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Friday, Jul 31, 2009
Finding fault with Poincare
The Einstein fans like to say that there is something wrong with Poincare's explanation of special example. Here is a typical example of what they criticize in Poincare:
“. . . Imagine two observers, who wish to compare their clocks with the aid of light signals; they exchange signals, but, knowing that light does not propagate instantaneously, they exchange them, so to say, by a crossfire method. ...

Then the clocks will be synchronized. And, indeed, they show the same time at the same physical instant, but under the condition that both points were at rest. Contrariwise, the durations of transmission will not be the same in both directions: in the case, when, for example, point A moves toward the optical perturbation leaving B, and when point B moves away from the perturbation leaving A.

Clocks compared in this way will not show the true time, they will show the so-called local time: one clock will be slower, than the others. But this is irrelevant, since we have no means to notice this. All phenomena, proceeding, for instance, at A, will be retarding, but identically, and the observer will not notice it, since his clock is slower; thus, as it follows from the relativity principle, he will have no means to know whether he is in a state of rest or of absolute motion.

The Einstein fans will quote passages like this to argue that Poincare did not really understand relativity. They would say that there is no such thing as "state of rest" or "absolute motion", because all motion is relative. They would also say that there is no such thing as "true time", as there is no true rest frame.

Instead of denying that there is any state of rest, Poincare makes the weaker argument that no observer would ever be able to tell whether he is in a state of rest or not.

Somehow a lot of people have come to believe that the essence of special relativity is that there is no aether. Even if you define the aether as whatever medium transmits light in a vaccuum, they will assert with religious fervor that there can be no rest frame. That is, there can be no definition of what is motionless.

I don't know where this comes from. Einstein did not deny the aether in his famous relativity papers. He merely said that it was "superfluous" to his derivation. In later life, he made conflicting statements about the aether.

The essence of special relativity is the principle that the laws of physics are mathematically valid in all coordinate frames, and that space and time are related by a Lorentz metric. Also (and consequentially) that the speed of light is the same for all observers, and that velocity distorts apparent distance, time, and mass. The essence of relativity is not to make some unverifiable statement about the existence of some aether that may not be detectable anyway. That would be philosophy, not physics.

At this point, you are probably thinking that it is a scientific fact that there is no cosmic rest frame, whether Einstein believed in one or not. But that is not true either. The most common cosmological models today do have a rest frame, and the rest frame is accepted without controversy. The rest frame is the frame of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). Wikipedia says:

From the CMB data it is seen that our local group of galaxies (the galactic cluster that includes the Solar System's Milky Way Galaxy) appears to be moving at 627 ± 22 km/s relative to the reference frame of the CMB (also called the CMB rest frame) in the direction of galactic longitude l = 276 ± 3°, b = 30 ± 3°. This motion results in an anisotropy of the data (CMB appearing slightly warmer in the direction of movement than in the opposite direction).
Even with the benefit of a century more of physics knowledge, it is hard to find much fault with what Poincare said. You might argue that he was wrong to say that it is impossible to determine absolute motion, because we can now measure absolute motion by using the CMB rest frame. But it is really crazy to argue that Poincare was wrong for not more aggressively arguing for the impossibility of a rest frame.

And yet that is the main criticism of Poincare. Everyone agrees that Poincare published all the main ideas of special relativity before Einstein, and in some cases, five years ahead of Einstein. For proof, see Relativity priority dispute. It has a link to this textbook by A. A. Logunov which explains the whole theory and where each part came from. The only way to give Einstein credit is to claim that Poincare's description or understanding was defective in some way.

I think that these critics of Poincare are profoundly mistaken.

I am still trying to figure out why so many people have such wrong view of Einstein and relativity, when the facts have been available for so long. Among other explanations, I wonder if some people have some sort of ideological purpose in saying that there is no aether.

Thursday, Jul 30, 2009
The ugliest theory
Physicist Michio Kaku says in a magazine interview:
What happened was we physicists began to smash atoms, and we have a pretty good understanding of the theory of particles. It’s called the Standard Model. Except it is the ugliest theory known to science. Why should mother nature at a fundamental level create this ugly theory called the standard model? It has 36 quarks, it has eight gluons, it has three W bosons, it has a whole bunch of electrons, a whole bunch of neutrons, it just goes on and on and on.
His description is odd. There are not 36 quarks. Quarks come in 6 flavors. Even if you count anti-quarks, that would only be 12 quarks. There is only one electron. A basic premise of quantum theory is that all electrons are identical. Neutrons are not even elementary particles, as each is made of 3 quarks.

The really strange part is calling it the "ugliest theory". On the contrary, it is the greatest and most beautiful accomplishment of 20th century science.

If Kaku had been alive in 1900, he probably would have said that periodic table was the ugliest theory. He would have complained that there were dozens of elements, ignoring the fact that it was a vast simplification over what was known before.

The SM is not that complicated. The only particles are quarks, leptons, and bosons. The quarks are mainly the up and down quarks. A proton is composed of two up quarks and a down quark, and a neutron is one up quark and two down quarks. The leptons are mainly the electron and the neutrino, a tiny particle that is emitted in radioactive decay. There are also other flavors of these particles, and anti-particles. The bosons are the photon, particles that transmit other forces, and the Higgs. The Higgs is a conjectural particle that gives mass to the others, and doesn't do much else. The new Swiss accelerator could find the Higgs in the next couple of years. If so, it will be one of the most spectacular confirmations of theory ever.

