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Friday, Apr 30, 2010
How textbooks worship Einstein
From a special relativity textbook by Claude Kacser:
The most satisfactory such theory was that developed by H. A. Lorentz between the years 1895 and 1904, since it was not ad hoc. Rather, this theory was based on Maxwell's equations, assuming the existence of an ether. Lorentz followed through in detail the changes brought about in these equations when looked at from the point of view of an observer moving ...

In its experimental consequences the theory of Lorentz as finally developed makes exactly the same predictions as the theory due to Eins-tein. However the physical models of the universe underlying the two theories are completely opposed. ... In fact all the predictions of Lorentz's theory were such that all observable effects depended only on the relative motion of different parts of the apparatus; the absolute motion of any part of the apparatus relative to the ether could never be detected.

At first Poincaré had believed in the ex-istence of the absolute ether, even though he agreed with Lorentz that its properties were such that absolute motion is undetectable in principle. In 1900, Poincaré went further and asked: "Our ether, does it really exist? I do not believe that more precise observations could ever reveal anything more than relative displacements." By 1904 Poincaré had stated the second half of the above as a postulate, the Principle of Relativity; and even went so far as to say that "from all these results there must arise an entirely new kind of dynamics, which will be characterized above all by the rule that no velocity can exceed the velocity of light." ...

It is very possible that Poincaré would himself have presented a com-plete theory of relativity had Einstein not done so. Lorentz did not see the need, and his theory should be classed as "pre-relativity." To Einstein most deservedly goes the fame for formulating the theory of relativity.

[Footnote] A much fuller historical account is given in Sir Edmund Whittaker, A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity; Vol. II: The Modern Theories (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1953; paperback edition, New York: Harper & Row, Publi-shers, 1960). Some of our quotations are taken from this work (which, however, great-ly undervalues Einstein's contributions in the development of the special theory of relativity).

It is funny how his sources all say that Lorentz and Poincare and the ad hoc theorists did it all before Einstein, but he wants to credit Einstein anyway.

The commonly recited history of special relativity is so ridiculous that it is a wonder that anyone believes it.

It is impossible to read Kacser's book and understand why Einstein is credited with relativity. Einstein's theory was just as ad hoc as the ad hoc theories, and just as dependent on electromagnetism and the aether as Lorentz's theory. Kacser says that Lorentz uses electromagnetic theory to explain how the length contraction could be a real physical contraction, but that ought to be an advantage over Einstein's theory. Kacser also has language about how an "omniscient being" with "non-material meter sticks" might detect something different in Lorentz's theory, but Lorentz himself said no such thing. Even if Einstein's description had some aesthetic or terminological advantage, it is hard to see why a later theory with the same assumptions, formulas, and physical consequences should be considered so worthy of getting all the credit. A superior theory is not given until about halfway through the book where it starts to explain the geometry of spacetime, which Kacser attributes to Minkowski in 1908.

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010
Einstein worship
From a book by Samuel K. K. Blankson:
How religious scientists play down the greatest of Einstein's achievements

The mind of Albert Einstein, properly understood, is probably the most extraordinary phenomenon ever to visit the earth -- where from, no one knows. But he certainly wasn't one of us earthlings tarnished with the seven sins.

This reminds me of The Manchurian Candidate (1962 film), where fellow soldiers were brainwashed to say:
Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
Somehow the physicists have all been brainwashed.

Monday, Apr 26, 2010
Natural selection is not like the germ theory
The leftist-atheist-evolutionist prof Jerry A. Coyne writes:
So why is it contemptible to reject germ theory but socially acceptable to reject evolutionary theory?

One answer is religion. Unlike germ theory, the idea of evolution strikes at the heart of human ego, suggesting that we were not the special object of God's attention but were made by the same blind and mindless process of natural selection that also built ferns, fish and rabbits. Another answer is ignorance: ...

But then he contradicts his own answers. He goes on to review two books by well-educated scholars and avowed atheists who seem to believe that the evidence for evolution by natural selection is less than the evidence for the germ theory.

