Thursday, 21 August 2014

Science and Intuition - A Collection of Quotations

The most recent Sixty Symbols video was bit of a departure from the standard fare.

Philosopher Jonathan Tallant discusses the role of intuition - or gut feelings - in science.

It is an interesting debate. To what extent should scientists make decisions based on intuition?

There are arguments for and against. Many of these have been appearing in the comments section.

It also raises questions about what is really meant by "intuition".

Here is the main video on Sixty Symbols.



And the interview continues on my occasional philosophy channel, PhilosophyFile.



As part of my preparation, I had some special friends collect some quotes about science and intuition.

I did not use them in the video, but they are well worth sharing. Thanks to the people who found them. Quote finding fiends!

I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research. 
— Albert Einstein Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931), 97.

The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know why or how. 
— Albert Einstein Quoted in Forbes (15 Sep 1974). In Larry Chang, Wisdom for the Soul (2006), 179.

The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. 
— Albert Einstein Address (1918) for Max Planck's 60th birthday, at Physical Society, Berlin, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934), 4.

It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover. 
— Henri Poincar├ę In Science and Method (1908) translated by Francis Maitland (1914, 2007), 129.

I’m supposed to be a scientific person but I use intuition more than logic in making basic decisions. 
— Seymour R. Cray In transcript of a video history interview with Seymour Cray by David K. Allison at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, (9 May 1995), 30.

My view of the matter, for what it is worth, is that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. My view may be expressed by saying that every discovery contains an 'irrational element,' or 'a creative intuition,' in Bergson's sense. In a similar way Einstein speaks of the 'search for those highly universal laws ... from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path.' he says, 'leading to these ... laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love (Einf├╝hlung) of the objects of experience.' (1959) 
— Karl Raimund Popper The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Logik Der Forschung (2002), 8.

Notion without intuition is empty, intuition without notion is blind. 
— Immanuel Kant In Ralph Keyesr, The Quote Verifier, 52.

Science does not mean an idle resting upon a body of certain knowledge; it means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an end which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp.
— Max Planck In The Philosophy of Physics

Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind... The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise. 
— Immanuel Kant Critique of Pure Reason (1781), trans. Norman Kemp Smith (1929), 93.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Numberphile2 FAQ

Okay, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about my YouTube channel Numberphile2.

1. What is Numberphile2?

It is the second or supplementary channel to Numberphile.

2. What is it for?

It is designed to host Numberphile material that I do not want to put on "main channel" for various reasons.

3. What sort of material is that?

It could be anything. Mainly it is "extra material" cut from Numberphile videos. It could also just be stuff that I thought did not quite belong on the main channel or behind-the-scenes stuff. Maybe it is too niche, too long, too short, etc.

4. But I love seeing all that stuff, why not just put that on Numberphile?

Because Numberphile has a large following (about one million subscribers) and casual viewers do not want their feeds clogged up with "extra material" or 2-3 videos every time I put something new out. They just want the headline act.

Numberphile2 can be a channel for the real die-hards who want everything. Like a little club for the true believers! :)

5. Why not just put that "extra stuff" on Numberphile (main) and make it unlisted?

I used to do that, but the material then becomes impossible to find in searches. And some people do want to be able to have this turn up in a subscription feed in some form so they don't miss it.

6. Then why is some material on Numberphile2 still marked as unlisted?

There are a few reasons that Numberphile2 videos START as unlisted and become listed later.... The main one is this: When I release a new video on Numberphile, I probably release the "extra material" at the same time and link to it from the main video. If I made them both listed, they would turn up in subscription feeds around the same time, increasing the chances that people might watch them in the wrong order. To get around this, I make the second video unlisted so it does not show in sub feeds... I then list it a few day later.

7. Why is the logo/avatar for Numberphile2 the number 2 and not Tau?

The current avatar for Numberphile is Pi on a brown paper background - a famous "number" everyone recognises and it just looks cool. Now because Tau is 2Pi, many people think that should be the logo for Numberphile2. I agree that people who "get the joke" would appreciate that. But I think it would be confusing for people who do not. For a start, Pi has two "legs" and Tau has one. Some people might think Pi should be the second channel logo? The number two is just really clear and obvious... It says: "This the second channel". Sometimes it is best to not be too clever.

Should I subscribe to Numberphile2?

In some ways, my advice to casual viewers is "no". I will usually link to Numberphile2 material from main videos, either via links or annotations.
I will also let people know about anything great on Numberphile2 via Facebook and Twitter.
However if you are really into all the extra stuff and not want to miss anything, than of course please do subscribe. I appreciate all the support!