Pharyngula

A target for the physicists

I’m the wrong person to scrutinize this one, but maybe some bored physicist out there can tell us someting about this book, Our Undiscovered Universe, which claims to describe a new version of physics called “Null Physics”.

Let me know if there’s anything there.

Comments

  1. #1 Boosterz
    February 27, 2008

    Didn’t MarkCC tear this apart a while back? It sounds familiar.

  2. #2 Brownian, OM
    February 27, 2008

    His mumbo-jumbo is hard to decipher, but he’s obviously got some sort of hate-on for science. From the ‘background’ section of his site:

    For quite some time now, anyone who wanted to understand the universe’s inner workings had only two places in which to turn. The first is an eclectic cast of “scientific” paradigms, which includes, but is not limited to, string theory, the Big Bang, and quantum reality. While these make valiant attempts to describe the universe and come to grips with their own glaring incompleteness, in the final analysis they can’t even begin to answer questions that any child might pose. Regardless of how many popularized versions of these theories find their way into bookstores, the important questions remain unsolved because the current scientific approach lacks any trace of an underlying natural philosophy. The other option available to the inquiring mind is a disorganized quagmire of “alternative” theories. These decry the reigning scientific models but provide absolutely nothing of substance in their stead. Alternative theories seldom identify their own premises unambiguously, let alone provide quantitative tests for them.

    At long last, a theory has emerged that addresses the foundation of reality logically, rationally, empirically, and completely – Null Physics. The universe it reveals doesn’t rely on unknowable precursors in the ancient, untestable past. The universe it reveals won’t collapse, or grow old and die. Null Physics tells us why the universe exists, how the universe exists, and why it is the way it is. The mystery of our existence has beaten scientists and philosophers for so long that they are utterly convinced that reality’s underpinnings are beyond human comprehension. They are wrong. Anyone with a basic familiarity with high-school physics can, by reading this volume, understand the universe with a greater depth and clarity than is currently believed possible. Welcome to 21st century physics.

  3. #3 Randy Owens
    February 27, 2008

    I know I’ve been seeing the ads for this in Astronomy magazine a lot lately, and it’s been honking me off, because it sets off my BS-dar big time.

    While the online stuff is mostly too vague to review the meat of it, or even whether there’s actually any meat there, this might ring a bell for you more biological types: The reviews listed there are from a biologist (no offense), an electronics operations manager, a corporate finance guy, a systems engineer, and an electronics business systems analyst. Sounds a lot like the kind of list you’d usually find endorsing the latest crackpot alternative to evolution, doesn’t it?

  4. #4 Jaycubed
    February 27, 2008

    They had a 2 page full-color ad in Scientific American recently. Looks like somebody is draining their trust/retirement fund.
    .

  5. #5 Neil Vickers
    February 27, 2008

    There’s quite an interesting discussion of the book at the James Randi Educational Foundation forums here: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=94861

    The author is part of the discussions… unfortunately my knowledge of physics is nowhere near detailed enough to let me participate.

    Cheers,
    Neil.

  6. #6 pablo
    February 27, 2008

    I saw a two-page ad in Smithsonian.

  7. #7 Monika Kress
    February 27, 2008

    Wasn’t this the same guy who wrote a book about how if you put some brine shrimp in the gas tank… wait, that was someone else. Yet another self-proclaimed expert writing a book on a subject that he never bothered to get a degree in! Who needs all that book-learnin anyways??

    And all those ravin’ reviewers: their credentials are equally impressive.

  8. #8 James F
    February 27, 2008

    I can’t properly evaluate the physics, but it reminds me of this book.

  9. #9 Robert Salter
    February 27, 2008

    With a name like TWITT, I’m tempted to think this is some sort of a joke.

  10. #10 miller
    February 27, 2008

    I’ve already talked about it.
    It’s nonsense

    He talks about “infinite smallness” and “totality” and stuff like that.

  11. #11 Don Smith, FCD
    February 27, 2008

    Well, if you look at the extract of chapter 2, he has an equation with infinity cubed over infinity cubed, unless the lazy eight stands for something else…

    I think I saw this trick before when someone was proving 1=0.

  12. #12 Mister Troll
    February 27, 2008

    Huh? A call for a practicing physicist? Gosh, that’s *me*!

    The comments above have it right. I overcame the sinking feeling I got when reading the table of contents – clicked on a random excerpt and found the first sentence arguing that the existence of the universe violates the laws of physics.

    In a way, it’s interesting hogwash. It seems to be strikingly analogous to claims that the origin of life is impossible according to evolution.

    I didn’t have the tolerance to read further.

  13. #13 Tosser
    February 27, 2008

    Here is an amusing but informative beat down of this idea, and the site has funny avatars too!

    http://www.bautforum.com/against-mainstream/69905-null-physics.html

  14. #14 Chris
    February 27, 2008

    Sounds like the Physics version of Geology’s Expanding Earth. A bunch of non-scientists running around claiming all science is wrong and pleading to ignorance to make a quick buck.

  15. #15 SDC
    February 27, 2008

    This kind of reminds me of when Wolfram’s ‘A New Kind Of Science’ came out. I’d ask math profs what they thought, and they’d kind of kindly pretend they didn’t even hear what I’d asked.

  16. #16 zayzayem
    February 27, 2008

    The Author:

    Terence Witt is the founder and former CEO of Witt Biomedical Corporation, which during his tenure became the gold standard for cardiac hemodynamic software.

    Nice physics background buddy.

  17. #17 Damon B.
    February 27, 2008

    He holds a BSEE from Oregon State University

    >.<

    What is it with people with bachelors in engineering thinking they’re experts in everything?!?

  18. #18 Epikt
    February 27, 2008

    I suppose it’s dangerous to try to evaluate this based on short excerpts, but in the one I read, the author has some problematic (combining two spin-1/2 particles to get a spin-1/2 particle) notions about the neutron being composed of an electron plus a proton.

    I also note that at randi.org the author showed up to defend himself. When told that he needed to show that his model reduces to known successful models in the appropriate limits, he responded, “Null Physics is not a mathematical model, and as such it does not, and does not need to, reduce mathematically to other mathematical models.” That pegged my woo-meter.

  19. #19 CaptainBooshi
    February 27, 2008

    I’m a grad student in Astrophyics right now, and based off his conversation in the forums given in post #5, he seems like a crank to me.

    Although I’m not well-versed enough to follow the high-energy physics talk in detail, I know enough to see that every time it turns out that his theory doesn’t match reality, and he doesn’t have some explanation why things appear to fit perfectly into the Standard model only because our experiments can’t do things with enough finesse to show the truth, he comes back with “I haven’t worked out all the details yet, so I’m sure it will be resolved later,” or ignores the question altogether.

    I also do know that everytime he mentioned cosmology, he showed himself to have common misconceptions that come with familiarity, but not deep knowledge, of the subject. Like referring to dark energy as “negative gravitational potential” (at least, that what I think he was talking about there), which makes intuitive sense when you first learn about it, but is fundamentally wrong. Or apparently thinking that this “negative gravitational potential” exactly matches the amount of matter in the universe (which is why I thought he meant dark energy, or the cosmological constant), which is also wrong.

