tv Book Discussion on To Explain the World CSPAN May 10, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
to the present. although in this era the goals and standards haven't materially changed. it was somehow taught today's standard model of cosmology or elementary particle physics. they would have found much to amaze them with the idea of seeking the experimentally validated in perfect principles that explain a wide variety of phenomena would have seemed quite familiar. a lawyer with the latest i did that i needed to dig deeper to learn more in the goals and
standards of science have not yet taken their present shape. over the past decade at the university of texas, from time to time taught undergraduate courses of us dominated the students had no special background science, mathematics and history. this would be out of the courses. what i found from my experience in teaching and the reading i have to do somewhat surprised me not only did and we know what we knew, they didn't have the funniest idea of what there was to know about how to learn this.
you shouldn't imagine the idea that i described certain searching for in personal mathematically expressed goal of nature that could be used to explain a great deal and validated by those nothing like that was imagined in the past. science as we know it wasn't obvious to people that had never seen it then. and this is illustrated by the controversy that continues for over 1500 years from roman times of the 15 hundreds and 16 hundreds in the land of islam. this is one of the stories i tell him the book. in many ancient civilizations
people noticed there were five things that there were five things in the sky that looked like stars and click the stars and the sun and the moon seemed to go around the earth once a day once every 24 hours from east to west but over time they moved from west to east through the constellations of the zodiac. the greeks call these planets and the names of god venus mercury, saturn and some like plato actually thought they were gods. when the ancients turned away from mythology and started to develop a naturalistic picture
of what these planets were, two theories emerged which were the subject of debate as i said for 1500 years. this is not an argument between those that think the earth the earth is at rest and those that think the sun is at rest. everyone with a few interesting exceptions in the ancient world thought the earth was at rest and the things in the sky were going around the earth. earth. the argument was about how they go. one theory adopted by aristotle was that the planets are bright spots on the spheres that rotates with the earth as a center. but the spheres have the axis of the serum in which the plan that is attached to the outer spheres
and the axis of the outer spheres were attached to yet further spheres so that you have a complicated rotating mass but all of them rotating with the earth as a center. the other theory had a the planet going in circles but not around the earth, around moving planes in the sky. the circles were themselves around the earth or went around other moving points which went around the earth, so the cycles on at the cycles. the followers argued that their theory is that the data which it did pretty well for reasons we now understand. in this sense it was the equivalent to copernicus justified the point of view based on the earth or the point
of view based on the sun. the followers of aristotle said the theory of the epicycle was nonsense great things in the heavens cannot move on these orbits. they have to go on the circles with the earth as the center. and if they knew the theory that integrate very well with observation and they felt well, that is something that really concerns mathematicians. it's not something we have to worry about, we who are considering the true nature of things. throughout the islamic period into early modern europe, the followers of aristotle often called natural scientists tended to be people like physicians or people today we would call
philosophers whereas the astronomers and mathematicians tended to the power mac. and of course the controversy was swept away by the adoption of the theory of copernicus that's the planets including the earth and the moon -- well no the planet and moon go around the sun and only the moon goes around the earth. it became understood that the theory had worked as well as it did because it reproduced most of the features of the copernicus era. copernicus did not develop this theory because he was more attentive to observation than the followers.
