Physical Sciences https://scienceblogs.com/channel/physical-sciences/feed en Comments of the Week #180: From the planets Kepler missed to the NASA photos that changed the world https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/15/comments-of-the-week-180-from-the-planets-kepler-missed-to-the-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world <span>Comments of the Week #180: From the planets Kepler missed to the NASA photos that changed the world</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“We do not realize what we have on Earth until we leave it.” -Jim Lovell</p></blockquote> <p>Well, the Scienceblogs comments are still on the fritz, requiring me to manually un-spam them one-at-a-time, but <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a> is still going strong with some fabulous stories based on the best knowledge we have! This next week is poised to be a doozy of a fantastic one, as <a href="http://amzn.to/2wX6B3Y">Treknology</a> is out at last (<a href="http://amzn.to/2yoxcIu" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Amazon is having a sale on it today</a>, and my copies arrive on Wednesday), so next weekend I'll have special instructions for you on how to order autographed copies from me. Also, check out Starts With A Bang on Forbes at 10:01 AM Eastern Time on Monday for the scoop on what promises to be the astronomical story of the year, I promise! Now, let's take a look back at our stories from the past week:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/07/ask-ethan-how-many-planets-did-nasas-kepler-miss/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How many planets did NASA's Kepler miss?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/09/star-trek-discovery-is-smart-sounding-scientific-nonsense-season-1-episode-4-recap/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Star Trek: Discovery Is Smart-Sounding Scientific Nonsense, Season 1, Episode 4 Recap</a> (ST:DIS review),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/10/missing-matter-found-but-doesnt-dent-dark-matter/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Missing matter found, but doesn't dent dark matter</a>,</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/11/sciences-greatest-lesson-for-humanity-is-how-to-be-wrong/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science's greatest lesson for humanity is 'how to be wrong'</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/12/the-multiverse-is-inevitable-and-were-living-in-it/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The multiverse is inevitable, and we're living in it</a>, and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/13/5-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">5 NASA photos that changed the world</a> (for Five For Fridays).</li> </ul><p>For those of you who like radio, get up very, very early tomorrow (Monday) morning, and tune into Coast-to-Coast AM at 3 AM EDT / 12 AM PDT, where I'll be their special guest to talk about science, astrophysics, and of course about the science of Star Trek! With all that on our plate, what more could you ask for? How about our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/barishthorneweiss-1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36699" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/barishthorneweiss-1-600x324.jpg" alt="Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne are your 2017 Nobel Laureates in physics. Image credit: © Nobel Media AB 2017." width="600" height="324" /></a> Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne are your 2017 Nobel Laureates in physics. Image credit: © Nobel Media AB 2017. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/08/comments-of-the-week-179-from-mirrorless-telescopes-to-the-physics-ideas-that-must-die/#comment-582855">Sinisa Lazarek</a> on the spirit of the Nobel Prize: "I’m actually extremely happy that the Nobel prizes in science are still being given to actual people who are doing something worthwhile and still keeps the spirit of Nobel."</p></blockquote> <p>I think they made a slam-dunk good decision this year as far as the physics prize goes. The whole idea of the Nobel Prize is for the person, people, or discovery that did the most to advance a particular discipline of science/humanities for the good of all people on Earth. It's very, very hard to argue that the advances made in physics from being able to detect gravitational waves won't be the greatest advance in astronomy since, perhaps, the launch of Hubble, the first use of multiwavelength astronomy, or even the invention of the telescope. This is truly a game-changer.</p> <p>And if you're still a doubter, I very much encourage you to pay <em>extremely </em>close attention to Monday's news. Seriously.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/argue.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35944" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/argue-600x456.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="456" /></a> Graham's hierarchy of how to argue. (Pyramid format.) Image credit: Paul Graham. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/08/comments-of-the-week-179-from-mirrorless-telescopes-to-the-physics-ideas-that-must-die/#comment-582859">Michael Mooney</a> on what I find offensive: "Well at least I know now that you rank criticism of your science, as I do, as more offensive than Elle H.C.’s straight out nasty personal insults."</p></blockquote> <p>So we are all free to decide what we find more offensive. On the one hand, we have name-calling. You know, the kind of stuff we were all subject to when we were prepubescent kids and teenagers; the lowest ranks on the pyramid. Sure, it's the lowest form of argument and the least able to refute an actual argument.</p> <p>But then there's what you do. You waltz into a science blog, written by a bona fide scientist, one who is legitimately and independently regarded as one of the best in the world at science communication when it comes to physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and astronomy. And you babble on nonsensically about how it's all wrong, how we're all believing in this house-of-cards hoax, and that we don't know what science is. How we've got everything from relativity to quantum physics to astrophysics wrong, and how <em>you know better</em>. With no substance to anything you say, just confident, uneducated, loud ignorance. And when your folly is explained to you, it never occurs to you that the time for you to talk is over, and the time to listen is at hand.</p> <p>Yes, I get it, physics doesn't jibe with your way of making sense with the world. Therefore, you think physics is wrong. But it's not wrong. You are. And although I quite gracefully allow you to shout into the void, you continue to say nothing that contributes productively in any manner, here or anywhere, as far as I can tell. So keep shouting into the void. But every time you threaten to leave, all I do is hope. Because the ship has sailed on me believing you'll ever be humble enough to question your own ideas and actually learn something.</p> <p>But every day is a new chance to get it right. Maybe today will be your lucky day. It's up to you. Good luck. We're headed into the science thicket now; maybe you'll enjoy the journey.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/12/keplerexoplanetorbitdays.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-26609" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/12/keplerexoplanetorbitdays-600x450.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" /></a> Candidate planets from Kepler as of early 2011. Image credit: NASA / Kepler Science Team. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/07/ask-ethan-how-many-planets-did-nasas-kepler-miss-synopsis/#comment-582853">Another Commenter</a> on the number of planets Kepler missed: "It was a very good start."</p></blockquote> <p>And this is a point that cannot be overstated. Take a look at the image above. Prior to Kepler, those purple points you see the ones up by the "Jupiter" line, were the only types of points we had, for the most part. Thanks to Kepler, we've discovered:</p> <ul><li>Planets down to smaller than Earth-size,</li> <li>Around all types of stars in the Universe,</li> <li>Orbiting quickly and closely,</li> <li>And in a huge number of places.</li> </ul><p>The majority of planets appear to be peaked at sizes just a bit larger than Earth (but smaller than Neptune), but that's also where Kepler was most sensitive. We basically know more about the inner solar systems of all star-types in the Universe than ever before, and Kepler was that tremendous first step in that regard. There is more to find, like medium-sized planets around large stars, the middle-to-outer solar systems, and the smallest, Mercury-sized planets and smaller around everyone. But that takes nothing away from the spectacular science that Kepler actually undertook!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Lorca-Bridge-Crew.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36721" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Lorca-Bridge-Crew-600x400.jpg" alt="Captain Gabriel Lorca aboard the bridge of the Discovery, during a simulated combat mission with the Klingons. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive." width="600" height="400" /></a> Captain Gabriel Lorca aboard the bridge of the Discovery, during a simulated combat mission with the Klingons. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/09/star-trek-discovery-is-smart-sounding-scientific-nonsense-season-1-episode-4-recap-synopsis/#comment-582860">eric</a> on the reviews of the new Star Trek: "“Black Alert” sounds like something the Wayans Brothers would put on a Star Trek send up."</p></blockquote> <p>I would watch the hell out of that.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Yeoh_Green.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36664" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Yeoh_Green-600x400.jpg" alt="In an action-packed first two episodes, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Commander Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) have the fight of their lives in the debut of Star Trek: Discovery. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive." width="600" height="400" /></a> In an action-packed first two episodes, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Commander Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) have the fight of their lives in the debut of Star Trek: Discovery. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/09/star-trek-discovery-is-smart-sounding-scientific-nonsense-season-1-episode-4-recap-synopsis/#comment-582886">Steve Blackband</a> on his level of Star Trek fandom: "I am the physicist/astronomy nutcase that pushed Neil Armstrong out of the way to get to Nichelle Nichols after all. Very embarrassing."</p></blockquote> <p>This is a story I would actually love to hear. The self-flagellation you must feel you deserve ought to be tremendous... and yet you're secure enough to own up to it. That's incredible to come to terms with that. Good on you!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/SEM_image_of_Milnesium_tardigradum_in_active_state_-_journal.pone_.0045682.g001-2.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36473" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/SEM_image_of_Milnesium_tardigradum_in_active_state_-_journal.pone_.0045682.g001-2-600x460.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="460" /></a> A scanning electron microscope image of a Milnesium tardigradum (Tardigrade, or 'water bear') in its active state. Tardigrades have been exposed to the vacuum of space for prolonged periods of time, and have returned to normal biological operation after being returned to liquid water environments. Image credit: Schokraie E, Warnken U, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Grohme MA, Hengherr S, et al. (2012). </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/09/star-trek-discovery-is-smart-sounding-scientific-nonsense-season-1-episode-4-recap-synopsis/#comment-582927">Adam</a> on why the spore technology never shows up in Star Trek: "The more I think about the spore drive and the lack of spore drive in any other Star Trek show, the more it feels like a huge plot hole for the series. I’m guessing that the tech is going to be lost at some point, because it’s never seen again, and since all the info for it is self contained on the star ship Discovery. However, we’ve seen countless other civilizations over the various shows, and none of them have this tech either."</p></blockquote> <p>So I've got two theories on that: the Orson Scott Card theory and the Wesley Crusher theory. The OSC theory is based on the descolada/recolada storyline from his Ender's Quartet series. That these spores exist throughout the galaxy, but they are biologically dangerous and need to be modified. We use genetic modification to silence the dangerous part of their genetic makeup, but it renders the "spore drive" unusable.</p> <p>The Wesley Crusher theory is that the "spore drive" is what the Traveler uses to go throughout space and even time, and when Wesley goes to apprentice for him, that's what he learns to connect with as well. But it's a lost art (and science) that only a select few can still connect with.</p> <p>More likely, it's just a giant plot hole that they're digging, and they're going to need a <em>deus ex machina</em> to get out of it.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Panel.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36640" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/Panel-600x400.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></a> Executive producers and actors from'Star Trek: Discovery' speak onstage during the CBS portion of the 2017 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour. Image credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/09/star-trek-discovery-is-smart-sounding-scientific-nonsense-season-1-episode-4-recap-synopsis/#comment-582933">Denier</a> on the end of Commander Landry: "In all seriousness, there was a moment in ST:D when the chief of security was working with Michael to drop the force field to the tardigrade pen, and I thought for half a second: “No big deal. The Chief of Security is far and away the strongest person on board”."</p></blockquote> <p>And after half a second, you realized that you misspelled "dumbest," which is a pretty high bar considering the level of crazy aboard that ship in general. Clearly nobody cared; she didn't even get a funeral. You always hate to see a character that you're told is smart, capable, competent, and so on, act in a way that's antithetical to that. I personally cringe even more when it's an underrepresented character, as I feel that's just supporting the stereotype that, in this case, "women are no good at X." It's like <a href="https://xkcd.com/385/">the old xkcd comic</a>:</p> <div style="width: 420px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/how_it_works.png"><img class="size-full wp-image-36746" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/how_it_works.png" alt="" width="410" height="211" /></a> 'How it works' by Randall Munroe at xkcd. </div> <p>And that's just too bad. It wouldn't have been hard to substitute some dumb, disposable redshirt, and keep one of the three major women characters alive, considering another one (Michelle Yeoh's Captain Georgiou) was killed just two episodes ago. So we've got Lilly and Burnham, and they're roommates, and that's it for major women aboard the show now.</p> <p>The worst part? I didn't even notice that, until a woman I was watching with pointed it out to me.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/MasterSituationMonitor-1200x900.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36638" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/MasterSituationMonitor-1200x900-600x450.jpg" alt="The warp drive system on the Star Trek starships was what made travel from star to star possible. Image credit: Alistair McMillan / c.c.-by-2.0." width="600" height="450" /></a> The warp drive system on the Star Trek starships was what made travel from star to star possible. Image credit: Alistair McMillan / c.c.-by-2.0. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/09/star-trek-discovery-is-smart-sounding-scientific-nonsense-season-1-episode-4-recap-synopsis/#comment-582945">Dunc</a> on whether Star Trek is scientific nonsense or not: "So, <i>exactly</i> like <i>every</i> other Star Trek then? ST has never really been hard sci-fi – it’s always been filled with sciency-sounding bafflegab and magical technology that has exactly whatever capabilities and limits the writers require at that moment in time (and change wildly from episode to episode).</p> <p>I mean, I love Star Trek, and I’ve been (re)watching its different incarnations on a more-or-less continuous loop for almost my entire life, but let’s not pretend that this is a radical departure."</p></blockquote> <p>There's something different about Discovery, though. I'm still struggling to put my finger on it, but the best I've got goes something like this:</p> <ul><li>In previous incarnations of Star Trek, there was a new technology that was indistinguishable from magic that worked.</li> <li>The science behind it was vague, loosely-based in what we knew, and not enunciated very clearly or with certainty.</li> <li>The tech then made up new words to indicate that there were additional advances that included information that's well beyond our current knowledge set.</li> <li>And then scientists or science/tech-enthusiasts could fill in the blanks to make it feasible.</li> </ul><p>With Discovery, though, they're trying to use actual, recent science news as the basis or justification for ideas that only follow if you misinterpret that science. I may not be explaining myself well, but that's a big difference: from the edge of science with wiggle-room that then imagines new applications, to recent-but-well-understood science that gets twisted to mean something it never meant, and then taken to an extreme that pushes it into the realm of, "hey this is ruled out already given what we know but we're plowing ahead anyway." It may be only me who's having trouble suspending my disbelief for it, but that's what I'm seeing.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 503px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/04/008bbn.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-20625" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/04/008bbn.jpg" alt="" width="493" height="606" /></a> The predictions of Big Bang nucleosynthesis (curves) for the abundances of the light elements, based on the baryon-to-photon ratio (x-axis). The grey bar is that ratio, as observed by WMAP, and the horizontal lines are the observed element abundances. This picture pretty strongly constrains the normal matter density of the Universe in a way that most people here don't appreciate. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/10/missing-matter-found-but-doesnt-dent-dark-matter-synopsis/#comment-582920">Sean T</a> on the missing normal matter in the Universe: "The “missing matter” discussed in this post is normal matter. We know from real, actual observations of how things gravitate that we were not seeing all of the normal matter that exists. This WHIM is at least some of that missing normal matter."</p></blockquote> <p>We know how much normal matter is in the Universe, folks. There really isn't an argument on it: it's ~5% of the critical density. It can't be 10%, or 20% or 30%. It definitely can't be 100%. And if you really want to know, it can't even be 6%. Why not? The above measurements, from Big Bang Nucleosynthesis. If you want to make the light elements in the Universe, the elements we start off with after the Big Bang but before the first stars, you need to run the equations, and they're dependent on the baryon-to-photon ratio. We count the CMB photons and know how many there are, so that means the only free parameter is the baryon density (i.e., normal matter density) of the Universe.</p> <p>We observe the Helium-4, Helium-3, Deuterium, and Lithium-7 abundances in the Universe, and they are consistent with a baryon-to-photon ratio that gives the same Universe that WMAP and Planck gave: one with 5% of the Universe's critical density being baryons. The new "missing matter" found is a part of that 5%. That's what this discovery is; that's what it says; that's what it shows. That's the story here. Anything else you've read into it to the contrary is wrong.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/susy_spectrum.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36345" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/susy_spectrum-600x441.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="441" /></a> The Standard Model particles and their supersymmetric counterparts. This attempt to solve the hierarchy problem for particle masses predicts a whole new spectrum of particles, none of which have been detected. Image credit: Claire David. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/11/sciences-greatest-lesson-for-humanity-is-how-to-be-wrong/#comment-582923">Frank</a> on the state of the world of physics: "The world of physics may seem bleak now to some but I think we maybe really close to TOE."</p></blockquote> <p>I think the opposite on both counts: I think the world of physics is incredibly bright, and there are so many interesting avenues to investigate. But I think there are many building their way to the dream of a theory-of-everything, and that path is proving quite fruitless. But we all have our own opinions, and you are entitled to yours!</p> <p>On the other hand, we have three interesting comments about how to be wrong.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 410px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/07/8875851-finger-holding-the-wrong-piece-for-the-last-missing-puzzle-piece.jpeg"><img class="size-full wp-image-20048" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/07/8875851-finger-holding-the-wrong-piece-for-the-last-missing-puzzle-piece.jpeg" alt="" width="400" height="267" /></a> When the last puzzle piece doesn't even fit into the puzzle, you know something is wrong. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/11/sciences-greatest-lesson-for-humanity-is-how-to-be-wrong/#comment-582935">Michael Mooney</a>: "“How To Be Wrong” is very simple. Don’t assume you “know it all” already. Imagine being an unbiased scientist."</p></blockquote> <p>As a scientist, I very clearly and openly don't assume I know it all, and am very open to challenging every assumption, result, and conclusion out there. But only when the evidence warrants it. In other words, I am biased in the direction that the evidence points.</p> <p>On the other hand, I can encourage you to look inward and ask yourself those same questions. Has it ever occurred to you that you, as a non-physicist, non-scientist, and non-expert in this arena, don't know very much about it? That you don't have anything of value to offer to this discussion? That you should be in the position of closing your mouth and opening your mind, and listening to what those who've spent a lifetime studying this have to say about it? And that your vision of an "unbiased scientist" may be an utter abuse of science in and of itself?</p> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/11/sciences-greatest-lesson-for-humanity-is-how-to-be-wrong/#comment-582940">eric</a>: "I’m in the process of teaching my kid lots of games. Like many small children, he doesn’t like to lose. But the more games he plays, the thicker the skin he gets. And the more he does it, the more he thinks about the overall activity rather than the outcome of any specific game. “Daddy won, I’m upset” becomes “Daddy won 6 of the last 10 and I won 4…pretty good” hopefully will become in the future “I have no idea who’s won more games this week. Play on!”</p> <p>I think that’s a lot like science. People who do a little of it, or who have one single idea they focus on, tend to worry about whether it’s going to ‘win.’ Professional scientists, OTOH, tend more towards the attitude of “hey, 2 of my 50 papers have stood the test of time. Cool!” Or even “what, that paper of mine is still kicking around? I lost track. Who knew?” The activity becomes the focus, rather than the success or failure of any individual effort’s outcome."</p></blockquote> <p>I like this interpretation. It's not so much "how to be wrong" as it is "how to lose," where being wrong is a specific form/special case of losing. Don't be sad for the times you lose; all of us must come to terms with it, as you cannot win all the time. This is a valuable lesson, and should make you appreciate the times you were right (or won) all the more.</p> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/11/sciences-greatest-lesson-for-humanity-is-how-to-be-wrong/#comment-582987">GregH</a>: "1. Thanks Ethan, for STEALING MY IDEA and writing it up better than I could.</p> <p>2. Interesting that none of the comments here address being wrong. (Including this one.) Sure, it’s epistemology, but….?</p> <p>3. Paging Dr. Dunning &amp; possibly Dr. Kruger. Dr. Dunning, white courtesy telephone please."</p></blockquote> <p>Hey, if I could invade people's heads and steal their ideas, I would be a lot more successful than I am. ;-)</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Ozytive-public-domain.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36732" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/10/Ozytive-public-domain-600x338.jpg" alt="An illustration of multiple, independent Universes, causally disconnected from one another in an ever-expanding cosmic ocean, is one depiction of the Multiverse idea. Image credit: Ozytive / Public Domain." width="600" height="338" /></a> An illustration of multiple, independent Universes, causally disconnected from one another in an ever-expanding cosmic ocean, is one depiction of the Multiverse idea. Image credit: Ozytive / Public Domain. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/12/the-multiverse-is-inevitable-and-were-living-in-it-synopsis/#comment-582965">Anonymous Coward</a>, summarizing what is and isn't scientific about the multiverse: "It’s not a scientific theory because it can’t be tested as the other known laws of physics seem to preclude any possibility of testing it. But it does fall out as an intriguing consequence of the other bits of theory that do have observational consequences that can and have been successfully tested."</p></blockquote> <p>Boom. You nailed it. I'm glad to see that I have successfully communicated the science of this to at least one person out there.</p> <p>And I know it's more than one, because some people seem to actually understand what I'm getting at, and what the purpose (and value) of what I do is. They're just mostly silent here.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/cosmicinflation-1200x750.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36674" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/cosmicinflation-1200x750-600x374.jpg" alt="The expanding Universe, full of galaxies and complex structure we see today, arose from a smaller, hotter, denser, more uniform state. Image credit: C. Faucher-Giguère, A. Lidz, and L. Hernquist, Science 319, 5859 (47)." width="600" height="374" /></a> The expanding Universe, full of galaxies and the complex structure we observe today, arose from a smaller, hotter, denser, more uniform state. Alternatives to the Big Bang, like the Steady-State theory, fell out of favor due to the overwhelming observational evidence, but the Steady-State adherents never changed their mind, not until the day they died. Image credit: C. Faucher-Giguère, A. Lidz, and L. Hernquist, Science 319, 5859 (47). </div> <p>Which is why I appreciate <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/12/the-multiverse-is-inevitable-and-were-living-in-it-synopsis/#comment-582976">Sean T</a>'s comment: "...this blog is NOT a scientific journal. It is an attempt to communicate the current scientific consensus, along with other speculative ideas that may prove fruitful, to an audience that is composed of non-experts in the relevant scientific fields. The audience includes fellow physicists, other scientists who are not physicists (I fall into this category), and non-scientists. This type of communication can be very difficult due to the variety of the audience, and I personally think it’s well done, which is why I continue to read Ethan’s blog.</p> <p>However, much like all science, the topics covered here ALL come with the same caveats — that this is our current best understanding of things and that this understanding might well change as new observations come to light."</p></blockquote> <p>Everything is subject to revision. I have no doubt that if we continue to do science at the rate that we've done it over the past few hundred years, then by time the year 3,000 rolls around, we'll look at much of our modern understanding of things the way we look at Copernicus' or even Ptolemy's "Universe" today: as quaint, as the beginnings of science, but full of bad ideas and assumptions that we didn't even recognize. But we may look at it only as we look at Newton's: as incredibly good, and fundamentally flawed and limited in a few ways, but super successful for its time and what it did nonetheless.</p> <p>We are always learning and growing.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35915" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise-600x600.jpeg" alt="The first view with human eyes of the Earth rising over the limb of the Moon. Note how bright the Earth appears in comparison to the Moon. Image credit: NASA / Apollo 8." width="600" height="600" /></a> The first view with human eyes of the Earth rising over the limb of the Moon. Note how bright the Earth appears in comparison to the Moon. Image credit: NASA / Apollo 8. </div> <blockquote><p>And finally, from bone-picker <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/10/13/5-nasa-photos-that-changed-the-world-synopsis/#comment-582977">Art Glick</a> on the Apollo 8 'Earthrise' photo: "I have a bone to pick with the person that named Bill Anders Apollo 8 photo “Earthrise”. They clearly did not understand the mechanics of the Earth-Moon system.</p> <p>The Earth does not “rise” on the Moon. I wonder how many people realize that if you lived on the Moon the Earth would hang in the same spot in the sky eternally. It would go through phases like the Moon does, but it would never change its position.</p> <p>The only reason that Anders saw the Earth “rise” is because his craft was orbiting the Moon at the time.</p> <p>To refer to the Earth “rising” from the Moon is just wrong."</p></blockquote> <p>I presume you have the same bone to pick with the person who called it "sunrise" or "moonrise" since the Earth was rotating, not that any of these celestial objects were rising? I assume as well that you object to ISS astronauts claiming to see 16 "sunsets" in a day, since they're only seeing the same effect over and over again as they go around the Earth?</p> <p>I can't tell you who first called it "Earthrise" (I don't know), but <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/earthrise.html">I can give you Bill Anders' recount</a> of the photo itself. After they came around the Moon for their third orbit, they saw Earth appear over the limb of the Moon.</p> <blockquote><p>"I don't know who said it, maybe all of us said, 'Oh my God. Look at that! And up came the Earth. We had had no discussion on the ground, no briefing, no instructions on what to do. I jokingly said, 'well it's not on the flight plan,' and the other two guys were yelling at me to give them cameras. I had the only color camera with a long lens. So I floated a black and white over to Borman. I can't remember what Lovell got. There were all yelling for cameras, and we started snapping away."</p></blockquote> <p>It's incredible to imagine what that sight must be like. For those three men in 1968, there is no better word than "Earthrise" to describe what they saw. Let them have it; they experienced it and we didn't. Maybe, someday, it won't be such an uncommon experience, after all.</p> <p>Go get your copy of <a href="http://amzn.to/2yldQUx">Treknology</a> now, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for more incredible science and stories here on Starts With A Bang!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 10/15/2017 - 02:49</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 15 Oct 2017 06:49:27 +0000 esiegel 37133 at https://scienceblogs.com Avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate change? https://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/09/16/avoiding-dangerous-to-catastrophic-climate-change <span>Avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate change?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a data-flickr-embed="true" data-header="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/belette/35990151134/" title="DSC_6952"><img align="right" src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4348/35990151134_6febbca3ed_o.jpg" width="400" alt="DSC_6952" /></a> <a href="https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/avoiding-dangerous-to-catastrophic-climate-change/">ATTP started it</a> by posting on <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/09/14/1618481114.full">Well below 2 °C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes</a> by Yangyang Xua and Veerabhadran Ramanathan. But as you can tell from ATTP's post, the principal question - although he is far too polite to put it so bluntly - is "where's the novelty?"<sup>1</sup> All their GHG and temperature scenarios, as they themselves stress, are consistent with IPCC; so there's nothing new there. Neither are the stochastic runs and attempts to assess the probabilities of exceeding various thresholds. Neither, alas, are the attaching of arbitrary labels to arbitrary temperature thresholds, although this is without doubt the bit that will interest the <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-window-is-closing-to-avoid-dangerous-global-warming/">meeja</a>.</p> <p>FWIW, I think that 3<sup>o</sup>C GW is certainly "dangerous", though I'd be hard pressed to assign a clear meaning to the term.