Carver Mead is absolutely right in making the leap from daily progress to thinking outside the box and "finishing" the work on the law of physics. Unfortunately nor many engineers can afford to think such lofty thoughts and must concentrate on the daily engineering tasks at hand. But that is what is great about such a premiere technical conference as the ISSCC. Organizers always find a way to invite keynoters that expand the mind of the audience and provide the necessary "what-if" for them.
I think that those on the bleeding edge largely disregard where academia says we are and they use thier own research to build better tools than the competitors. the sharing of the most important science is over,save making it look like everybody is still playing along. QM aint so useful in some phys sims so change the code to what does work,just dont publish it for everybody to see,they might catch up to us.
If there is one constant in science it is that the majority fear the implications of change. Hundreds of years ago one were simply put to death for daring the present. Today, as Carver points out, they are buried under arrogance.
Physics is the foundation of everything. I worry now days how many students have patient to take complex electrodynamics, solid state or quantum physics. For our generation, this is a MUST to get advance degree...
Interesting talk, but I'm not sure I buy it. There are only about a zillion different misconceptions the average joe labors under most of his life, which his own intuition says make a lot of sense. Sometimes, it just becomes imperative to "do the math." Or you're indeed never going to move forward. Is this arrogance or is this reality?
My favorite recent example of this is something called the Iris Engine. Look it up. Intuitively, if someone tells you that this Iris Engine has a lot more "working area" than a piston engine, and that this much greater "working area" translates to better efficiency, many people would be struck by the brilliance of the concept. Wow, how come "they" didn't think of this sooner?
Intuition is tricky. That conclusion is, of course, false. In a heat engine, Carnot cycle, efficiency is a function of the temperature difference between combustion and exhaust. That temperature difference, in an internal combustion engine, is governed entirely by the compression ratio, and *not at all* by the "working area."
Is this intuitive? I'm not sure. It is once you've done the math, of course. The real answer can be derived using the gas law (PV=nRT) and Boyle's law (P1V1=P2V2).
My thesis is, truly brilliant people, like Prof. Meade, not to mention Albert Einstein, may well be able to intuit a lot of concepts without having to do the math. I very much doubt most people have this luxury. And even these brilliant people spend most of their lives attempting to prove what their intuition might have suggested to them in an instant. Because even they usually get it wrong, at least partially.
Right on! This is EXACTLY Carver's point.
Everyone thinks what was done in the past MUST without fail be used in defining the future. Wrong.
It is important as engineers and scientist that all things accepted as truth be continually questioned. Otherwise we risk discovering nothing new.
How many times has earlier science been later proven wrong? Do some of us really believe it has all been figured out CORRECTLY? I for one think not.
I buy it less now than I did on first read.
Leaving everything up to intuition, because somehow that makes it all more fun, simply leads to chaotic thinking. The result will be, a lot of loud noise from the clueless, and still the need for logical and incremental thought by those who actually produce anything of value.
Most advances in science are not the step changes the press like to dwell on. Most are imrovements, or let's say generalizations, of what came before. By FAR. You don't get there unless you know what came before.
Einstein did not invalidate Isaac Newton. He merely showed that Netwon's ideas were valid only at low speeds. The Bohr atom might have been simplistic, but just as it refined the atom models that came before it, in turn it leads to modern models, with weirder looking orbitals and subatomic particles.
"How many times has earlier science been later proven wrong?"
Wrong question. The better question is, how many times have those who didn't know the previous science ever made any useful discoveries? Very few, is my bet.
Here, you might want to read these few screens, to see how scientific discoveries hinge on what came before. This is related to quantum mechanics and to concepts that we now take for granted that Einstein himself initially disagreed with.
You won't notice any of these luminaries claiming that everything before was "wrong," if you take a read. It's all about refinement.
"How many times has earlier science been later proven wrong?"
And exactly how does that happen?
Somebody models the results of a theory. Then he or she makes observations. Then he or she compares the observations to the model.
You can't do the modeling without the math. Intuition is no substitute.
You make it sound like intuition is somehow precedes actual knowledge and trumps tedious calculations. This is just incorrect: the great scientits who were famous for their intuition, like Newton, Einstein or Feynmann, were all brilliant technicians, and did the calculations so much they gave them intuition that transcended the conventional understanding.
In other words, their great intuitions were BUILT ON their technical prowess, not working against it. I am reminded of Salvatore Dali who is of course famous for surrealism but who was capable of super-realistic, photographic illustration.
It makes sense to me on a personal level that intuition and detailed grunge work are complementary and both need as well as enable each other. I intuitively know trigonometry because I did a lot of homework on it; now I have an intuitive understanding of sin()---and can leverage it to understand Bessel functions. My children perhaps will intuitively understand the behavior of J0().
