience. Maybe BDSM is almost the same as rock climbing in the important thing
Yes that's exactly it. I'm a mediocre climber at best, but give me a Tesla coil and... :D

You're right about the bonding experience too, another analogy I use is that it's like taking your partner onto a roller coaster. It might scare the living daylights out of them, but at the back of their mind they know that (barring a freak accident) they are absolutely safe. The difference is, you can't stop a roller coaster and get off, whereas with BDSM you can. Unless of course you've negotiated not using safewords, which happens in real life far more often than the safety police and online forums would have you believe.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:16 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:It sounds like we agree completely. How then can you say that everything is reducible to physics, and maintain that there are questions which are not the domain of physics? Are you just dismissing those questions?


I am kind of dismissing them as an area of science.

...whether you should publish the rules for a new chess is not part of physics.

...it is not in the domain of physics to say whether people should try to maximize their income.

Yes, I agree completely. But the question I'm posing then is: if these things are not the domain of physics (and all [natural] science reduces to physics), what are they the domain of? Possible answers are "something not physics (and thus not [natural] science)", or "nothing". Which is your answer?


That is a philosophical question and my answer is not definitive.

I'll answer anyway. I'll start with a conversation I had with a woman in San Francisco.

her: So, your sister used to live in San Francisco and sing with the San Francisco opera. And then she married a lawyer and moved to Berkeley and started a family. Wasn't that a giant step down in coolness?

me: People decide for themselves what they think is cool. Different people at different times want different things.

her: Yes, people do that. But I'm talking about what's really cool. I don't care about people who try to think they're cool when they're not. Some people are really and truly cool. And really everybody can tell the difference. Right?


I say there's no scientific answer to tell us what's really cool. Is there an objective answer? Is there some absolute scale that decides what's really cool, or is it just something in people's heads, and everybody gets to decide for himself? There are a whole lot of questions like that, and currently I believe I'm a relativist about all of them. At some time I might notice one that I'm an absolutist on, that I would have always been an absolutist on if I'd noticed. Or I might change my mind. But so far I haven't noticed that, and I believe I'm a relativist on all those things.

So given a choice between supporting humanity, versus rooting for Chthulu who wants to eat humanity, I prefer the human side and I expect I'll continue that choice right up until Chthulu physically changes my mind. But I consider that only my choice, and I don't claim there's an objectively reason why that choice is right and the other choice is wrong.

What's really cool? Which sports team deserves to win the pennant? Is it better to try to get to heaven or to hell after you die? I don't think these questions are in the domain of physics. Are they in the domain of "questions which each have one correct answer and many wrong answers"? Are they in the domain of "questions which have no single correct answer"? Are they in the domain of "questions that have many correct answers that vary according to circumstance"? I don't know.

I hid a long interesting discussion that some people might find tedious.
Spoiler:
I guess when philosophy-of-science describes how people actually do science, it is part of physics.

Yes, and thereby not really part of philosophy, but more sociology.


We've started repeating ourselves. What do you consider the boundaries of philosophy to be? At what point do you stop doing philosophy and start doing something which is not philosophy? I'd have trouble coming up with a good definition from scratch, but from what you've said I think I'd disagree with your definition. I'm asking you to define it because I hope you could do it easier than I can.

Referees of a sport don't have extensive debates about what the correct rules of the sport are or objectively should be, about what sports are objectively better and should or shouldn't be played in what circumstances and why; they just have some authoritative reference to what the arbitrary rules of this arbitrary game definitively are, and are tasked with knowing and applying them.


And yet often there's somebody who debates what the rules ought to be, and occasionally changes them. I remember reading about discussions about how the rules for football should be changed so it would be more exciting for TV viewers. They wanted to encourage more long passes and such. And as I vaguely understood it, they did change the rules to encourage the kind of game they wanted.

Then again that metaphor doesn't fit too well either because unlike real legislatures, philosophers don't think that whatever a majority of them decide is right magically becomes right because they decided it to be... they're more like scientists in that they're looking to find answers, not looking to make them up. Except they're more like mathematicians than scientists in that their search is conducted entirely a priori. Except...


