Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Sad State of the Electric Sun(s) - Not So Bright

One of the cool things about science is that because many physical principles are well-defined by mathematics and mathematics has well defined objective manipulations, often researchers can investigate or extend a prior presented theory based on the description.  This is the ideal goal of publication of a scientific theory, so OTHERS can use it.

A well-constructed theory can link together multiple parameters at different locations and times.  For example, knowing temperature at pressure at one point in time in a system can tell you the temperature and pressure at another point, and perhaps another time.

Not so with pseudo-science. 

I've repeatedly tried to build Electric Sun models using established physics and electromagnetism based on the descriptions from Electric Sun supporters and found that you just can't make them consistent with the observations.  This is why promoters of pseudo-science focus on the problem areas in real science at the limits of our technological capability, to keep the focus off the more severe problems of their own theories in areas where we have good measurements!

Just How Many Electric Sun Models are There? 

I've explored four - and they're all radically different, even contradictory!
Thornhill's "Solar Resistor" model: Application of Ampere's law (wikipedia) for a basic wire current, you can compute the magnetic field of this configuration for any given amount of power. Not only is the magnetic field of this model HUGE compared to what we measure, but it is easy to show that any conductor (such as the metallic components of satellites) moving through this magnetic field would generate a pretty hefty voltage, more than enough to kill satellites built to present-day standards. Did Thornhill's physics degree not cover electromagnetic induction (wikipedia)?  See Death by Electric Universe. IV. The Z-Pinch (Solar Resistor) Model
Scott's "Solar Capacitor" model: Similar to original Juergen's model. Now claiming a 'solar transistor' model that is really more like a 'solar DeForest triode' (wikipedia). Dr. Scott still does not specify where any of these voltages come from, or how they are maintained. See Death by Electric Universe. II. The Solar Capacitor Model
Johnson's "Ball Lightning" model: Recognizing that space-based measurements do not support ANY of the models requiring the Sun be actively powered from an external source, Johnson tries to save ES models by apparently claiming the Sun was 'charged up' like ball-lightning from a cosmic lightning bolt in the past and is shining from that stored energy. His model provides very little description of the 'lightning-bolts' - the power and current in them, the power source that drives them, etc. And there's still the 'Peratt problem', that such current streams should be strong emitters of microwaves which we should detect in our large sky-surveys. I've collected lots of notes on this model and will post more about it in the future.
Mozina's "Birkeland" model: As I read more of Birkeland's work, it's becoming clear this model is more Mozina than Birkeland. The biggest flaw applicable to space weather is claim of 600 million volt potential between the Sun and the orbit of the Earth, the heliopause or somewhere ill-specified. The electric potential is reversed with respect to the Scott model. While Mr. Mozina claims this potential is not the source of the Sun's energy, he clearly has not computed the amount of power in a solar wind density plasma within a potential difference of this magnitude, and the impact it would have on the radiation environment around the Sun.

There are also various other little odds-and-ends models from others wanting to play in the Electric Universe sandbox.

Note the radical differences between all these models! They're mutually contradictory! This is worse than the story of three blind men examining an elephant (wikipedia) made worse by the fact that EU supporters are describing the SAME part!

What this mish-mash of contradictory models tells you is that there is not now, nor has there ever been, a WORKING electric sun model that can be compared to real data or useful for planning missions around the solar system! 

Clearly Electric Sun models are driven more by ego than science.

STILL Unanswered Questions 

And there's other unanswered questions that Electric Universe supporters don't want their supporters to ask and don't want to answer themselves.
  • Where is the return circuit?
  • What powers the EMF - the battery or generator needed to provide the voltages claimed? For all intents and purposes, Electric Universe supporters assume these electric fields are created by magic, or perhaps some electrical diety (see Electric Universe: Making Electric Fields).
Some EU supporters will evade these questions by claiming it is an 'origins' problem and beyond science.  Like creationists, they want to rely on a cosmic electrical diety (perhaps Thor?) to build their universe.

Basic Electromagnetism - for Electric Sun Advocates...

