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Sunday, Nov 28, 2010
Most accepted theories
I am wonder what is the most accepted theory today.

It would not be Evolution or the Big Bang, in spite of overwhelming evidence, because of widespread skepticism that goes to the root of what these theories mean. It also would not be gravitation, even tho we have a very good theory and universal agreement about the basics, because it has an assortment of anomalies such as dark energy that are not understood and have competing explanations. And heliocentrism is not even considered correct according to modern thinking. Quantum mechanics ought to be on the list, but confusion about the interpretations of quantum mechanics causes many doubters.

In ordinary conversation, people often ridicule others for believing in some outmoded theory, or failing to believe in some universally accepted theory. Eg, people get made fun of for believing in the Flat Earth, or in geoocentrism, or not accepting the Germ theory of disease. These are bad metaphors for various reasons.

I want theories of hard science (or hard math) where one anomaly would be deadly.

Here is my list of the top contenders for the most accepted theory.

These theories are vitally important for the progress of science, I don't think that they have any anomalies or substantive objections.

Aether theory is sometimes considered a superseded scientific theory because Michelson-Morley experiment. failed to detect any aether velocity. But everyone agrees that it is pervasive, uniform, measurable, and essential to our understanding of the propagation of light and electricity. Calling it obsolete is about like calling the proton obsolete. It has a structure that is different from what was expected a century ago, but the same basic concept remains.

Causation is sometimes said to be violated by quantum nonlocality, which some people believe in, but it does not because correlation does not imply causation. I don't think that anyone claims that quantum nonlocality is observable, if there is even any such thing. So I include aether theory and causality theory because no one is really objecting to the underlying theory.

Thursday, Nov 25, 2010
When Man Invented Science
The leading view of the history of science is that science was invented in 1543. Scott Locklin writes that it was 300 years earlier:
What we refer to today as “science” is something which was invented by humans, rather than springing forth from Jove’s forehead in some ancient time before time. There is a definite date before which there was no science and a date after which there was science. This isn’t controversial or mysterious: We know exactly when it happened, and some of the original manuscripts which invented science and modern thought still exist.

Science was invented in the “High Middle Ages.” This was an era of great prosperity in Europe (and everywhere else, really). It was warmer than it is now: Grapes grew in Northern England. Since Europe was an agricultural economy, this meant much more prosperity than in years previous. During this era, Europe was wealthy enough to fund the Crusades, something we arguably can’t afford today.

The Black Death ended this era. Had this disease not spread to Europe in the 1340s, we might have had a different world. ...

History’s first scientist was Robert Grosseteste, although his work is little known in popular education today. He was born in 1170 or so to a humble Suffolk family. He found his calling in the Catholic Church, as important a source of social mobility then as the university system is now. It was Grosseteste who formulated the first description of the scientific process. He was the first European in centuries to study Aristotle’s works and the first to study Arab natural philosopher Abu Ibn al-Haytham’s writings. From these thinkers he developed the idea of “composition and resolution,” which is the scientific method in itself. He advocated using mathematics to learn about reality. He also developed the idea of peer review. He built upon the notion that one could learn natural law’s general principles by studying specific examples. He developed the all-important idea of falsification, to separate true from false ideas. ...

Roger Bacon could probably be considered the great systematizer of Grosseteste’s work. He put science in the form and words we know now. He used the terms we know today: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification.

This proves that science was invented centuries before Nicolaus Copernicus and the Age of Enlightenment, and that science was active during the Middle Ages. But I also think that it is pretty silly to say that science was invented in 1200.

The first Egyptian pyramids were built in around 2600 BC. We are still not sure how, but we can be sure that the builders had processes to separate true from false ideas. They had scientific methods. They had to. The Greek Thales predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BC. Eratosthenes uses shadows to determined the diameter of the Earth in 200 BC. Hipparchus is credited with discovering precession of the equinoxes in about 130 BC. The suggestion that any of these folks lacked science is just chronological snobbery.

Nature magazine has a new article about the Antikythera mechanism. It is an ancient Greek astronomical calculator from over two millennia ago. It used about 30 gears and was more sophisticated than any mechanical device made in the following millennium, and there is a debate over whether it was based on Babylonian or Greek astronomy. The story claims that maybe it explains the invention of epicycles:

"Perhaps a mechanic tried to represent the variations in the Moon's speed according to the Babylonian theory using gears," he says — and hit upon an epicyclic arrangement.

In other words, epicycles were not a philosophical innovation but a mechanical one. Once Greek astronomers realized how well epicyclic gearing in devices such as the Antikythera mechanism replicated the cyclic variations of celestial bodies, they could have incorporated the concept into their own geometrical models of the cosmos.

"It is a new possibility," says Jones. "I am quite attracted to it." There is little evidence for who came up with the idea of epicycles, although it is often ascribed to third-century-BC Greek geometer Apollonius of Perga. Intriguingly, gears and epicycles seem to have arisen at about the same time, with gears perhaps a little earlier.

The claim seems unlikely to me, but an intriguing possibility. Regardless, this device was made by men who knew about the invention of science, and a lot more.

