Assorted Links

Thanks to David Cramer.

3 Replies to “Assorted Links”

  1. The climate model paper is interesting.

    I’m an ex-physicist in the life sciences. It’s humbling to see how little we know about complex systems — and even more humbling to come face to face with the general intractability of complex systems.

    I recently came across an excellent paper that compares condensed matter physics to biology (evolution in particular). It shows just how difficult it is to find appropriate models for complex systems. The same applies for climate science.

    Paper here:
    Non-free version here:

    Conclusion from paper below:

    In the natural development of the sciences, issues of complexity are sensibly postponed until they can no longer be avoided. Physics was able to delay serious consideration of collective effects for nearly three hundred years, and only in the last thirty years or so has it confronted complex collective phenomena involving multiple scales of space and time, unpredictable dynamics and large fluctuations. Its track record of success is mixed.

    Biology was not so lucky: at its outset, complex phenomena were encountered, but tools were lacking to cope with the difficulty. Rather than abiding by ignorance, a language-culture was developed to explain away the conceptual difficulties using guesswork solutions such as “natural selection”. As Schrodinger wrote, “Instead of filling a gap by guesswork, genuine science prefers to put up with it; and this, not so much from conscientious scruples about telling lies, as from the consideration that, however irksome the gap may be, its obliteration by a fake removes the urge to seek after a tenable answer.”—E. Schr¨odinger, Nature and the Greeks, pp7-8.[202]

    Today, with the “urge” removed, the development of sophisticated technology has allowed biology to take refuge in single-molecule biophysics, genomics and molecular biology. But the stultifying language-culture still remains. This sanctuary is an illusionary respite: the core problems of biology remain irksome to some, and are inextricably interwoven with evolution. Indeed, the very existence of biological phenomena is an expression of physical laws that represent a new asymptotic realm in nonequilibrium statistical physics. Ulam famously quipped[203] “Ask not what physics can do for biology; ask what biology can do for physics.” Our answer is clear.

  2. The link to the UC Davis Inquisition didn’t work for me.

    Seth: Thanks, I have fixed it. It may be gated.

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