Sunday, November 27, 2016

TOK IRL #3 - The Black Swan Theory and Other Scientific Concerns

The Black Swan theory was one idea that we briefly discussed in class that really caught my attention. This theory, which was devised by a man named Nassim Nicholas Taleb, comes from a saying that was popular in 16th century London. The saying goes "You would sooner see a black swan than..." and would be followed by something that was highly improbable. This is very similar to the saying heard in America "when pigs fly", which refers to the fact that something will never happen until the impossible happens. However, as the theory points out, the impossible can sometimes become the possible.
Black Swan

This may never be true in the sense that pigs will fly, but the belief that all swans are white has already been disproved. Black swans were discovered in Australia, which shifted many people's ideas of the impossible into the possible.

Some examples of the Black Swan Theory are the invention of the computer, World War 1, and the Attacks on 9/11. These were all events that nobody could have predicted and, when they occurred,
all caused drastic changes throughout the globe. According to this video one of the most important examples of the Black Swan Theory took place was with the discovery of fire. It is highly unlikely that an early human understood the concept of fire, much less how to create it; so we assume that the discovery of fire occurred completely by chance. However, this random chance was crucial in the development of civilizations and societies.

Another aspect of the Black Swan Theory is that each event was always somehow rationalized through the use of hindsight despite the fact that they were all entirely non-rational events. As humans, we find it necessary to come up with reasons for everything, which is why we have science.

This theory does not only concern theories about the colors of birds, it also includes many of the scientific theories that we base our knowledge on today. These ideas we believe in can all be disproved with single pieces of information, causing entire theories to come crumbling down.

Black Swans have been seen in science many times, some examples being the ideas of the theories of relativity and of quantum mechanics against the ideas of classical physics and the discovery of dark matter and dark energy. In both of these instances, something new was discovered that caused the already set ideas to shift. This is an important part of science, but it is also slightly terrifying. To know that all the scientific knowledge we have could be dispelled so easily leads to many more questions. But as they say, good scientists set out to prove themselves wrong.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

TOK IRL #2 - Math and how it affects the world

"Some areas of knowledge seek to describe the world, whereas others seek to transform it."

Math is found in practically every aspect of the world. Every time someone drops something they experience the equation of gravity directly in front of their eyes and every step we take we are experiencing many other forces. 

One question that fits well with the quote is whether or not math was discovered or invented. After thinking it over, I decided that math must have been discovered. Math is seen in so many aspects of our world that it seems very unlikely that mankind may have invented it.
Fibonacci Sequence in Nature

Math can be seen in nature through patterns found in the seeds of certain flowers and the swirls of certain seashells. In these objects, the pattern seen is known as the Fibonacci sequence, which is a sequence of numbers that create the swirl patterns seen in both the seeds and the seashells. Math is also seen through many different equations such as the one for gravity and the many other forces that take place in the universe. Because of this math must be discovered. Gravity existed long before the apple fell onto Isaac Newton's head and so did every other force that we experience. 

Due to these ideas of math being discovered rather than invented, I must also say that in this aspect the knowledge of math is used to describe the world rather than to transform it. The lengthy equations that go along with each different force occurring in our universe help us to try to better our understanding of the world. Through these equations we have been able to better describe the way our universe and our world work.

However, in other ways the knowledge of math can be used to transform the world. One way we discussed is computer programming. Through computer programming, we have seen many different inventions such as the smart phones and laptops we have today. These things have drastically changed our world in many ways such as how we communicate with each other and how we complete certain tasks. None of these inventions would have been possible without the use of math and in this way math was used to transform the world.

Machine learning is another way that math is transforming the world. Machine learning is a part of computer programming that "gives computers the ability to learn without being illicitly programmed"(Arthur Samuel). Although this sounds scary, it is also being used to change the world as we know it, allowing computers the ability to do more jobs. 

In conclusion, the knowledge of math both describes and transforms the world we live in. Without math we would not have the advanced technologies of today's generation and we would never be able to describe why the apple falls from the tree and hits the ground. Through the discoveries and transformations that math has given us we have built the world we live in today.