in fact let me read a little bit from the book. copernicus couldn't claim that they fit the observations. for one thing you didn't. indeed it couldn't. since for the most part he based his theory on the data that he and further from the writings rather than his own observations. instead of appealing to the new observations, he pointed out a number of his theories and advantages. one advantage is the motion of the earth accounted for a wide variety of appearance motions of the sun, stars and their planets in this way copernicus was able to eliminate one of the distasteful features which a modern physicist would call fine-tuning. for example, it's if a common observation that we never see
venus far from the sun. it's the morningstar with the evening star but it's never high in the sky admit right. in order to account for that kind of the followers had to assume that the center of the epicycle of venus always stayed on the line between the earth and the sun. going around the earth in precisely one year and you have to make similar assumptions about the other planets. we call this fine-tuning. it is an imposing and equality for example in a quality of the time it takes to send her venus to go around the earth with the time it takes the sun to go around the earth. it imposes an e. quality on things but there is no reason they should be close. fine-tuning in the theory of
nature is like a cry of distress. something telling you this isn't right. and we continually face this sort of thing in physics. i tell the story in here about how one of the great advances in physics about 50 years ago was made because some physicists were dissatisfied with the fine-tuning of theories that time. right now we face a similar situation. there is a problem associated with what is called dark energy. dark energy is an energy and space itself, not any kind of particle. we know about it only because it causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate speeding up. contrary to what you might think i'm a gravity pulling everything back together again. it's like a repulsive gravitational force that only becomes effective in large
distances. now, naturally physicists have tried to calculate the amount of dark energy, the number of calories per cubic meter of space and we can calculate some contributions and not others. the contributions that we can calculate turnout to be much too large too large as compared to the amount of dark energy measured by astronomers and observations in the way that the universe is expanding. the terms in the dark energy that we can calculate our too large by a very large number. one with 56 zeros following it. quite a discrepancy. it's not a paradox to cause there are other contributions we can calculate and they depend on constants of nature we don't know and we can adjust those to
56 decimal places. that's the kind of fine-tuning the tolls us we don't understand what's going on. copernicus was led to his theory to eliminate the fine-tuning in the geocentric series of the planet. while i tell a number of the story is not just about planets but about other things like the nature of matter the nature of light and you see not just the ancients didn't know what matter or white was that they didn't even know how to ask the question. for example at the very beginning of greek science he decreed that all matter is water
and why then does it not look like it's made of water? he didn't consider that question. why should we think matter is made of water and he never offered the reason. until the time of aristotle in fact. the greeks who won i was an undergraduate i heard it called the physicist never really considered why we should believe their theories and offered no argument. with aristotle thinking about the world began to be more serious and more argumentative than you see that beginning of science that aristotle had no use for mathematics and was continued two things are what they are for a purpose which we learned to discard.
so i'm not just telling stories about events in the history of science and about discoveries. i also try to bring some of the personalities of live because after all these were real people. we don't know much about the greek. but when you get to early modern times, we have a lot of information and can build a pretty good picture. for example this is what i have to say about newton, the greatest physicists not only of his age but probably all ages. we come to the scientific revolution but what an odd bird to be cast in such a historical low. he never traveled outside of a narrow strip of of england, not even to see the sea who he had
so much interest in. until middle age coming he was never close to any woman, not even his own mother. in fact, volt air in his philosophical letters describes how he was in london when newton died, and the doctor and surgeon confirmed to attend never had intimate relations although he doesn't say how they knew. [laughter] you can was deeply concerned with matters having little to do with science such as the chronology of the book of daniel. a catalogue the catalogue of the manuscripts put on sale in 1936 shows the 650,000 words about me and 1.3 million words on religion. for those who might be competitors, he could be devious and nasty and there are some
stories about those that could be competitors. yet he tied up the strands of physics, stormy and mathematics whose relationships have complexed philosophers since plato did. he sometimes stressed he wasn't a modern scientist and along these lines was that of john maynard keynes who had brought some of the new ten papers in 1936 auction. he said newton wasn't the first of the age of reason. he was the last of the magicians, the last of the babylonians and samaria and the last that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those that begin to build the intellectual inheritance rather than less than 10,000 years ago. i don't quite buy that.
he wasn't a talented holdover from the magical past. he also wasn't a modern scientist. rather he crossed the frontier between the natural philosophy of the past and what became modern science. he provided his achievement if not his outlook for personal behavior he provided the power time -- paradigm that followed. the center of my interest is how we became anna so i force myself to consider what aspects of the past was progressive would help to develop what we now have as
science and what stood in the way. this kind of judgmental is on is sometimes called the . a term of the weighted interpretation of history coined by butterfield in 1941. judges the past by the standards of the present. he was considering political history. butterfield opposed historians like the quarterly who judged the figures he wrote about in terms of what led to the modern parliamentary democracy of his own day. butterfield maybe good case that whiggery is not appropriate in political history and certainly.
