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Searching for truth?

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Posted on November 3, 2014 at 09:52:30
rick_m
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I ran across a link to something yesterday whilst noodling around on my local university's web-site that got me thinking. Since at my age that's pretty impressive I thought I'd pass it on...

"All scientific measurements must contend with some level of background noise or statistical fluctuation. But if the signal-to-noise ratio cannot be improved, even in principle, the effect is probably not real and the work is not science."*

It turns out that the author is (possibly was) sort of a professional skeptic and I don't much hold with that anymore than I do with "believers". However membership in either group does not automatically discredit their thoughts and experiences in my book, it merely taints them...

Having spent most of my life tinkering with electronic systems I know that the key to fixing or improving them is to "get a handle" on the problem. Usually this involves observing the "problem" while futzing with as many variables as possible to ferret out those that affect it. That process is a discrete filter which improves the S/N of our understanding of the problem. The key is to focus on what's wrong, not what's right because unless the system is really rummy it's already far more right than wrong so the errors get washed out by the 'noise' of the desired signal.

As audiophiles we want to optimize the various factors that go into our listening experience, but the battle ironically requires first improving the S/N of our ability to sense the problems to where we can understand and control them. Then maybe we can improve the S/N of the desired information...

I'd never considered being able to alter the S/N as a test for understanding, maybe even as a proof that there is something to understand, but I like it!

Rick

 

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RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 3, 2014 at 16:34:37
geoffkait
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Of course anyone can find examples support his over the top skepticism. The world need more doers and less uber skeptics. I suspect he probably sleeps with a copy of Zen and the Art of Debunkery under his pillow.

Sheldrake knows all about skeptics.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 3, 2014 at 17:57:48
Dryginger2
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Rick,

Not being technical nor having your lengthy experience, may I nevertheless suggest that this 'signal-to-noise ratio' business is a double-entry audio game in which the removal of particular sound corruption/ distortion only serves to reveal another previously hidden sound defect ad infinitum. The next defect may get smaller but the hearing adapts and becomes more acute:-) The only area where the cascading genius of noise appears to show some humility and limits is in the CD ripping process on which I spent a couple of years.

The truth? In my experience we spend much time tweaking our way to better signal-to-noise ratios and being dissatisfied because our ears and brains adapt and attune themselves faster that we can derive enduring satisfaction and gratitude. It's the human condition...

DG

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 3, 2014 at 19:07:54
rick_m
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I doubt he is an "uber skeptic", but maybe. In many ways skepticism (along with the scientific method) is about all that stands between us and chaos. Maybe it should be thicker...

And you probably noticed that I also added some Rick-spin to the issue. That was deliberate, because his warning about low S/N ratios sort of being hiding places for iffy thinking (my interpretation of what he said) caused me to contemplate that they are also good hiding places for real mechanisms.

Rick

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 3, 2014 at 19:30:18
rick_m
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"the removal of particular sound corruption/ distortion only serves to reveal another previously hidden sound defect ad infinitum. The next defect may get smaller but the hearing adapts and becomes more acute:-)"

Truish, but I believe that there really are limits to both hearing acuity and levels of concern. At some energy level you simply don't hear things anymore. On the other hand it can be pretty easy to introduce different ilks of noise and distortion in the process of "fixing" extant ones so that makes things trickier...

"The only area where the cascading genius of noise appears to show some humility and limits is in the CD ripping process on which I spent a couple of years."

Isn't that sweet? That's the primary reason for digital. Encoding to symbols rather than energy levels is a huge advantage.

Rick

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 4, 2014 at 02:42:20
geoffkait
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Sort of like Spread Spectrum, hiding information in the noise, no? At the same time, with audio it's easy to over think things, as we don't know what we don't know. Not only do we not know what the solution to the problem is we don't even know what the problem is. We are chasing squirrels down the wrong rabbit hole. What is required is a whole new paradigm shift. Again. What a revoltin' situation this is! Lol. Furthermore, and this is a real problem, when presented with the truth the mind rebels. We choose to cling to the old "truths" we hold so dear. The Backfire Effect in full bloom.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 4, 2014 at 05:37:22
geoffkait
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Truth is a lot like Poe's The Purloined Letter. The letter was not hidden but out in plain sight, right in front of the dude's nose.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 4, 2014 at 09:05:08
rick_m
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"Not only do we not know what the solution to the problem is we don't even know what the problem is. We are chasing squirrels down the wrong rabbit hole. What is required is a whole new paradigm shift."