The Armarium Magnum blog explains:

As mentioned above, no manifestation of "the Myth" is complete without the Galileo Affair being raised. The proponents of the idea that the Church stifled science and reason in the Middle Ages have to wheel him out, because without him they actually have absolutely zero examples of the Church persecuting anyone for anything to do with inquiries into the natural world. The common conception that Galileo was persecuted for being right about heliocentrism is a total oversimplification of a complex business, and one that ignores the fact that Galileo's main problem was not simply that his ideas disagreed with scriptural interpretation but also with the science of the time. Contrary to the way the affair is usually depicted, the real sticking point was the fact that the scientific objections to heliocentrism at the time were still powerful enough to prevent its acceptance. ...

I love to totally stump them by asking them to present me with the name of one - just one - scientist burned, persecuted or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any.

I previously cited this blog for its excellent review of the movie Hypatia.

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010
Debating atheism
Christopher Hitchens debates William A. Dembski on Does a Good God Exist? They seem to be similarly controversial characters for various reasons. In Part 2 at 3:00 he says:
As you know, the Church did not want Galileo to look thru a tube and make the disconcerting discovery that the Sun does not go around us, we go around the Sun. I presume now that no one is going to give me an argument about that.
I would have argued about that. The statement is completely false. The Church never discouraged Galileo from looking thru a telescope, and Galileo never had any telescopic evidence that we go around the Sun.

This is important to his atheism argument because it (supposedly) shows that the Catholic Church was anti-science, and that we are not at the center of the universe.

Hitchens is a typical leftist-atheist-evolutionist. Those folks have leftist politics, and support causes like socialized medicine. They support atheism as not just a denial of God, but a belief that all of organized religion is backwards and harmful. And they are evolutionist in that they actively promoting beliefs in evolution. And not just the science, but an evolutionist worldview that goes far beyond what any science has demonstrated.

My main complaint with these folks is how they mix these views. They will take some completely bogus science argument, and use it to support some bogus political or religious argument. Galileo is just one example. Most of Hitchin's bogus science arguments have to do with evolution.

MIT physicist Max Tegmark doesn't mind saying that we are at the center of the universe:

Our entire observable universe is inside this sphere of radius 13.3 billion light-years, with us at the center.
Of course he is a big proponent of multiple parallel universes, so don't get too excited. He also says that all mathematically structures must exist physically, as some sort of alternate universes. We are allowed to think that we are the center of ours because of the anthropic principle.

Monday, Nov 22, 2010
Father of modern physics
Biographer Dava Sobel writes:
Posterity agrees that Galileo's great genius lay in his ability to observe the world at hand, to understand the behavior of its parts, and to describe these in terms of mathematical proportions. For these achievements, Albert Einstein dubbed Galileo "the father of modern physics -— indeed of modern science altogether."
Galileo is most famous for his astronomy, but that work was not very mathematical at all. It was his contemporary, Kepler, who solved the big mathematical astronomy problems of the day. Galileo was not even a player.

The Wikipedia article on Einstein says:

A German-Swiss Nobel laureate, he is often regarded as the father of modern physics.
It is very misleading to call Einstein "German-Swiss" in the opening paragraph. Einstein was more American than Swiss. Einstein was born in Germany, spoke German, and got famous as a German professor. He also renounced his German citizenship twice, once to evade military service and once to escape the Nazis. His primary ethnic identification was that of a German Jew.

Here is the source:

The source cited by this wikipedia article is an article on Poincare, not Einstein, and actually says "together with Einstein, Poincare can therefore be regarded as the founding father of Modern physics".
I don't know how Einstein could be the father of modern physics when he did not even believe in quantum mechanics. And I don't know how he can be lumped in with Poincare, as Poincare's relativity papers were vastly superior to Einstein's.

The parallels are curious. Kepler was the genius who was way ahead of Galileo on modeling the solar system, and it is doubtful that Galileo even understood his mathematics. Likewise, Poincare was the genius who was way ahead of Einstein on creating relativity, and it is doubtful that Einstein even understood his mathematics. It is not that Kepler and Poincare were obscure, or failed to publish their ideas, or were poor at explaining to the general public. Their works were brilliant masterpieces, and they were appreciated at the time.

So why are Galileo and Einstein idolized so much? I think that the reasons are primarily ideological. They are both leftist icons, and symbols of anti-Christian beliefs.

Saturday, Nov 20, 2010
The latest unification theory
SciAm magazine has a new article on A Geometric Theory of Everything. It says:
Modern physics began with a sweeping unification: in 1687 Isaac Newton showed that the existing jumble of disparate theories describing everything from planetary motion to tides to pendulums were all aspects of a universal law of gravitation. Unification has played a central role in physics ever since. In the middle of the 19th century James Clerk Maxwell found that electricity and magnetism were two facets of electromagnetism. One hundred years later electromagnetism was unified with the weak nuclear force governing radioactivity, in what physicists call the electroweak theory.

This quest for unification is driven by practical, philosophical and aesthetic considerations. When successful, merging theories clarifies our understanding of the universe and leads us to discover things we might otherwise never have suspected.

The proposed unification is nothing like those previous ones. This one is a vastly more complex theory with dozens of new particles and forces that no one has ever seen. The previous unifications were simplifications. I think that it is very strange that so many physicists find such a unified theory philosophically desirable.

This theory appears to be contrary to known physics, and does not have much of a following. But belief in this sort of a unification is much of what drives string theory and related theories.

