Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Not Even Wrong

"Not even wrong" is a phrase you hear  a lot if you hang out with scientists; it came up constantly last week in conversations with Arthur Wilderson and gunblogger- writer  Nate Fitch (photo below). I think I first heard it when I hung out at MIT -- no, I never studied there, just hung out, for years, another chapter in a very speculative autobiography. It means, to an extent, that the person uttering the statement or (more commonly) asking the  question is so unequipped to understand the implications of what he is asking that he should go back and get a master's degree in  the subject before he asks it again, at which point he probably WON'T.

From Wikipedia:

"The phrase "not even wrong" describes any argument that purports to be scientific but fails at some fundamental level, usually in that it contains a terminal logical fallacy or it cannot be falsified by experiment (i.e. tested with the possibility of being rejected), or cannot be used to make predictions about the natural world.

"The phrase is generally attributed to Wolfgang Pauli, who was known for his colorful objections to incorrect or sloppy thinking. Rudolf Peierls documents an instance in which "a friend showed Pauli the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli's views. Pauli remarked sadly, 'It is not even wrong'.

"... Peierls ... quotes another example when Pauli replied to Lev Landau, "What you said was so confused that one could not tell whether it was nonsense or not. 

Young writers, polymaths, taxonomists, dino fanboys, gun scholars, on flying winter visit, after three days talking about all that stuff, with tired but vastly entertained older hosts, as they get ready to return to Colorado:

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