This meme that intuition and gut feeling simply trumps reflection and rigor is very dangerous---unfortunately it insinuated itself into important areas such as politics and economy, and we'll suffer the ill effects of that for a long time. When Carver Mead asks us to question those who "know it's so" he requires a rigorous argument, not just another "I know it's otherwise".
The ability to understand that scientifically is a logical contradiction. Science is only able to deal with "repeatable phenomena". It therefore is only able to work with statistical averages of behavior. Trying to understand individuals or groups that cannot be directly influenced is beyond science's scope.
Mead is absolutely right that to keep progress going for the next 20-30 years we will need a different approach to engineering based on more sophisticated physics. The math for quantum physics is challenging but the "intuitive" concepts are even more challenging.
The fundamental problem with Quantum Physics is that is is an empirical science. We know that Schroedinger's equation works, but we have no concept of why. In that sense, the phrase "Quantum Theory" is a misnomer. There is no theory, only an equation that works. When there is an understanding of quantum behavior that Shroedinger's Equation can be derived from, we will have a theory. Until that theory is created, there are no intuitive concepts.
You can't go wrong by understanding as much math as possible. However, beware of becoming a mathematician.
There was a student-targeted publication I used to see when I was a kid, and its key motto emblazoned throughout each issue was "Chance favors the prepared mind". I would add that intuition, visualizations, even meditative activity can be spectacularly productive IF you have some good grounding in the physical and mathematical fundamentals.
It's not sufficient or necessary to acquire these latter via an advanced degree, but it makes it a whole lot easier, especially if you find some good teachers. The danger is getting blinkered and over-specialized, and also protective of your negative ego, which will devastate speculation and possible insight.
A while ago someone posted in a chatroom a nice problem, an apparent geometrical contradiction. When I told him what the solution was he said NO that's what everyone says. But my grad student math friend explained that it's about tessellations blah blah. I said your grad student friend panicked when he couldn't see the answer from elementary plane geometry, and proceeded to baffle you with BS. He should be ashamed.
Whether Meade is right, I think depends on what he means. If he means that we need to find ways of communicating the concepts in an intuitive way, I agree with him. If he means that intuition is an important PART of FINDING the truth, I also agree with him. If he means that our current INTERPRETATION of the data and math needs to be challenged, I agree with that, too. If he means that rigor, analysis, and experimental validation are unneccessary, he is a fool.
It is difficult to grasp one's imagination unless we become some part of it.
Do not know what to comment about this, but certainly we have become the most contradictory species on earth.
Nothing can help us here unless we learn how to maintain and sustain what we have.
For e.g., we speak of great innovations, but the products die at a faster rate than it took to build. Oh yeah, that is Moore's law..So how is it going to help.
Not to say that it might have made billions rendering worthless in few years. Yet, a lot of people complain about NASA's funding, for which there is no direct material return.
Imagine a day in 1500s or 1600s,can we survive it? Oh, that is a reality show..
Unless we practice science and respect it, no intuition or technically sophisticated mathematics would help. Are we simplifying or complicating? Time will tell for sure. The future looks bleak.
My take on this speach is that this is a proud man looking at his end-game who is trying to inspire thought, and maybe he's even looking for a protege. By the reaction I see here he has achieved at least one of those goals.
I didn’t hear Carver Mead’s presentation, but I can feel his words in my mind as they are quoted here. There is a ring of truth in what he said, although perhaps not eloquently expressed. As we get older, especially those of us exposed to higher education, we begin to realize just how little we really know about the Universe. Sure, we’ve managed to nail down the edges of a few general principles enough to accomplish useful things, but no one sees the Big Picture yet. We may never see it.
Einstein complained that God doesn’t play dice. My apologizes, Albert, but that is exactly the way God appears to work. Dice is God’s game and the dice are loaded. When God manipulates probabilities (only God would know how that can happen) to achieve a desired outcome, we are but observers instantiating each event and perhaps calling them miracles. The rest of the time it’s Good Orderly Direction as the Universe rolls along on autopilot. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Ignore that man behind the curtain.
Physics cannot predict what I will do next (besides hitting "Submit Comment" in a few seconds). As the saying goes, a group of physicists goes to scale a mountain and upon finally reaching the summit they are greeted by a band of theologians who have been camped there for some time.
The news this week was that there might soon be a news-related story on dark matter! I'm looking forward to it.
"Scientists and engineers need to challenge orthodox thinking, he said, giving examples of little known critics of physicists such as Newton and Werner Heisenberg." ~ Rick Merritt
What critics were there of Newton and Heisenberg? I'm pretty sure you are NOT saying Newton and Heisenberg were critics of physicists. Miles Mathis corrects, he says, some of the maths used by the "masters" of physics.
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