Monday, April 6, 2015

Of Gravity and Atoms

Mr. Wolynski continues to make several claims in the comments to an earlier thread which I feel are best addressed by a separate post.  I repeat the claims here for more convenient reference:
1. Gravity cannot heat objects (that takes friction, flame, electric current, etc.)

2. Gravity cannot cause charge separation (that takes electric current, friction, flame, etc.)

3. A cloud of gas cannot gravitationally collapse upon itself absent a gravitating body (that would be philosophically unsound). That is unless you want your readers to believe gravitational fields exist absent gravitating objects?

The jab at having some sort of Dunning Syndrome... Well, it does speak volumes of the people I've interacted with. The people who have been educated are the very worst sufferers. They simply cannot recognize how incompetent they actually are. What is worse is that they have been handed titles, which reinforces their poor attitudes towards people who are original.

-Jeffrey Wolynski 
Mr. Wolynski has made these claims but has not defined any experiment which would demonstrate the veracity of any of them. They all seem to be driven by what he thinks he needs to make his other claims about stellar evolution 'true'. It appears that Mr. Wolynski thinks that his 'originality' is somehow evidence for the accuracy of his claims.

'Originality' is not evidence of correctness in science, it is the agreement of model predictions with experimental or observational measurements. 'Original' ideas may be needed to solve problems in leading edge science, but it is generally not very useful in well-established science. Mr. Wolynski's claims suggest a number of follow-up questions which will illustrate where his 'original' ideas fail, and how they are not so 'original'.

Mr. Wolynski apparently does not know what heat is. Heat is due to atoms or other particles in motion and how they exchange energy (Wikipedia: Heat).

Gravity is due to objects with mass. Objects are made of atoms and atoms have mass. Gravitational force is computed by adding up the force contributions between pairs of mass elements, of arbitrary small size, the nature of infinitesimals in calculus (Wikipedia).

Mass is additive. The mass of a body is the sum of the masses of the atoms composing it, less any binding energy created by attractive forces between the atoms (Wikipedia: Mass).

1) Given a spherical cloud of gas the mass of the Earth, and an atom outside that cloud, is Mr. Wolynski saying the atom would not be attracted to the cloud of gas? If he wants to say that the atom is not attracted to the Earth-mass of gas, then how does Earth being 'solid/liquid' make a difference? 

2) Or is Mr. Wolynski saying that atoms do not have mass? 

That would be contrary to experiment (Wikipedia: Atomic Mass).

3) Is Mr. Wolynski saying that inertial mass (the particle mass used in F=ma) is different than gravitational mass (the particle mass used in the gravitational force equation)? 

This would also be contrary to experiment (Wikipedia: Eötvös experiment).

4) At rest, say 50 miles above the surface of the Moon, so we can neglect air friction, you drop a bowling ball. The ball falls towards the Moon, gaining velocity and therefore energy. The ball hits the surface, and perhaps penetrates into the surface before stopping. Where did the kinetic energy from the velocity go? Better yet, where did the kinetic energy come from? 

At rest, say 50 miles above the surface of Earth, so we can include air friction, you drop a bowling ball. The ball falls towards Earth, gaining velocity and therefore energy. As the ball enters the atmosphere, it collides with air molecules, transferring some of its kinetic energy to them (heat) and slowing its own motion (drag). The gravitational potential energy of the bowling ball is converted to kinetic energy which is transferred to the surrounding air in the form of heat. Gravity is providing the energy that is converted to heat. If gravitation can cause objects to move and those moving objects collide to exchange energy, part of that energy can take the form of heat.

5) Is Mr. Wolynski saying mechanical energy cannot be converted to heat? 

This is also contrary to experiment, as well as loads of technologies (Wikipedia: Mechanical Equivalent of Heat).

One of the underlying themes in Mr. Wolynski's claims appears to be the erroneous assumption that atoms do not count as gravitating bodies.

The force of gravity is symmetric between gravitating bodies - the force created by mass A on mass B is the same as the force of mass B on mass A. This appears to be true if A is an atom and B is a planet. Why would it not be true for two atoms?

Experiments do indicate that individual subatomic particles respond to gravity:
6) If gravitating bodies are made of atoms, and atoms have mass, why aren't atoms gravitating bodies? 

Laboratory experiments with gravity (Cavendish Experiment, and later versions) with objects of known mass reinforces the evidence that the mass used in the gravitational equations is the sum of the masses of the component atoms.

