Psychophysics: Are We Biological Billiard Balls?
Psychophysics secretly permeates our people-sciences (it assumes we’re motivated by physics-like forces). But as every infant—each a great causality detector—knows, but many scientists ignore, people aren’t biological billiard balls.
2. Bentham’s utility principle declared “pain and pleasure… alone…determine what we… do” (1789). Utility became the keyword that locked away libraries of work on our complex motivations.
3. Fechner (1860) used the term psychophysics to describe quantifiable experimental psychology (he studied variation of intensity of sensations with stimulus).
4. Darwin (1871) contra Bentham wrote: “The common assumption that men must be impelled to every action by experiencing some pleasure or pain may be erroneous.” Many acts are independent of “pleasure or pain felt at the moment.”
5. JS Mill (1877) declared “Laws of mind and laws of matter are so dissimilar…that it would be contrary to all principles of rational arrangement to mix them.”
7. Clearly, people obey the laws of physics. But nothing in physics chooses. Its rigid causations have no liberty. And physics (like the best Buddhists) feels only the present and it’s forces. But human psychology is different precisely because it evolved to choose between the attractions of different futures.
8. Physics was developed for situations like: Everything of type X always does Y under conditions Z, where X, Y and Z are mathematically related. Imagine how complex Newton’s “billiard ball” law (every action has an equal and opposite reaction) would be if every action had many different possible reactions (depending on each billiard ball’s feelings that day).
9. In psychology, the same physical stimulus doesn’t always cause the same reaction. E.g. consider Darwin’s observation that a “Hindoo…[can be] stirred to the bottom of his soul by [eating]…unclean food.” The same food eaten unknowingly, or by an unbeliever, doesn’t cause that same reaction.
10. One-year-olds use “contingency patterns” to distinguish things (with physics-like regularities) from people (exhibiting agency). They’re on Mill’s side.
11. Unmathematical narrative-like beliefs and contingency patterns influence our reactions and decisions. Their if-then, unrigidly causal, multifactor logic differs from that typical of the number-struck physical sciences.
Free will, real or not, changes practical predictability. More scientists should be as practical as babies.
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
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- Florida may be the butt of many jokes, but its higher education system is second to none.
- However, the state's PreK-12 education lacks comparatively, giving Massachusetts the top spot for the best education overall.
- Americans believe their state governments should prioritize education, but much work needs to be done to catch up to other countries.
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- The famous physicist admitted that some books influenced his thinking.
- The books he preferred were mostly philosophical and scientific in nature.
Mega-rich entrepreneurs are taking us where no human being has gone before.
- During the first golden era of space exploration, we went to the moon. Then we sort of dropped the ball for 50 years.
- The problem is space travel is very expensive, especially the way governments do space travel.
- Because it costs $10,000 to put a pound of anything into orbit around the planet, we need to have an infusion of public and private funds. That's where billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos come into the picture. With their help, we have new energies, new strategies, and new plans to go back into outer space.
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