“Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing. That’s voting.” -Robert Frost

Our first week of may has gone by here at Starts With A Bang, and we’re just $26 in pledges short, over on Patreon, of unlocking our next goal! In addition, we’ve also guest-starred on a Podcast/radio show over at Science For The People, on stories from Beyond The Galaxy:

We’ve also hit on the following articles this week, just in case you missed anything:

The next Starts With A Bang podcast — on dark energy — will come out next week (I’m stoked!), and for those of you who can make it to Centralia College on May 20th at noon, I’ll be speaking there on the Fate of the Universe. And now that you’ve gotten the weekly redux, let’s jump into it without further delay: your Comments Of The Week!

Ted Cruz, with a loaded statement from a questionable science news source, during a hearing on climate change on December 8, 2015. Image credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

Ted Cruz, with a loaded statement from a questionable science news source, during a hearing on climate change on December 8, 2015. Image credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

From Ragtag Media on the possibility that entire scientific fields are driven by non-scientific forces: “Surly you trust Scientific American on at least the potential?
”An Epidemic of False Claims
Competition and conflicts of interest distort too many medical findings”
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/an-epidemic-of-false-claims/

It’s important to consider what’s happening and why it’s happening whenever you evaluate the scientific truth or feasibility of something. In the medical field, we have an interesting combination of circumstances:

  • Patients have problems, and the causes of those problems are often difficult to identify.
  • The symptoms that occur in patients may not always overlap, so it’s a difficult task to determine which set of symptoms correlate with which root cause.
  • Initial attempts at treatments (or studies of any type) are often done on small sample size groups.
  • Only positive (not null or negative) results are ever reported in the literature.

So you wind up with a situation where — even independent of conflicts of interest — initial medical results are hard to reproduce. But this is part of the luxury of physical sciences: we can collect so much data over such long periods of time and so robustly that we’re not stuck chasing 2-sigma results looking for a signal. 4-sigma, 5-sigma and even better results are common, and allow us to deduce scientific truths about the Universe that are far less ambiguous. I know climate science is your core area of distrust, so why don’t you go and take the (publicly available!) global temperature record for yourself and do the analysis, and see what you find as the trend for warming over whatever time period you choose. I’m curious what you’ll conclude?

Image credit: Breakthrough Starshot, of the laser sail concept for a “starchip” spaceship.

Image credit: Breakthrough Starshot, of the laser sail concept for a “starchip” spaceship.

From Michael Kelsey on what happens to a thin solar/laser sail traveling at ~20% the speed of light: “But protons will see the whole atom via electromagnetic interactions, and the total ionization cross-section is as large as the whole atom (typically reported in units of 10^-16 cm^2, or 100 Mb), so this suggests that ionization (and hence some form of heating) will occur for nearly every collision.”

For those of you hoping to travel through interstellar space at ~20% (or more) the speed of light, I hope you like ionization. (Or I hope you have a great magnetic deflector to avoid it!) Unless your goal is to send a tattered stream of ions to the stars, I think this is yet another legitimate obstacle for the breakthrough starshot.

Stock image of an *old* television signal, set to good old channel 3.

Stock image of an *old* television signal, set to good old channel 3.

From JG Bennet on faster-than-light communication: “If a spacecraft had a sail and a satellite based laser shot that sail and pushed it to almost the speed of light and the craft had a communications laser pointing to another satellite, like the wire on a wire guided missile to its controller, could you see a live feed if the connection never broke even if the craft is 20 light years away?”

Nope; the problem is that light all massless particles in the Universe travel only at the speed of light, and all massive ones (which you want to send the signal through) are restricted to travel at under the speed of light. Your “live feed” would be at least 20 years out of date by time it arrived.

Image credit: Rutgers, retrieved from http://www.physics.rutgers.edu/~zrwan/physics/.

Image credit: Rutgers, retrieved from http://www.physics.rutgers.edu/~zrwan/physics/.

From Paul Dekous on quantum indeterminism: “I’m simply saying that according to QM, the particle doesn’t have an actual axis, until you try to measure it.”

This is actually weirder than you imagine. Imagine you’ve got some spin-1/2 particles, that could either have spin +ħ/2 or −ħ/2. Let me ask you, now, if you measure the spin along the x-axis, what the spin is? You’ll get some that are +ħ/2 and some that are -ħ/2.

But what if you now measure the spin along the y-axis? You don’t get zero; you get either +ħ/2 or -ħ/2.