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010
Higgs alternative looks like epicycles
Physicist Steven Weinberg says in this NASW2009 lecture and in this SciAm podcast, about the possibility that the European CERN LHC will discover the Higgs particle:
In that picture, there really isn't a Higgs. ... That's a possibility ... first suggested by Leonard Susskind and myself, independently. I don't think it's likely that that's what's going to be found because it leads to problems. There are observations that you could only understand by tinkering carefully with the theory so that it begins to look like Ptolemaic epicycles, and I don't find it as attractive as the original simple picture. But it's a possibility. ... That's why it is not sure thing that the Higgs will be found, but it is highly likely.
So one of the world's most famous physicists rejects a theory because it looks like Ptolemaic epicycles. It would make more sense to reject a theory because of Copernican epicycles.

The history of science should be a simple an uncontroversial subject, but educated people continually draw incorrect lessons from the great events in science history. Ptolemaic epicycles were not wrong, and mathematically equivalent formulations continue to be used today when one circular orbit is observed relative to another circular orbit. An epicycle is nearly always used to describe the Moon's orbit, for example.

If the Higgs boson is found, there will be a fight for the Nobel prize. Peter Woit writes:

What Philip Anderson realized and worked out in the summer of 1962 was that, when you have both gauge symmetry and spontaneous symmetry breaking, the Nambu-Goldstone massless mode can combine with the massless gauge field modes to produce a physical massive vector field. This is what happens in superconductivity, a subject about which Anderson was (and is) one of the leading experts. His paper on the subject was submitted to Physical Review that November, and appeared in the April 1963 issue of the journal, in the particle physics section. It explains what is commonly called the “Higgs mechanism” in very much the same terms that the subject appears in modern particle physics textbooks ...
There is also a genius named Ernst Stueckelberg who published a similar idea many years earlier. He apparently has a priority claim on several other Nobel-prize-winning discoveries.

Wednesday, Nov 17, 2010
Lucy did not use tools after all
I was skeptical before about a highly publicized claim that human ancestors used tools 3.4M years ago. Now some experts are skeptical as well:
Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, writing with my University of Wisconsin colleagues Travis Pickering and Henry Bunn, has challenged the interpretation that two bovid bones from Dikika bear cutmarks made by hominins [1].
The news media is always making exaggerated claims about apes and alleged missing links showing human behavior. It is all part of a leftist-atheist-evolutionist plot to dehumanize people. Lucy was just an ape.

Meanwhile, even Louisiana endorses the teaching of evolution:

A state advisory panel Friday voted 8-4 to endorse a variety of high school science textbooks that have come under fire for how they describe evolution.
Evolution is taught as the only scientific theory of life on Earth in all 50 states.

Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010
Testing whether Tycho was murdered
The BBC News reports on one of the greatest astronomers of all time.
The body of a 16th Century Danish astronomer is being exhumed in Prague to confirm the cause of his death.

Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman who served as royal mathematician to the Bohemian Emperor Rudolf II.

He was thought to have died of a bladder infection, but a previous exhumation found traces of mercury in his hair.

A team of Danish and Czech scientists hope to solve the mystery by analysing bone, hair and clothing samples. ...

He lost the bridge of his nose in a duel, while at the University of Rostock in 1566, and wore a metal prosthetic for the rest of his life.

Another story widely told about Brahe was that his bladder exploded at a royal banquet.

When Galileo had his famous dispute with the Catholic Church, some Church scholars supported the Tychonic system that Tycho developed many years years. It was better than what Galileo supported, by any objective measure.

Kepler worked for Tycho. The Tycho-Kepler work was not just an astronomical breakthru, it was one of the great scientific achievements in human history.

George writes:

You write "Tycho-Kepler" as if it were joint work. In fact they were completely opposed. Tycho advocated a stationary Earth, while Kepler advocated the Copernican system. Besides, Kepler may have murdered Tycho.
It was joint work. Tycho collected the data, and figured out that the orbit of Mars was not spherical. Astronomers had been watching Mars for millennia, and no one else figured it out. He sold Kepler on the idea, and Kepler modeled it with an ellipse. Kepler completed Tycho's work on the Rudolphine Tables. The idea that Kepler murdered Tycho is ridiculous.

The motion of the Earth was just one detail in the Tycho and Kepler models. Those same tables could be used for either. The essential science of the work of Tycho and Kepler were consistent.

Monday, Nov 15, 2010
NPR blames Church for genocide
NPR radio Science Friday refused to apologize (listen at 11:00) for anti-Catholic comments the previous week (listen to Sam Harris at 15:40). Harris accused the Catholic Church of favoring genocide and of being against "human flourishing" in other ways. The other panelists did not disagree. NPR read a letter objecting to Harris's remarks, but refused to read any of the letters that explained why Harris was wrong.

Harris says that scientists can come to moral conclusions better than theologians. But he is on thin ice talking about genocide. The great genocides of the 20th century were done by leftist-atheists like himself, and opposed by the Catholic Church.

This is the same NPR that fired Juan Williams for saying on another network that he gets nervous on airplanes when he sees those who "identify themselves first and foremost as Muslims."

Apparently NPR supports the most bigoted and false comments about Catholics, but cannot tolerate any criticism of Muslims.

Here is a list of aircraft hijackings. Check it out yourself. The hijackers are not Catholics. Sam Harris and NPR are the bigots, not Juan Williams. It is a sad day when govt radio has to criticize Catholics as a proxy for others who might kill us.

