Tag Archives: Controversies

Links and Comments

l10n74

The link  L10n74 

(click on the picture to see L10n74’s Braid representation, its Morse link presentation, its Alexander and Jones polynomials, its Khovanov homology, and more, much more.)

Here are some links and further comments regarding the last four posts. (Mainly for the post about controversies.)

Controversies

Climate-change

This is probably the most important issue as far as direct policy implications. (And it is a clear-cut scientific debate.) I have very little first-hand knowledge on the climate change debate. I found links to two blogs on “shtetl-optimized” (Both representing the common views regarding the issue – namely that global warming is caused by humans). The first is RealClimate  (that made a good impression on me), and the second is Climate change denial (that did not make a good impression on me). 

An interesting paragraph from the second blog in a post about “Israeli climate change denial”  (written by Lucy Michaels) is:

“A further aspect of Israeli climate denial, argued by [Pinhas] Alpert and supported by my own research, is that there is a relatively high number of climate skeptics in Israel such as astrophysicist Nir Shaviv who still persists with his Cosmic Ray theory despite it being roundly rebutted by the scientific community. A personal friend at the Israel Meteorological Service is yet to be convinced of the anthropogenic causes. Alpert argues that climate skepticism in Israel represents a Jewish trait based on traditions of Jewish critical learning – to constantly dispute and find alternative explanations. This, I think, is a polite way of saying that Israelis in general are an argumentative and contrary bunch.”

Hmm! (Actually I know Nir Shaviv quite well, here is his blog.)  The notion “climate denial” is especially cute.

Our local Institute for Advanced Study will hold starting today a large workshop on “Reducing the Uncertainty in the Prediction of Global Warming” about (mainstream) climate-change science.

Smoking

Interesting papers by the famous statistician Ronald Fisher  who was critical regarding the connection between smoking and cancer can be found here.

Economics, games and psychology 

A very skeptical view on the normative or descriptive value of economic theory and game theory (even in principle) is expressed by Ariel Rubinstein (here, and here).  Robert Aumann has a very different view.  (Look at this paper  .)

Rationality and psychology. Continue reading

Controversies In and Near Science

Controversies and debates in and around science – between researchers within the same discipline, between competing theories, between competing fields, and between accepted scientific viewpoints and viewpoints rooted outside science – are common. 

Is there global warming and is it caused by high emissions of CO2 by humans? Or is global warming perhaps a myth, or rather an established fact caused by changes in the sun’s radiation, which has little to do with us? Is quantum physics correct? Can quantum computers, which have superior computation power that can crack the codes used for most commercial communication, be built? Are the teachings regarding free-market economy scientifically based?  What is rationality?  What is the weight of psychology in understanding economics?  What is the value of mathematical tools in the social sciences? What are the limits of artificial intelligence? Is string theory promising as the ultimate physics theory of everything?

What is the origin of the Scrolls of Qumran (the Dead Sea scrolls)? Were they written by a sectarian group living in a village close to the caves where they were discovered, as the dominant theory asserts?  Magen Broshi, a senior Jerusalem-based archaeologist and the ex-curator of the “Shrine of the Book” who subscribes to the central theory regarding the scrolls, said once in a public lecture: “There are  twelve theories regarding the origins of the Qumran scrolls. Continue reading

Rationality, Economics and Games

1. The “Center for Rationality”

“Founded in 1991, the Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Rationality  [at first it was simply called “Center for Rationality”] is a unique venture in which faculty, students, and guests join forces to explore the rational basis of decision-making. Coming from a broad sweep of departments — mathematics, economics, psychology, biology, education, computer science, philosophy, business, statistics, and law — its members apply game- theoretic tools to examine the processes by which individuals seeking the path of maximum benefit respond to real-world situations where individuals with different goals interact.” 

Game theory was always strong at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a nice aspect of it is the combination of mathematics and debating. As an undergraduate I was quite interested in game theory along with combinatorics and convexity, and my first published paper was on game theory, with Michael Maschler and Guillermo Owen. Later I moved in other directions, but more recently, in part because of my membership in the Center for the last ten years and in part because of my collaboration with economists Ariel Rubinstein (who was my classmate in my undergraduate years) and Rani Spiegler, I am trying to do research and write papers in theoretical economics. Not having the basic instincts of an economist, and lacking some basic background, makes it especially difficult.

Let me also mention that there are very interesting connections between computer science and economics and a very large emerging research community.  

2. Many many controversies

Among the many issues discussed and debated in seminars at the Center (the regular ones are the “Game Theory Seminar” on Sundays and the “Rationality on Friday” seminars on… Fridays,)  roundtables, the annual retreat, Sunday’s sandwich gatherings, and ample debates over e-mail were:

The controversy over expected utility theory (we will come back to it below); (Little updates: May, 21)

The role of psychology in economics;

The relevance of “neuroeconomy”;

Continue reading