Kaku is pushing an alternate theory called String Theory. I argue that ST is the ugliest theory. It has accomplished nothing, and it has corrupted theoretical physics like no other theory in history. It is much more complicated than SM, and yet it has no quarks, electrons, or any other known particle in it. Instead it has extra dimensions and other things that have never been observed. It is so ugly and complicated that no one has figured out how to connect it to the real world. The idea that it unifies physics is a big hoax. It has no tangible connection to physics.

Update: It occurred to me that maybe Kaku is counting colored quarks, so if each of 12 quarks can have each of 3 colors, then he gets 36 quarks. But color is not even observable, and that just makes it seem more complicated. It would make better sense to say that there is just one kind of quark, with different possible attributes.

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009
Two crippling blows to humanity's self-image
Leftist-evolutionist-atheist Jerry A. Coyne launches into an attack on religion with an essay starting:
Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity's self-image. The first was Galileo's announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe. The second -- and more severe -- landed in 1859, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, demolishing, in 545 pages of closely reasoned prose, the comforting notion that we are unique among all species -- the supreme object of God's creation, and the only creature whose earthly travails could be cashed in for a comfortable afterlife.
This is wacky stuff, but common among leftist-atheist-evolutionists. Stephen Jay Gould said stuff like this frequently.

Galileo argued that the Sun was at the center of the universe, and that Scripture was consistent with that. Darwin's book did not say much at all about human uniqueness.

And yet Coyne sees these as science delivering two crippling blows to humanity's self-image.

Coyne is entitled to his opinions, of course. I am just pointing that when this prominent professor advocates teaching the cold hard facts of science, he is also advocating teaching that the Bible is wrong and that humans have no souls.

Monday, Jul 27, 2009
New element Copernicium
The UK BBC reports:
Discovered 13 years ago, and officially added to the periodic table just weeks ago, element 112 finally has a name.

It will be called "copernicium", with the symbol Cp, in honour of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Copernicus deduced that the planets revolved around the Sun, and finally refuted the belief that the Earth was the centre of the Universe.

The team of scientists who discovered the element chose the name to honour the man who "changed our world view". ...

Copernicus was born 1473 in Torun, Poland. His finding that the planets circle the sun underpins much of modern science. It was pivotal for the discovery of gravity, and led to the conclusion that the stars are incredibly far away and that the Universe is inconceivably large.

ScienceDaily writes:
Furthermore, the new world view inspired by Copernicus had an impact on the human self-concept in theology and philosophy: humankind could no longer be seen as the center of the world.
Copernicus is overrated, and the above opinions are silly.

The ancient Greek debated whether the Earth goes around the Sun, as Aristotle taught, or the Sun goes around the Earth, as Aristarchus and Archimedes taught. They each had good arguments based on what they knew at the time.

I just this about Heraclides Ponticus:

Like the Pythagoreans Hicetas and Ecphantus, Heraclides proposed that the apparent daily motion of the stars was created by the rotation of the Earth on its axis once a day. According to a late tradition, he also believed that Venus and Mercury revolve around the Sun. This would mean that he anticipated the Tychonic system, an essentially geocentric model with heliocentric aspects.
I just don't see that Copernicus added that much. He did work out the mathematical details of applying a Ptolemy-like system of orbits and epicycles to a solar system model with the Sun near the center, but nothing was extraordinary. The work of Tycho and Kepler was far more important, both in terms of predicting observations and paving the way for future work.

Sunday, Jul 26, 2009
Arguments for giving Einstein credit
An Einstein fan gives a couple of arguments for Einstein getting the credit that he has.

He says that people at the time treated him as a great genius, and they were in a better position to judge him.

Actually, Einstein wrote his famous papers in 1905 in the highest status German physics journal, but it was not until three years later that he got an academic job. Planck and Lorentz got Nobel prizes, but Einstein did not until many years later.

He also argues that when there is a dispute over credit, it is usually the big-shots stealing credit from the little-known scientists. Planck, Lorentz, and Poincare were big shots, while Einstein was an unknown.

Einstein was an unknown in 1905, but by 1920 the NY Times had made him one of the most famous scientists in the world. He was the biggest of the big-shots when he got that Nobel Prize, and Poincare was dead. So Einstein was a big-shot stealing credit at that point. NY Times articles went on to give him credit for all sorts of things, undeservedly. Eg, it gave him credit for creating a unified field theory, which he never successfully did.

It may seem odd to suddenly decide in 2009 that Einstein should not get so much credit for ideas published a century ago, but almost everything I am saying has been known for a century. There were well-known contemporaries of Einstein who thought that he was a big phony, and that others deserved the credit for relativity.

Anyway, the things I say about Einstein are based on cold hard facts that have been known for a century. The key ideas about relativity were published by others before Einstein. Einstein helped popularize the theory, but did not invent it.

