Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pseudoscience and the Technomystic II

This is a continuation of the previous post (Pseudoscience and the Technomystic) with a more specific example from earlier comments.

Consider this comment in a previous thread by EU supporter, Siggy_G, complaining about how I repeatedly emphasize the coupling of science with modern technology:
Siggy_G: The “bundling“ I referred to, as often seen around here: taking all achievements related to technology, the mechanical launch itself, GPS-systems and what not, mentioning that in relation to the standard sun model or big bang cosmology, and labelling it as a confirmation of the model or theory itself. It would be as if Electric Universe proponents should mention all the electric/digital engineering behind practically ALL technology today, including everything used in astrophysics, and bundle it up as a confirmation of the Electric Universe notions... Would that be acceptable?
Is Siggy_G claiming that the Newton's laws of motion and gravitation used in predicting the motions of the planets are NOT the same laws of motion used to launch satellites into Earth orbit to distant parts of the solar system?

If that is the case, how does Siggy_G think it is actually done?

If physicists don't use the same knowledge base obtained in the classes we take on theoretical mechanics when they go to work for the flight dynamics division of the various space agencies around the world, WHERE do they get the knowledge to do the trajectory planing for these missions, often years in advance?

As for Siggy_G's 'challenge' to bundle modern technology with EU notions, I invite him to do so, but consider just some of the questions I had to address, and he must face:

1) Where did the “electric/digital” engineering come from?  Were iPads, digital cameras, modern home computers, etc., invented with no prior knowledge?  Did the inventor have a block of raw materials (silicon, copper, etc)  in their garage and one day built a modern cell phone?

2) Where did the semiconductor electronics that are the active components of those devices come from?  What knowledge base was needed to make them?  Did someone just throw together some raw chemicals in a vat and one day a microprocessor chip came out?

3) What about the materials used to make semiconductors themselves?  Were they just some random combination of materials someone thought up in their garage?  Are they naturally-occurring?  Some are, but most of the semiconductors we use today were designed in the lab.  How did we design those semiconductors?  Were they just a random combination of chemicals, or was there physics and mathematics that guided the development?  If you claim this, cite relevant references.

4) Does Siggy_G know that for years, the first discovered semiconductors were used as crystal diodes  (wikipedia: Crystal-diode) in early radio receivers, but no one understood why this material had the non-linear rectification behavior it had?  Their electronic characteristics defied explanation by classical (Maxwell) electromagnetism.  It would take the development of quantum mechanics to turn the curious properties of semiconductors into a useful tool, and astrophysics provided critical information along the way:

    •    Scott Rebuttal. III. The Importance of Quantum Mechanics
    •    More Astrophysics & Quantum Mechanics Connections

Now let's look at Siggy_G's challenge from another direction...

5) How is the use of a CCD camera to take astronomical images proof, or even evidence, of Electric Universe claims?

6) If you want to claim that the use or form of a particular tool is evidence of EU, then what about all the things we learned from astronomical images on photographic film *before* the invention of CCDs?

7) Is film chemistry as proof that the universe is actually chemical?  What does that imply for EU?

8) What about all the knowledge we obtained through naked-eye observations for centuries before that, with measurements performed via spider-web reticles?

Without addressing these types of questions, any such construction that Siggy_G proposes is the equivalent of "Joe is really smart and invented 'X', and he believes 'Y'.  Therefore 'Y' must be true."  Let's make a concrete example by filling in X & Y:
Johannes Kepler discovered the first laws of planetary motion, and also practiced astrology.  Therefore astrology must be true.
And it is easy to generate even more bizarre examples from the history of science.

I've documented how equations used for computing nuclear reactions in stars are the same equations used in nuclear medicine, the development of nuclear chemistry, nuclear reactors and even nuclear weapons.  Why did so many of the researchers involved in the early development of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons also have prior contributions in stellar nuclear astrophysics (individuals such as Enrico Fermi (wikipedia), Edward Teller (wikipedia) and Hans Bethe (wikipedia))? 

That's the standard I've used in "Cosmos In Your Pocket".   I have been considering a more tutorial-style technical appendix that shows these connections in more detail.

What about the quantum tunneling relationship which Bethe used in 1939 to compute the rate of the p+p->d nuclear reaction, the first step of the proton-proton chain (wikipedia)?  Can Siggy_G demonstrate that it is NOT the same quantum relationship which Esaki used in 1950s to develop the tunnel diode (wikipedia)?