A reader notes:

The biggest difference is that scientists studying germs can conduct controlled experiments, while scientists studying human evolution can only look at the fossil record.
Scientists can also gather DNA and other evidence, but their natural selection theories are never as convincing as their germ theories. That is not to say that natural selection is wrong. Natural selection is trivially correct, and obviously explains much of the biological world. The question is how much it explains, and no one can give a good answer to that.

Sunday, Apr 25, 2010
Hawking warns of space alien contact
The Discovery Channel reports:
Aliens may exist but mankind should avoid contact with them as the consequences could be devastating, British scientist Stephen Hawking warned Sunday.

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," said the astrophysicist in a new television series, according to British media reports. ...

Glowing squid-like creatures, herds of herbivores that can hang onto a cliff face and bright yellow predators that kill their prey with stinging tails are among the creatures that stalk the scientist's fantastical cosmos.

The Channel promoted this show as giving the opinion of "the greatest mind on the planet". The show presented an assortment of goofy ideas.

Thursday, Apr 22, 2010
Wikipedia on relativity terminology
The Wikipedia article on History of special relativity says:
However, although in his philosophical writings Poincaré rejected the ideas of absolute space and time, in his physical papers he continued to refer to an (undetectable) aether. He also continued (1900b, 1904, 1906, 1908b) to describe coordinates and phenomena as local/apparent (for moving observers) and true/real (for observers at rest in the aether).[23][52] So with a few exceptions[53][54][55] most historians of science argue that Poincaré did not invent what is now called special relativity, although it is admitted that Poincaré anticipated much of Einstein's methods and vocabulary.
I objected to this for reasons stated on the Talk page. Briefly, it attributes to Poincare terminology that he did not actually use.

The article later says that Einstein used the same terminology:

However, it was rather a dispute over words because, as Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli said, the kinematic length contraction is "apparent" for an co-moving observer, but for an observer at rest it is "real" and the consequences are measurable.
Put together, this says that Poincare, Einstein, and Pauli all used the same terminology. And yet it is because of that terminology that most historians say that Poincare should not be credited. Weird.

Even if you don't understand anything about relativity, it should be obvious that an army of Einstein-loving historians have only been able to give extremely weak arguments for Einstein over Poincare. Their main argument is a trivial gripe about terminology, and that gripe doesn't even make any sense.

Sunday, Apr 18, 2010
Geometry explains mechanics
Here is a review of a relativity philosophy book, mentioned below:
Physical Relativity: Space-time Structure from a Dynamical Perspective
Harvey R. Brown, Physical Relativity: Space-time Structure from a Dynamical Perspective, Oxford University Press, 2005, 240pp, $55 (hbk), ISBN 0199275831.

Reviewed by Bradford Skow, University of Massachusetts ...

The geometry of spacetime explains length contraction because it places constraints on the structure of the dynamical laws.

This last claim is key, and it is the one that Brown disputes. Among his arguments that the geometry of spacetime does not explain why the laws are Lorentz invariant are these. First, Brown catalogues several geometrical structures that play a role in some physical theory or other, and claims that no one thinks that those geometrical structures do any explanatory work. For example, no one thinks that the geometry of configuration space for an N-body system in classical mechanics plays any role in explaining why that system evolves as it does (section 8.2).

No one thinks that?! Sure they do. Whole books have been written on the subject, including ones by Abraham-Marsden-Ratiu and V.I. Arnol’d.

The geometric structures include the symmetry groups, the metric, and the symplectic structure on the cotangent bundle. The symmetries explain the conserved quantities, like momentum. The symplectic structure, along with the Hamiltonian, determines the time evolution of the system. Geometry explains just as much as it does in special relativity. Brown doesn't know what he is talking about.

Meanwhile, I found a long French essay on Poincaré's epistemological writings: Obstacles to the diffusion of relativity? My French is rusty. He seems to be arguing that Poincare's popular science books sold well but only confused the public about relativity. Weird. Maybe they confused Brown, because he objects to geometrical interpretations. It is known that Einstein got a lot of inspiration from the books, and they seem to have influenced a lot of others also. Poincare's books are works of genius.