</p> <p>I could try reading <a href="https://scripps.ucsd.edu/news/new-climate-risk-classification-created-account-potential-existential-threats">their PR</a> which confirms my suspicions: <i>A new study evaluating models of future climate scenarios has led to the creation of the new risk categories “catastrophic” and “unknown” to characterize the range of threats posed by rapid global warming.</i> I think that really does mean tht the labels are the novelty. They continue, <i>Researchers propose that unknown risks imply existential threats to the survival of humanity</i> which is either meaningless or vacuous, I can't quite tell which.</p> <p>While I'm here, I'll quote <i>Climate risks can vary markedly depending on the socioeconomic status and culture of the population... the poorest 3 billion people living mostly in tropical rural areas, who are still relying on 18th-century technologies for meeting basic needs such as cooking and heating... mostly subsistent farmers, whose livelihood will be severely impacted, if not destroyed, with a one- to five-year megadrought, heat waves, or heavy floods...</i> But the article errs, I think, in not considering possible changes to this population. Certainly the proportion, and absolute number, of people living in absolute poverty has decreased over the last 50 or 100 years, and can be expected to continue to decrease, especially or almost entirely if their governance improves; see-also <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/08/29/harvey/">Harvey</a>. That doesn't help the ecosystems, of course. But the West has entirely removed the class of "subsistence farmers"<sup>2</sup>; everyone else will follow suite in due course.</p> <h3>Notes</h3> <p>1. Yes I know it's ironic, isn't it?</p> <p>2. That's someone, errm, telological, perhaps. No-one called "the West" decided to remove this class of people. But "the West" provided the kind of society in which no-one wanted to be a subsistence farmer, and no-one had to be if they didn't want to be.</p> <p>3. Picture: panel in font, Vallouise.</p> <h3>Refs</h3> <p>* <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/12/16296130/us-transportation-self-driving-cars-elaine-chao">rump administration loosens Obama's guidelines for self-driving cars</a>: States are advised against setting up too many regulations; the Verge.<br /> * <a href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-a-warm-winter-destroyed-85-percent-of-georgias-peaches/">How A Warm Winter Destroyed 85 Percent Of Georgia’s Peaches</a> - 538.<br /> * <a href="http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/economics-says-time-to-shut-down-some.html">Economics says time to shut down some coal plants (even ignoring externalities)</a> - Brian at Eli's.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/stoat">stoat</a></span> <span>Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 16 Sep 2017 15:29:02 +0000 stoat 54009 at https://scienceblogs.com Retread: Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions? https://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/09/09/retread-just-90-companies-caused-two-thirds-of-man-made-global-warming-emissions <span>Retread: Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a data-flickr-embed="true" data-header="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/belette/36015468113/" title="DSC_6909"><img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4409/36015468113_981f893ec0_c.jpg" width="380" align="right" /></a> Apparently, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2013/11/21/just-90-companies-caused-two-thirds-of-man-made-global-warming-emissions/">Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions?</a> was so popular that it gets a retread. Despite the original being published in 2013<sup>3</sup>, we're now being told that <i>Researchers have for the first time tied a group of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, and their products to specific increases in greenhouse gases, global warming and sea level rise. A study published Thursday in the journal Climatic Change concludes that since 1880, 90 of the largest carbon producers are responsible for up to 50 percent of global temperature rise, 57 percent of the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and between 26 and 32 percent of global sea level rise.</i> Don't worry, people have memories like goldfish, and the meeja even less, no-one will notice or think to complain<sup>1</sup>.</p> <p>The original - not that it was terribly original - was <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-013-0986-y">Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010</a> by Richard "just call me Dick" Heede<sup>2</sup>. The retread is <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-017-1978-0">The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers</a> by a pile o' people, include R Heede, but also <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/11/02/the-seminal-myles-allen/">Myles "seminal" Allen</a>.</p> <p>Just to remind you of why the whole thing is bollocks: customers emit CO2, not producers. Don't blame the people that sold you a thing for your using it. Hopefully that's bleedin' obvious<sup>4</sup>.</p> <p>The article in <a href="https://www.climateliabilitynews.org/2017/09/07/global-warming-fossil-fuel-companies-study-ucs/">climateliabilitynews</a> is unusually explicit in positively vaunting the political motives of this "science": <i>The research could open the door for those who have suffered losses due to climate change to sue major oil companies for damages. The study also links each individual company to its percentage impact on climate change. “This study could inform approaches of juries and judges who are looking to monetize damages,” said study lead author Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.</i> Not even a pretence of that ivory-tower impartiality so notable in the usual caricature of scientists.</p> <h3>1980 or 1960?</h3> <p>There's a detail of the analysis worth snarking about. From the article: <i>In the century prior to 1980, companies may not have been aware of the harm their products cause, Ekwurzel said. After 1980, the firms had sufficient scientific data showing carbon dioxide from burning the fossil fuel they produce was harmful. [Obligatory Exxon drivel elided] “Once it became clear no later than the 1960s that continuing CO2 emissions would progressively undermine the climate, the major carbon producers could see that they were marketing harmful products,” said Henry Shue, a professor emeritus of politics and international relations at Oxford University, wrote in a commentary published alongside the study.</i></p> <p>So, what's it going to be: 1960 or 1980? In the (IMHO unlikely) event that this nonsense ever turns into money, two decades will be a pile of dosh and lawyers fees and doubtless the expert witnesses can expect some, too. The "1960s" claim is by one "Henry Shue" in a <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-017-2042-9">commentary</a>. I think it is bollox. Admittedly, he is emeritus, but really? OK, I suppose I'm obliged to find out who this old geyser is. He sort-of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_rights">makes wiki</a>, in the "Negative and positive rights". Ah, he's at <a href="https://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/people/professor-henry-shue">Merton</a>. Lovely place, but no real history of understanding climate science<sup>5</sup>.</p> <p>Can I prove that "1960s" is bollox? Of course. Just consider the <a href="http://archive.is/Jeo8L">1975 NAS report</a>. Recall that I wrote that summary many years ago, when showing that the "global cooling" stuff was, also, bollox; so if anything I had an interest in exaggerating its "warming" credentials. And as I quote from the foreword, <i>we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate</i>. Which I gloss: "I believe that this is an accurate assessment of the state of knowledge at the time".</p> <p>One of the sources quoted by this idiot Shue ("Later in 1965, the President’s Science Advisory Committee issued a report treating CO2 as a pollutant, with an appendix on “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”") is <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-017-2042-9#CR11">(US, White House 1965)</a>. And the report (well, the little bit of it that deals with CO2; notice, tellingly, that it is shuffled off to an appendix) <a href="https://dge.carnegiescience.edu/labs/caldeiralab/Caldeira%20downloads/PSAC,%201965,%20Restoring%20the%20Quality%20of%20Our%20Environment.pdf">says</a>:</p> <p><a data-flickr-embed="true" data-header="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/belette/36952140242/in/datetaken/" title="1965"><img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4394/36952140242_97f97e9be9_o.png" width="600" /></a></p> <p>I'm not sure I'd say 1980s is right, either. But it would depend on what you meant. By then, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCC_First_Assessment_Report">IPCC were saying</a> <i>Based on current models, we predict: under [BAU] increase of global mean temperature during the [21st] century of about 0.3 oC per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 oC per decade); this is greater than that seen over the past 10,000 years; under other ... scenarios which assume progressively increasing levels of controls, rates of increase in global mean temperature of about 0.2 oC [to] about 0.1 oC per decade</i> so certainly predicting future warming. But they weren't signing up to attribution at that point: <i>Our judgement is that: global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 oC over the last 100 years...; The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.</i></p> <h3>Notes</h3> <p>0. Pic: seracs, Barre des Ecrins. One day I must learn how to do captions.</p> <p>1. Other than a few grumpy old men, but they can just be ignored.</p> <p>2. I know, I know. Forgive me. Also I used the same "joke" last time.</p> <p>3. The published date is 2014 but my blog is from 2013; doubtless in the usual tedious way it was trailed but glowing clouds of PR.</p> <p>4. I see form the comments last time that it isn't; so I'll say in advance: <i>trying to palm our responsibilities off on other people is pathetic evasion. You buy and burn oil, that’s your decision. Don’t blame the guy you bought it from</i>.</p> <p>5. The they did some good <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Calculators">early work on physics</a>.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/stoat">stoat</a></span> <span>Sat, 09/09/2017 - 08:31</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 09 Sep 2017 12:31:19 +0000 stoat 54006 at https://scienceblogs.com Comments of the Week #175: From future technology to the cause of dark energy https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/03/comments-of-the-week-175-from-future-technology-to-the-cause-of-dark-energy <span>Comments of the Week #175: From future technology to the cause of dark energy</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“There will be days when we lose faith. Days when our allies turn against us...but the day will never come that we forsake this planet and its people.” ―Optimus Prime</p></blockquote> <p>There was too much to simply keep it to a single article a day this week here at <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a> The dynamic duo of Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand published a delightful contribution on scale, and we're gearing up for a month where we'll highlight some of the telescopes of the 2020s (and maybe beyond) that will help shape the future of astronomy.</p> <p>In the meantime, those of you who caught totality from the eclipse have affirmed to me that it was, in fact, one of the greatest experiences of your lifetime. Want to know exactly what it was like?</p> <p>Well, check out our <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ethan-siegel-172073460/starts-with-a-bang-23-experiencing-a-total-solar-eclipse-for-the-first-time">latest episode</a> of the <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ethan-siegel-172073460">Starts With A Bang podcast</a>, where we highlight exactly that!</p> <p></p><center> <iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/340134482&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe><p></p></center> <p>Thanks to our generous Patreon supporters (including some of you), we've got some fantastic ideas in the pipeline that I can't wait for you to read. In the meantime, though, let's take a look back as to what we've covered over this past week:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/26/ask-ethan-what-science-experiments-will-open-the-door-to-the-future/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">What science experiments will open the door to the future?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/28/the-eye-of-creation-holds-the-secrets-to-cosmic-life-and-death/">The ‘Eye Of Creation’ Holds The Secrets To Cosmic Life And Death</a> (for Mostly Mute Monday),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/28/how-hurricane-harveys-record-setting-rainfall-is-happening-right-now/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Hurricane Harvey’s Record-Setting Rainfall Is Happening Right Now</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/29/no-neil-degrasse-tyson-squashing-curiosity-and-wonder-is-never-okay/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">No, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Squashing Curiosity And Wonder Is Never Okay</a>,</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/30/why-understanding-scale-is-vital-not-just-for-science-but-for-everyone/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Why understanding scale is vital, not just for science, but for everyone</a> (by Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/31/5-facts-we-can-learn-if-ligo-detects-merging-neutron-stars/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">5 Facts We Can Learn If LIGO Detects Merging Neutron Stars</a>, and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/09/01/dark-energy-may-arise-simply-from-matter-in-our-universe/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">A new explanation for dark energy: the matter in our Universe</a>.</li> </ul><p>I just received word that we're six weeks away from the publication of <a href="http://amzn.to/2wX6B3Y">Treknology</a>, and that enough preorders have happened that they're <em>already</em> going to have to do a second printing of the book! (That's good news, probably.) But you're not here to get book updates; you're here for the bonus science. With that said, let's get right to it, and into our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/Ev059HR_3D-1200x954.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36211" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="477" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/Ev059HR_3D-1200x954-600x477.jpg" width="600" /></a> The particle tracks emanating from a high energy collision at the LHC in 2014. Although these collisions are plentiful and incredibly energetic, they have not yet yielded any compelling evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Pcharito. <p> </p> </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/27/comments-of-the-week-174-from-growing-black-holes-to-nuclear-bombs/#comment-582036">Elle H.C.</a> on nuclear reactions and energy conservation: "On the mass-energy conversion, so why do they say there’s no energy released during particle collisions, like in a fission reaction for instance, or is this something I misunderstood?"</p></blockquote> <p>So there's an important starting point that I want to make sure gets emphasized: in every particle-particle, particle-photon, antiparticle-particle, etc., reaction that's ever been observed, energy and momentum both are always 100% conserved. If you add up the energy of the rest mass plus the kinetic energy of the initial reactants, and compare it to the energy of the rest mass plus the kinetic energy of the products, energy is always conserved. Those two numbers will balance one another out. Now, that doesn't mean that the masses are going to balance! In fact, in pretty much every nuclear reaction, they don't; either you have fusion (where energy is released, bringing you up closer to iron-56), or fission (where energy is released, bringing you down closer to iron-56), and so there's more <em>kinetic</em> energy available at the end. That's what normally happens. So overall, energy is usually liberated in a nuclear reaction, but it's just being converted from one form (mass) to another (kinetic energy).</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/10/fig_four8.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-full wp-image-33629" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="181" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/10/fig_four8.jpg" width="600" /></a> The only way to 'disrupt' a proton, or any particle, is via a collision, interaction, or decay involving another external particle. Image credit: Ned Wright / Sean Carroll, via <a href="https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/March01/Carroll3/Carroll4.html">https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/March01/Carroll3/Carroll4.html</a>. <p> </p> </div> <p>And from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/27/comments-of-the-week-174-from-growing-black-holes-to-nuclear-bombs/#comment-582060">Elle H.C.</a> again, on what may be the root of all these misconceptions: "I am only focusing on the idea of how vibrations might change the energy/mass levels of a Proton, and if that may lead to the disruption of a Proton. Please do explain to us what’s so ‘misleading’ about this question."</p></blockquote> <p>What's misleading is that "vibration" is a completely unrelated classical concept that has no business in the quantum world. It's not related and the question makes no sense, as nuclei don't vibrate, energy levels don't vibrate, and nothing of the sort causes the disruption or disintegration of a proton. For what seems like ages, you've been going on about this, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why you wouldn't take "this makes no sense" for an answer. But now I think I see. For clarification, you also <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/27/comments-of-the-week-174-from-growing-black-holes-to-nuclear-bombs/#comment-582062">provided a link</a> to where this idea of vibration comes from: <a href="http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2012/12/07/how-to-explain-the-higgs-mechanism/">Sean Carroll's blog</a>. And Sean, like many, talks about how a particle can be viewed as a vibration, or excitation, of a fundamental field. For example, he calls the Higgs boson a vibration of the Higgs field. So I think this is where your misconception arises, because you are picturing the field as an underlying, static thing, permeating all of space, and that it's vibrating in one place, creating a particle there, and so if you make that field vibrate in one spot over and over, perhaps you can make something interesting happen. I <em>think</em> that's where your mind is. And if so, here's why it's wrong.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/zhIUh.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36585" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="451" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/09/zhIUh-600x451.jpg" width="600" /></a> The vibrating modes of a guitar string. Image credit: Mark Peterson / Mt. Holyoke. <p> </p> </div> <p>Sure, for a physical string, it makes sense to talk about different vibrational modes, and how they correspond to different sounds or frequencies. But for fields and particles, they're only called:</p> <ul><li>modes,</li> <li>or vibrations,</li> <li>or energy levels,</li> <li>or excitations,</li> </ul><p>because the different allowable states obey an analogous set of mathematical rules. But <em>nothing is vibrating</em>, and <em>nothing is excited</em>, and <em>nothing is physically at a different level</em>, and so on. The proton does not vibrate; space does not vibrate; even fields do not vibrate. Particles don't exist (or not exist) because a field is (or isn't) vibrating; particles exist (or not) with a particular configuration because of the quantum state that a quanta of energy occupies (or doesn't occupy). I hope this clears up your "vibration" questions once and for all! You have misinterpreted an analogy to mean something other than what it means, and have been talking about physical impossibilities as though they had validity because of it. But that's not the end of the world! It just means that you have an opportunity, so long as you're humble before the laws of nature, to learn about where your misconception is. You can learn about the way the Universe actually works, revise your picture of it, and begin drawing more valid conclusions and asking better questions. If you can do that, you're well on your way to a satisfying life that's rooted in the physical reality we all inhabit.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/max_7841-1200x801.jpg"><img alt="The ALPHA collaboration has come the closest of any experiment to measuring the behavior of neutral antimatter in a gravitational field. Depending on the results, this could open the door to incredible new technologies. Image credit: Maximilien Brice/CERN." class="size-medium wp-image-36545" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="401" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/max_7841-1200x801-600x401.jpg" width="600" /></a> The ALPHA collaboration has come the closest of any experiment to measuring the behavior of neutral antimatter in a gravitational field. Depending on the results, this could open the door to incredible new technologies. Image credit: Maximilien Brice/CERN. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/26/ask-ethan-what-science-experiments-will-open-the-door-to-the-future-synopsis/#comment-582035">Frank</a> on what is and isn't possible: "Basically, we don’t really know many big ideas in science-fiction are really theoretically/practically possible or not. And that means our knowledge of physics is incomplete. And that means we should try to answer those questions by doing more theoretical research, as well as more experiments and observations."</p></blockquote> <p>Here's the important thing, to be totally transparent: Everything that we can draw conclusions about is based only in our current understanding of physics and the laws that govern the Universe. But it's fun, as a theorist, to play the game of "what if?" What if all we know isn't all there is to physics? What if there are some new things? And if X or Y or Z is a new thing, what are the consequences that arise? That was the point of <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/26/ask-ethan-what-science-experiments-will-open-the-door-to-the-future/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">last week's Ask Ethan article</a>: what could possibly occur to bring some of our "science fiction" dream technologies into reality? And if antimatter has a negative gravitational mass (we haven't made a sensitive enough test), or dark matter can be harnessed and turned/amplified into energy via <em>E = mc^2</em> (it may be possible), or if the Universe rotates at the right rate to allow closed timelike curves (it probably doesn't, but it isn't ruled out), some very interesting consequences arise. In particular, some presently thought-to-be-impossible ideas become possible. And that's worth remembering, as we continue to experiment.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1280px-Antimatter_Rocket-1200x960.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36546" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="480" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1280px-Antimatter_Rocket-1200x960-600x480.jpg" width="600" /></a> All rockets ever envisioned require some type of fuel, but if a dark matter engine were created, new fuel is always to be found simply by traveling through the galaxy. Image credit: NASA / MSFC. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/26/ask-ethan-what-science-experiments-will-open-the-door-to-the-future-synopsis/#comment-582045">CFT</a> on loss and behavior: "My last few posts were very upset and angry, I made the mistake of drinking after receiving a phone call about the death of someone very dear to me."</p></blockquote> <p>Well all the best to you in these troubling times. May you make peace with what has happened and come out okay with yourself, your life, and the world without your loved one on the other side of your grief. Thank you, also, to <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/26/ask-ethan-what-science-experiments-will-open-the-door-to-the-future-synopsis/#comment-582145">rich r</a> for being a model of kindness in his compassion to CFT. Kindness, remember, costs us nothing.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Hurricane-Harvey.jpg"><img alt="From the International Space Station on August 25, 2017, 250 miles above Earth, a NASA astronaut captured photos of Hurricane Harvey. Image credit: NASA." class="size-medium wp-image-36569" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="337" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Hurricane-Harvey-600x337.jpg" width="600" /></a> From the International Space Station on August 25, 2017, 250 miles above Earth, a NASA astronaut captured photos of Hurricane Harvey. Image credit: NASA. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/28/how-hurricane-harveys-record-setting-rainfall-is-happening-right-now-synopsis/#comment-582068">John</a> on the physics of hurricanes: "It’s notable to read here of a science that appears essentially the same as was presented to me in primary school many moons ago!"</p></blockquote> <p>This is very much the case! The basics of hurricane science and tropical storm formation, in general, has changed very little in perhaps the past 40+ years. Once we began launching Earth-monitoring satellites to watch how these storms form over the ocean, we learned very quickly what the mechanisms at play were. Air blowing rapidly over a warm ocean (typically, at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 degrees Celsius) will result in that air collecting water, rising, cooling, forming clouds, and then the air dropping again, while additional warm, wet air continuing to rise beneath it. The faster the winds and the warmer the water, the more devastating this can get. People with a variety of political persuasions are going to argue about what the finer points of this one event -- Hurricane Harvey -- means, but the previous paragraph, about the basic science behind hurricane formation, will not change, no matter what is legislated.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/globe_inset_v3.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36562" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="600" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/globe_inset_v3-600x600.jpg" width="600" /></a> The entire path of totality across Earth's surface, for the August 21, 2017 eclipse. Only 0.26% of the surface experienced totality. Image credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/29/no-neil-degrasse-tyson-squashing-curiosity-and-wonder-is-never-okay-synopsis/#comment-582072">Sean T</a> on Neil deGrasse Tyson's wonder-crushing statements: "Most people will only experience an eclipse when it is relatively close to home, as this one was for Americans (as will, of course the 2024 one be as well). Let people just wonder at and enjoy it when they can."</p></blockquote> <p>Do you see the above image? See that "giant" swath where the eclipse falls? That quarter-of-a-percent of Earth's surface? According to Neil, that's what "not rare" looks like. Now, there was misinformation out there -- and it's always good to correct misinformation -- but it's important to do it in a way that's inclusive, that doesn't talk down to people, and that amplifies the wonder and awe at the natural Universe. At least, that's what I try to have be my <em>modus operandi</em>. But I have gotten, particularly on Twitter and Tumblr, a lot of hate mail about the piece I wrote about Neil. This is one of the dangers of a personality cult: if you deify someone, you lose the ability to recognize their flaws, no matter how egregious they are. And if you believe it about yourself, you lose the ability to self-improve. May we all never fall into that trap here!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Jangle-Joe-Sexton.jpg"><img alt="The eclipsed Sun, the visible corona, and the reddish hues around the edges of the Moon's shadow — along with human beings rapt with awe — were among the most spectacular sights of the total eclipse. Image credit: Joe Sexton / Jesse Angle." class="size-medium wp-image-36531" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="450" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Jangle-Joe-Sexton-600x450.jpg" width="600" /></a> The eclipsed Sun, the visible corona, and the reddish hues around the edges of the Moon's shadow — along with human beings rapt with awe — were among the most spectacular sights of the total eclipse. Image credit: Joe Sexton / Jesse Angle. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/29/no-neil-degrasse-tyson-squashing-curiosity-and-wonder-is-never-okay-synopsis/#comment-582096">jvj</a> on another eclipse experience: "I spent 45 minutes explaining how an eclipse happens to a young person, with a HS education, who didn’t know what the Milky Way is. He spent 1 1/2 hours watching the eclipse with his family with a pair of Celestron 2X eclipse glasses I gave him. (We had 80% totality in our location). No doubt hundreds of thousands of folks who haven’t given “science” a second thought in a long time also joined my friend in experiencing the eclipse."</p></blockquote> <p>Part of the reason, I think, that so many people don't engage with science is that it feels so foreign to them. It feels as though it's divorced from their day-to-day experience. What made this eclipse special is that there were literally <strong>200,000,000 people</strong> who lived within a 1-day drive of the path of totality. This was a very rare opportunity for people to experience a cosmic event that only occurs over any particular location on Earth, on average, once every 400 years or so. Yes, eclipses <em>anywhere</em> aren't rare, but you don't get to be everywhere on Earth at once. Relating science to what people experience and understand is one of the biggest challenges of science communication. Yes, Neil correctly stated a fact, achieving McLovin levels of communication.</p> <p></p><center> <iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eRZoLV7JV7s" width="560"></iframe><p></p></center> <p>But I think everyone who demands more isn't being unreasonable. In fact, people who think Neil should be immune from criticism or improvements because of the good he does are missing the point of learning, of self-improvement, and of knowledge entirely. But that's just my opinion, and you're entitled to your own as well.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/bennu_size_comparison.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36571" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="287" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/bennu_size_comparison-600x287.jpg" width="600" /></a> Comparing the size of unrelated objects, such as a 'familiar' one with an 'unfamiliar' one, can help people get a feel for scale in a uniquely powerful way. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/30/why-understanding-scale-is-vital-not-just-for-science-but-for-everyone-synopsis/#comment-582108">symball</a> on visualizations for scale: "Here in the UK we have a more standard unit scale, for areas it is the size of Wales, and for volume either olympic swimming pools or Wembley Stadium. For height we use double decker buses, or occasionally Nelsons Column."</p></blockquote> <p>I personally propose that we begin using a single, standard unit for areas, volumes, heights, and weights.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/07/GodzillaRSC.jpeg"><img alt="Godzilla munching on a train" class="size-medium wp-image-18669" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="432" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2012/07/GodzillaRSC-600x432.jpg" width="600" /></a> Image credit: Godzilla the motion picture, by Ishirō Honda, image retrieved from Will Dodson. <p> </p> </div> <p>How do you feel about units of "Godzillas"?</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/dietrich_bin_neutron_star_mgr_01.jpg"><img alt="3D rendering of the gravitational waves emitted from a binary neutron star system at merger. The central region (in density) is stretched by a factor of ~5 for better visibility. Image credit: AEI Potsdam-Golm." class="size-medium wp-image-36567" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="351" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/dietrich_bin_neutron_star_mgr_01-600x351.jpg" width="600" /></a> 3D rendering of the gravitational waves emitted from a binary neutron star system at merger. The central region (in density) is stretched by a factor of ~5 for better visibility. Image credit: AEI Potsdam-Golm. <p> </p> </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/31/5-facts-we-can-learn-if-ligo-detects-merging-neutron-stars-synopsis/#comment-582137">Anadish Kumar Pal</a> on whether LIGO could have detected merging neutron stars or not: "There might be some astronomical observation of gravitational waves produced by neutron stars; although, I think, this time it is quite improbable, looking at the sheer fortuitousness of the so-called detection makes it untenable — the VIRGO run was too short (just 25 days), LIGO never found any orbiting neutron stars’ gravitational waves in the last 3 years, while there are too many neutron stars nearby to have slipped LIGO’s notice."</p></blockquote> <p>Remember, please, how probability works. And combine that with how gravitational wave events work. The amplitude of gravitational waves increase tremendously in the final moments, as the distance between two objects reaches a minimum. The known neutron star pairs are far too distant to have their gravitational wave amplitudes detected. In fact, it's only during the final seconds, at most, that inspiraling binaries will be at the appropriate frequencies and amplitudes to be seen by LIGO.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/f5.