Friday, December 17, 2010

Jason Lisle: über-Clown or über-Genius?

The latest rage in the world of the creationists appears to be a young upstart contrarian ”astrophysicist” named Jason Lisle. Evidently, the man has proven that Ph.D.’s these days don’t mean diddly or squat (or worth the paper printed on) – since they merely confer a false gravitas to go around spouting foolishness about the validity of “the Bible” with zero science to back it up.

If one google’s his name one will bring up nearly a hundred pages, mostly full of kudos and applause thanks to the websites of his fellow bible bangers. But we do know one thing here: when someone uses science as a forum to push his religious beliefs, without any evidence, that’s no longer science but pseudo-science.

I don’t intend to wade through all his turgid crappola, but will examine a couple of the claims, arguments he’s tried to make and show that what he has on offer is little different to what Immanuel Velikovsky (‘Worlds in Collision’) proposed in 1951, or John Gribbin (‘The Jupiter Effect’) proposed in 1982. Codswallop, bunkum and gibberish.

One of his nonsensical assertions has also been found in other creationists’ letters, articles (such as Roger Marshall’s in Barbados):

For example, the Bible talks about the earth being round in Isaiah 40:22 [760-698 B.C.], it says ... it talks about the circle of the earth [God sits `upon the circle of the earth...']. And there's some other passages in scripture as well, like in Job 26 ["Job 26:10 (-2000 B.C.)"] where it talks about the line between light and darkness being described by a circle

But just like the others, Lisle uses deliberately vague terms to stretch meanings in the direction he wants – thus conflating “roundness” or“circularity” and sphericity to make his specious point.

Roundness (circularity) and sphericity are two different properties. One (circularity) applies to a simple two dimensional surface or geometry. Indeed, the property of circles was investigated by Sumerian and Egyptian mathematicians long before any of the biblical authors emerged from their caves.

As I pointed out also in an earlier blogs, the particular property of sphericity can only be determined by the use of mathematics. Without mathematics, people would believe the Earth is a round, flat space. How so? If one looks across a vast, flat horizon – either from the middle of a desert or the ocean- the perspective one obtains is that of a vast FLAT expanse with a circular boundary at the far periphery.

Thus, the impression created in an ancient mind – without use of discriminating mathematics- would be that he or she inhabits the center of an enormous flat circle! How did the ancient Greek astronomers (e.g. Eratosthenes) break out of this and arrive at sphericity? In Eratosthenes’ case, around 240 B.C., he had to first decide what exactly he had to measure to assess sphericity as opposed to circularity. This is where a key assumption entered: that the Earth was spherical and the Sun distant enough that its rays at Earth were essentially parallel.

Eratosthenes thereby performed a measurement of the angle of elevation of the Sun at noon at Alexandria, and at Syene. This value could then be used to obtain Earth’s circumference, at 250,000 stadia or about 24,900 miles. The repeat of the experiment from thousands of different directions, orientations, shows sphericity not just circularity. Why? Because if Eratasothenes (or any of his thousands or millions of followers – who repeat the experiment even today at assorted universities) were measuring a circle, they’d have to be on the circle’s EDGE to obtain its circumference .

Cut out a circle from cardboard and examine it. Any distance on the circle itself would be a chord, not a circumference. One would have to stand or situate exactly ON THE EDGE to get the circumference. No untrained, non-mathematical ancient mind would remotely contemplate this, because to him one would “fall off” at the edge. (Gravitational physics would need another 2500 years to be developed by Galileo and Newton)Thus, the very act of measuring a circumference using a shadow angle (and trigonometry) on any part or place of Earth implicitly presumes its sphericity , since the extension of all such measuring lines leads to a circle that can be oriented around any direction across Earth.

What then is the sphere? Technically – as we see from calculus, it is the integration of an infinite number of conic sections that are each circles – which results in a sphere (see diagram).Thus, mathematically, we take a circle – say defined by:

x^2 + y^2 = 4

And rotate it around the x-axis to generate a sphere. This is done by using calculus to integrate:

pi(4 - x^2)dx from (-2) to +2.

Thus, in the process of rotation an infinite series of circles is generated, to obtain a sphere with radius 2 and volume 33.427 cubic units. That the integration yields cubic units – proves that the result is a sphere since circles lack volume as geometrically defined.The ancients had not yet processed sphericity and hence no rotation of Earth (to generate days and nights). Thus, they beheld the situation as depicted in Fig. 2.

They inhabited a flat circular Earth and the SUN moved across the sky each day to provide day and night. When the Sun went below the western horizon it was evening, then night. When the Sun appeared on the eastern horizon it was morning. To read Isaiah 40:22 and then assert the roundness is really sphericity and argue that there'd be no day & night without it, is therefore wrong-headed and turns the actual situation on its head. Remember, in the ancients' world view it was the Earth that was stationary and always at the center of the universe (geo-centric view) all else moved around Earth - including Sun, stars etc. This perception configures exactly with Fig. 2.

Thus one cannot assert or claim that biblical quotes such as Isaiah 40:22 – referring to a circle- actually imply a sphere. NO, they don’t. Desperate and dishonest people (like Lisle and Roger Marshall) read into those quotes what they want. They so much NEED the quotation to be 100% accurate – to prove their spurious “divine inspiration” that they will torture and twist the meaning to make it so.

