Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yet Another Delay...

Responsibilities in my day job have limited my writing opportunities for yet another week.

However, I encourage you, if you're in the DC area, or somewhere near one of the satellite sites, to check out the

USA Science & Engineering Festival

this weekend.  This one isn't as big as the one two years ago, but it looks like they will have a number of interesting displays, demostrations, and other goodies.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

End of an Era

Shuttle Discovery on its way to it's final home...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Geocentrism Quiz: Is the Moon Gravitationally Bound to the Earth?

Here's a little mental exercise for the pseudo-scientists in general and the biblical geocentrists in particular.  It is a simple mathematical exercise that illustrates how easy it is to make wrong conclusions in physical sciences through a selective collection of your facts.

Me = Mass of Earth = 5.9742e24 kilograms

Mm = Mass of Moon = 7.36e22 kg

Ms = Mass of Sun = 1.98892e30 kg

Rem = Earth-Moon distance = 384400 km = 3.844e8 m
Rsm = Sun-Moon distance = 149597870.7 km = 1.495978707e11 m

Gravitational constant, G=6.673e-11 m^3/kg/s^2

Using Newton's law of gravitation, we can compute:

Gravitational force of the Sun on the Moon = Fsm = G*Ms*Mm/Rsm^2 =
= (6.673e-11 m^3/kg/s^2)* (1.98892e30 kg)*( 7.36e22 kg)/(1.49598e11 m)^2
= 4.36e20 kg m/s^2

Gravitational force of the Earth on the Moon = Fem = G*Me*Mm/Rem^2 =
= (6.673e-11 m^3/kg/s^2)* (5.9742e24 kg)*(7.36e22 kg)/(3.844e8 m)^2
= 1.98e20 kg m/s^2

Fsm/Fem = 2.2

We see that the gravitational force of the Sun on the Moon is significantly greater than the gravitational force of the Earth on the Moon, by over a factor of two.

So is the Moon really gravitationally bound to the Earth?

Clarify and explain.  Show your mathematical justification.

What important piece of information needs to be considered to reach the correct conclusion?

Note the Robert Gentry makes a similar error in his analysis of galaxy clusters (“Flaws In The Big Bang Point To GENESIS, A New Millennium Model Of The Cosmos: Part 3 – Galaxies Point To Flaws In Big Bang’s Expanding Balloon Illustration And To Smoking Gun Signatures Of GENESIS” (physics/0102094)”).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Science Denial & Acceptance

Here's some summaries of my recent reading relevant to this blog.

By Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg
Link to Article
My Notes:
This article emphasizes the importance of cultural factors in science denial, recognizing that the problem probably cannot be solved by science education alone (therefore sites such as mine can only address PART of the problem).  Children can have difficulty understanding the idea of a spherical earth.  Our experience reinforces Aristotelian ideas of motion - and this is certainly the case for the Geocentrists and Electric Universe supporters.  Real world experience can break some of these notions.

But how do people accept that earth is not flat or that objects are made of tiny particles?

One in five American adults believes sun moves around Earth with about the same proportion in Germany and Britain.

This type of learning is based on 'common knowledge' which can bypass critical analysis.
Asserted information, not established by direct experience, is very difficult to evaluate directly, so we evaluate the source (Note how many Electric Universe supporters doubt Big Bang cosmology because Lemaitre was a priest).

Resistance to science arises when scientific claims clash with intuitive expectations.

Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience
Barry L Beyerstein (wikipedia)
Link to Article
My Notes:

Science is so successful that a great many endeavors that lack the characteristics of science have begun masquerading as science to raise their status.  But they always fail under closer examination.  The author tries to nail down a complete definition of what qualifies as science.

William K. Honig founded a journal, "Speculations in Science and Technology", for unconventional theories (link).  However, he gave up the effort after five years with the realization that there were good reasons to ignore these 'visionaries' that advocated these crank ideas.

Provides a brief summary of a number of pseudo-sciences in the 20th century, from Lysenko in USSR to polywater and medical claims.

Characteristics of pseudosciences (some of these overlap):
  •  'researchers' work in isolation from the scientific community
  •  non-falsifiability
  •  misuse of data
  •  sciences are cumulative & self-correcting, while pseudosciences are not.  
  •  Special pleading - they want special treatment by the scientific community to 'iron out' the problems in their 'theories' 
  •  Pseudoscience purvey uplifting, congenial beliefs
  •  Impenetrability - unshakable in their committment 
  •  Magical thinking - that imagination and will-power will make things true
  •  Ulterior motives attributed to the scientific community
  •  Lack of formal training by the practitioners
  •  "bunker mentality" attributing their lack of recognition as a result of suppression or persecution by establishment science
Check out John Baez's: The Crackpot index

Contents of Pseudosciences:
  • lack of replicability by the uninitiated.
  • size of claimed effect inversely related to stringency of experimental controls.
  • large effects attributed to causes of barely detectable magnitude.
  • unusually high precision, sensitivity of detection or accuracy of measurement is claimed.