Sunday, Nov 14, 2010
Pres. Wilson preferred Darwin over Newton
Glenn Beck says that Woodrow Wilson was one of our worst American presidents. A recent NPR interview interview accused Beck of being an "extremist" for having this opinion, and here was the historian-guest's best example of Beck being wrong about something:
Particularly troublesome, Wilentz says, are the gross historical inaccuracies Beck makes on his Fox show, which now reaches more than 2 million people each day.

"On one of his shows, for example, he pulled out a 'Mercury' dime. On the back of [the dime] is the fasces, which is the symbol of fascism," Wilentz says. "So [Beck] says, 'Aha! Who brought the dime in? It was Woodrow Wilson. We've been on the road to fascism for a long time.' [But he's] neglecting the fact that fasces didn't become a fascist symbol until well after that dime was made and designed — and the man who designed it [knew that] fasces was a design of war and balanced it off with an olive branch. Those are the facts. It has nothing to do with the coming of American fascism under Woodrow Wilson."

Huhh? That's it? Beck is on the air for an hour a day, so you would think that the NPR leftists could find a better example than that. Supposedly Beck is wrong because Wilson put the symbol on the dime in 1916, and the Italian fascists did not adopt it until 1919. I thought that Beck was making a joke, but if the Wilson and the fascists adopted the symbol only three years apart, then a relationship seems possible.

If you want to know why Beck hates Wilson, just tune into his show on FoxNews, or check thingsglennbeckhasblamedwoodrowwilsonfor.com. Wilson was a progressive, a racist, and a warmonger. He left us with the income tax, the Federal Reserve Bank, and something similar to the United Nations. These things helped cause the Great Depression, World War II, and many other evils.

I think that the root of Wilson's evil is his philosophy of science. You have to read it here, because Beck won't talk about it. Wilson was a leftist-evolutionist who cited Darwin to justify undermining the US Constitution.

Wilson in The New Freedom, 1913, wrote:

For example, after the Newtonian Theory of the universe had been developed, almost all thinking tended to express itself in the analogies of the Newtonian Theory, and since the Darwinian Theory has reigned amongst us, everybody is likely to express whatever he wishes to expound in terms of development and accommodation to environment.

Now, it came to me, as this interesting man talked, that the Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory. You have only to read the papers of the The Federalist to see that fact written on every page. They speak of the "checks and balances" of the Constitution, and use to express their idea the simile of the organization of the universe, and particularly of the solar system, -— how by the attraction of gravitation the various parts are held in their orbits; and then they proceed to represent Congress, the Judiciary, and the President as a sort of imitation of the solar system.

They were only following the English Whigs, who gave Great Britain its modern constitution. Not that those Englishmen analyzed the matter, or had any theory about it; Englishmen care little for theories. It was a Frenchman, Montesquieu, who pointed out to them how faithfully they had copied Newton’s description of the mechanism of the heavens.

The makers of our Federal Constitution read Montesquieu with true scientific enthusiasm. They were scientists in their way -— the best way of their age -— those fathers of the nation. Jefferson wrote of "the laws of Nature" -— and then by way of afterthought -— "and of Nature’s God." And they constructed a government as they would have constructed an orrery [planetarium] -— to display the laws of nature. Politics in their thought was a variety of mechanics. The Constitution was founded on the law of gravitation. The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of "checks and balances."

The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live. On the contrary, its life is dependent upon their quick cooperation, their ready response to the commands of instinct or intelligence, their amicable community of purpose. Government is not a body of blind forces; it is a body of men, with highly differentiated functions, no doubt, in our modern day, of specialization, with a common task and purpose. Their cooperation is indispensable, their warfare fatal. There can be no successful government without the intimate, instinctive coordination of the organs of life and action. This is not theory, but fact, and displays its force as fact, whatever theories may be thrown across its track. Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop.

All that progressives ask or desire is permission -— in an era when "development" "evolution," is the scientific word -— to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.

This is from 1912 campaign speeches that were published in a 1913 book.

Physicist Frank J. Tipler says this is nonsense, (also here), and says:

This conflict is a reflection of a battle between the two greatest scientists of the past two centuries, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. Einstein famously claimed that “God does not play dice with the universe,” whereas Darwin claimed that God does, indeed, play dice with the universe. Codevilla pointed out the self-image of the ruling class rests on its belief that humans are the unforeseen outcome of chance mutations acted upon by natural selection. Not so. God decreed the evolution of humans before time began. The ruling class stands with Darwin. We stand with Einstein.
Wilson's essay is an example of a goofy use of science to support leftist ideas. A later version of such ideas is Prof. Tribe's Curvature of Constitutional Space, written with the assistance of Pres. Barack Obama. The point of these essays is that the US Constitution has no objective meaning that we have to respect.

Academic philosophers go further, and and say that science has no objective meaning. They say that theories get replaced because of fads among scientists. I call them the paradigm shifters, and criticize their Marxist view of history.

There are historians who rank Wilson as one of the best 20th century American presidents. The Beck fans think that Wilson is one of the worst. I am going with Beck. Wilson's statement is anti-American and anti-science. His presidency was a disaster, and this is why.

Saturday, Nov 13, 2010
Climate propagandists say all science was heresy
NPR radio just had a Science Friday program interviewing a panel of experts on how to best promote leftist climate policies:
Scientists and Advocacy?

