"You can find magic in places you never thought to look"
"Physics is simple but subtle."
"Once you see it, you can never again not see it."

These were all said about physics by people with lots of experience making those discoveries.  They are different aspects of the same thing, the fact that science is a kind of "magic" human beings can discover by looking at the world in special ways.  It's unexpected; it's undeniable but in an unexpected way; it's so powerful that it can seem beyond human powers (that's magic).

That magic might be some math.  It might be some metaphor a bit more subtle than usual.  Or perhaps logic a bit more subtle than usual.  It might be insight into the multidimensional.  Or improved insight into multiple, intracting influences.  It might be a bit of mastery of statistics -- or of other tools for systematic thinking.  It might only be resisting the temptations of powerful wishful thinking.

So see,  this isn't just about science -- or even physics which is the study of the simplest things in our universe.    It's about all of human thinking and decisions and actions ... when we are at our best.  We can always improve, and that's where we want to go: it's education, but education which is often different from learning.

Watch HERE for suggestions (by us and others, including you) for using our puzzles, illusions, tricks, demonstrations, etc. to reveal the magic.

We need some simple activities which improve understanding of the difficult aspects of science and math.  The sort of activities we've been presenting at Da Vinci Days and other events.  We believe these presentations can be improved with a little work.  They need to be tried—preferably in small groups of people who will struggle with them and help each other struggle. 

Then, what do we need to do to them?

One puzzle always amazes us with the variety of responses we see when people work together to work it out:  It's the "Wason Card Selection" puzzle at the "MORE" link in the box below.  This activity, especially, helps us understand misunderstandings because it demonstrates the subtle difficulties of logical implication.  Implication, in turn, is important in recognizing relevance and irrelevance. (Look for the symbolic representation of implication in the logo of "Unsuspected Dimensions."}

Some influences that promote psuedoscience are not sufficiently examined when we struggle with the prevalence of pseudoscience.  These influences, like science itself, are simple...but they are subtle.  The misunderstandings are extraordinarily persistent:  ancient beliefs endure even when centuries ago science found them wrong. 

a very powerful tool worth mastering

Science empowers human beings in ways which sometimes reach beyond our imaginations.  In fact, we always reach a point where our imagination fails us, as we look deeper and deeper and deeper into science.  Any individual will gain by stretching that imagination and mastering science as deeply as the stretch will allow.  The larger society gains, too, when its members can use the perceptions and reasonings gained by that stretching.

Self-deception, too, can get in the way of our imaginations, especially if we gather information, use information, and think the ways we are instructed, thousands of time every week, by the advertisements that bombard us.  Advertising is not a good teacher of how to gather information, use it, and think.  Advertisers encourage us to stop thinking once we've noticed something we would like to believe.  Skepticism will almost always improve the ultimate outcomeas we make decisions and take actions and interact with the things we've informed ourselves about.  Science succeeds by searching for disconfirmations; advertisers succeed by offering us alluring suggestions of confirmations; self-deception grows on a soil of easy acceptance of confirming "evidence."


So there's also a lot of
the "science" which isn't very powerful—which doesn't work.

In discussions of "pseudoscience," we must assume that some things are being overlooked because the persistence of pseudoscience, in spite of great efforts of educators, is it's most obvious quality.  What might contribute to the extraordinary persistence of misunderstandings of science?
Let's focus a bit on that persistence:

In 1685, Newton's three laws of motion started really serious—and powerfully effective—science.  Three centuries later (about 1970) a physics instructor in Boston carefully checked the understanding of hundreds of college students who had learned Newton's first law, and he found that 95% of those students actually believed its antithesis even though they quoted the law accurately on exams.  They did not understand Newton's discovery.  And they did not understand that what they believed was logically the opposite of Newton's law.

There's another fascinating side to the Boston research:  In the 1950's, Jean Piaget studied the development of intellectual abilities that lead to understanding of science and math.  He too, studied the understanding of Newton's first law, but his studies were of children much younger than college age.  Most important: he did not teach the law; the children did not learn anything to quote on an exam; they were simply given some experimental apparatus to play with and they discovered the principle on their own .  Same result as with the college students: 5% understood it; 95% did not--but the 5% discovered the law on their own.

 There are lessons here.

Discovery ... Deeper knowledge ... Mathematics ... Logic
"Science is not what it seems at first glance."
Science is more than learning.
Much more!

Here's a list of probably overlooked issues: oversimplification, anthropocentrism, allure addiction, innumeracy, unrecognized abstractions, unrecognized imperatives, unrecognized logic, and scalar-limited ranking.  Each has a way of poisoning our decisions and tempting the world to kick us in the butt, or worse, when we make the inevitable errors.

Yes, these are a bit abstruse.  Like science.  And like science, it's going to make us work a little harder to achieve success.  We'll have to master a few abstractions—like imperative, anthropocentrism, and innumeracy.  We'll have to figure out how to make mastering abstractions as easy as possible.  And that's what this project is all about.

Perhaps let's start by:
RENAME  these issues!

Newton's First Law (of motion)

An object retains its velocity or remains at rest until a force acts upon it to change its velocity. 

The Boston students believed that "Motion implies a force."  That is, if there's motion then there must be some force that produces that motion.  Newton (and that perceptive 5% of of the two groups) observed that force produces changes of motion.

Motion does not imply a force.  (It just seems that way because the forces of friction aren't noticed or adequately understood.)

One route
to deeper understanding

in Skeptical Inquirer, March/April, 2006
A "person from Porlock" is a pest, an interruption of important work that is going on, perhaps even death.       PORLOCK

Ralph Estling wrote of a person from Porlock in the March/April issue of Skeptical Inquirer (p. 59).  The important work is science.  The pest is the postmodern philosophers.  They tend to ask "The Wrong Question."

"When we remember that man is not the measure of all things but only the discoverer of a few, that reality is not a figment of our consciousness or a creation of our knowledge of the measurements of things but exists outside us and beyond us and our task is to find as much about reality as we possibly can in what time we have, and therefore we must not waste our precious, diminishing time with the wrong questions, then and only then we may start to get somewhere."

"Asking the right question is hard.  It means accepting the fact that we are not the center of the Universe, the goal of Existence, the Purpose of God's Great Plan, His First Priority and His Last Creation, but only something somewhere out on the periphery, off in the boondocks.  It forces us to the Dante-esque conclusion that we must abandon all false hope, all pretense, as we pass under reality's iron gates.  It is awfully cold-blooded and self-mortifying, having to leave all those gratifying wrong questions, with their wrong assumptions that bestowed such reassuring delusions and life-enhancing lies." MORE

Scientific inquiry sharply focuses on evidence and places strict demands on the nature of the evidence.  Actually all inquiry should be no less strict, but it seldom is, apparently because the inquirer doesn't understand the nature of scientific evidence which enters from the world outside the minds of the scientists pseudoscience is commonly the result.

Postmodern philosophy seems to fail to conceptualize a world outside the minds of its philosophers, and so shares a lot of the flaws of the advertiser's world of information which starts with our wishes and lets in a minimum of the outside world.

Knowledge is for use for interacting with that outside world.  Ignore it and success comes only thru chance.  Good luck!

(for possible keys to reducing pseudoscience)

The Missing Link  (confirmation vs. disconfirmation)
The Lure of the Lotteries   (We seek what's desirable, like the winning ticket in the lottery.)
The Many Dimensions of Color  ("We're not the measure of all things, only the discoverer of a few.")

The Slippery Implication
Energy,  so what is it? -- really!
The simplest math
A Tensor is more than a lamp!
Ages 10-13, where it begins
Short version