What's the harm of pseudo-scientific beliefs?
  • deception of the public
  • monetary harm
  • diversion from tested products that really do live up to their claims
  • promotion of magical thinking
  • pseudosciences encourage false hopes and unreasonable expectations
  • Failure to surmount these obstacles can lead to self-recrimination, deterioration of self-images, and depression
  • decline in scientific literacy and critical thinking skills
  • detracts from ability of citizens to make informed choices on pressing policy issues.
For some real-world examples of the harm perpetuated by pseudo-science see "What's the Harm".

Integrating Science and Religious Belief
It is not uncommon that people can integrate science and religious belief.  Martin Gardner (Wikipedia) had a strong understanding of science but was religiously a fideistic deist.  Ken Miller is a biologist who has successfully integrated concepts of faith with science (see Ken Miller's Evolution Page). 

Here's an article about Dr. Miller's teaching approach:  Teaching science to the religious? Focus on how theories develop

A Humor Break
Quote-mining established science is one of the more bizarre methods of pseudo-science to justify their claims.  For a good laugh on how easy it is to quote-mine well-established science and turn it into a conspiracy, check out:

Carbon Fixated: Newtongate: the final nail in the coffin of Renaissance and Enlightenment ‘thinking’

I wonder how many of the Geocentrists who follow this blog may mine this article for ideas to justify their claims?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons. II.

This is a follow-up to Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons.

The helpful press office at JPL was able to point me to the paper
R. A. Caballero-Lopez, H. Moraal and F. B. McDonald
which was the primary reference for the press release NASA's Voyager Hits New Region at Solar System Edge.

This was the press release used by Dr. Scott for an 'update' to his electric Sun model (Thunderbolts: Voyager 1 Updates Solar Electron Flux.  Since EU has a multitude of contradictory "electric sun" models, I call Scott's version as the Solar Capacitor Model to distinguish it among those that I have analyzed.

The press release and the actual paper describes in-situ Voyager 1 & Voyager 2 measurements of the electron flux at the heliopause, about 100AU from the Sun.  Voyager is reporting an increase in the flux of high energy electrons as the spacecraft moves towards the outer edge of the heliopause (wikipedia).  What the spacecraft is detecting is the higher energy galactic electron population that has penetrated into the outflowing region of the solar wind which is dominated by lower energy electrons (and spiced up with some higher energy electrons from Jupiter's magnetosphere).

There were a couple of items reported in the measurements that are grossly inconsistent with EU's claim of these electrons powering their “Electric Sun“.
  1. The measured electron flux was omni-directional.  This is because these electrons diffuse into the heliopause region, scattering to sufficiently to lose information of their original direction.  If there were an electric field driving these electrons sunward, it should show up as a strong directional character in the electron measurements.
  2. The measured electron flux is a power law, E^-1.5.  We can use this to estimate the total electron flux and compare it to the number used in Dr. Scott's 'update'.  Examining the Figure 1 from the original paper, we find that the omnidirectional flux measured by Voyager 1 (the larger of the two measurements) is about 100 particles/m^2/s/sr/MeV @ 4MeV.  We can use this number to calibrate the calculation. 
We'll use this value, combined with the definition of particle flux, to estimate the electron spectral density.

If we use E=4MeV in the above formula, we obtain a flux of about 100 electrons/m^2/s/sr/MeV.  With this spectral power law, this gives a total particle flux of about 

if we integrate (sum) all the particles in the energy range from 1MeV to infinity.  Now the measured flux is omnidirectional because the Voyager detector has a fairly large field-of-view.

However, Dr. Scott claims the electron flux is all inbound, directed towards the Sun.

For the sake of argument, we'll compute the omnidirectional flux, but interpret it as a measured inbound flux.  Since there are 4*pi steradians (sr) in a full sphere, we can multiply the directional flux by 4*pi to get the total flux:

(particle density) * (particle velocity) = 4*pi*df/dOmega = 4*pi*1600 particles/m^2/s

or about 20,000 electrons per square meter per second.

Since 1MeV electrons are relativistic, we can take the velocity as approximately 'c' and use this number to estimate the electron density.

n*v = 2e4 electrons/m^2/s

n= (2e4 electrons/m^2/s)/(3e8 m/s) = 7e-5 electrons/m^3 =7e-11 electrons/cm^3

Yet the electron density used by Dr. Scott is 1e4 electrons/m^3 (Thunderbolts), over 100  MILLION times larger than the most optimistic interpretation of the measured value!

Why is that?  Will EU supporters again invoke mystically undetectable 'drift electrons' (see Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. III)? 

Such 'drift electrons', if they existed, would pose a real threat to multi-million dollar space assets. Satellite engineers know that space plasmas are *very* detectable as no satellite is a uniform perfect conductor.  This is probably why I have yet to find an EU 'engineer' actually involved in designing and building satellites!

So where did Dr. Scott get his electron flux measurement?  It looks like he just took his old estimate and scaled it.

Why didn't Dr. Scott find out what the real value was?  Did he just make up the value because it was convenient?

  • Voyager CRS Instruments
  • The Voyager Cosmic Ray Instrument.  D.E.Stillwell, W.D.Davis, R.M.Joyce, F.B.McDonald, J.H.Trainor, W.E.Althouse, A.C.Cummings, T.L.Garrard, E.C.Stone, and R.E.Vogt.  IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science  26, 513-520 (1979)