    So it looks like someone has read a lot of books about the cool physics today, like high-energy and cosmology, has a background in math, and thinks he’s made a great discovery which he’s now invested in. Unfortunately, that seems to be a reliable source of cranks.

  20. #20 dorris
    February 27, 2008

    I’ve noticed ads for this book in Smithsonian magazine, too. Now, I’m no physicist or mathematician – but I don’t have to be to figure out that this is pure, unadulterated bullshit. The first clue is when you see something like this advertised as the “revolutionary breakthrough mainstream scientists don’t want you to know about”. And by the time you notice that the author has funky credentials and no apparent degree in the subject he’s going on about, the bullshit alarm should be screaming like a firebell.

  21. #21 James F
    February 27, 2008

    At the Discovery Institute, this sort of thing counts as a “peer-reviewed publication.”

  22. #22 Blake Stacey
    February 27, 2008

    Wow, it looks like my job has been done already.

  23. #23 ffakr
    February 27, 2008

    This discussion reminds me of the time when my office was at the end of the main hall in the James Franck Institute. Our door was open all day because we provided support to the faculty and staff. We were always the target for the people that wandered in looking for “a scientist”. As in “could you take me to see a scientist”. I do remember one person in particular who wanted to talk to “a physicist” because he had proven that Newton was all wrong. :-)

    P.S. Read the history of James Franck on the inter-tubes. He’s not well known and not quotable but there’s a really interesting history to Mr. Franck. It involves the Nazis and a Nobel Prize. ;-) I’d give you a link but that’d just make it too easy. I’m working out of his old lab now.

  24. #24 Ollie
    February 27, 2008

    I don’t quite have my PhD yet, but I do consider myself a physicist. As mentioned, it’s hard to really evaluate claims with just a few introductory excerpts. But I’ll try.

    True to his word, the author makes things really simple in the first chapter sample. The argument is basically “how did the universe start from nothing?” This is like asking “why are there monkeys still around if we evolved from them?” He’s getting the issue wrong. All that physicists really agree on is that at the big bang, the universe became similar enough to the way we understand it for the concept of time to make sense. Heck, we even have problems for the very short time after the big bang really saying what “time” meant. Long story short, nobody says the universe came from nothing necessarily, just that looking back any farther means doing away with our regular notion of time.

    On top of all that, there’s no particular reason to believe our ideas of causality and so forth even need apply outside our relm of time. The only reason we like to conserve energy is because we see it all the time IN our universe. We don’t like to say how things have to be OUTside our universe.

    The Chapter 15 except looks sloppy at best. I’m not really sure what he’s trying to show here. He seems to be mixing Hubble’s constant with a static universe model. It just doesn’t work. And ever before that, there’s plenty of problems assuming that you could hit an infinite number of stars in some straight line. “Straight” at such distances doesn’t even mean the same thing we may think it does. And lastly, you don’t need an infinite universe, just take a finite one with “asteroids” geometry. With some very reasonable assumptions, you could still hit an infinite number of stars over an infinite distance.

    So far, this looks like a bunch of legitimate stuff tossed together to illegitimate ends.

  25. #25 inkadu
    February 27, 2008

    Crackpot:

    While these make valiant attempts to describe the universe and come to grips with their own glaring incompleteness, in the final analysis they can’t even begin to answer questions that any child might pose.

    Mommy? If gravity is the result of space-time curvature due to mass, then what is its connection to electromagnetism? WTF?

    Damon B:

    What is it with people with bachelors in engineering thinking they’re experts in everything?!?

    I work in facilities management. I had an engineer call me to explain that a bathroom mirror’s mounting might be loosening due to a soap dispenser being stuck to it. He suggested I send some with “an engineering background,” to have a look at it. Apparently, the idea the a mirror might come unglued is incomprehensible to the quotidian handy man.

    I’m surprised no programmers have endorsed his book yet.

  26. #26 spudbeach
    February 27, 2008

    Well, as an ex-physicist (booby-prize MS, 2003), I’m well enough qualified to take a stab at this.

    I wasn’t sanguine when I saw that the Preface started with the Galileo Gambit, and then had nothing of substance. Yes, physics is incomplete, in that we can’t explain the Big Bang and what came “before”, but that isn’t a good reason to throw away what we do know and have verified from experiment.

    But on the good side, he does have an appendix with predictions, and those are going to allow us to say that he’s full of crap. The average nucleon spacing in Helium-3? There is no such thing — it’s a quantum soup of colored particles, frothing in the vacuum, and this model works very well with observed data from atom smashers. Distant galaxies with the same stellar population as nearby galaxies? Baloney — they have a much lower metalicity, since they haven’t recycled the matter as many times through supernovae. Been observed, refuted that, sorry.

    The good thing is that he’s given us predictions that are wrong, saving us the tedium of wading through his bullshit arguments. Thanks for that, at least. There is more to learn in physics, new ideas to get us over the hump of what we see but can’t explain, but this isn’t it. It doesn’t even explain what we see and can explain now.

  27. #27 coathangrrr
    February 27, 2008

    This is what happens when you let electrical engineers write books about physics.

  28. #28 jeff
    February 28, 2008

    Is he proposing that time didn’t have a beginning? I didn’t see it in the excerpts. But if he is, that was logically refuted over a thousand years ago by some clever reasoning. If time extends infinitely into the past, then it would take an infinite amount of time to get to the present, and the present wouldn’t be here. Since the present is here, time had to have a beginning.

  29. #29 RonanC
    February 28, 2008

    Based on the JREF discussion, which I’ve just read, and using the Crackpot Index, I score him at 140+, which is enough to say “I do not need to read his work right now.”

    1. A -5 point starting credit.

    6. 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.

    11. 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it.

    15. 10 points for each statement along the lines of “I’m not good at math, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations”.

    17. 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn’t explain “why” they occur, or fails to provide a “mechanism”.

    22. 20 points for claiming that classical mechanics is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).

    34. 40 points for claiming that the “scientific establishment” is engaged in a “conspiracy” to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.

    37. 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

  30. #30 Gregory Kusnick
    February 28, 2008

    #28:

    If time extends infinitely into the past, then it would take an infinite amount of time to get to the present, and the present wouldn’t be here. Since the present is here, time had to have a beginning.

    Huh? I’m not sure whose clever reasoning you’re referring to, but it sounds like a variation on Zeno’s “proofs” that motion is impossible, and that Achilles can’t outrace the tortoise.

    If the past is infinite, then the concept of how long it took to get to now is meaningless. How long from what? There is no starting point to measure from.

    We have no problem with the concept of a definite location in an infinite space. I don’t see why the concept of a definite moment in infinite time should be more problematical.

    (Note that I’m not defending Witt’s nonsense here. I’m just not buying that the notion of infinite time is automatically nonsense. Plenty of serious cosmologists — Steinhardt, Alfven, Hoyle, Einstein — have been willing to entertain the idea.)