I heartly agree. But yet I bet that we are thinking in nearly opposite directions.

Try this on for size: I think there are three major factors that make home audio so "interesting"...
-Our amazing aural sensitivity to nuance.
-Lack of corrolated visual input.
-Mental, often subliminal, crosstalk.

That's a lot. In the latter group I'm thinking more of the stuff that you and May are concerned about rather than something in the signal although at some level I suppose that they are inseparable.

Rick




 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 4, 2014 at 15:20:58
geoffkait
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Why on Earth would you agree with my statement? I always assumed you were one of those people who was pretty satisfied with things, audio wise. When did you become an infant terrible? Calling for a paradigm shift, what's got into you?

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 4, 2014 at 18:19:02
rick_m
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"I always assumed you were one of those people who was pretty satisfied with things, audio wise."

You are correct in that assumption. But that hasn't always been the way of it and one of my concerns is that as things grow old and need service or replacement, or if we move, then whatever makes this system so satisfying may cease to do so. My hope is to understand things better before I need to apply them.

There is also a second driver and that is shear, unadulterated, curiosity. I like to know what makes things tick...

"When did you become an infant terrible?"

According to my Mom, well prior to birth...

"Calling for a paradigm shift, what's got into you?"

Not really what you may have wished. I'm just agreeing with you that: "the problem is we don't even know what the problem is."

I suspect that part of the problem is that there isn't a singular problem. There's a Gestalt that we experience and it's roots are numerous. We're pretty darn sensitive detectors...

Regards, Rick

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 4, 2014 at 20:21:18
unclestu
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I like number 7. That being said, physics wise, its been back to basics. We have to revisit basic fundamental rules of physics (take rule of the right hand for example). What has become apparent to me is that increasingly tiny aspects of electrical phenomenon has become audible.

an example is the magnetic moment of momentum for C13. Found naturally in only 1.1% in all carbon, it seems to have. a very.beneficial effect on audio, particularly on wire insulation.

Still S/N is and can be decieving. I believe it is true for digital processing. However, paradoxially as it may seem, i believe you can hear below the S/N for analog. Since music is generally a longer waveform, the ear can pick up these waveforms even though it may be disturbed by noise. Most noise is random, 1/f types, and thus very difficult to filter electronically.

There are means but unfortunately they aren't cheap.

I believe great advances will be made in EMI field interaction in the near.future. But then i'm a bit prejudiced.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 5, 2014 at 03:08:57
geoffkait
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My Tip for the Day, assume everything you know is wrong. Then you will have an easier time of it. It is also recommended for audiophiles to adapt the attitude of accepting the inevitable with grace and humor. Lol

You wrote,

"You are correct in that assumption. But that hasn't always been the way of it and one of my concerns is that as things grow old and need service or replacement, or if we move, then whatever makes this system so satisfying may cease to do so. My hope is to understand things better before I need to apply them."

You may need some servicing from time to time but you can never be replaced, now you're just being silly.

But I digress. Back to the truth thing. As Einstein wrote,

"In the evolution of philosophical thought through the centuries the following question has played a major role: what knowledge is pure thought able to supply independently of sense perception? Is there any such knowledge? If not, what precisely is the relation between our knowledge and the raw material furnished by sense impressions?

There has been an increasing skepticism concerning every attempt by means of pure thought to learn something about the 'objective world', about the world of 'things' in contrast to the world of 'concepts and ideas'. During philosophy's childhood it was rather generally believed that it is possible to find everything which can be known by means of mere reflection. It was an illusion which anyone can easily understand if, for a moment, he dismisses what he has learned from later philosophy and from natural science; he will not be surprised to find that Plato ascribed a higher reality to 'ideas' than to empirically experienceable things. Even in Spinoza and as late as in Hegel this prejudice was the vitalising force which seems still to have played the major role.

The more aristocratic illusion concerning the unlimited penetrative power of thought has as its counterpart the more plebeian illusion of naive realism, according to which things 'are' as they are perceived by us through our senses. This illusion dominates the daily life of men and of animals; it is also the point of departure in all of the sciences, especially of the natural sciences."