Which reminds me -- we want philosophy to provide the answers for how to correctly do physics. Except the philosophers do not agree. They haven't even agreed on the rules for how to do philosophy. Uh oh.

Where have I heard something like that before? Oh yes. The physicists are supposed to show us how to do all the other sciences. Physics works, bitches! QM gets the absolutely right answers. Except that of course for all the interesting questions the QM solution is too complicated to calculate. And there are a bunch of mathematical flaws which haven't been resolved, so that to get the right answer you kind of have to put aside the math and just do it the way that gets the right answer.

Where have I heard something like that before? Oh yes. Newtonian physicists were supposed to answer all the questions too. They knew it was right because it explained why the moon didn't fall down etc. In a clockwork universe with pool-ball collisions and gravity, you could calculate everything if you knew the starting conditions. But in practice they had some trouble with the 3-body problem.

I guess in an ideal world we would all do philosophy until we got it right. Once we were sure we had that right then we could do math until we had that right too, and then physics, and from there it would be a simple matter to work our way up to chemistry etc. But in the world we have, I think it's just fine for psychologists to proceed even though the neuroscientists don't have the answers yet for how neurons act together. And the neurologists can do their work even though there are important unanswered questions in physiology. And right down the line.

And if somebody says that it all boils down to physics they can sort of nod and smile vaguely and ignore it. That sort of claim doesn't make any difference to the world. Unless it affects the funding.

I thought you said that since it's possible to build a Turing Machine in the real world, everything a Turing Machine can do is part of physics. I have an analogy that might seem far-fetched to you. I say that if it's possible to build a physics using philosophy, then anything the physics can do is part of philosophy.


I've already agreed that the natural sciences are all sort of "applied philosophy". The only point I'm arguing is that the things physicists study do not reduce to the things philosophers study, the way chemistry relates to physics, etc.


Applied math relates to math. Applied psychology relates to psychology. But chemistry is mostly not applied physics. Chemistry starts from its own observations and generates rules that fit those observations. Someday physics may find physical explanations for why those rules work. And physicists may find more precise rules starting from a deeper level. Someday. And we may get the computing power to study chemistry starting from that deeper level, without the abstractions chemists currently use. If all that happens, then chemistry could become applied physics andthe traditions of existing chemistry will be obsolete.

Chemistry reduces to physics in the minds of reductionists who do not care about the details. There's a theory that chemistry ought to reduce to physics. It has not yet done so.

A psychological process is something biological processes do, and a biological process is something chemical processes do, and a chemical process is something physical processes do, but a physical process is not something philosophical processes do, any more (to adapt your sports analogy) than 'hit fly balls' is something the infield fly rule does. Hitting fly balls is a subject which batters study; the infield fly rule is a subject that umpires study; the infield fly rule applies to the fly balls which the batters hit, but an infield fly ball (the actual event of an actual ball flying through the air in a certain way) does not reduce to the infield fly rule; rather, the latter says something about the former.


How to correctly apply abstractions to complex topics is one topic that philosophy studies. Philosophers themselves must apply abstractions to complex topics. Scientists attempt to correctly apply abstractions to various complex topics. We're back to the question of what should be excluded from philosophy.

Physics is the process of telling what physical processes there are and what they do, and it -- physics, not the physical processes it studies -- is a philosophical process. Chemistry is the process of telling what chemical processes there are and what they do, and it -- chemistry, not the chemical processes it studies -- is also a philosophical process. The same one, in fact -- some kind of critical, empirical, realist epistemology that we call "the scientific method" -- applied to a different subject matter. Likewise biology, psychology, etc. Their subject matters may reduce to one another down to the subject matter of physics, but their methodologies all equally share the same core principles, which are the subject matter of philosophy, and to which the subject matters of the various sciences to not reduce, any more than an infield fly ball reduces to the infield fly rule.


That makes a kind of sense. And yet -- when there's an infield fly ball that the infield fly rule applies to, and the rule is not applied, then it could be argued that what you are doing is not playing baseball but something else. And if you play with real physical processes but you break the philosophical rules for science, then what you are doing is not physics. To me it seems like saying that physics is not philosophy because it involves mass and energy is like saying that your social behavior is not ethics because there are other people involved.