as though the goal is to answer the questions rather than his own. at the proper measure of the philosophical system or scientific theory is not the the degree that it anticipated the modern thought that the degree of success in the trading the philosophical and scientific problems of its own day. what is important in science is not the solution of some popular scientific problems of one's own day but understanding the world and the course of the work one finds out what sort of explanation or possible but for probables can lead to these. science has been largely a matter of discovering what questions should be asked and we
also make some comments on descartes. i call his theory of how to do science one of the most overrated contributions to the scientific revolution and this has attracted a certain amount of attention, but i drive the point home by commenting that although. that is his words. he got so many things wrong with him.
it's interesting by the way butterfield of that originated the idea of putting down the way it wrote a book about the development of science. in this book he sounds completely whiggery which is appropriate talking about science because in science as we cannot in those fields we can identify a clear line of progress. here is butterfield on the scientific revolution. he said it outshines everything since the rise of christianity.
having surveyed the history of physical science i would like now to offer some tentative thoughts on what drove us to the modern conception of science represented by the achievements of newton and the success. nothing like modern science was conceived as a goal in the ancient world were the medieval world and indeed even if the predecessors could have imagined science as it is today they might not have liked it very much. modern science is in personal without the interventions or outside of the behavioral sciences for human values. it has no sense of purpose and offers no hope for certainty. so how did we get here? faced with a puzzling world, people of every cultural sought-after explanations come even where they abandoned mythology most attempts of explanation didn't leave to anything satisfying.
they try to understand matter guessing that it's all water but what could he do with this idea? what's new information does it give him? no one in ancient greece could build anything on the notion that anything is water. as i say elsewhere the theory developed in those days had no fight. but every once in a while someone finds a way of explaining some phenomenon that fits so well and clarifies so much that it begins intense satisfaction especially when the new understanding is quantitative and an observation bears out in detail. imagine how he must have felt when he realized that by adding his own mathematical device to be epicycles of the earlier astronomers he had found a theory of planetary motions that allowed him to predict with fair
accuracy or any planet with the sound in the sky at any time he can get a sense of his joy from the lions as i quoted earlier, i did" and today so i will now. when i search out this is as quoted in the greek anthology when i search out the circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth. but side by side with zeus himself i take my ambrosia, the food of the gods. the joy was flawed. it it didn't have to be of aristotle to be refilled by the peculiar looping motion of planets moving in epicycles in the theory. there was also the nasty fine tuning but had to take precisely one year for the vico epicycles to move around the earth and likewise for the outer planets.
for over a thousand years they argued about the role of the astronomers really to understand the heavens or to fit the data. what a pleasure to practice must have felt when he was able to explain the fine tuning into the looping had arose simply because we view the solar system from the moving your. still, the theory didn't quite fit the data without ugly complications. how much then the mathematically gifted must have enjoyed replacing the copernicus mess with motions obeying the law plexus of the world acts like a teaching she and reinforcing good ideas with moments of satisfaction. after centuries, we learned what kinds of understandings are possible and how to find them. we learn not to worry about the
purpose because they never lead to the sort of delight that we seek. we learn to abandon the search for certainty because they never are certain and be wary we worry about the arrangement. we develop the sense that gives clues with theories might work and that added to the pleasure that occasionally they do work. our understanding is that kenya late and it is all unplanned and unpredictable that it leads to the reliable knowledge and gives us joy along the way. we are glad to answer questions. >> what a privilege to ask you a
question that i've been curious about this for a long time. i hope i can make my question clear. it starts out very small and has been expanding for light-years. what is the universe expanding into? i am more interested in the space out of the universe just for the name i don't know what you all call it but i will call it outer space or the universe of space. is it anything but scientists even think about or study or are speculated or is it of no interest? >> there are several answers that could be given. and the experimental evidence seems to point out the one answer the best we have is that you shouldn't ask about outside because the universe as far as we know is infinite. there isn't any outside.
the matter that we see within a few billion light-years of earth continues beyond that out to infinity. and it's all expanding. it's not expanding from any center. but the expansion doesn't mean like what would happen in the room if everyone started running away from a central point. and might expand out into the parking lot. the expansion you can imagine a universe filled with, not up with people but with galaxies and they are all rushing away from each other. there is no center. and there is no outside. the expansion of the universe just simply means every galaxy is getting further away from every other. that's all it means. it doesn't mean there's some service expanding. that's the best answer we have now. there are other answers.