  31. #31 Janus
    February 28, 2008

    Ollie said:

    True to his word, the author makes things really simple in the first chapter sample. The argument is basically “how did the universe start from nothing?” This is like asking “why are there monkeys still around if we evolved from them?” He’s getting the issue wrong. All that physicists really agree on is that at the big bang, the universe became similar enough to the way we understand it for the concept of time to make sense. Heck, we even have problems for the very short time after the big bang really saying what “time” meant. Long story short, nobody says the universe came from nothing necessarily, just that looking back any farther means doing away with our regular notion of time.

    Right! RIGHT! The Big Bang theory DOESN’T imply that the universe appeared out of nowhere or that something came from nothing, does it? It’s what I’ve always understood from reading physics books aimed at laymen about cosmology, but on the other hand, it seems I’ve come across so many quotes by physicists saying that something DID come out of nothing. I’m so confused.

    Can another physicist please confirm what Ollie has stated, please?

  32. #32 Ritchie Annand
    February 28, 2008

    Looks like a mish-mash of ideas, really, from trivialities to reinterpretations to what-ifs. That’s not necessarily all bad, mind you – it could mean, though it’s hard to tell from the excerpts, that there are some interesting bits hidden amongst the chaff.

    It’s like reading Van Flandern – fun for things like orbital mechanics, in particular of small systems, but then you get a two-layers-of-aether system where electromagnetism occupies the coarser aether and gravity the finer (!)

    At least it looks like a less painful experience than to read through Julian Barbour’s The End Of Time. Claiming to understand that is probably diagnostic of childhood trauma.

    Physics books tend to get a bit weird and fanciful these days if they’re not just straight reviews of what we know. The last Hawking book I read was full of the likes of shadow galaxies in a parallel brane (to explain the anomalous rotation curves that galaxies have) and quotes like “I think that the human race, and its DNA, will increase in complexity quite rapidly.” Then there’s Davies and his theological bent.

    Physics just lends itself to this stuff in a way that biology doesn’t. String Theory (why Theory? don’t we tell people not to confuse things this way?) hasn’t come back to the lab for three or four decades and there’s not altogether much in the way of quantum reality research (we already know quantum mechanics works, but why? – we need to answer this so that people can stop getting away with quite so much quantum woo), and the accelerating universe is less than a decade old, besides having way more parameters than it needs, leading to “amazing” strong anthropic principle style implications.

    Maybe CERN’s new experiments will actually shed light on things, maybe new telescopes will put some questions to bed. In the meantime, I expect we will see a constant simmer of bright lunacy.

    At least it keeps the JREF folks jazzed up.

    (How oh how can I cajole the family into going to TAM 6? *sigh* :) )

    For weird stuff like this book, I’ll shell out $30 for curiosity, but not $60 :)

  33. #33 jeff
    February 28, 2008

    If the past is infinite, then the concept of how long it took to get to now is meaningless. How long from what?

    No, I don’t think it’s quite the same as Zeno. It’s more analagous to how long it takes for something traveling at a finite speed to cover an infinite distance. Doesn’t seem meaningless to me. But I’ll agree that the concept of time extending infinitely into the past is hard to imagine and probably is meaningless (although we don’t know exactly what time actually is…)

    I’m just not buying that the notion of infinite time is automatically nonsense. Plenty of serious cosmologists — Steinhardt, Alfven, Hoyle, Einstein — have been willing to entertain the idea.)

    Infinite into the past, or the future? Unlike space, time is dimension with a direction. In any case, the evidence is in favor of time having a beginning.

  34. #34 Ritchie Annand
    February 28, 2008

    Janus -> It’s been a while since I’ve read anything on that subject in particular. One thing I remember reading when I was younger was that the tie-in was with virtual particles, where pairs of particles that are not real pop into existence and then annihilate each other. The bigger the virtual particle, the longer it lived. The universe was an extraordinarily rare quantum fluctuation in this model. As Michael Turner put it, “Nothing is unstable”.

    I’ve seen other attempts to bypass it with things like cyclic Big Bangs (even in this day and age when the expansion is supposed to be accelerating) or that Big Bang universes spawn off other Big Bangs, etc., but it’s still fair to claim it as an issue still somewhat outstanding.

  35. #35 bertok
    February 28, 2008

    T.witt:

    “While these make valiant attempts to describe the universe and come to grips with their own glaring incompleteness, in the final analysis they can’t even begin to answer questions that any child might pose.”

    My personal favorite among all those un-answerable questions:

    “Mommy (Daddy), why is the sky blue?” Answer: Quantum Mechanics! Well, there are easier ways to fumble through this one, but the actual answer is given by quantum mechanics.

    Me thinks I have begun to answer a question posed by said child.

  36. #36 Craig
    February 28, 2008

    Well, I know less than nothing about physics, but I’m willing to accept “null physics” at face value

    null /n?l/ [nuhl] -adjective
    1. without value, effect, consequence, or significance.
    2. being or amounting to nothing; nil; lacking; nonexistent.
    7. null and void, without legal force or effect; not valid.

  37. #37 Futility
    February 28, 2008

    Being a physicist myself, what I have read in the excerpts sounds like scientific sounding mumbo jumbo. In chapter 1 one reads, for example:

    “… the universe’s origin did not violate energy conservation because gravitational energy is intrinsically negative and all of the universe’s matter/light energy is balanced by its total negative gravitational energy.”

    Is he alluding to the fact that the formula of the gravitational potential energy of a mass has a minus sign? But, this is just the result of a sensible convention, namely to put the point of reference into infinity (where no force acts on a test mass). The minus sign simply says that while approaching a mass another mass gains energy as anyone can attest to who already fell from a ladder. There is nothing intrinsic about it.

    In chapter 2, one finds the remarkable formula:

    1^M=(1^M/Inf^3)*Inf^3 (where ^ denotes an exponent and Inf = Infinity)

    (he actually uses the Infinity sign). That is just plain nonsense. (Inf^3 is the ‘infinite largeness’ in his words whatever that means. ‘Ha, I just multiply it with 1 and write 1 as Inf/Inf. Marvelous!’ It just doesn’t make any sense mathematically, though.

    The excerpts also contain some ‘theorems’ but no proof, just some hand-waving for them.

    In chapter 10, one is told that:
    “The deuteron, with a ratio of protons to bound electrons of (2:1) … and its bound electron is actually smaller than its protons. … The last easily modeled nucleus is tritium. It can be represented as a triad of protons
    between two bound electrons.”

    What is he talking about? And more importantly, a deuteron contains 1 proton and 1 neutron not 2 protons, tritium is made up of 2 neutrons and 1 proton not 3 protons as he seems to say. Both only contain 1 electron. The bound electron is smaller than its protons?!?

    After reading of ‘a photon’s four-dimensional shape’ in chapter 8 I couldn’t take it any longer. It doesn’t look like he knows anything about quantum mechanics. It seems he read too many popular science books about physics and thought he could give it a try as well.

