Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How Spurious Science - Math Websites Can Convert People Into Morons

It's actually incredibly easy. We were first warned about it in Charles Seife's excellent book, 'Proofiness: How You're Being Fooled By the Numbers, in which the author cites a number of examples of how merely tossing numbers at people can fuck up their brains. In page after page Seife decries the use of numbers not merely to lie but to baffle with bullshit. No better example of such a website is the one for the link below, which reeks of horse manure:


And indeed, this single site has already been responsible for at least four nincompoop questions sent to me in the astrophysics forum of All Experts. The person who sent it - who has variously gone by "Diana", "Jeanine" and most recently "Brianna" - obviously has zero clue of: a) what constitutes an astrophysics question and b) how to spot physically incongruous units at a glance. (Which can be verified merely by scrolling through the inane combinations of units served up for the unwary reader's consumption in the link above.)

In her first foray,  in October of last year, and referencing an additional bozo site, she wrote (after I refused to address her question as a serious inquiry):

"EinsteinElectricity.com plainly declares that 1 / Velocity is equal to the Tesla. Wikipedia then declares that the magnetic field of the earth is equal to .000032 Teslas. 1 / earth orbit Velocity is equal to .000032 Teslas ! (the true orbital math) And you think that that is just a coincidence ? Hello ? Jeanine"

Forcing myself to stoke up on patience, as one might with a small pup that refuses to be toilet-trained, I then referred this Canadian dolt to the fact the unit combination isn't even physically consistent, adding:

"Check them yourself! vel v = m/s so 1/v = s/m .  BUT 1 T = 1 Wb/m^2 (SI system) The first principle of any test of hypothesis or formula is to ensure the physical units are consistent!"

I also added:

"Btw, anyone can concoct and hurl together dissimilar units to make them appear valid, but garbage in = garbage out. The sure sign of pseudo-scientific claptrap and bunkum is when one reads:

"The earth in orbit is electrical, the Tesla is present due to the earth moving through the aether.  When you multiply earth Acceleration by the Diameter as well as the hidden Tesla you get the Velocity of light and its CORRECT UNITS."

Any physics student of mine that would scrawl such drivel would get an F - for the semester! An orbit being electrical? Moving through the "ether"? The ether doesn't even exist - the Michelon -Morley experiment showed the concept of ether is redundant.  The rest is pure poppycock. The waste of a mind is a terrible ting and this nonsense is an enormous waste of a mind - as well as the minds led to buy into it

So, at least 5 months passed before the following bit of bafflegab gibberish (under the header 'Sound math')  arrived in my inbox, doubtless compliments of the selfsame Canadian twit, now using the name "Brianna":

Our SOLARMath equations work with "Kilograms" ( http://members.shaw.ca/warmbeach/INDEX3.htm )

But because Avogadro's number is atoms per mole which leads to atoms per "gram", prior to commencing the equation below, we need to convert the initial Mass of the earth to grams.

The Equation is;

The Mass of the earth divided by Gravity^4  x  Acceleration of earth in orbit  =  Avogadro's number.

5537831004648121688015772977.2114697 grams  /  (9.8)^4  =  600392689687827221617859.5082045622325038

600392689687827221617859.5082045622325038  x  .001003207246557  =  602318297074676474879.204

Now our question is;

Should this (above) "final value" be multiplied by 1,000 ?  Does the whole equation need a second x 1,000 in order to compensate for the very first conversion of kilograms to grams ?  It seems counter intuitive.  We figured the equation would need a "divided by 1,000" to compensated for the initial ( x 1,000 ) that was used to go from Kilograms to Grams.

When that final x 1,000 is done, the result gives us Avogadro's complete number = 602 318 297 074 676 474 879 204.

So that final x 1,000 gives us a correct value.

But ?  Is that final x 1,000 proper mathematics ?