Thursday, Jul 23, 2009
Comparing Poincare to Einstein
One of my Wikipedia edits got reverted, and this was put in:
Poincaré's work in the development of special relativity is well recognised, though most historians stress that despite many similarities with Einstein's work, the two had very different research agendas and interpretations of the work. Poincaré developed a similar physical interpretation of local time and noticed the connection to signal velocity, but contrary to Einstein he continued to use the ether-concept in his papers and argued that clocks in the ether show the "true" time, and moving clocks show the "apparent" time. So Poincaré tried to bring the relativity principle in accordance with classical physics, while Einstein developed a completely new kinematics based on the relativity of space and time.
Different research agendas? One was trying to explain nature, and what was the other trying to do?

Poincare's use of the aether concept was to say that it was perfectly undetectable.

Whoever wrote the above Wikipedia paragraph is badly confused about relativity. It appears that a lot of other people are confused also. Let me discusse a few principles that are sometimes considered part of relativity theory.

The laws of physics are valid in any inertial frame. Poincare coined the phrase Relativity Principle for this. Einstein copied it, without crediting Poincare. True, as far as we know.

The laws of physics are valid in any coordinate frame. Einstein wrote several papers against this idea, until David Hilbert showed him how it could be done for gravity. Thereupon Einstein reversed himself, and called it using covariant equations. True, as long as the laws are properly formulated, as far as we know.

There is no medium for the transmission of light. Late 19th century physicists hypothesized a massless rigid medium called the aether that filled all of space. This was abandoned in the early 20th century when relativity theory showed that it was unnecessary for Maxwell's equations. In the mid 20th century, quantum electrodynamics showed light is transmitted by a quantum vaccuum state that actually contained a sea of virtual particles. Dark energy was discovered at the end of the 20th century. It is unknown how dark energy relates to the aether and to the quantum vaccuum energy.

There is no way to prefer one inertial frame over any other frame. I do not think that this was ever an essential part of relativity theory. But even if it were, it is not considered true today. A Stanford relativity page explains:

If astronomers can use the cosmic background radiation as a reference frame doesn't that invalidate special relativity?

Yes, because the expansion of the universe is not covered by special relativity, ... The cosmic background radiation will represent a fixed frame of reference for any object that is 'at rest' with respect to the expansion of the universe.

The point is that relativity theory teaches us how to transform the laws of physics into different coordinate frames. That is essential for understanding nearly all of 20th century physics. That is the essence of relativity.

But when you start making hypotheses about things that appear to be undetectable, or when you claim that there is no reason for preferring one thing over another, then you have moved outside the realm of physics and into philosophy.

If you were taught that essence of relativty was non-existence of the aether, then you were taught the wrong thing. It was never an important part of relativity theory, and we are not even sure about the nature of the aether today.

The funny thing is that some people will list Copernicus and Einstein among the great accomplishments in the history of science. They'll say that the great breakthrus were Copernicus and Galileo showing that the Earth was not at the center of the Universe, and Einstein showing that there was no aether. Together, these show that Earth is insignificant in the Cosmos.

This misunderstands both Copernicus and Einstein. If people really understood relativity theory, then they would know that it teaches that an Earth-centered coordinate system is completely legitimate.

Science only tells us about what is observable. When scientists make statements about some non-observable phenonemon, such as about existence of an undetectable aether, there is no scientific way of saying whether they are correct or not. It is philosophy. The importance of scientific theories is for their physical consequences.

Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009
Quoting Jefferson instead of Darwin
Stephen C. Meyer writes this op-ed in the Boston Globe:
In 1823, when materialist evolutionary ideas had long been circulating, Jefferson wrote to John Adams and insisted that the scientific evidence of design in nature was clear: “I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.’’ It was on empirical grounds, not religious ones, that he took this view.
Harvard leftist-atheist-evolutionst Steven Pinker replies:
SHAME ON you for publishing two creationist op-eds in two years from the Discovery Institute, a well-funded propaganda factory that aims to sow confusion about evolution. Virtually no scientist takes “intelligent design’’ seriously, and in the famous Dover, Pa., trial in 2005, a federal court ruled that it is religion in disguise.
I am not agreeing with Meyer, but it seems to me that a Harvard prof could come up an argument on the merits, instead of attacking the motives of his sponsor. How would he know that the D.I. "aims to sow confusion"? Meyer's article does not seem confusing to me.

It is especially bizaare to see a Harvard prof complain that someone else is supported by a "well-funded" institution. Harvard is the most well-funded institution in the world, with an endowment of about $35 billion. The D.I. has an entire budget of only a million dollars a year or so.

Pinker goes on with some name-calling:

The judge referred to the theory’s “breathtaking inanity,’’ which is a fine description of Stephen Meyer’s July 15 op-ed “Jefferson’s support for intelligent design.’’
Apparently it is okay to celebrate Darwin, but not Jefferson:
Thomas Jefferson died 33 years before Darwin published “The Origin of Species.’’ ... In a year in which other serious publications are celebrating the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of “Origin,’’ the Globe sees fit to resurrect his long-buried opposition.
It is true that Jefferson might have had a different opinion if he had more modern knowledge, but the same could be said about Darwin.

Another reply:

But here is Stephen C. Meyer using every kind of phony rhetoric to pretend ID has validity ... Intelligent design is nothing more than a Trojan horse for replacing science with religion. But it isn’t science, it’s fraud.
Another blogger attacks Meyer's column by accusing him of dishonesty.

I don't know what is so inflammatory about the D.I., but its critics are strangely preoccupied with attacking its motives, and avoid what it actually has to say. It is as if the opponents of Pres. Obama's health care plan spent all their time talking about his birth certificate or his Marxist father.

