The Limits of Conspiracy Debunking—Revisited

by David Kordahl Note: This piece is an accidental addendum to my column of March 2021, “The Limits of Conspiracy Debunking,” though it can be read separately. Sometimes, we’re surprised. Though everyday surprises can be comedic, the surprises that we register collectively are more often tragic. My parents both remember the assassination of John F.…

Exorcising a New Machine

by David Kordahl Here’s a brief story about two friends of mine. Let’s call them A. Sociologist and A. Mathematician, pseudonyms that reflect both their professions and their roles in the story. A few years ago, A.S. and A.M. worked together on a research project. Naturally, A.S. developed the sociological theories for their project, and…

Scientific Models and Individual Experience

by David Kordahl I’ll start this column with an over-generalization. Speaking roughly, scientific models can be classed into two categories: mechanical models, and actuarial models. Engineers and physical scientists tend to favor mechanical models, where the root causes of various effects are specified by their formalism. Predictable inputs, in such models, lead to predictable outputs.…

Scavenging Science: On John Horgan and Tao Lin

by David Kordahl From the moment we’re born into bright hospital lights until that last day when we’re topped off with embalming fluid, it’s hard to escape the human world. By the “human world,” here, I mean the world that we have built for ourselves, a world where, whether or not you know the specific…

The Slightly Wrong Physics of Spinning Muons

by David Kordahl If you follow science news, there’s a good chance that you’ve recently heard about Muon g-2 (pronounced “mew-awhn gee minus two”), an experiment whose preliminary results were announced to media fanfare and general excitement. The experiment’s most recent iteration is going on at Fermilab, the physics facility outside Batavia, Illinois, but it…

Things Hang Together, Things Fall Apart

by David Kordahl Paul Halpern’s new book, Synchronicity: The Epic Quest to Understand the Quantum Nature of Cause and Effect, takes its time to get there, but its best parts discuss the intersection of two puzzles for 20th century rationalists: psychoanalysis, and quantum mechanics. This intersection is dramatized by the correspondence of Carl Jung, Freud’s…