7 min read · Jul 30th · Like a perpetual motion machine, a time crystal forever cycles between states without consuming energy. Physicists claim to have built this new phase of matter inside a quantum computer.
4 min read · Apr 27th · Rasha Shraim’s education helped her to think more deeply about ethics, logic and other big questions.
Philosophy has expanded my critical and creative thinking. Philosophical arguments often lead to imaginative edge cases and a dive into hypotheticals, which I frequently find creatively stimulating.
Thinking creatively while maintaining a critical and methodical approach carried over into my research. For example, studying instrumentalism — the philosophical idea that science does not uncover fundamental truths about the world, but merely provides us with tools to help us navigate it — helped me to adopt a more fluid approach to research and look for useful tools wherever I could find them.
7 min read · Jun 9th · “Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused.”
“Our favored interpretation is that drift is a manifestation of learning,” he told me. “It’s not learning itself; it’s the smoke that comes out of learning.”
“Just because we can decode that information doesn’t mean the brain is doing that,”
“Mainstream neuroscience relies on taking very specific methods and results and packaging them in a vague cloud of concepts that are only barely agreed upon by the field,” he said. “In a lot of neuroscience, the premises remain unexamined, but everything else is impeccable.”
5 min read · 2020-03-29 · Richard Epstein, a professor at N.Y.U. School of Law, discusses two articles he wrote, on the Hoover Institution Web site, entitled “Coronavirus Perspective” and “Coronavirus Overreaction,” and his…
Oct 7th · The size of scientific fields may impede the rise of new ideas. Examining 1.8 billion citations among 90 million papers across 241 subjects, we find a deluge of papers does not lead to turnover of central ideas in a field, but rather to ossification of canon. Scholars in fields where many papers are published annually face difficulty getting published, read, and cited unless their work references already widely cited articles. New papers containing potentially important contributions cannot garner field-wide attention through gradual processes of diffusion. These findings suggest fundamental progress may be stymied if quantitative growth of scientific endeavors—in number of scientists, institutes, and papers—is not balanced by structures fostering disruptive scholarship and focusing attention on novel ideas.
Web of Science data are available from Clarivate Analytics (<https://clarivate.libguides.com/rawdata>). Disruption score data () are from Lingfei Wu, with replication data at <https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/JPWNNK>. Aggregate data used to produce figures are available at <https://github.com/advrk/PNAS2021>.
4 min read · Oct 7th · I never planned to fake my data. My project involved interviewing the customers visiting a games shop in central London, then analysing the distance they had travelled. Arriving at the location wit…
Fraudulent research wastes the time of scientists who try to build on it and the money of funding agencies who support it. It undermines the reputation of good science. Above all, if the insights produced by good science make the world better, then false beliefs produced by fraudulent science make the world worse.
Our current scientific institutions reward originality, curiosity and inventiveness, which are classic scientific virtues. But those virtues also need to be balanced with the virtues of rigour, scepticism and collaborative scrutiny.
4 min read · Oct 22nd · Researchers at the Allen Institute for AI created Ask Delphi to make ethical judgments — but it turned out to be awfully bigoted and racist instead.
After all, the model didn’t learn its judgments on its own out of nowhere. It came from people online, who sometimes do believe abhorrent things.
For now, Delphi exists as an intriguing, problematic, and scary exploration. If we ever get to the point where computers are able to make unequivocal ethical judgements for us, though, we hope that it comes up with something better than this.