Human Stabbed a Neanderthal
Science news:
Newly analyzed remains suggest that a modern human killed a Neanderthal man in what is now Iraq between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago. The finding is scant but tantalizing evidence for a theory that modern humans helped to kill off the Neanderthals.

The probable weapon of choice: A thrown spear.

The evidence: A lethal wound on the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton.

Scientists are now sequencing and reconstructing Neanderthal DNA. They may try to clone a Neanderthal, if they think that we wrongfully wiped them out.

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009
Public agreed with Bush v Gore
A law prof blog says:
One important exception to this conclusion must be noted: 2001, a time at which the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to enjoy a slight upward spike in its legitimacy. As it turns out, that particular survey, conducted around the time the U.S. Supreme Court decided the 2000 presidential election via its decision in Bush v. Gore, has been the object of considerable study and has generated some important conclusions about how support is formed and maintained.

Gibson, Caldeira, and Spence ... discovered that the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court was not harmed by its decision in Bush v. Gore. Indeed, while it is not surprising that support for the Court rose among Republicans – the winners in the decision – our findings indicate that support did not decline among Democrats.

This is amazing because all the law profs and media pundits have bombarded us with opinions that the Bush v Gore decision was not legitimate. It is hard to find someone who will defend it.

Note that even this blogger is biased against the court decision. He says that the US Supreme Court decided the election, which is not what happened at all. The voters decided the election. All the US Supreme Court did was to keep the Florida Supreme Court from stealing the election thru procedures that had never been codified, approved, used, or considered legal before.

Debunking another election myth, the Census Bureau now reveals that voter turnout, as a percentage of the eligible voters, went down in 2008, not up.

Saturday, Jul 18, 2009
5 Atrocious Science Clichés to Throw Down a Black Hole
The Wired mag list:
2) SILVER BULLET (and smoking gun)
The readers add quantum leap, light years ahead, Rosetta Stone tip of the iceberg, gold standard, and seminal.

I think that some of these terms are quite useful is used properly. But it seems silly to say something like Embryonic stem cells still gold standard, as is very commonly said.

Thursday, Jul 16, 2009
Not crediting plagiarists
AP reported in Dec. 2008:
Coldplay has fired back against accusations they copied another artist's work for their hit "Viva La Vida."

In a statement released on Tuesday, the band responded to a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by guitarist Joe Satriani last week in federal court in Los Angeles. That lawsuit says the Grammy-nominated song contains "substantial, original portions" of his 2004 song, "If I Could Fly."

"With the greatest possible respect to Joe Satriani, we have now unfortunately found it necessary to respond publicly to his allegations," read the statement. "If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him.

The songs are extremely similar. I don't know whether Coldplay copied Satriani; there is some evidence that they both copied someone else. Regardless, the song is not original and should not have won album of the year honors.

The book Catch-22 was once thought to be brilliantly original. Then much of the same material was discovered in a novel published ten years earlier. We don't know whether Joseph Heller plagiarized that novel, but we do know that he was not so brilliantly original. His book should not be considered one of the greatest novels ever written.

Likewise, people should not crediting Einstein with being the greatest genius of the 20th century for inventing relativity. There is stone cold evidence that it was invented by others. We don't know for sure how much Einstein plagiarized others, because Einstein did not credit his sources. But even if Einstein independently discovered some of the ideas, he was not the inventor.

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2009
Mindreading the Discovery Institute
Wikipedia articles are very critical of evolution skeptics Discovery Institute
At the foundation of most criticism of the Discovery Institute is the charge that the institute and its Center for Science and Culture intentionally misrepresent or omit many important facts in promoting their agenda. Intellectual dishonesty, in the form of misleading impressions created by the use of rhetoric, intentional ambiguity, and misrepresented evidence, form the foundation of most of the criticisms of the institute. It is alleged that its goal is to lead an unwary public to reach certain conclusions, and that many have been deceived as a result. Its critics, such as Eugenie Scott, Robert Pennock, Richard Dawkins and Barbara Forrest, claim that the Discovery Institute knowingly misquotes scientists and other experts, deceptively omits contextual text through ellipsis, and makes unsupported amplifications of relationships and credentials, and are often said to claim support from scientists when no such support exists. A wide spectrum of critics level this charge; from educators, scientists, and the Smithsonian Institution, to individuals who oppose the teaching of creationism alongside science on ideological grounds.
This criticism is very strange. The Discovery Institute website has many opinions on many subjects, and there is much to criticize. But most of the criticism of the DI is based on some sort of dishonesty claim, and not a refutation of what the DI actually says.

The DI critics will invariably argue that the DI does not really believe what it says, that it is secretly motivated by sinister Christian beliefs, and that it is part of an anti-science conspiracy.

It seems to me that if the DI critics really wanted to be scientific, then they would just prove the DI wrong, and not waste time trying to analyze the DI motives. Science does not advance by character assassination against those with a contrary view.

The Wikipedia references are to people like Chris Mooney. He is an over-opionated science journalist, not a scientist. He wrote a whole book attacking the Bush administration, and for the last couple of years, he has been writing articles on how scientists should spin their public statements in order to promote their leftist agendas.