Consider a real electromagnetism question relevant to Electric Sun claims…

Consider the system in the graphic above, with the Sun and a spherical surface around it called the heliopause or whatever surface you want to be the other electrode.  Establish an electric potential between the Sun and the heliopause, say one billion volts.  Choose your anode & cathode carefully.

Place an electron (green) and proton (red) just outside the photosphere.  If you need a distance, choose a variable, say epsilon, above the photosphere.  If need be, consider them one at a time so you don't need to consider the forces between the electron and proton.
  1. What are the forces on the electron?  the proton? What is the acceleration of each?
  2. Which way does each particle go?  How fast is it traveling at a distance, r, from the Sun?
Next, place an electron and proton just inside the heliopause.  Again, consider them one at a time so you don't need to consider the forces between the electron and proton.  If you need a distance, again choose the variable epsilon from the heliopause boundary. 
  1. Again, what are the forces and acceleration on each particle?
  2. Which way does each particle go? How far?  How fast?
What is energy of the particles at various distances from the Sun?  What charge needs to be on the Sun or the heliopause to maintain the electric potential?

Now expand the problem to multiple charged particles.  In the simple case, you just multiply the energies by N, the number of particles, which will give you an idea.  But at some point, the particle density will be sufficiently high that you have to consider interactions between the particles.
  1. At what point will the particles begin to significantly influence each others motion? 
  2. What happens when the particle flows begin altering their motion?
While a more advanced analysis, it has been examined many times experimentally and theoretically, going back to the 1920s and Irving Langmuir! (ADS: Currents Limited by Space Charge between Concentric Spheres)

Reverse the above potential and set its magnitude to 600 million volts.  Repeat the above analysis.  I'll be publishing my version of this analysis in 2014.

How do any of the numbers above correspond to their counterparts in the real solar wind?  Need some data?  You can start with the daily published values in the left sidebar at

Many of these questions could be answered by good high-school physics student, or at least a college physics undergraduate, but they seem to be unanswerable by EU theorists and their advocates who claim to be experts on electromagnetism.  Pointing this fact out often generates whines and cries of 'personal attack' from EU supporters!  I guess that's all they have to hide behind if they can't actually answer the scientific questions.  This behavior by EU is not that different than that reported by Robert Schadewald (see Reading: "Worlds of their Own" by Robert Schadewald) in dealing with the Velikovskians (EUs philosophical predecessors).  The arrogance with which EU supporters criticize the standard models and solar physicists while presenting NO comparable capability is indistinguishable from the Dunning-Kruger effect (wikipedia).

Hints for the Problem: Under the potential, the electron and proton will NOT go in the same direction, or at the same acceleration.   Because they have different velocities all along the distance between the photosphere and the other electrode, the protons and electrons will have different densities, and notions of 'quasi-neutrality' will not apply.  For those who've been following this closely, they might be reminded of a similar analysis here: The Solar Capacitor Model. I. II. III.

Can Electric Sun Models Live up to the Successes of the Standard Models?

All of the models described above suggest a radically different radiation and field environment around the solar system.  Do any of these models provide a mechanism for calculating the solar wind environment, which is vital for protecting satellites and astronauts?

No such results have been presented by Electric Universe advocates.

Well, with established physics, they actually they do provide a means of calculating them, by the recipes similar to that described above, but the results don't agree with actual measurements worth squat and so are useless from a practical perspective (see various model analyses presented under Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists').

Space weather forecasters at NOAA/SWPC routinely generate forecasts of space weather conditions 24/7 without use of ANY of these 'Electric Sun' models.

Here's the link to the run of the Enlil model for Earth space-weather forecasting, updated regularly.  It is used for estimating when coronal mass ejections (CMEs) launched from the Sun, will impact the Earth.

Do we see any such capability from the Electric Universe supporters?

No.  Just excuses.

Why should the space physics community use ANY Electric Sun model when Electric Universe supporters can't even produce results better than the existing models?  Heck, EU supporters produce NO USABLE RESULTS AT ALL!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Electric Universe: These are not the filaments you're looking for...

