The Trouble With The Trouble With Physics

I’m on my second attempt reading Lee Smolin’s 2006 book The Trouble With Physics. I am reminded of a similar situation with another book, Joyce’s Ulysses. And, similarly, my second attempt with The Trouble With Physics is not a reappraisal but a confirmation: this is hard to read.

Smolin’s book is making a case for the fact that string theory is a failure; a spectacular failure that its adherents defend with a most byzantine theoretical web; that, because string theory is de rigueur in so many of the top schools, with so many reputations at stake, no one wants to recognize the fact that string theory — an attempt to harmonize the ideas of quantum theory and relativity so that we might understand the foundation of the universe more clearly — is a dead end.

The problem I’m (still) having with the book is that Smolin is writing to an audience that is willing to take a steep (try 90 degrees upward) climb in order to understand the various concepts and theories which not only formed the foundation of string theory, but the issues that weren’t resolved through the original work of Newton, Einstein, etc. Smolin lays out in the beginning various fundamental aspects of how things work that we simply don’t know — instilling early that scientific inquiry is, if anything, about the need for curiosity. However, given Smolin’s densely described approach to get us ready to understand his arguments, and while I don’t doubt the necessity, I think he would need to double the length of his book to do so effectively for interested readers who are not physicists.

What is more successful, and the reason I continue to read it, is how Continue reading

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“Delusional ideas [are] understood as a form of absolutism — a radical decontextualization serving vital restorative and defensive functions. Experiences that are insulated from dialogue cannot be challenged or invalidated.

– Robert D. Stolorow, “Trauma and Human Existence” (2007)

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Robertson Davies: Elitist

I was once accused by the chaplain of Massey College of being a gnostic. He was very angry with me indeed. But part of being gnostic was using your head if you wanted to achieve salvation or even a tolerable life. That is something that the Christian church tends rather to discourage. Salvation is free for everyone. The greatest idiot and yahoo can be saved, the doctrine goes, because Christ loves him as much as he loves Albert Einstein. I don’t think that is true. I think that civilization—life—has a different place for the intelligent people who try to pull us a little further out of the primal ooze than it has for the boobs who just trot along behind, dragging on the wheels. This sort of opinion has won me the reputation of being an elitist. Behold an elitist.

This is from a wonderful interview with the multifaceted author, Robertson Davies, for the Paris Review. His responses are well-considered, done as they were before everyone felt pressured to distill themselves into soundbites. He provides a wonderful perspective on fiction writing, the role of the writer, what his own background lends to his writer’s toolkit, as well as an assortment of miscellany (including a very interesting reflection on the differences between Freudian and Jungian psychology, no less). He was a true character.

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Studies + Considerations

I am spending the summer immersing myself in reading all things psycho. I came across a statement which, if you can get past the academic tone, provides a key interpretation of how the relational approach (which is what I’m studying) is divergent from classical psychoanalysis’ emphasis on a one-person psychology.

“The relational-perspectivist approach I am advocating views the patient-analyst relationship as continually being established and reestablished through ongoing mutual influence in which both patient and analyst systematically affect, and are affected by, each other. A communication process is established between patient and analyst in which influence flows in both directions. This implies a “two-person psychology” or a regulatory-systems conceptualization of the analytic process. The terms transference and countertransference too easily lend themselves to a model that implies a one-way influence in which the analyst reacts to the patient. That the influence between patient and analyst is not equal does not mean that it is not mutual; the analytic relationship may be mutual without being symmetrical.”

Lewis Aron, A Meeting of Minds: Mutuality in Psychoanalysis

The author proceeds to develop this distinction between relational and classical (two-person vs. one-person psychology) as it pertains to intersubjectivity (the mutual awareness of what the other is thinking/feeling in a therapeutic environment and how this field of awareness affects both the patient and analyst). The quote above is a brilliantly distilled proposition which may seem commonsensical on first reading, but with a broader understanding of the history of psychoanalysis I can see how revolutionary a statement this is.

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“If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.”

– Rudyard Kipling
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quote

“Celebrities are not superlatives in our field of expertise. If celebrities that are schnoring in on our field started out trying to do what we do and were held to the standards we started out upholding, a great many of them would’ve never made it.”

Billy West, voice actor (“Futurama”) on the use
of celebrity voice work in animated films.

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Mobile: quote

“He blamed himself for not realizing that the area of leprosy was also the area of this other sickness. He had expected doctors and nurses: he had forgotten that he would find priests and nuns.”

– Graham Greene, “A Burnt-Out Case”

[Sent via BlackBerry]

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