By inadequacies, we mean:

  • Exaggeration (E)
  • Irreproducible results (IR)
  • Inadequate data (ID)
  • Begging the question (BQ)
  • Confusing correlation with causation (CCC)
  • Plagiarism (P)
  • Ill-conceived experiments (ICE)
  • Ill-defined concepts (IDC)
  • Conflicts of interest (CI)
  • Scientists behaving badly (SBB)
  • The numbers don’t add up (2 + 2 = 5)
  • Purely ornamental mathematics (POM)
  • Appalling prose (AP)
  • Why did someone publish this? (WDSPT)
  • Just plain dumb (JPD)
  • Don’t touch our funding (DTF)
  • We told you so (WTYS)
  • Too close to call (TCC)
  • Could be (CB)
  • Stating the Obvious (SO)

We welcome some readers’ submissions:

It’s Possible Except When It’s Not, and It’s Not Possible Except When It Is

From Aeon:

In constructor theory, physical laws are formulated only in terms of which tasks are possible (with arbitrarily high accuracy, reliability, and repeatability), and which are impossible, and why—as opposed to what happens, and what does not happen, given dynamical laws and initial conditions. A task is impossible if there is a law of physics that forbids it. Otherwise, it is possible—which means that a constructor for that task—an object that causes the task to occur and retains the ability to cause it again—can be approximated arbitrarily well in reality. Car factories, robots and living cells are all accurate approximations to constructors.
  • CB
  • SO

It All Depends

From the AAAS:

A new computational model of how the brain makes altruistic choices is able to predict when a person will act generously in a scenario involving the sacrifice of money. The work, led by California Institute of Technology scientists and, appearing July 15 in the journal Neuron, also helps explain why being generous sometimes feels so difficult.
The reason people act altruistically is well contested among academics. Some argue that people are innately selfish and the only way to override our greedy tendencies is to exercise self-control. Others are more positive, believing that humans naturally find generosity rewarding and that we only act selfishly when we pause to think about it. The Caltech model suggests that neither side fits all; both generosity and selfishness can be fast and effortless. But it depends on the person and the context.

No, really, it all depends.

"We find that what matters is not whether you can exert self-control, but simply how strongly you consider others' needs relative to your own," she says. "If you consider the other person's needs more, being generous feels easy. If you consider yourself more, generosity requires a lot of effort."
  • JPD


From Hopes & Fears:

How do we know this is real life? The short answer is: we don't. We can never prove that we're not all hallucinating, or simply living in a computer simulation. But that doesn't mean that we believe that we are.
  • JPD


From The Guardian:

Science is the best thing that has happened to humankind because its results can be questioned, retested, and demonstrated to be wrong. Science is not about proving at all cost some preconceived dogma. Conversely religious devotees, politicians, soccer fans, and pseudo-science quacks won’t allow their doctrines, promises, football clubs or bizarre claims to be proven illogical, exaggerated, second-rate or just absurd.


Despite this clear superiority of the scientific method, we researchers are still fallible humans. This week, an impressive collaboration of 270 investigators working for five years published in Science the results of their efforts to replicate 100 important results that had been previously published in three top psychology journals. The replicators worked closely with the original authors to make the repeat experiments close replicas of the originals. The results were bleak: 64% of the experiments could not be replicated.
  • IR
  • SBB

No, It’s Not

From Current Directions in Psychological Science:

Homer’s Illiad—like many of our greatest literary works—is the story of failed emotion regulation. The age and ubiquity of such stories highlights the importance of effective emotion regulation. Only recently, however, have significant strides been made in the development of brain-based models of this ability. This progress has been spurred by the emergence of social cognitive and affective neuroscience (SCAN), which use neuroscience techniques to address questions about the mechanisms underlying emotion-cognition interactions. In this article, we demonstrate how such research has advanced our understanding of cognitive emotion regulation.
  • IR
  • TCC

The Evolution of Information, the Information of Evolution, Works Both Ways

From ‘The Information Universe’ Conference Keynote Speakers:

