Weak Forms and Strong Forms

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language affects thought — how we speak influences how we think. Or, at least, that’s one form of the hypothesis, the weak form. The strong form of Sapir-Whorf says that language determines thought, that how we speak forms a hard boundary on how and what we think. The weak form of Sapir-Whorf says that we drive an ATV across the terrain of thought; language can smooth the path in some areas and create rocks and roadblocks in others, but it doesn’t fundamentally limit where we can go. The strong form, in contrast, says we drive a steam train of thought, and language lays down the rails. There’s an intricate maze of forks and switchbacks spanning the continent, but at the end of the day we can only go where the rails will take us — we can’t lay down new track, no matter how we might try…

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Book trip!

I got a book deal a few months ago! My book is about the sordid untold history of quantum physics, exposing the shocking secrets behind the strangest theory in all of physics. It’s going to be published by Basic Books, the same people who publish the Feynman Lectures and Gödel, Escher, Bach, among other things. This is really exciting – I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time.
As part of my research, I’m doing a sort of Grand Tour of Europe for the next month, interviewing people for my book…

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How Do We Know That Science Works?

Here’s a question I’ve gotten several times since starting this blog a few days ago (and several dozen times over the last few years):

“Scientists make a lot of noise about being ‘objective’ and using data to determine the truth, but at the end of the day, science has an untested — and untestable — core belief: that we can learn the nature of reality by actively studying the physical world. So doesn’t this mean that science is a form of faith, no different from any other system of belief?”

Short answer: yes to the first part, no to the second part.

Long answer…

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