Friday, December 5, 2014


IEEE Spectrum, Dec 1, 2014, had an overview of the work of James Clerk Maxwell and of those who brought his equations to practice. The title says a lot: The Long Road to Maxwell's Equations. Not only is there a timeline, but the story describes steps along the way and identifies the contributors (Maxwellians).

It was 150 years ago that Maxwell presented his thoughts to the Royal Society of London. Maxwell is revered as providing the means to understand electromagnetism such that we could have operational success, to wit, the Internet (allowing bloggers such as myself) and more. But, Maxwell made other contributions that will be important to our themes (kinetics and control). Too, though, his work allows us to follow the trends of science and technology, in the past century and one-half and in an overall sense, so as to set up for further discussion and work.

James Clerk Maxwell deserves his place(s) on the great wall of contributors to human progress. Too, he stands as an example of thought preceding experience, perhaps, even, the most prominent one that we can think of.

 Imagine, his work was on l50 years ago; from this work there have great strides. And, do most even think of Maxwell as they encounter, and use, modern technology (IEEE members do)? Definitely, he is an unrecognized guy (so many ways to characterize this).


Links for the paper (A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field):

The article said this: Today, of course, we’re willing to accept physical theories, such as quantum mechanics, that defy our everyday physical intuition, so long as they are mathematically rigorous and have great predictive power.

Within the context of what we need to do, that little statement is quite meaningful and representative of a much needed focus that has to be brought forth. Firstly, many now do not have counter-intuitive reactions when thinking of Maxwell-related phenomena. You see, human common sense grows along with the general knowledge base through time (memes, for one). This particular trait of humans will bear more study.

To boot, there are many things going on with consciousness that are very much poorly understood. Can it be ever be other than that? Yes, an area of our focus.

Aside: given Turing's work (We needn't fear the machines), one might say there is a lot that we do (or can) not know (old time minds knew this, such as Newton, ...); somehow, though, hubris leads those of the modern mind to think that we have tamed the unknown.

If you would, such hubris has thrown out intuition; yet, we need trained intuition to become a factor in resolving hard problems. How to show this?

As the statement says, we like those things that are rigorous and have predictive power. Nowadays, that rigor is, to a large extent, accomplished via computational devices that are, broadly, out of control. In fact, some exalt in that lack of control (singularity arguments).

Otherwise, the "rigor" can be found (reigns) in realms of abstract'd regions that can border on nonsense (their terms); there has been a counter effort by some (see quasi-empiricism). One issue: how is (can be) predictive power related to self-fulfilling prophecy?

You see, interposed twixt ourselves and reality, many times and increasingly so, are our own devices that were (have been) couched in metrical notions and developed to allow our perception. Unfortunately, we are far removed from direct observation; so, we walk a fine line of circularity.

So, that brings in the "ism" part of the subject line. So much to discuss there.

Remarks:  Modified: 12/05/2014

12/05/2014 --

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