It's been a while since I've made the point about how the Peratt galaxy model fails observational testing.  The electric currents which Peratt claimed could be powering galaxies would be strong emitters of microwave radiation.  This was a fact even Peratt acknowledged, and EXPECTED that the microwave sky would be covered with spaghetti-like streamers which would connect galaxies like beads on a string (a popular metaphor of Electric Universe supporters).  Peratt and other supporters of Plasma Cosmology expected to see these currents in large microwave sky-surveys.  The best such survey in recent years is WMAP (Scott Rebuttal. II. The Peratt Galaxy Model vs. the Cosmic Microwave Background), and more recently PLANCK (Electric Universe: More data refuting the EU galaxy model).

Such microwave streamers connecting the galaxies were not found.

I've occasionally read or heard the response from Electric Universe (EU) supporters, who have rarely (never?) allowed their position to be altered by inconvenient facts, that the Peratt galaxy model still must be valid because we see filaments in space…as if any filamentary structure seen in the cosmos must be part of their network of galaxy-powering electric currents!

First, astronomers do not deny that electric fields, and currents, exist in the cosmos.  I've summarized a number of examples of cases where astronomers know theoretically as well as measured, electric fields and currents in space (365 Days of Astronomy: The Electric Universe) and these go back to the early 1900s.  EU supporters often like to reference such works, claiming it is also support for their more extreme nonsense such as electrically-powered stars, comets, and galaxies. 

But what about those filaments?

Filamentary structures within our galaxy

We do see filamentary structures within our own galaxy, many of which are associated with plasma motions.  In many of these cases, we observe synchrotron radiation being emitted from them due to free electrons spiraling along magnetic field lines.  However, the microwave spectra are never at distinct, well-defined frequencies which would occur when electrons moving together as a well-defined current.  Instead, the synchrotron emission is seen over broad range of frequencies, created by electrons moving in roughly all directions with a wide range of energy  (see CalTech: Synchrotron Emission).  Sometimes the atoms and ions of the plasma are excited into states that emit identifiable spectral lines so we can determined additional physical characteristics of the plasma (ionization states of the atoms, temperature, density, etc).

We model many of these objects with MHD models, and this goes back many decades, even before the modern "Electric Universe" cult was formed (I would probably regard this time as the late 1970s, when Ralph Juergens proposed his 'electric sun' model).  Consider from 1971 this paper, Plasma Interactions in the Crab Nebula (1971), or more recently, Generation of Crab Nebulae Wisps by Plasma Drift Instability from 1996.  Mainstream astronomy has a long history of studying plasmas, in spite of, rather than because of, Electric Universe claims.

Notice that these models generate predictions closer to the real measurements than ANY produced the claimed mechanisms of EU advocates.  Actually, I have been unable to FIND any actual models produced by EU advocates that generate real 'predictions' which we can compare to measurements.  Their 'predictions' are soft, squishy 'kinda, sorta, looks like', such as "it looks like the exhaust of a plasma gun".

To add to the uselessness of their 'predictions', we get no information about how these 'plasma gun' configurations can form in nature!

EU advocates seem to just wait around expecting someone else to solve all the problems with their 'models' and then claim they deserve credit!  How is this any different from the activities of patent trolls (wikipedia)?

Filamentary structures associated with galaxies. 

We've observed synchrotron emission, as well as polarization, from plasma moving along galactic magnetic fields and from jets emitted from the nuclei of active galaxies.  Here's composites of radio lobes combined with galaxy images in visible light.
Centaurus A with radio jets (Credit: ESO/WFI (visible); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A. Weiss et al. (microwave); NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Kraft et al. (X-ray); APOD )

Hercules A with radio jets (Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum and C. O'Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Notice that these radio jets ejected from the centers of the galaxies disperse into blobs in the intergalactic medium.  They are not connected to any larger cosmic 'electric circuit', 'Birkeland current' or similar cosmic structure, or even another galaxy.  We still have not heard from Electric Universe theorists what would power such gigantic circuits if they did exist!

