Sunday, August 25, 2013

Relativity Denial: The 1919 Solar Eclipse

Here's a response to the relativity claim made by 'HannesAlfven' from the comment thread of (Dr. David Dixon: Pathological Physics: Tales from "The Box")

'HannesAlfven' on relativity, responding to Rob:
A classic example is Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity. The big idea was that matter and energy curved spacetime, and that this curved spacetime was the cause of all the effects we attribute to gravitational force. 
But it didn’t just explain all of the things that the old theory, Newton’s gravity, explained. It also predicted an anomaly in Mercury’s orbit, which had been observed but was hitherto unexplained. But additionally, it also made a brand new prediction: that near very massive objects, starlight would appear to bend!
This is unfortunately the textbook story of what happened. The more nuanced historical story which philosophers debate involves an additional photographic plate which was in conflict with Einstein's prediction.
Does 'HannesAlfven' think this eclipse in 1919 was the ONLY time in history this experiment could be done?   

He ignores the fact that while some additional photographic plates taken in 1919 did not agree with Einstein's prediction, the measurements being attempted were at the limit of 1919 technology and it's easy to make mistakes, as any competent experimentalist knows.   'HannesAlfven' blatantly ignores the fact that these observations have been repeated by others in the over 90 years since the original observation with better instruments and higher precision:
and space.  It's been tested from spacecraft:
'HannesAlfven' whines of a conflicting observation become irrevalent.  He ignores the fact that these observations, even after 'acceptance' are often re-tested as experimental precision is improved.  Sometimes, these ideas get incorporated as a standard process in a technology (such as relativity effects in GPS) and get tested every time we use the technology.

'HannesAlfven' also ignores the reason of WHY scientists do this type of repetitive testing of existing theories as experimental precision improves.  If discrepancies are found with improved precision, it could be the indicator of the next theory more precise than relativity - just as general relativity first appeared as a descrepancy in the predictions of Newtonian gravity (Wikipedia).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Electric Universe: Making Electric Fields

Here's my response to the claim made by 'HannesAlfven' about my post "The REAL Electric Universe", from the comment thread of (Dr. David Dixon: Pathological Physics: Tales from "The Box")

'HannesAlfven' tries to respond to my 'Real Electric Universe':
Fair enough. It looks like we're about to get an actual response here. Then, he changes the topic on the third sentence ...
Yet electric currents and fields are discussed throughout the professional astrophysical literature, predating much of the Electric Universe.
Suddenly, Bridgman is no longer talking about modeling plasmas as though they lack electrical resistance. He clarifies this towards the bottom of his "rebuttal":
All these mechanisms create the charge separations and currents using energy from other processes, usually gravity. The charge-separation itself is not the original energy process but can create non-thermal distributions of charged particles.
What Bridgman has failed to tell his audience is that, if he were in a laboratory and needed to accelerate a charged particle, there's a fantastic chance that he'd use the bunching up of electric charge (an E-field) on a plate of metal to do the job. An E-field is by far the easiest way to accelerate a charged particle. Bridgman doesn't mention this important detail for his audience. In fact, he prefers that his audience focus upon other means of accelerating charged particles in space -- which stem from gravity -- even though these other means could not even be used to explain the aurora:
"Only electric fields can accelerate charged particles. Gravity is too weak by several orders of magnitude, and collisions are much too rare"
Note he tells you to go into a laboratory!


Because in the laboratory we have access to batteries, generators, and other energy sources needed to separate charges.

Because it is difficult to form electric fields over large scales for long durations in nature!  In nature, we largely encounter matter in the neutral state.  There, the strongest and longest lasting electric fields exist at atomic scales, between atomic nuclei and their bound electrons.

Our experience with electric fields on everyday scales requires the input of energy from some other source.  

Want an electrostatic field?  Apply some rubbing energy between dissimilar fabrics (Wikipedia: Triboelectric effect).  You must apply energy to separate the charges.  Where does that energy come from?  How long does the electric field last before it returns to an electrically neutral state?  Not very long!

Lightning? You need moving gases containing dust and precipitation to slowly build up an electric field that can sustain a discharge.  The energy to do this ultimately comes from the motions of gas and dust ultimately driven by heating and other forces.  Again, the energy to separate the charges comes from other sources.  Again, the discharge moves the system to a more electrically neutral configuration, very fast.