Yakk wrote:Your reduction of software to hardware is in error. .... Hardware requires physical existence. Software doesn't. You can reduce programs to mathematical theorems, and software can "run" on abstract mathematical objects.


....

In the sense that software is abstract mathematics, and abstract mathematical objects can be said to "exist", then every program that could ever be written, including ones which will never be written (if any), already exists, has always existed since before "computer" was even a term for someone who did arithmetic for a living, will always exists even if physical reality was somehow unmade, and could not have helped but exist in any possible reality. In that sense of "existence", possibility is actuality.


Yes. I thought that was implicit in your view that software is hardware. If software is physics because it can be executed by hardware, then every possible program that can be executed by hardware is included in that.

I think this is probably a bogus idea. Like, suppose it turns out that the structure of your brain is implicit in your genes. Then your genes determine the range of thoughts you could possibly have. There are lots of thoughts that some brain could have, which your brain can't have because your genes did not give you the brain structure that could perform those thoughts.

And so genetics would include all of psychology. Genetics would implicitly include every possible sane or insane thought you could ever have. If you are capable of epilepsy, your genetics would include every variation of epileptic fit you could have. But your genome contains about 2^33 bits of information. How useful is it to try to determine your entire brain structure from that code, even if it turns out that the code is sufficient? What does all this reductionism actually get us?

On top of that, you claim that physics has things that exist. I don't see how you came to that conclusion. What experiment would distinguish a mathematical construct from something that exists?


The (in)ability to run experiments to test them is what distinguishes a pure mathematical construct from an actually existing instantiation of that mathematical structure. You can't observe an Abelian group floating out there in space somewhere; but you could perhaps observe some physical phenomenon that can be modeled as an Abelian group.


Sure, but to even have the concept of an Abelian group you need a model in your mind, which reduces to physical behavior in your brain. The concept of an abelian group is an abstraction which is itself a mental mode. And since your thoughts are nothing more than chemical processes, mental models are physical models.

.... You don't have to suppose this is actually happening to realize that there is nothing about physics that requires what it describes to exist. Physics is a compression algorithm on our sensory experiences that works because we seem to exist in a reality with non-maximal information content (ie, non-maximal Entropy). In fact, we seem to exist extremely far from maximal information, which implies that we can build compact compression laws that can, with high reliability, predict the state and evolution of our sensory apparatus using very little information in at least some circumstances.

Physics is applied information theory.


I agree with most of this, except this part: "there is nothing about physics that requires what it describes to exist". There very much is. We can come up with an infinite variety of mathematical models all day every day forever, but only some of them will match up with observations. Those observable things exist, and may instantiate some mathematical model; but the models are still only models of things which might exist, and have no ontological import themselves.


And each model is an imperfect representation of the things which we assume exist.

You are making a collection of philosophical assertions here which I doubt many philosophers would agree are proven.

To put it in a more information-theoretic way: the information that constitutes the universe will compress to certain patterns and not to others. That information is what exists; the patterns it compresses to are another representation of the same information and therefore also exist. The patterns it does not compress to, on the other hand, do not.


This is fraught. Take the classic chestnut, the old epicycles. Epicycles provided a pattern to explain orbits that was potentially perfect. The information could be compressed just fine that way. It fit the data. But they have universally been discarded because a new method is simpler and compresses better. Do epicycles still exist? Did they ever, really?

When QM is replaced by a simpler explanation which gets the same results and more, what will that mean? Should we grade patterns by how well they fit quantitatively? When we find counterexamples that prove a theory wrong, should we discount them by the number of cases that it does get the right answer? You're proposing an idea that potentially has a lot of complications.


In the final analysis, reductionism can be reduced to the following idea:

Complex problems can be reduced to simple problems.

Often this is a powerful technique. When it works out that you can reduce a complex problem to a collection of simple problems that have simple interfaces, then you can substitute bewilderment for tedium. Solve each simple problem, plug them into their interfaces, and you're done.