A typical dishonesty claim is that DI says that it is not creationist, but it really is. You can find DI explanations of why it says that Intelligent Design and Creationism aren't the same here, here, and here. I see no reasons to doubt the sincerity of these opinions.

Let me give an analogy. Suppose that most of the critics of Pres. Obama devoted most of they energy to arguing that Obama is intellectually dishonest because he claims that he is not a socialist when he really is. Such an argument convinces no one. It certainly doesn't convince me because I don't even think that anyone knows Obama's motives for sure. If Obama is promoting a socialistic policy, then tell me what is bad about it. You should be able to convince me that it is bad, regardless of whether it comes within the formal definition of socialism, or whether Obama is concealing his true motives.

Imagine if Rush Limbaugh came on the radio every day claiming that Obama is lying about not being a socialist. None of that would convince, and it would not matter if he did convince you. You would conclude that Limbaugh had nothing substantive to say.

Likewise, these people who so rabidly attack the DI motives just seem like anti-science crackpots to me. Even if the DI turns out to be wrong in everything it says, I would still think that the attacks are unscientific and embarrassing.

Monday, Jul 13, 2009
Michael Jackson's medical problems
Evolutionist blogger Peter Frost speculates:
Michael Jackson had probably been taking mega-doses of vitamin D. This regimen would have started when he began bleaching his skin in the mid-1980s to even out blotchy pigmentation due to vitiligo. Since this bleaching made his skin highly sensitive to UV light, his dermatologist told him to avoid the sun and use a parasol. At that point, his medical entourage would have recommended vitamin D supplements. How high a dose? We’ll probably never know, but there are certainly many doctors who recommend mega-doses for people who get no sun exposure.

Such a recommendation would have dovetailed nicely with Michael’s fondness for vitamins.

There has been a lot of new medical research on vitamin D, but it is a sensitive subject because it relates to skin color. Maybe it is related to Jackson's death.
China and India are biggest global warming threats
The NY Times reports:
L’AQUILA, Italy — The world’s biggest developing nations, led by China and India, refused Wednesday to commit to specific goals for slashing heat-trapping gases by 2050, undercutting the drive to build a global consensus by the end of this year to reverse the threat of climate change.

As President Obama arrived for three days of talks with other leaders of the Group of 8 nations, negotiators for 17 leading polluters abandoned targets in a draft agreement for the meetings here. ...

If he cannot ultimately bring along developing countries, no climate deal will be effective.

Here, "climate change" is a euphemism for "global warming". Nobody is trying to reverse climate change. The climate has always been changing, and always will. They are trying to reverse global warming from CO2.

The global warming threat is almost entirely coming from China and India. Those are the countries that are breeding out of control, rapidly increasing CO2 emissions, and not doing anything about it.

The USA is the leader in developing green technologies. We don't just consume resources; we use those resources to make the world a better place. Our population is stable, except for immigration from countries like Mexico.

If you are concerned about the environment and global warming, your number one concern should population growth in countries that cannot handle it. Like China, India, Mexico, and much of the Third World. Those are the countries that are almost entirely responsible for the future global warming threat.

Sunday, Jul 12, 2009
More attacks on Christians
The leftist-atheist-evolutionist Harvard prof Steven Pinker writes in a press release:
many of [Francis] Collins’s advocacy statements are deeply disturbing.

For example, I see science as not just cures for diseases and better gadgets but an ideal for how to think about the most important issues facing us as humans -– in particular, the ideal that we should seek truth through reason and evidence and not through superstition, dogma, and personal revelation. Collins has said that he came to accept the Trinity, and the truth that Jesus is the son of God, when he was hiking and came upon a beautiful triple waterfall. Now, the idea that nature contains private coded messages from a supernatural being to an individual person is the antithesis of the scientific (indeed, rational) mindset. It is primitive, shamanistic, superstitious. The point of the scientific revolution was to do away with such animistic thinking.

This is not just autobiographical. Collins, in his book, eggs on fellow evangelical Christians in their anti-scientific beliefs. He tells them that they are “right to hold fast to the truths of the Bible” and to “the certainty that the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.” Granted, he is not a young-earth or intelligent-design creationist. But he has stated that God interacts with creation, in particular, that he designed the evolutionary process to ensure that human intelligence, morality, and Judaeo-Christian religious belief would evolve.

That is far more than just expressing an opinion. That is advocacy, which gives incalculable encouragement the forces that have been hostile to science for the past eight years.

He is complaining that Pres. Obama appointed a Christian to head the NIH! Doesn't he realize that Obama and most of our other political leaders are also Christians?

These folks are giving atheists a bad name. If Collins wants to accept the Trinity, that's his business. Collins is not claiming that the Trinity is a scientific fact, and is not forcing his beliefs on anyone. His beliefs are harmless.

And yet the leftist-atheist-evolutionists get hysterical when they hear a simple statement of mainstream Christian beliefs. They are entitled to their leftist-atheist-evolutionist beliefs, of course. I am just pointing out leftism, atheism, and evolutionism are all coupled in the views of these academics.

Saturday, Jul 11, 2009
Errors about the Copernicus book
The Wikipedia article on Andreas Osiander cites a book by Stephen Hawking to describe Osiander's Forward to Nicolaus Copernicus De revolutionibus orbium coelestium:
He deleted important passages and added his own sentences which diluted the impact and certainty of the work.
No, Osiander did not delete anything.

