Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Case for Basic Physics Education

Above: A course in basic physics often accompanied courses given to teachers in basic astronomy - ca. 1978-79, for the Caribbean Examinations Council.

It seems like eons ago, but at one time physics and mathematics were at the top of most high school curricula. This was in the early 60s, in the years after Sputnik (launched Oct. 4, 1957) as Americans grew concerned that Russia would overtake the U.S. in space – and seize the military high ground.

In high school science curricula, certainly for the college preparatory stream, it became common to offer the following in each respective high school year:

Freshman: Algebra I, General Science or Earth Science

Sophomore: Euclidean Geometry, Biology – including lab

Junior: Chemistry, Trigonometry- foreign language

Senior: Physics, Algebra II, foreign language.

It was also common practice in the 60s that even if a student was to split into the business or vocational stream, he or she at least had to take a General Science course and basic algebra. These were (rightly!) regarded as the minimum elements to be scientifically literate and numerically so.

Alas, as the decades have elapsed since then, science as well as math education have become victims to an over-crowded curriculum as well as the pernicious practice of teaching to the test – ratcheted up since Bush’s deformed ‘No Child Left Behind” – which actually left many millions behind and now Obama’s “Race to the Top”.

Physics, if taught at all, is now relegated to elite high schools like the Bronx Academy of Science, or special private schools. This is a national tragedy, especially since physics is arguably the most fundamental of the sciences. Without a background in physics, the citizen is at a severe disadvantage in coming to terms with the natural world, and will also be prey to any pseudo-scientific claptrap that comes along.

Today, if anything, the importance of physics has reached new levels, what with complex scientific problems also imbued in the political landscape. Problems such as: combating anthropogenic global warming (2010 is now on track to be the hottest year since records have been kept), energy efficiency and alternative energy sources, as well as more efficient modes of transportation. Outer space, while lacking the same high profile as in the 60s, is still relevant – given robotic exploration is more and more taking the place of manned expeditions. In addition, physics may well have to arrive at a means to eliminate an “Earth killer’ asteroid, if one should threaten Earth.

This leaves us to consider a plausible basic physics curriculum, integrating those elements that need to be mastered now. This is hypothetical, but I lay out one possible semester course below. The putative course envisions 5 hours per week, with three hours of class time, and two hours allocated to lab, per week.

Introduction to Newton’s laws of motion:

Simple experiments: using the Atwood Machine, inclined planes – and ticker timers or other devices to measure accelerations. Measuring the acceleration of gravity, g, from oscillations of a simple pendulum. Simple machines: the lever, the pulley. Mechanical advantage. Efficiency of simple machines.

Circular motion

Uniform circular motion demonstrated using simple models (e.g. ball affixed to end of string and rotated). Centripetal velocity and acceleration – including applied to planetary motion. Kepler's laws of planetary motion (simplified forms). Artificial satellites and escape velocity – how to attain a geo-stationary orbit. Locating satellites in the night sky, and predicting their future paths.

Thermal Energy

Difference between heat and temperature. Experiments to measure heat given off in a process. Heat transfer: conduction, convection and radiation – including simple experiments to demonstrate. Construction of a simple greenhouse - the greenhouse effect. The laws of thermodynamics (Zeroth, First and Second). Entropy – and everyday examples to illustrate it. Efficiency of thermal processes, transfers. Measuring heat capacity, specific heat capacity using a simple copper calorimeter.

Introduction to Electricity:

Concept of electronic charge, e, how measured. (The Millikan oil drop experiment) Demonstrating electronic attraction and repulsion using polythene rods and the electro-scope. Use of an oscilloscope to show and describe electron beams.

Experiments: designing and setting up simple series and parallel circuits – including with multiple components, as well as ammeters, voltmeters, resistances, light bulbs. Making a simple potentiometer. Calibrating an ammeter.

Electromagnetism: Showing how a magnetic field can be created using a current. Use of a galvanometer to measure an electric current induced by a magnetic in motion. (Or wire in motion relative to a magnet)

Basic Radioactive Decay and Processes:

Introduction to the types of ionizing radiation (where they occur, effects): alpha particles, beta particle, gamma rays. How to detect each, including setting up basic experiments using electroscopes, cloud chambers. Using cloud chambers to detect cosmic rays.