A group of climate researchers has banded together to speak out on climate change, providing a unified voice against climate policy skeptics. But should that be the role for scientists? Do scientists have a responsibility to speak out on policy issues?

The host did say that he asked a couple of Republican congressmen to appear, but he did not ask any climate skeptics with expertise comparable to the leftists on the program. The Republicans probably figured (correctly) that they were being ambushed.

At 13:30 a caller Ryan from Nashville asked:

I just want to encourage these scientific folks there to really in these peoples' faces. You have to find a cross between Carl Sagan and Karl Rove and get him out there. Because what -- for 5 to 7 hundred years of our history, all science was heresy -- and imagine where we'd be if that hadn't taken place.
No one on the panel disagreed.

This is leftist-atheist propaganda. No science was ever heresy in the West. The only specific example that anyone ever alleges is the Galileo affair of 1633:

Galileo was found "vehemently suspect of heresy," namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.
I argue that no actual science was suppressed, or declared heretical, as explained here. Galileo was commissioned to write a scientific book, but he wrote an unscientific book making fun of the Pope instead.

Even if you disagree with me about Galileo, that was just one decision applied to one person. Every civilization has punished innocent people. How do you get to 500 years? Are there 500 other such decisions?

Nobody even argues that astronomy research was slowed down one year as a result of the Galileo trial. Galileo was already decades behind the research frontier. Even Galileo continue to publish his work.

People wonder why I write about some issue that died centuries ago. The answer is that false myths about the history of science are being used to today to trick you into accepting dubious climate policies. The proof is on yesterday's NPR science broadcast.

Thursday, Nov 11, 2010
How Lorentz credited Poincare
Many of those who credit Einstein for relativity draw great attention to the fact that Lorentz credited Einstein, and paid little recognition to Poincare. Lorentz appears to not have understood Poincare's papers.

However, Lorentz later in 1914 wrote a paper crediting Poincare with priority over Einstein. He wrote Two Papers of Henri Poincaré on Mathematical Physics (1921), recently translated from French to English:

The following pages cannot at all give a complete idea of what theoretical physics owes to Poincaré. ...

To fully appreciate the first of this works, I will have to enter in some details on the ideas whose development led to the principle of relativity. Thus let us speak a little about the part that I contributed to this development, I must say first that I have found a valuable encouragement in the benevolent interest that Poincaré constantly took with my studies. Moreover, we will see soon by which degree he surpassed me. ...

These were the considerations published by me in 1904 which gave place to Poincaré to write his paper on the dynamics of the electron, in which he attached my name to the transformation to which I will come to speak. I must notice on this subject that the same transformation was already present in an article of Mr. Voigt published in 1887, and that I did not draw from this artifice all the possible parts. Indeed, for some of the physical quantities which enter the formulas, I did not indicate the transformation which suits best. That was done by Poincaré and then by Mr. Einstein and Minkowski. ...

This time it was indeed an effect of the second order and it was easy to see that the hypothesis of the stationary aether alone is not sufficient for the explanation of the negative result. I was obliged to make a new assumption which consists in admitting, that the translation of a body through the aether produces a slight contraction of the body in the direction of motion. This assumption was indeed the only possibility; it had also been imagined by Fitzgerald and it found the approval of Poincaré, who however did not conceal the lack of satisfaction that the theories gave him in which one multiplies special assumptions invented for particular phenomena. This criticism was for me an additional reason to seek a general theory, in which the same principles would lead to the explanation of the experiment of Mr. Michelson and all those that were undertaken after him to discover effects of the second order. In the theory that I proposed, the absence of phenomena due to the collective motion of a system should be demonstrated for any value of speed less than light. ...

Later, I could see in the paper of Poincaré that when proceeding more systematically I could have reached an even greater [252] simplification. Not having noticed it, I did not succeed in obtaining the exact invariance of the equations; my formulas remained encumbered with certain terms which should have disappeared. These terms were too small to have an appreciable effect on the phenomena and I could thus explain the independence of the earth's motion that was revealed by observations, but I did not establish the principle of relativity as rigorously and universally true.

Poincaré, on the contrary, obtained a perfect invariance of the equations of electrodynamics, and he formulated the "postulate of relativity", terms which he was the first to employ. Indeed, stating from the point of view that I had missed, he found the formulas (4) and (7). Let us add that by correcting the imperfections of my work he never reproached me for them.

I can not explain here all the beautiful results obtained by Poincaré. Let us insist however on some points. ...

Let us pass now to the paper on the quantum theory. Towards the end of 1911 Poincaré had attended the meeting of the Council of Physique convened in Brussels by Mr. Solvay, in which we had especially dealt with the phenomena of the calorific radiation and the hypothesis of the elements or quanta of energy imagined by Mr. Planck to explain them. In the discussions, Poincaré had shown all promptness and the penetration of its spirit and we had admired the facility with which he could enter the most difficult questions of Physics, even in those which were new for him. At the return to Paris, he did not cease dealing with the problem of which he felt the high importance. If the hypothesis of Mr. Planck were true, "the physical phenomena would cease obeying laws expressed by differential equations, and it would be, undoubtedly, the greatest and most profound revolution that natural philosophy suffered since Newton". ...