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36298" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="475" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/f5-600x475.jpg" width="600" /></a> The sensitivities of a variety of gravitational wave detectors, old, new, and proposed. Note, in particular, Advanced LIGO (in orange), LISA (in dark blue), and BBO (in light blue). Image credit: Minglei Tong, Class.Quant.Grav. 29 (2012) 155006. <p> </p> </div> <p>So saying "we didn't see anything in years" is like buying a lottery ticket every second for a few years (it was months, actually, but whatever), and not winning, and drawing the conclusion that <em>therefore</em><em>, I won't win if I play for another few weeks</em>. But maybe you will! No one expected LIGO would detect its first black hole-black hole merger after turning on for just a few days in September of 2015, but it happened. Merging neutron stars -- with or without VIRGO observing it, too -- could have happened. Of course, it could <em>not</em> have happened, too. It's just speculation at this point. But don't say "too many neutron stars nearby to have slipped LIGO’s notice" as though that's a fact. Until we know the merger rate and the local population of neutron star binaries, that's not a valid conclusion.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/04/LQCD1.jpg"><img alt="" class="size-medium wp-image-36034" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="424" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/04/LQCD1-600x424.jpg" width="600" /></a> As computational power and Lattice QCD techniques have improved over time, so has the accuracy to which various quantities about the proton, such as its component spin contributions, can be computed. Image credit: Laboratoire de Physique de Clermont / ETM Collaboration. <p> </p> </div> <p>And finally, from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/09/01/a-new-explanation-for-dark-energy-the-matter-in-our-universe-synopsis/#comment-582148">Frank</a> on analogous experiments: "If physical Black Hole analogue(s) possible, then maybe we should try to find physical analogue(s) for expansion of the universe/Dark Energy."</p></blockquote> <p>You must be <em>very</em> precise if you want to create an analogue system. Most people, when they talk about building a system as an analogy for a system that we cannot physically study in a lab, misunderstand what's going on entirely. It's very tempting to try and create a visualization in your head for what an analogous system would look like, to set that system up, and then run experiments. But that is <em>not</em> what an "analogue system" as you call it actually is. Rather, it's a system that is governed by the same equations, which may or may not look anything like the original system you're trying to model. You know how we build black hole analogs? We create a low-temperature, condensed matter system with a rapidly flowing fluid, where it flows so fast it exceeds the speed of sound in that medium. These <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_black_hole">sonic black holes</a> are called this because sound waves cannot escape from the fluid. It's a mathematical analogy. We can try to find a physical analogue for an expanding Universe or dark energy, but that's a tall order that won't be easily accomplished by a conventional, positive-pressure fluid or gas. It's important to be open-minded, but when you confront your idea with physical reality, it's reality that shall always be the victor and the arbiter of what's right. Thanks for a great week, everyone, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for more Starts With A Bang!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 09/03/2017 - 02:04</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 03 Sep 2017 06:04:11 +0000 esiegel 37089 at https://scienceblogs.com Comments of the Week #172: From sodium-and-water to the most dangerous comet of all https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/13/comments-of-the-week-172-from-sodium-and-water-to-the-most-dangerous-comet-of-all <span>Comments of the Week #172: From sodium-and-water to the most dangerous comet of all</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>"Life is not a miracle. It is a natural phenomenon, and can be expected to appear whenever there is a planet whose conditions duplicate those of the Earth." ―Harold Urey</p></blockquote> <p>It's been yet another fascinating week of scientific stories here at <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a> But as of the last 48 hours, there's something I absolutely have to talk about: the "Unite The Right" hate rally in Virginia, accompanied by violence and murder. They say that in order for evil to triumph, all that you need is for good people to stand by and do nothing. When I was a kid -- small, young, weak, inexperienced -- I saw lots of people get beaten up, taken advantage of, mugged, robbed... and I didn't do anything. Why? Because I was afraid for myself, for what would happen to me if I did. But I look at the world now, and I see it differently: what happens to us all if I <em>don't</em> do anything? What happens if none of us stop this madness? It's time to stand up alongside one another and demand equal treatment, legally, for everyone.</p> <p>We live in a country where a black man will be criticized and even blacklisted from his job for taking a knee during the national anthem because he's making a statement about equal rights and protections under the law, but the rights of neo-nazi murderers to hatch terrorism plots and violently attack counter-protesters (two pretty illegal things, by the way) are not even addressed by our country's leadership. In 2017, more than 70 years after the world united to defeat fascism and white supremacy and oppression, actions like these are not condemned by the president. My grandfathers fought those Nazis, alongside the rest of the free world. It is up to every one of us -- whether we're white or persons of color; whether we're men, women, or non-binary; whether we're Christian or not; whether we're cis or straight or citizens or not -- to recognize that we're all human beings, and that we have every right to demand those same human rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is what America is about.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/640px-Flag_of_Virginia.svg_.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36495" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/640px-Flag_of_Virginia.svg_-600x412.png" alt="" width="600" height="412" /></a> The (public domain) State Flag of Virginia. No joke. </div> <p>Virginia, you have the most hateful state flag in the entire country. You changed it in 1861, after you seceded, to make it about murdering what you perceived as a tyrannical leader, in a Shakespearian scene. Four years later, theatre actor John Wilkes Booth did exactly this, acting out a scene from his favorite play in a way, murdering Lincoln the same way Brutus and Cassius murdered Caesar. Those three infamous words, <em>sic semper tyrannis</em>, are from Shakespeare, are emblazoned on the Virginia flag, and were shouted by Booth as he shot Lincoln in the head. We have a long heritage of hate, slavery, and murder in this country, and it is up to all of us to renounce rather than celebrate these awful parts of our nation's past. We are moving forward, and no amount of hatred or demonization or violence is going to solve any of our nation's problems. We will fight this hate with our words, with our bodies, and if necessary, with our lives. And in the end, just like always, hate will lose.</p> <p>I had to say that. I cannot stand by and <em>only</em> talk about science when there are these other atrocities happening right here. It's time to make a difference. It's time to get involved. And it's time to speak out. Nazis cannot make us afraid, and everyone needs to know that all of America is united against this hate. Even if the President is silent about it.</p> <p>With that said, let's get into the science. There's been a lot to explore, question, and go over, despite all the things we disagree with one another on. Thankfully, there are scientific truths that, whether we agree with one another or not, are all true nonetheless. (And thank you to those who left positive comments over the last week. I came, I saw, I appreciated!) Here are the six stories we've told that have given you plenty to think about over the past week:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/05/ask-ethan-whats-the-quantum-reason-that-sodium-and-water-react/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the quantum reason that sodium and water react?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/07/wildfires-are-peaking-as-the-solar-eclipse-nears-heres-what-you-need-to-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wildfires are peaking as the solar eclipse nears; here's what you need to know</a> (in lieu of Mostly Mute Monday),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/08/nasas-planetary-protection-officer-protects-other-worlds-from-earth/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NASA's Planetary Protection Officer protects other worlds from Earth</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/09/milky-way-houses-up-to-100-million-black-holes-with-big-implications-for-ligo/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Milky Way houses up to 100 million black holes, with big implications for LIGO</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/10/humans-cant-tell-legitimate-science-from-junk-science/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Humans can't tell legitimate science from junk science</a>, and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/11/the-comet-that-created-the-perseids-might-bring-an-end-to-humanity/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The comet that created the Perseids might bring an end to humanity</a>.</li> </ul><p>I'll tell you all that there are at least three new podcasts coming out where I'm a guest -- all related to Treknology, as far as I know -- and for those of you who'll be down at Brooks Winery in Salem next Sunday and Monday for the total solar eclipse, I'll see you there! With all that said and done, let's get right into our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/TSE_2016_srd.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36392" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/TSE_2016_srd-600x606.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="606" /></a> 32 images of the 2016 eclipse were combined in order to produce this composite, showcasing not only the corona and the plasma loops above the photosphere with stars in the background, but also with the Moon's surface illuminated by Earthshine. Image credit: Don Sabers, Ron Royer, Miloslav Druckmuller. </div> <p style="text-align: left;">From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581553">Michael Hutson</a> on why eclipse science is still important: "Why is ground observation of total eclipses still so important when we have had manned and unmanned observation from orbit for decades?"</p> </blockquote> <p>It's absolutely true that we have space-based observation of the Sun and its corona; we've used radio astronomy to measure the shifting positions of stars over the course of a year; we've used gravitational lenses to better test and constrain relativity; and it's things like stereographic satellite imagery and lunar laser ranging that have enabled us to determine the shape of the Moon's shadow on Earth. Yes, the vast majority of scientifically useful eclipse data is historic, from validating relativity to measuring the coronal temperature and nature to the discovery of plasma loops to coronal mass ejections.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/American-eclipse.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36315" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/American-eclipse-600x464.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="464" /></a> More than 2/3 of the American population is within a single day's driving distance of the path of totality. This could create the worst traffic jam in American history. Image credit: Michael Zeller / greatamericaneclipse.com. </div> <p>But there are still things we can do from the ground that have advantages, particularly the ones that are Earth-related. The uninterrupted land mass that this eclipse will pass over allows for the opportunity to understand atmospheric and temperature changes, the relationship between the Moon's shadow and phenomena here on Earth's surface, and the short-term but continuous variation in the Sun's luminosity. Yes, we can do many things better from space, but we live here on Earth, and there's still more science to be done!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/numberphile.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36444" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/numberphile-600x338.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="338" /></a> A room where the walls, even if completely covered with mirrors, would never have every location illuminated, was a mathematically interesting conjecture that was only solved recently. Image credit: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) / Numberphile / Brady Haran / Howard Masur. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581559">dean</a> on how certain problems in math have incremental progress made towards them: "More directly, a slightly simpler version may be attacked first, with interest as much on the process used to solve it as the solution. As restrictions on the problem statement are weakened work (often) goes to modifying what worked earlier in hopes on the more general problem."</p></blockquote> <p>This is true, and is quite a precise and laudable statement. We do this in physics, too, except in physics we simplify <em>deliberately</em>. Think about what you'd need to know to successfully model a physical system accurately: the physical properties of all the particles in the Universe, relative to one another, their interrelationships and entanglements, and all the forces between them, as well as how it all evolves over time in a well-defined, relativistic and quantum context. Sounds like a tall order, doesn't it?</p> <p>The big strength of physics is its ability to simplify. The strength of physicists is in modeling: in knowing how to chew on the meat and throw away the bones of the problem. If you can boil down a problem to its key essence and solve that simplified version, that's huge. If you could take the entire Universe and simulate all the physical interactions taking place, it would be interesting, too, but it would take a computer with the computing power of the entire Universe to do it, and it wouldn't teach you anything new. Relating equations, theories, and models to physical phenomena is where it's at.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Recreacion-artistica-onda-gravitacional_101501205_1049849_1706x1280-1200x900-1200x900.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36461" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Recreacion-artistica-onda-gravitacional_101501205_1049849_1706x1280-1200x900-1200x900-600x449.jpg" alt="The fabric of spacetime, illustrated, with ripples and deformations due to mass. A new theory must be more than identical to General Relativity; it must make novel, distinct predictions. Image credit: European Gravitational Observatory, Lionel BRET/EUROLIOS." width="600" height="449" /></a> The fabric of spacetime, illustrated, with ripples and deformations due to mass. A new theory must be more than identical to General Relativity; it must make novel, distinct predictions. Image credit: European Gravitational Observatory, Lionel BRET/EUROLIOS. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581568">CFT</a> on a perceived weakness in relativity: "...there is no known solution to even TWO masses (much less more than two) in the same space time matrix. That’s not a little thing to gloss over like a minor typo."</p></blockquote> <p>Nope; it's a testament to how complicated and intricate a theory like General Relativity is. But just because we can model a system that is too difficult to solve exactly (or analytically) doesn't mean it's any less valid. Reread that last sentence a few times; if you can absorb the information in it, you'll understand why your argument for the "wrongness" of relativity (or the Navier-Stokes equation, or pretty much any complex physical system) holds no water.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1280px-March_Against_Monsanto_Vancouver.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36482" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1280px-March_Against_Monsanto_Vancouver-600x400.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></a> Signs and protesters from the 2013 March Against Monsanto in Vancouver, BC. While there may be legitimate complaints over our modern agricultural system, GMOs are not the evil technology that people make them out to be. Image credit: Rosalee Yagihara of Wikimedia Commons. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581572">John</a> on making a difference in science: "The subjective portion is deciding what parts of Science are “fringe”."</p></blockquote> <p>This is true, and I fully admit that I have my own opinions on that matter. I am aware that although there are objective criteria in there, all of the ones I use are not (and cannot be, by their nature) objective. The danger comes when we present a subjective criterion as an objective one, and that's something we're all at risk for. I hope you enjoyed <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/10/humans-cant-tell-legitimate-science-from-junk-science/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my review of the Little Black Book of Junk Science</a>, whose authors have a right-wing bias, but that doesn't make the science they present any less valid. It's important to consider views that challenge our own, otherwise we'll never learn anything new or be open to possibilities that are foreign to us.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/1010px-Hurricane_Elena.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36426" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/1010px-Hurricane_Elena-600x608.jpg" alt="In warm-weather years, which are statistically more likely with global warming, large, more powerful hurricanes, like 1985's Hurricane Elena, are more likely, but there will be fewer of them. Image credit: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center." width="600" height="608" /></a> In warm-weather years, which are statistically more likely with global warming, large, more powerful hurricanes, like 1985's Hurricane Elena, are more likely, but there will be fewer of them. Image credit: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581580">Paul Dekous</a> on Hurricane Elena: "Damn, I thought you were using that Hurricane Elena image on top of the page to answer how ‘Black Holes’ at the center of large galaxies could be voids."</p></blockquote> <p>Nope, just to talk about hurricanes and other weather-based natural disasters. Black holes can't really be "voids" in any meaningful sense, but the similarities between an "eye" of a storm and the cloud bands and an event horizon of a black hole and its accretion disk can be visualized in an analogous fashion. I'd say that's fair!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/heic1501b-1200x1125.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36423" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/heic1501b-1200x1125-600x563.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="563" /></a> The stars within and beyond the Pillars of Creation are revealed in the infrared. While Hubble extends its view out to 1.6 microns, more than twice the limit of visible light, James Webb will go out to 30 microns: nearly 20 times as far again. Image credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581585">Brian K. Grimm</a> on why we can't all just get along: " I do not understand the type of people that can look at a suite of scientific data, then pull specific corner cases from that data and say ‘all these hundreds of other analyses can’t be right, because of this one.’ I don’t just see it in physics either. I see it in finance/economics, politics, history, and religious discussions. Why is it so hard to agree on what reality is?"</p></blockquote> <p>I'm not a psychologist, and I don't know that psychologists -- even the ones that study bias and the Culture Wars -- have the answer, so what you're getting from me is a guess. My guess is that, for some people, particularly when it comes to some topics, getting a specific answer or reaching a specific conclusion is more important than those other things. If it's part of your very identity that the world be flat, then your options are either to accept a round Earth and deny your core identity, or to hold onto your core identity and insist that the world is flat... and that's when the logical and rhetorical gymnastics enter.</p> <p>Some people love that game: the arguing and the argument-crafting, but I'm not one of them. I'd rather just earnestly ask after the truth, find the best answers we can arrive at, and share those results. Those of you who find your core identity in disagreement with my own (or what you perceive my own to be) will find an avenue to attack that too, but don't worry. By this time next year, I'll be 40, which, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoMmbUmKN0E">according to Mike Gundy</a>, means I'll be able to take the heat.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Artist_s_impression_of_the_three_LISA_spacecraft-1200x784.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36459" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Artist_s_impression_of_the_three_LISA_spacecraft-1200x784-600x392.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="392" /></a> An artist's impression of the three LISA spacecraft shows that the ripples in space generated by longer-period gravitational wave sources should provide an interesting new window on the Universe. LISA was scrapped by NASA years ago, and will now be built by the European Space Agency, with only partial, supporting contributions from NASA. Image credit: EADS Astrium. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581590">Michael Mooney</a> on the ridiculousness of relativity: "I pointed out how totally ridiculous that claim is."</p></blockquote> <p>Well, to someone who's unwilling to accept the Universe as it is, the Universe is ridiculous. Electricity is ridiculous; gravitation is ridiculous; motion is ridiculous; and just wait until you get to quantum physics. It is not up to the Universe to bow to your claims of what makes sense and what doesn't; the Universe does what it does and it's up to us to decode how that works, and what predictions we can make in a variety of physical scenarios. Relativity has been doing that, correctly, for over 100 years. You are an onlooker, pointing and laughing, all the while reaping the benefits of relativity. Try using a GPS device (if you can find one) that doesn't use relativity, and see how that works for you; you won't like it.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/12/Artist’s_impression_of_the_magnetar_in_the_star_cluster_Westerlund_1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-32058" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/12/Artist’s_impression_of_the_magnetar_in_the_star_cluster_Westerlund_1-600x375.jpg" alt="Image credit: ESO / L. Calçada." width="600" height="375" /></a> This artist’s impression shows the magnetar in the very rich and young star cluster Westerlund 1. Image credit: ESO / L. Calçada. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581592">eric</a> on the "z" of a neutron star: "Unless that neutron star is in a *very* empty region of space, there will be a constant infallinng of particles. If the stuff falling in has protons (and it probably will), there will be some time required for those protons to be converted."</p></blockquote> <p>Oh, you don't need to go there! A neutron star <em>only</em> has about 90% of its mass in the form of neutrons; the outer 10% of its mass is more like a mix of protons, neutrons and even electrons. There ought to be atoms on a neutron star's surface. Without those charged particles, you'd never be able to get a magnetic field in your neutron star, and yet they have the strongest magnetic fields in the Universe! The question, though, is whether it's fair to consider the entire star as a single nucleus, or only a fraction of the core, and I think it's the latter. But I am uncertain that the matter has been scientifically settled.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/1-nfLpNXqNGM4GoU3fIpsx4Q.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35902" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/1-nfLpNXqNGM4GoU3fIpsx4Q-600x399.jpeg" alt="" width="600" height="399" /></a> The increased emission of greenhouse gases, notably CO2, can have a massive impact on Earth's climate in just a few hundred years. We're witnessing that happen today. Image credit: U.S. National Parks Service. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right/#comment-581594">Another Commenter</a> on a challenge to the climate consensus: "Herer’s (sic) an interesting news item about of reliable the data is from the signatories to Paris Climate Accord.<br /><a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40669449" rel="nofollow">http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40669449</a>"</p></blockquote> <p>That is interesting. What it says, for those who won't read it, is that a number of nations may be lying about what their actual emissions are versus their reported emissions. Veritas, my friends.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Shuttle_Main_Engine_Test_Firing_cropped_edited_and_reduced-1200x1290.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36492" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Shuttle_Main_Engine_Test_Firing_cropped_edited_and_reduced-1200x1290-600x645.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="645" /></a> A remote camera captures a close-up view of a Space Shuttle Main Engine during a test firing at the John C. Stennis Space Center. Hydrogen is preferred as a fuel source in rockets due to its low molecular weight and the great abundance of oxygen in the atmosphere for it to react with. Image credit: NASA. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/05/ask-ethan-whats-the-quantum-reason-that-sodium-and-water-react-synopsis/#comment-581540">Alan G.</a> on calling out my rocket fuel caption: "The rocket engine photo caption is curious. Rocket engines don’t use atmospheric gaseous oxygen when running. They have to carry all of their own oxidizer with them also, along with their fuel."</p></blockquote> <p>I'm impressed at how diligent you were to catch this! Yes, in principle, there's a great abundance of oxygen in the atmosphere, and if you had O2 intake, you could react it with the hydrogen fuel inside.</p> <p>But in practice, the act of taking in oxygen to react with the hydrogen will cost you more in terms of air resistance and the collisions of particles at those high relative speeds (plus your lack of ability to control the reaction rate as you went to low-oxygen elevations) means that it's better to bring your oxygen liquid fuel with you, too. Well spotted, and thanks for coaxing me to go the extra mile!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Canada-Wildfire.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36470" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/Canada-Wildfire-600x411.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="411" /></a> A plume of smoke from wildfires burning rises over Fort McMurray in this aerial photograph taken in Alberta, Canada. The entire Pacific Northwest region of North America is suffering from severe wildfires, and the season hasn't even peaked yet. Image credit: Darryl Dyck/Bloomberg. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/07/wildfires-engulf-thousands-of-acres-as-the-solar-eclipse-nears-synopsis/#comment-581601">PJ</a> on wildfires in Oregon: "Would need to get the good words of warning out to the general public and overseas travelers who may not be aware of the local conditions."</p></blockquote> <p>Between the fires, the unpredictable winds, and cloud cover -- including the haze cover from smoke in the copious Canada wildfires -- a great many locations in the three westernmost states to see the 2017 eclipse will be at risk of having the Sun obscured during totality. Going to the coast may not solve the issue, either. Like over a million others, I'll be rolling the dice a week from Monday!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/s96_12609-1200x821.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36137" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/s96_12609-1200x821-600x411.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="411" /></a> Relic microbes revealed by a scanning electron microscope in the ALH84001 meteorite, which originated on Mars. It is unknown whether the microbes are of Martian origin or not. Image credit: NASA, 1996. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/08/nasas-planetary-protection-officer-protects-other-worlds-from-earth-synopsis/#comment-581607">jvj</a> on wanting to be NASA's planetary protection officer: "I’m perfect for the job. Have seen all the Star Trek TV shows &amp; movies. I enjoy giving orders to menials. Our motto: “We come in Peace.” We can enslave any life forms we find &amp; dig up all the diamonds &amp; gold &amp; drill for oil everywhere on each planet we take over."</p></blockquote> <p>The great danger of contamination is a real one, and it may have already taken place naturally. Do you see this image above? That's a fragment of a meteor that came from Mars, but it was found on Earth. When you get a massive impact from space on a rocky world -- planet, asteroid, moon, or Kuiper belt object -- it kicks up debris that can sometimes go back into space and travel to another world. If we find Mars rocks on Earth, does it not stand to reason that Earth rocks made their way to other worlds in the Solar System, too?</p> <p>It's worth thinking about, because despite our best efforts to decontaminate our spacecraft before we send them out exploring (and we may have failed at that with our earlier missions to Mars, for example), it may already be too late.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/fig-nearterm_all_UPDATE_2017-panela-1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36427" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/fig-nearterm_all_UPDATE_2017-panela-1-600x308.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="308" /></a> Correctly calibrated satellite data, as well as the more recent temperature data up through 2016, shows that climate predictions and observations are perfectly in line with one another. Image credit: HadCRUT4.5, Cowtan &amp; Way, NASA GISTEMP, NOAA GlobalTemp, BEST, via Ed Hawkins at Climate Lab Book. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/08/nasas-planetary-protection-officer-protects-other-worlds-from-earth-synopsis/#comment-581650">Denier</a> on a nice try: "First of all, you should at least be honest about what you are trying to do. You are trying to de-platform scientific evidence that fails your personal political litmus test. It has nothing to do with ‘good’ science. Santer (2017) is good science. Nature thinks so. You summarily dismissed it without reason. You simply didn’t like what it said. It didn’t support your political narrative so you wished it into the corn field."</p></blockquote> <p>It is a nice try. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the argument you made, because it's a well-crafted narrative and it's very compelling. And yes, I agree that Santer et al. (2017) is good science; Santer is one of the top scientists in the field of climate science. But, as always, what I've urged you to do in climate arguments is to be quantitative. Yes, the paper itself says that near-term, recent warming has been overestimated, elucidated why, and quantified by how much. It seems we're in agreement there.</p> <p>So tell me, then, <em>how much</em> has the warming been overestimated by the models? What percentage of the models overestimated the warming, before the Santer paper came out? (Hint: it's less than the 95% that Heartland and UAH claimed, which is a claim that you defended, and which is data that you referenced, repeatedly, claimed was accurate, and never backed down from.) How well do the models do now that they have this improvement?</p> <p>Yes, I didn't address it, because it was a small contribution that has only mild relevance to a much larger story. You are crafting a narrative of "Ethan is dismissing evidence because he doesn't like what it says" when in fact that is what I have witnessed not only you but literally everyone saying the same things as you doing for more than two decades now. (History tells me it may be longer than that, but I wasn't really aware of the basic scientific story until the mid-1990s.) This is the Trump strategy -- accuse your opponents of doing the exact thing you're guilty of -- and it worked for him. You add in the strategy of "focusing on the one factual detail where you are correct, exaggerate its importance, and try to derail the rest of the argument."</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/501894be45d56765f3e3f7821dce2327.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36494" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/501894be45d56765f3e3f7821dce2327-600x446.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="446" /></a> Daffy Duck is smart enough to see what's going on in a situation, but never figures out how to control what happens. </div> <p>I feel like Daffy Duck in this situation. You know those old Warner Bros. cartoons with Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer Fudd? Elmer Fudd is not only unable to control the situation, but he's unable to comprehend it, and always comes out on the losing side. Bugs understands the situation, and is able to manipulate the situation to his advantage; he controls it. Daffy is a tragicomic figure, though, who understands the situation but finds himself unable to control it, even though he sees how Bugs is manipulating it and hates the unfairness of it all. Who knows? You're fighting your battle in the court of public opinion, <em>and</em> you're a lawyer. Maybe it'll work for you, too?