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Why science revolves so much around language?

August 27, 2010

Mohan, mdashf


For one thing science does not revolve around any language. But the fancy words and word plays are often observed as a gimmick to cover the face when the heat is too much to bear.

That science is often obstructed by our conditioning where language plays a big part is a bright idea. Before I venture more into other such ideas I recall one piece of essay written by Frank Wilzek, a recent Nobel Prize winner whose essay I read some 3 years ago. Hasty as I was, back then, but starving from intellectual rigor I took on that piece from some journal. All the idea that I received was science is liable to be obstructed by the fancy of language. But I do not completely remember and so I think of researching a bit to find that essay.

After successfully retrieving that article after a few minutes of search on internet (internet is a brilliant tool in the hands of man, will write another blog, I promise) this is what I find. And I can not access it at the moment because I am working as a guest in my sister’s home where I have access to fast internet but not free internet. So whoever made that movie “fast and furious” need to make a movie “fast and free”. Also note that I remembered Nature as some journal. But I swear it’s an unintended mistake that I realize because of internet.

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Nature 410, 149 (8 March 2001) | doi:10.1038/35065756
When words fail
Frank Wilczek
Abstract
Scientists have to struggle with words that don’t fit reality.
Language is a social creation. It encodes the common experience of many people, past and present, and has been sculpted mainly to communicate our everyday needs.
To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right).
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The day I read that article I thought of writing an essay myself and I still remember I got a coffee (no not from burger king) to have read that essay. And I wrote what I thought about magnetic monopoles. Then I woke up in 2010 and now I am writing.

Now since I can not access that essay immediately I am venturing into my mind to see what I would think. But I can not promise chocolates here.

Well said. Language is a social creation. And it’s created with an aim to communicate. Then why it behaves like a bitch and we fail to communicate? Pardon me? Well it does, right? Like if you said kiss me it does not sound kill me. If you say hit me no one is heating you up. Then why is it that if you say “E equals to m into c squared “ then language behaves like a bitch and then no body understands what’s being talked about?? {Right now it’s happening in my mind “why is there so much bias in the minds of the westerner scientists towards the Indian scientists”, so I need to write another blog) What has science got with language and what has language got with science?? And why these two can not make any peace with each other?

One geek’s way of explaining that, is: look there is a capital E here and in language even if you shout like EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE no body has a clue what you are saying. You probably had a bad dream. And you are shivering because some one hit a knife on your groin. But then you go ahead and say “equals to” which sounds more like you said something mathematical and half of the folks are looking outta the window thinking you are talking about mathematics. By the time you say “aim into” they are like “where?” and when you are speaking “c squared” they are like okay enough for today and you do not know enough about psychology to deal with class behavior. Ask me. I have taught in many different situations and many different kinds, class behavior can be more aching than a mob behavior.

So here is the jest of the situation why language and communication (?) behave like a bitch when it comes to science. It’s not just that the words do not fit reality. All most no word fits reality. Give me one example, well except perhaps one. But hey if words will fit reality they will become reality themselves. And does the scientist really remember every word “word by reality” so as to communicate reality to the earthy aliens that are masters of words? What makes scientists so special and what makes them so much of a supercomputer that they surpass the limits of nature? We are trying to communicate reality. And reality is not as simple as is often told. Reality is immensely complex. Communication is a virtue as much as it’s a technology. I have communicated my need to raise the level of “hotness in a dish” in a land as alien to me as Japan, not by technology, by communication. You can say I knew the right words, even though I am not fluent in speaking much Japanese. But that’s a communication skill. You chose the right word, and that comes by experience, and then use your charm, it comes by lack of experience, so un-experience your experience and then decide what you want to communicate. Eg when the lady is serving you hot beverage you don’t ask for serving hot feelings. It’s a bad communication art. If you really are interested to know the trick you read “surely you are joking Mr Feynman” or you pay me direct cash of one hundred $ and I will tell you.