That is the reasoning by which Poincaré established the necessity of the quantum hypothesis.

Einstein got his 1921 Nobel prize for a 1905 paper supporting Planck's 1900 quantum hypothesis. Here, Lorentz praises Poincare for showing the necessity of that hypothesis, without even mentioning Einstein.

Lorentz generously credits others in this paper. He refers to the "group of relativity", when Poincare called it the "Lorentz group". He admits to defects in his own work when he could be pointing out the similar defects in the work of others. But he only credits Einstein and Minkowski with doing what Poincare had already done.

Some people say that it is wrong to credit Lorentz and Poincare over Einstein, because Lorentz never claimed such credit in his lifetime. But he does here. He pretty clearly explains how he and Poincare had all of special relativity, with an acknowledgement only to Voigt and FitzGerald for priority. He only mentions Einstein and Minkowski to say that they redid what Poincare had already done. This seems to me to be about as direct a repudiation of Einstein's and Minkowski's priority as I could expect from a gentleman like Lorentz.

Lorentz is right. Everything he says here is verifiable by reading the original papers.

Lorentz's paper is in French. His other relativity papers were in Dutch (1892), German (1895), and English (1899, 1904). I guess scientists had to be multilingual back then. Einstein wrote in German, and in English after moving to the USA. He was also fluent in French and maybe Italian, as he attended college at a French-speaking University, and his family lived in Italy for a while.

Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010
Coyne hates science magazine
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne complains that NewScientist publishes articles casting doubt on the standard evolutionist dogma, and got this response:
Perhaps some of your ire should be turned on your scientific colleagues - if Bennett is so hopelessly wrong, why was he ever invited to give that keynote (alongside Niles Eldredge)? Why did the symposium even take place? Bennett wasn't the only one to question the primacy of natural selection in macroevolution. Why does the Royal Society support his work? Similarly, if the tree of life concept is unimpeachable, why is there such a large literature questioning its validity and a major project on it at a leading UK biology department?

As a weekly science magazine (not journal) we can only report what we see and hear going on around us. And we're always going to look for new, potentially game-changing ideas (it's the news, stupid).

I was at Bennett's talk; the room was full of learned and eminent people. He took a few questions but there were no howls of protest like yours. What am I to make of this? I'm genuinely baffled. ...

Also, please consider my invitation to write something to be an open one.

Coyne refuses by saying:
What I won’t do is help New Scientist sell magazines by fanning the flames of controversy. I wash my hands of this rag, and I’d advise readers to do likewise until it cleans up its act.
It is not that baffling. People like Coyne just hate it when anyone deviates from the party line.

Yes, the magazine overhypes new ideas. All the science reporters do. But this is not about the religion and creationism that Coyne really hates. He is complaining about ideas that have been proposed thru accepted scientific channels.

Tuesday, Nov 09, 2010
The embrionic stem cell fraud
Nicholas Wade reports in the NY Times:
This is why it was such a risk for California to earmark $3 billion specifically for stem cell research over the next 10 years. Stem cells are just one of many promising fields of biomedical research. They could yield great advances, or become an exercise in sustained failure, as gene therapy has so far been. By allocating so much money to a single field, California is placing an enormous bet on a single horse, and the chances are substantial that its taxpayers will lose their collective shirt.

Stem cell researchers have created an illusion of progress by claiming regular advances in the 12 years since human embryonic stem cells were first developed. But a notable fraction of these claims have turned out to be wrong or fraudulent, and many others have amounted to yet another new way of getting to square one by finding better methods of deriving human embryonic stem cells.

The major advances in stem cell biology have come from molecular biologists who study transcription factors, the master control switches that govern the cell’s operations.

The California fund was passed with heavy lobbying from scientists who stood to profit from it, and from pro-abortion groups who were making an anti-Bush political statement. Nothing good has come out of the fund and the money would have been much better spent elsewhere.

Monday, Nov 08, 2010
Lorentz aether theory
Lorentz's relativity is now called the Lorentz aether theory, in order to emphasize the aether and its obsolescence. But no one called it that at the time.

Lorentz is said to have believed in an immobile aether at absolute rest, and therefore an absolute frame of reference for space and time from which absolute velocities can be deduced. Eg, Einstein's 1909 paper said that Lorentz's theory "depended on a completely immobile aether." I am looking for where Lorentz actually said this.

This is from the introduction to Lorentz's 1895 paper, after reciting a couple of other competing aether theories:

Es liegt nicht in meiner Absicht, auf derartige Speculationen näher einzugehen oder Vermuthungen über die Natur des Aethers auszusprechen. Ich wünsche nur, mich von vorgefassten Meinungen über diesen Stoff möglichst frei zu halten und demselben z. B. keine von den Eigenschaften der gewöhnlichen Flüssigkeiten und Gase zuzuschreiben. Sollte es sich ergeben, dass eine Darstellung der Erscheinungen am besten unter der Voraussetzung absoluter Durchdringlichkeit gelänge, dann müsste man sich zu einer solchen Annahme einstweilen schon verstehen und es der weiteren Forschung überlassen, uns, womöglich, ein tieferes Verständniss zu erschliessen.