Even the plasmas in space must be at high temperatures to maintain ionization by collisions or other processes, or they must have sufficiently low density that the ions and electrons do not quickly collisionally recombine to neutral atoms.  Let the plasma cool too much and you'll soon be back to neutral atoms.  Even then, you only get electric fields of a transient nature.

Electric fields are most easily created by charge separation (the other mechanism, by Maxwell's equations, is induction, but EU supporters deny many of those processes which mainstream astrophysics has identified in the space environment).  Charge separation takes energy.  EU wants to take electric fields as a given, invoking them anywhere they want them assuming they will appear whereever they need them, indistinguishable from magic.  They never worry their little heads about HOW the electric field forms at that location.  Saying an electric field is at some location for EU stops all further investigation - like the creationist chant: "God Did It!"

Real scientists recognize that electric fields do not form spontaneously and for no reason.   In cases where there is an electric field (see The REAL Electric Universe) real scientists must determine just how that field is created.  Magnetic reconnection (a process denied by many EU supporters) is one of the few known processes that can create an electric field in an otherwise neutral plasma (see On Magnetic Reconnection and "Discharges").

If I want to accelerate things using gravity, I don't have to go a laboratory.  I can hold something out at arms length and let go.  That's accelerating charged particles as well - just collected as equal numbers of positive and negative charges, and that is how most plasmas must be considered throughout the great majority of the Universe.

No astronomer denies the electrical nature of the aurora, but EU supporters seem oblivious to the origin of the electric fields that drives the mechanism.  The same physics and observations that established these understandings of electric fields in the cosmos have also ruled out the idea that stars like the Sun can have their primary power source derived from external electric currents.  What astronomer deny are EU's claims of electrically-powered galaxies and stars like Sun.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More Rote Evasions & Excuses from the Electric Universe

Here's my follow-up from last week's post (Dr. David Dixon: Pathological Physics: Tales from "The Box").

Rob Knop of the Galactic Interactions blog posted a comment about Dr. Dixon's talk, bringing up the topics of creationism, intelligent design, and plasma cosmology.   It did not take long for an Electric Universe (EU)/Plasma Cosmology (PC) supporter, posting under the handle 'HannesAlfven' to join the party (I suspect this is the same long-winded 'HannesAlfven' that I describe in Electric Universe Apologetics, or, With Friends Like These...)

We see that this person adopts many of the same strategies of many pseudo-scientific claims, repeating the same old arguments and never acknowledging that many have already been demonstrated as incorrect (RationalWiki: Gish Gallop). 

1) 'HannesAlfven': "Electric universe and plasma cosmology should be recognized as legitimate scientific controversies..."
Like the Intelligent Design movement, they want to "Teach the 'Controversy'"  As noted in the previous encounter (see Electric Universe Apologetics, or, With Friends Like These...),  they want to integrate their claims into classrooms, and THEN they'll work out the severe problems with their 'theories'.  But if they want to be considered legitimate science, they must play by same rules as legitimate science and solve their big problems first (many of which have been documented in this blog).

2) 'HannesAlfven' wants students to make their own decisions, not rely on rote memorization.
Again, this is commonly argued by ID creationists.  Dixon mentions this idea, but from the perspective of using the bad science as a teaching opportunity.  I've adopted this view as well (see Why We Should Teach About Creationism in Science Classes).  For EU, let students apply Maxwell's equations to an electric sun model and see how compares it to data.  EU 'theorists' have never done this, or at least they don't ADMIT that they've done it.  I have, and the results were dismal failures for Electric Sun models.  I suspect 'HannesAlfven' knows these facts but chooses to avoid addressing them, instead repeating the same old arguments (i.e. rote-memorization).

3) Consider this exchange of 'HannesAlfven' responding to Rob:
It's absolutely vital that when people make statements like ...
"Er, no. They're fringe theories, what predictions they've made have not been supported by observations."
... that the statements be made with respect to examples. If I made such a statement about a conventional theory, clearly it would be too vague to be considered a claim if I left it to the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks.
Rob later responded with a link to my EU Challenges page.  The examples 'HannesAlfven' claims he wants are readily available.  I have documented many here with specific examplesA number of the examples have direct application to satellite and human space flight which EU supporters continually evade/ignore.  Notice that 'HannesAlfven' avoids these issues of ENGINEERING APPLICATIONS, by trying to move his claims out into the distant cosmos (CMB, dark matter) when EUs own theories have plenty of failed predictions in a region where we have spacecraft patrolling (YouTube: Sentinels of the Heliosphere).   This is the classic evasion mechanism used by creationists to make sure their problems are sufficiently far out in space (or back in time) to be difficult to address with more direct measurements.