The hazards of ionizing radiations, and precautions. The basic equation of radioactive decay and examples, illustrations. Use of radioisotopes (e.g. C14) as tracers, and also to obtain the half-life of a material, and hence be able to estimate its age.

Simple nuclear reactions, both for fission and fusion reactions – representing each, e.g. H1 + H1 -> D2 + energy

The above set, based on my previous teaching of general physics courses – should be easily do-able in one semester. However, note that the delineation of topics assumes no time will be taken out for “teaching to the test”. The way I see it, one can either do that, or actually teach students, and there is an inverse relationship between them.

Yes, evaluations are part of the process – but that can be done with one mid-term examination, a possible project, and an end of term exam.

I invite feedback and advice from readers, including any changes they’d make to what I’ve put forward.

Friday, July 30, 2010

On Free Expression and Fundies With Attitudes

Wow....seems like my recent blog:

really incited a hostile burp and some semi-outrage (using the word "stupid" at least fifty times on his blog page) after I referenced this fundie clown's pseudo-scientific claptrap and skewered it. Seems that he can't tolerate having his bunkum exposed for what it is and now advises if I don't like what I read I ought to steer clear, writing:

"Hey , 'Mr. Einstein' , I'm not sure which planet you think you're on , but there's something called "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ! " in this country . I mean , if I don't like what I read , or hear on tv or radio - God gave me the free will ( not to mention COMMON SENSE ) , to TURN IT OFF ! ( or is that a foreign concept to you ? ) "

But again, he misses the boat as per his perceptions, which have seldom been the best or most astute. I definitely agree he has "freedom of expression" and certainly wouldn't want to intrude on that one iota. At the same time, I ALSO have free expression - including to criticize HIM. This is when I find any kind of unproven pseudo-scientific twaddle or irrational rubbish being propagated, I take it as my duty to expose and skewer it - if for no other reason than to protect the minds of the younger citizens of our land, whose mental armor may be undeveloped or who may lack the deep scientific knowlege base to see through it.

This obtains when I see vicious psychological toxins like "Hell" peddled as truth, like some kind of toxic drug proffered as cure all. Though, I grant he has his own peculiar (though perverse) doctrines which HE believes, and I grant him a limited right to push them. However, my most serious issues are when he ventures into discourse about scientific topics (Big Bang, spontaneous quantum inception, evolution, ontogenesis, 2nd law of thermodynamics) wherein he really has NO - as in zilch, nada, NEIN - background, has never taken a single course - yet purports to pontificate accurately for his followers. Then, I definitely have to step in and administer "truth serum" in response. So yes, he's entitled to spout his own opinions (even about his Hell conceptions) but he's not entitled to his own scientific facts. (and if he believes all scientific facts are "opinions" he has many further lessons in education to be administered!)

By the way, that free expression, "common sense" and "turn it off " advice cuts BOTH ways, maestro. If you don't want to read how your codswallop is being laid waste, then don't come to this blog looking for reasons to complain on yours! You can "lose" the url and never trouble your brain again, when your misshapen portrayals of science are skewered and slapped down.

He also fulminates:

"Now , in another post , he writes , " they don’t believe in flesh and blood aliens despite three being ten septillion stars in the cosmos." I assume by "they" he means us Christians . In any event , he IS correct there . We ( Christians ) DON'T believe in "flesh and blood aliens" - or ANY type of "aliens" for that matter . So , who is REALLY "embarrassing" themselves ? I mean , if ( God forbid ) , I DID believe in aliens , I sure as heck wouldn't want the entire cyber-world to know it "

Well, let's see now, 'Einstein', given there is at least the probabilistic physical and chemical basis in the cosmos for a planet bearing actual organic entities (we do have at least the example of Earth) - then given there are over ten septillion stars (half like the Sun or close to it) reason and logic suggest there will be more. Yet you have not shown us one "abode" where an actual thriving race of "demons" exists! Not one! Nothing outside your ficitional book of babble - the "bible" - scribbled by dopes as deluded as you are.

