Thursday, October 30, 2008

My November/Winter 2008 or 2009 'To Do' list

It has been a busy few weeks, some of which will be relevant to future posts here. I thought I'd post some notes on events and topics I hope to cover over the next few weeks. I just finished attending a small science workshop related to my day-job so my evenings are now a bit more open.
  • This past Saturday (October 25), I attended a conference in Washington DC sponsored by Reasons To Believe, titled “What Darwin Didn't Know”. Reasons to Believe is an organization of Old-Earth creationists (OEC). I'm not sure how I feel about OEC. In some regards, I think they are a sign of hope that more Christians can accept modern science with their theology. For the most part, I have few issues to argue with them on astrophysical evidence since they agree with modern astronomy and geology that the Earth and universe are billions of years old. However, even as someone with no professional training in biology, I found some of their claims in biology, particularly in regards to their version of 'Intelligent Design', to be very questionable. Some of the arguments they promoted are not that far from Young-Earth creationism claims. I've got many pages of notes from this day that I hope to add to this blog over the next few weeks. I just finished reading Hugh Ross' “A Matter of Days” and also purchased “The Creator and the Cosmos” and “Creation as Science”, also by Ross. I'll probably post a review sometime in the future.
  • I've actually been contacted by John Hartnett over my posts on his cosmology claims. He graciously sent me a copy of the latest version of one of his papers I'm commenting about and mentioned another paper under review. I need to follow-up on some of those issues. To reproduce Hartnett's work and examine other issues he does not mention, I've been rewriting my old time-series analysis codes. These programs were originally written in a programming language called IDL on a VAXStation under VMS. I'm re-writing them to run in Python on modern hardware. I'm also modifying them to handle spatial analyses (1-D and maybe even 3-D) and have encountered some discrepancies. I'm not yet certain of the cause of the discrepancies so I'm expanding my code testing scenarios. While the latest version of the Hartnett's paper seems to have backed away from a claim of strict redshift quantization, other creationists still invoke it. Once my software revisions are complete, I expect my software will still get some rather extensive use in this area. Some might ask why I don't use the same software as Dr. Hartnett, which he reports is Mathematica. The main reason is that science hinges on reproducibility. Since the algorithms should always be identical, in principle, it should not matter which tools are used. This provides additional validation of the analysis techniques and the tools.
  • In what is certainly the most interesting inquiry I've received in quite some time, I've had a creationist who presented at the '2008 International Conference on Creationism' ask me to examine his cosmological model and offer my criticisms. I may post some details on this discussion in the future.
  • When I heard about Barry Setterfield's revisions to his claims of a variable speed of light and integration with plasma cosmology (see my previous posts), I conducted a web search to see if others had posted on the topic. In the process, I stumbled across a response to my article, “The Electric Sky: Short-Circuited” on one of the Electric Cosmos forums. I hope to include responses to this in the near future.

So that's what's backlogged on my To Do list for November/Winter 2008/2009. I wonder if I'll complete it all...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Setterfield G

Here I'll continue my examination of Setterfield's new publication, “Reviewing A Plasma Universe With Zero Point Energy”, in the Journal of Vectorial Relativity 3, 1-29 (2008).

Fails to compare his model to data
In the last draft of the “Issues on Barry Setterfield's Claims of a Recently Decaying Speed of Light, 2nd Edition”, available here, I examined one of the latest functions Setterfield claimed represented the speed of light with cosmic (dynamical) age, which corresponded to his young-universe 'interpretation'. For bookkeeping purposes, I designated all the different functions from Setterfield by letters. I had labeled one of the latest functions Setterfield E.

where T ranges from [0...1] and represents the time relative to the total age of the Universe. T=1 corresponds to the time of creation and gives the speed of light as infinite. But T=0 corresponds to the present day, and gives the nonsensical result that the speed of light equals ZERO!

T is chosen to be dimensionless, but it would be useful to clarify it as scaled relative to the (young) dynamical age

where t is measured from the present time into the past and the greek letter τ is the total age of the universe.

Setterfield must have finally realized that blunder, since in his latest publication he has changed his function to

or, defining a constant of proportionality,

where c0 is the modern value for the speed of light, and we define the Greek letter ζ to be the dimensionless speed of light, chosen so that the value today is equal to unity or 1. I'll call this function 'Setterfield G'. (I had found an older function which I labeled 'Setterfield F' so that letter was already spoken for. Setterfield F appears on the graphs on the previous article.).