See also:  Electric Universe: Measurement of the Electric Current in a Kpc-Scale Jet

The large microwave sky surveys also see such plasma loop structures around our own Milky Way galaxy, but all the observations indicate these are created by magnetic fields generated by the galaxy itself (Scholarpedia).
WMAP galactic emission templates, including synchrotron radiaiton (Credit Gold, B. et al., 2011, ApJS, 192, 15G)
In the synchrotron template of the Milky Way above, we see a number filaments in blue rising above the galactic disk (the horizontal enhancement across the center of the oval, mostly green and yellow).  However, we see many of them curve back down towards the galactic disk, indicating their origin is in the galaxy, not some external current passing through the galaxy.  See also the Planck One-year all-sky survey (ESA).

These filaments also cannot be part of EU's extragalactic circuit system.

Filamentary structures in large galaxy surveys

Another flaw in EU reasoning is the assumption that filamentary structures can only be formed by electric currents.  The mathematics of magnetohydrodynamics, or MHD (wikipedia), are very similar to those of regular hydrodynamics (wikipedia) and this is why both environments can exhibit similar structures.
Many of these instabilities in neutral fluid dynamics have analogs in MHD.  This stuff is used by REAL ENGINEERS AND PHYSICISTS to design and build real things.

So let's finally visit the filamentary structures we observe on a cosmological scale.
Millenium Survey and real surveys (Credit: Millenium Simulation)
The blue and the violet plots above show the galaxy distribution from REAL galaxy surveys with hundreds of thousands of galaxies.  The Milky Way (and Earth) would be at the center of this plot, at the apex of the plotted wedges.  In this case, each color point usually represents hundreds of galaxies, and these are distributed in space in these wispy, filamentary type structures.  Are THESE what EU supporters want to claim are the filaments of their cosmic electric currents?

But the Millenium simulation run (wikipedia), also plotted in the graphic above, is a large computer simulation attempting to simulate cosmic structure formation using our BEST knowledge of the underlying physics of gravitation and neutral plasma.  The results of that run are plotted in the red wedges, where again the dots represent many galaxies.

There are no cosmic scale Birkeland or similar currents included in the Millenium simulation, yet it forms filamentary structures very similar to those from the real galaxy surveys!  

But we do NOT see these filamentary collections of galaxies in galaxy surveys matching with the radio and microwave emission seen in electromagnetic surveys.  These two sets of data must have a strong correlation to validate the Electric Universe claims that galaxies are POWERED by EXTERNAL ELECTRICAL CURRENTS.

Yet they do not.

But it takes currents to make a magnetic field!

This whine is the popular 'corollary' to the Electric Universe claim that only currents can make filaments.

Only partially true.  But once a magnetic field is started, it can be maintained, and even regenerated, after the current is long gone, a consequence of the 'displacement current' (wikipedia) in Maxwell's equations, which is a consequence of the fact that electric charge is a conserved quantity.  The most well-known example of this feedback between electric and magnetic fields is electromagnetic radiation, AKA light, which can propagate for billions of years after the initial current which created it is long gone. 

In this case, the electromagnetic waves are constantly exchanging energy between their electric and magnetic field as described in Maxwell's equations.  The signal from a large radio antenna can still be propagating through empty space weeks after the antenna has been switched off.  The interactions of light with matter can be examined by just considering the electric and magnetic fields of the photon without consideration of the current that initially created the photon!  For all intents and purposes, the photon has lost the 'memory' of the original current that may have created it.

Plasma getting energy from other sources, such as mechanical, thermal, or nuclear processes, can also maintain a magnetic field.  Self-exciting dynamos (see University of Texas, Homopolar Dynamos), a process which has been produced in the laboratory (see Scholarpedia), are the perfect example where other energy sources are converted into a persistent magnetic field.

These are some of the simplest examples from basic electromagnetism, yet Electric Universe supporters not only ignore these facts, but go so far as to accuse astrophysicists, and even astrophysicists who do real work with plasmas, of being incompetent.  They make these accusations even as they claim that mainstream astronomy is 'coming around' to their view of the universe.

In actual fact, we can trace the knowledge of electromagnetic forces and plasmas in space back to the early 1900s (365 Days of Astronomy: The Electric Universe), with no assistance from the Electric Universe claimants.