Have we seen a similar tracing of the knowledge base of basic electro-magnetism to a concise mathematical model of an electrically powered star?  To make an equivalent analysis for the Electric Universe, then Siggy_G would have to demonstrate something like the amount of energy carried by a cosmic scale electric current, sufficient to power the Sun, generates a magnetic field consistent with what we measure for the Sun.


I've already done that (see Electric Cosmos: The Solar Resistor Model), and the results weren't encouraging.  For Siggy_G to make a truly equivalent EU 'rebuttal', he would essentially have to solve this problem as well as answer the questions I've posed under “Challenges”.

So I invite Siggy_G to write his response, but I'm not holding my breath.


Torque said...

One often cited example (by EU proponents), where EU ‘theory’ is leading towards useful technologies, is debunked-Plasma-Cosmology-theorist Eric Lerner’s: ‘Focus Fusion Society (FFS)’.

I have witnessed EU proponents stating that Lerner has taken his Cosmological theories and applied them to fusion research as an alternative energy source. So, the implication is that if the Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) experiment/venture is successful, this would then validate Lerner’s visions of a plasma based cosmology.

But alas, due to the lack of logical connections involved in the argument, I find this to be yet another good example of the principle:

"Joe is really smart and invented 'X', and he believes 'Y'.  Therefore 'Y' must be true."

I’m sure that the theoretical physics underpinning the Dense Plasma Focus apparatus is derived from legitimate mainstream plasma physical theory, but does this in any way validate Lerner’s views on Plasma Cosmology ?

Are we to be ‘Technomystified’ by the EU notion that because he can create a momentary ‘plasmoid’, (courtesy of a plasma gun, precision engineered from first physics principles), which then somewhat resembles a photograph of a quasar in an AGN core, we are then supposed to believe’ that this then validates Plasma Cosmology, which therefore represents reality ?

Luckily I’m not just a ‘believer’ !


W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

I've followed some reports about FFS (A Step Closer To Cheap Nuclear Fusion). Considering how incomplete Lerner's papers are on cosmic nucleosynthesis in a plasma model, I really wonder about the chances for success.

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

Siggy_G's A Response to Tom Bridgman

Notice Siggy_G's total evasion of the direct questions I posed. If Siggy_G doubts my information, he certainly has not addressed how it is incorrect beyond having uncomfortable implications for Electric Universe (EU) claims.

Siggy_G seems to think my queries were EU specific. If he followed claims by the geocentrists, etc. I've talked about here, he might notice that these pseudo-sciences are defended with many of the same rhetorical methods that Siggy_G uses to defend EU. As for claiming that mainstream scientists are funded mythmakers, considering their success rate for producing 'myths' that have testable predictions, and from those 'myths' - technologies, mainstream science is doing just fine. We've yet to see the equivalent from EU 'theorists'. We still haven't seen an orbit calculation, or even a space weather prediction comparable to
Solar Weather Forecasting Gets More Reliable
from EU theorists. And yet space exploration has had all these successes without any of EU's 'science'. And don't try to claim EU could do this if they had millions of dollars in funding. Most of the models now utilized in this process were initially developed and tested on small computer systems and/or shoestring budgets. They had to give reasonable agreement with satellite measurements to justify further development - something EU has still failed to do (see Challenges).

Siggy_G: "When science get to the point where scientists stop asking fundamental questions (or get ridiculed for doing so) or stop revising their models above the detail level, stagnation and magic ad hoc approaches occur."

And you find similar complaints from geocentrists, flat-earthers, biblical creationists, etc. What make EU's claims better than theirs?

Siggy_G: "Provide the technology that is driven by dark energy, dark matter og tiny black holes created at CERN, and there may be some substance to that argument."

Technology based on dark matter & dark energy are irrelevant as many EU theories, such as the Electric Sun, the Peratt Galaxy model, etc., fail based on already established science (including electromagnetism). Siggy_G conveniently ignores the things that we know today were unknown at one time - such as the energy source of stars, the nature of gravity - and that the science behind them are parts of technologies today.

Siggy_G: "Does that mean that I personally need to provide Bridgman that kind of work with successful results for our entire cosmology, before it is a reasonable approach? There have been escalating varifications of current systems at both planetary and cosmic scales."