To compute the apparent age of the universe in Setterfield's new model, we must integrate the light travel time from the creation of the universe, T, to today, T=0. (Setterfield choses a mathematically reversed sense for time, increasing into the past, which creates a sign flip on our math.)


To get an apparent travel time assuming a modern speed of light, divide both sides by c0 to get

where K' is K τ and corresponds to Setterfield's equation 33. If we compute this for T=1 corresponding to the creation time, this gives the apparent age of the universe, in the atomic time scale:


Let's plug in some rough numbers using Setterfield's own prescription for computing the constant. If the (young) dynamical age of the universe, τ, is 7000 years in Setterfield's model, and the atomic age is 14 billion years, then K = 7.78e5.

But wait, K must be the exact same K value used for the speed of light earlier! If we use it in that equation, it tells us that the speed of light today (T=0) must be 778,000 times the current speed of light!

To get the correct value for the speed of light today, we must set K=1. But if we install that in the equation above, then we get the apparent age of Setterfield's universe is only about 18,000 years!

Setterfield's model is easily demonstrated to be mathematically and physically inconsistent!

This is a basic error that a high school physics or calculus student shouldn't make.

Did anyone do even a basic check of the math in this paper? Is such carelessness representative of the referee process at JVR?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Barry Setterfield joins the Electric Cosmos?

A reader of my work has recently pointed me to a major update in the work of Barry Setterfield. (I wonder if this also means that many of my links into Setterfield's site will now be broken?) It seems Mr. Setterfield has subjected his theory to a fairly major rewrite and in the process, has integrated many more aspects of the "Electric Universe" claims into his work. See Reviewing A Plasma Universe With Zero Point Energy? available at This means that my detour in dealing with some Electric Universe claims was fortuitous.

In Reviewing A Plasma Universe With Zero Point Energy, I see Setterfield repeats his same old errors.

Setterfield does not address any of the issues raised by myself or Dr. Jellison about his claims. I have found some reference to the issues raised elsewhere on his site. He mostly tries to dismiss the results as "conceptual errors" on my part. Let's see how many basic errors in math and data analysis Mr. Setterfield makes.

Fails to compare data to his model
Figures 1-5 of Setterfield's Review plots values of various physical constants subject to some variation in Setterfield's model. Yet none of these graphs display error bars on the points plotted. Nor does Setterfield plot the variation predicted by his model. For example, my Figures 1 & 2 below are plots of measurements of the speed of light (points with error bars) compared with plots of the various models for a changing speed of light which Setterfield has proposed over the years (lines). The data plotted here are collected from Setterfield's own site (History of Speed of Light Experiments).

Plot of Setterfield's 'data' from 1750 to the present.

Click image to see higher resolution
Figure 1: Plots of measured speed of light compared to Setterfield's models (1750s to the present)

Plot of Setterfield's 'data' from 1830 to the present.

Click image to see higher resolution
Figure 2: Plots of measured speed of light compared to Setterfield's models (1830s to the present) with tighter view on more recent measurements.

Notice that many of the measurements Setterfield chooses to ignore (black) lie above and below the model fit and give very poor agreement with Setterfield's models. Even more telling is the scatter above and below the modern accepted value in Figure 2. This behavior is more indicative of systematic errors in the measurment, not an actual trend. No wonder Setterfield is so reluctant to display his model fits with data!

On Setterfield's main page, he claims to "Let data lead to theory". Here we see a high-school math level example where he violates this claim.

Surprisingly, Setterfield makes no comments in this Review indicating that his theory would predict a variation of radioactive decay rates with Earth's orbital distance! Let's see if a revision includes this claim!

You might also note that I don't include Setterfield's latest model for the change in the speed of light in historical times. We'll see the problems with that in the next installment...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Creationist Astronomy debunking videos!

Here's some links to more YouTube videos debunking creationist astronomy claims.

Andromeda's Wake: Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked

cdk007: Why Young Earth Creationists Must Deny Gravity

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Creationist Junk Debunked

I'm making a slight diversion from my creationist astronomy activities to promote some excellent creationist busting by others.

Here is a link to a series of videos which examines creationist claims as violations of the Ninth Commandment. In case you're a little rusty, it's “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” in the Protestant tradition (see Ten Commandments).