Here is another French essay that recites some facts about the history of special relativity:

So, why the work of Poincaré in Special Relativity is so ignored?

One point is that Poincaré did not realize the revolution implied by this new theory, as he had many others topics of interest especially in mathematics. His formal (maybe too speculative) approach did not reflect the “physical reality” implied by the theory. His position on the aether remains quite ambiguous, as he did not reject definitely the concept as Einstein did (at the beginning, as later Einstein had a more ambiguous position too, aether being a “hard to kill “concept). In some following papers, he expresses some doubts about the universality of the Relativity principle. In addition, he never published a so extensive treaty than Einstein.

Einstein approach more physical, more practical, was closer to the physical reality, and may be seen more striking than the Poincaré approach.

Most of this is false. Poincare described the theory as a revolutionary "new mechanics", while Einstein made no such claim in 1905. Poincare discussed the physical reality much more than Einstein, and rejected the aether more directly than Einstein. The only doubts Poincare expressed was that the theory needed to be tested by experiment, and that some experiments appeared to be contrary to the theory. Poincare published for popular and technical audiences; Einstein did not publish for a wide audience until after Poincare was dead. Einstein did not even attempt a physical explanation of what was really going on, as Poincare did.

Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010
TV show on Big Bang
Last night's PBS Nova on astronomy credited Hubble with discovering the expansion of the universe, when no one else believed it. Actually Hubble did not believe it either when it was discovered.

In fact Lemaitre discovered it before Hubble, as proved on the Cosmic Variance blog:

We’ve previously celebrated Father Georges-Henri Lemaitre on this very blog, for taking seriously the idea of the Big Bang. His name has come up again in the post expressing thanks for Hubble’s Law — several commenters, including John Farrell, who wrote the book and should know — mentioned that it was actually Lemaitre, not Hubble, who first derived the law. That offered me a chance to haughtily dismiss these folks as being unable to distinguish between a theoretical prediction (Lemaitre was one of the first to understand the equations governing relativistic cosmology) and an observational discovery. But it turns out that Lemaitre did actually look at the data!
Earlier Friedmann had published an expansionary model of the universe against which Einstein made a bogus attack. Einstein had to publish a correction for his error.

The Pope was ahead of the curve on this one, as reported by Discover magazine:

The Catholic Church, which put Galileo under house arrest for daring to say that Earth orbits the sun, isn't known for easily accepting new scientific ideas. So it came as a surprise when Pope Pius XII declared his approval in 1951 of a brand new cosmological theory -— the Big Bang. What entranced the pope was the very thing that initially made scientists wary: The theory says the universe had a beginning, and that both time and space leaped out of nothingness. It seemed to confirm the first few sentences of Genesis.

Eventually, astrophysicists followed the pope's lead, as evidence for the Big Bang became too powerful to ignore.

The TV show told about dark energy and dark matter. No mention of dark buzz.

Tuesday, Apr 13, 2010
Evolutionist tries to arrest the Pope
It seems that all the prominent evolutionists are at war with Christianity. Richard Dawkins is trying to arrest the Pope:
Leading atheist Richard Dawkins has backed a campaign to have the Pope arrested for "crimes against humanity" when he visits the UK later this year.

Professor Dawkins said he "whole-heartedly" backed the initiative led by atheist Christopher Hitchens.

Jerry Coyne has similar views, and writes:
Here’s the point. Virtually every religion that is practiced by real people ... makes claims that God interacts with the world. ...

Here is a short (and very incomplete) list of all the ways that science already has tested the supernatural assertions of faith:

* The earth was suddenly created, complete with all its species, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. This was falsified by science. The falsification likewise goes for other religions’ creation myths, like those of Hindus and the Inuits.
* God put the earth at the center of the solar system and the universe. Also falsified. ...

No, these are not assertions of faith in the major religions. The major Christian religion is the Roman Catholic Church, and it never made these assertions of faith, as far as I know.

Even under the Ptolemaic system, the Earth was not at the center of the solar system. It was near the center, but not at the center. Medieval Church scholars subscribed to the scientific thinking of the day, and changed when new evidence was shown.