But what if you have a complex problem which does not reduce to a collection of simple problems with simple interfaces? What if you have a problem where everything is connected to everything else in complicated and unexpected ways? Then you will probably not solve it. Reductionists can happily pick out simple problems from the mess and solve them, serene in the belief that someday their work will all fit together. They are wrong but they will never find out they are wrong. And if in fact they happen to be right this particular time, they might someday find a workable answer. In the meantime you can take a holistic approach and try to develop some rules of thumb that will help sometimes. Good luck, reliable results are unlikely.

But there's a second kind of reductionism. There are people who are not actually trying to turn complex problems into collections of simple problems with simple interfaces. These people merely declare that reductionism is truth. And their claims can be boiled down to:

Complex problems are simple problems.

They are wrong.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:10 pm UTC

I only have time for a short reply right now, hopefully more later, but for now:

J Thomas wrote:In the final analysis, reductionism can be reduced to the following idea:

Complex problems can be reduced to simple problems.


I would rather say "A reduces to B if A is a complex of Bs".

I think this illustrates a difference in the sense we're each using "reduction" in. I'm not speaking so much of problems, or tasks, or anything like that; I'm not saying that some day, nobody will do psychology, we'll just do a bunch of calculations about the complex of quantum fields which constitute a brain and the neurotransmitters therein. Each level of abstraction has its useful purpose. Likewise, I wouldn't program a modern web application in machine code, even though, in the end, any web application I write ends up as some machine code running on some computer somewhere.

It's that latter part that I'm talking about. Javascript is an interpreted language which is parsed by a program probably written in C++ which is compiled by a program which was written in a program which was written in a program which was.... eventually.... written in assembly, which is a 1:1 representation of some machine code, to which the C++ was also compiled, and to which the C++ program interprets the Javascript I wrote. It's all machine code in the end; Javascript can't do anything that machine code can't do. But working at the Javascript level allows me to ignore a lot of the details of working with machine code and focus on the more abstract things that are more important to my purpose.

Likewise, the only kind of reductionism I support is the one which says that the higher sciences (chem, bio, psych) don't introduce new kinds of things into our understanding of the world, that aren't just complexes of physical things, broader abstractions of physical things. As opposed to, say, introducing some nonphysical vital force at the biology level, or some immaterial soul at the psychological level, or... I don't know if chemistry has ever broken from physicalism like those two have. The different levels of understanding are all useful, and we don't and might not ever understand exactly how one translates into another (just like I don't know what machine code my Javascript gets fleshed out as), but they are in principle translatable between each other.

And yes, that is just a theory, in the philosophical sense of that word, until we actually can perfectly translate between the levels. But I think there are good arguments to be made for it, which I'm happy to get into if you like. Right now I'm just clarifying what position I hold.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby realcleaver » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:35 pm UTC

Love xkcd, but I remembered seeing this joke earlier this year. I dug around and found this:

https://twitter.com/flailingup/statuses/155405794920251392
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:00 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I only have time for a short reply right now, hopefully more later, but for now:

....

I'm not speaking so much of problems, or tasks, or anything like that; I'm not saying that some day, nobody will do psychology, we'll just do a bunch of calculations about the complex of quantum fields which constitute a brain and the neurotransmitters therein. Each level of abstraction has its useful purpose. Likewise, I wouldn't program a modern web application in machine code, even though, in the end, any web application I write ends up as some machine code running on some computer somewhere.


Yes! It's possible to say that HLLs all "reduce" to machine code. And usually machine code instructions are themselves simpler than HLL instructions, and when you count all the HLL included utility subroutines etc there are fewer machine code instructions than there are HLL instructions, and they are individually simpler. But that simplicity does not get you anything worth having.

I
Javascript can't do anything that machine code can't do. But working at the Javascript level allows me to ignore a lot of the details of working with machine code and focus on the more abstract things that are more important to my purpose.


Going the other direction, you could pay attention to the physical hardware and the gates and timing etc that run your program. But there's no obvious value in doing that.

