Archive for August, 2010

Sokal article

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Amongst all of the foreign language of physics and mathematics there are a few thoughts worth noting in this article. First, although it is very difficult for anyone untrained in these sciences to make a whole lot of sense out of this, Sokal puts a good deal of effort into trying to make this as easy as it can possibly be for the public audience to read, a thing that many professionals, including historians, do not do enough. He supports his argument with loads of historical as well as modern references, which also applies to anyone doing historical research. One part in particular that caught my attention spoke of a need to “break down artificial barriers that separate ‘scientists’ from ‘the public’.  It made me think about my own experience so far, however short it may be, with historical research. It is often very difficult to read and get something out of the many articles that one pours through while doing research. One of the main problems is that “normal” people do not know how to read the writing of most historians, because most of the time historians are not writing with the public in mind. They are writing soley for their fellow scholars. If this was to change, I feel that it would be for the better. What is the point of studying history if you are not going to share your findings and ideas with others. We study history in order to understand what really happened. Shouldn’t we want everyone else to know also and not just a few of our buddies?

the Sokal Affair

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

After skimming the article by professor Sokal, I thought it seemed a little hard to read. My first opinion was that it resembled a very academic article with lots of citations to back up and confirm its work, yet it remained almost impossible for people who are not already experts in that field. While outside research helped me realize and confirm it’s a bit of a hoax, the problem in historical research that it exemplifies is very real; the problem that the only people who can educate the rest of society on their issue are the professionals, but that they need to do it in a manner that helps others to understand. The other problem that this article brings up and symbolizes is the need to always verify and try to find the truth. Knowing history ‘as it was’ will always be a struggle, and verifying to make sure sources are legitimate will forever remain difficult. In that sense, this article served as a wake-up for those who were not studying the information being published in their field, and history will always need to be just as vigilant.

Readings on Sokal

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

I did some background research on Sokal. He is a professor at the University of College London and at the University of New York. He graduated from Harvard and then went on to Princeton. He seems to be a very intelligent person, so why would you doubt his creditability. So I started reading his paper and checked out his sources. He got his sources from all very creditable sources. Then on the top of page 30, he has a source from Tim Dean on the psychoanalysis of AIDS, and I thought that was strange because his paper was on physics. I don’t know if anyone else can explain why he cited it as a resource, but that is one thing I did pick out from reading the article. So what I learned from this article was to make sure you read the bibliography carefully to make sure what works are being cited.

Alan Sokal: Transgressing The Boundaries

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

In Sokal’s Transgressing The Boundaries, Sokal’s aim is to explain the practical implications and social uses of Quantum Mechanics through the scientific method.  To learn the practical implications, Sokal gives a brief history of the origins of quantum mechanics and the equations that are derived from it.  One can learn about Einstein’s equations of general relativity and how words like “quantum leap” are used in the english vernacular even though most don’t know where the term came from.  The next part of the article tries to explain the theories of quantum mechanics. Unfortunately, all the information Sokal discusses can’t be seen by the naked eye or any technology man has created.  This makes quantum mechanics difficult to explain because quantum mechanics is an abstract idea.  Nevertheless, one can learn some of the history behind quatum mechanics, some of its theories, and some practical implications of quantum mechanics in physical science.

Science Seems to be Doing OK

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Sokal’s piece of academic writing is near impenetrable and from the perspective of the layman, veers in and out of topics. That being said, I disagree with its main point, in fact, its maddening. What the hell does feminism have to do with science. Why does an established and productive system of inquiry have to bend to the will of those, not just feminist theorists, who for some reason or another consider it biased or inadequate. Mathematics has a pretty good record; I see no end in sight to the innovation that science based on mathematics and rigid standards will produce.

Transgressing the Boundaries of Boredom

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

After staring blankly at this document for about 20 minutes I realized I couldn’t recall a single thing I read. After re-reading the same section and another 20 minutes later I have given up. The document just seems to be one continuos train of thought on a subject I neither understand nor probably ever will. It was hard to determine what was actually content and what was footnotes by the author. I can only guess that we were assigned this reading to show us how footnotes can be over used, and hopefully not what is expected of us throughout the semester. If its the later, I think we all may be in trouble. Good riddance.

My Thoughts on the Sokal article.

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

I thought this article was quite engaging at points but it was way too wordy as well. In the beginning, my first gut instinct was, “oh here we go!” The author does a good job of informing the reader, but from what we have discussed in class, a research topic should be focused. I felt like Sokal went in a lot of different directions, and in the end I was not convinced of an argument he was trying to prove. There were entirely too many quotes in my opinion. Basically, the article was based on what “he or she” said and not off of Sokal’s thoughts. Overall this article helped me learn two things. First, how I should not go about writing a research paper. There needs to be more clarity in what the writer is trying to get across. Secondly, I felt like Sokal did a good job of using footnotes, but he used too many in some ways. I just thought that he did a good job of elaborating using footnotes for further discussion and explanation.

Alan Sokal Reading

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

In Sokal’s Transgressing The Boundaries, Sokal’s aim is to explain the practical implications and social uses of Quantum Mechanics through the scientific method.  To learn the practical implications, Sokal gives a brief history of the origins of quantum mechanics and the equations that are derived from it.  One can learn about Einstein’s equations of general relativity and how words like “quantum leap” are used in the english vernacular even though most don’t know where the term came from.  The next part of the article tries to explain the theories of quantum mechanics. Unfortunately, all the information Sokal discusses can’t be seen by the naked eye or any technology man has created.  This makes quantum mechanics difficult to explain because quantum mechanics is an abstract idea.  Nevertheless, one can learn some of the history behind quatum mechanics, some of its theories, and some practical implications of quantum mechanics in physical science.

Sokal:What did I just read?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

After about thirty minutes of reading which then became scanning of Sokal’s article; I realized that I was both struggling to understand the main point of the article as well as bored. I understand that quantum science in general is not a subject I would prefer to read about. However, if assigned I would gladly give a shot at the subject as well as possibly learn something new. The question asked was what could be learned from Sokal’s article. From my reading I can say that I learned not a single thing except Sokal has an exceptional vocabulary and can write very dry material for a non-science oriented student or reader. My point is not to down Professor Sokal in anyway because from his writing he obviously knows much about his subject. My point is that for a reader that does not know as much about the sciences this article truely serves little purpose. So to answer the question of what can be learned from Sokal’s article there are two answers. First for a science oriented student I am sure something can be taken from the article. The second answer is for the non-science oriented student I dont believe much can be learned from this article.

Josh H.

Sokal and Quantum Gravity

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

While initially skimming through this long and confusing article, I was reminded of why I chose not to pursue math or science. I did pick up that somehow quantum gravity relates to and affects worldwide politics. I can’t say why or how and honestly I don’t care. The text from this article might as well have been written in a different language. Now I understand why we weren’t encouraged to spend much time reading through this piece of text.

I am hoping that this is the last scientific article we analyze this semester.