Be sure to check out more of the videos in this series by Potholer54debunks.
Creationist Junk Debunked.

Now some creationists might claim that 'evolutionists' or 'Darwinists' aren't their 'neighbors'. What does Jesus say about who is and isn't your neighbor? Easy enough to check:

  • Matt 5:43-47.
    “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

    Note that Jesus is telling his followers that it is how you treat people different from yourself which determines if you are one of his followers. I suspect that those so-called christians who helped generate the recent statistic that atheists are the most despised group in America may be at the head of the pack leading into Hell.

  • Also consider Luke 10:25-37, aka the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Do you know what Jesus says about the status those who invoke his name while violating 'the will of the Father'? Check out Matt 7:15-23:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut own and thrown into the fire Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, 'Lord Lord did we not prophesy in you name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
Jesus points out that it is your actions, far more than your words, that tell the true status of your faith.

Methinks Hell will be full of creationists!


  • The Harper Collins Study Bible. New Revised Standard Version. 1993.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

John Hartnett's Cosmos. 2. Methodologies

My original plans for the second entry in this series has undergone significant revision. I had originally planned to focus on a summary of Hartnett's general analysis errors, but in collecting references, I discovered how the problems I had identified with Hartnett's analysis were just the tip of the iceberg.

The quantized redshift (QR) 'community' has become increasingly insular and isolated - generally referencing only papers of other advocates and avoiding rigorous tests of their methodologies. Hartnett continues this 'tradition' by only referencing older works which have since been superceded. The 'tests' of his methods which he mentions in his papers are also particularly weak. The key issue is that a 1-D power spectrum installs an implicit assumption of spherical symmetry in a dataset, since is it only measuring radial separation. It is no surprise that such a method implies concentric shells centered on our galaxy.

The main astronomical community was initially curious about suggestions of a possible new property of the extragalactic redshift. However, they quickly abandoned interest in the idea when it was demonstrated that noise and clumping in the galaxy distributions could create large peaks in simple 1-D power spectra. These simulated peaks were equivalent to the peaks 'discovered' by the QR advocates (Newman Haynes & Terzian 1989, 1994, Kaiser & Peacock 1991, Newman & Terzian 1995, 1996).

One positive consequence of the quantization claims is that it did spur more research into determining just what information could be extracted from such analyses on the large extragalactic surveys which were being conducted. The ability to determine statistics of large-scale structure in the cosmos is important for comparing observations with large cosmological simulations which were also under development.

Kaiser & Peacock (1991) performed an extensive series of analyses developing simulated datasets which demonstrated how the power spectral peaks in works such as Broadhurst et al (1990) could be generated by clumping of otherwise random galaxy distributions. They also demonstrated how the one-dimensional sampling of a three-dimensional dataset can alias power into other frequencies, further confounding interpretations.

While Hartnett acknowledges the work of Kaiser & Peacock (1991), he claims the conclusion of this work, quoting Kaiser & Peacock, “did not prove that unconventional pictures for large-scale structures were ruled out.” Technically true, but deceptive. Kaiser & Peacock (1991) work really meant that the 1-D approach had insufficient sensitivity to identify real peaks in the distribution.

But this type of problem means is you look for a more powerful test...

Methodologies for analyzing these power spectra in full 3-dimensional form were quickly developed, Baumgart & Fry (1991) and Feldman, Kaiser & Peacock (1994) were some of the earliest in this efforts. One of the more important issues which these tests needed to deal with was the fact that even the most recent sky surveys did not uniformly sample the sky, in terms of direction, and even distance. This issue created 'window functions' which could alias power into other frequencies, creating problems for interpretation (Feldman Kaiser & Peacock 1994). More recently, tutorial-style publications have described more details of the 3-D analysis process (Hamilton, 2005a,b).

The basics of the proper methods have been around over a decade.

Hartnett completely ignores these modern tests. Why does Hartnett limit his work to a one dimensional analysis when he has read the documentation (Kaiser & Peacock 1991) of the flaws in his methodology??

Consider Hartnett's behavior from a more personal analogy: Would you go to a doctor who insisted on conducting tests that could not conclusively identify your ailment? Suppose they insisted on using the inconclusive tests even when better tests were available?

Others have completed these power spectra calculations on the 2dFRS and SDSS 5th data release using modern methods (Cole et al 2005, Percival et al. 2007). Not surprisingly, their results show no evidence of claimed periodicity.