Likewise, the only kind of reductionism I support is the one which says that the higher sciences (chem, bio, psych) don't introduce new kinds of things into our understanding of the world, that aren't just complexes of physical things, broader abstractions of physical things


I disagree except at a definitional level. Complex things wind up with emergent properties.

The gas laws are the result of many trillions of individual molecules and their individual behaviors. But when you concentrate on the individual behaviors you don't get the gas laws, you get something else.

Performance of armies depends on individual soldiers, and performance of gases depends on individual molecules. But in both cases you get interaction effects which are not obvious from looking at the individuals. Does it make sense to say that the new abstractions are derived from the base behaviors so there's nothing really new there, so we might as well call it all physics? Or does it make sense to give a new name to the new study of new phenomena?

As opposed to, say, introducing some nonphysical vital force at the biology level, or some immaterial soul at the psychological level, or... I don't know if chemistry has ever broken from physicalism like those two have. The different levels of understanding are all useful, and we don't and might not ever understand exactly how one translates into another (just like I don't know what machine code my Javascript gets fleshed out as), but they are in principle translatable between each other.

And yes, that is just a theory, in the philosophical sense of that word, until we actually can perfectly translate between the levels. But I think there are good arguments to be made for it, which I'm happy to get into if you like. Right now I'm just clarifying what position I hold.


Back when chemistry was alchemy there wasn't much physics for it to break away from.

My position on this stuff is that it's definitional arguments that are only about where to draw lines between things. It is not about the world but about unimportant subtleties in how we define our study of the world.

Here's an argument. Imagine that we find out that under some circumstances human beings can do psychokinesis. Some humans can move things with their minds. At first sight this would appear to justify vitalism. Human beings can do things that violate the laws of physics. But if we could observe psychokinesis reproducibly and study it, after awhile we would discover its patterns. We might find the energy sources. Perhaps the energy for psychokinesis is derived from increased entropy in another universe, and by studying psychokinesis we discover how to interact with this other universe. So it turns out not to be a completely disconnected universe after all. We would eventually learn how to make machines that can do psychokinesis, and the whole thing would become just -- physics. A different physics than we thought we had when we believed that psychokinesis was impossible.

Once we define physics as the study of everything that happens or can happen in the universe, then by definition all the other sciences are part of physics. But this does not really get us anywhere. It doesn't tell us anything about physics or other sciences, it only tells us where to draw lines.

It does not say that the methods of physics used to study simple things will be particularly useful to study more complicated things.

It doesn't tell us whether psychokinesis is possible, it only presumes that if psychokinesis does happen then we can study it and call it physics.

So what good is it? If we defined physics in a way that excluded some things, would it make any difference to anything that mattered?
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:32 am UTC

I don't think we're really disagreeing about much here, besides whether the differences which we seem to agree things make are important or not.

To me, the importance of a reductionist stance vs a non-reductionist one is that a reductionist (and thereby, more broadly, physicalist or naturalist) stance says, in effect, there is no such thing as magic, or miracles; there are no inherently unexplainable phenomena, there are only phenomena we haven't explained yet. Your example of psychokinesis is perfect: it might be possible, but if it is, we are to study it and understand its workings, not just go "oh wow magic!" and give up on it. Even if we have a lot of trouble finding the patterns in it, it only means we still don't understand it yet.

It is of course logically possible that there really is no rhyme or reason to it and we will never understand it no matter how hard we try, but we can never know that to be so. We can only assume one way or the other. By our actions of continuing to look for understanding or not, we implicitly make one assumption or the other; and the only chance we have of ever understanding it is if we assume that it is understandable, and try to understand it. We have exactly two choices: assume it is understandable, and thereby possibly come to understand it, if it is understandable; or, assume it is not understandable, and never come to understand it, whether it is understandable or not. I'll take "possibly" over "never", even if it's not a solid "yes".

To science-minded people this may be obvious (or not), but there are lots of people out there, I would hazard to guess even a majority of the world's population, who do seem to think that there are inherently unknowable things and that it is hubris of scientists to think that we can eventually understand everything. Those are the people my position is opposed to. Not people who think that organisms should be studied with higher-level concepts rather than quark-by-quark. THAT kind of "non-reductionism" IS trivially obvious, and I don't see anybody arguing about it, here or elsewhere.