 

Yep - far as I know there is no truth when it comes to audio , posted on November 9, 2014 at 16:38:18
Given diversity of purpose, variety of playback environments and an ill-defined catalog of recorded works it should be obvious......

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 10, 2014 at 15:15:48
Dave_K
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Rick,

I don't necessarily agree with the author that if you don't know how to improve the detectability (SNR) then the hypothesis probably not scientific.

As a counter-example, where would particle physics be if we had rejected the standard model back in the 1960s on the basis of warning sign #3 - that many of its predictions were essentially unverifiable with known technology and involved nearly undetectable weakly interacting particles? Or if we had rejected it on the basis of warning sign #7? Instead, we invested heroic amounts of money and effort trying to confirm the theory's predictions, and it turned out to be right.

I agree that a good first step to tackling a problem is "observing the problem while futzing with as many variables as possible to ferret out those that affect it." That's how I usually start troubleshooting. However, I don't think it's nearly as effective at optimizing. When troubleshooting, you are starting from having observed a problem and it's usually a pretty easy observation to repeat and confirm. But when you experiment to find improvements, I find the observations to be a lot noisier and the variables are not always independent.

And then you have to deal with patternicity - human nature seeking explanations for patterns that are essentially random, or at least caused by some uncontrolled variable that we weren't interested in. This seems to be a common problem in machine learning and other fields involving statistical classification, where the classifier adapts to features evident in random data which are not caused by the underlying function/mechanism of interest. There is a similar tendency in human perception, which evolved to evade predators and hunt prey. Our minds are well adapted to identify patterns in sensory data and then learn to recognize them. It seems like we're hard wired to to over-classify; we tend to see and interpret patterns even in random data, and don't easily recognize randomness unless we're looking at a sufficiently large data set where the distribution is obvious. I think this is part of the reason why there's a lot of tail chasing in audiophiledom. When you approach the optimum then it becomes harder to control variables and harder to separate an effect from noise, and you can get off-track chasing meaningless patterns in noise.

The only way I know of to avoid tail chasing is to make a lot of observations over a long period before making any conclusions.

Dave

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 10, 2014 at 21:49:18
rick_m
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"I don't necessarily agree with the author that if you don't know how to improve the detectability (SNR) then the hypothesis probably not scientific."

I suspect it may just be a rule of thumb. Perhaps he's saying that the odds aren't very good from his experience.

"As a counter-example, where would particle physics be if we had rejected the standard model back in the 1960s on the basis of warning sign #3 - that many of its predictions were essentially unverifiable with known technology and involved nearly undetectable weakly interacting particles? Or if we had rejected it on the basis of warning sign #7? Instead, we invested heroic amounts of money and effort trying to confirm the theory's predictions, and it turned out to be right."

I think that is actually an example rather than a counter-example. Would folks spend the tons of money to build the LHC if they were totally confident in the outcome? Cern and it's ilk are all about improving the S/N enough to see if the theories held water.

Please bear in mind that I am not especially a fan of the author, to the best of my ability I am neither a "believer" nor a "skeptic". I just thought his comments re altering the S/N were interesting.

"I agree that a good first step to tackling a problem is "observing the problem while futzing with as many variables as possible to ferret out those that affect it." That's how I usually start troubleshooting. However, I don't think it's nearly as effective at optimizing."

I think you're right. You might manage to get it within Spec. or "good enough" but unless you're incredibly lucky it won't be optimum. It especially won't be optimum over component variations.

"When troubleshooting, you are starting from having observed a problem and it's usually a pretty easy observation to repeat and confirm. But when you experiment to find improvements, I find the observations to be a lot noisier and the variables are not always independent."

True, too true...

"And then you have to deal with patternicity - human nature seeking explanations for patterns that are essentially random, or at least caused by some uncontrolled variable that we weren't interested in. This seems to be a common problem in machine learning and other fields involving statistical classification, where the classifier adapts to features evident in random data which are not caused by the underlying function/mechanism of interest. There is a similar tendency in human perception, which evolved to evade predators and hunt prey. Our minds are well adapted to identify patterns in sensory data and then learn to recognize them. It seems like we're hard wired to to over-classify; we tend to see and interpret patterns even in random data, and don't easily recognize randomness unless we're looking at a sufficiently large data set where the distribution is obvious."

