Saturday, January 19, 2013

astro picture for the day/ technology and mathematics

W50 supernova remnant in radio (green) against the infrared background of stars and dust (red). Credits: NRAO/AUI/NSF, K. Golap, M. Goss; NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE).

thought for the day,

I have for a few years recognized a little problem of my connection between James Burke's connections and Jacob Bronowski's theory of knowledge in his "Origin of Knowledge and Imagination."  The problem is that technology is material and mathematics is symbols.  Why do both worlds(material not symbolic) have this daming up of nature leading to concepts/technologies?  I'm surprised I didn't hit on this years ago.  Because, I remember almost a decade ago now that mathematics is as much a technology as material technologies.  Even natural language can be viewed as a technology. That is my thought last night. 

Homo Erectus as everyone knows used fire for hundreds of thousands of years; that act alone put mankind a cut above any lifeform on Earth ever before.  Homo Erectus essentialy already existed in a science fictiony time. Isaac Asimov in his "Chronology of Science and Technology" says there's evidence that the cave painters of tens of thousands of years ago used wax that would come from the application of fire to cooking animal meat.  Maybe the cave painters made bon fires and explored just how hot a fire they could make, but we don't know.  We only know that fire led to metallergy in Mesopotamia around 3700 B.C.(almost six thousand years ago).

The nature of fire had to wait a longer time to the modern day scientific era of mankind.  This story brings us back to my point about mathematics being a symbolic technology and my problem of how come there's this same pattern of James Burke connections/Jacob Bronowski infered units.  The solution is to define the vague word 'technology.' 

Fire was used but not understood all this time(almost six thousand years).  They at first argued a phlogiston theory for fire; the idea that fire was composed of another substance all together from normal matter.  This is kind of like the problem mankind had in understanding the heavens for a long time.  They thought things in the heavens stayed up there because they were made of another substance all together.  As Jacob Bronowski notes in the video above(episode four of his Ascent of Man), if you have this theory of fire, you have to give it all kinds of impossible properties(this relates to the problems scientists had with the aether theory which when disproved by the michelson-morley experiment of the 1800s led to Einstein's Special and General theory of relativity).  Phlogiston and fire really were vague words just like technology was for me in my problem about technology connections and mathematical connections. 

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