</p> <p>But irrespective of that, I will give you mad props for reading Gavin Schmidt and Ben Santer; their work is top notch. You and I may always disagree on policy, but if you're reading their work, we may someday wind up agreeing on the facts.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1-zkxQtUqPF5dUrTthKN7I_A.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36478" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1-zkxQtUqPF5dUrTthKN7I_A-600x400.jpg" alt="This illustration of a black hole, surrounded by X-ray emitting gas, showcases one of the major ways black holes are identified and found. Based on recent research, there may be as many as 100 million black holes in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Image credit: ESA." width="600" height="400" /></a> This illustration of a black hole, surrounded by X-ray emitting gas, showcases one of the major ways black holes are identified and found. Based on recent research, there may be as many as 100 million black holes in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Image credit: ESA. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/09/milky-way-houses-up-to-100-million-black-holes-with-big-implications-for-ligo-synopsis/#comment-581655">Omega Centauri</a> on black holes in the Milky Way: "Those are remarkably large numbers. I would think the dwarf galaxies would resemble (in terms of metalicity and BH mass spectrum), the early larger galaxies. In the later category, have enough non-so-low metalicity stars formed to overwhelm the initial distribution?"</p></blockquote> <p>That's part of what's so exciting; dwarf galaxies <em>aren't</em> similar to the Milky Way. Bigger galaxies have:</p> <ul><li>larger gas fractions (because the gas doesn't get ejected during star formation),</li> <li>more generations of stars (because of more major and minor mergers),</li> <li>higher mass stars (because of more mass available, on average),</li> <li>but higher metallicity (because of more generations and more mass),</li> <li>so their high-mass stars shed more mass during their lives,</li> </ul><p>leading to smaller but far more numerous black holes. There are, if you're curious, about ten times as many neutron stars as black holes in each galaxy.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/white-background-3.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36480" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/white-background-3-600x549.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="549" /></a> Front cover of the hard copy of the Little Black Book of Junk Science. Image credit: American Council on Science and Health. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/10/humans-cant-tell-legitimate-science-from-junk-science-synopsis/#comment-581671">Christopher Winter</a> on Junk Science and ideology: "Having read <i>Science Left Behind</i>, of which Alex [Berezow] is co-author with Hank Campbell, I would be very reluctant to put credence in this book. The negative review on Amazon calls it “A pseudoscientific attempt to debunk pseudoscience.” That’s about what I’d expect."</p></blockquote> <p>People with different ideologies than you will, in fact, take the same facts, the same data, and pick out different points to highlight that are still true. That's what I saw in Science Left Behind, and also what I saw in the Little Black Book of Junk Science. Yes, not all of their contentions are the full story; for example, Agent Orange and DDT are dangerous, but not for the reasons that many (on the left!) claim they are. Organic food may represent one step towards more sustainable agricultural practices, but it's also a flawed and limited scheme with what it can accomplish. (And yes, many of its effects are negative.)</p> <p>There's a lot to think about, and listening to someone who challenges the way you think has a lot to say for it. But I'm happy to <a href="http://www.chris-winter.com/Erudition/Reviews/Politics/Berezow_Campbell/Behind.html">share your thoughtful review</a>; personally I agree with you about much of what's in there, particularly about false equivalence.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/radiation.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36493" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/radiation-600x705.png" alt="" width="600" height="705" /></a> Radiation dose chart. (Click to enlarge.) By XKCD, public domain. </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/10/humans-cant-tell-legitimate-science-from-junk-science-synopsis/#comment-581678">Anonymous Coward</a> on the banana-radioactivity scale: "A single banana is slightly radioactive due to the presence of radioactive Potassium-40. As Sinisa Lazarek points out, an x-ray scanner’s intensity is around 0.1 µSv, which is roughly the same amount of radiation exposure as you would get from eating a single banana."</p></blockquote> <p>Looks like I need to start eating bigger bananas if I want to take that trip to Iran!</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1-elzpxHcerOOEmFG9O2bfiA.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36485" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/08/1-elzpxHcerOOEmFG9O2bfiA-600x381.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="381" /></a> The comet that gives rise to the Perseid meteor shower, Comet Swift-Tuttle, was photographed during its last pass into the inner Solar System in 1992. The influence of the gravity of the other planets has the potential to dramatically change its orbit, however. Image credit: NASA. </div> <blockquote><p>And finally, from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/11/the-comet-that-created-the-perseids-might-bring-an-end-to-humanity-synopsis/#comment-581681">Denier</a> on cometary orbits: "The thing that amazes me is that an impact is possible at all. The solar system is 5 billions years old. Swift-Tuttle has had to make this loop hundreds of millions of times."</p></blockquote> <p>This is actually a lot more fun than that; the data tells us the Swift-Tuttle is <em>young</em> as a comet! Remember when, a couple of years ago, we got the "Camelopardalids" for the first time? These gravitational interactions in the outer solar system (or the asteroid belt) happen relatively frequently, and comets don't last long. Swift-Tuttle has likely been doing its dance for thousands of years, but probably not more than tens of thousands. And after the 4479 interaction, we can't predict its motion well at all! That's why it may get ejected, it may get hurled into the Sun, but it may (less likely, but still possible) collide with Earth. 1-in-a-million odds aren't very high, but when you're talking about human extinction, I'd be a lot happier with lower odds for sure!</p> <p>If we get that long-term asteroid deflection program up and running, maybe giving Swift-Tuttle a nudge in the "get away from Earth" direction might not be the worst idea!</p> <p>Thanks for a great week, folks, and see you back here for more science starting tomorrow!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 08/13/2017 - 04:19</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:19:43 +0000 esiegel 37066 at https://scienceblogs.com Damore's Pseudoscientific Google manifesto is a better evidence for sexism than it is for intellectual sex differences https://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2017/08/13/damores-pseudoscientific-google-manifesto-is-a-better-evidence-for-sexism-than-it-is-for-intellectual-sex-differences <span>Damore&#039;s Pseudoscientific Google manifesto is a better evidence for sexism than it is for intellectual sex differences</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Pseudoscience is effective. If it weren't, people wouldn't generate so much of it to try to justify opinions not supported by the bulk of the evidence. It's effective because people trust science as a method of understanding the world, and ideological actors want that trust conferred to their opinions. They want their opinions to carry that authority, so they imitate science to try to steal some of that legitimacy for themselves. However, science is not flattered by this behavior, it is undermined and diminished. </p> <p>The <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.pdf">Damore Manifesto (PDF with hyperlinks)</a> or "Google anti-diversity memo" is just such an example of pseudoscience, and largely by accident, it has gained outsize attention for what is essentially a C-grade highschool research paper. We will get to a deconstruction of Damore's scientific case for gender differences in a moment (See the Scientific Critique section below), but I would first like to point out that it has served as an excellent bellwether for those who have more sexism than sense when it comes to evaluating scientific claims. It has proven itself compelling to a large number of people in the media, for example intellectual lightweight David Brooks, who finds it so compelling he <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/11/opinion/sundar-pichai-google-memo-diversity.html?_r=1">calls on Google's CEO to resign.</a> He makes the astonishing claim that Damore is championing "scientific research" while his opponents are merely concerned with "Gender equality" (Classic false bifurcation fallacy). He also declares Evolutionary Psychology to be "winning the debate" and goes on to talk about superior female "brain connectivity", and with a sigh, I wonder what Snapple cap he learned these "facts" from. Not only is this <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/112/50/15468">highly debatable</a>, but even if male vs female patterning exists there is no reason to think that it is unaffected by environment and cultural patterning on brain plasticity. If boys supposedly have more developed motor cortex and girls more emotional wiring is that because the boy's first toy was a ball, and the girl's is a doll? The declarations that this is a settled question is absurd. We don't know, and there are too many confounders to be making statements about biological inevitability with regards to gender when we are positively soaking in gendered norms of behavior. </p> <div style="width: 433px;float:left;"><a href="https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/savannah_ancestry.png"><img src="https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/savannah_ancestry.png" width="423" height="427" class="size-full" /></a> XKCD evo-psych </div> <p>Brooks conclusion, an example of being incompetent and unaware of it, is the Google leadership either "is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob". He never considers the possibility, and given this is Brooks the inevitability, that he is wrong and has been hoodwinked by rather mediocre pseudoscientific argumentation. In these reactions, we learn more about these authors' biases than we have learned about the suitability of women to write code, as the "manifesto" conforms to Brooks' rather predictable biases and therefore receives almost no skepticism relative to the weight of the claims, which are hefty. Why is Brooks so blind to the shoddy scholarship of the Google memo?</p> <p>Ironically, within the memo itself, we have the answer:</p> <blockquote><p>We all have biases and use motivated reasoning to dismiss ideas that run counter to our internal values.</p></blockquote> <p>With this we see the continuing evolution of pseudoscience, as they continue to evolve and mimic actual scientific debate and knowledge, the scientific language of motivated reasoning (the cultural or identity-protective cognition responsible for denialism), has filtered into their lingo. This is fascinating in itself, as the author has clearly read about motivated reasoning, yet is completely blind to it for the rest of his essay. This essay is classic pseudoscience, built on motivated reasoning, that uses a half a dozen references, cherry-picked from the literature, to make the astonishing claim that women are underrepresented in his white-collar workforce because of fundamental biological differences (read defects) affecting their capability to perform in a purely intellectual job. It is another in a long line of "just so" pseudoscientific justifications of gender or racial disparities that just happens to defend the status quo (subtext - "why I shouldn't have to sit through any more mandatory diversity training"). </p> <p>This is a wonderful example of <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/11/24/o-pangloss/">Panglossian reasoning</a> and if you haven't read <a href="http://literature.org/authors/voltaire/candide/">Candide</a>, here is an example:</p> <blockquote><p> Master Pangloss taught the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology. He could prove to admiration that there is no effect without a cause; and, that in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s castle was the most magnificent of all castles, and My Lady the best of all possible baronesses.</p> <p> “It is demonstrable,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles, therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Swine were intended to be eaten, therefore we eat pork all the year round: and they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves correctly; they should say that everything is best.”</p> <p> Candide listened attentively and believed implicitly, for he thought Miss Cunegund excessively handsome, though he never had the courage to tell her so. He concluded that next to the happiness of being Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, the next was that of being Miss Cunegund, the next that of seeing her every day, and the last that of hearing the doctrine of Master Pangloss, the greatest philosopher of the whole province, and consequently of the whole world. </p></blockquote> <p>Everything old is new again. What Voltaire was mocking were the glib and facile justifications of injustice in his time, which presume the current state of the world is in its best possible state and everything you see is the result of natural inevitability. Candide in Silicon Valley would exclaim, "Oh Pangloss, why is it that men are so over-represented in tech?" and Pangloss's response, "For men are better at tech because of their intrinsic personality traits, and in this best of all possible worlds, male personality traits and even their flaws make for the best-possible technology and business practices." </p> <p>Anyone who has been following the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/14/technology/uber-travis-kalanick-executives.html?_r=0">Uber saga</a> might question Panglossian reasoning about why tech is male. Even if the tech sector, as it exists today, is male-dominated because men perform better in the current pathological and Machiavellian environment, that doesn't mean this is ideal, that it isn't hugely, culturally flawed, and maybe desperately in need of womanly empathy. Taking such data at face value, an industry that is blind to the needs of fully half of its customers, or blind to the potential benefit of the perspective of the other half of the population, is playing with fire. Do we really think situations like Uber's are a coincidence given the toxic masculinity of its leadership? The male-dominated model is not the best of all possible worlds. The male-dominated model was built by men, for men, so why be surprised when less women are attracted to it and fare worse within it?</p> <p><b>A Scientific Critique of Damore's Claims</b></p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/a-google-employee-was-fired-after-blaming-biology-for-tech-s-gender-gap-but-the-science-shows-he-s-wrong?perpetual=yes&amp;limitstart=1">Other authors</a> <a href="http://www.salon.com/2017/08/08/the-ugly-pseudoscientific-history-behind-that-sexist-google-manifesto/">have already done some of the heavy lifting</a>, tackling the low scientific credibility of these claims and placing them in the historical context of the usual power-dynamic of trying to scientifically justify the status quo. These are useful, but we can expand upon them and use this essay as a learning opportunity for how to detect pseudoscience, so one hopefully doesn't have to go through all the effort of endless debunking every time an ideologue vomits up some new dreck to explain why it's only natural males, or whites, or whomever comes out on top. </p> <p>And that is one thing we should immediately detect, the similarity to historical "just-so" arguments of scientific racism from the last few centuries. These arguments are <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism">old news</a>, as anyone who has read <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Mismeasure-Man-Revised-Expanded/dp/0393314251"> Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man</a> can tell you, and crop up whenever the dominant class in society has to explain why they're on top without admitting it's because they pushed everyone else down then pulled the ladder up after themselves. Once you hear people talking about why current race or gender divisions are natural, one should immediately take whatever argument is coming with a massive dose of skepticism. We have heard this nonsense before.</p> <p>Let's start with Damore's words so it's clear I'm addressing the scientific claims of his argument, contained in the last element of his TL;DR section and supported by the handful of actual scientific citation. </p> <blockquote><p>Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.</p></blockquote> <p>Now keep in mind, this is in the context of an <a href="https://www.google.com/diversity/">69:31 M:F ratio at Google which is even higher in the engineering at 80:20</a>, and arguments there is a <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-the-google-controversy-misses-the-business-case-for-diversity-1502625603">strong business case for diversity</a>.</p> <blockquote><p> <b>Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech</b><br /> On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just<br /> socially constructed because:<br /> ● They’re universal across human cultures<br /> ● They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone<br /> ● Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify<br /> and act like males<br /> ● The underlying traits are highly heritable<br /> ● They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective</p> <p>Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these<br /> differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men<br /> and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why<br /> we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences<br /> are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything<br /> about an individual given these population level distributions. </p></blockquote> <p>It's so nice that he cleared that up about not applying these findings to individuals this is hard to reconcile with the fact he is suggesting the 69:31 ratio or 80:20 engineering ratio at Google is in some meaningful way affected by these differences. Further, each of these statements lacks citation and can not be taken at face value, and I would describe them as either all wrong or grossly oversimplified. While the differences in gendered personality he subsequently describes is consistent within any culture examined, they are not consistent between cultures, which shows these are still culturally-dependent and not purely biologically deterministic (And of course, there is no matriarchal culture for comparison ;) ) I have no idea why he conflated the <a href="http://ac.els-cdn.com/S2352154615001515/1-s2.0-S2352154615001515-main.pdf?_tid=7835c03a-7f2b-11e7-a947-00000aacb35d&amp;acdnat=1502521213_364706411a0a7a140f874805248e46f2">research on androgens on personality development</a> using CAH or androgen insensitivity with <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656613000469">studies of personality changes in castration related to sex-reassignment, and prostate cancer treatment</a> (if anyone can find a study of those "castrated at birth" please show me as I cant find it - I suspect he's confused). He mixes two effects by saying androgens in the womb have effects on subsequent personality (likely but difficult to separate from gender norms) but then saying traits are heritable. Which is it? The Y chromosome or exposure to androgens? One is genetic, one is congenital. Finally, it's rare to find examples where EP is truly "predicting" anything and not just indulging in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-so_story">just-so</a> stories and adaptationism (my favorite example <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/08/21/pink-is-for-girls-and-blue-is/">of an evo-psych just so</a>), i.e. more Panglossian logic. The field is...problematic, and strong statements about EP predictions like "exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective" should set off alarm bells. </p> <p>Each of these statements are gross simplifications of large bodies of research, some of which are highly problematic areas with reproducibility problems, to justify a 2:1 or even 4:1 difference in hiring of men:women at Google. There is a general rule that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof", well here is a man saying the reason Google has 2-4x as many men as women isn't just the known, historic, institutional sexism that kept women from voting, owning property, having access to college education, equal pay etc., but fundamental biological differences across all cultures, that exists from birth, programmed by testosterone yet highly heritable (wah?) and conforming to predictions of a controversial scientific field that starts with conclusions and works backward to explanation. These effects are large enough, apparently, that Google should not try for parity in hiring and stop diversity training. Riiight. You better have some rock solid data to back this up. </p> <p>Let's look at the extraordinary data on why the women are so terribly disadvantaged based on their biology for software engineering (heads up, it's a couple of wikipedia articles, and about 3 scientific citations)</p> <blockquote><p> Personality differences<br /> Women, on average, have more:</p> <p>Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).<br /> These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.<br /> Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.<br /> This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there's overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women's issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.<br /> Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.<br /> Note that contrary to what a social constructionist would argue, research suggests that "greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men's and women's personality traits." Because as "society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality becomes wider." We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism. </p></blockquote> <p>For this segment he cites <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_psychology#Personality_traits">the wikipedia page on "sex differences in psychology; personality traits"</a>, only useful for some background, not proof women!=engineers. </p> <p>He cites <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00320.x/abstract">This paper</a>, which summarizes meta-analyses in the literature of personality with a reproducible effect showing that in a 6 dimensional model of personality traits women and men consistently score differently on being interested in "persons" vs "things", and also that these <a href="http://www.bradley.edu/dotAsset/165918.pdf">sex differences in behavior are consistent across cultures</a>. To be fair <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/per.2010/full">supporting literature exists</a> which correlates these personality trends with differences in vocational choices, so it's plausible that, all things being equal, there may be a gender gap in some professions based on personality traits.</p> <p>This may be the only item of interest in his entire paper, as it is reproducible and there is evidence it impacts what choices the different sexes make about jobs. The problem I have with it is there is no way to control for the effect of how humans, starting when we're toddlers, <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a68c/c91e61e457d362d6187be73fc22ec9365f4a.pdf">start to consolidate gender roles</a>. If the image of the engineer or tech industry is predominantly male, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It also assumes that the current male-dominated status of tech couldn't benefit from traits on the female axis including better interest in "persons" and creativity/artistic expression. The argument becomes a tautology, men are attracted to the tech sector because the tech sector is male. Add to that the tendency of institutions to maintain homogeneity by effects like <a href="https://hbr.org/2016/03/women-and-minorities-are-penalized-for-promoting-diversity">in-group bias</a>, and you see why male-dominated fields may remain static. Just imagine if we had accepted similar Panglossian logic 50 years ago that these gender-distributions as some kind of inevitable consequence of natural gender preferences, we'd still have only male doctors, lawyers, and executives, because, this is the best of all possible worlds, and there must be some evolutionary psychology to explain why there are no women doctors, or lawyers, or executives. </p> <p>Damore then cites the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathizing%E2%80%93systemizing_theory">wikipedia article on the Empathizing–systemizing theory</a>. This appears to be moderately central to his argument, but again it is weak evidence. Not to beat a dead horse, but we are once again starting with the assumption that the current state of affairs represents some kind of ideal - the dominance of men in the field is "just so" because they're more adapted to it, rather than they adapted the field to themselves or that there's a host of historical factors such as women only got the right to vote in the last 100 years, co-ed schools in the last 50 years, they are still treated as second-class citizens including when it comes to pay. It also accepts one of the authors underlying assumptions, which is outside of my experience, which is that empathy is bad for engineering at Google. I can't debate that, but least one former Googler has responded to this assertion and <a href="https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/so-about-this-googlers-manifesto-1e3773ed1788">says absolutely not</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>What I am is an engineer, and I was rather surprised that anyone has managed to make it this far without understanding some very basic points about what the job is. The manifesto talks about making “software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration” but that this is fundamentally limited by “how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be;” and even more surprisingly, it has an entire section titled “de-emphasize empathy,” as one of the proposed solutions.</p> <p>People who haven’t done engineering, or people who have done just the basics, sometimes think that what engineering looks like is sitting at your computer and hyper-optimizing an inner loop, or cleaning up a class API. We’ve all done this kind of thing, and for many of us (including me) it’s tremendous fun. And when you’re at the novice stages of engineering, this is the large bulk of your work: something straightforward and bounded which can be done right or wrong, and where you can hone your basic skills.</p> <p>But it’s not a coincidence that job titles at Google switch from numbers to words at a certain point. That’s precisely the point at which you have, in a way, completed your first apprenticeship: you can operate independently without close supervision. And this is the point where you start doing real engineering.</p> <p>...</p> <p>And once you’ve understood the system, and worked out what has to be built, do you retreat to a cave and start writing code? If you’re a hobbyist, yes. If you’re a professional, especially one working on systems that can use terms like “planet-scale” and “carrier-class” without the slightest exaggeration, then you’ll quickly find that the large bulk of your job is about coordinating and cooperating with other groups. </p> <p>...</p> <p>Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.</p> <p><b>All of these traits which the manifesto described as “female” are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering.</b> Anyone can learn how to write code; hell, by the time someone reaches L7 or so, it’s expected that they have an essentially complete mastery of technique. The truly hard parts about this job are knowing which code to write, building the clear plan of what has to be done in order to achieve which goal, and building the consensus required to make that happen.</p></blockquote> <div style="width: 410px;float:left;"><a href="http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/b1/b1e8d51f26f019da089f0b6b1b8746c40b9525eee0f145eddd6b5f04f8a7ea71.jpg"><img src="http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/b1/b1e8d51f26f019da089f0b6b1b8746c40b9525eee0f145eddd6b5f04f8a7ea71.jpg" width="400" class="size-full" /></a> Tom Smykowski says, engineers need more empathy </div> <p> If true, this kind of knocks the teeth out of this particular "just so" justification that empathy is maladaptive. Is it possible, that the current culture of masculinity and therefore insularity is holding tech back? Couldn't one make just as good an argument here, that Google hasn't maxed its potential until it harnesses women's superior social and interpersonal skills to help with things like teamwork and management? Is there no positive side to hiring women? And that is assuming these are large enough difference between women and men on these behavioral traits to justify hiring twice as many men as women. </p> <p><a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0141229">Take a look at a recent paper from the theorist behind the E-S scale - Simon Baron-Cohen</a> - and the differences on his Autism Spectrum Quotient scores (a newer scale Baron-Cohen has <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899306000722">validated from the EQ SQ research</a> and seems to have moved onto) for women vs men and STEM fields vs others that Damore is alluding to (I have to make some leaps here, Damore links the "E-S scale" wikipedia, which is a touch dated, without indicating a specific study, and ostensibly is referring to this work by Baron-Cohen who has advanced the idea of the "male mind" and autism being an excess of male mental traits - this itself has been critiqued as "neurosexist"). Studying an enormous database Baron Cohen finds a statistically-significant difference in AQ score between men and women, and women and those in STEM:</p> <div style="width: 560px;float:left;"><a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/figure/image?size=large&amp;id=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0141229.g005"><img src="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/figure/image?size=large&amp;id=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0141229.g005" width="550" class="size-full" /></a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141229.g005">https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141229.g005</a> </div> <p>While this may be statistically significant, it's still a tiny difference - a matter of about 3 points on this scale between men and women, and women and STEM workers who, on average, also tend to have a similar 2-3 point higher AQ score than the female mean. To put this in perspective, this is a 50 point scale, and the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4396128/">nonclinical range of AQ is consistently in the teens to twenties while those diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder have a mean around 35</a>. It is also hard to conclude the differences between women's score and STEM isn't due to intrinsic or cultural factors - again, the best of all possible worlds fallacy, and it is no evidence to believe that 2-3 points difference in the mean score explains 2-4 fold gaps in hiring of men vs women. Draw a line at about 21 and ballpark an SD, of +/- 8 points, are there 2-4x as many men under the curve right there? Of course not. There's too much meat under that curve to justify more than a couple of points difference in outcomes, assuming the effect is highly meaningful or beneficial. Alternatively, you could make an argument from the tails, that you could conceive of the extremes of the population such as AQ &gt; 40 having approximately 2x as many men with this trait. One would have to believe that the population at google is so far shifted to the right in terms of male braininess, that the majority of the population at google has a mean AQ beyond 40, basically suggesting they all would score higher than the mean for those with autism spectrum disorder. </p> <p>At the same time that Damore is critical of reducing populations to their means when there is significant overlap, to believe his argument - that tech is segregated by gender because not enough women have the "male mind" described by Baron-Cohen - requires one to believe that the status-quo ratio represents the ideal workforce, that these tiny differences in gender behavior are so debilitating as to explain the 2-4x difference in hiring, and that nothing beneficial is brought to the table by "empathic" team members. This makes no sense, these differences are slight. The area under the curve doesn't support that these tiny differences - even if they were intensely meaningful, could generate such large differences in hiring. The areas where the variance between the populations becomes larger than the female population size is far above typical scores for ASD. Is the contention that the neurotypical can't code? </p> <p>Barely worth mentioning, he alludes to negative female personality traits by including a link to this wikipedia article on <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism">Neuroticism</a>. This is a similarly weak argument. Again the effect is meaningless in size, if you go to the primary literature it's consistent but small. There is no evidence such an mild difference in gender behaviors with regards to neuroticism would result in such a dramatic difference in hiring or performance, nor is it explained why neuroticism would be less adaptive in engineering vs other fields. </p> <p>Finally he cites <a href="http://quillette.com/2017/07/15/time-stop-worrying-first-world-gender-gaps/">this opinion piece dismissing wage gaps between genders from a Libertarian online magazine</a>, ignored without comment. </p> <p>Does anyone maybe feel already the evidence here is a bit...light? You're going to tell an entire gender they can't do engineering based on a 3 psychology papers showing small and likely irrelevant differences in gendered behavior, a couple of wikipedia pages, and a libertarian opinion piece about how the wage gap is imaginary? You are surprised when women read this and they're pissed? Do those saying this is "science" like David Brooks want to maybe rethink their expertise on this topic? Because they're not looking too competent right now. This is classic pseudoscience - a weak, cherry-picked literature is flogged to support extreme ideological nonsense. </p> <p>Next Damore asks why might men be more suited for software engineering? Well he's got a whole paragraph and three more "sciencey" citations to justify that:</p> <blockquote><p>Men’s higher drive for status<br /> We always ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we<br /> see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not<br /> be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.