The Church has endorsed some miracles that seem very improbable to me. And it does have some unscientific assertions of faith, such as Jesus Christ rising from the dead. But those are not on Coyne's list.

I guess that there are some Christians today who are Young Earth Creationists and who believe that the Earth is at the center of the universe. But I've never met any, and these are not the beliefs of any mainstream Christian religion. Coyne makes silly straw man attacks. You can also find medieval science books that say wrong things, but that does not make all scientists wrong.

For many evolutionists like Dawkins and Coyne, evolutionism and Darwinism are inseparable from atheism and leftism.

Monday, Apr 12, 2010
Brown on Poincare
British philosopher Harvey R. Brown got the Lakatos Award in Philosophy of Science 2006 for his book Physical relativity: space-time structure from a dynamical perspective.

He credits Poincare for much of special relativity:

Of all the fin de siecle trailblazers, the one that came closest to pre—empting Einstein is Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) -- the man E. T. Bell called the `Last Universalist`. Indeed, the claim that this giant of pure and applied mathematics co-discovered special relativity is not uncommon, and it is not hard to see why.

(i) Poincaré was the first to extend the relativity principle to optics and elec- trodynamics exactly. 78 Whereas Lorentz, in his theorem of corresponding states, had from 1899 effectively assumed this extension of the relativity principle up to second-order effects, Poincaré took it to hold for all orders.

(ii) Poincaré was the first to show that Maxwell's equations with source terms are strictly Lorentz covariant. ...

{iii) Poincaré was the first to use the generalized relativity principle as a con· straint on the form of the coordinate transformations. He recognized that the relativity principle implies that the transformations form a group, and in further appealing to spatial isotropy. ...

(iv) Poincaré was the first to see the connection between Lorentz's `local time', (4.19) and the issue of clock synchrony. ... It is fair to say that Poincaré was the first to understand the relativity of simultaneity, and the conventionality of distant simultaneity.

[v) Poincaré anticipated Minkowski`s interpretation of the Lorentz transfor- mations as a passive, rigid rotation within a four-dimensional pseudo—Euclidean space-time. He was also aware that the the electromagnetic potentials transform in the manner of what is now called a Minkowski 4-vector.

(vi) He anticipated the major results of relativistic dynamics (and in particular the relativistic relations between force, momentum and velocity), but not E0 = mc2 in its full generality.

Taking all ofthis on board, is not the onus on the sceptic?

Sure enough, he has some convoluted explanation for why Einstein should be credited anyway!

His main beef with Poincare is that Poincare viewed relativity as a property of spacetime, instead of an artifact of electrodynamics. Actually both views are tenable, but it was Poincare's view that became adopted. Brown also says:

Although Poincaré understood independently of Einstein how the Lorentz transformations give rise to the non-Galilean transformation rules for velocities (indeed Poincate derived the correct relativistic rules), it is not clear that he had a full appreciation of the modern operational significance attached to coordinate transformations. Although it is sometimes claimed that Poincaré understood that the primed coordinates (part of Lorentz's 'auxiliary quantities') were simply the coordinates read off by rods and clocks stationary relative to the primed frame, he did not seem to understand the role played by the second-order terms in the transformation. (Note that the gammas do not appear in the velocity transformations.) Let me spell this out.

Compared with the cases of Lorentz and Larmor, it is even less clear that Poincaré understood either length contraction or time dilation to be a consequence of the coordinate transformations. Take length contraction first. in proving k = 1 for the k—Lorentz transformations in 1906, Poincaré at no point says that he has thereby shown that the deformation is indeed a longitudinal contraction. He doesn`t seem to connect the issues at all. A similar state of affairs is observed in his 1905 treatment of the deformability of the moving electron. One of the main results of his 1906 paper 'On the dynamics of the electron 85 was the demonstration that amongst the existing rival notions concerning the shape of the moving electron (assumed to take the form of a sphere at test) only the longitudinal contraction hypothesis of Lorentz is consistent with the relativity postulate. Once again, the argument made no appeal to the form of the coordinate transformations even after Poincaré had shown k = 1. The claim made hy Abraham Pais that `thc reduction of the FitzGerald—Lorentz contraction to a consequence of Lorentz transformations is a product of the nineteenth century’ in the context of Lorentz's 1899 work has been justly criticized by Janssen. 84 The claim is equally doubtful in relation to Larmor and wholly inappropriate for Poincaré. Pais himself emphasized the fact that as late as 1908, Poincaré still did not regard length contraction as a consequence of the relativity principle and Einstein's light postulate (of something close to it).85

