SS: on finding truth

There are several competing religions, and each claims it has the Truth. We read daily of clashes between Sunnis and Shia. The last time I counted there were 144 different flavours of Christianity. How could they all be true at the same time? How would one determine which, if any, has a corner on truth? I think the most damning criticism of religion comes out of considerations like this one. David Hume pointed this out long ago in his essay on religion. Is there any truth to the claims of religion?

And what about science? Does it do any better? One day coffee is said to be good for you and a week later it is bad for you. Is sunshine good or bad?  Is global warming real or just “the sky is falling” fear mongering? Compare religious claims with scientific claims. Religious claims depend on authority. What is different about scientific claims? Don’t they too depend upon authority?

One of the strengths of science is its capacity to resolve controversies by generally accepted procedures and standards. Many scientific questions (especially more technical ones) are not matters of opinion but have a correct answer.

Scientists document their procedures and findings in the peer-reviewed literature in such a way that they can be double-checked and challenged by others. The proper way to challenge results is, of course, also through the peer-reviewed literature, so that the challenge follows the same standards of documentation as did the original finding. [Source]

Also on topic is this discussion between Krauss and Dawkins.


Screenshot_2018-06-08 Dig seeks site of first English settlement in the New WorldCarbon dioxide (CO2) can be sucked out of the atmosphere for less than $100 per ton, a price tag less than one-sixth the cost of previous estimates for the geoengineering technique known as direct air capture, scientists report this week in Joule. David Keith, a physicist at Harvard University and co-founder of the startup Carbon Engineering, and his colleagues analyzed the output of a pilot plant in British Columbia in Canada that uses a four-step chemical process to capture CO2. A liquid takes in the gas initially, then releases it as a concentrated stream of gas that the plant combines with hydrogen to make gasoline and other fuels. Keith’s team projected that a large commercial plant using similar technology could capture CO2 for between $94 and $232 per ton. At that price, Carbon Engineering claims fuels could be made for about $1 per liter. Fuels based on carbon removal could be cost-effective in regions such as California where regulations allow them to command a premium price, says Stephen Pacala, an ecologist at Princeton University who is leading a study about CO2 removal technologies for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


Movie time!


Albert Einstein developed his theory of special relativity in 1905, and then mentally mapped out his theory of general relativity between 1907 and 1915. For years to come, the rest of the world would try to catch up with Einstein, trying to understand the gist, let alone the full implications, of his groundbreaking ideas.

Above, you can watch one such attempt. Produced by Max and David Fleischer, best known for their Betty Boop and Superman cartoons, The Einstein Theory of Relativity used the power of animation to explain relativity to a broad, non-scientific audience in 1923.


Climate Change

AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science

The AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science, established in 1987, recognizes scientists and engineers who make outstanding contributions to the “popularization of science.” The award conveys a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration and travel to the AAAS Annual Meeting.


Pennsylvania State University professor and climate scientist Michael E. Mann received the 2018 award at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

According to a recent AAAS news article “the honor recognizes Mann’s ‘tireless efforts to communicate the science of climate change to the media, public and policymakers.’

In the past year, Mann has had 500 media interviews and appearances and directly reached public audiences via social media. His op-eds and commentaries have been published in dozens of outlets, including The Washington PostThe Guardian, Le Monde, CNN and The New York Times. He has also advised actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who spoke about climate change during a 2014 speech delivered to the United Nations.

Mann was nominated by Susan Hassol, director of Climate Communication, a nonprofit science and outreach project. In her nomination letter, Hassol wrote that in one year, ‘Mann has done more to engage with the public on science than most active scientist-communicators do in an entire career.’”

Philosophia Scientiæ: CALL FOR PAPERS


A schematic illustration showing how nanoparti...

A schematic illustration showing how nanoparticles or other cancer drugs might be used to treat cancer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still room at the bottom ? The conformation of nanoscience and nanotechnology today

Special issue of Philosophia Scientiæ 23/1 (February 2019)

Guest editors: Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent; Jonathan Simon

Submission Deadline01/12/2017

Acceptance Notification: 01/03/2018

Final version due: 01/05/2018

Still room at the bottom ? The conformation of nanoscience and nanotechnology today.

In December 1959, Richard Feynman launched the nano movement with his legendary catchphrase ‘there’s plenty of room at the bottom’. Almost 60 years later, there are many reasons for thinking that the nanosciences are now reaching or have already reached maturity: A large and growing volume of publications in the area, undergraduate and graduate programmes, international conferences, and a wide range of research around different aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In comparison to chemistry, physics and biology, this is, of course, a young field, but we want to take the opportunity of this publication to take stock of what has been achieved and how the domain has evolved over the course of its short history. Thus, in this volume we invite philosophers, as well as sociologists and anthropologists of science and technology to reflect on where the nanosciences have come from, where they are now and the orientation of their development over the decades to come.

One way to think about this question would be to ask whether nanoscience has acceded to the status of a normal science as described by Kuhn, based upon a shared well-defined, consensual paradigm. Given its heterogeneous nature, one might argue that nanoscience cannot or should not pretend to such a status. Another question is to ask whether this heterogeneous or essentially interdisciplinary nature of nanoscience should lead us to expect new configurations of the field, even beyond the numerous ‘convergences’ already predicted in a relatively near future. In other words, is there still plenty of room at the bottom ?

Possible themes to be explored:

  • The contours of nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • The likely evolution of nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • The promise of NBIC and other convergence.
  • Illuminate the relationship between nanoscience and nanotechnology.
  • The realisation of the industrial applications of nanoscience.
  • The importance of foundational techniques (notably the scanning-tunneling electron microscope) and the orientations they give to research and to theory.
  • The relationship between traditional disciplines and the nano, notably in terms of the many convergence hypotheses (in particular the much-discussed NBIC convergence).
  • The history and function of particular materials – such as nanotubes.
  • The interaction between ethical interrogation around the nanosciences and the sciences themselves. Have ethical reflections had an effect on the area and vice versa ?

Manuscripts should be submitted in French, English, or German, and prepared for anonymous peer review.

Abstracts in French and English of 200-300 words in length should be included.

Articles should not exceed 50,000 characters (spaces, list of references and footnotes included).

Please send submissions to:

Guidelines for authors are to be found on the journal’s website:

General submissions within this range are welcome.