    If one ever looked at a book about, say, quantum mechanics, one immediately sees the difference to this one. First, there is much more mathematics (yes, in physics this is unavoidable and theorems are proven (at times over several pages)). Second, even if one doesn’t understand everything during the first reading, the parts clearly built on each other and are coherent. Not the case in this one (as far as one can tell from the excerpts). It’s just incoherent baloney.

    The ‘reviews’ are also telling. No physicist there. One guy complains about “…DOGMA has been rampantly escalating in Fundamental Physics for the past half-century …”.

    No examples, of course, only

    ” … a dogma getting more convoluted and ornate over passage of time, since “relativity’s” last major correction impact)”.

    What axe does he have to grind?

    I only wonder who would go to such lengths to write a 400- something book of rubbish?

  38. #38 Arno
    February 28, 2008

    Of course one can’t say it’s complete BS from just some excerpts, but the start of the preface isn’t very promissing. And people who claim that “a few scientists have pursued [insert any true scientific work here] at great risk to their professional careers” only try to use conspiracy ideas to play on our underbelly feelings instead of showing insight of how science actually works. One does not jeopardise one’s scientific career by exploring new ideas. One probably does, however, when insisting to keep exploring long after an idea has been decisively refuted. But fortunately for me someone else has already applied the Crackpot Index (#28).

    Leaves me with one point that already has been touched, but in my opinion not completely: from the preface I make up that the author is confused, as so many other non-scientists are, about the difference between a theory and a scientific theory. The first is just an idea, the latter is much more than that.
    General Relativity is a scientific theory: it is (amongst others) first of all testable. Big Bang on the other hand is just an idea. A scientific idea though, but still. Since there is no way of testing anything within the realm that all space and time is (almost) condensed into an anomaly, the status of Big Bang “theory” is nowhere near that of General Relativity when it comes to scientific theories.
    Of course Big Bang is based on General Relativity because that is the best scientific theory we have. At least at the moment, in that realm of physics. But that does not make Big Bang a scientific theory in the sense that General Relativity is. Big Bang is merely a start of a possible explanation, extrapolating our current knowledge into a realm where we can safely assume our current knowledge will appear to be insufficient.

    Oh, I just read #37: WRT to deuterium and tritium I think the superfluous electrons are meant to be within the nucleus: 3 protons and 2 electrons is what the author of this book thinks of when we say 1 proton and 2 neutrons. He probably came across the fact that a neutron can decay into a proton and an electron and concluded that a neutron is just the sum of those two. Speaking of being clueless…

  39. #39 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    As noted, one really shouldn’t judge a text on excerpts, but the site triggers my woo detector big time. Among them the complaint by the author that the book is judged unread. [Wtf? Someone writes a whole book before caring to allow tests of his theory? Is this ID or what?]

    Pulling an excerpt Witt claims that the universe is non-expanding (from chapter 15). That was enough contradiction with observation to stop right there, but the context is interesting; it is the old tired light hypothesis paraded about from its grave. Woo-woo! (The Randi EF thread discuss this and points to references, btw.)

    Not mentioned stupidities is when Witt redefines a galactic core as a massive black hole, disregarding what I understand as the newest models on galactic dynamics with possibly none or several black holes depending on galaxy mergers.

    But the funniest was the “professional” reviewers. Sander, a Business Systems Analyst, complains that his teachers didn’t answer his questions. A random educator didn’t satisfy a random student, so therefore science itself is wrong? Again, reminiscent of creationist science reasoning.

    How does the earth maintain its size when the space it occupies expands? What’s the mechanism? Gravity?

    Well, yes, but above all the EM and strong force that maintains atomic respectively nucleic sizes. And who says that this is a given? The Big Rip hypothesis allows for spacetime ripping everything apart, if the big bang expansion process eventually run away.

  40. #40 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    As noted, one really shouldn’t judge a text on excerpts, but the site triggers my woo detector big time. Among them the complaint by the author that the book is judged unread. [Wtf? Someone writes a whole book before caring to allow tests of his theory? Is this ID or what?]

    Pulling an excerpt Witt claims that the universe is non-expanding (from chapter 15). That was enough contradiction with observation to stop right there, but the context is interesting; it is the old tired light hypothesis paraded about from its grave. Woo-woo! (The Randi EF thread discuss this and points to references, btw.)

    Not mentioned stupidities is when Witt redefines a galactic core as a massive black hole, disregarding what I understand as the newest models on galactic dynamics with possibly none or several black holes depending on galaxy mergers.

    But the funniest was the “professional” reviewers. Sander, a Business Systems Analyst, complains that his teachers didn’t answer his questions. A random educator didn’t satisfy a random student, so therefore science itself is wrong? Again, reminiscent of creationist science reasoning.

    How does the earth maintain its size when the space it occupies expands? What’s the mechanism? Gravity?

    Well, yes, but above all the EM and strong force that maintains atomic respectively nucleic sizes. And who says that this is a given? The Big Rip hypothesis allows for spacetime ripping everything apart, if the big bang expansion process eventually run away.

  41. #41 Stephen Wells
    February 28, 2008

    Janus- the problem of what “time” means near the Big Bang is a bit like the problem of what “North” means when you’re at the North Pole.

    Here we are, about fourteen billion years away from the origin of the universe- that’s like being near the equator- you can use North, South, East, West as a useful coordinate system. But if you trek towards the North Pole, you’ll find that:

    -you’re running out of North.
    -North here is almost at right angles to North near the equator.

    The dimension which is timelike for us now may not have been timelike near the Big Bang. At this point you should have several beers, they help.

  42. #42 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    But if he is, that was logically refuted over a thousand years ago by some clever reasoning. If time extends infinitely into the past, then it would take an infinite amount of time to get to the present,

    Hmm. Physics doesn’t allow for philosophical reasoning, so eternal times scenarios are seriously proposed. (Mostly going forward, as backwards have physical difficulties.)

    This seems to me to be a case of confusing idealized math infinities (having already taken the limit) with physical unboundedness for observers (approaching a limit).

    Can another physicist please confirm

    Not at all the right sort of physicist, but AFAIK a more observationally sound bottom-up scenario (having a series of observations going back in time) would give such a description.

    People also proposes top-down scenarios though, there for example inflation embeds local pocket universes in a larger model. The problems with time aren’t AFAIU resolved but given another perspective; world lines for the local universe resulting in observed time, and world lines for the global model. (Thus a possibility for eternal world lines stretching backwards, albeit AFAIU with other physical problems.)

    Since there is no way of testing anything within the realm that all space and time is (almost) condensed into an anomaly, the status of Big Bang “theory” is nowhere near that of General Relativity when it comes to scientific theories.

    “Big Bang” is a misnomer, the theory and observations describes the expansion process we currently lives in, and is as verified as one can wish. (Well, almost – AFAIU inflation is still a bit lacking in confidence.) There is perhaps more data supporting it than GR as such. See the current concordance model of big bang.

    Compare with evolution and its theory that doesn’t describe or depend on the initial conditions (abiogenesis vs cosmological origin).

