In school we were taught that during the Renaissance, there was a Scientific Revolution. Arbitrary dates are , starting with the publication of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the solar system, and ending with Newton's Principia. The success of modern science certainly validates the foundation laid during that period. But this is not to say that Newtonian physics is the only physics — along the way, we have found many things that display non-Newtonian properties. Inertial and gravitational forces were once thought to be the only forces operative at the macroscopic scale. That was before electricity and magnetism were identified as fundamental forces. Yet the disciplines of astrophysics and geophysics do not acknowledge the possibility of EM forces influencing the behaviors of large-scale systems. When things are caught disobeying Newtonian expectations, scientists immediately conclude that such is proof of the non-Newtonian characteristics of General Relativity. Perhaps, but to be thorough, they first need to eliminate all of the simpler explanations, and that includes EM, which hasn't been done. Very interesting hypotheses concerning possible roles that EM might be playing are being tossed around these days, which might shake modern science down to its foundations. The bad news is that we'll have a lot of work to do, if we are to rebuild our conception of how the Universe works. The good news is that all of those break-throughs will yield opportunities for progress.
In all of its glory, modern technology still leaves a lot to be desired. While sometimes the problem is that we move too fast, and we're expedient, in other ways we cling to outmoded methods. Either way, we always need to continue to look for new ways of doing things. Every technological advance makes it possible to do things that could never be done before. In other words, technology is a bootstrap process. In an environment like that, it's always a mistake to think that all of the great ideas have already been tried. New products hit the market every day. Why weren't they tried before? The answer is that the supporting technologies weren't there. So just because something has never been done before doesn't mean that now is not the time for it to succeed. And this process will continue, as long as we believe that we can still make progress.
Some people think that history is a cut-and-dried topic, but it's actually very dynamic. The more we learn about the past, the more we can figure out, and the better we understand it. So historical insights are in a constant state of evolution, getting richer all the time. For example, archaeologists can now use radiocarbon dating to get rough ideas of when people lived, which was information that we never had before. And with modern DNA studies, we can track migrations of people, even if there is no other evidence. We can tell where people were from, and how long ago different segments of the population split into separate groups. Forensic archaeology can even diagnose diseases that were not recognized in ancient times. This means that the more time that passes, the more we know about the past. And the richest lessons in all of the literature in the world are in the history books, where we can see the trials & tribulations of past generations, and come to better understand our own struggles.
Even philosophy is now being informed by modern technology. As neuroscientists learn more about the human brain, it sheds light on the inner workings of the human mind. Thus we are gaining the ability to understand logic not just from the subjective point of view, in terms of what seems to make sense, or in the context of trial and error, continually searching for what works. Now we can study logic in terms of the machine that is instantiating it. Analogously, in ancient times, people had to learn how to program their computers just by trial and error, and it took a long time. But now we have a schematic of the computer hardware, and we can learn the absolute rules for what is going to crash the computer versus produce desirable results.
Most people think that science & religion are mutually exclusive, and that when mixed, one or the other, or both, get corrupted. But this is actually only true of bad science and bad religion. It should be possible to arrive at spiritual beliefs that are not in conflict with science. So just because religious & secular authorities are in conflict with each other doesn't mean that we should be left without clear & distinct beliefs.
Dinner with friends in Bulgaria. Clockwise from foreground: Vladislav Stanev, Yana Stanev, Georgi Brashnarov, me, Kiril, & his girlfriend.
I dedicated my life to philosophy when I was 16 years old. I've been asking "why" ever since. Putting philosophy first, and all else (such as a career) second, is no longer what I consider to be the mark of true intellect. So after 5 years in the merchant marines, and 10 years as a carpenter, and still not understanding metaphysics, I then decided that I wanted to go back to school to learn a more interesting trade. This didn't please my wife one bit, who promptly divorced me, and who got the 2,100 ft2 house that I had built for us, and the car, leaving me in no financial position to go back to school. (She thought that being married meant not having to work — at least not for her. And now, marrying a woman who has a reason like that for getting married is no longer what I consider to be the mark of true intellect.)