[4]Dass von absoluter Ruhe des Aethers nicht die Rede sein kann, versteht sich wohl von selbst; der Ausdruck würde sogar nicht einmal Sinn haben. Wenn ich der Kürze wegen sage, der Aether ruhe, so ist damit nur gemeint, dass sich der eine Theil dieses Mediums nicht gegen den anderen verschiebe und dass alle wahrnehmbaren Bewegungen der Himmelskörper relative Bewegungen in Bezug auf den Aether seien.

The book is apparently still in print, altho a modern reader would have a tough time with the terminology and notation. Here is a machine translation:
It is not my intention to enter into such speculations closer or expressing suspicions about the nature of the aether. I only wish to keep me from preconceived opinions about the substance and the same as free as possible, for example, none of the properties of ordinary liquids and gases due. If it appeared that a representation of the phenomena succeed best under the condition of absolute penetrability, then one would have to be such an assumption for the time being already understand and leave it to the further research, us, maybe open up a deeper understanding.

[4] That of absolute Rest of the aether can not be said, of course most of themselves and the term would not even make sense. When I say sake of brevity, the ether rest, so that only meant that one part of this medium does not move against the other and that all perceptible movements are relative movements of the heavenly bodies in relation to the ether.

I read this as saying that he is pointedly disavowing any aether theory. He is saying that this theory is independent of how the aether really works, and that he is denying that the aether is of absolute rest. He is mainly rejecting Fresnel's theory that parts of the aether can have velocity relative to other parts of the aether. Fresnel's believed that solid bodies like the Earth drag the aether along with it, somewhat like the way the Earth drags the atmosphere with it. He is not saying much to endorse or deny the aether, and leaves it to further research to understand its properties.

I do not agree that Lorentz's theory depends on an immobile aether. It does not depend on any properties of the aether except for Maxwell's equations.

Section 1 starts:

The equations for the aether.

§ 5 When setting up the equations of motion, we will express all quantities in electromagnetischem Maass and temporarily insert a basis of co-ordinates, the rest in the aether.

So he talks about the aether being at rest, but it is just a figure of speech, as he explains above.

Lorentz's 1904 paper first mention of the aether is:

The first example of this kind is Michelson's well known interference-experiment, the negative result of which has led FitzGerald and myself to the conclusion that the dimensions of solid bodies are slightly altered by their motion through the aether.
He mentions the aether five more times, and in each case it is just a way of talking about electromagnetic fields in empty space. When he introduces Maxwell's equations, he says, "if we use a fixed system of coordinates". He does not say "in the absolute coordinates of the aether" or anything like that.

Lorentz was not convinced by arguments that the aether should be undetectable. Long after relativity theory was accepted, he argued that the theory was the same whether the aether was detectable or not, so it was unnecessary to assume that it was not. The story is explained in Faraday to Einstein: constructing meaning in scientific theories By Nancy J. Nersessian.

A reader adds:

Roger: My German is shaky but I agree with your analysis of those German passages. Lorentz is very clearly disclaiming any broad theory of, or speculations about, aether. He declines to attribute any properties of liquids or gas to the aether. He suggests the need for more research. He denies any belief in the absolute rest or immobility of the aether. He uses the phrase "the aether at rest" only to mean that different parts of the aether don't move relative to each other; perceptible movements of heavenly bodies are movements [by those bodies] relative to the aether.

Based on those passages, Lorentz seems to assume the existence of the aether, but doesn't feel there is evidence to say much about it beyond his belief that the aether doesn't have moving parts. He thinks heavenly bodies are moving within the aether, rather than parts of the aether moving in relation to each other.

Sunday, Nov 07, 2010
Denouncing the progress of evolution and technology
Leading leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
Up at the Sunday New York Times Book Review — it appears online a day early — is “Better all the time“, my review of Kevin Kelly’s new book, What Technology Wants.

It’s not a bad book.  In fact, parts of it are really interesting: the stuff on the history of technology, for instance, including Kelly’s stint with the technology-dubious Amish. But for me What Technology Wants was seriously marred by Kelly’s relentless progressivism, including his idea that evolution “strives” for certain outcomes (complexity, beauty, specialization, ubiquity, etc.), and that technology strives for exactly the same outcomes.  His view of evolution is unidirectional and teleological, and if that’s not the case, which it isn’t, then his idea that technology and evolution both follow universal “laws” (I think Kelly, a devout Christian, sees these laws as God given) breaks down.

Coyne is hung up on Stephen Jay Gould's view that evolution does not increase complexity:
Gould [1989] felt so strongly about it he was moved to deny that, at least since the Cambrian explosion, there has been any progress at all.
The Cambrian explosion was 530 million years ago. Here is a more reasonable view of progress and direction in evolution.

Yes, of course there is direction in evolution. There is direction for some of the same reasons that there is a time direction in physics, and there is a Second law of thermodynamics. You can read about it in Entropy (arrow of time). Only a leftist-atheist-evolutionist kook like Gould would deny that there has been any progress in 500M years.

Coyne is strangely silent on the book's argument that The Unabomber Was Right:

The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity.
I guess Coyne was more interested in making some dubious ideological point about evolution than to address the main points of the book. The Unabomber manifesto was considered the rant of a madman, but it actually had a lot of strong arguments in it.

Friday, Nov 05, 2010
More Neanderthal than chimp
Amazon has a book titled, What it Means to be 95% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and their Genes, but the cover clearly says "98% chimpanzee". Which is it?

