Has a more beautiful “Progress Studies” book introduction ever been written?

On January 5, 1845, the Prussian cultural minister Karl Friedrich von Eichorn received a request from a group of six young men to form a new Physical Society in Berlin.  By the time their statutes were approved in March, they numbered forty-nine and were meeting biweekly to discuss the latest developments in the physical sciences and physiology.  They were preparing to write critical reviews for a new journal, Die Fortschritte der Physik (Advances in physics), and from the beginning they set out to define what constituted progress and what did not.  Their success in this rather aggressive endeavor has long fascinated historians of science.  In fields from thermodynamics, mechanics, and electromagnetism to animal electricity, ophthalmology, and psychophysics, members of this small group established leading positions in what only thirty years later had become a new landscape of physical science populated by large institutes and laboratories of experiment and precision measurement.

How was this possible?  How could a bunch of twenty-somethings, without position or recognition, and possessed of little more than their outsized confidence and ambition, succeed in seizing the future?  What were their resources?

That is the opening passage from M. Norton Wise, Aesthetics, Industry, and Science: Hermann von Helmholtz and the Berlin Physical Society.


Timing is everything?

+1, reference DotCom billionaires.

Isn't that how things typically go in new fields? When years of experience give no particular advantage, the advantage goes to the young, who learn more quickly.

See also the software industry.

Also, what does "statues" mean in the second sentence?

In the original it is "statutes" (I just checked on Amazon).

This op-ed by Sean Carroll is rather timely discussing that the foundations of quantum mechanics, which is the foundation of all physical reality, is still yet to be fully understood. You want progress? Start questioning your assumptions and apply your creativity (yes, science and math require lots of creativity) to generate new possible ways forward.


A century later there was Deutsche Physik...

How long before someone in China can write about America's century of science in the past tense? Look at the campuses. Not that long.

China is run by engineers. Their whole system and culture deeply respects technical knowledge. The smart people in China do STEM and Bullshit Studies is a foreign concept. Meanwhile, the USA continues to celebrate idiocy and continues to import 90 IQ immigrants who don't give two shits about investment in scientific infrastructure, to join our already retarded native population. We shall see how that turns out in fifty years.

Dude. I worked in solid tech companies where the engineering staff was 80:20 immigrant to native. It's not uncommon.

Who do you think can sit still in Digital Circuits 235? Two kinds of people. The native rare enough to think it's neat, and the immigrant hungry enough to do it because it pays.

I fully support high quality immigrant labor. However, in my field of software engineering I have been forced to work with foreign (mostly Indian) coders who write sloppy code. So there needs to be better quality control standard before foreigners are given work visas. I suppose it doesn't matter to the suits or to HR, or only desire the cheap labor. You worked in HR right? How did you filter out the duds?

A QC guy made a shrewd observation. He came in laughing one day. He said he'd had a plumber to his house, and the first thing the plumber said when he opened the cabinet under the sink was "who did this crap?" The QC guy laughed again, "now I understand programmers."

So good on you for being that kind of programmer. A certain self-confidence empowers a pursuit of perfection.

But you know, keep it about the code.

You really have zero self-awareness.

You routinely post strong opinions on political subjects. But when someone else does it you hypocritically tell them:

"But you know, keep it about the code."

If you want progress, you want more investment in STEM yet careers there are surprisingly not well-paying nor secure. The exception is tech and healthcare but the rest are precarious. Chemistry, biology or civil engineering will find few opportunities in their chose field. The mathematician that famously contributed to the twin primes conjecture was working at a Subway as a sandwich artist. The nation reveals its true priorities by how it spends its resources. STEM is not it. Blowing asset bubbles is. Working the swamp is. If you want a job for life, get a job in finance, real estate, or anything having to do with taxes.

State universities are underfunded, both teaching and research. Every state (ok, states with population over 10m) should have research slots for pure science.

Remember that France's century of science was not that long ago. Maybe 1780-1920 (a long century). Germany's was 1800-1930. Cultures rise and fall due to natural causes but can also commit suicide.

There was much low-hanging fruit to be picked back then and a culture existed that valued scientific discovery. Through scientific discovery, aristocratic young men could humiliate rivals, score chicks, and gain Glory for themselves and the State. The smart and ambitious people were doing science.