  43. #43 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    But if he is, that was logically refuted over a thousand years ago by some clever reasoning. If time extends infinitely into the past, then it would take an infinite amount of time to get to the present,

    Hmm. Physics doesn’t allow for philosophical reasoning, so eternal times scenarios are seriously proposed. (Mostly going forward, as backwards have physical difficulties.)

    This seems to me to be a case of confusing idealized math infinities (having already taken the limit) with physical unboundedness for observers (approaching a limit).

    Can another physicist please confirm

    Not at all the right sort of physicist, but AFAIK a more observationally sound bottom-up scenario (having a series of observations going back in time) would give such a description.

    People also proposes top-down scenarios though, there for example inflation embeds local pocket universes in a larger model. The problems with time aren’t AFAIU resolved but given another perspective; world lines for the local universe resulting in observed time, and world lines for the global model. (Thus a possibility for eternal world lines stretching backwards, albeit AFAIU with other physical problems.)

    Since there is no way of testing anything within the realm that all space and time is (almost) condensed into an anomaly, the status of Big Bang “theory” is nowhere near that of General Relativity when it comes to scientific theories.

    “Big Bang” is a misnomer, the theory and observations describes the expansion process we currently lives in, and is as verified as one can wish. (Well, almost – AFAIU inflation is still a bit lacking in confidence.) There is perhaps more data supporting it than GR as such. See the current concordance model of big bang.

    Compare with evolution and its theory that doesn’t describe or depend on the initial conditions (abiogenesis vs cosmological origin).

  44. #44 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    @ James F #8:

    it reminds me of this book

    Obviously I’m neither a biologist nor a paleoanthropologist, but Laelaps discusses Filler’s hypothesis as reasonable. [And his blogging prompted me to read a paper of Filler. It looked non-cranky to this layman, laying out the data and giving what I took for a reasonable (albeit perhaps unlikely) and probably non-falsified hypothesis with some predictions.]

    What gives?

  45. #45 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    @ James F #8:

    it reminds me of this book

    Obviously I’m neither a biologist nor a paleoanthropologist, but Laelaps discusses Filler’s hypothesis as reasonable. [And his blogging prompted me to read a paper of Filler. It looked non-cranky to this layman, laying out the data and giving what I took for a reasonable (albeit perhaps unlikely) and probably non-falsified hypothesis with some predictions.]

    What gives?

  46. #46 Emmet Caulfield
    February 28, 2008

    What is it with people with bachelors in engineering thinking they’re experts in everything?!?

    Go to a forum with a high traffic of engineers and programmers, find a post about, say, a biologist who has, unbeknown to himself, just reinvented COBOL as an “easy programming language for biologists” or somesuch, then see how many posts there are before someone proclaims “Why is it that biologists think they’re experts in everything?”, then see how many more post virtual nods of agreement.

    I admit to a B.Eng. in EE and being a programmer (which I’ve learned from reading the comments on science blogs are both unspeakable crimes), and while I admit that I often find my colleagues’ forays into other disciplines deeply embarrassing, my point is that it’s largely a matter of one’s own perspective: splinters, planks, and eyes.

    People don’t, by and large, respect boundaries between disciplines, and that’s a good thing for the most part. Occasionally some guy makes an ass of himself, and he’s not always an engineer.

  47. #47 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    Well, yes, but above all the EM and strong force that maintains atomic respectively nucleic sizes.

    Sorry, that was confusing. This is what maintains the sizes for the smaller objects that gravitation works on.

    And I’m just reminded of IIRC Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance describing this. Looking at GR alone, there is “above all” no observable local expansion as local spacetime is asymptotically flat anyhow, for reasonable geometries. Duh! (I assume the Big Rip hypothesis circumvents this eventually.)

  48. #48 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 28, 2008

    Well, yes, but above all the EM and strong force that maintains atomic respectively nucleic sizes.

    Sorry, that was confusing. This is what maintains the sizes for the smaller objects that gravitation works on.

    And I’m just reminded of IIRC Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance describing this. Looking at GR alone, there is “above all” no observable local expansion as local spacetime is asymptotically flat anyhow, for reasonable geometries. Duh! (I assume the Big Rip hypothesis circumvents this eventually.)

  49. #49 negentropyeater
    February 28, 2008

    No need to read the book. Over at the randi forum, he explained a bit beter what is the basis for his theory :

    “My theory resolves the universality of governing constants because it has only one: the four-dimensional size of infinite space, and this is by definition the same everywhere in infinite space. I was able to calculate this size and it is equal to 3.16(10)^-26 J-m, and it is called “unit hypervolume”. Physically, it’s a hypercube whose edge length is about 0.1 mm. It is the connection between the macro and micro universe and the quintessential definition of finiteness.

    Our universe has four and only four dimensions, three of space and one of time. It contains two, dimensionally unique three-dimensional substances: space, whose units are of course distance^3, and energy, whose fundamental units are time-distance^2. The reason why it is possible to have finite energy density in space is because both have the same dimensional size. Our universe has space and curved space, nothing else. Everything within it can be described as some combination of its four dimensions.

    Since unit hypervolume is a four-dimensional finite, it represents the one and only bounding condition for anything, in particular energy. This is why Planck’s constant has units of J-m, and why it is associated with the quantization of energy. Joules, as energy, is three-dimensional, and meters are one dimensional, for a total of four dimensions. Planck’s constant isn’t exactly equal to space’s four-dimensional size, the proportionality between the two is 2PI, but that’s a detail I needn’t address here.”

    So, here we are, the universe described by his theory, is physically equivallent to a hypercube whose edge length is about 0.1 mm.

    Interesting, but definitely not the universe we live in.

    So, unless someone is interested to spend 60$ to read a description of a hypothetical universe, which has nothing to do with the one we live in, I don’t think one needs to buy this book…

  50. #50 Pol Lambert
    February 28, 2008

    Re 19, 37:
    I think he did exactly that, he chooses the energy to be zero at infinity. (as everyone else does) This is not only a sensible convention. Gravity can see this and it results in curvature , which in turn we can see. There is however nothing unexpected.

    Re 38:
    It kinda depends on what you mean with big bang theory. There is a huge body of evidence suggesting that about 14 billion years ago, the universe was so small and dense that the existing laws of physics are insufficient to describe it. If you call that big bang theory, it’s a theory. If you call what happened before this moment, then it’s a hypothesis.

  51. #51 True Bob
    February 28, 2008

    How long from what? There is no starting point to measure from.

    Which results in a huge pet peeve of mine. “A is twice as small as B” or “today will be twice as cold as yesterday”. It drives me mad, there’s no reference, so these things mean nothing. But they’re out there ALL THE TIME! Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

  52. #52 Matt Penfold
    February 28, 2008

    Didn’t Steven Hawking come up with the idea that time could be finite but boundless, thus doing away with some of the problems associated with when time started ?

  53. #53 Grumpy Physicist
    February 28, 2008

    It warms the cockles of my heart to see the folks at JREF take this loon to task. But to answer a question here:

    Of course one can’t say it’s complete BS from just some excerpts, but the start of the preface isn’t very promissing.