4) 'HannesAlfven' spews a lot of words, but never once addresses the real experimental failures of EU theorists documented by myself and others before me.   To use one of the quotes he invokes:
'HannesAlfven' quoting Neal Gabler of the New York Times
Ideas aren’t just intellectual playthings. They have practical effects.
As demonstrated above, 'HannesAlfven' and EU 'theorists' have repeatedly evaded the practical effects of their claims.

5) 'HannesAlfven' invokes claims of ancient evidence for their theories, falling into the mythology.
I love the response by poster 'chgoliz':
"Mythology is simply religion with no living adherents."
And EU supporters constantly whine when I compare them to creationists...(see The Electric Universe & Creationism).

6) 'HannesAlfven' invokes Halton Arp's discordant redshifts.
Arp's entire thesis hinged on the idea that apparent close associations of low and high redshift objects was too low probability to be attributed to chance.  I recently had an entire series of posts illustrating how basic 3-D geometry and perspective effects radically increased the probability of alignments and invalidated all of Arp's claims.  This had been recognized back in 1975 and never acknowledged by Arp, or his supporters (see Discordant Redshifts: A Post-Mortem).

7) 'HannesAlfven' complaints about the use of ideal MHD.
I have yet to find the use of ideal MHD in realistic plasma applications.  This basic case of 'frozen-in' flux is limited to introductory problems for non specialists and used primarily because it is a good first-approximation in many practical examples.

When are we going to see something from Electric Universe supporters that isn't the rote-memorized laundry list of 'problems with the standard model'? 

Have we seen any skymap of microwave emission (predicted by Peratt) of galaxy-powering cosmic-scale Birkeland currents which we can compare to the existing microwave skymaps (see Scott Rebuttal. II. The Peratt Galaxy Model vs. the Cosmic Microwave Background)?


Have we received any algorithms to estimate the particle energy and flux of the solar wind and solar energetic events so vital to the safety of astronauts and sending spacecraft into previously unexplored regions of the solar system (see
Death by Electric Universe.  Radiation Exposure Revisited)?


All we get is the same old rote excuses.

EU wants to be treated like a science yet they repeat the same excuses and 'evidence' like a religious creed (see
The Electric Universe & Creationism).  EU has more in common with a religious or political movement than a science, more in common with Intelligent Design (Wikipedia) or Deutsche Physik (Wikipedia) than science, even relying on many of the same 'flaws' in mainstream science that were/are claimed by the advocates of these earlier pseudo-sciences.

So much for the 'originality' and 'creativity' of Electric Universe ideas.
Final Note: 'HannesAlfven' provided such a wealth of junk science claims, that I've moved some of them to future posts.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dr. David Dixon: Pathological Physics: Tales from "The Box"

An excellent talk by Dr. David Dixon of California Polytechnic describing his explorations into pseudo-science was recently brought to my attention.

BoingBoing: Amateur Scientists vs. Cranks
Slides for the presentation are available here.

Dr. Dixon covers a number of topics also covered in this blog such as cranks and the Dunning-Kruger effect (Wikipedia, RationalWiki, SkepticBlog).

He classifies cranks into three 'Primary Colors': 
1) Crazy. 
2) Naive. 
3) Stubborn.
And like primary colors, these can be mixed to cover other types of cranks.

He also raised the question of why so many cranks have an engineering background.

But best of all, he emphasized why we should teach about crank science:
  • Crank science is a training tool for future scientists, and for a science-literate public.  I've discussed this before and regard it as one of the primary goals of my efforts in this blog.
  • It is important to deal with misconceptions before they become permanently ingrained in the thinking.
Related to Dr. Dixon's mention of some conferences organized by and for crank science claims, one person in the audience asked why the cranks don't criticize each others theories at these conferences.  Dr. Dixon noted that the cranks seem incapable of questioning the theories of other cranks.  I suspect the reason for this is that the cranks recognize that they would quickly destroy each other so they adopt a 'no criticism' stand. 

In the crank community, science is treated more like the 'critiques' in literature or philosophy classes with no real WRONG answer, where as math and science DO have right and wrong answers.  This would explain why the cranks whine and complain so much about how they're treated by real scientists when criticism of other theories is EXPECTED in the real scientific community.

Other topics mentioned in the talk.
In a followup post, I'll deal with some of the claims made by an Electric Universe supporter in the comments.