Another area where Lisle exposes that he can’t be a genuine astrophysicist (by which I mean basing conclusions on objective, naturalistic science not bibles or supernaturalism – I don’t give a damn how many Ph.D.’s one has) is in the “ancient starlight” paradox. (Well, it isn’t a “paradox” for naturalists, only for supernaturalist morons)). It can be expressed thus:

How can the universe be only 6,000 years old when we can see the light from stars that are billions of light years away?”

Well, leave it to a character like Lisle to stretch special relativity beyond all proper contexts to try to make his spurious point. One way he does this is to try to invoke “tangential” velocities – which would (in his delirious mind) enable light to travel faster than c – so much faster that it could explain for a universe being only 6,000 years old. But this would mean a tangential velocity would have to deliver speeds in excess of two million times c!

The basic mistake of Lisle is in referencing a pseudo-paradox in that we know if one goes by a tangential component for a whirling device, one obtains unphysical results in certain cases. Thus, the case of a spinning hoop is irrelevant as an example of special relativity since the point on the circumference for which the tangential velocity is computed is not truly traveling at faster than light speed in an inertial frame, rather it is going at a speed of v = (2πR)/t, relative to the center of gravity of the hoop. In addition, the phenomenon of length contraction or foreshortening occurs in the direction of motion, so R (radius) would not be affected as a genuinely contracting length anyway.

Another piece of gibberish from Lisle:

Apparently one could choose a different convention such as light travelling infinitely fast in one direction and ½ c in the opposition direction and result in the same experimental results as one choosing Einstein’s convention

Which is total bollocks!

From special relativity, the relative velocity formula if two objects are moving in opposite directions is:

u(x)’ = u(x) – v/ {1 – u(x)v/ c^2

We let one stationary observer (e.g. on Earth) do the measuring and velocity assignments, but these must comport with opposing directions.

Now check for two objects moving at v= c and u(x) = -c


u(x)’ = [-c –c]/ {1 – (-c)(c)/c^2} = -2c/ {1 + c^2/c^2} = -2c/2 = -c

Lisle claims one “can choose a different convention” – allowing light to move at c = oo. But if this were remotely practical there’d be no signal delay times. For example, the light from the Sun would reach us instantly as opposed to taking 8 1/3 minutes. Nor does he explain in detail how this could be achieved and be consistent with special relativity.

Worse, he ignores the other components of velocity, e.g u(y)’,

u(y)’ = u(y)/ B(1 –u(x) v/c^2)

u(z)’ = u(z)/ B(1 – u(x)v/c^2

where B = 1/ [1 – v^2/c^2]^1/2

In this context, as c->oo, we simply recover the Newtonian form (where absolute time applies) for which: u(x)’ = u(x) – v, u(y)’ = u(y) and u(z)’ = u(z)

In other words, Lisle hasn’t convinced us of anything in the relativistic setting! All his trick has done is dumped relativity for Newtonian absolute time velocity transformations.

An even worse travesty not mentioned by Lisle, is that the velocity u = [u(x), u(y), u(z)] doesn’t transform as either a 4-vector (e.g. u = [u(x), u(y), u(z), t] or six vector, e.g. inclusive of p(x), p(y), p(z). The reason for this is that while r = a + ut is part of a 4-vector (t-component now included), dt is not invariant as it is in Newtonian theory – hence dr/dt cannot be a 4-vector, hence u = dr/dt doesn’t jibe. Lisle brings out none of this in his nonchalant, cavalier attempt to convince us that apples are really oranges and light can really go at infinite speeds, rather than a lowly c = 300,000 km/sec.

Next, Lisle in one dvd on “The Young Sun” attempts to convince gullible viewers that he can show the Sun is “young” so fits in with the Genesis fairy tale that the Sun can be no more than 6,000 years old (since in Genesis the Earth was made before the Sun, an impossibility anyway as I’ve shown in a number of blogs).

Why is this impossible? A little oversight here by Lisle (amazing since he’s supposed to have done some research on solar granulation) in terms of the Coulomb barrier in respect of nuclear energy and nuclear fusion which provides the energy for the Sun to radiate.

The problem is that the most likely particles for thermonuclear fusion (protons) must overcome an energy barrier called ‘the Coulomb barrier’ which has to do with repulsion between like charges (protons). Fortunately, quantum mechanics allows for a very small probability that a given particle of kinetic energy K can overcome this, by ‘tunneling’. Even so this translates into only about one fusion every 14 billion years for the proton-proton reaction, as originally noted by Martin Schwarzschild (The Structure and Evolution of the Stars, Dover Publications, 1958, p. 75) and later by R. Kippenhahnand A. Weigert, A. (Stellar Structure and Evolution, Springer-Verlag, 1990, p. 149 ) While that's an extremely long time, the Sun fortunately has a vast number of protons available (~ 10^35) in its core, so that – at a temperature of 10 million Celsius, enough can fuse to initiate helium production and energy given off. However, this is certainly a much longer time scale than 6,000 years! Indeed, the photon radiating diffusion time (time for a photon to get from core to photosphere) alone is calculated to be nearly 1 million years – since no core photon makes it directly through, but instead undergoes millions of interactions en route resulting in collisions.

Is Jason Lisle an über-Clown or über-Genius? (Or über-shill for pseudo-scientific bilge?) I let readers decide for themselves. One thing we can say is that anyone who promotes creationist hogswill and supernaturalist bunkum (which he hasn't even published in any peer-reviewed professional journal) can't call himself an "astrophysicist" no matter how many high flying letters are behind his name!

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