<br /> Status is the primary metric that men are judged on4, pushing many men into these higher<br /> paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men<br /> into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and<br /> dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of<br /> work-related deaths. </p></blockquote> <p>To justify this he cites <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/05/the-war-against-boys/304659/">the Atlantic opinion piece "The War Against Boys"</a> which counter-intuitively suggests women are better at school than boys, and it's boys whose performance is undermined (and this helps Damore's argument how?). He cites this <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/016230959290021U?via%3Dihub">paper on gender differences in mate selection criteria</a>, sadly is paywalled but it's conclusions are college men prefer good looks, and college women want financial success in a mate, therefore men are more competitive for status jobs in order to satisfy female sexual selection. One could point out, this is a <i>gross simplification</i> of human mating dynamics and is one effect among many in human attraction or every woman alive would coo over Donald Trump. Finally he cites <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5068300/">this paper on effects of testosterone on college age men</a> that found when injected with additional testosterone in an Ultimatum game they behaved more aggressively, but also more generous to those who made them bigger offers thus supporting the idea testosterone enhances "status seeking" behavior. Again one would have to believe this is a large enough effect that women and men have no interest in tech or engineering for any other reason than mate selection. Or show that those engineers seeking status are running higher testosterone levels than men in other "high status" jobs to show this is anything other than a suggestive result. It is further discredited by the fact that over the last 40 years <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0095960">women have pursued more and more "high status" jobs</a>. Although their numbers are more uneven with regards to "things important" type (read engineering) fields, to say this is biological determinism and not male obstructionism is not justified based on a single testosterone experiment done in college students and a oversimplified view of mate selection. It ignores that <a href="&lt;a href=" https:="">women are perfectly capable of being engineers and functioning at the top of fields like physics or mathematics</a>, and human mating behaviors are far more complex than "women are gold-diggers." </p> <p>Again. Does anyone here find the evidence here a bit light? <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sexual-personalities/201708/google-memo-about-sex-differences">David Schmitt seems to agree</a> and his research is that being cited by Damore:</p> <blockquote><p>Still, it is not clear to me how such sex differences are relevant to the Google <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/career" class="inline-links topic-link" title="Psychology Today looks at workplace">workplace</a>. And even if sex differences in negative emotionality were relevant to occupational performance at Google (e.g., not being able to handle stressful assignments), the size of these negative emotion sex differences is not very large (typically, ranging between “small” to “moderate” in statistical effect size terminology; accounting for perhaps 10% of the variance<sup>1</sup>). Using someone’s biological sex to essentialize an entire group of people’s personality is like surgically operating with an axe. Not precise enough to do much good, probably will cause a lot of harm. Moreover, men are more emotional than women in certain ways, too. Sex differences in emotion depend on the type of emotion, how it is measured, where it is expressed, when it is expressed, and lots of other contextual factors. How this all fits into the Google workplace is unclear to me. But perhaps it does.</p> <p>As to sex differences in <em>mate preferences</em> and <em>status-seeking</em>, these topics also have been heavily researched across cultures (for a review, see <a href="https://evolution-institute.org/article/on-common-criticisms-of-evolutionary-psychology/">here</a>). Again, though, most of these sex differences are moderate in size and in my view are unlikely to be all that relevant to the Google workplace (accounting for, perhaps, a few percentage points of the variability between men’s and women’s performance outcomes).</p> <p>Culturally universal sex differences in <em>personal values</em> and certain <em><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognition" class="inline-links topic-link" title="Psychology Today looks at cognitive">cognitive</a> abilities </em>are a bit larger in size (see <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sexual-personalities/201601/where-s-the-nearest-starbucks-sex-differences-in-wayfinding">here</a>), and sex differences in <em>occupational interests</em> are quite large<sup>2</sup>. It seems likely these culturally universal and biologically-linked sex differences play some role in the gendered hiring patterns of Google employees. For instance, in 2013, <a href="http://fortune.com/2015/03/26/report-the-number-of-women-entering-computing-took-a-nosedive/">18%</a> of bachelor's degrees in computing were earned by women, and about <a href="https://www.google.com/diversity/">20%</a> of Google technological jobs are currently held by women. Whatever affirmative action procedures Google is using appear to be working pretty well (at least at the tech job level). Still, I think it's important to keep in mind that most psychological sex differences are only small to moderate in size, and rather than grouping men and women into dichotomous groups, I think sex and sex differences are best thought of scientifically as multidimensional dials, anyway (see <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sexual-personalities/201605/sex-and-gender-are-dials-not-switches">here</a>).</p> </blockquote> <p>Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Damore's use of his research and the data on increasing "status" vs "things" jobs suggests women might have been settling for those jobs only as they were in enforced gendered roles. Schmitt also seems to agree, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and these effects are <i>small</i>. Linking gendered behavioral differences to massive differences in performance in tech or engineering is an enormous stretch of logic. Schmitt emphasizes uncertainty, and the need to recognize complex role of gender on human behavior, he sure sounds like a scientist (for an Evolutionary Psychologist ;) ). </p> <p>The one who doesn't sound like a scientist is Damore, who it turns out <a href="http://www.inquisitr.com/4421250/fired-sexist-google-software-engineer-james-damore-never-finished-bio-phd-listed-on-his-resume/">falsely claimed to have a PhD</a>, gave his first interviews to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/09/james-damore-google-memo-youtube-interviews">alt-right youtubers</a>, compared Google to Soviet prison labor camps even wearing a "Goolag" shirt for his <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-i-was-fired-by-google-1502481290">WSJ editorial</a>. He sounds less like a scientist, and more like he's read <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/05/31/crank-howto/">the Crank Howto</a>. I don't understand how he ever expected to keep his job, after it turns out he did not have a PhD, he blasted a crank manifesto at his workplace that demeans a significant portion of the Google workforce, managed to embarrass his company on a national level, and ultimately demonstrated fundamental incompetencies in analysis and workplace etiquette. He would probably benefit from some training along the empathy axis, but instead is nursing a google-sized persecution complex.</p> <p>To summarize, a junior, not-PhD employee of Google has written a 10 page document which purports to explain that the massive imbalance in male:female ratio at the company is not necessarily due to historic struggles of women for equal representation in equality, readily measurable bias, or structural sexism, but is instead due to female biology. The evidentiary basis for this argument is 3 bullet points followed by 3 short paragraphs that cite a few wikipedia pages, some libertarian/rightwing opinion pieces, a handful of papers on gendered differences in behavior showing some interesting but small differences between men and women, a bizarre reference to data from males castrated at birth (please someone find me that paper), some handwaving about male/female sex selection and "status" belied by a 40 year trend in women increasingly taking higher status jobs, and a borderline sexist psychological theory about "masculine brains" with similarly small differences between men and women. Notably, all of his arguments are dependent on the assumption that the male brain is fundamentally better at engineering because they got these jobs first and are thus appropriately over represented, and qualities like empathy and interpersonal skills don't contribute to what is already a flawlessly healthy corporate culture in tech. By this logic women don't do well in this culture because female cognition is inadequate to the task, not because it's hard to fit in as a woman in at the boys club. </p> <div style="width: 420px;float:left;"><a href="https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/how_it_works.png"><img src="https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/how_it_works.png" width="410" height="211" class="size-full" /></a> <a href="https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/how_it_works.png">https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/how_it_works.png</a> </div> <p>He does not discuss or cite any of the extensive literature for the constant measurable bias women undergo in the workplace. His argument dismisses the more probable negative effects of historical oppression of women (denial of the vote, of property, of jobs, of education) well into the last century as well as ongoing structural sexism. He fails to link these effects to actual performance or interest in software engineering, he grossly oversimplifies the relationship between culture and behavior in favor of radical biological determinism, and wraps it into a typical Panglossian "just-so" story. </p> <p>After predictably being fired for sending a crudely-argued, c-grade essay on why "girls like talking not math", he has now made the rounds of the alt-right internet, the antediluvian editorial page of the WSJ, and has cried persecution at Google comparing himself to a slave laborer. He denies he's an ideologue, even though as example of left wing denialism he cites <a href="https://www.city-journal.org/html/real-war-science-14782.html">John Tierney of the Manhattan Institute, and his argument that global warming scientists are the real threat to science (plus Rachel Carson DDT revisionism - yay!)</a>. By their fruits you shall know them. </p> <p>What this shows is, the people who are impressed by his line of argumentation and series of events are ideologically-primed to accept it, not that they are particularly good judges of science. Pay attention to who buys into this uncritically, it's better evidence for weak, sexist minds than it is for weak minds of a sex. </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/denialism">denialism</a></span> <span>Sun, 08/13/2017 - 00:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 13 Aug 2017 04:00:43 +0000 denialism 59430 at https://scienceblogs.com Comments of the Week #171: From light's speed to proving Einstein right https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/06/comments-of-the-week-171-from-lights-speed-to-proving-einstein-right <span>Comments of the Week #171: From light&#039;s speed to proving Einstein right</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.” ―Gene Roddenberry</p></blockquote> <p>Well, it happened, everyone! I flew out to the official Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, and the people I met there and the events and panels I attended (and participated in) were largely fabulous! Best of all, I got to line up a number of future podcasts about science, Star Trek, and everything in between, so stay tuned in the coming weeks and months for more. In fact, there's a new one up already: the <a href="https://trollingwlogic.podbean.com/e/44-treknology-with-ethan-siegel/">Trolling With Logic podcast</a>!</p> <p></p><center> <iframe src="https://www.podbean.com/media/player/yp87y-6db55b?from=site&amp;skin=1&amp;share=1&amp;fonts=Helvetica&amp;auto=0&amp;download=0" width="100%" height="100" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" data-name="pb-iframe-player"></iframe><p></p></center>As always, apart from those events, we've still had another consistently fantastic week for science here at <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a> Looking back on the past week, here's what we've tackled: <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/29/ask-ethan-does-light-always-move-at-the-same-speed/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Does Light Always Move At The Same Speed?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/31/universes-largest-black-hole-may-have-an-explanation-at-last/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Universe’s Largest Black Hole May Have An Explanation At Last</a> (for Mostly Mute Monday),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/01/maryam-mirzakhani-a-candle-illuminating-the-dark/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Maryam Mirzakhani, A Candle Illuminating The Dark</a> (by Paul Halpern, about an amazing life),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/02/how-to-catch-the-perseids-and-beat-the-almost-full-moon/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How to catch the Perseids and beat the almost-full Moon</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/03/ripples-in-spacetime-from-einstein-to-ligo-and-beyond/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ripples In Spacetime: From Einstein To LIGO And Beyond</a>, and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/04/americas-previous-coast-to-coast-eclipse-almost-proved-einstein-right/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">America's Previous Coast-To-Coast Eclipse Almost Proved Einstein Right</a>.</li> </ul><p>There were a lot of old topics that you kept bringing up, but if that's what you've been interested in, who am I to say no to more science of whatever flavor you're into? Let's continue the discussion right now -- and kudos to those of you who caught my one mistake this week -- on this edition of our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/fig-nearterm_all_UPDATE_2017-panela-1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36427" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/fig-nearterm_all_UPDATE_2017-panela-1-600x308.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="308" /></a> Correctly calibrated satellite data, as well as the more recent temperature data up through 2016, shows that climate predictions and observations are perfectly in line with one another. Image credit: HadCRUT4.5, Cowtan &amp; Way, NASA GISTEMP, NOAA GlobalTemp, BEST, via Ed Hawkins at Climate Lab Book. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding/#comment-581401">Denier</a> on climate science, and specifically models vs. predictions: "If you feel the need to shout me down so that you can use your platform to present the approved “full suite of evidence” and leave out “misleading, not to be included in the full suite because they muddy the facts” science such as Santer(2017), NOAA data that shows falling relative humidity, etc., just let me know."</p></blockquote> <p>No one is shouting you down. Don't confuse "shouting you down" with "ignoring the non-relevant parts of your argument," which is, as you know as you make it, most of your argument. I have repeatedly said:</p> <ol><li>The climate models are flawed and do have systematic errors, but <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/08/01/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-climate-change/">they are not as fundamentally flawed, quantitatively, as sites like Heartland claim</a>.</li> <li>The climate models, even with their flaws, do a much better job than "overestimating the actual warming in 95%+ of the models," as Heartland claimed.</li> <li>The main thrust of the climate science story remains unchanged from the standard narrative, which is: <ul><li>The Earth is warming,</li> <li>Humans are the primary cause,</li> <li>It is bad,</li> <li>And we can do something about it if we try,</li> </ul></li> <li>Your red herrings of Santer et al. (2017) and the falling humidity from the NOAA data represent small corrections and, in the Santer (2017) case, improvements to climate modeling and measuring, and do not change the story.</li> </ol><p>Economic studies are not part of the climate science studies. As, again, I have repeatedly said, the full suite of scientific evidence <em>in climate science</em> is what you must consider before considering economic and societal impacts. Then, the full suite of all impacts -- although this is now a matter of my opinion -- is what should be considered before making policy. What we have instead, as the status quo, is <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisladd/2017/07/20/why-republicans-cannot-replace-the-aca-or-accomplish-anything-else/">policy makers making policy based on ideology that does not accept the full suite of scientific evidence in climate science</a>. You yourself, like many others here, do not do that, and still refer to outdated and incorrectly calibrated UAH data when you make arguments, and <em>do so unapologetically</em>.</p> <p>Yes, I do see you deliberately muddying the waters, because I believe your intent is to support the conclusion of "allow unregulated and untaxed emissions to continue" regardless of what the quantitative impacts are. If that is not your intent, you should demonstrate something different than what you've demonstrated so far, because I don't believe you have any interest in the scientific truth in this matter. You have made no convincing arguments toward that end. But you cannot argue your way to a different conclusion than what the evidence presents. That might work in many arenas of life -- and it may even work to fool the majority of the public -- but it doesn't change the scientific facts.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/1-PqbHTn9Scum7hPi_o4_LIw.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36084" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/1-PqbHTn9Scum7hPi_o4_LIw-600x378.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="378" /></a> The interplay between the atmosphere, clouds, moisture, land processes and the ocean all governs the evolution of Earth's equilibrium temperature. Image credit: Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding/#comment-581403">John</a> on how to make a difference: "[quoting me]“So maybe I need to take a different line of argument if I want to make a difference.”<br /> In what way(s) do you thing you can make a difference other than by providing the best Science Explanations you can?"</p></blockquote> <p>I think that's the biggest difference-maker I can do, and I anticipate continuing to do so. But perhaps I need to address the falsehoods in a different regard. If I allow it to be presented as a "some scientists say this thing, but others say that thing," it gives the impression of a false legitimacy to the opinions of a few fringe scientists, and undercuts the overwhelming evidence in favor of the consensus conclusion.</p> <p>I don't write about variable speed-of-light cosmology, even though there are legitimate (fringe) scientists working on it. I don't write about spatially anisotropic variations in the fine-structure constant, even though John Webb's research is intriguing, if not necessarily compelling. I don't write about the ekpyrotic Universe alternative to inflation, even though a small number of high-profile cosmologists support it. Why should I grant that legitimacy to those who claim that:</p> <ul><li>The Earth isn't warming, or</li> <li>Humans aren't the cause, or</li> <li>Even if it happens, it will be a good thing?</li> </ul><p>That is how I'm considering making a difference: by putting good science out there without providing any undeserved legitimacy to the fringe alternatives. I am not 100% sure how to execute that, but that's what I'm thinking about.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/Gravitational-lensing-galaxyApril12_2010-1024x768.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36111" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/Gravitational-lensing-galaxyApril12_2010-1024x768-600x450.jpg" alt="An illustration of gravitational lensing showcases how background galaxies — or any light path — is distorted by the presence of an intervening mass, such as a foreground galaxy cluster. Image credit: NASA / ESA." width="600" height="450" /></a> An illustration of gravitational lensing showcases how background galaxies — or any light path — is distorted by the presence of an intervening mass, such as a foreground galaxy cluster. Image credit: NASA / ESA. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding/#comment-581408">CFT</a> on (suddenly?) denying general relativity: "How many masses can you put into the same space time matrix? And have them, you know, interact?"</p></blockquote> <p>An arbitrary number. Really. Just because you cannot write down a solution to the Einstein equations, analytically, with an arbitrary number of masses, does not mean you cannot do relativity with them. You can't solve the Navier-Stokes equations analytically either, except in some very simple cases, but you don't deny fluid dynamics. We can solve arbitrarily difficult problems to arbitrary precision, <em>numerically</em>, and that is in fact how we do it. This is how we solve all classes of problems in all sorts of robust fields -- perturbatively -- like quantum field theory. Do not conflate "I don't have an exact, analytical solution" which, practically, we do not (usually) do, with "this theory is useless," which it most assuredly is not.</p> <p>How do you think we calculate black hole inspirals, mergers, binary pulsar decay rates, ultramassive black hole precession, and more? Numerical relativity. And when we do the observations, the agreement is remarkable.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/1-X8XBq20i-LepD5PlcSihjA.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36159" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/1-X8XBq20i-LepD5PlcSihjA-600x479.jpg" alt="The event horizon of a black hole is a spherical or spheroidal region from which nothing, not even light, can escape. But outside the event horizon, the black hole is predicted to emit radiation. Image credit: NASA; Jörn Wilms (Tübingen) et al.; ESA." width="600" height="479" /></a> The event horizon of a black hole is a spherical or spheroidal region from which nothing, not even light, can escape. But outside the event horizon, anything that isn't yet inside has, with the right energy inputs, a chance to get out. Image credit: NASA; Jörn Wilms (Tübingen) et al.; ESA. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding/#comment-581413">Adam</a> on answering his question about falling into a black hole with a tether: "Thank you for your patience Ethan! My own physics education was undergrad only and multiple decades ago at that. Questions above our level were usually rebuffed, so thanks again!"</p></blockquote> <p>Adam, as you can see, I don't get a whole lot of appreciation on this blog. But I do very much know that the majority of people who read what I put out there are interested, curious, and supportive of what I'm doing. I know the appreciation is out there, but I <em>truly</em> appreciate hearing it. That this encouraging comment was left just prior to my birthday was a big deal to me, so as I celebrate the start of my 40th trip around the Sun, I want to thank you for this. In other words, you're more than welcome.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/11/asteroid-flying-by-Earth1.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-18888" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/11/asteroid-flying-by-Earth1-600x335.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="335" /></a> A fly-by of a large enough mass could change the orbit of a planet. But is there any energy saved? </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding/#comment-581475">Frank</a> on changing the orbit of another world by adding a second world into the mix: "I admit I didn’t realize total mass in the asteroid belt was so small. But still there maybe a solution by stealing some moons of Jupiter etc (assuming we could have the energy/tech in distant future)."</p></blockquote> <p>I mean, you could, but what is the advantage? What you're talking about is changing the orbit of a large mass, imparting energy to it, causing it to fly-by another large mass, and thereby to change that mass's orbit. Sure, you can do that. But the energy cost to unbind, say, Callisto from Jupiter, send it towards Mars, and have it change Mars' orbit to migrate wherever you want to have it migrate to, is no less than the energy cost to simply change Mars' orbit without the middle-man. It's a possible solution, but what is the advantage? I don't see it.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/04/earth-from-iss.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36027" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/04/earth-from-iss-600x368.jpg" alt="Humans can routinely view the Earth from outer space, orbiting our world once every 90 minutes. The imprint of the human impact on our world, particularly at night, is easily visible. Image credit: NASA / International Space Station." width="600" height="368" /></a> Humans can routinely view the Earth from outer space, orbiting our world once every 90 minutes. The imprint of the human impact on our world, particularly at night, is easily visible. Image credit: NASA / International Space Station. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding/#comment-581511">Michael Mooney</a> on changing the rotation of Earth: "Do you believe that an observer traveling at high speed can affect the spin and orbit of Planet Earth?"</p></blockquote> <p>This was an interesting question for two reasons to me, even though it occurred way down in a thread that largely wasn't interesting to me. The first reason I found it interesting is because it gives a great opportunity to talk about the difference between an object moving with a constant velocity or angular velocity, and an object with a changing velocity or angular velocity. If you are an observer who was at rest and accelerates to a large velocity/angular velocity, you do change the motion/rotation of the Earth. This is true in relativity... but it's also true via Newton's laws. That's the "equal and opposite reaction" imparted by your change in momentum (or angular momentum).</p> <p>But the other reason I found it interesting is because you asked "do you believe" to someone. Why would you ever ask that question in physics? Do you believe that 0 + 5 = 05? Do you believe that 7 + 5 = 75? Do you believe that Plymouth rock weighs 10^22 kilograms? I assert that beliefs, when concerning questions that have demonstrable, definitive answers, aren't "right or wrong" as much as silly and useless. It's a free world (mostly), so believe what you want. But don't expect anyone to take seriously <a href="http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2017/07/31/who_are_you_calling_anti-science_110354.html">the substitute of a belief for actual, existing knowledge</a>. I think that goes for everyone.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 376px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2013/08/Zangief_lurks.gif"><img class="size-full wp-image-29946" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2013/08/Zangief_lurks.gif" alt="" width="366" height="255" /></a> Zangief is always lurking... </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/29/ask-ethan-does-light-always-move-at-the-same-speed-synopsis/#comment-581392">MobiusKlein</a> on the topic of Pentcho Valev: "Pentcho Valev, you are not contributing anything to the comments except walls of text.<br /> Please stop.<br /> Ethan, please ask Pentcho Valev to stop too."</p></blockquote> <p>No. I won't ask him to stop. This week, in my estimation, has been too much. particularly his ongoing cut-and-paste hack jobs. His presence has degraded the quality of the comment section of this blog, and has no positives to offset that. As of this moment, he is now banned.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 356px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2010/02/346px-Huygens_clock.png"><img class="size-full wp-image-23349" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2010/02/346px-Huygens_clock.png" alt="" width="346" height="599" /></a> The first pendulum clock, as designed by Christiaan Huygens, provided the first accurate measurement of time for humans that didn't rely on astronomical phenomena. Atomic clocks can now achieve precisions better than ~10^-15 seconds per day. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/29/ask-ethan-does-light-always-move-at-the-same-speed-synopsis/#comment-581404">Naked Bunny with a Whip</a> on absolute time: "Even the most rudimentary study would tell you that Special Relativity overthrew the assumption of time as a constant."</p></blockquote> <p>One of the really fun, relatively early direct tests of relativity -- both special and general, together -- is told in Govert Schilling's book, <a href="http://amzn.to/2uTGCeV"><em>Ripples in Spacetime</em></a>. Imagine you had an atomic clock on the ground, and an identical, synchronized (initially) atomic clock that you took with you, wherever you went. And you took a journey, up in an airplane, at a specific speed and a specific altitude, moving <em>with </em>the rotation of the Earth. Then, you did the same exact experiment, except this time, you moved in the airplane at the same speed and altitude, except this time you moved <em>against</em> the rotation of the Earth.</p> <p>How many times would the clock on the ground, the clock in the counterclockwise-moving (with the Earth) airplane, and the clockwise-moving (against the Earth) airplane "tick" away during those respective journeys? If you want to get the answer that agrees with the experiment, you need to include everything: the motion (and direction) of the airplane, the rotation (including direction) of the Earth, and the effects of the gravitational field/potential at every location along each clock's journey. The idea that time could be a constant between all three observers was directly disproved as soon as we were able to measure to the necessary accuracies. But the notion that relativity provided the right answer is far more powerful, because it tells you how time actually works!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/rxj1131-1200x1082.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36449" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/rxj1131-1200x1082-600x541.jpg" alt="An ultra-distant quasar showing plenty of evidence for a supermassive black hole at its center. How that black hole got so massive so quickly is a topic of contentious scientific debate, but may have an answer that fits within our standard theories. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Michigan/R.C.Reis et al; Optical: NASA/STScI." width="600" height="541" /></a> My original caption, "An ultra-distant quasar showing plenty of evidence for a supermassive black hole at its center. How that black hole got so massive so quickly is a topic of contentious scientific debate, but may have an answer that fits within our standard theories." may be flawed. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Michigan/R.C.Reis et al; Optical: NASA/STScI. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/31/universes-largest-black-hole-may-have-an-explanation-at-last-synopsis/#comment-581422">Michael Richmond</a> on the quasar shown in the above picture: "The first image on this page has the caption “An ultra-distant quasar showing plenty of evidence for a supermassive black hole at its center. ” The picture is an HST image of the quadruple gravitational lens RX J1131-1231, in which the foreground lens is at redshift z=0.295 and the background quasar at z=0.658. Those redshifts indicate that the objects are very distant from the Sun, certainly, but “ultra-distant” seems a strange term to use; astronomers have catalogued thousands of quasars at redshifts larger than z=1, some up to z=6."