enjoyed this quote from h***** n***:

"Newton was a genius, yet the man spent most of his life doing alchemy, trying to forecast the future with the help of the bible, and chasing dragons in the Swiss Alps, put simply, he was batshit insane and probably a failure by the standards of modern productivity gurus. Yet he also made contributions larger than anyone will ever do by filling up note-taking apps and tracking how much time they spent on their breakfast with a stopwatch. "

@aw I wonder how sensible he seemed at the time.

@changbai i took a history of science course in college and one interesting question that was repeated was how “science” is sort of a label we apply on things retroactively and it’s not really clear where or when alchemy ends and chemistry begins

@aw @changbai science is just magic that worked ;) The only reason modern people think that Newton was misguided in pursuing alchemy is because we know that’s historically he and his peers were not successful in the goals of alchemy. We fail to recognise that he pursued an impossible goal and left us with calculus as a result.

@grimmware @changbai wonder if people will view string theory in retrospect the way we view alchemy

@aw @changbai well yeah quite - for instance nobody thinks that the Bohr model of the atom is "stupid" in part because it's still taught in schools despite not actually being an accurate model of how the universe works.

Defining your worldview by what science agrees with *already* is precluding the first step of the scientific process: hypothesis.

@grimmware true, but string theory specifically could be a total dead end, not just a stepping stone towards a more accurate model. It could not be, also, but we really don't know yet IMO

@aw Ah yeah I see what you mean and I agree! It's really in the territory of e.g. the search for alchemical results because the only thing it has to go on is consistency with existing theory without possibility of experimental verification (or it was last time I looked like, 13 years ago heh).

Much of hermeticism, alchemy and similar are predicated simply on consistency with agreed-upon observed trends which may not actually have much bearing on causative relationships.

Would be pretty funny to see a bunch of the proponents of it go "oh no wait... no not that. Throw all of that out, it's wrong."

@grimmware @aw @changbai Chiming in, but this is somewhat where Kuhn and Popper disagree too. Popper likes to think of the scientist as infallible and ever self-correcting. Kuhn on the other hand prefers to look at scientists as essentially fallible, holding their own beliefs of the "right" science. Thanks for this discussion!

@aw Me too! Though as an aspiring scientist myself, I was a bit saddened by the realization 😂. But then again, when you come from a country who's life is deeply influenced by tradition instead of rational thought, it can lead to surprising conflict.

@aw @changbai On a side note, if you've got the stomach for anthropology texts then I'd heartily recommend this book.

I think it poses more questions than it does answers but it was very interesting IMO.

@aw @changbai I limit my use of “science” to “scientific method”, which rules out several completely distinct fields like engineering and pseudo-sciences.

@hypolite @aw @changbai I would even add the distinction between method and methodology, as the latter includes all the silent assumptions, believes and cultural content always at work within methode (Sandra Harding)
STS (science and technology studies) provider a sich history of thinking through the contingencies of science.


Everyone finds their own way to do things.

We live in a world of vaguely defined work and distractions. Using tools to navigate that is not wrong. Glasses, wheelchairs, stopwatches.

Newton had mercury poisoning also.

@Moon @aw newton also got burned hard during the south sea bubble w

@aw most of us don’t have the benefit of having Newton’s genius.

So, we make do with what we have, and compensate for how we’re lacking by trying to say least be efficient.

If we produce a lot, then some of it is bound to be good.

@aw To be fair, that was all legitimate science of the time!

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