20 or 30 years ago it was plausible that the universe was closed at the three-dimensional surface. we don't believe in it anymore anyways. >> your examples have all been western. were there no asian theorists have you considered or are they in the book and you just didn't mention them? >> i have a whole chapter on arab science. they picked up the torch, which was pretty well going out at the end of the western roman empire. the path of the roman empire continued after the decline and until the fall of constantinople
and no science was done. not that i know of in the byzantine empire. but they did pick up the torch and not only translated the greek works into arabic and greek science but they improved on it and have the whole -- there are great names in the arab science. and this flowering of science itself peaked out. that's very controversial by the way. many, especially muslim historians try to emphasize the continuation of muslim science into early modern times. but in fact none of the great names are found after around
1100. and when the scientific revolution came it came in europe and italy poland england, germany and lost in the land of islam. no islamic astronomer ever took seriously the possibility that the earth goes around the sun. i am not aware of any development in china or india that builds a kind of impersonal comment on the mythological quantitative theory that you find in this period and eventually flower in europe and the scientific revolution.
the list got a lot last got a lot from china and india and babylon. we got the magnetism that we learned from the chinese paper. well, paper came from central asia, better than from china. from india we learned a great deal of mathematics including what we call the arabic number system based on the powers of ten. we call it arabic because they got it from india, particularly at the beginning of the period in the eighth century. and we call them arabic numbers that but they got them from the indians. the greek didn't do very well in arithmetic's. they developed geometry to a very high level. but they learned arithmetic such as it was from babylon and
based on covers of 60s rather than ten which makes calculations harder. but neither the greeks or arabs or western i think were taking indians or chinese as models for how to do science. that's something that developed painfully and then systematically and then was revived in the scientific revolution. so my the -- i even apologized at the beginning and say they would hate this because it is eurocentric but i think you have to be and of course there is a whole development of astronomy
but i don't talk at all about because they were completely cut off from europe and they didn't have anything like the scientific revolution. that is a very good question because it is one of the things that historians look for is not being eurocentric and i am. you had your hand up for a while. >> i want to follow up on that first question. what about the big bang. it was expanding but any ideas -- >> we can trace with a lot of confidence the history of the expansion of the universe back to what looks like a second
after the temperature density and through the development to the mathematical beginning for it is that is a real beginning or just the place where the theory breaks down we don't know so about the very early of the history were ignorant and i don't have a good answer for you. >> [inaudible] i know about you through the list of faculty and the university of texas and i know from data god that you are interested in the articles and unification of the fundamental interactions. that interests me very much because i think the interactions that you're talking about are
interactions of particles that form the building blocks for something else were we get to the atoms and molecules and organisms and so on and so forth so i wonder, you asked a question that is listed in the book on dreams and realities and is there anyway any way that we can learn to define him that intuitions derived from life on
earth come from intuitions from that that are inapplicable to the realm that you are describing or would like to describe have i stated that correctly? >> i think that is a fair question. the description of nature in terms that are not intuitive but that's taking beyond ordinary human perception is a very attractive idea, and it goes way back to greek times for example he said everything is water but more deeply much more admired by plato who gave arguments that nothing ever changes. certainly not what appears to be true and it contradicted others who said everything is always
changing. the greeks perhaps deserve great credit for being willing to look beneath the surface for things but they never took the next step of explaining why although they have these theories that are so counterintuitive that nature looks the way it does and i think there was a strain of intellectual snob or he especially in this period until the death of aristotle. you don't find this in this period starting around 322 bc when the center of greek thought moves to alexandria but in this period, there is a snootiness about appearances. appearances are not worth considering. what's worth considering is truth based on pure reason.
and it got nowhere because you can't understand the world just by thinking about it. today the theories are increasingly esoteric. that makes it harder to give public lectures about them. [laughter] but they are always accepted and when they are accepted only because they are validated by observations, which we can actually see what's going on in the lab and we can count or observe tracks in a bubble chamber and even though the theory involves things that we can't even imagine it makes predictions about things we cannot only imagine, but measure and that is a large part of what the differences between modern science and the ancient world. i think one of the great
developments in human thought has been the abandonment of the greek snobbery. when biologists want to study the nature of chromosomes or the nature of nerve impulses they don't study goals and lions which are noble beasts, but they study squared and fruit flies because those are the most useful for getting to the truth. we may still be guilty of some snobbery and maybe ignoring opportunities but i don't know what they would be. i think that has been pretty well worked out of our systems. do you have a question? guests are over here. >> i read the book last night.