    It’s certainly true that one can’t be sure that it’s 100% BS without checking 100% of the content.

    But that’s rather like saying “we can’t be sure that ALL electrons have the same charge, unless we check ALL of them” or “we can’t be sure that all (healty) mice have four legs, without checking all of them”

    Here’s a scientific (disprovable) hypothesis: the Null Physics book is 100% BS where the content is non-trivial (so exclude punctuation, chapter headings, index, etc).

    Spot checks so far have supported the hypothesis. Please feel free to add more observational data, but be aware that you may be heading down the “check all mice” path to nowhere.

    For extra credit (and a shout-out to cosmic-ray people), turn the BS observations into a flux limit on non-BS. Just make sure that you do the confidence limits correctly.

  54. #54 Stephen Wells
    February 28, 2008

    At least this is a finite book, so you can in principle exhaustively search it.

    Fortunately, it suffices to find any step in his argument which is BS, and all subsequent steps will also be BS.

    My pick: if his hypercube has side length 0.1 mm, then the shortest observable period of time in which anything can happen should be that length divided by c, so that’s 10^-4 m over 3*10^9 m which is about 10^-13 or 10^-14 seconds. But we already have femtosecond lasers ( http://www.rp-photonics.com/femtosecond_lasers.html ). Ergo he’s wrong.

  55. #55 GDad
    February 28, 2008

    This guy runs ads in Popular Science, which is one of my throne room reading rags. Unfortunately, I think the title should be Popular “Science”, based on the fact that it accepts advertising from the Null Physics guy and John Ellis of super-duper water magic fame. And the pheromone sellers. And the elevator shoes people. And the build-a-barn-in-10-minutes people…

  56. #56 gerald spezio
    February 28, 2008

    But of course, it is another “breathtaking breakthrough” & “cutting edge” new-age “paradigm shift.”

  57. #57 Iain Walker
    February 28, 2008

    Re Comment #33:

    It’s more analagous to how long it takes for something traveling at a finite speed to cover an infinite distance.

    That doesn’t really help, since something travelling at a finite velocity can still travel an infinite distance – given an infinite amount of time.

    Off the top of my head (and I may be misremembering), the “If time extends infinitely into the past, then it would take an infinite amount of time to get to the present” objection to an infinite past derives from Aristotle. It certainly crops up in the later Aristotelian tradition, since it was part of the reasoning behind Aquinas’ cosmological arguments for the existence of God.

    However, Gregory Kusnick has the right of it. The objection is a non sequitur, because it merely begs the question in assuming that time has a beginning. The point of the idea of time extending infinitely into the past is that time does not have beginning, and so it is meaningless to think of time as having to “get to the present” from some kind of starting point.

    Think of it this way – it makes as much sense as arguing that an infinite series of numbers is impossible because if you start counting backwards from infinity, you’ll never reach zero. If someone tried arguing that, you’d be quite justified in supposing that they didn’t understand the concept of infinity. Both arguments make the mistake of treating infinity as if it were a number like any other, when it ain’t.

    But I’ll agree that the concept of time extending infinitely into the past is hard to imagine and probably is meaningless

    Hardly meaningless. It simply means that all past moments of time can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with the members of an infinite set like the real numbers. That’s a perfectly meaningful suggestion. This may be hard to imagine, but that’s because infinity is a tricky concept to get one’s head around, not because there something specifically wrong with the concept of an infinite past.

    Whether or not time can be said to extend infinitely in any direction is probably an empirical question, depending on which models end up describing the universe best. It’s not obviously something you can decide a priori, and certainly not with faulty logic.

  58. #58 gerald spezio
    February 28, 2008

    Grumpy Physicist said;
    “Spot checks so far have supported the hypothesis. Please feel free to add more observational data, but be aware that you may be heading down the check all mice path(s) to nowhere.”

    Your phase, “… check all mice paths to nowhere.” is classic for both microanalysis and the trained lawyer’s courtroom antics.

  59. #59 jeff
    February 28, 2008

    That doesn’t really help, since something travelling at a finite velocity can still travel an infinite distance – given an infinite amount of time.

    That’s exactly my point And how long would we have to wait for an infinite amount of time to expire? Does it ever expire? (We’re talking about the real physical world here, not math)

    Think of it this way – it makes as much sense as arguing that an infinite series of numbers is impossible because if you start counting backwards from infinity, you’ll never reach zero. If someone tried arguing that, you’d be quite justified in supposing that they didn’t understand the concept of infinity.

    Ah, but we’re not discussing abstract math here – we’re talking about the real physical world. If you built a computer that would endlessly subtract one from infinity (to yield infinity at each step), would it ever reach zero?

    This may be hard to imagine, but that’s because infinity is a tricky concept to get one’s head around, not because there something specifically wrong with the concept of an infinite past.

    No, it’s not due to infinity. I have no difficultly imagining time extending infinitely into the future.

    Hardly meaningless. It simply means that all past moments of time can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with the members of an infinite set like the real numbers. That’s a perfectly meaningful suggestion

    Again, we are not talking about math here. Just because you can come up with a mathematical model, does not mean it corresponds to something real in the physical world. Time is involved with other things like events and causation (as well being related to space, energy, and gravity – but aristotle didn’t know that),

  60. #60 Master Mahan
    February 28, 2008

    Never trust a hypothesis that names itself after the amount of its supporting evidence.

  61. #61 SteveM
    February 28, 2008

    I have not the read this book, as a EE myself I feel obligated to spend my time writing my own book redefining all of physics :-)

    Re BigBang: we all know that the “Bing Bang” was a derisive term coined by Hoyle to describe what happens if you just linearly project the observed expansion of the universe bacward in time. Since Guth’s inflationary model it seems that one can no longer project back to a point in time of infinite density. All we can say is that before inflation the universe was extremely dense, there is no way to tell how long it may have been in that state.

    infinite time: It seems to me that the argument that time can’t be infinite since the universe could never get to the present, is similar to the same arguments against .999… = 1. Most people are stuck with the image of having to write each 9 successively and therefore it can never actually reach the value of 1. It is hard to imagine an infinite string of 9s as just existing as an object. Likewise, if one considers the universe as a 4 dimensional “object”, then there is no reason it cannot be infinite in time. “Now” is just soem position within that 4D object. There is no “movement” from the moment at -inf to “now”.

    Re “Why do EE’s feel qualified to write books on physics?”:
    most EE’s are just frustrated physicists :-), or physicists that realized engineers with a BS or an MS make far more money than with a Physics PhD. Okay those are the glib answers, but seriously, EE is very physics oriented, dealing with electrons and Maxwell’s eqns. and QM in transistors etc. EE’s take the stuff physicists write about and actually build it. So maybe there is a little arrogance that derives from that. At least, that is what I see in myself, maybe I shouldn’t generalize to all EE’s.