I had to edit other statements that misrepresented what Osiander said, even tho the English translation is available for anyone to read. Some people say that he contradicted Copernicus.

I posted this summary:

Osiander added an unauthorised and unsigned preface, defending the work against those who might be offended by the novel hypotheses. He explained that astronomers may find different causes for observed motions, and choose whatever is easier to grasp. As long as a hypothesis allows reliable computation, it does not have to match what a philosopher might seek as the truth.
I say that there is nothing unusual about this preface at all, except that it is unsigned. Osiander's view is entirely defensible, even today with all that we have learned in the last 465 years.

Consider this analogy. Suppose someone wrote a book today on Flores Man, and gave detailed descriptions of the fossil and claimed that it was a new species. The publisher might very well hire someone else to write a preface, and that preface might say that the book is a valuable description of Flores Man even if you don't believe that it was a new species. Nobody would think that was unusual.

For some reason, people keep promoting a myth that heliocentric scholars were persecuted, and stubborn Middle Age authorities would not accept the truth. It is crazy. Copernicus's book was published, with approval of the Church, and well-received at the time even tho it was contrary to the prevailing wisdom.

The Hawking book is criticized here.

Friday, Jul 10, 2009
String theory compared to Darwinism
String theorist Leonard Susskind writes Physics World magazine:
The value of theorizing is often dismissed in the biological sciences as less important than observation; and Darwin was the master observer.

I think that view misses something essential, namely the great formal beauty and almost mathematical inevitability of Darwin’s ideas. Like Einstein’s greatest ideas, the theory of evolution is based on a simple gedankenexperiment: start with a very simple reproducing organism, add Mendel’s laws of heredity and mutability, and follow the system as it inescapably branches out into a tree of life.

Darwin was not particularly interested in astronomy or physics, yet his impact on cosmology was enormous but in a way subconscious. In successfully explaining the origin of species, he eliminated superstition and set a new standard for what an explanation of nature should be like. As I wrote in my book The Black Hole War (Little Brown, 2008), Darwin’s masterstroke was to have “ejected God from the science of life”.

True, Darwin was not the first scientist to cast out supernatural beliefs. ...

Let us begin with the DNA of a universe. What is it and why do we believe such a thing makes sense? String theory is the key. It supposes that at extremely small distances space is a complicated higher-dimensional manifold with many — typically six — tiny “extra” dimensions in addition to the three we see in everyday life. ...

Whether string theory with its huge landscape, and eternal inflation with its reproducing pockets of space, will prove to be correct is for the future to decide. What is true is that as of the present time, they provide the only natural explanation of the universe that lives up to the standard set by Darwin.

String theory is nothing like DNA. Scientists had done experiments to demonstrate the genetic importance and chemical structure of DNA before anyone lept to discussing Darwinian consequences. No part of string theory has been verified in any way. Believing in those six extra dimensions is a big superstition of the sort that Susskind claims to be ejecting.

Even Czech string theory evangelist Lubos Motl rejects Susskind's analogy. His enemy, Peter Woit, writes:

Lenny Susskind gives new depth and meaning to the word “chutzpah” with an article in Physics World on Darwin’s Legacy. It seems that Darwin’s legacy for physics is the field of string theory anthropic landscape pseudo-science. Luckily, I don’t think creationists normally read Physics World.
Susskind must be saying something wacky if he is being attacked by both Motl and Woit. But Susskind is a mainstream string theorist, I am afraid.

Physics used to be the greatest of the sciences. I am afraid that it is being taken over by kooks.

String Theory collapsed
String theorist Lubos Motl writes:
Nevertheless, the public is gullible enough and many ordinary people still believe that the "string wars" were a phenomenon affecting real science - rather than what they really were, namely a nonsensical media-created bubble building on two pseudointellectual kibitzers.

If you don't know, string theory has won the string wars and the two haters of theoretical physics have largely become invisible after a year of a mad hysteria that has become uninteresting for the readers because they're still much more sensible than what many dumb journalists seem to believe. Nevertheless, theoretical physics has been hurt in the eyes of the most gullible members of the broader public, much like the World Trade Center was hurt by the Muslims back in 2001, despite the bold proclamations that they have actually strengthened the U.S. ;-)

So the enemies of physics have won, too. Much like the hijackers above Manhattan who didn't believe that they would survive and become the real winners in this world, the enemies of physics never intended to do anything more than to hurt someone else, either. And they have done so.

More generally, the episode has shown that it is likely that the media are able and willing to distort the very essence of reality in their goal to create (fake) stories and they do influence the broader society. Such things will probably occur with an increasing frequency and they will be increasingly hurting our civilization.

He admits that theoretical physics was hurt like the WTC! The WTC collapsed into a pile of rubble.

String theory was supposed to explain all the fundamental particles and forces, and unify them into a theory of everything. It turned out to be hopelessly inconsistent with all of that. It has not explained anything.

If Motl had some evidence that we live in an 11-dimensional world, he would be giving that, instead of the name-calling.