I think weighing the two on balance: the probability of an actual advanced organic species from the planet of another star (given over 450 planets discovered so far) see, e.g. vs. the claim of invisible horned demons with pitchforks - there ought to be precious little doubt over which is more insane. I mean, what's next: ghosts, vampires, and werewolves? But perhaps he lacks the sense of irony to see this. In any case, saying the probability of the existence of actual organic-based aliens far surpasses the probability of invisible "demons" is certainly nothing I'd be embarrassed to say. It fits in with the already well circulated position of known rationalists, from Carl Sagan to Isaac Asimov, to Sir Martin Ryle (who's actually warned of the danger of aliens intercepting our radio or other electromagnetic information.) Not to mention Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson who has gone on record warning about an alien "technological cancer" spreading across the galaxy.

But we leave the choicest chestnut for last, since he always knows how to entertain us most at the end:

"Again , as if all THAT weren't enough , this looney doesn't know whether he IS an atheist or not ! Every time he realizes that he's painted himself into a corner with his STUPIDITY , he switches gears and surreptitiously denies his atheism . In this particular blog post he NOW states , "Yet the fundies and their derelict, pygmy -sized brains never cease attempting to impute that "atheists" (actually, quantum cosmologists..." "QUANTUM COSMOLOGISTS" ?

Now, let's try to break this fulsome malarkey down as we have other assorted malarkey issuing from his keyboard: he is claiming I "don't know if I am an atheist or not" (in fact, I've never disputed it) on the basis of making the assertion that it is quantum cosmologists who have advanced the theory of the spontaneous inception of the cosmos, not atheists.

But, since his brain is getting senile - or maybe weaker from overuse - he is unable to see that because an atheist may agree with spontaneous inception - or quantum bootstrapping (as I do) is not the same thing as originating it. I can take credit, as an avowed and unashamed atheist - for taking the theory as valid to account for the origin of the cosmos, but I can't take credit for the theory's own origin!

The point is, when one scribbles something down like:

" Satan must be having with the atheists' brain by planting in it the notion that out of absolute nothingness came a "BANG," and all of a sudden the universe came into existence ."

Then it is obvious he's not rising to the level of discriminating between being the ORIGINATOR of a theory, and just accepting it. Contrary to ME "painting myself into a corner" HE is doing it to himself by his inability to differentiate the originators of scientific theories (cosmic inception) from adherents of godless philosophy. Again, the origination of the concept is not due to "atheists" but to quantum cosmologists, such as T. Padmanabhan - in his paper: ‘Universe Before Planck Time – A Quantum Gravity Model, in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756.) . This is a simple statement of fact that can be confirmed easily.

Did "Satan" then plant in my brain the notion of conformal space time? Or the brilliant strategy of employing integrals related to the “action” (J) as a function of time, to ascertain the nature of the dark energy bubble? Or conceiving the strategy of fixing the state of the universe to be compatible with a harmonic oscillator of frequency f? (Which we know has solutions in terms of Hermite polynomials H n (q))

No, none of the above! Nor did "Satan" implant in my mind the concept that the conformal factor (alpha, in Padmanabhan's paper) contributes a negative energy density! OR that it's this basis that provides the model for the instantaneous formation of the universe by a possible quantum fluctuation that arises when a particular threshold is crossed near a = 0 (from quantum to classical domains) .

Now, while I'd LOVE to take credit for all the above, and even having written the papers - actually several papers - I can't! I can't do it, not because I'm "denying my atheism" but because it's wrong to claim credit for theories one hasn't really originated! But maybe this fundie is ok with claiming bogus credit for things he didn't do, and maybe that fits his specious morality. Who knows? Nor can I take credit for Alan Guth's brilliant spontaneous quantum bootstrapping and fluctuation theory. I can AGREE with them - agree with those papers - but that doesn't mean I am the AUTHOR or creator of the theory! Hence, it is false to assert nonsense like "Satan" PLANTED it in MY BRAIN (suggestiong ONE atheist's origination- which still isn't the same as an "atheist theory") when in fact it was (going by the fundie's bullshit take) "planted in the brains of quantum cosmologists" like Alan Guth, Padmanabhan et al.

