New York Times on the Web Forums Science
Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans
for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be
limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI
all over again?
(1171 previous messages)
- 11:08am Mar 19, 2001 EST (#1172
7.2. Philosophical Remarks -- Toward the Future
“I have introduced the Guideline for Scholarly Controversy
primarily for two reasons: (i) it can help us see the future more
clearly and (ii) it can help avoid repeating some of the
difficulties in past work for several reasons.
“First, I do not know of any other process in naturally-occurring
physical events where the key events operate through two parallel
modalities. As a result, boundary layer turbulence is a complex
phenomenon that no one kind of eddy or effect can describe
“Second, as Robinson notes and the Guideline suggests, once a
more complete picture was obtained from querying the DNS data base,
there was much more agreement than had been recognized. That is,
many pieces that had seemed separate fit together into the overall
“Third, the controversies between the various pictures of the
eddies that characterized the late 1970’s and early 1980’s involved
several different kinds of incomplete models. Controversies of this
sort are not the result of malfeasance or stupidity. Given the
limitations of the human mind, they are expectable. The human mind
is incapable of thinking about complex matters without formation of
what many researchers call “schemata” - -- a picture that is simple
enough so that the mind can understand it, and hopefully also
captures the main features of what we are studying. To put this
differently, we cannot think about a complex process (or system)
without appropriate schemata. Thus, given a choice between an
oversimple schemata, and no schemata at all, the human mind will
nearly always accept the oversimple schemata. (emphasis added)
The history of science is littered essentially everywhere with
oversimple schemata. Kuhn’s “paradigms” are schemata. (For more
discussion on this point, see Kline 1995, op. cit. Ch. 3.)
“At 1996, the structure results now seem to provide, at long
last, a reasonably complete picture of how turbulence is produced
and maintained in the boundary layer and of the major eddies in the
various regions of the layer. In nearly every other case in physics
such increased knowledge has translated into improved models for
computation. That has not been the case in turbulent boundary
layers. Computational accuracy in boundary layers using DE models
has become far more adequate in the 1990’s, but the methods still
rely on ad hoc models, rather than the underlying physics.
(Note: Steve and I worked together to discover, and explain, the
basic mathematical tools needed to link fundamental physics to
mathematical models under coupled circumstances.) “This seems to
be because the physics is so complex. Whether models will ever be
able to incorporate the complex structure results, only time will
“What does this survey of the history tell us about appropriate
paths to the future? In my own view, two things are of first
We need to build and study DNS databases . . . .
.. (details omitted here )
We need to hold clearly in mind the Guideline for
Scholarly Controversy. The human mind is a wonderful
associative engine, but a weak logical engine. As a result we all
tend to emphasize the data we have taken and know well. For
example, my own group overemphasized for a time the role of
sublayer streaks and ejections. We need to keep asking
ourselves two questions: (i) What are the credible data from
ALL sources? (ii) How can we formulate a model or
solution that is consistent with all the credible data?
Kline closes with this:
"It will be interesting to look at the papers in this volume with
these ideas in mind."
- 11:09am Mar 19, 2001 EST (#1173
On issues of nuclear balances and war and peace, both as they
concern the future and as they concern a necessary understanding of
the past, these ideas are important as well.
Under circumstances of much misunderstanding, and particularly
in cases were deceptions may occur, the questions Kline ends with
are particularly important.
(i) What are the credible data from ALL
(ii) How can we formulate a model or solution that
is consistent with all the credible data?
- 11:10am Mar 19, 2001 EST (#1174
. . . . To repeat from 1163 -- here is
"a specific example that is interesting, that can
be checked, and that has things in it that may be helpful in
understanding current problems -- including those where the word
“misunderstanding” may be neutrally used, and circumstances where
moral issues also arise. For judging what is misunderstanding, and
what is fraud, usefully and in context, one needs to know some
detailed things about how the human systems involved work.
"Steve Kline led the fight, over fourteen years
time, that eventually supplanted one paradigm in fluid mechanics
with another. It was, in detail, a bloody business, showing almost
all the ugly aspects of the interaction between Russia and the
United States, played on the much smaller, nonlethal stage of
academe. I wish Russian historians, or scholars, could understand
in detail the “behind the scenes” interactions that actually
occurred, in this specific case, or some other specific case, and
did so in detail. If they did so in detail, they’d see
similarities between American and Russian usages, but would also
see patterns of cooperation and coercion enormously different from
their own. If they understood the patterns, they’d not wish to
imitate them in Russia –and in many ways, could not do so, because
the cultures, each very valuable, are nonetheless very different.
But they’d be able to interface with American usages more
effectively, and be better able to judge notions of “bad faith”
and “good faith” with more reliability and sophistication.
I'll be a little while, perhaps an hour, before I can continue .
New York Times on the Web Forums Science