Is Time Travel Possible Without Big Data?

Sunday April 12th, 2015

Is Time Travel possible? Many scientists, including Stephen Hawking, state that Time Travel is not possible for the simple reason that if it were possible, then we would have already seen all those time-travellers visiting us from the future. They are not here, so time travel is not possible.

Source: http://www.insidescience.org/  

In Science, as Karl Popper writes (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934) “Logically, no number of positive outcomes at the level of experimental testing can confirm a scientific theory, but a single counter example is logically decisive”. In other words, lack of evidence is not a disproof.

But Big Data is changing that.

We are entering an era when so much data is available that failing to prove your claim with this data is taken as a proof of falsehood (while Popper says that having no evidence for a theory does not disprove it. So Popper would not accept that having seen no time travellers is a proof time travel is not possible).

An example I read recently was for disproving homeopathy. Analysis of all available data on homeopathy result shows no difference between homeopathy and placebo. The headline was “homeopathic treatments have been proven to be completely useless” while the scientists used a more cautious language: “The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans”.

Source: https://happyholistichealth.wordpress.com/tag/homeopathy-painkillers/

To you and me both of these come to the same conclusion: even with lots of data, there is no evidence that homeopathy works; so you and I accept the inevitable conclusion: it doesn’t work (even though Karl Popper would have warned us that this is not a proof).

Which brings me to the obvious question:

What else is being disproved by lack of evidence?

Source: http://5writers5novels5months.com/2013/01/

For me (and I expect to see some heated argument on this), the next target is Astrology.

Come on. Data Scientists have access to enough data about the world population to ascertain if it divides nicely into 12 types of people (one for each sign of the zodiac). Have you read any articles proving Astrology by Big Data analysis of the available data?

No? OK, maybe you should accept that Astrology is not real.

Similarly, have any fortune-tellers won the lottery recently?

No? OK, maybe you should accept that they can’t tell the future with any precision.

Numerology? Ditto.

My point? With access to enough data and enough data scientists, the world is changing: lack of proof is becoming proof of falsehood. And Data Science has an important role to play.

Ben Bor is a Senior Solutions Architect at Teradata ANZ, specialist in maximising the value of enterprise data. He gained international experience on projects in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Ben has over 30 years’ experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining Teradata, Ben worked for international consultancies for about 15 years and for international banks before that. Connect with Ben Bor via Linkedin.

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Ben Bor

Senior Solutions Architect at Teradata
Ben Bor is a Senior Solutions Architect at Teradata ANZ, specialist in maximising the value of enterprise data. He gained international experience on projects in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Ben can count some of the largest international conglomerates amongst his clients, including the UK tax office, Shell, Exxon, Credit Suisse, QBE, Woolworths, Westpac and others. Ben is an international presenter on Information Management (IM) topics, having presented in Europe, Asia, USA, Canada, NZ and Australia on IM topics ranging from performance through data warehousing and data quality to Social Media analysis and Big Data. Ben has over 30 years’ experience in the IT industry (he wrote his first program in 1969, using punched cards). Prior to joining Teradata, Ben worked for international consultancies for about 15 years (including CapGemini, HP and Logica) and for international banks before that
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About Ben Bor

Ben Bor is a Senior Solutions Architect at Teradata ANZ, specialist in maximising the value of enterprise data. He gained international experience on projects in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Ben can count some of the largest international conglomerates amongst his clients, including the UK tax office, Shell, Exxon, Credit Suisse, QBE, Woolworths, Westpac and others. Ben is an international presenter on Information Management (IM) topics, having presented in Europe, Asia, USA, Canada, NZ and Australia on IM topics ranging from performance through data warehousing and data quality to Social Media analysis and Big Data. Ben has over 30 years’ experience in the IT industry (he wrote his first program in 1969, using punched cards). Prior to joining Teradata, Ben worked for international consultancies for about 15 years (including CapGemini, HP and Logica) and for international banks before that

2 thoughts on “Is Time Travel Possible Without Big Data?

  1. avatarrob

    would closing ones eyes in a haunted house, then on seeing again, seeing the house as it once was 10 years previous be classed as time travel. if so ive time travelled.

    Reply
  2. avatarDave

    Without knowing the selection effects in your data and in your analysis you cannot make the claims you’re making.

    Time travellers might prefer to go back to look at dinosaurs rather than the boring early 21st century, for example.

    Similarly, despite loads of data, you can’t use Kepler data to say that no Mercury-like planets exist since, in no matter how much data you get, it will remain unable to detect them.

    And your assertion that an absence of articles claiming big data proves astrology, even though I agree with you that astrology is crap, can’t be used as evidence unless you know that at least someone has tried to do such a study.

    In the latter context, in fact, it becomes even more important for people to publish negative results – that they’ve tried to prove astrology with big data and have failed – so that absence need not be asserted to be evidence.

    In other words, absence is not evidence unless someone, capable of finding that evidence, has explicitly looked and said they’ve not found it.

    I guess I’m still a Popperian at heart :-)

    Reply

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