The question is not "should we be modelling e.g. human psychology as an interaction of shittonnes of quantum fields which constitute the particles which constitute the brain", it's "could we, in principle, if we wanted to? like, if we had a perfect physics simulator, could that, populated with a perfect scan of the physical structure of a human in an appropriate environment, simulate human psychology?" I've never heard anyone suggest the former; the only debate seems to be about the latter, and suggesting that the latter implies the former only muddles the debate.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Symbiote » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:19 am UTC

keltor wrote:Interestingly, with 16years in the BDSM community, I have met 0 physical science people in the community. In fact I've probably met people from every other industry under the sun OTHER than physical science.


Some of my friends like BDSM, and four of them are physicists (three are still at university, so physicists-in-training).

One group has the safe-word "unicorn", I'm not sure of the others.

Nursing, teaching and various computer fields far and away dominate the community, in my experience.


But what about those submissive in the community?
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:18 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I don't think we're really disagreeing about much here, besides whether the differences which we seem to agree things make are important or not.

To me, the importance of a reductionist stance vs a non-reductionist one is that a reductionist (and thereby, more broadly, physicalist or naturalist) stance says, in effect, there is no such thing as magic, or miracles; there are no inherently unexplainable phenomena, there are only phenomena we haven't explained yet. Your example of psychokinesis is perfect: it might be possible, but if it is, we are to study it and understand its workings, not just go "oh wow magic!" and give up on it. Even if we have a lot of trouble finding the patterns in it, it only means we still don't understand it yet.


OK. So it isn't a question about the world, but about the attitude you want other people to take toward the world.

And for that it's irrelevant whether the question of life, the universe, and everything is in fact NP-complete.

It doesn't matter that Newtonians thought they could in principle determine the whole universe with calculus, when in practice they had trouble with the three body problem.

It's only about the faith you want other people to have.

....

To science-minded people this may be obvious (or not), but there are lots of people out there, I would hazard to guess even a majority of the world's population, who do seem to think that there are inherently unknowable things and that it is hubris of scientists to think that we can eventually understand everything. Those are the people my position is opposed to. Not people who think that organisms should be studied with higher-level concepts rather than quark-by-quark. THAT kind of "non-reductionism" IS trivially obvious, and I don't see anybody arguing about it, here or elsewhere.


It's your faith opposed to their faith. For myself, I see no need to take a position on this issue. It is not something that can be decided by experiment. The consequences of taking one side or the other look quite unclear to me, so I won't accept the argument "You better believe this whether or not it's true because it's better for your health to be a believer".

I was looking at reductionism as a technique for doing science because it seemed absurd to argue about it as a superstition about science.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:38 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:It's your faith opposed to their faith.


No, it's about faith vs reason. It's about not going "it's a miracle!", but going "huh, I wonder how that works".

What is life? Non-reductionist answer: "magic vital essence. It's a miracle!" Reductionist answer: "some kind of physical, chemical, etc, mechanism... let's investigate!"

What is consciousness? Non-reductionist answer: "magic immaterial souls. It's a miracle!" Reductionist answer: "some kind of physical, chemical, biological, etc mechanism... lets investigate!"

It is not something that can be decided by experiment.

No, it's something that decides whether or not to run experiments in the first place.

This, by the way, is precisely the difference I was talking about between philosophy and things which apply philosophy. Whether and how and why to run experiments is a philosophical question. The subjects of those experiments are a question for whatever field those experiments are being run in. Questions about the subjects of the experiments cannot be reduced to questions about whether or how or why to run the experiments.

I was looking at reductionism as a technique for doing science because it seemed absurd to argue about it as a superstition about science.

It seems more absurd to me to interpret anyone as wanting all sciences to do only particle-by-particle simulations instead of working at their own appropriate level of abstraction.

The only debate over reductionism is magic vs science. If you've already decided on science, then there's nothing to debate; we all agree.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:49 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:It's your faith opposed to their faith.


