‘Science & Society’ Bullshit Bingo

By Siouxsie Wiles 19/01/2013

Yesterday I posted a proposed ‘science bingo’ card with phrases that seemed to often come up in the few talks I’ve been to about science’s role in society. Thanks to Grant, Steven and David for their suggestions which I have now incorporated into four different cards (which are a little NZ-centric, sorry). I’ve renamed the game ‘Science & Society’ Bullshit Bingo.

At the next relevant talk I’ll be playing on Twitter* under the hashtag #SASBB! so if you see me in the audience, please do feel free to join me!

*You can find me on Twitter as @SiouxsieW….

0 Responses to “‘Science & Society’ Bullshit Bingo”

  • Neat. I’ve given serious thought to writing a script to generate randomized cards from a dictionary of terms. Too lazy to do it though.

  • Re: non-scientists bullshitting about science – here’s one of many glorious takes on the issue in Ian McEwan’s novel Solar:
    “Beard interjected only once, on the last evening when a gangling novelist called Meredith, appearing to forget there was a physicist present, said that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which stipulated that the more one knew of a particle’s position, the less one knew of its velocity, and vice versa, encapsulated for our time the loss of a ‘moral compass’, the difficulty of absolute judgements. Beard was peevish in his interruption. It was worthwhile to be correct, he told this crop-haired fellow with rimless glasses. What was at issue was not velocity but momentum, in other words, mass times velocity. At such hair-splitting there were muted groans. Beard said that the principle had no application to the moral sphere. On the contrary, quantum mechanics was a superb predictor of the statistical probability of physical states. The novelist blushed but would not give way. Did he not know who he was talking to? Fine, yes, OK, statistical probability, he insisted, but that was not certainty. And Beard, just finishing his eighth glass of wine and feeling nose and upper lip elevate in contempt for an ignorant trespasser on his field, said loudly that the principle was not incompatible with knowing precisely the state of, say, a photon, so long as one could observe it repeatedly. The analogy in the moral sphere might be to re-examine a moral problem a number of times before arriving at a conclusion. But this was the point – Heisenberg’s Principle would only have application if the sum of right plus wrong divided by the square root of two had any meaning.

    The silence in the room was not so much stunned as embarrassed. Meredith stared helplessly as Beard brought his fist down hard on the table. ‘So come on. Tell me. Let’s hear you apply Heisenberg to ethics. Right plus wrong over the square root of two. What the hell does it mean? Nothing!’

    Barry Pickett intervened to move the discussion on.”

  • I’ve been wanting to talk to someone who knows more than I do about quantum mechanics ever since reading that passage in Solar. When McEwan says the principle is “not incompatible with knowing precisely the state of, say, a photon”, does he mean that it is possible to know exactly both the momentum and the position? Specifically, in the “delta q delta p >= h/4pi” formula, does this imply that either delta q or delta p, or both, could be reduced to zero?

  • I came across this site by googling the quote, and I’m glad I did – it’s very good. I’ve already been playing a little Bullshit Bingo with some friends.