>> let me compliment you. [laughter] is very readable. i read it on my kindle and for addressing that question it was head-on and for the way that you defined it evolution thank you. >> do you have other questions just like that one? [laughter] >> some time ago at a texas book festival you said that you had basically given up on the conflict between science and religion after one saying there should be a guide to the dialogue edition into the constructive. but i wonder given the resurgence of religious matters as him around i'm around the world and some people will see this atlantic cover story about
isis where they argue that they have a duty to kill people for the utilitarian purpose of traversing everyone else and this rendering them to the more quickly i think it would be worthwhile to stress as you've done the abandonment of the feud, the abandonment of the century view and the simple fact not to try to persuade people to use reason, but simply to say reality and your own conscience should lead you away from the savage barbarian worldviews. the universe of 100 billion or 400 billion galaxies in absolute continuity of life of 3.8 billion years since he falsifies all of these religious systems that people are involved in and in their naked infancy hundreds of thousands of years ago. so i hope that you will come back to this issue and not give up on it just yet. >> i don't know that i give up on it in this book.
i am no friend to religion. and i used to take that issue very seriously. i've mellowed out a little but not that i'm more religious than i used to be with anything less but i no longer regard it as my responsibility to disabuse people of their religious views. thinking that there's life after death makes them happier and facing death, who am i to take that comfort away. in other words i've given up missionary work. [laughter] so in the book without making a big argument about it, i try to describe as accurately as i can to relations between science and religion and all the complications because they are complicated. it isn't just a question of
religion trying to suppress science are necessarily destroying religion. one of the questions i struggle with is the death of science words the end of the roman period up to the beginning of the byzantine period and the death of science in the islamic world after. and there are some really striking examples of anti-science attitudes in both christian and islam. at the same time, if has to be admitted that scientists like newton were devoutly religious. he wasn't orthodox.
he did into the lead in the holy trinity. and as a result, he faced losing his fellowship at cambridge and his professorship until the king was induced to give him an exemption from having to swear belief in the trinity. but it's a complicated story. however, i think it's true that not in newton's time, and the century following newton, at least within the physical science, science became thoroughly nonreligious, which i don't say anti-religious that but religion was just driven out of consideration of physical science. and this i think is responsible for the enlightenment. in fact, the historian once
remarked he thought that it was in the success of new things. led to the end of burning witches. and today, my impression is looking at it from outside which i do that modern, jewish and christian religious people don't really care that much about the conflict between the literal interpretation of scripture and what is discovered by science. there are some people who are offended by the theory of evolution, but most of the people who i know who identify themselves as religious don't really find that a problem and as i interpret it, it's the great withdrawal. religion in the west has withdrawn from the position it once occupied of providing an
reason. the hydrogen atom was solved by heisenberg. it's to find the energy levels that no one has ever been able to do anything else it's incredibly cumbersome. we all use the equation to solve problems to the hydrogen atoms and molecules. both of them have profound things to say about the quantum mechanics and the uncertainty
since we are now embarking on a presidential campaign can you believe it is time for that already, but we are looking at the candidates and at the entrance into the campaign hasn't changed the dynamics and what the definition might be said that is something so that is something that we will be thinking about as well.
appearances. now that's not a possibility for women today that hold this role because in the of the next presidency the administration burst onto the scene and began and that was the last able to live a private life as much as she could in the white house. now on "after words," john reports on sexual assault in the united states with a specific focus on missoula montana with a with assault reported to the police over the course of three and a half years. it's interviewed by the national reporter for those feeds news. ..