  62. #62 Futility
    February 28, 2008

    #38

    “Oh, I just read #37: WRT to deuterium and tritium I think the superfluous electrons are meant to be within the nucleus: 3 protons and 2 electrons is what the author of this book thinks of when we say 1 proton and 2 neutrons. He probably came across the fact that a neutron can decay into a proton and an electron …”

    Thought about that, too. But where did the anti-electron-neutrino go?
    (beta decay: n-> p + e + anti-v_e)
    “Ah, well, it’s just massless anyways, let’s forget about it.” Well, almost massless.

    But, I think you are right, that’s probably what he thought.
    Clueless, …

  63. #63 Iain Walker
    February 28, 2008

    That’s exactly my point And how long would we have to wait for an infinite amount of time to expire?

    An infinite amount of time, obviously. Measured, of course, from a starting point.

    Ah, but we’re not discussing abstract math here – we’re talking about the real physical world.

    True. But the two arguments nevertheless employ the same fallacy – of treating infinity as if it denoted a starting point, rather than as denoting the absence of a starting point.

    If you built a computer that would endlessly subtract one from infinity (to yield infinity at each step), would it ever reach zero?

    My point was that this fact doesn’t count against the idea of an infinite series, but the Aristotelian argument that you originally employed assumes that it does. Mind you, what if the computer had been running for an infinite amount of time (i.e., it had always been counting down)?

    No, it’s not due to infinity. I have no difficultly imagining time extending infinitely into the future.

    Hmm. It seems to me that if you concede the logical possibility of an infinite future, you no longer have any grounds for denying the logical possibility of an infinite past. If you allow that it is meaningful to talk of a time t which is infinitely distant from us in the future, you’ve just granted that it is meaningful to speak of a time which has an infinite past, because that’s precisely what t has. In which case, why can’t this particular point in time (i.e., now) have an infinite past?

    To put it another way, if you can envisage analogues of ourselves having this discussion an infinite time in the future, what would be the correct view for your analogue to have regarding an infinite past?

    Just because you can come up with a mathematical model, does not mean it corresponds to something real in the physical world. Time is involved with other things like events and causation (as well being related to space, energy, and gravity – but aristotle didn’t know that)

    Which was kind of my point – you have to go out into the real world to see if your models work, and that includes models that assume an infinite past and models which assume a finite past. Contrary to the argument you initially cited, it’s not something you can determine by a priori reasoning alone.

    Just in case it’s unclear, I’m not defending (as such) the idea that time extends infinitely into the past. Indeed I suspect that it probably doesn’t – but as a matter of empirical fact, not something deducible from first principles. All I’m really getting at is that the Aristotelian counter-argument is a bad argument, and that an infinite past is still logically possible, even if it turns out to be empirically false.

  64. #64 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 28, 2008
    the [...] scientific approach lacks any trace of an underlying natural philosophy.

    Guess what, kook: that’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

    Anyone with a basic familiarity with high-school physics can, by reading this volume, understand the universe with a greater depth and clarity than is currently believed possible. Welcome to 21st century physics.

    “The worst math is no math at all.”

    the author has some problematic (combining two spin-1/2 particles to get a spin-1/2 particle) notions about the neutron being composed of an electron plus a proton.

    He’s almost right — add an electronic antineutrino, and you’re getting somewhere.

    All that physicists really agree on is that at the big bang, the universe became similar enough to the way we understand it for the concept of time to make sense.

    Great explanation. I’m stealing it.

    Physics just lends itself to this stuff in a way that biology doesn’t.

    …in a way that biology doesn’t anymore, now that speculations like vitalism are superfluous, now that we have the theory of evolution, know what DNA is, know how transcription & translation work, understand biochemistry, and so on.

  65. #65 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 28, 2008
    the [...] scientific approach lacks any trace of an underlying natural philosophy.

    Guess what, kook: that’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

    Anyone with a basic familiarity with high-school physics can, by reading this volume, understand the universe with a greater depth and clarity than is currently believed possible. Welcome to 21st century physics.

    “The worst math is no math at all.”

    the author has some problematic (combining two spin-1/2 particles to get a spin-1/2 particle) notions about the neutron being composed of an electron plus a proton.

    He’s almost right — add an electronic antineutrino, and you’re getting somewhere.

    All that physicists really agree on is that at the big bang, the universe became similar enough to the way we understand it for the concept of time to make sense.

    Great explanation. I’m stealing it.

    Physics just lends itself to this stuff in a way that biology doesn’t.

    …in a way that biology doesn’t anymore, now that speculations like vitalism are superfluous, now that we have the theory of evolution, know what DNA is, know how transcription & translation work, understand biochemistry, and so on.

  66. #66 Jaycubed
    February 28, 2008

    “Thought about that, too. But where did the anti-electron-neutrino go?
    (beta decay: n-> p + e + anti-v_e)
    Posted by: Futility”

    He seems to think that neutrinos are anti-photons. So a photon would be absorbed when the electron & proton combine to make a neutron.

    No idea how he converts 6 different types of neutrinos of 3 families with different probable masses into one type of photon.
    .

  67. #67 Blake Stacey
    February 28, 2008

    String Theory (why Theory? don’t we tell people not to confuse things this way?) hasn’t come back to the lab for three or four decades

    1. Physicists have been infected by mathematics, so our use of the word “theory” has at least a little of the sense of “group theory” or “set theory”.

    2. Gauge-gravity dualities are applicable to quark-gluon plasma. Sure, nuclear physics is not quantum gravity, but it is where string theory originally got its start in life.

  68. #68 jeff
    February 28, 2008

    An infinite amount of time, obviously. Measured, of course, from a starting point.

    …or measured from an endpoint (the present). The problem is that time is not a number line. It has a direction and is divided into the past, present, and future (although some physicists would dispute that), and in order to actually reach a point in time, all of the time before that point must have expired. Since an infinite period of time can never expire (by definition), the present point in time could never be realized with an infinite past.

    True. But the two arguments nevertheless employ the same fallacy – of treating infinity as if it denoted a starting point, rather than as denoting the absence of a starting point.

    If you built a computer that would endlessly subtract one from infinity (to yield infinity at each step), would it ever reach zero?

    …. Mind you, what if the computer had been running for an infinite amount of time (i.e., it had always been counting down)?

    I would maintain, as aristotle did, that such a computer is logical impossible to realize in the present (and therefore cannot be real), since an infinite amount of time does not expire.

    Hmm. It seems to me that if you concede the logical possibility of an infinite future, you no longer have any grounds for denying the logical possibility of an infinite past. If you allow that it is meaningful to talk of a time t which is infinitely distant from us in the future, you’ve just granted that it is meaningful to speak of a time which has an infinite past, because that’s precisely what t has.

    No they quite are different, because time is not symmetrical, and the future has not expired but the past has.

    Contrary to the argument you initially cited, it’s not something you can determine by a priori reasoning alone

    True, but you can make a strong logical case against it.

  69. #69 Gregory Kusnick
    February 28, 2008

    Since an infinite period of time can never expire (by definition), the present point in time could never be realized with an infinite past.