No, it's about faith vs reason. It's about not going "it's a miracle!", but going "huh, I wonder how that works".

What is life? Non-reductionist answer: "magic vital essence. It's a miracle!" Reductionist answer: "some kind of physical, chemical, etc, mechanism... let's investigate!"

What is consciousness? Non-reductionist answer: "magic immaterial souls. It's a miracle!" Reductionist answer: "some kind of physical, chemical, biological, etc mechanism... lets investigate!"


Reductionist answer: "I know that when we investigate this new stuff it will turn out to be just combinations of things we already know."

Non-reductionist answer: "Let's explore and see what we find."

Religious absolutist answer: "If God wanted you to understand this you would be born understanding it. Anyway, if you can't figure it out from Scripture it isn't worth knowing."

It is not something that can be decided by experiment.

No, it's something that decides whether or not to run experiments in the first place.


You don't need to assume reductionism to choose to do experiments.

This, by the way, is precisely the difference I was talking about between philosophy and things which apply philosophy. Whether and how and why to run experiments is a philosophical question. The subjects of those experiments are a question for whatever field those experiments are being run in. Questions about the subjects of the experiments cannot be reduced to questions about whether or how or why to run the experiments.


Surprisingly many experimental questions are in fact determined by the choice of how to run experiments. Which experiments you choose to perform is inescapably constrained by your prior beliefs. It's constrained by other things too -- available time and resources, for example. But it's hard to design experiments to test things you are sure are true or that you are sure are false, unless somebody openly disagrees. If somebody credible argues that you are wrong, then your imagination is released and you can design experiments designed to show that he is wrong instead. But it inevitably seems like an utter waste of time to design experiments to test the things that you and everybody else already know.

Look at a picture of a magnetic field.
https://encrypted-tbn3.google.com/image ... L2mM8da-cW

Did you know that by dividing the magnet into pieces and arranging them in a particular way, you can get twice as strong a magnetic field on one side, and essentially zero field on the other? People have been playing with magnets for centuries but as far as I know, nobody knew this until 1972.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halbach_array

Why did it take so long to discover this simple fact? Probably because everybody assumed it was impossible.

I was looking at reductionism as a technique for doing science because it seemed absurd to argue about it as a superstition about science.

It seems more absurd to me to interpret anyone as wanting all sciences to do only particle-by-particle simulations instead of working at their own appropriate level of abstraction.


Yes, that seems pretty absurd too. I guess the difference is, when it's people arguing that everybody ought to think the same way they do about things that can't be tested, I tend to be pretty laid back. Let them argue that everybody ought to think the same way they do if they want to argue that. I don't need to convince them to think the same way I do. But when it's an argument about what works for science, where we have some data about what works, I am more ready to jump in.

So anyway, I understand now that you are not arguing that chemistry reduces to physics. You are arguing that chemistry is not magic and you believe that some combination of experiment and theory will someday explain all of chemistry, all of biochemistry, all of physiology, all of neurology, all of brain function, all of psychology, all of sociology, all of political science, etc.

I hope you can forgive me for confusing you with the people who argue that chemistry reduces to physics.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:04 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:So anyway, I understand now that you are not arguing that chemistry reduces to physics. You are arguing that chemistry is not magic and you believe that some combination of experiment and theory will someday explain all of chemistry, all of biochemistry, all of physiology, all of neurology, all of brain function, all of psychology, all of sociology, all of political science, etc.

I hope you can forgive me for confusing you with the people who argue that chemistry reduces to physics.

I am arguing for physicalism, as a synonym for naturalism, as a synonym for your second sentence in the first paragraph above.

A consequence of physicalism, or really another formulation of it, is that everything reduces to physics. That is, the things studied by each science are made up of the things studied by physics. That doesn't mean that we should only do physics; the higher levels of abstraction are practically useful beyond physics, even if their objects are not ontologically beyond physics.