I mean how hard can this be to fathom? Yet, because I simply divorce or detach myself from authorship or being the originator of the theory, he derides me as "not knowing" if I'm an atheist! But he makes similar errors of category all the time, like carelessly linking "evolutionists" to quantum inception of the universe when I've repeatedly corrected him, noting that quantum cosmologists are the responsible party for that theory. Evolutionists have enough to keep their hours filled with examining the basis for the evolution of life on Earth. He has also confused ontogenesists with evolutionists by - again- accusing evolutionists as being the responsible group for a "theory of origin of life" when it is the hypothesis of ontogenesis that is responsible.

But we must be kind to him and exercise a degree of empathy, because when you've never taken a serious science course yourself you're bound to get disciplines, categories and originators mixed up. So, we can let him off the hook mixing up quantum cosmologists with evolutionists for authoring quantum inception theory, and mixing up ontogenesists with evolutionists for the origin of life theories. But confusing an atheist with a quantum cosmologist as actually originating the theory of quantum spontaneous fluctuation is really beyond the pale.

Again, and let me make this simple - especially if he returns against my advice and reads this blog: merely because I ACCEPT or agree with ontogenesis, or evolution, or quantum bootstrapping, doesn't mean I authored any of them. Or that they are innately "atheistic". Indeed, I know many atheists who don't accept ontogenesis but rather panspermia - the notion that life arrived on Earth via primitive cell bearing meteorites. I also know many atheists, maybe even a majority, who won't embrace the spontaneous quantum inception of the universe, preferring to stop just at accepting the Big Bang (since at least we have the 2.7K isotropic microwave background radiation to verify that) as opposed to going to a pre-Big Bang bubble. Many of these atheists, at Freethinker meetings in the past, have conceded they just don't understand the math behind quantum inception so won't "go there". Wise move! Would that the fundies would be as circumspect! They then might scribble far less intemperate rubbish about things they don't understand! (At least one could wish!)

It is important if we have such discussions that we get categories of action or authorship correct, because otherwise confusion reigns. But perhaps this is just what fundies want. If they can confuse their more naive followers and induce them to mix up atheists with actual authors of the scientific theories then they can (for the gullible at least) write off all those whole areas of scientific enterprise as "atheistic" or "Satanic". (Not surprising when one beholds how often they assert "Satan" implanted the concepts - when they were actually either demonstrated empirically - as for evolution with the cytochrome -c protein sequence being the same in humans and chimps, or quantitatively in quantum cosmology - with the basis for the universe originating in a quantum fluctuation in conformal space-time.)

So in the end it may matter little as to correcting this impetuous fundie, he'll probably still fail to see that merely because I disclaim authorship as the originator of quantum cosmic inception, doesn't imply I have rejected my atheism. It merely means I can lay no claim to being an actual quantum cosmologist (though I can follow most of the theories) who originated the theory the cosmos started spontaneously! As a corollary, he'll probably still also fail to see that because modern cosmology - using highly advanced quantum concepts and mathematics - arrives at a theory of cosmic origin that clashes with his bible tales, doesn't mean that it is "atheistic" or "Satan-inspired". Never mind, when one is spreading codswallop it helps to avoid all the difficult or complex pitfalls and stick to undifferentiated simplicity and superficiality. It actually expedites an obscurantists's agenda because then he doesn't have to deal with niggling details.

A pity that his biblically delimited psychological and intellectual universe has confined his mind to such a disturbing degree, that any theory, concept or idea that ventures outside its mythical bounds will automatically be labelled "Satanic". To me, that is the REAL definition of STUPIDITY - because it means all free inquiry (with a view to accessing actual knowledge) is foreclosed forever, sacrificed to a faux substitute.

Another Special Function: Legendre Polynomials

Legendre polynomials, or more accurately, Legendre functions, are just solutions to Legendre’s differential equation – much as we (many earlier blogs ago) saw that Bessel’s functions were solutions to Bessel’s differential equation.

In this case, we are looking at:

d/dx [(1 – x^2) d/dx P_n(x)] + n(n + 1)P_n(x)

Solutions proceed on for n = 0, 1,2 3……..i.e. by substituting the appropriate value for n into the form:

P_n(x) = 1/ 2^n (n!) d^n/dx^n [(x^2 – 1)^n]

Which is the Rodrigues’ formula. In this way, the first two Legendre polynomials are found to be:

P_o(x) = 1 and P_1(x) = x

Let’s check each:

For P_o(x): we have

1/ (2^0)0! [x^2 – 1)^0] = 1/1 x 1 = 1

For P_1(x): we have:

1/ 2^1 (1!) d/dx [(x^2 – 1)] = ½ {2x} = x

Thus, once one follows the operations, obtaining each Legendre function is straightforward- however this doesn’t mean that it can’t get messy!