Similar experiments can demonstrate charge separation under gravity:

a) Given a plasma at a constant temperature (to simplify the analysis) which particles have the highest average speed: electrons, ions, or do both travel at the same average speed?

b) given the answer to (a), which particles will, on average, travel higher in a gravitational field? If so, the charge distribution is not uniform and a net electric field is possible. This was demonstrated back in the 1920s (see The Real Electric Universe).

As we can see, Mr. Wolynski's claims are certainly not 'original'. These types of questions were asked by a number of individuals going back a hundred years or more. Today, Mr. Wolynski's claims are not that different from those made by random individuals long ignored because their so-called 'original ideas' were settled long ago.

Did Mr. Wolynski do any research to check for possible problems with his 'hypotheses'? Apparently not.

In the scientific community, we usually have colleagues of equivalent professional background with whom we can bounce off ideas. There are probably loads of theories that die in this very early stage. Sometimes the idea gets a little further, maybe with early experimental tests or more sophisticated theoretical modeling. Sometimes the idea survives initial scrutiny to get experiments or an even more detailed theoretical examination and gets written up into a paper which is then submitted for publication. For reputable publishers, the paper is then sent out for peer-review and other researchers are able to check the ideas and results for possible errors. If the paper survives that process, it makes it to publication. That doesn't guarantee it is free of errors, it just means that a certain amount of error checks have been completed and it is presented to the wider community.
Yet Mr. Wolynski wants to claim that educated people whom he has 'interacted with' have had their titles 'handed to them'.  This is a common attitude displayed by cranks towards professionals when their errors are pointed out. As documented above, Mr. Wolynski has apparently not even conducted the BASIC research necessary to test his claims. He has no comprehension of just how much he does not know, and has concluded that he is correct and everyone else must be wrong. The people Mr. Wolynski wants to claim have had titles handed to them probably know more about applying the theory of gravity to solve real problems than Mr. Wolynski, who has demonstrated no competence in the topic beyond his 'say-so'.

I would say that I have appropriately applied the Dunning-Krueger and I leave it to others to explore Mr. Wolynski's score on The Crackpot Index.

Being a crank is a choice.

Myself, as well as other people who are doing real science today, had our own dalliances is various pseudo-sciences. Years ago, I did a lot of examination of UFOs, Velikovsky, ancient astronauts, etc. and was a big fan of it. What can I say, it was the 1970s (From Pseudo-Science to Real Science).

Pseudo-science certainly has an appeal. Fans of pseudo-science get to feel like they know something special that others do not. The more narcissistic types will probably try and start their own branch of a pseudo-science, cutting-and-pasting ideas from different areas as if they're ordering at a cafeteria.

But one thing I noticed in common with virtually all the pseudo-scientists I've encountered on this blog and elsewhere is the cranks are never actually using their pseudo-science to do anything real in an area impacted by the pseudo-science they advocate.

- Electric Sun and Electric Comet supporters make all kinds of claims about the plasma environment of the solar system - but are any of them actually designing and building missions to fly through the environment they claim?

Nope (see Challenges for Electric Universe Theorists).

 - Relativity deniers claim special and/or general relativity are wrong, but are any of them designing the next generation, higher precision GPS system?

Nope (see Global Positioning System).

Pseudo-science is for posers, people who want credit for the real work the did not, and cannot, do themselves.

But at some point I (and others) made a choice to actually learn some REAL science, science that people use to do REAL stuff, like build leading-edge instruments or send satellites into space. That required abandoning many self-delusions of grandeur, but it has other, REAL rewards.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Perceptions Project

On Friday, March 13, 2015, I attended a conference down at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.  The conference was part of the Perceptions Project sponsored by the AAAS.  It is part an effort to build a better bond between scientific and religious communities.

Perceptions: Science & Religious Communities

Science and religion issues are often fought at the extremes.  A goal of conference is to improve communication so that more moderate voices in religious community, who also accept science, can make it clear to other religious people, specifically in the evangelical community, that it is not an either-or situation.  The conference was focused on the issues of origins,  more specifically human origins and issues of global warming/climate change.

I ran into Eugenie Scott of NCSE shortly before the conference opening.  We have met a couple of times before.

A also ran into a few people whose name I knew, but whom I had never met.  I was even surprised by a few who were familiar with this blog.

Ronald Numbers (Wikipedia), author of the book, The Creationists (Wikipedia) which is a history of the creationist movement mostly since the publication of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.  Dr. Numbers autographed my copy of his book. 

Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe.  I have followed some of the work by RTB and have written some on it before, having attended one of their local seminars.  I used to follow some RTB podcasts, but they changed their feed a couple of years ago and I failed to follow-up.