So what if you took the ones you measured to be +ħ/2 in the x-direction, then measured the y-direction and got either +ħ/2 or -ħ/2, and then measured the x-direction again?

You’d find, quite puzzlingly, that 50% of the particles would have a spin of +ħ/2 and the other 50% would have -ħ/2. In other words, by making one measurement — along the y-axis — you randomized (or threw back into an indeterminate state) the spins along the other two axes. For lack of a better term, it “remembers” what you did to it.

Image credit: Sabine Hossenfelder, of a "photonic boom," explained here: https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/photonic-booms-6ee592e487fd#.mfwxq6uib

Image credit: Sabine Hossenfelder, of a “photonic boom,” explained here: https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/photonic-booms-6ee592e487fd#.mfwxq6uib

From Ragtag Media on defeating the speed of light… with your mind: “I think perhaps only Ethan can relate to my concept of the minds imaginations ability to conceptualize faster than light concepts.
In one’s mind you can go from imagining hovering over the surface of the sun in one moment to walking on Pluto the next.”

This is the most hippy-dippy thing you’ve ever said, Ragtag!

No, just kidding. You can imagine whatever you like, and in terms of shadows or other “non-physical” signals, you can have them go infinitely fast. But if you want to program them to “make signal A or signal B,” you can only begin creating those signals at the speed of light. Other than that, you’ve got to cheat spacetime itself, which you’ll need things like wormholes or some sort of “space contractor” or folder to get there. Good luck to you with that.

A full-color view of the rocky terrain of Mount Sharp, with the darker, lower dunes in the foreground. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSL Curiosity Rover.

A full-color view of the rocky terrain of Mount Sharp, with the darker, lower dunes in the foreground. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSL Curiosity Rover.

From Sinisa Lazarek: “We generally associate mars with red, yet this close up shows very blue-ish hues. One can see the hints of red and yellow beneath, but almost looks like top soil is blue-grey. Is this because of lighting in this particular case..or is it due to chemical composition.. or is it ice in form of sand.. ?”

Although Michael Kelsey had a great response to this, I’d like to declare that these are definitely false-color images. Why? Because having Mars appear in 256 shades of red isn’t all that informative or interesting. The atmosphere itself causes everything to be red, and the geology itself is red. There are other colors at play, though, and so we do a whole slew of image processing to make them appear more clearly. “True color” images aren’t very informative. Here’s an iconic photo of Victoria Crater as imaged by Opportunity, often cited as “that’s gotta be Earth!”

Image credit: NASA / JPL / Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity. Of Victoria Crater in false color.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity. Of Victoria Crater in false color.

Beautiful! Spectacular! Earth-like! Amazing!

But this is in false color. What did the true-color original look like?

Image credit: NASA / JPL / Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity.

Also amazing, but far more alien and, well, Mars-like. But that’s because this is Mars, and yet we encode this planet’s information to make it more visually informative. Hence the false-coloration. Sorry if it misleads you to think it’s more like Earth than it actually is.

Public domain image of an underwater nuclear weapons detonation test during the Cold War.

Public domain image of an underwater nuclear weapons detonation test during the Cold War.

From schnablo on World War II: “Not only heavy water in Norway,
‘you’ also bombed my physics department. (No hurt feelings :-) )
Greetings from Leipzig”

You can take the quotes around ‘you’ away. I may have been born in 1978 in New York, but I’m pretty sure I’ll take the fall for that. But this underwater nuclear bomb test, shown above, didn’t happen until 1946.

Vemork Hydroelectric Plant at Rjukan, Norway in 1935. The heavy water was produced in the front building. Image credit: Anders Beer Wilse, in the public domain.

Vemork Hydroelectric Plant at Rjukan, Norway in 1935. The heavy water was produced in the front building. Image credit: Anders Beer Wilse, in the public domain.

From skepticscott on Hitler’s atomic bomb program: “Whatever technical know-how Germany had regarding the construction of an atomic bomb, they simply did not have the infrastructure and resources to succeed at it in any practical sense. On the US side, it was the biggest and most expensive scientific project ever undertaken, by far, and had Germany thrown all of the resources into it that would have been necessary to create a working bomb, it would have compromised their war effort in many other ways.”

