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The Half-life of Facts.

 
 
fresco
 
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 06:33 am
A recent book by Samual Arbesman describes the transient nature of what we call "knowledge", such that any statement we call " a fact" today has a finite life expectancy of staying valid in the future. The analogy is of course drawn from the radiactive decay of elements.

Does this put another philosophical nail in the coffin of "absolutism", whether it be couched in religious terms or statements about what we call "reality"?

http://www.universetoday.com/97806/book-review-the-half-life-of-facts-why-everything-we-know-has-an-expiration-date/
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Type: Discussion • Score: 21 • Views: 28,862 • Replies: 1,103

 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 06:47 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

A recent book by Samual Arbesman describes the transient nature of what we call "knowledge", such that any statement we call " a fact" today has a finite life expectancy of staying valid in the future. The analogy is of course drawn from the radiactive decay of elements.

Does this put another philosophical nail in the coffin of "absolutism", whether it be couched in religious terms or statements about what we call "reality"?

http://www.universetoday.com/97806/book-review-the-half-life-of-facts-why-everything-we-know-has-an-expiration-date/


Nope!
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 07:02 am
It is a "fact" that water boils at 100 degrees C at sea level at current levels of atmospheric pressure, is that going to somehow decay in the future?
fresco
 
  3  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 07:26 am
@contrex,
Quote:
It is a "fact" that water boils at 100 degrees C at sea level at current levels of atmospheric pressure, is that going to somehow decay in the future?

You've answered that yourself by use of the word "current" ! Smile

More interesting perhaps is the case of "mathematical facts" such as the value of pi. The raises the issue of the ontological status of mathematical entities.
Frank Apisa
 
  0  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 07:31 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Quote:
It is a "fact" that water boils at 100 degrees C at sea level at current levels of atmospheric pressure, is that going to somehow decay in the future?

You've answered that yourself by use of the word "current" ! Smile

More interesting perhaps is the case of "mathematical facts" such as the value of pi. The raises the issue of the ontological status of mathematical entities.


C'mon, Fresco...no need to slide into that technobabble this early in the discussion.
fresco
 
  2  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 07:45 am
@Frank Apisa,
Your use of the suffix "-babble" merely indicates that you are outside your comfort zone with the issue, and have no intention of investigating either the specific text I have cited, or indeed any other epistemological text.
Frank Apisa
 
  2  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 07:58 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Your use of the suffix "-babble" merely indicates that you are outside your comfort zone with the issue, and have no intention of investigating either the specific text I have cited, or indeed any other epistemological text.


If it comforts you to think that...by all means think it.

But...the notion of reality changing is self-contradictory…you should be able to see that.

If “reality” changes…then that would be the REALITY...that reality changes.

We’ve discussed that here in A2K several times…so we apparently were way ahead of this guy...and perhaps on a better track.

But further…(without having read the book) what Arbasman apparently is talking about is OUR PERCEPTION of REALITY…and our ability to describe that perception…rather than REALITY.

He is saying that what we consider “facts”…often prove not to be facts.

As Contrex mentioned, water boils at 100 C at current sea level atmosphere. Most likely, that won't change in the future. Future scientists will be able to say that back in the early 2000's...water boiled at 100 C at the sea level atmosphere then in existence.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 08:22 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
You've answered that yourself by use of the word "current" ! Smile


OK - what if I said "at an atmospheric pressure of 1 bar"?

or... if I said "the fact that the boiling point of a substance is the temperature at which the vapour pressure of the liquid equals the pressure surrounding the liquid and the liquid changes into a vapour"?

or... "The heat of vaporisation is the energy required to transform a given quantity (a mol, kg, pound, etc.) of a substance from a liquid into a gas at a given pressure?"


fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 08:55 am
@contrex,
Well I suggest that each of your definitions assumes some "fixed reference point". The epistemological issue then shifts to the nature of the word "fixed", given than that most would agree with the general idea that "all is in flux". So one solution is to focus on the etymology of the word "fact" (from Latin facere=to construct) and to argue that facts are operational constructions which have limited (human)functionality in particular contexts.
If we then proceed to a concept of the evolution of knowledge (of contexts begetting further contexts) it removes the requirement of a fixed reference frame (which "naive realists" tend to require)...i.e. it suggests a changing reference frame relative to evolving human needs.

Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 09:14 am
@fresco,
Facts should not be confused with knowledge.
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 10:33 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Well I suggest that each of your definitions assumes some "fixed reference point". The epistemological issue then shifts to the nature of the word "fixed", given than that most would agree with the general idea that "all is in flux". So one solution is to focus on the etymology of the word "fact" (from Latin facere=to construct) and to argue that facts are operational constructions which have limited (human)functionality in particular contexts.
If we then proceed to a concept of the evolution of knowledge (of contexts begetting further contexts) it removes the requirement of a fixed reference frame (which "naive realists" tend to require)...i.e. it suggests a changing reference frame relative to evolving human needs.




Really, Fresco...this has reduced to just plain babble.

If the reality is that reality changes...then that IS the REALITY.

The REALITY, in that case, would be that REALITY is subject to change.

But for you to question whether this book "puts another philosophical nail in the coffin of 'absolutism'," is best answered the way I did in my original posting.

NOPE!
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 10:33 am
@Olivier5,
Perhaps.....but how would you differentiate ?
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 10:48 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
each of your definitions assumes some "fixed reference point".


Where is the "fixed reference point" here?

"the boiling point of a substance is the temperature at which the vapour pressure of the liquid equals the pressure surrounding the liquid and the liquid changes into a vapour"


fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 11:05 am
@contrex,
Your definition involves "temperature" which is defined relative to the fixed points of water at sea level, but we have already discussed the assumptions therein.
Note BTW that all measurement can be considered to be relative because the first level of measurement,( subsumed by all higher levels) is "nominal" i.e human "naming" involved in counting an object or phenomenon to a set.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 12:27 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
Your definition involves "temperature" which is defined relative to the fixed points of water at sea level


I am not sure what you are trying to say here; temperature is temperature, whatever the atmospheric pressure; you did not answer my question, which I therefore repeat:

Where is the "fixed reference point" here?

"the boiling point of a substance is the temperature at which the vapour pressure of the liquid equals the pressure surrounding the liquid and the liquid changes into a vapour"


There is no reference to "sea level" or any defined pressure, atmospheric or otherwise.


fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 12:48 pm
@contrex,
Correct me if I'm wrong but I understood the figure of 100 deg C was originally defined as the boiling point of water at sea level i.e. relative to prevaling atmospheric pressure. Now it may be the case "more accurate" fixed reference points have replaced this for modern calibration purposes, but I think the original article points out that "accuracy" is a matter of functionality and never an absolute.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 01:28 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong but I understood the figure of 100 deg C was originally defined as the boiling point of water at sea level i.e. relative to prevaling atmospheric pressure. Now it may be the case "more accurate" fixed reference points have replaced this for modern calibration purposes, but I think the original article points out that "accuracy" is a matter of functionality and never an absolute.



You have again ignored the question, which has no reference to any temperature

Where is the "fixed reference point" here?

"the boiling point of a substance is the temperature at which the vapour pressure of the liquid equals the pressure surrounding the liquid and the liquid changes into a vapour"



fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 01:48 pm
@contrex,
Sorry, but if you don't understand the significance of the word "temperature" in your definition of boiling point, and that temperature scales are defined relative to shiftable "fixed points" such as "the boiling point of water", there is little else I can say.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 02:12 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
Sorry, but if you don't understand the significance of the word "temperature" in your definition of boiling point


You don't need to know the temperature at which any substance boils in order to define the meaning of "boiling point". Also, the Kelvin temperature scale is an absolute one for two reasons. 1. Its formal character is independent of the properties of particular materials. 2. Its zero indicates absence of microscopic classical motion of the constituent particles of matter.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Oct, 2013 02:50 pm
@contrex,
I think you will find that your argument is ultimately circular. And as for "absence of motion" this is merely a theoretical concept akin to other "absolute" concepts.
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