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CarlShulman comments on Being Half-Rational About Pascal's Wager is Even Worse - Less Wrong

19 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 April 2013 05:20AM

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Comment author: CarlShulman 24 April 2013 02:10:48AM 6 points [-]

Is there a good example of a conspiracy including physicists of the same prior fame as Rabi and Fermi (Szilard was then mostly an unknown) which was pursuing a 'remote possibility', of similar impact to nuclear weapons, that didn't pan out?

Do you have a set of examples where it did pan out, or are we just talking about a description crafted to describe a particular event?

Restricting to physicists cuts us from talking about other areas like bioweapons research, where indeed most of the "remote possibilities" of apocalyptic destruction don't pan out. Computer scientists did not produce AI in the 20th century, and it was thought of as at least a remote possibility.

For physicists, effective nuclear missile defense using beam weapons and interceptors did not pan out.

Comment author: private_messaging 25 April 2013 05:48:24PM *  4 points [-]

Radioactivity was discovered via "fluorescence is responsible for x-rays" idea that did not pan out...

There's a big number of fusion related attempts that did not pan out at all, there's fission of lithium which can't be used for a chain reaction and is only used for making tritium. There's hafnium triggering which might or might not pan out (and all the other isomers), and so on.

For the most part chasing or not chasing "wouldn't it be neat if" scenarios doesn't have much of effect on science, it seems - Fermi would still inevitably have discovered secondary neutrons even if he wasn't pursuing chain reaction (provided someone else didn't do that before him).