That's what the mainstream scientists have to do, and they have to publish their algorithms that can make predictions we can compare to measurements. Why do EU 'theorists' and their supporters insist that they not be held to the same standards? What makes EU 'theorists' exempt from those standards?

Zeuz said...

Hello Tom.

Being someone who was before "really wondering about the chances for success" What do you think about Lerners recent success in achieving his DPF fusion and breaking the previous record?

Dr. Eric Lerner’s Focus Fusion machine at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) in New Jersey is heating and confining an ionized gas at record temperatures equivalent to over 1.8 billion degrees C, as described in a paper published March 23rd in Physics of Plasmas, the most often cited journal devoted to plasma physics published by the American Institute of Physics.
One point eight billion degrees is a temperature high enough to ignite the nuclear fusion of “aneutronic” fuels like hydrogen and boron. Such aneutronic fuels, which produce no neutrons, could generate energy that can be converted directly into electricity, without going through the capital intensive cycle of generating steam, driving it through turbines and re-cooling the steam and water.
The peer reviewed paper shows that the firm has achieved two of three criteria for net fusion energy. This news can put some meaning to garage-sized fusion generators that might be possible in a few years."

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

To Zeuz,

Thanks for pointing this out. I might have more to say after I've retrieved and read the full paper. However, there are still a few points that can be made:

1) Any success in this fusion effort has no impact on the validity of the Plasma Cosmology claims of Lerner, Peratt, et al. as these models have already failed on observational grounds (as documented repeatedly on this blog).

2) Lerner's experiment is still below the Lawson criterion (Wikipedia). As others have learned in the past 50+ years of these efforts, getting the temperature is the easy part - the density and confinement time are key to real energy production. This criterion is significantly higher for this reaction (see Aneutronic fusion at Wikipedia).

3) Peratt's effort sounds less impressive when you realize that fusion technology is now within the range that teenagers can do it in their garage (see Taylor Wilson @

Zeuz said...


I am very curious as to why you choose to speak disparagingly of legitimate scientists such as Lerner or Peratt via a blog, when the usual way to show the incorrectness of a theory is via journal submission or conference notes? This ensures an academic freedom to remain inpersonal, and enable a productive scientific dialogue between two people. I can only presume you choose such a means so that you don't get a reply directly from either?

If not, why blogs and not direct correspondance? Either in journals or personally.

And your point 3) is confusing me. I don't know where Peratt came into this.

As for 1) that links to nothing of relevance to the claim you made. ?

I am not sure if you are familiar with the rather unique scalability trait of the topology used in a DPF, which can full utilise the scale invariant and translationally invariant nature of maxwells equations to much larger scales than usual topology plasma fusion devices. In DPF the energy density of the contained plasma for every machine to date, regardless of size, remins constant, from ~200Kj all the way up to >10^7Mj. Rigorously experimentally verified.

I am curious where you got your qualification in plasma physics? How successful you have been with any devices you have made?, and what your offhand dismissal of the connection between plasma phenomena in space and DPF could be.

As for 2) I did not say otherwise, that's hardly a point of major contention, any sustained type of nuclear fusion device has the same issues.

I am extremely worried that you should mention REAL cutting edge science in a blog about "creationism in astronomy". Somewhere along the line you appear to have conflated a line I don't think you can even define anymore.

I hope you do not continue down this overly zealous road of attacking not just EU proponents but any one they happen to be even vaguely associated with.

Respectfully, Zeuzz.

Zeuz said...

Afternote: They have actually achieved a rather significant confinement time, longer than any previously for such a device, they are currently working on the density aspect. Have you seen Lerners Tek Talk at google?

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

To Zeuzz,

1) Because if I didn't say it up front, odds were high that you would try to make a connection.

2) I've followed fusion research since high school, and that interest moved me to my first studies in physics and plasma physics. While Lerner's technique might work, I've seen similar claims for 40 years with every new confinement technique that got closer to self-sustaining with similar grandiose statements that have come to nothing. Statistically alone, the odds favor doubt about success. Today, only NIF (wikipedia) is the most honest - they'll increase their power levels exploring more and more reactions - and if they get net power generation, it's a bonus.