We now live in a time when science is low-status and low-yield, so the people who subject themselves to endless grant writing and a parade of failed experiments tend to be the ill-adjusted, introverted types who are perhaps not the brightest or the best. The talented and driven young men who get shit done go into finance, law, or other rent-seeking activities. Instead of putting their names on scientific discoveries, they buy Maseratis, champion social justice causes, and fuck high end escorts for $800 an hour.

Yup. Guess what line of work the children of Trump, Biden, Clinton all work(ed) in? Finance (real estate for Trumps, private equity for Biden and Clinton). The elites know where to steer their children. It doesn't require any particular skill other than not being a complete idiot and it pays ridiculously well compared to value generated.

In my life the world has been totally transformed by digital computation.

And not coincidentally, so has finance.

You might imagine some failson sitting at a desk and ordering the quants around, but the quants are more of the story.

(I brushed up on Jupyter Lab last week. I don't have much need for it in my retirement, but it's a different world.)

Peter Thiel majored in philosophy and then got a law degree (both from Stanford). They seem to have served him well. As pointed out by another commenter, in America STEM degrees provide neither job security nor high pay (with the possible exception of computer engineering). Why? Because America doesn't invest in productive capital, certainly not like China. Why? The rate of return doesn't attract capital, not when rising asset prices can generate enormous returns. Of course, lack of investment in productive capital depresses gains in both productivity and wages, and in turn economic growth. Meanwhile, so-called tech is the black hole, where capital and talent are absorbed to produce the latest innovation in data collection and data mining (and to fund the enormous losses).

President Trump wants to destroy the supply chains that American firms built in Asia. If he succeeds, then what? Steve Jobs learned the hard way that so-called tech cannot produce hardware (which is why he sent Tim Cook to Asia to build a supply chain). Google set out to build a self-driving car, only to abandon the effort once it became apparent that the talent in tech could not produce a reliable car. Software perhaps, but not a car. And so-called tech is not alone. In an appalling effort to cut corners (and costs), Boeing tried to build a self-driving aircraft, with tragic consequences. But it's Boeing's explanation for the tragedy, an explanation almost universally accepted, that is alarming: it's a software glitch that can be fixed by a few adjustments to the software. No, it's not a software problem, it's a soft brain problem, that a defectively designed aircraft can be fixed by making the aircraft self-driving. We have lost our way if we come to believe that software not hardware is what makes aircraft fly. This isn't a virtual aircraft, this is the real thing. Does tech know the difference?

As an aside, your Apple story is off by a few decades.


What that article wasn't clear on, but my memory, was that the automated Mac plant of the 80's was an attempt to "bring back" manufacturing from Asia. Maybe that's wrong, but I think Apple had Asian production early on, tried to bring it back onshore, and the Tim Cook episode was capitulation.

What is really interesting is that China has not had a significant technical achievement in over 1000 years. Why is that?

The Boeing tragedy comes from not having aeronautical engineers run the company, not from confusing software with hardware.

1) Thiel got rich from tech. Not law or philosophy.
2) Google's car efforts are still here: https://waymo.com/
3) Boeing is not a tech company (as the term is usually used).
4) Boeing's problem isn't poor software or cheap hardware but bad management.

Thiel/Trump are a "what not to do" pair these days.

(Maybe I'll forgive this at some point, but not yet.)

Without his Trump support nobody would know his name. Or care.

"Prussian cultural minister Karl Friedrich von Eichorn received a request from a group of six young men to form a new Physical Society in Berlin."

To "form" or to fund? Usually anything written by scientists together is a demand for money.

“How could a bunch of twenty-somethings, without position or recognition, and possessed of little more than their outsized confidence and ambition, succeed in seizing the future?” Did they create the future or did they destroy the world of science?

They all forgot to see that all of science starts with assumptions, which are invalid for nature and engineering. They forgot to see that no matter how you manipulate assumptions, results cannot be more than assumptions, and therefore must be false. They also did not see that no experiment can verify any theory, because all engineering experiments will automatically reject all assumptions, and therefore cannot really test the theories. Testing theories by rejecting assumptions is just playing tricks. Thus the entire science is false, this includes mathematics, physics, medicine, biology, economics, etc. Note that all experiments are correct, they also establish some theories, but they never prove science theories, because all experiments reject all assumptions.

For many examples, take a look at the first chapter, the Truth chapter, in the free book on Soul Theory at the blog site https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

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