</p></blockquote> <p>You know, this is an extremely good catch. I came across this image in the wild, where it was described as a quasar at a distance of 12.4 billion light years away, where distances were (incorrectly) equated to lookback times, a lazy convention that many scientists and science writers still (unfortunately) use. Since the lazy convention gave almost the same lookback time as the z=3.3 quasar I discussed, I thought I would use it as a proxy for the one I wished there was an optical picture of: S5 0014+81. (Alas, I can still find none.)</p> <p>But it is not at a distance of 12.4 billion light years, but much closer than that. You have identified it correctly, and I owe myself admonishment for leading you astray with the use of an image that does not reflect what I was attempting to illustrate. Thank you for keeping me honest.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/base.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36198" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/base-600x456.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="456" /></a> Two neutron stars colliding, which is the primary source of many of the heaviest periodic table elements in the Universe. About 3-5% of the mass gets expelled in such a collision; the rest becomes a single black hole. Image credit: Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital, Inc.. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/31/universes-largest-black-hole-may-have-an-explanation-at-last-synopsis/#comment-581460">Graham dickin</a> on making truly ultra-massive elements: "When the big bang happened we had hydrogen and helium plus a small amount of others the amazed over time and created an environment to produce the atomic table .What if this is still being produced in the centre of black holes .That in there the atomic number 1000 exists or even 1 million or one billion ."</p></blockquote> <p>So, you want to make an ultra-massive element, do you? Unfortunately, black holes aren't going to be the way to do it. Unless, that is, you mean the by-products of forming a black hole in a very specific fashion. When you collide two neutron stars, you're basically colliding two giant atomic nuclei, each with about 10^30 (okay, "a few" 10^30) neutrons in that nucleus. So, you start out a nucleus with about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 nucleons inside, but since they're all neutrons, it's not really interesting with respect to the periodic table.</p> <p>When these neutron stars collide, however, about 3% of the total mass flies off outwards, while the other 97% collapses into a black hole. But of those 3%, you get "chunks" that fill out the very high ends of the periodic table, producing the majority of gold, platinum, palladium, uranium, plutonium, and other very-heavy elements in the Universe... but they also produce elements that most likely have not yet been discovered, containing perhaps hundreds or thousands of protons, or even more. If we could smash two neutron stars together and examine the debris up close, we'd be able to find these ultra-heavy elements for ourselves, even for the tiniest of timescales.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/numberphile.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36444" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/numberphile-600x338.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="338" /></a> A room where the walls, even if completely covered with mirrors, would never have every location illuminated, was a mathematically interesting conjecture that was only solved recently. Image credit: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) / Numberphile / Brady Haran / Howard Masur. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/01/maryam-mirzakhani-a-candle-illuminating-the-dark-synopsis/#comment-581421">Denier</a> on Maryam Mirzakhani's contributions: "The Illuminated Room problem was solved by Roger Penrose over 20 years before Mirzakhani was born using curved mirrors. It was solved by George Tokarsky in 1995 using the 26-sided room in the image you’ve got in the center of your article. His solution had NOTHING to do with Mirzakhani. A more elegant solution was authored by David Castro in 1997 with a 24-sided room that again had nothing to do with anything Mirzakhani was working on as an undergrad in Iran at the time."</p></blockquote> <p>The work of Penrose, Tokarsky, and Castro is all as you say. But how does this detract from the contributions that Mirzakhani subsequently made to the Illuminated Room problem? Mathematicians don't say, "oh, that's a tough problem, but I found a solution, and now we're done." Nope. Mathematicians will math a problem until it can be mathed no more, until it has given up all of its secrets in every exhaustible fashion. Evolution didn't end with Darwin, and the Illuminated Room problem didn't end with Penrose, or Tokarsky, or Castro, <em>or</em> Mirzakhani. But that does not diminish the accomplishments of any of them, as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/01/maryam-mirzakhani-a-candle-illuminating-the-dark-synopsis/#comment-581469">dean</a> rightly points out.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 415px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/05/Meteor_falling_courtesy_NASA.gif"><img class="size-full wp-image-30969" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/05/Meteor_falling_courtesy_NASA.gif" alt="Image credit: NASA / George Varros." width="405" height="327" /></a> Image credit: NASA / George Varros. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/02/how-to-catch-the-perseids-and-beat-the-almost-full-moon-synopsis/#comment-581454">Ragtag Media</a> on the speed of darkness: "With each meteor falling, does the darkness collapse around the trail of each photon of light at the same speed of light or slower?"</p></blockquote> <p>Darkness, as we have gone over many times before (although not recently), does not have a speed, because it is not a physical "thing." Each photon moves at the speed of light; darkness is the absence of photons. Observers on Earth that are viewing the same meteor from different locations and orientations will see darkness propagate at different speeds, but it isn't a sensible thing to measure. You're welcome to nail down a better definition of what you're trying to measure than "darkness collapsing around the trail of each photon," but I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/sun_earth_eclipse.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36317" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/sun_earth_eclipse-600x450.jpg" alt="For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passes through the continental United States. This visualization shows the Earth, moon, and sun at 17:05:40 UTC during the eclipse. Image credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio." width="600" height="450" /></a> For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passes through the continental United States. This visualization shows the Earth, moon, and sun at 17:05:40 UTC during the eclipse. Image credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio. </div> <p>And for the last comment this week, I'll give it to <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/08/04/americas-previous-coast-to-coast-eclipse-almost-proved-einstein-right-synopsis/#comment-581515">MobiusKlein</a>, whose comment in response to Pentcho Valev's Friday article was as follows: "And nobody since 1919 has bothered to do this test during an eclipse, with better equipment? Or has Big Einstein silenced them all? Watch out, YOU may be the victim of BE’s reign of ERROR!"</p></blockquote> <p>I am glad that MobiusKlein's very sarcastic response was here. Science, just to be extremely clear, does not rely on one experiment to settle the matter, and then <em>never perform the experiment again</em>. No; we are constantly checking our results, gathering more data to improved precision, and looking for flaws in our predictions at the 10% level, then 1%, then 0.1%, then 0.01%, etc.</p> <p>The story of scientific investigation is a story of ever-increasing precision and ever decreasing uncertainty, and one that I value and will keep telling, no matter what some (or many, or even most, sometimes) of the commenters here or elsewhere say. The scientific truth is too important, even if (and when) public opinion is against it. It's why I'm here, and it's what I've been doing -- somewhat successfully, mind you -- for over nine years now. In fact, when January rolls around, that will mark 10 years since the inception of Starts With A Bang. That we're all here, thinking about the Universe and how it all works, is something worth celebrating, even when it's difficult.</p> <p>Thank you all for joining me, and looking forward to all the wonderful moments to come in the journey ahead!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 08/06/2017 - 03:02</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 06 Aug 2017 07:02:36 +0000 esiegel 37059 at https://scienceblogs.com Double Comments of the Week #170: From terraforming Mars to what is and isn't expanding https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/30/double-comments-of-the-week-170-from-terraforming-mars-to-what-is-and-isnt-expanding <span>Double Comments of the Week #170: From terraforming Mars to what is and isn&#039;t expanding</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived.” -Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore, and Rick Berman</p></blockquote> <p>After being away for last weekend, it's time to take a look back at the past two weeks on <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a> There's been no shortage of stories, of news, or of scientific matters of interest, so let's see what we've got:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/15/ask-ethan-is-it-foolishness-to-dream-of-terraforming-mars/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Is it foolishness to dream of terraforming Mars?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/17/five-eclipse-sights-to-marvel-at-during-totality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Five eclipse sights you'll see better with a camera than your eyes</a> (for Mostly Mute Monday),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/18/was-our-universe-born-chaotically/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Was our Universe born in chaos</a>? (by Paul Halpern, about the Mixmaster Universe),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/19/did-a-big-whack-create-all-of-plutos-moons/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Did a 'Big Whack' create all of Pluto's moons?</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/20/game-of-thrones-home-world-could-actually-exist-says-science/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'Game of Thrones' home world could actually exist, says science</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/21/eight-other-worlds-in-our-solar-system-might-have-life-beyond-earth/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eight other worlds in our Solar System might have life beyond Earth</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/22/ask-ethan-could-the-fabric-of-spacetime-be-defective/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Could the fabric of spacetime be defective?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/24/sorry-internet-some-of-your-favorite-space-pictures-are-fakes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sorry, internet, some of your favorite space pictures are fakes</a> (for Mostly Mute Monday),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/25/humanity-needs-science-to-survive-and-thrive/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Humanity needs science to survive and thrive</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/26/heartlands-6-reasons-to-be-a-climate-change-skeptic-are-six-demonstrable-lies/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Heartland’s ‘6 Reasons To Be A Climate-Change Skeptic’ Are Six Demonstrable Lies</a>,</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/27/the-sights-safety-and-science-of-the-great-american-eclipse/">The sights, safety, and science of the great american eclipse</a>, and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/28/most-things-dont-actually-expand-in-an-expanding-universe/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">If the Universe is expanding, then why aren't we?</a> (by Sabine Hossenfelder, about spacetime).</li> </ul><p>Next week, I’ll be at two days of <a href="https://creationent.com/cal/st_lasvegas.html">the official Star Trek convention</a> in Las Vegas, on August 3rd and 4th, and <a href="https://www.creationent.com/cal/st_lasvegas_sch.html">the full schedule is now online</a>! While the Perseids are coming up, followed by the total solar eclipse, there's still a whole lot to do before then. You've had a lot to think about and a lot to say, so let's get right into our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/Ev059HR_3D-1200x954.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36211" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/05/Ev059HR_3D-1200x954-600x477.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="477" /></a> The particle tracks emanating from a high energy collision at the LHC in 2014. Although these collisions are plentiful and incredibly energetic, they have not yet yielded any compelling evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Pcharito. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/16/comments-of-the-week-169-from-a-theory-of-everything-to-discovering-todays-universe/#comment-581173">Elle H.C.</a> on a (non-)problem with the LHC: "...while the LHC is all about creating as much noise possible (luminosity)..."</p></blockquote> <p>Hang on. Are you contending that you can't know what goes on in a proton-proton collision, because there are bunched of protons being fired at each other, multiple collisions happening, and therefore we can't pull the signal out of the noise? Because although that certainly makes things more difficult, it's not at all a cause for concern in these experiments. Colliding composite particles means we need to be able to tell the difference between a collision of interest and a glancing collision, noise, or other particles that find their way (or their daughter particles find a way) into the detectors.</p> <p>But we know how to do that: we trigger on large transverse-momentum events. For those events, we record the entirety of the data, and can determine which particle tracks originated from which collision. If you're not concerned with disrupting spacetime or creating a catastrophe at the LHC, then perhaps I've misunderstood what you've been contending for a long time.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/07/Niels_Bohr_Albert_Einstein_by_Ehrenfest.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-20163" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2011/07/Niels_Bohr_Albert_Einstein_by_Ehrenfest-600x868.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="868" /></a> Photo by Paul Ehrenfest, in December of 1925. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/16/comments-of-the-week-169-from-a-theory-of-everything-to-discovering-todays-universe/#comment-581174">Pentcho </a><a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/16/comments-of-the-week-169-from-a-theory-of-everything-to-discovering-todays-universe/#comment-581174">Valev </a>on walking the walk: "No need to ban me – I’m leaving your blog."</p></blockquote> <p>I'll believe it when I see it. Your "leaving my blog" lasted for an even shorter duration than a Jay-Z retirement.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/singularity.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36353" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/singularity-600x548.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="548" /></a> Once you cross the threshold to form a black hole, everything inside the event horizon crunches down to a singularity that is, at most, one-dimensional. No 3D structures can survive intact. Image credit: Ask The Van / UIUC Physics Department. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/16/comments-of-the-week-169-from-a-theory-of-everything-to-discovering-todays-universe/#comment-581183">Adam</a> on falling into a black hole with a tether: "I’m not getting the Option C listed here. If a particle emits a force mediating particle, and the force mediating particle crosses or goes deeper into an event horizon, even if it hits some other particle in some random location, how’s the original particle going to know?<br /> Am I missing something obvious? Is a return force mediating particle not required?"</p></blockquote> <p>Imagine you're falling into a black hole. You know that once you cross the event horizon, nothing can get out. You also know that, with enough power, something that's outside the event horizon, if you do it just right, can escape. There are also tidal forces at play, working to stretch (in the "towards-the-singularity" direction) and compress (in the "perpendicular-to-that-previous-direction" direction) that you just can't avoid.</p> <p>So what could possibly happen to you as you fall in? Or, if you prefer, as you, in your ship outside, try and deal with a tether that extends to an object that's just fallen inside the event horizon?</p> <p>The outside part can try and escape! If you try too hard, you'll snap the tether. If you don't try hard enough, you'll be pulled in. And if you try just right -- which means just hard enough that if you tried any harder, the tether will snap -- then what? Well, the answer is that you'll fall in as slowly as possible. In particular, the particles outside will continue to communicate (i.e., exchange forces) with the particles outside; the particles inside will communicate with the particles inside; and the particles <em>just</em> inside the event horizon will exchange forces with the particles that were outside the event horizon when those virtual particles were emitted, but by time those signals are received, those particles now must be inside the event horizon. Which means you really do only have two options: either you'll be pulled in or the tether will snap. But you can continue to not have the tether snap if you fall in at the minimum possible rate, which is governed not by the material strength of the tether, but rather by the laws of relativity and causality. (And FYI, no, a "round-trip" force exchange isn't necessary. One way exerts forces on both particles. That's physics!)</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/07/QG-BlueBlackHole466x234-720x340.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-31386" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/07/QG-BlueBlackHole466x234-720x340-600x283.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="283" /></a> A visualization of a black hole exhibiting quantum effects, which we'd need a quantum theory of gravity to understand what was happening near the singularity at the center. Image credit: University of Nottingham, via <a href="http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mathematics/research/mathematical-physics/quantum-gravity.aspx">http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mathematics/research/mathematical-physics/q…</a>. </div> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/16/comments-of-the-week-169-from-a-theory-of-everything-to-discovering-todays-universe/#comment-581194">Denier</a> on quantum gravity: "</p> <p style="padding-left: 60px;">Ethan: you are of the mindset that spacetime fabric is a thing, rather than nothingness itself. We can create visualizations of it; we can write down the laws that govern it; we can quantify the interrelationships of its various components. But it’s not a physical thing that you can poke holes in or tear apart</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Denier: That sounds an awful lot like you’re declaring LQG to be fiction."</p> <p>Hold on! Saying "spacetime is a fabric" is true in General Relativity, which is our theory of gravity today. Space and/or time may be quantized or discrete at a fundamental level, but those scales at which we'd observe such effects are Planck-scale effects, something we don't have any way of accessing with current or even envisioned future technology. LQG, or any discrete quantum theory of spacetime, could still be true, but it would have to reproduce classical GR in the low-energy limit.</p> <p>I thought I said something to that effect when I first brought that up? Oh wait, I did! Here's the rest of that quote:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">But it’s not a physical thing that you can poke holes in or tear apart; it’s a mathematical structure that’s well-defined, and the conditions where that structure breaks down — Planck scales — are also well-defined. The LHC doesn’t reach those scales, so we’re positive that we’re fine. Your analogy isn’t applicable here.</p> <p>QED, I think.</p> <div style="width: 370px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/09/VB10_mov2.gif"><img class="size-full wp-image-35154" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/09/VB10_mov2.gif" alt="" width="360" height="360" /></a> This movie shows the star VB 10 moving across the sky over a period of nine years. The blue ellipse shows the (magnified) orbit of the unconfirmed planet VB 10 b (red dot) and its movement relative to the star. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Palomar. </div> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/16/comments-of-the-week-169-from-a-theory-of-everything-to-discovering-todays-universe/#comment-581196">Michael Mooney</a> on the (perceived?) invalidity of Special Relativity: "I’m still waiting for Ethan to disambiguate the difference between apparent length contraction (re: differences in what observers see) and actual physical shrinkage of physical objects as promoted by SR."</p> <p>You <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/09/comments-of-the-week-168-from-saving-the-earth-to-escaping-a-black-hole/#comment-581105">wrote three things</a> that you addressed here as a "response to my challenge." Only one was physics:</p> <blockquote><p>Regarding length contraction, It would take a clear disambiguation of the difference between *apparent* contraction (as seen/measured by various observers) and *actual physical shrinkage* as claimed in the pole- in- a- barn and the train- in- a- tunnel SR thought experiments… also applied to flattened planets (as seen by…) and contracted distances between stars, as per fast travelers with slow clocks.</p></blockquote> <p>If we had a way to travel close to the speed of light and take 3D measurements, we would be able to do exactly that. We'd be able to combine the effects of length contraction along with frame-of-reference motions of light-emitting objects (i.e., arrival times) to measure if length contraction is real. We can do this for individual particles (or bunches of particles) and confirm that special relativity's predictions are right. We've done it for fields (they exhibit length contraction at high speeds, like the electric field of an electron). But we haven't been able to do this for large, composite, macroscopic objects because of practical constraints. But there's no reason to believe that the physics is any different.</p> <p>Your other two things that you wrote, however, complained about ontology. As a physicist, I'm not really interested in your (or my, or anyone's) inability to wrap your head around a physical interpretation/visualization/ontology of what these well-defined entities actually are. You are of the mindset that such a definition is nonsense and incomplete and insufficient. You are entitled to your own opinion, but, like I said, I don't find it interesting enough to even have a conversation about; it's not physics, nor is it physically interesting. You are going to disagree and ask me to respond, and I will tell you that I won't. Why not? Because I don't waste my time explaining myself to someone who's committed to misunderstanding me. And in this, you are.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Mars-river.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36408" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Mars-river-600x261.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="261" /></a> The flow of a dried-up riverbed is an unmistakable signature of a water-rich past on Mars. With the right terraforming work, perhaps it could be habitable once again! Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum). </div> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/15/ask-ethan-is-it-foolishness-to-dream-of-terraforming-mars-synopsis/#comment-581160">Frank</a> on terraforming Mars: "Only possibility I see is if we can modify orbits of large asteroids and comets someday to collide with Mars to add both mass and water, and also make its orbit come closer to Sun."</p></blockquote> <p>Wait, and you thought bringing material to Mars the old-fashioned way was difficult? How much mass do you plan on adding? Because the entire asteroid belt is 0.5% the mass of Mars. You want to bring Mars closer to the Sun? How are you going to dissipate all that orbital energy? I think the bigger lesson is that if you add just atmosphere and then water, you get a world that works, as is, for hundreds of millions of years. That's pretty good!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Mars-stripped.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36387" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Mars-stripped-600x338.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="338" /></a> Mars, the red planet, has no magnetic field to protect it from the solar wind, meaning that it loses its atmosphere in a way that Earth doesn't. But the timescale over which Mars will lose an Earth-like atmosphere needs to be calculated. Image credit: NASA / GSFC. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/15/ask-ethan-is-it-foolishness-to-dream-of-terraforming-mars-synopsis/#comment-581169">Steve Blackband</a> on the same topic: "So a magnetic field not needed to maintain the atmosphere. Cool.<br /> However there is still the issue of radiation exposure without one, unless you live underground or under a dome."</p></blockquote> <p>Radiation exposure is an interesting question. While <strong><em>I</em></strong> may do lousy on Mars, someone who grew up in a radiation-rich environment would likely be fine. Somehow, if you grow up in a radiation-rich natural environment, you don't suffer the same ill-effects that someone who grew up in a more typical Earth environment would when exposed to such radiation.</p> <p>The most radioactive inhabited location on Earth is the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar,_Mazandaran#Radioactivity">city of Ramsar in Iran</a>, and here's the deal (from Wikipedia) on that:</p> <blockquote><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Ramsar's Talesh Mahalleh district is the most radioactive inhabited area known on Earth, due to nearby <a title="Hot spring" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_spring">hot springs</a> and building materials originating from them.<sup id="cite_ref-medgeo_8-0" class="reference"><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar,_Mazandaran#cite_note-medgeo-8">[8]</a></sup> A combined population of 2,000 residents from this district and other high radiation neighbourhoods receive an average <a class="mw-redirect" title="Radiation dose" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_dose">radiation dose</a> of 10 <a class="mw-redirect" title="MGy" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGy">mGy</a> per year, ten times more than the ICRP recommended limit for exposure to the public from artificial sources.<sup id="cite_ref-Mortazavi2005_9-0" class="reference"><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar,_Mazandaran#cite_note-Mortazavi2005-9">[9]</a></sup> Record levels were found in a house where the <a class="mw-redirect" title="Effective radiation dose" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_radiation_dose">effective radiation dose</a> due to external radiation was 131 <a class="mw-redirect" title="MSv" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSv">mSv</a>/a, and the <a title="Committed dose" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Committed_dose">committed dose</a> from <a title="Radon" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radon">radon</a> was 72 mSv/a.<sup id="cite_ref-HNBR2009_10-0" class="reference"><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar,_Mazandaran#cite_note-HNBR2009-10">[10]</a></sup> This unique case is over 80 times higher than the world average <a title="Background radiation" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation">background radiation</a>.</p> </blockquote> <p>People don't die or get cancer as expected. You might have "zero-generation" problems with radioactivity on Mars, but I have a feeling that the surviving colonists are going to wind up just fine.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/TSE_2016_srd.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36392" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/TSE_2016_srd-600x606.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="606" /></a> 32 images of the 2016 eclipse were combined in order to produce this composite, showcasing not only the corona and the plasma loops above the photosphere with stars in the background, but also with the Moon's surface illuminated by Earthshine. Image credit: Don Sabers, Ron Royer, Miloslav Druckmuller. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/17/five-eclipse-sights-to-marvel-at-during-totality-synopsis/#comment-581190">Ragtag Media</a> on a great list of eclipse apps: "It’s all about the apps:<br /><a href="https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/apps-software" rel="nofollow">https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/apps-software</a>"</p></blockquote> <p>This is beautiful, and worth sharing. Also, if you haven't caught it, did you know I just <a href="https://soundcloud.com/ethan-siegel-172073460/starts-with-a-bang-22-the-science-of-solar-eclipses">did a new podcast</a> on the upcoming eclipse?</p> <p></p><center> <iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/335080715&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe><p></p></center>Have a listen; it's worth it! <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/8-3-Horizon-Problem.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36395" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/8-3-Horizon-Problem-600x591.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="591" /></a> If these three different regions of space never had time to thermalize, share information or transmit signals to one another, then why are they all the same temperature? Image credit: E. Siegel / Beyond The Galaxy. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/18/was-our-universe-born-in-chaos-synopsis/#comment-581224">eric</a> on the horizon problem: "Can’t the horizon problem be solved by the notion of these causally separated locations obeying the same laws of physics?"</p></blockquote> <p>As <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/18/was-our-universe-born-in-chaos-synopsis/#comment-581225">Michael Kelsey</a> said, the problem isn't that the laws of physics are the same; the problem is that different regions of the Universe are the exact same temperature despite being millions of light years apart! But if that's too hard, think about it in this other fashion: the Big Bang must have occurred at the <em>exact</em> same moment with the <em>exact</em> same initial conditions everywhere. How exact is exact? For the temperature fluctuations we see, the "bang" must have occurred in all locations with the same energy separated by timescales of no less than about 10^-33 seconds.</p> <p>Over millions of light years, how can you make anything line up to that incredible degree of precision? I don't think you can, not without invoking some "the initial conditions were just finely-tuned like that." And maybe they were... but that's the essence of the horizon problem.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/two_giants.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36405" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/two_giants-600x430.jpg" alt="Binary stars with planets around them are common, but if the world containing Westeros orbited a binary planet, particularly if those planets were much more massive than it itself, physics can give us the orbits we need. Image credit: Stuart Littlefair / University of Sheffield." width="600" height="430" /></a> Binary stars with planets around them are common, but if the world containing Westeros orbited a binary planet, particularly if those planets were much more massive than it itself, physics can give us the orbits we need. Image credit: Stuart Littlefair / University of Sheffield. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/20/game-of-thrones-home-world-could-actually-exist-says-science-synopsis/#comment-581232">Sinisa Lazarek</a> on the science of the Game of Thrones homeworld: "Would there be dragons?"</p></blockquote> <p>Physics will only get you so far, Sinisa. I can get you a world with chaotic rotations and seasons... but as far as exobiology, I don't think our science is there yet. Someday, perhaps.</p> <p>Also, I noticed the arrival of jimbob on this post. This is a science blog, not a bible study group. He is now banned.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/362897main_PIA01536_full.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36407" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/362897main_PIA01536_full-600x711.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="711" /></a> The Voyager 2 spacecraft took this color photo of Neptune's moon Triton on Aug. 24 1989, at a range of 330,000 miles. The image was made from pictures taken through the green, violet and ultraviolet filters. Image credit: NASA / JPL. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/21/eight-other-worlds-in-our-solar-system-might-have-life-beyond-earth-synopsis/#comment-581266">Pawel</a> on the possibility of life on Triton: "I cannot find any information on “black smokers” volcanoes on Triton. Sure, there is volcanic activity there, but what makes them similar to black smokers?"