And their galaxy-powering electric currents still do not exist...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Scientific History: What Did They Know? When Did They Know It?

Can Kristian Birkeland be Rescued from the Electric Universe?

As part of dealing with Electric Universe claims, I'm currently reading Kristian Birkeland's (wikipedia) tome, "The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition. 1902-1903" ( as well as Carl Stormer's 1955 work, "The Polar Aurora" (Wiley).  Stormer worked with Birkeland in the early 1900s and demonstrated that Birkeland's terrella (wikipedia) experiments could be explained with the mathematical physical theories of the day.

Electric Universe supporters have distorted much of Birkeland's work in an attempt to turn some of his hypotheses derived from his experiments into undeniable facts supporting their claims.  They've done this to the point that I have actually encountered some solar researchers complaining that they cannot find reliable information on Birkeland's work because a simple online search hits so many Electric Universe distortions of his work.

Even only partway through the reading, I've already encountered many examples where Birkeland understood that applications of his work to the environment between the Sun and Earth had limitations.  He knew that there were things he explored that were, at best, guesses that might not survive future experiments or observations.

I've found several other reliable biographical sources for Birkeland so I'll have more details for a future post, most likely after the turn of the year, as other projects and responsibilities are demanding time as the year-end approaches.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reading: "Worlds of their Own" by Robert Schadewald

I recently completed reading "Worlds of their Own" by Robert Schadewald.  This book was brought to my attention from podcast interviews (Skepticality #119, January 5, 2010; Point Of Inquiry, April 30, 2010) with Robert's sister, Lois Schadewald, who had compiled her brother's work into this volume.  In terms of quality and depth of research, I rank it highly with Bob Park's "Voodoo Science" which covered many of the same topics.

I need to apologize in advance for the rather vague referencing in this review.  I purchased "Worlds of their Own" as an eBook and have discovered a major inconvenience with this format for doing serious research.  With a regular eBook format, which allows font size changes and page re-flows, identifying precise locations of references can be difficult at best, as the page number can change depending on your individual settings.  The best I can do is reference the chapter number for specific quotes.

On with the review…

In many ways, Schadewald's book illustrates how little things have changed in the psychology of pseudo-scientists.  Mr. Schadewald was writing mostly in the 1970s to the 2000s but many of his insights into the psychology of cranks still applies today. 

The writing is very witty, much of it based on the author's direct interaction with some of the cranks he explores.  It is tempting to quote many large sections of the text since it is so well written.  To give you an idea of the flavor of the book, this opening quote in the Author's Forward really sets the tone:
"It is my intention to be open-minded. Alternative scientists, or more appropriately pseudoscientists, tend to misunderstand open-mindedness. Given two conflicting ideas, many of them believe that one should consider both equally probable. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In science, being open-minded merely means being willing to evaluate an idea on the basis of the evidence, rather than on the basis of preconceived notions. Thus, I claim to be open-minded about James Smith’s theory that pi = 3⅛. I’m not prejudiced against it, but I happen to know it’s false. Not only have mathematicians calculated a different value (3.14159+), but I have calculated it myself. The sad truth is that pseudoscientists are themselves, by any definition, less than open-minded. They frequently display a devotion to their ideas, which is not remotely scientific. To them, it is inconceivable that they could be wrong. When conventional scientists reject their theories, they are convinced that it is pure prejudice, or a “guild mentality.” Never do they seriously entertain the idea that they could be wrong. While orthodox science has had its share of egomaniacs, unorthodox science attracts even more."
Mr. Schadewald proceeds to explore a number of topics, describing a lot of their history, some of which I had not read before.


Schadewald explores the history of the Velikovsky affair and calls to attention how the scientific community's strong initial reaction against Velikovsky (Wikipedia) probably attracted more attention, and subsequently support, than Velikovsky would have received otherwise.  Today, this is kind of backfire is sometimes called the "Streisand Effect" (Wikipedia).