I replied with a customized rejection and was as polite as possible, emphasizing that the astrophysics forum (at least for my domain of questions) had to meet at least one of the following content criteria for consideration as a legit astrophysics query. (Being painfully aware of how other subject-discipline areas were diluted by being deluged with irrelevant questions in relation to the actual category):

i)The energy processes in stars, including:  energy transfer (radiation, convection, conduction), nuclear fusion reactions (carbon cycle, proton-proton cycle, triple alpha process, etc.)

ii)the physical properties of stars: density, temperature ranges for radii, opacity, chemical composition determined by spectral class (absorption lines, emission lines, equivalent widths of spectral lines) Hydrostatic equilibrium (pressure-gravity balance in stars)

iii)Solar properties – irradiance, helicity, the alpha-omega dynamo process, sunspot emergence and associated magnetic features. Effects on Earth and also global warming.

iv)Solar flares: prediction, cause and associated physical factors – plasma instabilities and general plasma processes on the Sun that highlight the flare process. Connection to the solar corona - coronal mass ejections.

v)General plasma properties including plasma frequencies, radius of gyration, adiabatic invariants, gyro-magnetic radio emission. Also: magnetic tubes and mirrors on the Sun, relation to plasma “mirrors”, the loss-cone effect, Fermi acceleration in magnetic mirrors. The aurora and particle dynamics associated with the magnetosphere.

vi)Nebular composition and processes, detection. Emission vs. absorption nebulae. Gas dynamics and plasma properties.

vii)Plasma wave propagation in stars and nebulae, including Alfven waves, electrostatic waves, magnetosonic waves etc.

viii)General gravimetric properties of massive stellar objects, general relativity and applications to expansion of cosmos, as well as black holes (structure, angular momentum, Kerr type, rotating vds. Non-rotating), singularities, and Hawking radiation.
ix) Detection and analysis of photometry for extra-solar planets near type F, G-stars.

x)Stellar evolution and H-R diagrams. Formation of black holes neutron stars - pulsars, etc.

I had hoped she herself, whoever she was, would in the meantime take the time to see the question and its units were totally inconsistent, and then work from correct units to see the Avogadro number itself could not possibly be derived from the mass of Earth divided by the gravitational acceleration to the fourth power and multiplied by the orbital acceleration. Because all one is doing is hurling units together haphazardly to get a number  - but which has no relation to the physical dimensions or quantities!

Alas, the impudent little imp - bereft of any social graces or manners - merely responded with a rude follow-up,

"are you drunk ? this is not really an astrophysics question? If you "can't" answer the question just fess up. Mass of earth / Gravity^4 x orbit Acceleration = Na That's as "astrophysics" as you can get. Earth, Gravity, Orbit, hello ? And the math is as basic as grade 7"

It is interesting the imp writes this dreck, but her reply also shows she's as bereft of any rudimentary math education as she is manners. Maybe she lives in the backwoods of Canada and hasn't been taught any manners, or maybe her education was limited to a one-room school house where they didn't teach students how to master units and dimensions. Mayhap addition and subtraction was the extent of it. Who knows? But her idiocy is clearly at least on a par with those numskulls who peddle the "BMI" as an actual indicator of weight and obesity - which nonsense I skewered earlier, e.g.


Am I being overly harsh with "Bri"? You decide! The first rule of approaching any units or dimensions problem is to make sure all the units are consistent. Hence, if one is using g = 9.8 m/s 2 then all the other units must be S.I. or metric to work. Thus, the mass of the Earth must be: M =
5.97 x  10 24 kg.  (All her dozen or so extra digits for that value is yet another illustration of "proofiness", as the measurement uncertainty precludes so many significant figures.) The orbital acceleration is then: 0.0059 m/s 2   So we are now in position to "do the math":

?  =  ( 5.97 x  10 24 kg) /   (9.8 m/s 2  )  x [ 0.0059 m/s 2

Which yields on multiplication:

3.85  x 10 18 kg -m 3  / s 6

Letting 1 N = 1 kg m/s 2  we can rewrite:

3.85  x 10 18 N -m 2  / s 4

Which discloses that not only is the number more than five orders of magnitude less than Avogadro's constant ( 6.02 x 1023  ) but that the units are not remotely alike! The Avogadro number is actually the number of atoms in a mole of a substance. The combination of units shown above bears  NO relation to such a number!

Sadly, the young woman - if that's indeed what she was - could have obtained this all on her own without all the huff and puff had she even possessed a basic education in math, not to mention some common sense.

Alas, she lacked both, as well as what Bajans call "broughtupsy".


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Copernicus said...

ROTFL! More bunkum with mishmash "units" that make no physical sense, as well as numerology and nuttiness. Thanks for making my day with a good hearty laugh! (Better to be a 'flouter' than a "magic numbers" fabulist.