</p></blockquote> <p>Well, if you google "black smokers triton" you'll find that there's the Triton grill which can be used for smoking food, and that won't help you much. But Voyager 2 was remarkable in the science it collected. Yes, it found a mostly nitrogen atmosphere with some methane, where the methane was indirect evidence of volcanic activity. It has evidence of resurfacing, so that's more evidence of geological activity. And the presence of methane is different in different parts of the world, indicating a seasonal component -- seasonal heating from the Sun -- as well.</p> <p>But we are absolutely certain that Triton is volcanically active. Along with Earth, Io, and Venus, only Triton also exhibits surefire volcanic activity. (This is likely due to tidal forces from Neptune.) But there's also this:</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/cebe8df27fdb82e12828396cce0bfd8f48d76ed4_large.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36441" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/cebe8df27fdb82e12828396cce0bfd8f48d76ed4_large-600x600.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="600" /></a> Image credit: Voyager 2. </div> <p>Those dark spots and streaks? Volcanic activity. As <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/03/science/volcanoes-seen-on-triton.html">the New York Times reported back in 1989</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>One of the pictures showed a five-mile-high, geyser-like plume of dark material erupting from the icy surface of Triton, the blue and pink moon that all but stole the show from its planet when the Voyager spacecraft had its rendezvous with Neptune last August.</p> <p>The discovery, scientists said, confirmed the hypothesis advanced immediately after the Voyager encounter that explosive volcanoes probably fueled by liquid nitrogen accounted for much of the rugged terrain on Triton. This meant that Triton is only the third object in the solar system, after Earth and Jupiter's moon Io, known to have active volcanoes.</p></blockquote> <p>You can find more about it in the 1999 book, <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=ukpGOp1tj_QC&amp;pg=PA187&amp;lpg=PA187&amp;dq=black+smokers+neptune+triton&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=_YRk3cPjqc&amp;sig=WdRRq4WJj5COjN2jW5Ptxq9wWJ4&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjn46Sf0K3VAhXn0FQKHSutDpEQ6AEIOzAD#v=onepage&amp;q=black%20smokers%20neptune%20triton&amp;f=false">Satellites of the Outer Planets</a>, by David A. Rothery.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/spacegrid.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36413" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/spacegrid-600x338.jpg" alt="The fabric of the Universe, spacetime, is a tricky concept to understand. But, thanks to Einstein's general relativity, we're up to the challenge. Image credit: Pixabay user JohnsonMartin." width="600" height="338" /></a> The fabric of the Universe, spacetime, is a tricky concept to understand. But, thanks to Einstein's general relativity, we're up to the challenge. Image credit: Pixabay user JohnsonMartin. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/22/ask-ethan-could-the-fabric-of-spacetime-be-defective-synopsis/#comment-581269">CFT</a> on mathematical constructs: "Nothing actually moves in a mathematical construct like space time, It can’t even accommodate an impulse to motion, so the entire idea of it somehow affecting physical reality is quite pointless Platonistic hand waving."</p></blockquote> <p>You know that there are many mathematical spacetime constructs; Einstein's General Relativity was hardly the only one. The reason Einstein's formalism is remarkable, though, is because it accurately describes our observed, physical reality. That's all you need for physics. Mathematics is like taking the square root of 4. You get multiple answers: it could be +2 or it could be -2. Mathematics gives you all the possibilities a setup can admit. Physics? It has one answer, and that answer gives us our physical reality. If you can't wrap your head around it, you can either listen to the (dissatisfactory) analogies that people who are educated in it make, or you can go and become educated about it yourself. Enjoy the Christoffel symbols!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/add_dog.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36417" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/add_dog-600x569.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="569" /></a> Look, it's everyone's favorite lunar Rover! The angles of the shadows on the Moon and the illuminated portion of the Earth in the sky clearly don't line up. Also, the dog is photoshopped. Image credit: NASA / manipulator unknown. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/24/sorry-internet-some-of-your-favorite-space-pictures-are-fakes-synopsis/#comment-581282">Steve</a> on fake astro pictures: "Its such a sad sad sad reflection of the ignorance in this nation regarding science and education that you felt it necessary to tell the audience that the dog digging on the moon (without a dogsuit) is photoshopped in.<br /> And that I felt it necessary to add ‘without a dogsuit’…"</p></blockquote> <p>You are aware that there are many people who don't even believe humans landed on the Moon. They also think it was a hoax perpetrated by the American government, and that there was some sort of secret "staged area" where the Moon landings took place. So when you show them a picture like this, it jibes with their worldview. It confirms their belief, and so they're likely to dig in deeper. This may happen frequently in your own life, depending on who you encounter and what issues you speak about.</p> <p>For me, I prefer to just watch <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr8ljRgcJNM">the Rammstein video</a> that gave the best "how to fake a Moon-like video" I think I've ever seen.</p> <p></p><center> <iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Rr8ljRgcJNM" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><p></p></center> <blockquote><p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/26/heartlands-6-reasons-to-be-a-climate-change-skeptic-are-six-demonstrable-lies-synopsis/#comment-581322">dean</a> on the climate science issue: "All true, but as denialists know, all they have to do is repeat their lies and let them sit. It’s quick and doesn’t require any science but they do seem like common sense statements to most people.. They know refuting them takes time and longer explanations that will lose the attention of people. Not promising."</p></blockquote> <p>You know, I am not a climate scientist. And I'm not really qualified to do climate science research. Which is why I ran my article past three separate Ph.D. climate scientists (technically, two climate scientists and one climatologist), all of whom vetted it and approved of all of my points.</p> <p>But they made a separate point, one that I thought was quite important: their goal is to mislead. Their goal is to manufacture debate and uncertainty. Their goal is <em>not</em> to get the science right, nor to consider the full suite of evidence. Their goal is to keep the status quo in place. And perhaps if I keep taking the, "we have to all agree on the facts before we can discuss policy," then all they have to do is keep muddying the facts and they win. So maybe I need to take a different line of argument if I want to make a difference.</p> <p>I'm thinking on this.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/EM_Spectrum_Properties_edit.svg_-1200x711.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36438" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/EM_Spectrum_Properties_edit.svg_-1200x711-600x356.png" alt="" width="600" height="356" /></a> The size, wavelength and temperature/energy scales that correspond to various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Image credit: NASA and Wikimedia Commons user Inductiveload. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/28/if-the-universe-is-expanding-then-why-arent-we-synopsis/#comment-581370">Pentcho Valev</a> on Einstein: "Spacetime is a consequence of Einstein’s constant-speed-of-light postulate, and this postulate is OBVIOUSLY false."</p></blockquote> <p>I'll tell you what: show me <em>one</em> measurement from <em>any</em> reference frame that indicates that the speed of light in a vacuum is not exactly 299,792,458 meters per second (I even gave you the value!), and we can talk about your ideas. Also, you're going to love yesterday's Ask Ethan when you get to it... but you have to read it. Writing your own "wall of text" (as other commenters have rightly called it) is equivalent to promoting your own pet theories and nonsense here. If that's all you have to write about, get your own blog, because if you don't knock it off, you won't be welcome here any longer.</p> <p>Last chance to behave!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/eclipse-totality-sassendalen-jamet-1200x800.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36429" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/eclipse-totality-sassendalen-jamet-1200x800-600x400.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></a> While most of the sky will darken in a total eclipse, there are portions during a total eclipse that will remain bright, as the Moon's shadow is smaller than your view of the entire 360-degree horizon. Image credit: Luc Janet. </div> <p>And finally, to end this on a high note, here's <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/28/if-the-universe-is-expanding-then-why-arent-we-synopsis/#comment-581378">Alan G.</a> on... I don't really know, but it doesn't really matter: "Can’t wait to pop the corn and pop the top for reading these Sunday night. This is gonna be epic, and the start is not disappointing…"</p></blockquote> <p>There's always a lot to say, think, and reason out, and if you're curious about the Universe, I hope this blog (and even the forum) gives you something interesting to ponder. There's some amazing stuff going on in the Universe all the time, and I hope to see you continue on this journey with me. Have a great rest-of-your-weekend, everyone!</p> <p> </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 07/30/2017 - 05:25</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 30 Jul 2017 09:25:31 +0000 esiegel 37052 at https://scienceblogs.com Gwyneth Paltrow's quack empire goop strikes back against Dr. Jen Gunter https://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/07/14/gwyneth-paltrows-quack-empire-strikes-back-against-dr-jen-gunter <span>Gwyneth Paltrow&#039;s quack empire goop strikes back against Dr. Jen Gunter</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>You know how you know when you've been effective deconstructing quackery or antivaccine pseudoscience? It's when quacks and pseudoscientists strike back. It's when they attack you. As much as Mike Adams' near daily tirades against me last year caused problems and poisoned my Google reputation (which was, obviously, the goal), I could reassure myself with the knowledge that his attacks meant that I had gotten to him. When Steve Novella was sued by a quack, as much as I didn't want to be sued by anyone, I knew that the fact that someone would sue him was testament to his effectiveness. Basically, counterattacks, character assassination, and, occasionally, legal threats are the price skeptics pay when they are effective.</p> <p>Jen Gunter has been very effective. Testament to her effectiveness is an article published on the <a href="http://goop.com" rel="nofollow">goop</a> website yesterday entitled <a href="http://goop.com/uncensored-a-word-from-our-doctors/" rel="nofollow">Uncensored: A Word from Our Doctors</a>. goop (note the lower case "g," which is just too "edgy" for words), you might recall, is Gwyneth Paltrow's "lifestyle" website, brand, and store that exists to serve up dubious health, beauty, and lifestyle advice (and, above all, sell very expensive beauty and "wellness" products) to affluent, woo-susceptible (and nearly all white) women. Basically, she dispenses alternative health advice to a certain set, or, as <a href="https://theoutline.com/post/1394/the-unbearable-wrongness-of-gwyneth-paltrow">it's been called</a>, "pure, unadulterated, blood-diamond free, organic-certified, biodynamic, moon-dusted bullshit." Given that goop has been around since 2008, I only stand amazed that it wasn't until only three weeks ago that <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/06/23/gwyneth-paltrow-shows-that-the-quantum-xrroid-consciousness-interface-was-ahead-of-its-time/">I first wrote about the rich vein of pseudoscience there</a> in the wake of its having hit national news by claiming that what are basically stickers known as "Body Vibes" (which the goop store conveniently sells) can readjust your energy somehow and that they were made from a NASA-developed material. This latter claim was so patently false that NASA actually bothered to deny it. I suspect goop has been really feeling the heat since then, because as a result it had become the punchline for late night comedians like Stephen Colbert, who did a couple of memorable sketches making fun of goop, such as <a href="https://youtu.be/Qg0HCStAYMA">this hilarious one</a>:</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Qg0HCStAYMA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p> Ouch. That one's gonna leave a mark.</p> <h2>Gwyneth Paltrow and goop: Going low and punching down</h2> <p>Stephen Colbert, however, was too big a target for Paltrow and goop, because he could easily strike back to devastating effect on his popular late night show. So they punched down instead. Jen Gunter was also a convenient target because she has been arguably its most persistent and long time critic. goop, of course, was a huge and very tempting target, as it seemed there was no bullshit too ridiculous or quackery too quacky for Paltrow to embrace and profit from. Indeed, I was reminded of this, ironically enough, mere hours before goop launched its attack on Dr. Gunter, I came across a <a href="http://goop.com/4-at-home-homeopathic-treatments/" rel="nofollow">paean to The One Quackery To Rule Them All</a>, homeopathy, in which utterly risible claim that in most countries "outside the United States, homeopathics are the first line of defense against ailment, from the common cold to bruising to muscle pain," which is just plain not true. It also lays down credulous nonsense that totally buys into homeopathic quackery, nonsense like this:</p> <blockquote><p> In homeopathy, the original substance is diluted many times and succussed (shaken) through a complex preparation process. Most practitioners use premade homeopathic remedies that are either sold in their office or in pharmacies, or health food stores, though they can also be made by hand. In homeopathy, the end product contains “energy,” but no molecules of the original substance due to the dilution process. The fact that homeopathics function on an energetic basis is a major reason that so many naysayers claim quackery, despite countless clinical studies proving otherwise. The mechanism of action that gives homeopathics their power is complex, and experts are now studying quantum physics and the science of non-locality to more completely understand how homeopathics work.</p></blockquote> <p>This is, of course, more unadulterated pseudoscience, the same sort of handwaving nonsense that homeopaths have been using to justify their quackery ever since they discovered how to appropriate quantum physics.</p> <p>So it was with a chuckle that I read the self-righteous attack on Jen Gunter. It consists of an introduction, then brief articles by two doctors associated with goop, Dr. Steven Gundry and Dr. Aviva Romm. Through it all, the self-righteousness and tone trolling are epic right from the beginning:</p> <blockquote><p> As goop has grown, so has the attention we receive. We consistently find ourselves to be of interest to many—and for that, we are grateful—but we also find that there are third parties who critique goop to leverage that interest and bring attention to themselves. Encouraging discussion of new ideas is certainly one of our goals, but indiscriminate attacks that question the motivation and integrity of the doctors who contribute to the site is not. This is the first in a series of posts revisiting these topics and offering our contributing M.D.’s a chance to articulate theirs, in a respectful and substantive manner.</p></blockquote> <p>Poor babies. Here's some advice to doctors associated with goop: If you embrace quackery and help goop sell it, then you deserve to have your motivation and integrity questioned. (Yeah, I said it.) This is also tone trolling turned up to 11, in which criticism is portrayed as "indiscriminate attacks." It's a common practice among quacks and those who sell quackery to portray righteous anger, snark, and colorful language sometimes used by skeptics when deconstructing nonsensical claims of the sort made on goop on a near-daily basis as being unreasonable. Indeed, Paltrow hereself even Tweeted:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">When they go low, we go high. <a href="https://t.co/PBRaFYMaG6">https://t.co/PBRaFYMaG6</a> (via <a href="https://twitter.com/goop">@goop</a>)</p> <p>— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) <a href="https://twitter.com/GwynethPaltrow/status/885534626831228928">July 13, 2017</a></p></blockquote> <script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p> That's mighty funny for a woman who not too long ago <a href="https://jezebel.com/gwyneth-paltrow-if-you-want-to-fuck-with-me-bring-you-1795538858">responded to critics thusly</a>:</p> <blockquote><p> “I’m interested in criticism based on fact, not on projections,” says Paltrow, in other words, “If you want to fuck with me, bring your A game.” (She’s so enamored of the phrase, a friend had it put on matchbooks and cocktail napkins for her as a gift.) </p></blockquote> <p>"Go high." You keep using that term. I do not think that it means what you think it means.</p> <h2>Dr. Stephen Gundry: Mansplaining and tone trolling</h2> <p>After that, I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I read Dr. Gundry's oh-so-disappointed tone trolling:</p> <blockquote><p> I have read Dr. Jennifer Gunter’s recent diatribe online about some of goop’s advice, and since one of my recommendations was mentioned, and my credentials and motives were brought into question, I believe I have the right and duty to respond. </p> <p>First, Dr. Gunter, I have been in academic medicine for forty years and up until your posting, have never seen a medical discussion start or end with the “F-bomb,” yet yours did. A very wise Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan once instructed me to never write anything that my mother or child wouldn’t be proud to read. I hope, for the sake of your mother and child, that a re-reading of your article fails his test, and following his sage advice, that you will remove it. </p></blockquote> <p>Poor baby. Basically, his argument boils down to: "Dr. Gunter used the F-bomb. She's mean and nasty; so she must be wrong." In any case, I went to the University of Michigan Medical School too, dude. People—some faculty—cussed from time to time. Also, never have I seen such a passive-aggressive, self-righteous combination of tone trolling and mansplaining in a single article. One wonders why he doesn't apply the same standard to his boss or business partner or whatever she is, Gwyneth Paltrow. His is merely a somewhat more subtle form of ad hominem attack. One also has to wonder why goop decided to attack Dr. Gunter specifically and not, say, Prof. Tim Caulfield, who actually wrote a book entitled <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Gwyneth-Paltrow-Wrong-About-Everything/dp/0807039705/">Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty &amp; Happiness</a>. Could it be because the editors of goop thought it would be easier to paint a woman as unreasonable and—dare I say it?—hysterical? Perish the thought!</p> <p>I'll get back to Dr. Gundry in a moment.</p> <h2>Defending against charges of quackery by referencing...examples of quackery</h2> <p>Here's another passage I couldn't help but laugh at:</p> <blockquote><p> Some of the coverage that goop receives suggests that women are lemmings, ready to jump off a cliff whenever one of our doctors discusses checking for <a href="http://goop.com/is-epstein-barr-virus-at-the-root-of-chronic-illness/" rel="nofollow">EBV</a>, or <a href="http://goop.com/the-insidious-yeast-infection-we-all-have-and-how-to-treat-it/" rel="nofollow">Candida</a>, or low levels of <a href="http://goop.com/can-vitamin-d3-heal-autoimmune-diseases/" rel="nofollow">vitamin D</a>—or, heaven forbid, take a <a href="http://goop.com/earthing-how-walking-barefoot-could-cure-your-insomnia-more/" rel="nofollow">walk barefoot</a>. As women, we chafe at the idea that we are not intelligent enough to read something and take what serves us, and leave what does not. We simply want information; we want autonomy over our health. That’s why we do unfiltered Q&amp;As, so you can hear directly from doctors; we see no reason to interpret or influence what they’re saying, to tell you what to think. </p></blockquote> <p>The "<a href="http://goop.com/earthing-how-walking-barefoot-could-cure-your-insomnia-more/" rel="nofollow">walk barefoot</a>" reference amused me the most. It's a reference to an interview with Clint Ober. Those of you familiar with various forms of the most ridiculous quackery out there will recall that Ober, who's <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/04/04/dr-oz-promotes-quackeryagain/">been featured Dr. Oz's show</a>, is probably the most famous advocate of "earthing," the idea that by being directly connected to the earth through bare skin you'll be "energetically connecting with Mother Earth" through its "infinite supply of electrons" and reaping all sorts of health benefits. A corollary of this view is that wearing shoes is bad because it blocks that "connection." I've <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/01/12/your-friday-dose-of-woo-grounded-in-woo-1/">written about how bogus earthing is before</a>. Basically, goop is being incredibly disingenuous here. It's making it sound as though skeptics were criticizing it for nothing worse than advocating walking barefoot, ignoring that the criticisms were not over just walking barefoot and were in fact about all the earthing pseudoscience.</p> <p>That goop would defend itself by referencing quackery just as ridiculous as earthing and homeopathy bespeaks a lack of self-awareness beyond black hole-level dense. Ditto for referencing an article on chronic candida infection, a <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/candida-and-fake-illnesses/">common quack diagnosis</a> in which candida is blamed for all manner of vague symptoms. It is a <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/candida-and-fake-illnesses/">fake illness</a>. EBV <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-medical-mediums-thyroid-pseudoscience/">does not cause</a> every <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/credulous-medical-reporting/">disease under the sun</a>. Basically, goop is defending its doctors by crying, "We're not quacks!" while at the same time referring to excellent examples suggesting that they very well might be or that, at the very least, they like the sound of ducks.</p> <p>The introduction also unwittingly highlights the problem with quackademic medicine. It's a shield for pseudoscience in medicine:</p> <blockquote><p> And speaking of doctors, we are drawn to physicians who are interested in both Western and Eastern modalities and incorporate the best from both, as they generally believe that while traditional medicine can be really good at saving lives, functional medicine is more adept at tackling issues that are chronic. These are the doctors we regularly feature on goop: doctors who publish in peer-reviewed journals; doctors who trained at the best institutions; doctors who are repeatedly at the forefront of medicine; doctors who persistently and aggressively maintain an open mind. The thing about science and medicine is that it evolves all the time. Studies and beliefs that we held sacred even in the last decade have since been proven to be unequivocally false, and sometimes even harmful. Meanwhile, other advances in science and medicine continue to change and save lives. It is not a perfect system; it is a human system. </p></blockquote> <p>See what I mean? goop can claim that its doctors are from the "best institutions," "publish in the finest journal," and are at the "forefront of medicine." Couple that with the "science was wrong before" trope, and you can sow just enough doubt to make goop's quackery seem as though it might actually be cutting edge. It's not. Functional medicine, in fact, embodies the <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/functional-medicine-the-ultimate-misnomer-in-the-world-of-integrative-medicine/">very worst traits of "alternative" and conventional medicine</a>. It combines the use of quackery as quacky as homeopathy with the tendency towards <a href="https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/functional-medicine-in-practice/">overtesting and overtreating</a> that are conventional medicine's greatest weaknesses.</p> <p>Then there's the "medicine evolves" trope. Yes, medicine does evolve. Although its overall course is to be based in better science, there are many ups and downs along the way. Its progress can be frustratingly slow at times, and it can go down blind alleys at times. It is, however, self-correcting. It does not, however, self-correct by embracing vitalistic quackery like homeopathy or suggesting that putting a jade egg up a woman's vagina will somehow have magical health benefits. Just because medicine evolves does not mean that totally implausible treatments like homeopathy or jade eggs are scientifically plausible—or ever will be.</p> <h2>Dr. Gundry: Science-based supplement hawker?</h2> <p>This brings me back to Dr. Gunter. The blog post by her that I remember the most was her discussion in January of <a href="https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/dear-gwyneth-paltrow-im-a-gyn-and-your-vaginal-jade-eggs-are-a-bad-idea/">why "Jade Eggs" sold by goop are pure pseudoscience and mystical mumbo-jumbo</a>. Indeed, it's rare that I see a product for which the claims are such obvious idiocy, and Dr. Jen showed that in her usual inimitable fashion. Another famous article by Gunter was her <a href="https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/gwyneth-paltrow-says-steam-your-vagina-an-obgyn-says-dont/">deconstruction of Paltrow's recommendation</a> that women steam their vaginas. Then, of course, Paltrow is into detox, detox, detox.</p> <p>Of course, Dr. Gundry will have none of it. He has a peculiar level of tunnel vision. He paints himself as a science-based doctor at the very highest level of his profession. Arguably, he was, at least until 15 years ago, when, as he brags, he resigned a "Professor and Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at a major medical school to devote myself to reversing disease with food and nutraceutical supplementation, instead of bypasses, stents, or medications, just like Hippocrates asked you and me to do when we took our oath: 'Let food be thy medicine.' And he works so, so hard at it. So hard. So very hard that he has to brag:</p> <blockquote><p> And finally, he taught that a physician’s job was to search out and remove the obstacles that are keeping the patient from healing themselves. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been doing just that seven days a week (yes, you read that right, Saturday and Sunday as well, just ask my overworked staff). </p></blockquote> <p>Poor baby. Such dedication. And, he assures us, even though he has concierge patients, he also takes Medicare and Medicaid! He's also a condescending dude as well:</p> <blockquote><p> I bring this up because I am writing this on a plane while returning from giving a paper to the 11th annual World Congress on Polyphenols Applications—on the effect of a lectin-limited diet, supplemented with polyphenols with fish oil, on intravascular markers of inflammation in 467 patients with known coronary disease. I won’t bore you, but when we removed high lectin-containing foods like grains, beans, and, yes, nightshades like your beloved tomatoes, their elevated markers of inflammation returned to normal. Great, but I’m not finished. Remember Koch’s postulates that must be fulfilled to prove the agent causes a disease (go ahead, look it up)? Well, once cured, you have to reintroduce the agent and see that the disease returns. Sure enough, in 57 patients, we reintroduced lectins, and back came the inflammation in all 57 patients’ next blood tests. Finally, you have to remove the agent again; which we did, and all 57 patients numbers normalized a second time, proving that indeed lectins were the cause of this process. Conclusion: Lectins cause human disease. </p></blockquote> <p>Actually, arguably lectins are the new gluten, something that can be toxic under some circumstances that are increasingly being co-opted as The One True Cause of All Chronic Diseases, and Dr. Gundry is the prophet of the new church of lectins. Unfortunately, the abstracts book for the 11th annual World Congress on Polyphenols Applications is behind a paywall; so I couldn't look up the actual abstract, but the description is of a study that's one of those clinical biomarker studies that are a dime a dozen, particularly in abstract form. Inflammatory markers are a favorite used in this type of study. As John Ioannidis has shown, such studies are frequently wrong. Moreover, they don't reach the next step, which is to show actual concrete health benefits caused by changing the biomarkers measured. This is tricky enough to do in cancer, where overall survival and disease-free survival are pretty concrete outcomes to measure. It's much less easy for claims such as those being made by Dr. Guntry. There's an excellent discussion of Dr. Guntry's obsession with lectins here if you want more information. I might have to look into the subject in more detail myself, but it's pretty obvious that Dr. Gundry is reading too much into preliminary biomarker studies. Certainly, such studies are not enough to justify his selling <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/04/the-next-gluten/523686/">supplements like this to target lectin</a>:</p> <blockquote><p> The GundryMD line of products includes something he invented called vitamin G6. Another is a “lectin shield” that’s “designed to neutralize the effects of lectins.” These are available on his website for $79.99. There you can also get six jars of Vital Reds for $254.70. (Despite the name and claims to “boost energy and metabolism,” these reds claim not to be amphetamines.) </p></blockquote> <p>Here's <a href="http://gundrymd.com/supplements/lectin-shield/">Lectin Shield</a>. Basically, it's a high-priced supplement that supposedly blocks dietary lectins, "supports intestinal health," and helps "curb cravings and encourages digestive strength." I'll give Dr. Gundry credit. I've never heard anyone make a claim for a supplement of "supporting intestinal strength." One wonders what a weak intestine looks like. His website even has this notice:</p> <blockquote><p> The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. </p></blockquote> <p>Wait. What? A <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/whitecoatunderground/2008/01/14/quack-miranda-warning/">quack Miranda warning</a>? I thought that Dr. Gundry was purely science-based and that everything he recommends is based in science. How? He tells us so ad nauseam. He brags to Dr. Gunter that he's a real doctor, ma-an, unlike Dr. Gunter and his critics. He does science! He has published hundreds of journal articles, abstracts, and book chapters! How dare you criticize him for fear mongering about lectins! He publishes in the <em>Journal of International Society of Microbiota</em>! Oh, wait:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p> Interesting that with all the emphasis on peer review, Journal of International Society of Microbiota is on its 3rd issue, not NCBI indexed.</p> <p>— Duncan MacCannell (@dmaccannell) <a href="https://twitter.com/dmaccannell/status/885657708661055488">July 14, 2017</a> </p></blockquote> <script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p> Not exactly impressive. I did a little PubMed search on Dr. Gundry. Unfortunately, there's another S.R. Gundry, but it was easy to keep the other Dr. Gundry's publications separate from more recent publications from <em>our</em> Dr. Gundry's publications. (I highly doubt our Dr. Gundry is doing zebrafish research.) That means Dr. Gundry's last PubMed indexed publication was <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15052192">13 years ago</a>, and he wasn't even first author. True, he does have some abstracts since then, but no full publications in PubMed-indexed journals. Basically, he's very much like Dr. Oz, a once highly respectable cardiothoracic surgeon who discovered woo and cashed in. Ironically, Dr. Gundry points to having been on Dr. Oz's show as if being a guest on that cesspit of quackery boosts his scientific standing. The mind reels.</p> <h2>An herbalist and midwife turned "integrative" doctor attacks</h2> <p>But what about Dr. Aviva Romm. She's a bit less condescending to Dr. Gunter, but only a bit less. She starts out using standard "integrative medicine" tropes about how chronic disease is such a problem. Then she jumps into false equivalence:</p> <blockquote><p> Do all wellness trends pan out to be scientific and reliable? Of course not. Then again, neither do many of our trusted pharmaceuticals, tests, and procedures when given the test of time. And of the mainstream trends that turn out to be overtly dangerous—those fade fast. Do I think medical testing and treatments—including alternative ones—should ideally be safe, effective, and scientifically validated? Absolutely. Unfortunately, much like what happened with some of those I mentioned above, research was only done when the demand from consumers became loud enough to be heard or something became a big enough trend to merit attention.