If chemists discover some phenomenon which operates by a mechanism not accounted for in current physics (rather than just not knowing what mechanism something operates by), then physicists will need to get on accounting for that mechanism in their theories. Otherwise physics will be incomplete. Physics takes as its subject matter the fundamental interactions of the natural world. That means that everything else must fall into one of two categories: reduces to physics, or non-natural. Naturalism thus entails reductionism.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:29 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:So anyway, I understand now that you are not arguing that chemistry reduces to physics. You are arguing that chemistry is not magic and you believe that some combination of experiment and theory will someday explain all of chemistry, all of biochemistry, all of physiology, all of neurology, all of brain function, all of psychology, all of sociology, all of political science, etc.

I hope you can forgive me for confusing you with the people who argue that chemistry reduces to physics.

I am arguing for physicalism, as a synonym for naturalism, as a synonym for your second sentence in the first paragraph above.

A consequence of physicalism, or really another formulation of it, is that everything reduces to physics. That is, the things studied by each science are made up of the things studied by physics. That doesn't mean that we should only do physics; the higher levels of abstraction are practically useful beyond physics, even if their objects are not ontologically beyond physics.

If chemists discover some phenomenon which operates by a mechanism not accounted for in current physics (rather than just not knowing what mechanism something operates by), then physicists will need to get on accounting for that mechanism in their theories. Otherwise physics will be incomplete. Physics takes as its subject matter the fundamental interactions of the natural world. That means that everything else must fall into one of two categories: reduces to physics, or non-natural. Naturalism thus entails reductionism.


You have chosen to make your definitions that way, which is fine.

However, I do want to point out that when you say "fundamental", in practice this reduces to "simple". Physicists who try to look at "fundamental" things in practice try to isolate those things to reduce the influence of confounding variables.

We want to assume that the simple things add together in a simple way. So when we understand each of the simple things by itself, we can then understand complicated things too. But there is no particular reason to expect that.

Here's a simplified metaphor. Imagine that you are interested in 100 variables, each of which can have some sort of linear effect on each of the others. You can discover that effect by experiment. So you control for variables 3 to 100 when you look at the effect of variable 1 on variable 2. And you control for variables 1 and 4 to 100 when you look at the effect of variable 2 on variable 3. And so on. Very likely what you do in practice is first look for the biggest effects and then concentrate on studying those. You might find, say, 20 big effects that account for a whole lot of what happens.

But to solve the whole thing, you need to do 10,000 experiments, not 20 experiments. And if it turns out at that point that your matrix is poorly conditioned you will still have problems. And it was all so much simpler because we assumed linearity. If the variables have nonlinear effects on each other then our experiments to determine the parameters turn more complicated.

People want to assume that the handful of simple interactions physicists have labeled as "fundamental" are somehow responsible for everything. That's silly but it doesn't do any real harm unless they try to get results based on that assumption.

You want to say that the label "physics" should apply to everything that happens in our universe. I say that it's possible to define physics that way, and again it doesn't do any real harm since it makes no real difference in the world.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:44 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:However, I do want to point out that when you say "fundamental", in practice this reduces to "simple".


"Fundamental" in this context means essentially "irreducible", which is in a certain sense "simple", sure.

People want to assume that the handful of simple interactions physicists have labeled as "fundamental" are somehow responsible for everything.


It's the other way around: whatever interactions are jointly responsible for everything are those we label "fundamental".

If we discover an apparently complex phenomenon which definitely does not reduce to any of the currently-known fundamental phenomena, then we have discovered a (apparently complex, but since it's irreducible, actually simple) new fundamental phenomenon, and physics will get on with studying it.

Likewise, if we discover that the currently-known "fundamental" phenomena are actually reducible to other phenomena (and therefore not so simple but actually somewhat complex), then physics will move on to studying those phenomena.
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Re: 1039: "RuBisCO"

Postby Sparx » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:39 am UTC

Diadem wrote:Chemists? Really? What does RuBisCO have to do with chemistry? It's straight up biology. Even the name is biological, a description of its function, instead of a systematic chemical name.


^ this, well said.Was going to say this as soon as I saw the comic, but I realized I didn't have a forum account even though I've been reading this webcomic for 4-5 years now. Slipped my mind until today (I can't believe this username wasn't taken, it's taken /everywhere/)
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