This is probably quite fair. The Wehrmacht really devoted practically all of their resources towards conventional war efforts: land, sea and air. The bombs and rockets they developed were incredibly damaging and expensive, but also represented pretty much all of the German funds available. Meanwhile, the US poured in the equivalent of ~$2 billion into atomic bomb research, having the luxury of being a continent away from the main action. One of the surprising things I read in Bascomb’s book was that when Roosevelt and Churchill met, the latter expected some sort of deal to need to be made in order to share intelligence and resources on atomic bomb research. Roosevelt basically gave a, “what’s ours is yours and what’s yours is ours” deal to Churchill on that, and never renegotiated.

Image credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration.

Image credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration.

From See Noevo on something that I would be ashamed to think: ““1.) Einstein first dismissed it outright when it was presented to him as a possibility.”
Meaning he later did *not* dismiss it?”

Yes, absolutely! Einstein dismissed it because his predispositions were biased to go down another route. But when the evidence came in that showed his preferred explanation (of a non-expanding Universe) was a no-go, and that the Universe was expanding, Einstein thoroughly embraced this as a legitimate possibility that necessitated investigation.

If this is not how you approach or think about science, there is an internal journey you must take before you’ll be able to properly think in scientific terms. I hope you get there.

Also, as (obliquely) requested, the above map shows the CMB fluctuations, or departures from uniformity, whose magnitude are on the tens-to-hundreds of microKelvin scale. The galaxy is also subtracted out.

Image credit: NASA / WMAP science team.

Image credit: NASA / WMAP science team.

While this map shows the temperature of the CMB with the (monopole) signal superimposed on it. The galaxy is present, and is the only non-uniform signal visible. Why? Because this signal is more than 10,000 times as strong as the signal from the fluctuations, which is why you cannot detect the imperfection in the roundness of a billiard ball. Looking for the imperfections in the CMB is like looking for paramecium-thickness fluctuations in the smoothness of your basketball court. Which is to say, it’s quite uniform.

The star cluster Hodge 301 (lower right) in the Tarantula Nebula, by Hubble. Image credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA / STScI / NASA).

The star cluster Hodge 301 (lower right) in the Tarantula Nebula, by Hubble. Image credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA / STScI / NASA).

And finally, from Narad on star formation and what’s still not known: “‘You can Google “star formation theories” and the top non-wiki hit includes [sic] this’
Yes, it’s a 1971 paper from Rep. Prog. Phys. That’s just embarrassing. Go try to figure out how to use ADS or something.”

The most important thing I can add to this is the perspective that science often progresses steadily and incrementally, and only sometimes in great, exciting leaps. When it comes to any scientific topic — and star formation is a fine example — we never reach the point where we say, “that’s it, this is done; this is completely understood and all problems of arbitrary complexity are solved, and this field of science is over.” Instead, we have a set of well-understood pieces, a set of partially-understood pieces and a set of poorly-understood pieces, and we strive to better understand everything in all categories, and sometimes even meet with surprises. But we have to keep asking questions and listening to what the Universe tells us when we ask. That’s the only way we progress with any sort of meaningful knowledge.

Thanks for a great week, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for more wonders of the Universe on Starts With A Bang!

Comments

  1. #1 Craig Thomas
    May 8, 2016

    “One of the surprising things I read in Bascomb’s book was that when Roosevelt and Churchill met, the latter expected some sort of deal to need to be made in order to share intelligence and resources on atomic bomb research. Roosevelt basically gave a, “what’s ours is yours and what’s yours is ours” deal to Churchill on that, and never renegotiated.”

    Well, considering the atomic bomb research was kicked off in the US with the UK transferring all its own (more advanced) research and personnel to consolidate it as a single allied project, it shouldn’t be surprising that the UK expected to continue to participate in the results.

  2. #2 eric
    May 8, 2016

    Also, as (obliquely) requested, the above map shows the CMB fluctuations, or departures from uniformity, whose magnitude are on the tens-to-hundreds of microKelvin scale. The galaxy is also subtracted out.

    Nice try, but that won’t deter SN from his big three.
    1. Science doesn’t know everything!
    2. Wow, this is just too amazing (argument from incredulity)!
    3. Therefore, Jesus-YEC design (argument from false dichotomy)

    And lest we forget: “I once was lost (i.e. atheist mainstream believer), but now am found.” So anything that impresses me must be beyond explanation!

