Our star has a sibling...
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18-05-2014, 07:53 PM (This post was last modified: 18-05-2014 08:14 PM by Sam.)
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(18-05-2014 02:52 PM)living thing Wrote:  
(18-05-2014 09:50 AM)Sam Wrote:  You're just nitpicking over trivialities. Some of these words have been in use for centuries to describe objects. In many cases their literal translation no longer applies, but that really doesn't matter.

What would really cause confusion is if we suddenly decided to stop calling atoms atoms, because they aren't literally indivisible, and stopped using words like "birth", "death" and "life cycle" when talking about stars...

"Sorry kids, all your text books, and every scientific documentary, paper and journal using these terms must be rewritten or discarded because we've decided to rename everything that has a non-literal name."

Our understanding of the universe and everything in it evolves constantly... If we were to rename things every time a previously held theory is replaced, we'd cause real confusion.

All that is required, is a simple amendment to explain the etymology of the name, and that it is no longer a literal description of that object.
You may be right, I'm not saying you are not. Maybe laziness is a good reason to leave mistakes uncorrected.

I don't want you to change textbooks, or rewrite scientific papers. I don't even want you to stop calling those non-atomic things "atoms"; I am simply describing why I prefer not to call them "atoms" and why I do not consider the statement "atoms are divisible" to be a truth. You may understand the reasons behind my behaviour, or not understand them; I don't really mind although I do try to make myself understood. But I don't want you to change your behaviour; you've got your own brain and if I tried to make your decisions I'd be trying to live your life as well as mine. That wouldn't be fair. So please don't be annoyed if we view things differently; we don't have any obligation to agree.

But let us not allow the thread to drift away from its topic; you brought up something much more interesting than my remark about the possibly unsuitable language and my remark is next to irrelevant.

Once again, thanks for an interesting thread. Have fun!

I agree with Richard Dawkins, that certain poetic and metaphorical words, that have been hijacked by religion should be reclaimed by the secular, atheist and scientific communities.

We shouldn't feel afraid to use poetic metaphors to describe what we see, especially when the alternative is dull, often difficult to understand (for non scientists) scientific jargon... After all, that's what metaphors are for.

One reason why scientists such as Charles Darwin, and more recently Carl Sagan had such an impact on popular science was their way with words, and their use of poetic imagery.

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18-05-2014, 09:10 PM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(18-05-2014 07:53 PM)Sam Wrote:  We shouldn't feel afraid to use poetic metaphors to describe what we see, especially when the alternative is dull, often difficult to understand (for non scientists) scientific jargon... After all, that's what metaphors are for.

One reason why scientists such as Charles Darwin, and more recently Carl Sagan had such an impact on popular science was their way with words, and their use of poetic imagery.

On the other hand, the precision and majesty of the jargon itself might well carry some attachment. It's obviously not optimal for sharing the underlying ideas with those who aren't accustomed to it, but the power of the ideas there represented can only be magnified by a more apt, more elegant vocabulary. "Gauge theory" is a beautiful phrase, not least because of the heritage of thought it encapsulates and represents - thought it doesn't mean much of anything absent proper context.

Or maybe that's just me.

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19-05-2014, 07:07 AM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(18-05-2014 07:53 PM)Sam Wrote:  I agree with Richard Dawkins, that certain poetic and metaphorical words, that have been hijacked by religion should be reclaimed by the secular, atheist and scientific communities.

We shouldn't feel afraid to use poetic metaphors to describe what we see, especially when the alternative is dull, often difficult to understand (for non scientists) scientific jargon... After all, that's what metaphors are for.

One reason why scientists such as Charles Darwin, and more recently Carl Sagan had such an impact on popular science was their way with words, and their use of poetic imagery.
I guess the convenience of using poetic metaphors depends on how accurately one wants the message conveyed to be understood. If one wants to be clearly understood without ambiguities, then a language free of metaphors subject to interpretation might be most appropriate; if I began a scientific paper writing about those massive moths that fly around the huge lightbulb, you might have trouble understanding that I am trying to say something about the solar system. Of course, if one does not mind that the message is not successfully conveyed, or even if one does not really have a message to convey, then metaphors are great as entertainment.

Person #1: Jesus is in my heart!
Person #2: What? Do you mean that if I rip your heart out and open it, I will find the Lord Saviour?
Person #1: No, don't be silly! It's a metaphor. I mean that I feel Him in my heart.
Person #2: No, don't be silly! You don't feel things in your heart, you feel things in your brain.

I'd say let whoever speaks choose their language.
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19-05-2014, 09:46 AM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(19-05-2014 07:07 AM)living thing Wrote:  
(18-05-2014 07:53 PM)Sam Wrote:  I agree with Richard Dawkins, that certain poetic and metaphorical words, that have been hijacked by religion should be reclaimed by the secular, atheist and scientific communities.

We shouldn't feel afraid to use poetic metaphors to describe what we see, especially when the alternative is dull, often difficult to understand (for non scientists) scientific jargon... After all, that's what metaphors are for.

One reason why scientists such as Charles Darwin, and more recently Carl Sagan had such an impact on popular science was their way with words, and their use of poetic imagery.
I guess the convenience of using poetic metaphors depends on how accurately one wants the message conveyed to be understood. If one wants to be clearly understood without ambiguities, then a language free of metaphors subject to interpretation might be most appropriate; if I began a scientific paper writing about those massive moths that fly around the huge lightbulb, you might have trouble understanding that I am trying to say something about the solar system. Of course, if one does not mind that the message is not successfully conveyed, or even if one does not really have a message to convey, then metaphors are great as entertainment.

