... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

454: blog recommendation refute.me.uk by @pearce_

I'd like to recommend another blog to you all. Find it at refute.me.uk. It's written by Matthew Pearce, my university bestie who I don't see nearly enough. He holds the distinction of being among the smartest people I know and the only person who reads things properly properly. As a result of that there are posts in his blog about things that fly over my head. His blog is considered and researched, and although it doesn't have enough attribution links to papers and articles (hint, hint, Mat), and contains come technical posts clearly not aimed at me. You'll get no bullshit on refute.me.uk, but you will get factual articles rooted in the real world, and thought experiments designed to illuminate, with a weight towards economics as real-world phenomena. You know... numbers n that.

A recent post discusses the impact of a sudden influx of Star Trek technology dropped, deus ex machina, from the sky by a passing mischievous alien or time-traveller. It would improve our lives immeasurably (or is it measurably...) yet it would send many systems and structures we rely on into chaos and collapse. Useful? I don't know, perhaps. Interesting? Definitely. Numbers are another language; an almost incomprehensible barely forgotten second language from primary school. But that's my fault and my problem.

Numbers and statistics are the language of the way the world works. To understand anything true one must necessarily deal with the difficult, the obscure and the counter-intuitive. Statistics and the results of the scientific method can often produce results we wouldn't have expected, and that's the exact reason we need them. Throughout history the things we have imagined or wished to be true have mostly turned out to be myth and misconception. Then we got scientific method and the mass collection of statistics, and we finally started doing stuff right.

Damn, I'm so annoyed at myself for ignoring mathematics when I was young, for frying my brain with youthful indulgence and arrogant laziness. Now numbers make my eyes hurt. But everything in this life worth having, seeing, doing, knowing, is worth working for. Worth putting in the effort for. I want to understand the world around me; the way it really is, not the way is most comforting or the most convenient. I must remember not to confuse that which I'd like to be true, with that which is actually true. Difficult, but absolutely essential.

What was I talking about? I suspect when Matthew is writing his posts for refute.me.uk he remembers what the first paragraph was about by the time he gets to the fifth; he looks back at what he has written, rewriting and redrafting in order to achieve the clear objective he was aiming for. Good work if you can get it, but not for me. I'm not ready for that yet: further study is needed.

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