My qualifications? I've had strong physics training which includes dynamics, hydrodynamics, electromagnetism, relativity, atomic and nuclear physics. I don't know everything, but I do know where to look to fill in the gaps. Professionally I've done things from business software consulting and some research with live satellite data but now mostly do science support work with satellite data and computer models with others who have or are doing significant work. This requires that I have a good understanding of the basics and can apply them. I've never actually launched a satellite into orbit, but I've actually written software that does a good approximation of trajectories generated by the professionals. I know more about the topics than over-zealous fan-boys and apologists.

Unfortunately, some quirks in the peer-review and evaluation process actually discourages rebuttals of extremely bad science in professional literature. Rebuttals wind up benefiting the crank and hurting the professional. Ignoring cranks in professional literature is the best approach in the current system.

I've not yet watched Lerner's talk, but I scanned the channel and was pleased with how many people I know or have worked with over the years are listed among them. One of the solar physicists I worked with today just got back from giving a space weather presentation there.

And since I've answered your question about MY qualifications, you have to answer my questions about YOUR qualifications. Can you point out any real errors in my evaluations of the EU papers in BOAJ (Peer-Review Exercise 1, Peer-Review Exercise 2,Peer-Review Exercise 3, Peer-Review Exercise 4, Peer-Review Exercise 5)? If you can't, what qualifications do YOU actually have to make a judgement in the topics, or are you just an over-zealous fan-boy?

And since you are defending EU, what satellites or satellite experiments have Thornhill, Scott, Smith et al. actually worked with? There's terabytes of this satellite data freely available online, yet all we get from EU supporters are these weak 'reinterpretations' of others work, mostly from press releases, like the junk they published in BOAJ.

What are Thornhill et al. qualifications that they can basically insinuate those who've actually designed, built, operated, and analyzed satellite missions and their data are incompetent?


Zeuz said...

Tom Bridman said:

"Unfortunately, some quirks in the peer-review and evaluation process actually discourages rebuttals of extremely bad science in professional literature. Rebuttals wind up benefiting the crank and hurting the professional. Ignoring cranks in professional literature is the best approach in the current system."

Well tom, that pretty much sums up your faith in science rather than any sort of understanding of how the actual scientific works! Its not faith. Ignoring a theory does not make it incorrect. Writing on a blog does not make it incorrect.

Publishing in the literature so they notice and can reply is how science works tom.

I really your motives for this whole blog.

Some people dont get the more complex science, so they turn to the more intuitive but scientifically lacking EU theories.

I studied physics for three years at uni. While I find some EU ideas laughable there are some small gems of wisdom that might be bourne out true. But till they develop an actual testable coherent theory, all EU material should be seen as nothing more than a brain thought not yet put down on paper.

And as for reading your refutations to the "peer reviewed" EU papaers, I'd really rather not after reading them my self. Most are refuted without even needing a refutation. Maybe Scotts paper being the exception. He seems to know the difference between 1+1 and calculus, unlike thornhill et al.

I will read it if I have the time, but only the Scott paper, and maybe Crothers.

Science does not give you truth, tom.

You are not on some sort of mission to spread the truth of science, you should be spreading the mysteries and un-knowns of science to intrigue people into the subject, not attacking people that are either not as versed in maths as you are happen to have thought up some pretty unorthodox theories.

Respectfully, Z

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

Response to Zeuz.

Since you could find no evidence that EU 'theorists' had done anything REAL in the space environment using their so-called 'science', you have nothing but this sad response. Backpedaling on your EU support?

As for your bizarre twisting of the definition of 'faith'… Faith is the belief in that not seen. I've seen many accomplishments of mainstream science in space. I don't have to have 'faith' in it. I KNOW how it works. But I've seen zero accomplishments of EU 'theorists' and their ideas in their space environment. So who is really operating on faith?

You apparently don't even understand how we launch satellites into orbit, or how we protect them from the hazards of the space environment. Do you even know how the computer you're using actually works? I suspect not, much less the science that had to be understood beforehand to make it all happen. If, as you claim, you studied physics for three years, you should be able to do the same analyses I've done to show how EU fails. It is very basic.

The correctness of science is measured by the ability to do REAL things with it. That means science that does useful things receives more citations than ideas that are useless. When you dig into them, you see how many of EU's 'discoveries' are simply claiming the work of other researchers who are not EU supporters. This makes EU 'theorists' no better than patent trolls (Wikipedia).

Crank Science: Worse than Wrong