Person #1: Jesus is in my heart!
Person #2: What? Do you mean that if I rip your heart out and open it, I will find the Lord Saviour?
Person #1: No, don't be silly! It's a metaphor. I mean that I feel Him in my heart.
Person #2: No, don't be silly! You don't feel things in your heart, you feel things in your brain.

I'd say let whoever speaks choose their language.

There are good, helpful metaphors and there are poor, misleading metaphors.

Blanket condemnation of metaphor is a narrow, extremist view.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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19-05-2014, 10:29 AM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(19-05-2014 07:07 AM)living thing Wrote:  
(18-05-2014 07:53 PM)Sam Wrote:  I agree with Richard Dawkins, that certain poetic and metaphorical words, that have been hijacked by religion should be reclaimed by the secular, atheist and scientific communities.

We shouldn't feel afraid to use poetic metaphors to describe what we see, especially when the alternative is dull, often difficult to understand (for non scientists) scientific jargon... After all, that's what metaphors are for.

One reason why scientists such as Charles Darwin, and more recently Carl Sagan had such an impact on popular science was their way with words, and their use of poetic imagery.
I guess the convenience of using poetic metaphors depends on how accurately one wants the message conveyed to be understood. If one wants to be clearly understood without ambiguities, then a language free of metaphors subject to interpretation might be most appropriate; if I began a scientific paper writing about those massive moths that fly around the huge lightbulb, you might have trouble understanding that I am trying to say something about the solar system. Of course, if one does not mind that the message is not successfully conveyed, or even if one does not really have a message to convey, then metaphors are great as entertainment.

Person #1: Jesus is in my heart!
Person #2: What? Do you mean that if I rip your heart out and open it, I will find the Lord Saviour?
Person #1: No, don't be silly! It's a metaphor. I mean that I feel Him in my heart.
Person #2: No, don't be silly! You don't feel things in your heart, you feel things in your brain.

I'd say let whoever speaks choose their language.

It depends on your audience more than anything.

When scientists share ideas within the community they use a language which, to a non-scientist can be baffling. When preparing their findings for the public, they are generally put into more common language.

Metaphors can be very useful when describing complex topics, and poetic imagery is infinitely more successful at grabbing people's attention and sparking their imagination than a set of equations or scientific/mathematical jargon could ever be.

Its never more important to spark the imagination than when teaching science to children.

But books and TV shows should be careful not to over use them. The BBC's Horizon show is often guilty of using imagery totally irrelevant to the topic... For purely artistic effect.

So I will agree that a metaphor should only be used if it is both relevant and simplifies the topic... But that's just common sense.

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19-05-2014, 11:17 AM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(19-05-2014 10:29 AM)Sam Wrote:  ... So I will agree that a metaphor should only be used if it is both relevant and simplifies the topic... But that's just common sense.
I pretty much agree with you, although I would like to make it clear that I am not trying to establish what should be used and what shouldn't be used.

When I am attempting to describe my view, I try to resort to metaphors as little as possible because I find they hinder understandability. Similarly, if I am trying to understand somebody else's view, I prefer it if the language used is unambiguous because the conversations take shorter lengths of time; resolving ambiguities takes time. But I cannot decide the language other people use in order to describe their views because my brain is not connected to their muscles. At most, I can try to explain why I prefer not to use metaphorical language and hope that my conversational party will reduce its usage. But that may not happen; my preferences are no one's obligations.

Should people use metaphors? People should use whatever is available to them that they perceive as most convenient, based on the message and/or entertainment they wish to provide, the context in which it is provided, the target audience and whatever other factors upon which they may base their decisions.

Do you see my point? I am not trying to set up a rule for behaviour, but simply describing my own behaviour.
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31-05-2014, 09:38 PM (This post was last modified: 31-05-2014 10:19 PM by true scotsman.)
RE: Our star has a sibling...
I bet it used to pick on our sun and stick its tongue out when their parents weren't looking and taddled on our sun all the time but now that they are both much, much, much.............................much older they have a much better relationship. Of course they are both getting on past middle age. Our sun is currently having trouble producing a coronal mass ejection and our sun's sibling is going through a mid life crisis and dating a much younger sun.

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31-05-2014, 11:21 PM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(31-05-2014 09:38 PM)true scotsman Wrote:  I bet it used to pick on our sun and stick its tongue out when their parents weren't looking and taddled on our sun all the time but now that they are both much, much, much.............................much older they have a much better relationship. Of course they are both getting on past middle age. Our sun is currently having trouble producing a coronal mass ejection and our sun's sibling is going through a mid life crisis and dating a much younger sun.

... metaphorically speaking, of course.

Well, you know how it goes, so many things in common but siblings take different paths and simply drift apart.

Sad really.

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01-06-2014, 06:56 PM
RE: Our star has a sibling...
(31-05-2014 09:38 PM)true scotsman Wrote:  I bet it used to pick on our sun and stick its tongue out when their parents weren't looking and taddled on our sun all the time but now that they are both much, much, much.............................much older they have a much better relationship. Of course they are both getting on past middle age. Our sun is currently having trouble producing a coronal mass ejection and our sun's sibling is going through a mid life crisis and dating a much younger sun.

Sadly, they have been drifting apart... They don't talk much these days.

On a galactic scale however, the Milky Way has invited Andromeda over to watch the game and drink a few beers... Should be here in about 4 billion years.

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