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Are there any issues in contemporary science and engineering?

“Are theoretical researches based on oversimplified methods which return wrong predictions? Do empiric approaches lack rigour and scientific depth? Is there any gap between theory and practice, and why?”.

Through our academic work, me and my colleagues at the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, Aalto University, have noticed that far too often, separation of research fields and approaches results in uncorrelated work with inconsistencies and delays. This is responsible for both loss of resources and stagnation of research, which do exist in several fields. The same seemingly happens in education, as very often the students either use “cook book recipes” blindly, with no formal understanding, or dwell into the theory, with no insight of the real phenomena.

We argue that the root cause for a major part of the problems in construction engineering and management lies at the level of inappropriate choices and interpretations related to philosophy of science. Tracking this back in time, we found clues starting from the Platonic and Aristotelian contrasting approaches.

In the talk here attached I am sharing some thoughts on philosophy of science, which we are going to include in a paper now in phase of completion. Although civil engineering is our main concern, the full analysis we perform is fairly general; our results apply indeed to many other fields of engineering, and to science and technology as well (from which the title of this blog entry).

I have given this short talk (7 slides) at an Aalto workshop which took place last June. I review very synthetically the central ideas of Plato and Aristotle, and their fundamental impacts on the philosophy of science. My seminar evolves around the very basic principles of their traditions, explaining how they influenced the fundamental work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz on one side, and Locke, Hume and Berkeley on the other. I also briefly mention Carnap, Popper and Feyerabend, due to their original contribution to epistemology (I deliberately avoided addressing Kant, as I will include him in a future entry on this topic).

I am not a philosopher, thus it doesn’t get too technical and everybody can understand it 🙂

Here it is: Philosophy of science: Plato vs Aristotle

P.S.: the title is set to “Plato vs Aristotle” as a necessary oversimplification: Aristotle was a disciple of Plato, and as such he maintained a deductive component in his induction-grounded science; so the opposition is not as radical and definitive as in Rationalism vs Empiricism.

A lecture on European climate

Here you can find the pdf of my traditional introductory lecture on European weather and climate, for our Master’s level course Building Physics Design I at Aalto University, Espoo (Finland):

European Climate

If you are curious about  weather and climate, and willing to go beyond the stereotypes to see evidence that

– cold weather is not strictly related to latitude

– the Alps are more rainy than Benelux

– Italy can be colder than Finland

take a look at the pdf, which contains a study I did last year. Enjoy 🙂

KMP – Freedom above the stream (Dark Jazz improvisation)

KMP stands for KriMathPrana, a new creature by me (Quantum Prana) on guitar and fretless bass, [owt kri] on drones and samples, and Math Generator on drums.
This is a dark ambient project, where we are free to experiment new solutions about atmosphere and dynamics.
We aim to evoke deep feelings in the listener, while exploring our inner self.

This Dark Jazz track is based on a drone line by [owt kri], on which MathGen and I improvised with our instruments.

http://www.facebook.com/kmpexperiment

Master Roberto Fassi – in memoriam

A tribute to a great martial artist.

Gabriele Goria

On 12th March 2013, the great martial artist Master Roberto Fassi passed away.

FassiChangLeader in an important Italian chemical enterprise, Fassi published many best-sellers among the Italian landscape of martial arts-books, he was columnist in respected magazines of the sector, but most of all Roberto Fassi was one of the most renowned Italian masters of martial arts and one of the European pioneers of Karate, Kobudo, Kung Fu Shaolin and T’ai Chi Ch’üan.

Pupil of Master Chang Dsu Yao, Master Fassi won the first place in Honolulu-Kung Fu-world-championship in 1980, in the competition of  T’ai Chi forms without weapons. In 1991 Master Chang Dsu Yao conferred him the qualification of sixth Chieh of Shaolin Ch’üan  and T’ai Chi Ch’üan: the highest degree ever conferred to a Westerner before.

I had the fortune to participate to his workshops three times in my life: in 1996, in 2002 and in 2008.

My…

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Primordial Inflation and BICEP2 results

March 17th 2014 has been a historical date for all of us cosmologists: the BICEP2 experiment results seem to provide evidence for  both gravitational waves and the inflationary expansion of the early Universe (even though the observed tensor-to-scalar ratio r = 0.20 at 1σ is in tension with the upper bound r<0.11 at 95% C.L. given by a combination of data from Planck, SPT, ACT and WMAP).

But what is cosmological inflation? As I write extensively in my PhD thesis, it was an accelerated (read: exponential) expansion of the Universe, which occurred right after the Big Bang explosion. It lasted from 10−36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds (even though r=0.2 now indicates that inflation began even earlier than that).

The theory of inflation was originally proposed in 1980 by Alan Guth and by Katsuhiko Sato, as a mechanism for solving some technical problems of the previous Big Bang theory (the so-called “standard Big Bang scenario”), which didn’t assume an accelerated expansion.

This first version of inflation was anyway predicting a too granular Universe, and still needed adjustments. This problem was solved in 1982 by Andrei Linde, and independently by Andreas Albrecht and Paul Steinhardt, in a revised version
that is now called new inflation. The basic idea is that inflation occurred by a scalar field (i.e. a particle) rolling down a potential energy hill. This particle is called the inflaton: it made the Universe expand fast and then, at the end of inflation, it disappeared decaying into the particle spectrum observed today, namely into the stars, galaxies, dark matter…and us 🙂

Most of my past and present work is devoted to this particle production mechanism indeed. I study how the particle spectrum was generated, according to different theories postulating a specific candidate to become this mysterious “inflaton”.
Professors Andrei Linde and Renata Kallosh get acknowledged of the discovery:


I won’t discuss the theory and the discovery any further, I just paste here links to internet sources which discuss these topics:

Inflation:

My PhD thesis http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.2835

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflation_(cosmology)

The BICEP2 paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1403.3985

Cosmology discussions:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gravity-waves-cmb-b-mode-polarization/

http://trenchesofdiscovery.blogspot.fi/

http://cosmocoffee.info/

As a last remark, I can say that one thing is certain: after the 2012 detection of the Higgs boson, the 2013 Planck satellite results and this latest discovery of gravitational waves and experimental proof of inflation, we are all definitely living exciting times!

A nice trick to lower the volume of your Laney VH100R

I’ll never be grateful enough to the guy who wrote this great tip in some forum (I can’t remember where, unfortunately). I really like my Laney VH100R, it has a wonderful sound in my opinion. And I enjoy the separate FX loops per each channel, that’s just brilliant.

However, as we all know, the Laney is a LOUD amp. So loud that in a typical live situation in a small club it’s basically impossible to play it with volume past 2-3/10. Which I find utterly annoying, as the power tubes don’t get saturated this way and you basically don’t really use them.
So one would like to be able to control the output of this beast, to set the Volume knobs past those ridiculous values, without taking out power tubes or using attenuators.

And here is the trick: in the rear panel there’s a general FX loop, called “Insert”. Now set the switch to Insert (the middle position): the knob right next to it (called “Return level”) will now control the overall volume of the amp directly from the preamp 🙂
This means that the power tubes really need to be pushed more in order to give the same volume! So you get saturation even at bedroom levels 😀

As I wrote at the beginning, I’ll never be grateful enough to that guy, this is just brilliant!