Makes sense to me that "It seems like we're hard wired to to over-classify". Under-classifiers probably made a succulent meal before reaching breeding age!

"I think this is part of the reason why there's a lot of tail chasing in audiophiledom. When you approach the optimum then it becomes harder to control variables and harder to separate an effect from noise, and you can get off-track chasing meaningless patterns in noise."

Yea... the S/N of the ERROR get's too small. That's why I suggested that:

'As audiophiles we want to optimize the various factors that go into our listening experience, but the battle ironically requires first improving the S/N of our ability to sense the problems to where we can understand and control them. Then maybe we can improve the S/N of the desired information...'

To reduce problems you need to understand them.

At least it all makes for an interesting hobby...

Regards, Rick

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 18, 2014 at 21:55:10
mkuller
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...do do do do

You posted the above on 11/3 and I saw it for the first time tonight.

I posted this on 11/13 and hadn't thought about him in years.

Coincidence?

I think not.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on November 19, 2014 at 12:35:14
geoffkait
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Yes, most likely a coincidence.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on December 2, 2014 at 06:56:38
sony6060
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Conservation of energy law violation. In other words, cannot get something for nothing.

 

So, let me ask, what's that got to do with the price of spinach? Nt, posted on December 3, 2014 at 13:40:25
geoffkait
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Nt

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on December 5, 2014 at 07:26:56
Tony Lauck
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If you look at the history of science you will see that the definition of "energy" has been expanded from time to time to include new forms. The conservation law does not preclude forms of energy as yet undiscovered.

Tony Lauck

"Diversity is the law of nature; no two entities in this universe are uniform." - P.R. Sarkar

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on December 5, 2014 at 14:06:13
geoffkait
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What does it matter? All forms of energy undiscovered or not are interchangeable in the sense they can be converted to other forms of energy AND all mass is equal to energy times a constant.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on December 5, 2014 at 18:43:01
rick_m
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"AND all mass is equal to energy times a constant."

Yea, but I still blanch when particle physicists measure mass in eV's.

While accurate, it just ain't RIGHT! I want folks to meet me in my own terms. The proper unit for mass is slugs...

Rick

 

that is proven true... IN a Closed system... bogus pomp since we live in an open system~nT, posted on February 21, 2015 at 16:17:56
Cleantimestream
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~!
The Mind has No Firewall~ U.S. Army War College.

 

In afraid you are pissing up a rope, sir. Nt, posted on February 22, 2015 at 14:13:33
geoffkait
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Nt

 

The Universe IS an open system, you had your chance @ not exposing your ignorance, fail~nT, posted on February 27, 2015 at 18:53:16
Cleantimestream
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~!
The Mind has No Firewall~ U.S. Army War College.

 

RE: The Universe IS an open system, you had your chance @ not exposing your ignorance, fail~nT, posted on February 28, 2015 at 10:43:06
geoffkait
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US army war college. That explains it.

 

RE: The Universe IS an open system, you had your chance @ not exposing your ignorance, fail~nT, posted on February 28, 2015 at 15:28:20
Cleantimestream
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you lack vision, I was quoting the US Army whom adroitly understand

Brainwashing


Social engineering


Hegelian conflict resolution


All, probably over your head.


The Mind has No Firewall~ U.S. Army War College.

 

RE: The Universe IS an open system, you had your chance @ not exposing your ignorance, fail~nT, posted on March 1, 2015 at 13:18:20
geoffkait
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I may be slow but I'm ahead of you. That much is very clear.

 

RE: Searching for truth?, posted on August 5, 2015 at 18:58:52
fas42
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Luckily, it doesn't work that way. I use the approach of rick_m's and have found it extremely productive, has worked very well indeed for nigh on 30 years now - and there is always an end to the list of audible defects that matter; and that list may be quite short in fact.

What happens when you get far enough is that illusion of the musical event that's been captured finally overrides the audible limitations of the playback equipment; and the ambience, the acoustic of the recording masks the listening room sound behaviour - this is the 'magical' sound that some people chase, like myself - you get fully immersive, convincing sound; in another room - the LIAR test - and also directly in front of the speakers, it still works ...

Frank
Frank

 

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