So I thought that maybe I could get an office job by leveraging my experience as a computer enthusiast, and then work my way up from there. That was back when you could get an entry level position as a computer operator. I applied everywhere, but it just wasn't the right time. Finally I got desperate and applied for a job as a CNC operator, because then at least I'd be in the same room as a computer, and that would be my ticket to an office job. The guy in charge of hiring was asking all kinds of questions about how good my math skills were, and what kinds of power tools I knew how to use. There wasn't anything he didn't like about my answers, but he still wasn't exactly sold. Then I said that I'd work for him for whatever he wanted to pay me. So he said, "Come on, let me show you how this machine works." The next day I was on the payroll. Not satisfied just mutilating defenseless pieces of stock with a CNC machine for a living, I taught myself how to write CNC programs. Then I taught myself AutoCAD, so that I could teach myself how to write AutoLISP routines that would generate the CNC code for me. I then bundled the routines together into what I called an app, along with a manual, and a webpage, and tried to market myself as a developer. No one was fooled. Then my neighbor, who was a help desk manager, announced that they were hiring help desk operators where he worked, because they just got a new contract. So I applied, and he put in a good word for me, and I got hired. Then they told all of us trainees that we'd get a $1,000 bonus if we knew of other qualified candidates, which was something they started doing just a couple of days before my neighbor suggested that I apply where he worked. So I asked him if he was going to split his $1,000 finder's fee with me, and he said no. What kind of asshole wouldn't split the finder's fee? Anyway, I learned all about desktop and app support on the job, and got promoted to team lead. Then I got another job as a help desk manager supporting 1,500 desktops, from which I got promoted to network operations manager. I got fed up with the politics at that company, and took a position as a CAD developer at another company, where I got promoted to product lead for their architectural package. So in 5 years, I went from untrained CNC operator to managing a team of 6 programmers. (You could do that in the 90s.)
Then, on April 28, 2002, there was an F4 tornado in Southern Maryland. To keep a long story from getting totally out of control here, let's just say that somehow I developed a strong personal need to understand what could whip up the wind that fast, out of nothing at all, and then get trees to fly horizontally likes airplanes. After 5 years of part-time study, I was convinced that I had pulled ahead of the other theorists, and that I could work the problem through all the way, but not as an evenings/weekends kind of thing — I would have to throw myself completely into it. So I quit my job, and started doing tornado theory 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. I learned everything I know about physics beyond the high school level working through the tornado problem. It turns out that tornadoes are caused by a combination of fluid dynamics and electromagnetism. Unfortunately, electric tornado theory had already been discredited, and nobody in the mainstream wanted to hear about it.
So I decided to broaden the scope, to show that the same methodical approach, of reducing all of the components to mechanistic physics, could be applied to other topics as well. At that point, my study of interactions between fluid dynamics and electromagnetism had gotten me acquainted with the EMHD literature, which is mainly used by astrophysicists. So I wondered if astrophysics was in as much of a crisis as meteorology, and in need of a fresh new approach. As soon as I asked the question, my whole opinion of astrophysics changed. Previously, I had given astronomers the benefit of the doubt — that many scientists can't all be wrong, can they? It was just an idle curiosity to me, but I didn't have any reason to doubt what the authorities were saying, and I found it to be mildly entertaining to ponder the mind-bending constructs of modern cosmology, such as the expansion of space itself. But when I asked myself whether or not the discipline might be in crisis, the answer came ridiculously fast — no discipline was ever a more classic example of intellectual crisis than modern astronomy. Then it became entertaining to listen to scientists lying their asses off when they clearly couldn't make sense of anything at all. So I started developing theories on astrophysics topics, and posting them to bulletin boards on the Internet. I never succeeded in getting anything right on the first try, but I listened carefully to my critics, and never spared the effort to fix problems that had been identified. This turned into a such a fulfilling endeavor that I pretty much lost interest in all else.