The fundamental role of information can be found in its origin: infogenesis. Inflation and baryogenesis produced the low gravitational entropy of almost uniformly distributed matter in the early universe. Gravitational collapse then became a source of free energy that produced far from equilibrium dissipative structures. Among these, aqueous thermal gradients on the Earth’s surface produced chemical redox potentials that drove auto-catalytic cycles and polymerized organic monomers. Environmental selection on enclosed cycles and polymers separated phenotype from genotype: code-based information. Thus, the coded information in the DNA of all life forms, came (via selection) from the structural information in the environment, which came from the low gravitational entropy of the early universe. I will point out the parallels between genetic and memetic evolution and how they both can be understood as the evolution of information.
  • IDC
  • AP

And the Most Beautiful Formula in the Swimsuit Competition Is…

From Frontiers in Human Neurosciences:

To allow a direct comparison between this study and previous ones in which we explored brain activity that correlates with the experience of visual and musical beauty (Kawabata and Zeki, 2004; Ishizu and Zeki, 2011), we used similar experimental procedures to these previous studies. About 2–3 weeks before the scanning experiment, each subject was given 60 mathematical formulae (Data Sheet 1: Equations Form.pdf) to study at leisure and rate on a scale of −5 (ugly) to +5 (beautiful) according to how beautiful they experienced them to be. Two weeks later, they participated in a brain scanning experiment, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), during which they were asked to re-rate the same equations while viewing them in a Siemens scanner, on an abridged scale of ugly—neutral—beautiful. The pre-scan ratings were used to balance the sequence of stimuli for each subject to achieve an even distribution of preferred and non-preferred equations throughout the experiment. A few days after scanning, each subject received a questionnaire (Data Sheet 2: UnderstandingForm.pdf) asking them to (a) report their level of understanding of each equation on a numerical scale, from 0 (no understanding) to 3 (profound understanding) and (b) to report their subjective feelings (including emotional reaction) when viewing the equations. The data from these questionnaires (pre-scan beauty ratings, scan-time beauty ratings, and post-scan understanding ratings) is given in Data Sheet 3: BehavioralData.xls.

I'll Eat Anything

From The Siberian Times:

Russian Scientist Admits Injecting Himself with 3.5 Million Year Old ‘Eternal Life’ Bacteria
The result? He has avoided flu for two years, and works harder with renewed energy.
He stressed: “It wasn't quite a scientific experiment, so I cannot professionally describe the effects. But it was quite clear for me that I did not catch flu for two years. Perhaps there were some side-effects, but there should be some special medical equipment to spot them. Of course, such experiments need to be conducted in clinic, with the special equipment and statistics. Then we could say clearly about all the effects.”
  • ID
  • IR
  • E
  • CCC
  • ICE
  • IDC
  • JPD

Don’t Let Me Do Any More Interviews, Please, I’m Begging You

From the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics:

Short Distance Physics of the Inflationary de Sitter Universe
Ahmed Farag Alia, Mir Faizal and Mohammed Khalild
In this work, we investigate inflationary cosmology using scalar field theory deformed by the generalized uncertainty principle (GUP) containing a linear momentum term. Apart from being consistent with the existence of a minimum measurable length scale, this GUP is also consistent with doubly special relativity and hence with the existence of maximum measurable momentum. We use this deformed scalar field theory to analyze the tensor and scalar mode equations in a de Sitter background, and to calculate modifications to the tensor-to-scalar ratio. Finally, we compare our results for the tensor-to-scalar ratio with the Planck data to constrain the minimum length parameter in the GUP.