Years ago, one of the Velikovskians' biggest problem was their claimed trajectories for Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Earth and how this game of 'celestial billiards' would take place.  When challenged to demonstrate that such orbits can actually occur, the Velikovskians' made nothing but excuses:
"But this sort of “put up or shut up” attitude merely enrages the Velikovskians. No such orbits exist, so they can’t put up, and they are psychologically incapable of shutting up. Therefore, instead of dealing with the fundamental problems inherent in Velikovsky’s theory, the Velikovskians specialize in nitpicking, the rationalization of failures into victories, and personal attacks on Carl Sagan and others who have the temerity to suggest that Velikovsky’s genius was misguided." (Chapter 1: Velikovsky's Collision).
The modern day Velikovskians, the Electric Universe (EU) advocates, still have not rigorously demonstrated that these orbits can occur.  Today, I have raised more problems with their claims about 'Electric Sun' models, since they require a radically different environment in the regions of the solar system where we routinely fly spacecraft.   Electric Universe advocates balk even more when I point out that they have failed to demonstrate that their "Electric Sun" models can produce an accurate prediction of the heliospheric environment suitable for planning space flights better than the existing internally-power solar model.  Examinations of Electric Sun models based on EU advocates descriptions (and there are at least four radically different 'Electric Sun' models at my last count) indicate the radiation hazard would be far more severe than even the largest known solar radiation events (see "Death by Electric Universe" articles @ Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists').

One of the more interesting topics covers the attempts by Velikovsky supporters to compare Velikovsky's claims to those of Alfred Wegener, the discoverer of continental drift (Wikipedia).  The most important aspect of this comparison is that while Velikovsky and his supporters never rigorously addressed any of the actual arguments against their claims, such as the planetary orbits noted above, Wegener continued to explore the arguments brought by geologists against him and made modifications to his theory accordingly.  Another important point was that the original problem with Wegener's idea was not so much the idea that the continents moved, but his proposed mechanisms for the continental motion, which turned out to be completely wrong. (Appendix: If Continents Can Wander,  Why Not Planets?)


Free Energy

Schadewald explores some of the characters behind various versions of perpetual motion machines, some of which were also examined in Robert Park's "Voodoo Science".  Here's a quote from Chapter 4 where he defines "Schadewald's Law" about the design of perpetual-motion machines:
"There is a reason why many of the designs are so complicated. We might call it Schadewald’s law of perpetual motion: A perpetual motionist typically concocts a scheme so complicated that he can’t see why it won’t work. He then assumes that it will work." (Chapter 4: The Idea of a Free Lunch)
As is often the case, cranks who can't get support for their claims in the scientific community often resort to political mechanisms, in the case of Joseph Newman who 'invented' yet another perpetual motion machine using magnetism and rotation (Wikipedia: Newman's Energy Machine).
"Not surprisingly, Newman has supporters in Congress, and at least eleven bills have been introduced to force the patent office to grant him a patent. None has passed." (Chapter 9: You Want Really Advanced Technology?)
A copy of the test report of the Newman energy machine performed by the National Bureau of Standards is available at (link to report).

Even more entertaining is Schadewald's exploration of the psychology of 'Free Energy Machine' advocates by 'inventing' his own device, the Schadewald Gravity Engine, making it available on April 1, 1978.  He received many inquiries on how the device worked (which he admitted it did not), but he apparently received no offers from oil companies to 'bury it.' ;^)

Flat Earth

Probably the most interesting part of the book for me were the articles on the history of the Flat Earth movement, largely because it was something that I had not read much before.  Schadewald covered the history of the movement from ancient times to the 20th century version (Chapters 10-13).  The stories about the 1800s revival of flat-earthism are particularly fascinating as a number of debates and public challenges were made.  One defender of the spherical Earth was Alfred Russel Wallace (Wikipedia).  Schadewald also described the flat-earth theocracy of Zion, Illinois which existed in the early 1900s (Wikipedia).

For the 20th century incarnation, years ago I had seen Charles Johnson's Flat Earth Society (wikipedia) website, and Mr. Johnson's claims of its Biblical basis.  Mr. Schadewald writes a great deal on the history and tells about how he was a member of the Flat Earth Society, at one point removed, and later reinstated. 


