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Archive for February, 2010

Measurement, Error, and Uncertainty

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Norm Costa recently published on 3 Quarks Daily his thoughts on “PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE: MEASUREMENT, UNCERTAINTY, AND DETERMINISM” (part 1 and part 2).

A lot of his thoughts are mostly relevant to psychology, but I will try and extract some thoughts that are relevant to an environmental modeller. Mostly the thoughts that are relevant are related to measurement, error and uncertainty.

I do have a hard time on commenting on Costa’s thoughts, but I think they are well worth to be read and thought about!

Measurement

  • a measurement is a comparison to a standard;
  • standards do not last;
  • I recently came across a funny unit: 1 knot, which is the velocity of a vessel which travels one minute of geographic latitude in one hour
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Measurement of Precipitation

Photo by wfyurasko

Error

Costa does treat “error” not so much in a sense as in “measurement error”, but in terms of “what is research” and how do scientists deal with research and progress in research.

I like comparing scientific psychology with psychics because it dispels many false notions of science and makes room for psychology in the pantheon of science. For example:

  • It dispels the notion that ‘real’ science is exact, objective, and dispassionate; Also, it blunts the objections of those who dismiss psychological science as inexact, subjective, and self-absorbed.
  • It dispels the notion that there is such a thing as an exact science; Rather there are sciences that deal with relatively smaller errors of measurement (physics,) and others that deal with relatively larger errors of measurement (econometrics.) Psychology lies between the two in terms of the size of errors of measurement.
  • Few scientists are objective and dispassionate in the absolute; Rather, science, by the way science is conducted, is self-correcting, in the long run, and keeps scientists on the straight and narrow.
  • Scientists are not free of biases, preconceptions, misconceptions, and personal agendas; Rather, these can fuel the energy, motivation, and creativity of scientists.
  • No scientific knowledge is absolute, unchanging, or final; Rather, all scientific knowledge is proximate and provisional, and only represents the best we can produce to this point in time. We can count on better data in the future superseding present-day knowledge.

Uncertainty

In his discussion on uncertainty, Costa talks quite a bit about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and how it relates to psychology. Here are two relevant passages:

For Heisenberg and all of quantum physics, UNCERTAINTY IS A PROPERTY OF NATURE. For scientific psychology, uncertainty is a function of the limitation of our measurement tools, not a property of nature.

Einstein’s view of the world was a deterministic one: Knowledge of an outcome is certain, provided all factors and antecedents are known. For quantum physics, outcomes are uncertain (probabilistic) because uncertainty is a property of nature, not a function of inadequate measuring. Einstein’s objection to this is captured in his famous statement, “God does not play dice.” In fact, God does play dice. God spends the whole damn day playing dice. Paradoxically, Einstein, the man who gave birth to quantum physics, could not accept Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’ and was forever bypassed by science and left to doter in the backwater of physics.

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February 28th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

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February 24th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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BarCamp Nürnberg 2010

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Ich war bisher auf zwei Barcamps. Auf dem Nachhauseweg war ich beide Male ein glücklicher Mensch. Warum ist das so?

Ein Barcamp scheint ein Ort mit vielen “vernünftigen” Menschen zu sein. Irgendwie eine gute Blase in einem Meer voller nicht so guter Blasen. Was heisst nun “vernünftig”?

  • Die Leute da sind begeistert von dem was sie machen.
  • Weil sie begeistert sind, teilen sie das anderen mit, und teilen die Erfahrungen die sie während des gemacht haben. Zum Beispiel ist ein Mitarbeiter eines Internetanbieters so begeistert, dass er erklärt, was zwischen Deinem Rechner und dem Server auf dem die Internetseite die Du gerade liest liegt passiert. Oder ein Performance-Artist ist so begeistert von “Kommunikation”, dass er eine Session moderiert die man noch stundenlang weiter hätte spinnen können. Oder jemand erklärt, wie man sich viel Sachen einfach merken kann
  • Die Begeisterung bringt mit sich, dass man recht gut über neue Dinge bescheid weiss, oder sogar an der Entwicklung von neuen Dingen mit beiträgt. Zum Beispiel 3D Drucker.
  • Viele Dinge werden momentan mit Computern entwickelt, deswegen haben viele Sessions und Gespräche Internet, Software oder Hardware zum Thema. Die Entwickler sind aber immer noch Menschen, und alles was dazu gehört, und das kommt nicht zu kurz.
  • Dass das Aufräumen “crowd-gesourced” funktioniert erscheint heutzutage zuerst erstaunlich, ist aber doch eher typisch für vernünftige Menschen.

Den Organisieren des Barcamp Nuernberg noch ein besonderer Dank für die tolle Organisation. Mittagessen am Sonntag: Schweinbraten, halbseitne Klös und a Seidla Zirndorfer. Wow.

Essensausgabe am BcNue2 am Sonntag Mittag: Schweinebraten und rohe Klöse

Sonntag Mittag am BCNUE2

Bild von Oliver Schaef via Flickr

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February 23rd, 2010 at 9:04 am

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February 17th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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Hockey Vancouver Olympics Schedule Overview

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This post has not very much to do with water. Except that hockey is played on frozen water… However, the Olympics are starting today, which means that a great hockey tournament is around the corner! 🙂

Unfortunately, I haven’t found anywhere a decent overview of the games, hence I made one up. You can download it from here. Of course, I don’t grant this thing is correct, cause all the information is from the internet. 🙂

Cheers! Claus

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February 12th, 2010 at 9:52 am

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Earth and the Rest

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We were taught in environmental engineering undergrad-level that the first pictures of earth taken from space ignited an conditions on earth that allowed the seed of the environmental movement to prosper and grow in the 1970’s.

I just came across this movie, I have never seen something like it before, and I wonder what kind of conditions it might ignite.

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February 11th, 2010 at 7:36 am

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February 10th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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Cool Pictures: Math and Nature

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Via Wired I just came across the beautiful pictures by Nikki Graziano. Enjoy!

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'ff3' by Nikki Graziano

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February 5th, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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Google Earth

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Here I am in 2010 writing a blog post on Google Earth. You know, the thing has been around for a while, and most relevant people to this blog are aware of it. However, I just came across to posts on the Google Earth Blog, that demonstrate what a how this thing gets continuously updated and improved:

  • There are updated historical images, and quite a few in Germany have been updated. The resolution is not the greatest, but it is still interesting! Instructions: Activate “Historical Views” by selecting “View” from the menu bar and then check “Historical Imagery”. Then a little slider appears in the top left corner of the map screen in GoogleEarth, which you can slide in order to “travel through time”.
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City of Nuernberg in December of 1943, courtesy of Google Earth

  • The Google Earth Blog blogged about a kml file from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The great thing about this kml file is that it is animated: A voice tells a story, the globe spins to places the voice talks about, and related images pop up. Cool!

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February 3rd, 2010 at 8:48 pm

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Identi.ca Weekly Updates for 2010-02-03

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February 3rd, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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