Now take time dilation. 1t was claimed by Rindler in 1970 that Poincaré never recognized its existence, at least prior to Einstein. I have found nothing in Poincaré's writings which contradicts this claim.

This is wacky stuff. The History of Lorentz transformations goes back to 1887, long before Einstein's 1905 paper. It is true that Poincare's 1900 paper made a low velocity approximation, and the time dilation can be ignored in such an approximation. But he separately argued that the transformation was a perfect symmetry, and that is impossible unless it includes a length contraction and a time dilation.

Here is what Poincare says in his 1904 St. Louis lecture (1913 translation):

The watches adjusted in that way will not mark, therefore, the true time; they will mark what may be called the local time, so that one of them will be slow of the other. ...

Unhappily, that does not suffice, and complementary hypotheses are necessary; it is necessary to admit that bodies in motion undergo a uniform contraction in the sense of the motion. One of the diameters of the earth, for example, is shrunk by one two-hundred-millionth in consequence of our planet's motion, while the other diameter retains its normal length. Thus the last little differences are compensated.

Here is another 1905 translation:
The watches adjusted in that manner do not mark, there- fore, the true time; they mark what one may call the local time, so that one of them goes slow on the other.
And another 1905 translation:
Watches regulated in this way, therefore, will not mark the true time; they will mark what might be called the local time, so that one will gain on the other.
I read this as a reference to time dilation, but I could be wrong. Maybe I will check the original French. If he is referring to the low order approximation, then the watches get out of synchronization, but run at the same rate. With the full Lorentz transformation, they appear to run at slower rates than each other.

Anyway, Poincare is is clearly saying that the deformation is indeed a longitudinal contraction. So what is the problem? That he does not derive it from a coordinate transformation?

All of these criticisms of Poincare seem really strange to me. Poincare gives the correct equations, and gives the correct explanations. If Poincare failed to mention some aspect of the theory, isn't it more likely that he was just too busy emphasizing other aspects? If Poincare actually had some misunderstanding, isn't it likely that he would have said something that was actually wrong? Poincare's analysis is deeper and more thorough than Einstein's, and gets it all right.

Friday, Apr 09, 2010
Govt report drops science literacy questions
AAAS Science magazine complains:
In an unusual last-minute edit that has drawn flak from the White House and science educators, a federal advisory committee omitted data on Americans' knowledge of evolution and the big bang from a key report. The data shows that Americans are far less likely than the rest of the world to accept that humans evolved from earlier species and that the universe began with a big bang. ...

Board members say the decision to drop the text was driven by a desire for scientific accuracy. The survey questions that NSF has used for 25 years to measure knowledge of evolution and the big bang were "flawed indicators of scientific knowledge because responses conflated knowledge and beliefs," says Louis Lanzerotti, an astrophysicist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who chairs NSB's Science and Engineering Indicators Committee. ...

"I think that is a nonsensical response" that reflects "the religious right's point of view," says Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at Michigan State University in East Lansing who authored the survey 3 decades ago and conducted it for NSF until 2001. "Evolution and the big bang are not a matter of opinion. If a person says that the earth really is at the center of the universe, even if scientists think it is not, how in the world would you call that person scientifically literate? Part of being literate is to both understand and accept scientific constructs."

No, scientific literacy means understanding scientific constructs, but it does mean necessarily accepting them. It is a basic premise of general relativity that allows coordinate systems that put the Earth at the center of the universe, and a science literacy researcher should understand that.