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2009
Marriage on trial
Opposite sex marriage is on trial in a California federal court, and the judge ruled:
To reach a decision on the merits, it appears that the court will need to resolve certain underlying factual disputes raised by the parties. The court has identified several questions ...
He then gave a long list of factual issues to be resolved at a speedy and inexpensive trial, including:
  • whether the characteristics defining gays and lesbians as a class might in any way affect their ability to contribute to society
  • whether sexual orientation can be changed, and if so, whether gays and lesbians should be encouraged to change it
  • the relative political power of gays and lesbians, including successes of both pro-gay and anti-gay legislation
  • whether the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage leads to increased stability in opposite-sex marriage or alternatively whether permitting same-sex couples to marry destabilizes opposite-sex marriage
  • whether a married mother and father provide the optimal child-rearing environment and whether excluding same-sex couples from marriage promotes this environment
  • whether and how California has acted to promote these interests in other family law contexts
  • whether the availability of opposite-sex marriage is a meaningful option for gays and lesbians
  • whether the ban on same-sex marriage meaningfully restricts options available to heterosexuals
  • whether requiring one man and one woman in marriage promotes stereotypical gender roles
  • the voters’ motivation or motivations for supporting Prop 8, including advertisements and ballot literature considered by California voters
  • Wow. These issues vary from the obvious to the unanswerable. I would say that nearly all of these issues are irrelevant, but I guess the judicial supremacists who brought this lawsuit have made arguments that depend on establishing facts related to the above issues.

    This case is getting a lot of publicity, so I suppose that I can look forward to judicial pronouncements on the above issues.

    Tuesday, Jul 07, 2009
    How Wikipedia compares Poincare to Einstein
    Here is a recent Wikipedia edit intended to give Einstein more credit:

    In his History of the theories of ether and electricity from 1953, E. T. Whittaker claimed that relativity is the creation of Lorentz and Poincaré and attributed to Einstein's papers only little importance. However, most historians of science, like Gerald Holton, Arthur I. Miller, Abraham Pais, John Stachel, or Olivier Darrigol have other points of view. They admit that Lorentz and Poincaré developed the mathematics of special relativity, and many scientists originally spoke about the „Lorentz-Einstein theory“. But they argue that it was Einstein who completely eliminated the classical ether and demonstrated the relativity of space and time. They also argue that Poincaré demonstrated the relativity of space and time only in his philosophical writings, but in his physical papers he maintained the ether as a privileged frame of reference that is perfectly undetectable, and continued (like Lorentz) to distinguish between "real" lengths and times measured by observers at rest within the aether, and "apparent" lengths and times measured by observers in motion within the aether. Darrigol summarizes: ...

    In other words, the Einstein supporters admit that Poincare created special relativity before Einstein, but Poincare failed to mix his philosophy with his physics the way Einstein did. Poincare explained his philosophy in his philosophical writings, and his physics in his physical papers.

    These Einstein fans must have a very odd view of science. If the aether is undetectable, as Poincare said in 1900 and Einstein echoed five years later, then any discussion of it is just philosophy. Everybody agrees that there were no observable differences between Poincare's relativity theory and Einstein's. If Poincare discussed the philosophical aspects in philosophical writings, then he probably had a better and clearer understanding than Einstein.

    Sunday, Jul 05, 2009
    Evolutionists push leftism and atheism
    Leftist-atheist-evolutionist PZ Myers (the Pharyngula blogger) writes:
    Other sources, like Lavender Magazine, have noticed that the atheists in their communities have a rather reliable political and social position. Here's a review of Atheists Talk radio (which is no more, I'm sorry to say).
    Many radio programs broadcast locally are queer-inclusive. But aside from KFAI's Fresh Fruit, which is total queer content, no program is as fully queer-supportive as Atheists Talk.
    People dependent on religion like to claim that atheism is just another religion, and they argue that we can't know that we'd have a better society if we got rid of god (and usually go the other way and claim we'd be immoral without our imaginary cosmic policeman in the sky), but you know, I look around at all the atheist communities springing up around the country, and I see the people who are most committed to tolerance and equality joining them, and I am convinced. A godless America would be a better America, ...
    PZ Myers' expertise is in evolutionary biology, and writes the most popular blog on the subject. He does not separate his scientific views from his religious and political views.

    He is entitled to his opinions, of course. I just point out that nearly all of those who are agressively promoting evolutionary biology in our society are also pushing leftist and anti-religion agendas.

    It sure seems to me that you could believe in evolutionary biology and be religious or have right-wing views. But that is just not the way most of the prominent evolutionists see it. When they teach evolution, they will also be teaching leftism and atheism.

    Saturday, Jul 04, 2009
    Why Einstein is falsely credited
    I have posted before on how Einstein did not invent Relativity. A lot of physicists concede that Poincare discovered special relativity before Einstein, but Einstein deserves credit for rejecting the aether. But that is not really right, as I explain here. Einstein did not really reject the aether, as he said in 1920:
    More careful reflection teaches us, however, that the special theory of relativity does not compel us to deny ether.
    Wikipedia has an excellent page on the Relativity priority dispute. The editors cannot agree on who should get the credit for relativity, so the page has a lot of documented facts and quotes.

    There is a subtlety here that is hard to explain to non-mathematicians. If a mathematician proves that hypothesis A and hypothesis B are mathematically equivalent, then he won't waste time discussing which theory is more physically correct.