</p></blockquote> <p>In other words, don't blame me for embracing all sorts of dubious treatments! I'm just catering to what patients want, as are all "integrative doctors" and "researchers" looking into reiki, acupuncture, and all the other nonsense "integrative medicine" is trying to "integrate" into medicine! Oh, and science was wrong before. (Surprise, surprise, both docs invoke that trope.) I wonder if she'd be willing to explain the scientific basis of <a href="http://goop.com/better-sex-jade-eggs-for-your-yoni/" rel="nofollow">goop's promotion of Jade Eggs</a>. Let's just say that even the most questionable pharmaceutical drug has way, way more scientific evidence and clinical trials behind it that Jade Eggs. Or grounding. No, basically, goop is marketing quacky "wellness" to the worried well and credulous affluent women.</p> <p>Then Dr. Aviva defends goop:</p> <blockquote><p> In a time when women are desperately hungry for safe alternatives to mainstream practices that too often fall short of helpful for chronic symptoms, and in the setting of a medical system that is continually falling short of providing lasting solutions to the chronic disease problems we’re facing: I prefer, rather than ridiculing vehicles that are actually highly effective at reaching large numbers of women who want to be well, to seek to understand what women are looking for, what the maintstream isn’t providing; and how we can work together to support those vehicles in elevating their content so that women are receiving the meaningful, and evidence-based answers, they want and deserve, whenever possible.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>TRANSLATION:</strong> Don't mock us, even though we peddle absolute bullshit. We're highly effective at reaching large numbers of women who want to be well. Then we well them bullshit. But don't mock us for that.</p> <p>Yes, women are looking for non-mainstream "alternatives" to maintain health. Unfortunately, that very trait makes them perfect marks for goop, which is highly effective at selling dubious nostrums to those very same women. Very little of it is actually evidence-based. Indeed, Dr. Romm offers all sorts of supplements to "detox" and "boost your immunity," advertising herself as a midwife and herbalist. She's also <a href="https://avivaromm.com/oldbookspage/vaccinations-a-thoughtful-parents-guide/">written a book on vaccines</a> full of red flags for antivaccine beliefs, such as claiming to "offer a sensible, balanced discussion of the pros and cons of each routine childhood vaccination" and presenting "the full spectrum of options available to parents: full vaccination on a standardized or individualized schedule, selective vaccination, or no vaccinations at all." She even offers advice for traveling with unvaccinated children and using herbs to provide "natural immunity." None of this is science-based. Let's just put it this way, Peggy O'Mara, publisher of that antivaccine magazine <em>Mothering</em> offered a blurb praising it, as did antivaccine pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Palevsky and a naturopath. Let's just put it this way. She includes the antivaccine group National Vaccine Information Center among her list of "Vaccine Resources." She also states that she purchases from various herbalist and homepathy companies. That book might be 16 years old, but she's still <a href="https://avivaromm.com/will-required-law-vaccinate-child/">peddling false equivalence</a> and <a href="https://avivaromm.com/alternative_vaccination_schedule/">rotavirus vaccine fear mongering</a>.</p> <p>No, Dr. Romm can't be said to be science-based, and I haven't even gotten into her "adrenal thyroid revolution" yet. (That might have to be a topic for a future post.) She also promises "more to come" to push back:</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAvivaRommMD%2Fposts%2F1554583524601141&amp;width=500" width="500" height="545" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><p> So does goop, promising this is the "first of a series of posts" that will push back. Good. To this, respond:</p> <p><a href="/files/insolence/files/2017/07/bruce-neo.jpg"><img src="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/files/2017/07/bruce-neo-450x186.jpg" alt="The Matrix" width="450" height="186" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-10951" /></a></p> <p>And I echo Mark Hoofnagle's response:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">Bring it! <a href="https://t.co/24Uuw5wkdY">pic.twitter.com/24Uuw5wkdY</a></p> <p>— Mark Hoofnagle (@MarkHoofnagle) <a href="https://twitter.com/MarkHoofnagle/status/885691736101670916">July 14, 2017</a></p></blockquote> <script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p> Yes, goop, Dr. Gundry, and Dr. Romm, can you <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/7/13/15967326/goop-gwyneth-paltrow-jade-vagina-egg-defense">smell what science-based medicine is cooking</a>? <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/goop-just-clapped-back-at-one-of-its-biggest-critics-but?utm_term=.quQ6QZ5ZZQ#.rwxdW0500W">Dr. Jen can</a>. <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/06/23/gwyneth-paltrow-shows-that-the-quantum-xrroid-consciousness-interface-was-ahead-of-its-time/">So can I</a>. We're all in the kitchen cooking with every other doc who supports science. I think that goop will become a much more frequent topic here (and elsewhere) now that we've been noticed. Don't worry, Ms. Paltrow. We'll bring our A-game.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/oracknows">oracknows</a></span> <span>Thu, 07/13/2017 - 19:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 13 Jul 2017 23:00:13 +0000 oracknows 22586 at https://scienceblogs.com Comments of the Week #168: from saving the Earth to escaping a black hole https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/09/comments-of-the-week-168-from-saving-the-earth-to-escaping-a-black-hole <span>Comments of the Week #168: from saving the Earth to escaping a black hole</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><blockquote><p>“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” -Abraham Lincoln</p></blockquote> <p>As you've come to expect, it's been another fantastic week of science here on <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/">Starts With A Bang!</a>? There's a chance I'll be in Las Vegas next month for the official <em>Star Trek</em> convention, and in addition to all we're doing, there's a chance that there will be a new YouTube video series coming out that features me and the fusion of sci-fi/fantasy with science. Sounds fun? You bet it does! Also, for those of you in and around Portland, OR, join me at 2 PM at the Oregon Historical Society today to catch <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1379921395435868">my talk on the Last Great American Eclipse</a>. You won't want to miss it!</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/sun_earth_eclipse.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36317" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/06/sun_earth_eclipse-600x450.jpg" alt="For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passes through the continental United States. This visualization shows the Earth, moon, and sun at 17:05:40 UTC during the eclipse. Image credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio." width="600" height="450" /></a> For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passes through the continental United States. This visualization shows the Earth, moon, and sun at 17:05:40 UTC during the eclipse. Image credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio. </div> <p>With all that said, here's what the last week has held in terms of our new stories:</p> <ul><li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/01/ask-ethan-could-we-save-the-earth-by-migrating-it-away-from-the-sun/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Could we save the Earth by migrating it away from the Sun?</a> (for Ask Ethan),</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/03/discovery-of-a-young-dead-galaxy-creates-a-huge-puzzle-for-astronomers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Discovery of a young, dead galaxy creates a huge puzzle for astronomers</a> (for Mostly Mute Monday),</li> <li><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/04/how-a-solar-eclipse-first-proved-einstein-right/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How a solar eclipse first proved Einstein right</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/05/the-universe-itself-may-be-unnatural/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Universe itself may be unnatural</a>,</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/06/sorry-donald-trump-it-cant-be-infinity/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sorry, Donald Trump, it can't be infinity</a>, and</li> <li><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/07/is-it-possible-to-pull-something-out-of-a-black-hole/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Is it possible to pull something out of a black hole?</a></li> </ul><p>With that out of the way, let's all enjoy the best of our <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/category/comments-of-the-week/">comments of the week</a>!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/opo9919k-1200x8781-1200x878.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35937" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/03/opo9919k-1200x8781-1200x878-600x439.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="439" /></a> Without dark energy, the Universe wouldn't be accelerating. But there's no way to access that energy via any other particles in the Universe. Image credit: NASA &amp; ESA. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/02/comments-of-the-week-167-from-failed-stars-succeeding-to-migrating-the-earth/#comment-580943">Pentcho Valev</a> on the Universe's beginnings and dark energy: "You have vacuum full of energy, detectors in contact with this vacuum which register strange noise coming from all directions, and you conclude that the noise is not produced by the vacuum energy but comes from the miraculous beginning of space and time."</p></blockquote> <p>Yes, that is correct. Except, the way you've framed it indicates that you've misunderstood how everything about the physical Universe works. I'm happy to clear that up, but I want you to stay with me afterwards, too.</p> <p>Yes, we have a vacuum that is <em>full of energy</em>, because we measure the zero-point energy of space thanks to the effect that such energy has on the Universe's expansion. That is the <em>only</em> way we detect this energy, the energy inherent to space itself, in a quantitative fashion. Everything is in contact with this vacuum only to the extent that everything exists in space, which is what "the vacuum" is: empty space. The detectors, then, that you're talking about, aren't detecting energy from the vacuum, but rather from the external Universe. How do we know? Because if you build a "shield" (i.e., a conductor) around your detector, the "strange noise" goes away. Because it's coming from an external source: the surface of last scattering from when the Universe was transitioning from an ionized plasma to a state full of neutral atoms. What you call strange noise is actually well-measured, quantified, well-defined, and simple: it's blackbody radiation redshifted by the expansion of the Universe.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/01/planck.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35650" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/01/planck-600x516.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="516" /></a> The best map of the CMB and the best constraints on dark energy and the Hubble parameter from it. This data is extraordinary, and most definitely does not originate from space itself. Images credit: ESA &amp; the Planck Collaboration (top); P. A. R. Ade et al., 2014, A&amp;A (bottom). </div> <p>With that established, I want to clarify something for you: I am happy, in these comments, to address whatever physical gaps you may have in your knowledge. Whatever you're curious about, or want to know more about, I'm happy to share my knowledge -- as a professional astrophysicist and cosmologist -- with you. If you have questions about facts, my opinions, or anything else, I'm happy to respond.</p> <p>But I am most definitely not interested in your alternative, pet theories to well-established theories. I am also not interested in rehashing old points, particularly if they're not even relevant to the article at hand. I would recommend you look to the <em>good</em> behavior of Paul Dekous as an example. Paul does not believe in LIGO's results, and he reminds us of that whenever a discussion of gravitational waves comes up, along with his reasons for his skepticism. But he does not bring them up otherwise, nor does he bring up the same talking points over and over when a certain matter has already been explained to him. He is not convinced that things are a certain way, but he only brings up his pet ideas in context and when there's a new story out.</p> <p>Things I have noticed here that run contrary to that come from those opposing special relativity, those furthering cold fusion, those pushing their own pet ideas about a fragile, tearable spacetime, those pushing an aether theory, and so on. Keep it relevant or take it elsewhere. These comments are for commenting on the topics discussed, not for whatever it is you have an axe to grind about. The axe-grinding is for me to decide. That's why it's a blog, not a wiki.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/05/1197_fig1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-32896" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/05/1197_fig1-600x435.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="435" /></a> Image credit: Architectural rendering of the now-completed Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) delay-line facility and beam-combining laboratory, via <a href="http://spie.org/x25797.xml">http://spie.org/x25797.xml</a>. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/02/comments-of-the-week-167-from-failed-stars-succeeding-to-migrating-the-earth/#comment-580952">Elle H.C.</a> on similarities between LIGO and resonance: "The controversy around LIGO’s GWs has shown us how delicate it is to detect something shaking but not (yet) breaking, just like how difficult it is to see the glass shaking ‘significantly’ until … without the high speed camera."</p></blockquote> <p>Not at all, actually. What the controversy around LIGO's gravitational waves show is how difficult it is to detect a small effect at the limit of the sensitivity of your detectors, and in particular in the presence of difficult-to-quantify noise! The shaking is very easy to detect, if it's of large enough magnitude. For example, if you set up an interferometer and blow on the back side of the mirror at one end, you can simply see the effects, visually. (And yes, you can see them better slowed-down, but that's simply using a better detector than your eyes.) When you are at the limit of what you can detect, that's where you have difficulty detecting it. But if you were to improve on LIGO by making longer arms, reducing noise further, or putting it in space, the delicacy of the signal becomes far less significant. It's a question of the technology and sensitivity, not of the phenomenon of shaking.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/10/Planetoid_crashing_into_primordial_Earth-1200x908.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35264" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/10/Planetoid_crashing_into_primordial_Earth-1200x908-600x454.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="454" /></a> A comet or asteroid that struck Earth because it wasn't detected quickly enough is one of humanity's greatest natural threats. Image credit: NASA / Don Davis. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/01/ask-ethan-could-we-save-the-earth-by-migrating-it-away-from-the-sun-synopsis/#comment-580926">Sinisa Lazarek</a> on saving the Earth from the warming Sun: "It will take billions of years for the sun to enter the red giant stage where this question becomes relevant. But the largest asteroids.. several kilometers large (like the dinosaur-wiping-ones) are on the frequency of several million years."</p></blockquote> <p>Humans are far more likely to go extinct for reasons other than asteroids, IMO, long before this occurs. When you say "several" million years, we are likely looking at frequencies that are more like ~100 million years, which is normally much higher than what we consider to be several (which I estimate as somewhere between three-and-seven). But in 100 million years, the Sun will be outputting 101% of its energy today. My point is that we have long-term problems with can start thinking about now. Just as in life, I shudder to think of people avoiding important matters because there are urgent-but-not-so-important matters to attend to. For humanity, I think it's important to remind us of those big, long-term problems every once in a while. But no exaggeration, please!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/05/asteroid-intro-pic.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-30827" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/05/asteroid-intro-pic-600x380.jpg" alt="Image credit: AFP file photo, via http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2014/03/10/dinosaur-killing-impact-acidified-oceans-study." width="600" height="380" /></a> Image credit: AFP file photo, via <a href="http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2014/03/10/dinosaur-killing-impact-acidified-oceans-study">http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2014/03/10/dinosaur-killing-impact-a…</a>. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/01/ask-ethan-could-we-save-the-earth-by-migrating-it-away-from-the-sun-synopsis/#comment-580933">Omega Centauri</a> on an alternative strategy for migrating the Earth: "Can we cheat and transfer orbital energy from other solar system bodies via gravitaional interactions. One suggestion is to manipulate the orbits of asteroids, so that they repeatedly have gravitational encounters with the earth, which transfer some energy and angular momentum from the asteroid to the earth."</p></blockquote> <p>Sure! But if you want to do a large momentum transfer, you're going to eject the asteroid/comet/KBO in question. If you want to know how many of these objects you'd need, the answer is around 1,000,000 of them if you're talking a large-ish asteroid. So about one per thousand years over the next billion years. This is, to me, a frightening proposition. If you miss your mark by just a little bit, you'll wind up with an impact even larger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs! Better hope the errors on your asteroid deflection system give you much less than a one-in-a-million odds of collision!</p> <p>Remember, the total mass of the asteroid belt is less than the mass of the Moon; the total mass of the Kuiper belt is between 4-10% the mass of Earth. We'd need to clear out a large chunk of it to migrate the Earth, and if you wanted to significantly change the mass of another body, you'd need a better source than those places!</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Reconstruct.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36338" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Reconstruct-600x480.jpg" alt="From the distant Universe, light has traveled for some 10.7 billion years from distant galaxy MACSJ2129-1, lensed, distorted and magnified by the foreground clusters imaged here. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Toft (University of Copenhagen) Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team." width="600" height="480" /></a> From the distant Universe, light has traveled for some 10.7 billion years from distant galaxy MACSJ2129-1, lensed, distorted and magnified by the foreground clusters imaged here. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Toft (University of Copenhagen) Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/03/discovery-of-a-young-dead-galaxy-creates-a-huge-puzzle-for-astronomers-synopsis/#comment-580959">skl</a> on why even worry about galaxies and stuff: "Why do you spend so much time with your head in outer space when we’ve got a crisis down here on earth?"</p></blockquote> <p>Because there is more to life than worrying about every single crisis that comes up all the time. There is art, there is music, there is science, there is wonder, there is joy. Yesterday, I got up at 6 AM, wrote a letter to the newspaper, and then worked on volunteer stuff for my town from 7 AM until after 10 PM. But you know what I did at about 8 PM? I took five minutes to just look to the east, and watch the moon rise. It was full, it was yellow, and it was beautiful. Because there's more to life than focusing on "OMG all hands on deck to stop this latest catastrophe right now." Yes, it's something that is important to do. But so is being aware of what's going on in the Universe. So is the pursuit of knowledge. So is being curious. So is learning. So is trying to make existence more enjoyable and educational and informative for everyone. That's a way I can impact the world, positively, in a fashion I'm inexhaustibly passionate about.</p> <p>That's why.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/08/Venus_Earth.png"><img class="size-medium wp-image-35041" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/08/Venus_Earth-600x403.png" alt="" width="600" height="403" /></a> The Earth (L) in visible light, compared with Venus (R) in infrared light. While Earth’s reflectivity will vary over time, Venus’ will remain constant. Image credit: NASA/MODIS (L), ISIS/JAXA (R), stitching by E. Siegel. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/03/discovery-of-a-young-dead-galaxy-creates-a-huge-puzzle-for-astronomers-synopsis/#comment-580967">Denier</a> on exactly that catastrophe: "Yes Ethan! Why do you continue to ignore climate change!?? Can’t you see what happened to Venus when Trump pulled out of the Climate Accords on that planet? …And now Trump’s doing it here and you stay silent? Didn’t you hear Hawking? 250 degrees! That is not even American degrees. That is European super-hot degrees. Being that Trump only realistically has 3 1/2 years left in office that means Earth will be hot enough to melt lead on its surface in a short 40 months from now! We’re all dead! Me. You. Everyone. Dead!! By your silence I can only assume your payment from Big Oil came through."</p></blockquote> <p>Obviously my real terraforming goal is to turn Earth into Venus II. Then we'll all live in blimps above the clouds, while the fire people live down below. I'm attaching my tether to the politicians of the great city of Chicago. I hear they're all full of hot air.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/02/1-d8a8N-v7NQzfP67UWZwebA.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-32416" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2015/02/1-d8a8N-v7NQzfP67UWZwebA-600x440.jpeg" alt="" width="600" height="440" /></a> Paul Ehrenfest, his son Paul Jr. and Albert Einstein, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/04/how-a-solar-eclipse-first-proved-einstein-right-synopsis/#comment-580972">David</a> on scientific history: "It’s fairly easy to find scientists from the era 1915 – 1923 who denigrated Einstein and his theories. There was an active group that fought a long hard battle to deny the Nobel prize to Einstein. They were motivated partly from anti-semitism and partly from reluctance to embrace a strange theory that many simply didn’t understand."</p></blockquote> <p>We have this image of Einstein as the crazy-haired old man, silly, grandfatherly, and kind, but his ideas were like scientific heresy to many. To defy and replace Newton? Absurd! To create a new physical view of the oldest known-and-understood phenomenon, one that stood unchallenged for over 200 years? How dare you! The reaction to General Relativity by many was not unlike the reaction to heliocentrism in the 1500s and 1600s. But in science, as in all things, the evidence is key. It lined up with Einstein's predictions, and still does, under all the stringent tests we've ever performed. You must listen to the evidence -- not logic, not common sense, not your own biases, not the words of a false authority -- if you want to reach the correct conclusion. That's why Einstein's theory is so powerful.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/2-11-Eclipse-Stars.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36341" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/2-11-Eclipse-Stars-600x316.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="316" /></a> During a total eclipse, stars would appear to be in a different position than their actual locations, due to the bending of light from an intervening mass: the Sun. Image credit: E. Siegel / Beyond the Galaxy. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/04/how-a-solar-eclipse-first-proved-einstein-right-synopsis/#comment-580989">rich r</a> about confirming Einstein with a solar eclipse: "Ethan, you wouldn’t be baiting the resident anti relativity nuts with a post like this now, would you?"</p></blockquote> <p>I have a feeling that saying the word "Einstein" or talking about physics in general is all it takes to bait some people. But you may have heard about a little event coming to our world this August... and perhaps I'm just a little excited about it. I'll likely write about it again, soon, too.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/05/Twin_QSO.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-34650" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2016/05/Twin_QSO-600x497.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="497" /></a> The Twin Quasar QSO 0957+561, as gravitationally lensed by the enormous elliptical galaxy, YGKOW G1, four billion light years away. This was the first gravitational lens ever discovered, in 1979. Image credit: ESA/Hubble &amp; NASA. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/05/the-universe-itself-may-be-unnatural-synopsis/#comment-580999">Paul Dekous</a> -- hey, what a coincidence -- on some commenters here: "Can you guys please stop spamming the comment section. I come here to read Ethan’s articles and comments related to those articles. There’s a line between honest criticism and slander, and you guys are moving more and more in the direction of the latter. Sure one can be rude every now and then, but when it’s day in and day out, it starts to become sickening."</p></blockquote> <p>Agreed. If you can't keep your irrelevant comments about your pet theories confined to the articles where they are relevant, it's off with your hea... err... commenting privileges here. Some of you will take being banned as a badge of honor. I'd rather you just knock off the bad behavior and continue to help everybody learn.</p> <p>But I will give you an opportunity to defend your viewpoints: what would it take to convince you that Einstein was right about special and/or general relativity?</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/12/String_Theory_by_BriannaTWedge-660x330.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-32122" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2014/12/String_Theory_by_BriannaTWedge-660x330-600x300.jpg" alt="Image credit: Brianna T. Wedge of deviantART, via http://briannatwedge.deviantart.com/." width="600" height="300" /></a> An artist's illustration of ideas inspired by String Theory. Image credit: Brianna T. Wedge of deviantART, via <a href="http://briannatwedge.deviantart.com/">http://briannatwedge.deviantart.com/</a>. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/05/the-universe-itself-may-be-unnatural-synopsis/#comment-581011">Yiorgakis Pantoulis</a> on a new 'theory of everything' I suppose: "Perhaps the mechanism that forces the known values, protects the masses, stretches the Universe’s curvature, suggests a new symmetry that suppresses CP-violation and governs these apparent coincidences and hierarchies is the high-energy field created by the mere act of observation by an Ultimate Conscious Observer. A Supreme Mind that supersedes time-space and knows very well how to keep the secrets of the Energy of His Thought."</p></blockquote> <p>Sure! So how can you turn that idea into a testable hypothesis? If you can do that -- complete with quantitative predictions -- you'll have an interesting theory. Remember, you have three things you must accomplish:</p> <ol><li>Reproduce all the successes of the old, leading theory.</li> <li>Make a successful post-diction of at least one observation that cannot be successfully explained by the old theory.</li> <li>Make a new prediction that we can then test against the old-and-new theories, to discern between the two.</li> </ol><p>Do that, and you've got an interesting scientific theory. Fail to do that, and at best you're engaging in pure mathematical, philosophical, or theological speculation.</p> <blockquote><div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/1.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36350" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/1-600x390.jpg" alt="U.S President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order to reestablish the National Space Council as Buzz Aldrin looks on. Image credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images." width="600" height="390" /></a> U.S President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order to reestablish the National Space Council as Buzz Aldrin looks on. Image credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images. </div> <p>From <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/06/sorry-donald-trump-it-cant-be-infinity-synopsis/#comment-581020">CFT</a>, on me <em>daring</em> to write about Donald Trump and his use of infinity: "So….you really have nothing to say this time? Maybe you should keep your mouth shut then…until you actually have a topic of conversation besides ‘Trump isn’t using the word infinity correctly.’ Sheesh Ethan. Get a life, or at least a clue."</p></blockquote> <p>Hmm... so that's your takeaway? Because <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/07/06/sorry-donald-trump-it-cant-be-infinity/">here's mine, from the article I wrote</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>The most frustrating thing about the President's statement is that he's very clearly talking about something that he hasn't bothered to learn the basics of, yet wants to sound intelligent and authoritative when it comes to it. "It could be infinity" is code for, "I don't need to know any more than I currently do, and neither does anyone else." Maybe that's true, but there are people who study this for a living. If you're curious about it, you can get that information in any number of places... but you won't find an awareness or an appreciation for it in the nation's highest office.</p></blockquote> <p>As <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/06/sorry-donald-trump-it-cant-be-infinity-synopsis/#comment-581037">dean</a> noted: "People wonder why the current president is viewed as a massive embarrassment: his meaningless jumble of words in that “speech” should be one of the primary points of evidence." I think it's worse than that, though. It's the fact that what he says has no bearing on what the actual, known information is. It's like that part of it is irrelevant. I used his statement to share the actual knowledge, and to raise awareness of the importance of actual knowledge. You may disagree that such a thing is important, but you are not going to convince me that ignorant ramblings that end in "you can't prove me wrong" are equal in validity or their inherent interesting-ness to actual, robust, scientific knowledge.</p> <div style="width: 610px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Close-up_of_star_near_a_supermassive_black_hole_artist’s_impression.jpg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-36352" src="/files/startswithabang/files/2017/07/Close-up_of_star_near_a_supermassive_black_hole_artist’s_impression-600x400.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="400" /></a> Even something as massive as a star, if brought too close to a black hole, will find itself stretched-and-compressed into a long, thin filament: spaghettified. The effects on a human being are equally severe if the black hole is low enough in mass. Image credit: ESO, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser. </div> <blockquote><p>And finally, from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/07/07/is-it-possible-to-pull-something-out-of-a-black-hole-synopsis/#comment-581040">Naked Bunny with a Whip</a> on falling into a black hole with a tether to the outside: "Why <i>wouldn’t</i> it [the tether] snap? The atoms of the rope are held together by electromagnetic forces. If the atoms that are inside the event horizon can’t emit any virtual photons outward anymore, then what keeps the rope connected enough to slurp it in?"</p></blockquote> <p>Imagine you're in free-fall, and you're on a trajectory so that part of your ship will go inside the black hole while other parts remain outside. Now, you're in free-fall in a gravitational field, so Einstein's equivalence principle holds. You can't tell the difference between gravitation and uniform acceleration. Are you telling me that your ship <em>must</em> be torn apart by the event horizon's existence, even if the tidal forces are tiny at the event horizon? It's also possible that an additional force can draw the outside part in; remember a lack-of-force in one direction is the same, effectively, as an extra force in the opposite direction. What's not possible is that you can pull something that falls in back out.</p> <p>Thanks for keeping it real, everybody, and I'll see you back here tomorrow for more science, more stories, and more wonders of the Universe here on Starts With A Bang!</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/esiegel">esiegel</a></span> <span>Sun, 07/09/2017 - 05:49</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/physical-sciences" hreflang="en">Physical Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Sun, 09 Jul 2017 09:49:30 +0000 esiegel 37031 at https://scienceblogs.com