In fact the surveys show that millions of Americans do have sufficient scientific literacy to understand those issues, but choose to reject certain conclusions anyway.

The 2008 NSF report says:

Americans’ responses to questions about evolution and the big bang appear to reflect factors beyond unfamiliarity with basic elements of science. The 2004 Michigan Survey of Consumer Attitudes administered two different versions of these questions to different groups of respondents. Some were asked questions that tested knowledge about the natural world ("human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals" and "the universe began with a big explosion"). Others were asked questions that tested knowledge about what a scientific theory asserts or a group of scientists believes ("according to the theory of evolution, human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals" and "according to astronomers, the universe began with a big explosion"). Respondents were much more likely to answer correctly if the question was framed as being about scientific theories or ideas rather than as about the natural world. When the question about evolution was prefaced by "according to the theory of evolution," 74% answered true; only 42% answered true when it was not. Similarly, 62% agreed with the prefaced question about the big bang, but only 33% agreed when the prefatory phrase was omitted. These differences probably indicate that many Americans hold religious beliefs that cause them to be skeptical of established scientific ideas, even when they have some basic familiarity with those ideas.
If they really wanted to measure scientific literacy in their survey, then they would ask questions closer to observable facts, such as:
Are the stars spreading apart as if the universe has been expanding for a very long time?
I don't know why people are reluctant to accept the universe beginning with a big bang. Maybe they think that the universe existed before the big bang. Or maybe they think that it is an incredible extrapolation of current knowledge.

Scientists cannot really tell us much about the big bang anyway. There are inflationary and non-inflationary models, and they are a lot different. No one can tell which is better.

Likewise the evolution question could be replaced with something more straightforward, such as:

Humans have many genes and other hereditary traits in common with other mammals.
My guess is that the evolutionists would not be happy with this question, because it does not determine whether the person has adopted an evolutionistic worldview.

Monday, Apr 05, 2010
Singh on science
Simon Singh is apparently very opinionated about what is science. His book, Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe, attacks a gravitational theory with this:
Indeed, such ad hoc tinkering was indicative of the sort of blinkered logic that earlier resulted in Ptolemy adding yet more circles to his flawed epicyclic view of an Earth-centered universe. [p.128]
No, Ptolemy's epicyclic view was not false (as Singh says on p.82), and he did not add yet more circles. He only had geometrically necessary circles.

Singh has this appendix:


The words 'science' and 'scientist' are surprisingly modern inventions. In fact, the word 'scientist' was coined by the Victorian polymath William Whewell, who used it in the Quarterly Review in March 1834. The Americans took to the word almost immediately, and by the end of the century it was also popular in Britain. The word is based on the Latin scientia, which means 'knowledge', and it supplanted other terms such as ,natural philosopher'.

This book is a history of the Big Bang model, but at the same time it attempts to provide an insight into what science is and how it works. The Big Bang model is a good example of how a scientific idea is created, tested, verified and accepted. Nevertheless, science is such a broad activity that this book's description of it is incomplete. So, in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps, here is a selection of quotations about science.

Science is organized knowledge. HERBERT SPENCER (1820 1903), English philosopher

Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. ADAM SMITH (1723 90), Scottish economist

Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don't know. BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872 1970), English philosopher

[Science is] a series ofjudgements, revised without ceasing. PIERRE EMILE DUCLAUX (1840 1904), French bacteriologist

[Science is] the desire to know causes. WILLIAM HAZLITT (1778 1830), English essayist


[Science is] the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one upon another. THOMAS HOBBES (1588 1679), English philosopher

[Science is] an imaginative adventure of the mind seeking truth in a world of mystery CYRIL HERMAN HINSHELWOOD (1897 1967), English chemist

[Science is] a great game. It is inspiring and refreshing. The playing field the universe itself. ISIDOR ISAAC RABI (1898 1988), American physicist

Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast over nature. JACOB BRONOWSKI (1908 74), British scientist and author

That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer. JACOB BRONOWSKI (1908 74), British scientist and author

It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young. KONRAD LORENZ (1903 89), Austrian zoologist

