NSAS General Meeting for July; special speaker

7 07 2018

The NSAS General Meeting for July will be on Tuesday the 17th July at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our speaker this month is Tibor Molnar. He is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney. Tibor teaches Philosophy and Science at the university’s Centre for Continuing Education and the WEA. Tibor’s enthusiasm for Science in all its forms is well reflected in his presentation style. See the abstract below.

We will keep the new meeting format. Just a short meeting starting at 7:30 to discuss NSAS matters, then straight into our guest speaker’s presentation. This will be followed by tea and coffee where you can socialise (and talk astronomy/philosophy) with our guest speaker and other members.

As usual, visitors are most welcome!

Cheers
David Wallace

P.S. Just a reminder that this Saturday (7th June, i.e. tonight) is a member and visitor viewing night. There will be a member only viewing night next Saturday (14th July). The next solar observing will be on Sunday 19th August.

Abstract
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With ever-more-powerful instruments, we peer further and further into the unknown. And much of what we find is “unknown”: novel, unexpected, surprising. Indeed, this is what makes Science interesting and exciting – especially astronomy and cosmology. It is also what makes Science difficult. While technologically challenging, observation is the easy part. Description is even easier: a blue dot here; a red flash there; a vibration here; a difference there; etc. The hard part is the interpretation of what we see – the ‘making sense’ of patterns, correlations and invariances in our empirical data.

And not only is ‘making sense’ hard; it is, strictly speaking, not even scientific – observations/experiments don’t come with instructions for how to make sense of them. Rather, to the chagrin of many scientists, ‘making sense’ is a metaphysical issue… and metaphysics is something that scientists eschew with a passion!

In the absence of metaphysics, their preferred tool-of-choice is mathematics – the so-called “language of Science”. Produce the correct mathematical formulation, scientists say, and all is explained! Well, not so. Mathematics is powerful, but it is inadequate/unsuitable for the task of ‘making sense’. Mathematics can describe patterns and correlations, but it cannot make sense of them. Mathematics can describe relations between observations, but it cannot determine what those observations are of.

We all expect – nay, even demand – that Science ‘make sense’. In this presentation, Tibor Molnar explores this problem of ‘making sense’, and offers a little “Analytic Philosophy” to help achieve it.


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