I met the current president of the Biologos organization, which was originally started by Francis Collins of NIH (Wikipedia).  They are a group of Christians who take the extra step of accepting the scientific evidence for human evolution.  I don't know that much about this organization, but I plan to do a little more research and might start linking to some of their resources when I want to address the biological evolution aspects in a Christian-friendly way.

I also had an enjoyable conversation with a member of a local Dominican School (I think he was a student, but he could have been an instructor) who talked about the history of their Order in science.  We also discussed some Fundamentalist groups in Catholicism (Wikipedia: Dominican Order, Albertus Magnus).

The primary emphasis of the conference was that science does not necessarily have to be the enemy of religious belief. 

I've got over six pages of notes from the conference, and may write more about it in the future.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Relativity Denial: Career cost?

Yet another comment whose response became too long for the Blogger comment system.
From the comment stream of Pseudo-Astro: Black Holes and Other Relativity Denial:
Ignoring GR/black hole theory does not harm future scientists and their studies of the stars.

That is unless you can name me one example in which someone studied the stars, and their ignoring of GR/black holes has adversely affected their career?

Seems to me their acceptance resembles the concept of God in seminary. Believe in them or you shall not pass! LOL!

-Jeffrey Wolynski
The importance of General Relativity in stellar evolution depends on the nature of the studies.  Studies of stellar formation, which occupy the lower density regime of the stellar lifetime, might not have problems ignoring relativity.  However, relativity impacts so many additional aspects of atomic physics (atomic absorption and emission in moving flows, etc), that someone who actively ignored the effects would have too many ideas that would just fail under rigorous testing.  Before long, such researchers would get no funding because too many of their ideas would fail to match observations or experiments.  A number of the real incompetents will claim that they're geniuses being victimized by conspiracies, etc. (Neurologica: Lessons from Dunning-Krueger).  

At higher density regimes, such as high-mass stars, relativistic effects become important for structural changes due to gravity, and energy production mechanisms, such as pair plasmas.  If the researcher wants to claim something other than relativity, they had better be working from an idea that can pass the basic tests where relativity has done well.
As for someone who 'ignoring GR/black holes adversely affected their career.'

Adversely affected defined how?   I know loads of former grad students who washed out for various reasons.  Now days, the real relativity denier rarely makes it to grad school because their relativity denial causes them to flunk other things in doing physics.  Instrument precision is now sufficiently high that relativity can impact a number leading-edge laboratory applications (see ArsTechnica: Einstein’s time dilation apparent when obeying the speed limit).

Then there's active, working applications such as the GPS system (links)...

Anyone who denies some component of well-established science limits their own career options.  Their chance of useful discoveries is lower, so granting agencies, etc. are less willing to invest in them. 

For the most part, very few of these cranks ever actually become physicists or astronomers, though a large number manage to become engineers.  I do know of a few support scientists who advocate various crank ideas, but they're kept on because in some sub-field of their actual employment, they are competent.  There are a few I suspect were forced to retire because their crank ideas began to have negative impacts on their professional responsibilities.  Engineers engaged in relativity denial are probably competent to do run-of-the-mill engineering, but they won't be qualified for engineering applications requiring high-precision positional or timing information.  The engineers in the GPS program who doubted relativity effects in the early days of the program (see Scott Rebuttal. I. GPS & Relativity and related links from the earlier post) are probably long gone.

If the account manager in a business doesn't believe in sound accounting principles (also backed by mathematics), do you keep them on the job?

Historically, there are a number of researchers who developed problems with relativity later in their career which had some negative impacts.  Arthur Eddington (1882-1944) believed General Relativity, but didn't believe black holes could form (Wikipedia: Arthur Eddington).  Later in his career, Eddington got involved in some progressively stranger, and sillier, scientific ideas (see Bethe's Spoof).  Then there was Herbert Dingle (1890-1978) (Wikipedia) who claimed to demonstrate a logical contradiction from the 'twin paradox' (MathPages: Dingle and the Twins) but this happened after his retirement.

Relativity is no longer a question of belief, like a fairy tale or religion, any more than the theory of gravity or atoms, or electrons or thermodynamics.  It is a matter that you can make numerical predictions that we can compare to observations and measurements and a great majority of them match to high precision.

While relativity denial might have been justified 50-100 years ago, relativity is now so integrated into techniques and technologies that denying its validity, especially in the realms where it is routinely used, is equivalent to denying the reality of atoms.