    There are a lot of examples of equivalent theories in physics. Newtonian, Lagrangian, and Hamiltonian mechanics seem very different, but they are mathematically equivalent. Sometimes one theory will rely on a concept that disappears in the equivalent theory. Then would you say that the concept is real or not? It is a meaningless question.

    Physicists will sometimes argue that Poincare did not discover special relativity. Instead, they say, he discovered a mathematically equivalent theory. They'll say that Poincare's theory used an aether hypothesis, and he showed mathematically that it did not depend on the aether, but he never showed physically that it did not depend on the aether. Only Einstein understood physically that there could be no aether, and so Einstein deserves credit for discovering special relativity. Or so they say.

    This argument from physicists is just nonsense. It displays a conceptual misunderstanding of mathematics. Poincare made mathematical reference to the aether concept, but that says nothing about whether the aether is real or whether his theory depends on the aether. In fact, Poincare said that the aether was perfectly undetectable.

    Suppose I were to make some simple physical statement like, "a nickel weighs about the same as two dimes". One way to demonstrate this would be to weigh the nickel and dime in grams, and show that one figure is about twice the other figure. Another way might be to put a nickel on one side of a balance, and two dimes on the other side, and show that they approximately balance. The latter method is arguably conceptually simpler because it does not require the concept of a gram. But it is not any truer.

    Likewise Einstein's explanation of special relativity has the conceptual advantage that it does not mention the aether. But it is not any more correct. Poincare and Einstein had the same opinion about the aether, as far as we know.

    There is also an editor on Wikipedia who wants to explain that all the criticism of Einstein's priority is based on an anti-Jewish conspiracy. I guess this is because Einstein was Jewish, and Lorentz and Poincare were not. I don't know how to get any neutral info on this subject. There are lovers and haters of Einstein, and both camps may have been influenced by his Jewishness. Einstein's public image was created by the NY Times, a newspaper with a large Jewish market, but I don't know if the paper was trying to create a Jewish hero.

    My personal opinion is thet Einstein is overrated. I think that it is an incontrovertible fact that the principle ideas that made Einstein famous were published and understood by others before Einstein. He still deserves credit for recognizing and explaining those ideas, and for other ideas.

    Here is the view of Olivier Darrigol, who traced the history of special relativity carefully:

    On several points —- namely, the relativity principle, the physical interpretation of Lorentz's transformations (to first order), and the radiation paradoxes -— Poincaré's relevant publications antedated Einstein's relativity paper of 1905 by at least five years, and his suggestions were radically new when they first appeared. On the remaining points, publication was nearly simultaneous.
    Darrigol ends saying that it is impossible to determine whether the similarities between Poincaré's and Einstein's theories of relativity can be best explained by common circumstances or by direct borrowing. The latter is a euphemism for Einstein plagiarizing Poincare. It is known that Einstein did not credit his sources and that he had read some of Poincare's work, but it is know known how much. But whether Einstein stole a little or a lot, he did not have the ideas first.

    My opinion is that it is extremely likely that Einstein had read and was influenced by all of Poincare's papers and his book. These were very high-profile works that were widely read and appreciated. Einstein was a patent examiner, and patent examiners always make it their business to study the prior art. Einstein's denials are the denials of a guilty man. We know that he was lying about not reading Poincare because he had friends who said that he was excited about reading Poincare's book. Einstein's famous 1905 special relativity paper had no references at all, an obvious attempt to conceal his sources. Maybe if Einstein had later come clean and given some plausible story about his sources, then I might believe it, but he did not. His later life showed him to be one who jealously claimed credit he did not deserve. So I assume that he had good reasons for covering up what he knew about Poincare's work.

    Thursday, Jul 02, 2009
    No good science books
    Haven't any good science books been written in recent years? Newsweek magazine recommends 50 books and the top science book is an anti-science book:
    17. THE TROUBLE WITH PHYSICS by Lee Smolin

    Smolin covers string theory and other topics in modern physics as no other has dared: showing that scientific advances are as much about personalities as data.

    There are just a couple of others on the list, such as an anti-science sci-fi book (19) and an evolution book by a leftist-atheist-evolutionist on the warpath against religion.

    A NY Times columnist asks for a great modern science book, and the suggestions are pathetic. They include “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond. These are more anti-science books. Aren't there any real science books by real scientists?

    The leftist-atheist-evolutionist "War on Science" Chris Mooney has coauthored a new book where he blames other leftist-atheist-evolutionists for alienating the public against science.

    Wednesday, Jul 01, 2009
    Respect for Scalia and Thomas
    The NY Times gives this analysis of the recent Supreme Court term:
    If there were surprises, they came from Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

    “For all the talk about Scalia and Thomas being the most conservative justices on the court, they are the justices most likely in play,” said Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford who has argued several important criminal cases before the court.

    Justices Scalia and Thomas are apt to follow what they understand to be the original meaning of the Constitution, even when the consequences might not align with their policy preferences. In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, for instance, Justices Scalia and Thomas joined three members of the court’s liberal wing to say that the Constitution’s confrontation clause requires crime laboratory analysts to appear at trial rather than submit written reports.

    It is funny the way Scalia and Thomas are hated by the liberal media. It is not that they are the most conservative, or the most influential, or the most biased. The biased and unprincipled justices get their share of scorn, but true hatred is reserved for those who are faithful to the US Constitution and their responsibilities to decide cases accordingly.