  3. #3 See Noevo
    May 8, 2016

    Ethan,

    You write to me that
    “Yes, absolutely! Einstein dismissed [Big Bang Theory] because his predispositions were biased to go down another route. But when the evidence came in that showed his preferred explanation (of a non-expanding Universe) was a no-go, and that the Universe was expanding, Einstein thoroughly embraced this as a legitimate possibility that necessitated investigation.
    If this is not how you approach or think about science, there is an internal journey you must take before you’ll be able to properly think in scientific terms. I HOPE YOU GET THERE.”

    I may be more there than you’re there.
    But I’ll give you possible partial credit for saying the expansion is “a legitimate POSSIBILITY”.
    However, if you meant it was a legitimate possibility back in Einstein’s time but TODAY is a FACT, then, I won’t be giving you any credit.

    You wouldn’t be there yet.

    Perhaps Mikey the SLACker can chime in on this, as this article appears to be associated with SLAC:
    “Cosmic inflation remains undiscovered”
    http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/january-2015/cosmic-inflation-remains-undiscovered

  4. #4 See Noevo
    May 8, 2016

    Ethan continues his attempted correction of me:

    “Looking for the imperfections in the CMB is like looking for paramecium-thickness fluctuations in the smoothness of your basketball court. Which is to say, it’s quite uniform.”

    1) When one looks at the night sky with the naked eye, the density of the spread of stars is NOT homogeneous.
    2) When one looks at the universe from satellites with powerful telescopes, the density of the universe is NOT homogeneous.
    3) When one looks at the black space between the stars with the equipment that enables detection of what is called CMB, the CMB is NOT homogeneous.

    So, it’s as easy as 1-2-3, to conclude that the density of the universe is NOT homogeneous.
    And it’s safe to say that one of the essential assumptions of Big Bang Theory, namely, homogeneity, is invalid.

  5. #5 Apeon LastnmUnk
    USA--PNW
    May 8, 2016

    Your description of science as continually seeking, and never being absolute, refutes the “Settled Science” of Global Warming.

  6. #6 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    May 8, 2016

    @Deceiver #4:

    1) The stars visible to the naked eye are less than 100 light years away, and there is a very small number of them (less than 10,000) spread over the whole sky. If you don’t know what a sparse random distribution is supposed to look like, then you are incompetent to express an opinion on this subject.

    2) You clearly want to continue your deceptions by pretending that you don’t understand what words like “homogeneous” and “scale” mean.

    3) The CMB is visible everywhere, not just “at the black space between the stars.” You clearly want to continue your deceptions by pretending to not understand what the word “scale” means.

    So, it’s as easy as 1-2-3 to conclude that you continue to be a wilfully ignorant, lying, deceitful pawn of the Great Deceiver.

  7. #7 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    May 8, 2016

    @Apeon #5: Does it also refute the “Settled Science” of gravity? Have you tried floating out a window lately, if gravity is “just a theory”?

    Does it also refute the “Settled Science” of quantum electrodynamics? How are you able to operate your computer if the science involved is “just a theory”?

  8. #8 Sinisa Lazarek
    May 9, 2016

    Concerning entanglement: “So what if you took the ones you measured to be +ħ/2 in the x-direction, then measured the y-direction …. ”

    Because you simply CAN’T do that in real life. Once you made ONE measurement, that’s it… game over. No more entangled pair.
    You can entangle them again, but this is a completely new measurment, absolutely unconnected to the one you did before, in all practical sense.. they are new particle pairs.

    Why do you and others persist in claiming that you can do multiple measurements on the same entangled pair??!

    One pair, one measurment, pair gone… There are no repeats and additional measurements on the same pair.

    Every and any measurement constitutes a colapse of the wave function. Thus once you measure, you don’t have entenglement any more and you CAN’T take those SAME photons and think they are still entangled and do more measurements. This is what you’re claiming, but this is straight out wrong! Even thought I don’t have a PhD in physics, this much I know.

  9. #9 dean
    United States
    May 9, 2016

    “When one looks at the night sky with the naked eye, the density of the spread of stars is NOT homogeneous.”

    Perhaps the real question is “just how small does that clown sn believe the universe is?”

  10. #10 Wow
    May 9, 2016

    Nah, there’s a more basic question: does that clown See Nowt actually think?

    There’s been zero evidence it does to date.

  11. #11 Wow
    May 9, 2016

    Only positive (not null or negative) results are ever reported in the literature.

    This is one that keeps getting an attempt to be removed, but most of the trials are commercial businesses and they REFUSE to let that happen. After all “they’re paying for it”.