    I’m curious what physical entity or quantity you imagine is actually doing this reaching and expiring? In an Einsteinian universe there is no absolute time, no master clock ticking off the moments of history. There is only local observer time, and even in an infinite past, no observer has an infinite history. Every physical object — planet, person, or particle — has an origin at some definite point in time. So there’s no difficulty with any particular observer reaching its local “now” from its own point of origin. And since the global “now” doesn’t exist, the problem of how it got that way doesn’t arise.

    If you’re worried about an infinite regress of causality, I claim that’s a non-issue as well. In attempting to trace back an infinite causal chain, we must sooner or later come to an episode of chaotic behavior in which causal relationships are so complex and so sensitive to immeasurably small variations that causality is effectively randomized. Trying to trace back beyond such an episode would be meaningless if not impossible. So in practice all causal chains are finite, even in an infinite past.

  70. #70 Helioprogenus
    February 28, 2008

    At least he doesn’t seem to be a creationist. Perhaps he’s using his crack-pot to target well verified physics principles, but he’s providing refutable methods to disprove him. Science progresses when we can have testable predictions, and in Witt’s case, they can be disproved. He gets a great ripping in the BAUT forum, and yes, he does seem to actually believe what he says so at least he’s more or less intellectually honest…deficient…but honest.

    Perhaps this was already mentioned, and although I’m no physicist, I could see how he buys into unbounded causality. We do know that our universe operates on the causality principle, but we don’t know when (very very early in the universe perhaps, but no specifics yet) this emerged and therefore what happened before the emergence of causality is a moot point. Furthermore, he argues that something has to emerge from nothingness, because there is no other way for something to come about. Now, I’m no philosopher either, but there are countless ways to look at how somethingness exists, without having to have emerged from nothingness. Or should it have emerged, then one must explain what nothingness means. Perhaps it’s in the inherent nature of nothingness to spawn somethingness, and we know that none of Witt’s arguments will get us closer to such explanations. As scientists, we can’t jump to conclusions because of our lack of empirical evidence to back up a complete understanding of things. We are creatures that are attempting to uncover the fundamental properties and laws of the universe. Not only that, but we’re trying to do this while assuming that since we are a product of the universe, that the laws that we do have should be similar across the vast cosmos, and therefore, the evidence that builds should reach certain verifiable conclusions. The gaps will always be there, but we strive to fill them. His attempt at uncovering those gaps fails, even with his fancy mathematical equations, because his initial premise is already biased. A biased premise will lead to biased results.

  71. #71 Ben M
    February 28, 2008

    My only comment (also made at JREF): a two-page spread in Smithsonian costs $250,000; Witt has been running this ad, and similar ones in other national magazines, for months. Witt must have spent more on this book than Harun Yahya did on his.

    Amazing. Crazy.

  72. #72 Iain Walker
    February 29, 2008

    Re Comment #63:

    …or measured from an endpoint (the present).

    Not sure this makes sense. The point you’re measuring from is by definition the starting point of the measurement. Whether or not the measurement has an end point depends on whether or not the quantity being measured has a finite limit – which is precisely the issue in contention. To put it another way, if we’re talking about an infinite past, then the present is the point of reference from which we begin, and the question at stake is whether or not there is an end point to any measurement made from that starting point.

    in order to actually reach a point in time, all of the time before that point must have expired.

    Again, you’re committing the error of treating infinity as if it were a number from which you can start counting, or a point from which you can start measuring. Talk of “reaching a point in time” only makes sense if measured from a specifiable point of origin. The point of the idea of an infinite past is that for any point of origin you specify for a particular measurement of past time, you can always specify an earlier point of origin than the previous one.

    I would maintain, as aristotle did, that such a computer is logical impossible to realize in the present (and therefore cannot be real), since an infinite amount of time does not expire.

    The comment about the computer having been running forever was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, although I didn’t really signpost that (my bad). However, the example is absurd not for the reason you give, but because computational enumeration (or any other form of counting) is a process of a kind that we know has to have a beginning (i.e., any given computer has to be built, switched on, and the counting program executed).

    But just because a given physical counting process within a temporal framework must have a finite lower boundary, it doesn’t mean that the framework itself must also have a lower boundary. You can’t use analogies with finite processes to prove that the framework in which they take place must also be finite, since this just begs the question. It’s like saying that a spatial dimension cannot be infinite, simply because the process of physically drawing a line has to start somewhere.

    No they quite are different, because time is not symmetrical, and the future has not expired but the past has.

    Actually, my point about a time infinitely far in the future having an infinite past as measured from that future point was a load of bollocks, but for an entirely different reason. I was treating now-plus-infinity as if it were a point from which you could measure backwards, which commits exactly the same mistake you were making in measuring forwards from now-minus-infinity. I obviously hadn’t thought that one through … :-P

    So while I withdraw that particular point, I still take issue with the idea that the fact that the past has “expired” is in any way relevant. All it means is that we’re constrained to move in a particular direction along the universe’s temporal axis. This doesn’t tell us anything about the extent of that axis in one direction or the other. An infinite past is still possible if time has always been “expiring”.

    True, but you can make a strong logical case against it.

    Maybe. I’m willing to be convinced. Unfortunately, the particular argument you’ve been putting forward isn’t that case.

  73. #73 bertok
    February 29, 2008

    # 50:

    Classic, definitive Boo-Yah!
    Simple and concise. There is no refutation to this. Let’s all call it a day and get some pints.
    (Why is there so much commentary on this anyway?).

  74. #74 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 1, 2008

    If you’re worried about an infinite regress of causality, I claim that’s a non-issue as well. In attempting to trace back an infinite causal chain, we must sooner or later come to

    Heisenberg.

    What causes a radioactive nucleus to decay? Only the fact that it can.

  75. #75 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 1, 2008

    If you’re worried about an infinite regress of causality, I claim that’s a non-issue as well. In attempting to trace back an infinite causal chain, we must sooner or later come to

    Heisenberg.

    What causes a radioactive nucleus to decay? Only the fact that it can.

  76. #76 Joey B
    March 5, 2008

    Someone may have already said it but if you look at the name of the book Null Physics it means no value physics.

  77. #77 Ben M
    August 12, 2008

    Sorry to post in a long-dead thread, but (if anyone still cares) I actually read Witt’s book and wrote a review.

    http://web.mit.edu/~bmonreal/www/Null_Physics_Review.html

  78. #78 Reality Check
    November 19, 2008

    Also see my review at http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~fiski/ouu_review.html

    The flaws of this crackpot book are many and include:
    Redefining the concept of infinity as a length with magnitude.
    Defining a line as a series of points written as zeros, treating them as numbers so that they add up to zero and then treating the number zero as a point again!
    A really bad atomic model “proving” that a electron orbiting a proton has a ground state that it cannot decay from by creating a new physical law.
    Using the high school description of a neutron as a proton plus an electron and not realizing that this is just his atomic model!
    Postulating that galaxies have “galactic cores” which are super massive objects that are not quite black holes and not realizing that the centre of the Milky Way is well observed. These recycle stars into hydrogen. Oddly enough astronomers have not noticed dozens of stars vanishing from the galactic centre in the many images that they have taken over the last few decades.

    Conclusion: Bad mathematics and even worse physics.

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