Schadewald's sections on Creationism explored many of the older claims which enjoy occasional resurrection on online creation-evolution discussion forums.  Many of Schadewald's rebuttals are familiar to those who've dealt with this topic for years.  More interesting are his explorations into the psychology of the pseudoscientist.  He makes the comparison of creationism with Flat Earth beliefs.
"Finally, the creationists have painted themselves into the same emotional and intellectual corner that the flat earthers did. They have staked their emotional well-being on the absolute truth of the Bible, and the truth of the Bible on their own interpretation of it." (Chapter 14: Palming Off Religious Dogma as Science)
Because arguments for a geocentric Earth, and even a flat Earth have a Biblical basis, I've always regarded young-Earth creationists who do not also hold those positions as somewhat hypocritical, picking-and-choosing the parts of the Bible they want to regard as symbolic vs. literal.
"Essentially, science is an open system based on skeptical inquiry, and its ultimate appeal is to evidence. Scientists use inductive reasoning, formulating general laws from specific observations of nature. A pseudoscience is a closed system based on belief, and its ultimate appeal is to doctrine. Pseudoscientists base their systems on deductive logic, deducing how the universe must act to conform with their doctrines.  Pseudoscience is deductive." (Chapter 19: Creation Pseudoscience)
There is also this great quote about the psychology of the two-types pseudo-scientists, which certainly applies to many (but not all) of the cranks I have encountered…
"Pseudoscientists are of two types. One group consists of ordinary cranks, self-proclaimed geniuses who seem motivated by contempt for conventional scientists. George Francis Gillette, discoverer of the remarkable backscrewing theory of gravity, was an excellent example. The other type of pseudoscientist seeks to justify some sort of ideology with scientific arguments. Examples of this type range from Nazi anthropologists to scientific creationists. Both types of pseudoscientist usually harbor feelings of personal greatness." (Chapter 19: Creation Pseudoscience)

Science vs. Pseudoscience

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 21, Science vs. Pseudoscience, which does a meta-analysis of the psychology of pseudo-scientists.  Again, many points he makes are realizations that many of us who've been in this battle for a number of years have understood, but have rarely expressed so well.
"1. Pseudoscience appeals to democratic ideals, and followers demand fairness or equal time. (Actually, they usually are only interested in limited democracy, embracing their theory and the prevailing theory, and this only until they can throw the prevailing theory out.) Two good examples are the Velikovskians and the scientific creationists. This is consistent with the pathologically open mind characteristic of pseudoscientists; many of whom seem to think that, given two ideas, both are equally probable (except that the one he wants to believe is more probable). But science is elitist in the extreme, and only the best ideas get attention."   (Chapter 21: Science vs. Pseudoscience)
Schadewald then procedes to describe how pseudo-science takes a 'political' view of science, viewing scientists like political appointees who obtain their jobs by connections, that 'Truth' is what you can make someone believe, and so many more.  He also points out the notion of 'science as fashion', so common among pseudoscientists and promoted by various post-modern philosophers of science (Wikipedia: Fashionable Nonsense):
"2. Pseudoscientists tend to reject or ignore the correspondence principle. Pseudoscientists believe that theories come and go largely as a matter of fashion. Carried to its logical conclusion, this assumes that there is no ultimate truth, that 2 + 2 may someday equal 5. However, we will never go back to the flat-earth theory, to the theory of immovable continents, or to a very young Earth. All three ideas are very thoroughly contradicted by the evidence. This does not, however, mean that our ideas about the precise shape of the earth, the motions of the continents and the age of the earth are unchangeable." (Chapter 21: Science vs. Pseudoscience)
I found Schadewald's book an enlightening and enjoyable read, where I was introduced to realms of pseudo-science which are not ordinarily high on my list.  Schadewald's book should be on the shelves of anyone dealing with pseudoscience in the physical sciences and wants a good summary, and reference, of some of its history.

So...What Happened?

Wow.  It's been over eight years since I last posted here... When I stepped back in August 2015,...