Truth in science can best be defined as the working hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one. KONRAD LORENZ (1903 89), Austrian zoologist

In essence, science is a perpetual search for an intelligent and integrated comprehension of the world we live in. CORNELIUS VAN NEIL (1897 1985), American microbiologist

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he is one who asks the right questions. CLAUDE LEVI STRAUSS (1908 ), French anthropologist

Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgements of all kinds remain necessary. ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879 1955), German born physicist


Science is the disinterested search for the objective truth about the material world. RICHARD DAWKINS (1941 ), English biologist

Science is nothing but trained and organised common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit; and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club. THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY (1825 95), English biologist

The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work. JOHN VON NEUMANN (1903 57), Hungarian born mathematician

The science of today is the technology of tomorrow. EDWARD TELLER (1908 2003), American physicist

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. JOHN DEWEY (1859 1952), American philosopher

Four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense, ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view, iii) this is true, but quite unimportant, iv) I always said so. J.B. S. HALDANE (1892 1964), English geneticist

Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. RICHARD FEYNMAN (1918 88), American physicist

A man ceases to be a beginner in any given science and becomes a master in that science when he has learned that he is going to be a beginner all his life. ROBIN G. COLLINGWOOD (1889 1943), English philosopher

Friday, Apr 02, 2010
Simon Singh wins libel case
The British court quoted John Milton's Areopagitica arguing that England was freer than Italy:
There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.
Well, no. Galileo was never punished for thinking. He was free to publish balanced scientific arguments. He got into trouble when he put the Pope's arguments in the mouth of a fictional simpleton named Simplicio.

Singh said that the chiropractic profession ... happily promotes bogus treatments. I guess that it is safe to call chiropractors bogus in England again. The British court has struck a blow in favor of name-calling.

The Singh quote in dispute is:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.
The British BBC reports:
BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady's ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.
No, I don't think that is correct. Anyone was always free to say that chiropractic treatment of earaches is bogus. The problem occurred because Singh made a statement that some judge interpreted as implying that the chiropractors know that the treatment is bogus.

Our society is filled with quacks giving bogus treatments. I got one myself about a month ago. For all I know, the physician may have sincerely believed what he was saying. And they chiropractors probably believe whatever they were taught in chiropractic school. Scientists and journalists are on safe ground attacking what is bogus, and skipping the mindreading.

Thursday, Apr 01, 2010
Higher energies at LHC
The NY Times reports:
After two false starts due to electrical failures, protons that were whipped to more than 99 percent of the speed of light and to record-high energy levels of 3.5 trillion electron volts apiece raced around a 17-mile underground magnetic track outside Geneva a little after 1 p.m. local time. They crashed together inside apartment-building-size detectors designed to capture every evanescent flash and fragment from microscopic fireballs thought to hold insights into the beginning of the universe. ...

Particle colliders get their oomph from Einstein’s equation of mass and energy. The more energy — denoted in the physicists’ currency of choice, electron volts — that these machines can pack into their little fireballs, the farther back in time they can go, closer and closer to the Big Bang, and the smaller and smaller are the things they can see.

The collider does not really get its oomph from the equation E=mc2. The velocity of the light is the limit, as Poincare explained in his 1904 St. Louis lecture:
From all these results, if they were confirmed, would arise an entirely new mechanics, which would be, above all, characterized by this fact, that no velocity could surpass that of light,
The accelerator puts energy into the protons, and the energy comes out in the collisions. That is the basic physics, and Einstein didn't have anything to do with it.

The author explains further:

The collider, which is outside Geneva, is 17 miles around. Why is it so big?

Einstein taught us that energy and mass are equivalent. So, the more energy packed into a fireball, the more massive it becomes. The collider has to be big and powerful enough to pack tremendous amounts of energy into a proton.

Moreover, the faster the particles travel, the harder it is to bend their paths in a circle, so that they come back around and bang into each other.

Again, it really doesn't have anything to do with Einstein. They need high momentum for the collisions. It takes a big force to deflect a high-momentum particle. So they need a big circle to get high momentum. That would be true with or without relativity.