    ‘course, after they’ve tested, they want everyone else to pay for it. And worse, ANY failed product is merely folded over as a cost to the drug they’re able to sell, so there’s absolutely NO RISK WHATSOEVER for them.

    Which does rather beg the question by they get any profit at all?

    Profit, after all, even in a free market is actually evidence of a malfunction of the market and is a detrimental friction.

    Remember, YOUR profit is taken from the revenue of another business.

    IMO, if they want state help enforcing the patents, they must prove their product to the state’s standard.

  12. #12 Wow
    May 9, 2016

    “This is probably quite fair. The Wehrmacht really devoted practically all of their resources towards conventional war efforts: land, sea and air. ”

    Weeel, not really. Hitler was a nutter and completely batshit crazy by the end. The USA had their boom because of the german scientists that left before 1932 and then took a large number of them post-45. Who was Oppenheimer again?

    The thing was that Hitler wanted all sorts of weird shit built that would win the war again.

    Including a railgun that was half a mile long to shoot solid metal slugs at England. Which was bombed by the RAF before it was even tested, mistakenly thinking it was some communications site.

    And remember, both sides didn’t really care too much if it was a clean explosion. A dirty bomb would have been enough for Hitler toward the end.

  13. #13 Wow
    May 9, 2016

    “Roosevelt basically gave a, “what’s ours is yours and what’s yours is ours” deal to Churchill on that, and never renegotiated.”

    Of course, that was AFTER several really important discoveries had been handed over to the USA by the UK.

    One reason why you ‘merkins get little shrift in Europe.

  14. #14 Wow
    May 9, 2016

    “Your description of science as continually seeking, and never being absolute, refutes the “Settled Science” of Global Warming.”

    Only deniers claim that.

    ACTUAL scientists claim that some things are settled.

    If you disagree, test your rigour by refuting gravity and jumping off a tall building and flying round the town.

    GHG: Settled. It exists. Get over it.
    We did it: Settled. It exists. Get over it.
    NOBODY says that the results of AGW are settled, but there’s NOT ONE SINGLE SCENARIO where we’re not completely fucked if we go BAU.

  15. #15 See Noevo
    May 9, 2016

    To the Great SLACker #6:

    “… you don’t understand what words like “homogeneous” and “scale” mean…pretending to not understand what the word “scale” means.”

    This could be fun.
    SLACker, tell me what “scale” means to you, or provide a quote you like.
    PLEASE.

    And I’ll remove the scales from your eyes.

  16. #16 dean
    United States
    May 9, 2016

    And I’ll remove the scales from your eyes.

    No, sn, you won’t. You can’t, because there is a difference between you and Michael: education. You have none (you also are completely lacking in integrity, which is probably why you lack an education), so your “removing the scales” will consist of nothing more than ignoring the science by saying “it isn’t true”.

    Again, the question is why your claimed religion doesn’t have some statement along the lines of “thou shalt not lie” that you could follow.

  17. #17 Paul Dekous
    May 9, 2016

    “This is actually weirder than you imagine.

    What I was wondering about, let’s say we have a Cartesian coordinate system in Space, and two particle moves straight forward along its X-axis, with one moving in a positive direction and the other in the negative. So both particle would have the same axis but opposite values.

    Now how much would the axis of these particles be ‘rotated’ if we considering the Earth moving around the Sun, the Sun within the Galaxy and the Galaxy in relation to the CMB; plus perhaps considering gravity pulling on these particle and curving their path along this imaginary axis.

    Could such an axis be flipping around at a high rate in relation to our POV here on Earth, considering we only have 2 dimensions to measure that axis.

    Just trying to get a sense of how *weird* the results already could be in classical framework.

  18. #18 Narad
    May 9, 2016

    This could be fun.

    No, it would be fodder for more tedious idiocy on your part. You’re already been shown that there is no aniostropy to the surface of last scattering (z ≈ 1000), which means – barring nonanalyticity* – that homogeneity follows automatically. Again, you are “arguing” for geocentrism.

    * And D₂ → 3 by around 80 Mpc, so fractal structure is out.

  19. #19 Narad
    May 9, 2016

    But I’ll give you possible partial credit for saying the expansion is “a legitimate POSSIBILITY”.
    However, if you meant it was a legitimate possibility back in Einstein’s time but TODAY is a FACT, then, I won’t be giving you any credit.

    Oh, right… don’t forget to barf up some “tired light” routine from one of your go-to creationist holes to hand-wave away Hubble’s law.

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