It’s a good communication ploy to be prepared about the event. So if I am going to talk trash to someone I better be prepared with a lot of trash talk. If I am going to talk reality I better know what stuff mean and keep it to a minimum.

But I also remember that there are no bounds to curiosity neither is there any bound to the limit to which young and enthusiastic people can ask you questions. In a recent talk I gave to an audience of about 15 folks where almost all the Professors were missing, there was just one Professor and to my liking he was one I knew from a decade ago. It was a pleasant surprise to have met him.

(God, the Government is paying them just to listen and interact but still they are so busy they can’t make it there and this is a trend in so many places. In the last 1 and half years I gave such talks in about 3 places and didn’t have an opportunity to give this talk at one place because having a big student mass was not very expected. Also if Professors are considered insulated from the requirement to attend seminars it’s a fix up much like match fixing, in India. This should be considered a strict rule for everyone present on campus to attend talks, if you think some ones research is not worthy of such a presentation at such a place then you better point that out, of-course what will happen is if a tiny creature is not quite comfortable with the idea, given his or her ignorance, I have met a few, they will even go to the extent of insulting credible scientists, and less well known speakers and even well known speakers as long as they don’t have the fame of Stephen Hawking )

But the young students there asked me questions as interesting as “Does the beam in your experiment bend because there is an applied magnetic field?” to “How much temperature is needed to produce this or that” and so on. These are so interesting and raised my confidence to a level of my knowledge about these stuff, so much so that I did give good answers to almost all of them.

(The feed back usually comes from a few folks who are good friends and they are reliable because I usually do not persuade them to say this, they come with the appreciation, I have been previously criticized about my age and experience and my status with a particular involvement which may as well be crap which I may take very kindly but I advise to those who keep or spread such opinions to just write their blog, then they will realize what it takes to maintain writing blogs about your-self.)

And this is the usefulness of giving a talk on particle physics in an astrophysics institute and if possible vice versa because it generates interesting questions which is good for science.

And you can also see that talking about particle physics to astrophysicists is much like talking about science to the lay audience. But if chosen with preparedness and skilled in communication*** the folks are not only going to understand what’s talked about (my talk was really, really technical) but also going to take part in it as enthused participants. That just serves one purpose of doing science. To spread the reality, not just to spread the word.

(*** not just language, I am an American for many practical purposes and more so with language, which may not be readily appreciated because of my communication applications)

Now that I have skipped a bit off from the original topic let me check back exactly where. I am Scrolling up. Are you with me?

Yes, science often needs communication, not language. Language is a bitch, and scientists often struggle with words that do not fit reality. But that’s not my topic. My topic is why science revolves around language and since language is a bitch it should stop calling her, right? OK so science is taking a leap of faith at communication, in the hopes of having a dependable relationship.

How is communication different from language? Well communication is a scientific language system. By system I mean, theory, experiment, application, practice, art, skills, goals everything taken together. There are even ideas. This has so much value for science. So when language makes a whimp out of science because reality misfits with language, science hangs up for a while and then goes onto creating a way of communication which understands the feelings of science. OK, science did give into temptation once and fell into week moments twice but here is the newly wed, communication. Now science does not revolve much about language. It’s a happily wed union where Murray Gellman can give a talk about the significance of symmetry and the classical connection between unification of present days with that in Newton’s days. As long as that idea has been flashed in some ones mind one doesn’t need to find the right word (or language) as much as one needs to find the right communication. If Gellman flashes that idea in his ppt slides Mohan reads it on his laptop, far away from where Gellman stands and when he reads the idea he can write about it how he understands, Mr dandy Nabrang can seat in his place and write about it like he understands and Miss whinny bottle-pecker can write about it from where she is reading it. And if these folks really understand the ideas they can go ahead and write about it in languages that “fit” such reality. And if the language is still bitching then “die hard” and find another day because ‘Something’s gotta give”.

Science has found its union in communication but is communication an infidel??

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