From the Express:

Scientists have long known that miniscule particles, called virtual particles, come into existence from nothing all the time.
But a team led by Prof Mir Faizal, at the Dept of Physics and Astronomy, at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, has successfully applied the theory to the very creation of existence itself.
He said: “Virtual particles contain a very small amount of energy and exist for a very small amount of time.
“However what was difficult to explain was how did such a small amount of energy give rise to a big universe like ours?”
Under Inflation Theory the tiny energies and lifespan of the virtual particle become infinitely magnified, resulting in our 13.8 Billion-year-old universe.
Just to make things more complicated Dr Mir says we have been looking at the question ‘how did the universe come from nothing?’ all wrong.
According to the extraordinary findings, the question is irrelevant because the universe STILL is nothing.
Dr Mir said: “Something did not come from nothing. The universe still is nothing, it’s just more elegantly ordered nothing.”
  • TCC
  • JPD

On the One Hand

From Nautilus:

For centuries, we human beings have speculated on the possible existence and prevalence of life elsewhere in the universe. For the first time in history, we can begin to answer that profound question. At this point, the results of the Kepler mission can be extrapolated to suggest that something like 10 percent of all stars have a habitable planet in orbit. That fraction is large. With 100 billion stars just in our galaxy alone, and so many other galaxies out there, it is highly probable that there are many, many other solar systems with life. From this perspective, life in the cosmos is common.

On the other hand

However, there’s another, grander perspective from which life in the cosmos is rare. That perspective considers all forms of matter, both animate and inanimate. Even if all “habitable” planets (as determined by Kepler) do indeed harbor life, the fraction of all material in the universe in living form is fantastically small. Assuming that the fraction of planet Earth in living form, called the biosphere, is typical of other life-sustaining planets, I have estimated that the fraction of all matter in the universe in living form is roughly one-billionth of one-billionth. Here’s a way to visualize such a tiny fraction. If the Gobi Desert represents all of the matter flung across the cosmos, living matter is a single grain of sand on that desert. How should we think about this extreme rarity of life?
  • CB

My BOOK, That’s what’s Real

From Hopes and Fears:

The holographic principle doesn’t mean the universe isn't real. It just means that the universe around us, existing within spacetime, is CONSTRUCTED out of more fundamental building blocks. "Real" is sometimes taken to mean "fundamental", but that's a very limited sense of the term. Life isn't fundamental, since living things are made from particles, but that doesn’t make it any less real. It’s a higher-level phenomenon. So is spacetime, if the holographic principle is right. I talk about the holographic principle at length in my book, and I discuss the distinction between fundamental and higher-level phenomena in a recent blog post.
  • CI

Gotta Hand It to Them Chimps

From Nature World Report:

When it comes to evolution, we humans often (rightly) assume ourselves to be at the pinnacle. What we cede to our ape cousins in strength, we make up for with advanced brains and dextrous hands capable of using tools, honed over millennia of evolution. However, according to research out of George Washington and Stony Brook Universities, it’s us who refuse to evolve: Our hands closely resemble those of our very earliest ancestors, while chimp hands have evolved considerably.
“Human hands have not changed that much since they diverged from chimpanzees,” said Sergio Almécija, a paleo-anthropologist and lead author of the study. “Chimpanzees have actually evolved more than humans.”
  • E
  • ID
  • JPD

Who Says That Physics Is Beautiful?

From Project Syndicate:

The answer likely lies within us. Beautiful things are those in which we find pleasure and seek out. They are, in neurobiological terms, things that stimulate our reward system. That explains why parents tend to find their young children beautiful, and adults are attracted to nubile models and their images. It makes evolutionary sense to reward such feelings.
The evolutionary utility of the beauty of physical laws is somewhat less obvious, but no less real. Given the usefulness of accurately assessing the consequences of our actions, our reward system has evolved so that we derive joy from making successful predictions. Understanding the forces and patterns defining our world, and especially principles that apply (without changing) to a wide variety of situations, can help to improve our predictions. The fact that we can often infer the behavior of complex objects or systems from knowledge of their parts—that we get back more than we put in—can help us to hone our predictions further.
In short, because evolution predisposes us to find beautiful those things that help us understand the world correctly, it is no accident that we find the correct laws of nature beautiful. Viewed from this perspective, the apparent beauty of the laws of physics—our attraction to their symmetry and exuberance—is not surprising.
  • BQ
  • IDC