Science Corner: Theoretical Tinker Toys

This would normally be my longer end-of-month post, but I’m switching things around during this Lent season. For the following 5 weeks, I’ll be ruminating on the topic of miracles and how they interact with our understanding of nature and science. This won’t be an exhaustive survey, more of a snapshot of my current thoughts. We’ll start next week with a look at 1 Samuel 8. Subsequently we’ll take up the laws of nature, the mathematics of chaos, the Triumphal Entry, and finally miracles themselves.

As a prelude, I’d like to call your attention to constructor theory. It is a recently proposed framework for expressing how the world works. It is so named because it constructs what we generally think of as the laws of physics or nature from a collection of ifthen type statements. It is early days; there is much work to be done before we can decide if it is as useful as it promises. It has a flavor of Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science, which is not without its detractors. Still, when I came across it this past week, it was too good of an introduction to my thoughts on the laws of nature to pass up.

What do you think of when you think about the laws of nature? Do you make a distinction between a law and a theory?

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog.

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