Friday, April 29, 2011

Be careful what you believe.

Being skeptical is a good thing for scientists, but when is it going too far?

We are taught to question what we are told, yet we are expected to accept whatever is taught to us in school. Are we supposed to just take in the knowledge and accept it as fact? Well, a little yes, and a little no.

Should we question everything, nothing would get accomplished - there's many many many lifetimes of research that has been done, and sometimes you have to accept things an trust that it was done correctly. Hopefully someone else will independently corroborate those results. Basically, it's perfectly okay to be skeptical about things, just don't take it to far. How far is too far? Well, take a look at this. For those of you not wanting to read, I'm going to post snippets here.

Basically, this guy says all the current mysteries of the universe, including quantum mechanics can be explained by "expanding mass". Load of crap if you ask me, and by the looks of it, he doesn't understand basic physics.

"...Can light from a distant source be simultaneously both a “wave of pure energy” and a “quantum-mechanical photon particle”, only physically “choosing” one or the other based on how it is later observed? Can a magnet cling energetically to a fridge against the constant pull of gravity, yet need no explanation for this endless energy? "

All experiments point to the first being a reality, but I understand his skepticism - it's difficult to swallow. The second sentence is what bothers me. He claims to accept the previously uncovered laws of physics, yet seems to be missing something. The first law of thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. That's precisely why a magnet sticks on the fridge. "Work," in the fundamental sense requires something be moved to a different potential energy, that kinetic energy can only come about by a change in potential energy. It just so happens magnets have greater potential energy for their size, and dominate gravity. No new energy is being added into the system. He's completely misunderstanding the fundamental laws of physics (which have NEVER been observed to be violated.)

So then he goes on to claim he can explain everything with a simple theory. Well based on what I'd seen so far, I wasn't expecting to find much, but I wanted to keep an open mind. You can read the whole article if you like, but I'm only going to highlight a few points he makes.

"Today we think of matter as passive lumps of mass..."

Well that's kinda redundant. Mass is understood to be a number associated with a type of particle. Just as an electron always has a +1e charge, so does an electron always have the mass of one electron - this hasn't changed, and his statement is dumb. Continuing his thought...

"... with various ethereal energy phenomena actively driving everything. But what if, instead, it is matter itself that is active – both atomic and subatomic matter – and there are no separate “energy” phenomena at all?"

That's like saying, "What if people don't move with their legs, what if their legs just move and intrinsically people move with them!"

Worthless. He then talks about his theory...

"The simplest example of this is a rethink of gravity, where all atoms actively expand very slowly and in unison. Nothing would appear any different over time, but standing on an enormous expanding planet means we would certainly feel this expansion beneath us – as a force pushing upward under our feet."

Okay, I'll bite. These atoms just continuously expand? Since gravity appears to be constant, they MUST be accelerating at a constant rate, and must have been doing this for a long time. In order for us to feel a force equal to that of gravity, they must be moving pretty damn fast, just according to Newton's third law of motion (If a body applies a force on another body, that body exerts an equal and opposite force on the first body.)

He presents no calculations, no testable predictions, he just says, oh this theory explains what we see! Obviously our current theories are wrong! It gets much worse.

I guess the moral of the story is, be somewhat skeptical, but be on the lookout for crackpots like this and take everything at face value. There seem to be a lot of people that think String Theory is proven and accepted - it isn't, it's got a LONG way to go if it's ever to be proven. But still I think people believe it is because they are not skeptical enough. Sorry, a little ranty and long winded, but that article bothered me. I honestly was surprised that was posted on that blog - they seemed more reputable than that.


  1. Thanks for this article. I find extremely disheartening that the gap between the scientific community and the interested public is riddled with pseudoscience articles such as this one. I have found similar articles ranging from this to superconducting beer.

  2. Superconducting beer? Sounds delicious.

    Seriously though, it's surprisingly common to find bad science out there. There was a publisjed book being advertised in science magazines that was full of scientific crap. I think it's called "Null Physics" and claims to have all the answers as well.

  3. Hmm. Maybe the lesson is simply to beware of any person or theory that claims to answer everything. And then to try not to be that person ourselves.