Estimates of how much of our genome is shared with chimps varies from 94% to 98.8%, as noted here and here. Here is an example of the confusion in an Amazon review:

Years ago a colleague who knew how fond I was of explaining our primate origins to students asked me, "Did you know we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees"? "I'm comfortable with that", I replied, "as long as I still only share 50% with my brother", introducing a conundrum for many students that few professors can adequately resolve.
Instead of explaining these percentages, the book seems to be mostly an argument that and such data is meaning. He rejects any scientific argument that humans are similar to animals, or that human are dissimilar to other humans, based on genes. He says:
Humans are marked by a large number of physical, ecological, mental, and social distinctions from other life...what does genetics have to say about all this? Nothing. Sameness/otherness is a philosophical paradox that is resolved by argument, not by data. (p.22)
The book is attacked here for trying to deny that human racial differences exist.

I would expect this book to be praised by PC journalists for its left-wing view of science, but one of the Amazon reviews attacks it for not being suffiently critical of creationists!

Meanwhile, we are supposed to have Neanderthal genes:

The study shows that Neanderthals are not as extinct as everyone thought. Somewhere between one and four percent of the DNA in people who are ethnically non-African comes from Neanderthals. In other words, they live on in some of us.
A UK newspaper reports on the latest dubious Neanderthal research:
Neanderthals really were sex-obsessed thugs

Neanderthals really did act like Neanderthals, new research suggests, as our early relatives were found to be more aggressive, competitive and promiscuous than modern man.

Scientists examining fossils have discovered that Neanderthals were exposed to more testosterone during development which is likely to make them more unreconstructed in their behaviour.

That means they were more likely to start fights over mates and hierarchy in the group and more likely top have multiple partners.

I have omitted the evidence because the article gets it backwards.
Your article has a mistake in it.

You say, "High levels of the hormones [testosterone] increase the length of the fourth finger in comparison to the second finger".

Then you say, "The team found that the fossil INDEX fingers of Neanderthals were LONGER compared with the ring finger than most living humans, which suggests that they had been exposed to higher levels of testosterone."

Your article has a basic mistake in it which should have been spotted before you posted it for the world to see. Sloppy.

The article is anti-male propaganda. Anti-Neanderthal, also. Maybe modern men are wimps.

Thursday, Nov 04, 2010
Reignier on Poincare
J. Reignier writes on The birth of special relativity:
"What would have happened if Poincaré's papers of 1905 did not exist"? The answer is immediate since these papers were nearly forgotten 41 and didn't really influence the later development of physics!

[footnote] 41 Except for details like Poincaré's pressure.

"What would have happened if Einstein's original paper "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper" of 1905 did not exist"? This time, the answer is not so easy to give. On the one hand, all important formulae existed already or would have appeared at the same time in Poincaré's papers (even if some of them are there derived in a different way; see f.i. the formulae of the new dynamics).

No, this is backwards. Einstein's 1905 paper was of no long term consequence. His approach is sometimes mentioned in special relativity textbooks, but it was obsolete by 1908. By 1909, most of the relativity papers were not using his approach, and the general relativity books do not even mention it.

Maybe Poincare's papers were forgotten, but not his ideas. Those 1905 papers had several crucial ideas that were never independently discovered by Einstein or anyone else. Most of them are listed here (except that the first four were before 1905).

Presumably Poincare's ideas would have eventually been independently rediscovered, but it is not known that any of them ever were.

You can find Poincare's papers in French on Wikisource, or translated to English, and I have some previously-posted links here. Other relativity papers are on Wikisource:Relativity, including Einstein's famous 1905 paper. Einstein's most famous papers are also here.

There are some Frenchmen who credit Poincare. Eg, there is the recent book by Jules Leveugle, outlined here, and translated here. Leveugle proposes some conspiracy theories, which have been attacked elsewhere, such as by Gingras.

Other good sources include the Wikipedia article on the Relativity priority dispute and Einstein's 1905 paper (also here). Here are translations of Poincare's 1905 short and long papers.

Wednesday, Nov 03, 2010
Not voting for Einstein
I just voted in California, and the sample write-in was Albert Einstein! You would think that they could at least choose an American.

Einstein eventually became a naturalized USA citizen, but he was Communist fellow traveler and Stalin apologist.

Monday, Nov 01, 2010
Pay for your dark science
A SciAm cover story has the latest theories about dark energy and dark matter, but a reader doesn't like the paywall:
“Just like the newsstand version, the online version of the article costs money of course. But if you do read it, I hope you enjoy it.”

I will not. Paying money for knowledge is just plain idiotic. So people with money can’t have the knowledge? Are you saying that the knowledge should stay with the elite that control our world? Sorry but paying for information and knowledge is a huge peeve of mine especially this day and age.

Funny. Secret knowledge about dark matter will not let the elites control us. Nobody was even figured out how to detect the stuff! He could read the magazine in the library, if he really wants.

SciAm is a commercial magazine, owned by the British Nature magazine. It is much more annoying when academic research articles are not freely available online, even tho the researchers have that choice.

It is a nice article. Most of the articles on this subject refuse to speculate what the dark matter and dark energy really are. This article lays out the leading possibilities. The array of possibilities shows how little they know.

It is amazing how little string theory has to say about any of this. How can it be a theory of everything when it cannot even say anything about the nature of empty space?

The Dark Buzz is still free.