Sunday, January 01, 2012

Honours for Science, non-linear beliefs, and Noises Off

Happy New Year to all readers!

Went yesterday to see our friend Janie in the wonderful Noises Off at the Old Vic. It's a gloriously funny play and production and the laughter was side-splitting.  Our Daughter hadn't seen it before which was an extra treat. Festive glass of Champagne backstage with Janie and then off home for a quiet evening - we'd had a delighful dinner party here the previous evening and just felt like relaxing.

Very pleased that two business friends received richly deserved knighthoods. Also delighted about the knighthoods for Venki Ramakrishnan, Simon Donaldson, Andre Greim and Konstantin Novoselov.  It is really a scandal that the first two were overlooked by Brown - and I suspect that David Willetts had a hand in this. Brian Cox is urging the PM to set a goal of the UK being the best place in the world to do science which seems a great idea.

It will be very interesting to see what the New Year brings. My suspicion is that the UK economy will not do as badly as people fear, but we shall see.  It's also interesting that the PM and the Queen are very audibly "doing God". Let's hope that becomes a major trend as well.

I've been reflecting on a point that came up in discussion with Martin Rees on Christmas Eve.  We're working on the (vector) equation:
y = X.v + L.f
where f is some non-linear function of y, such as H(y-z)
Now if L and X are non-trivial then there will be values of v for which y (and f) have many possible solutions.  Even in 1-dimension if X, L and z are 1 then for values of v between 0 and 1 f can have either value. The situation in higher dimensions is of course much more interesting.

But the point I want to make is that systems of fundamental beliefs have similar characteristics. How we evaluate evidence depends on what we believe and vice versa. So for example if people are disposed not to believe in God then they may be able to evaluate much or possibly all the evidence in ways that are satisfactory to them, and vice versa.

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