Legendre functions have multiple uses throughout mathematical physics, but I will only show one – as applied to the issue of perturbation in celestial mechanics.

Celestial mechanics is undoubtedly the prime precision science because it makes use of highly specialized functions and high speed computers to crank out results – say for locating the future position of a planet – that might have taken many hours back in the early 70s using the computers of the era.

Perturbations are important because they show how the positions of some given planet, are influenced by the gravitational attraction of another one. Unless one then reckons the differential location into computations, he will find a spacecraft destined for some destination planet will likely miss it entirely.

As an example, we take the illustration shown which is to quantitatively estimate the affect of Jupiter on the orbital position of Earth. The respective masses are: m1(Sun), m2(Earth) and m3 (Jupiter) and we assign relative radius vectors that approximate to the actual distance in AU or astronomical units where 1 AU = 149 million kilometers. Thus, r = 1.0 and r3 (for Jupiter) = 5. The Greek symbol DELTA defines the separation between Earth and Jupiter and is the key parameter for estimating the magnitude of the perturbation.

The angle S separating the r and r3 vectors can be anything but for working purposes maybe use S = 120 degrees, which yields a value: cos(S) = cos (120) = - ½. This will be useful for computing the first three Legendre polynomials – which factor into the kind of generic perturbations I am looking at.

The first three Legendre polynomials for this context are:

P_o = 1
P_1 = cos (S)
P_2 = ½ (3 cos^2(S) – 1)

Note that by comparing P_1 above to P_1(x) earlier we can easily discern:

x <-> cos (S)

In other words, x in the Rodrigues’ formula is now replaced by cos (S) for the purposes of this perturbation estimate.

As we are perturbing an inner planet by an outer one, we are expanding (1/ Delta) using the Legendre polynomials. Computing the Legendre polynomials for an Angle S = 120 deg, one finds:P_o = 1 P_1 = - ½ and P_2 = -1/8

The perturbing function is then easily computed, viz.:

1/Delta = 1/ { 1[1 + (1/5)^2 – 2(1/5) (-½)}^1/2

And 1/Delta = 0.18

For next time: Assume r3 = 40 AU for Pluto and r = 0.4 AU for Mercury. Estimate the generic term perturbation of Mercury by Pluto, and also obtain 1/DELTA. Use S = 60 degrees.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Quantum Mechanics: Expectation Values

As I noted in a blog rebutting a fundie’s claim for a “precision universe”, that assumption fails because the cosmos at root is quantum mechanical in nature and not classical mechanical. This makes a world of difference, in particular, that we can’t hope to obtain exact or precise measurements but must use probabilities and uncertainties to get: “expectation values” (what we expect a position to be for example, in a given probability wave function configuration) or uncertainty computations.

In the case of expectation values, if the eigenfuction of an ensemble of particles is known (See Fig. 1), it may be used to calculate the average value that one would obtain when repeated measurements of that observable are made on the system. For any observable Q the expectation value, denoted as is given by the general formula (b) in Figure 1(which includes time,t - though sometimes dimension only is considered) . For the specific expectation value for a particle position in one dimension (say x- no dependence on time t) we need the form (c). Which we will soon compute.

Because the infinite square well (a) is bounded from 0 to L, we can replace the integral going from plus to minus infinity, with an easier to manage integral going from 0 to L.
This working to obtain the expectation value is given in Fig. 2 complete with the appropriate integrals, etc.

Note we take U = sin(kx) where k = pi/a, and U* = sin(kx) where k = pi/a (for n = 1 energy level) so:

UU* = sin^2(kx)

Quantum uncertainty and its computation, which we will get to in the next quantum instalment, measures the inherent spread in the results of measurements of an observable about the expectation value. The uncertainty in an observable (e.g. Q) with operator [Q] is given by the expression in Fig. 3. The key point is that if the uncertainty in the observable is zero, then the observable is said to be “sharp”. In other words, every measurement of Q made on the ensemble yields the same value. Thus there is no spread or distribution in the measurement.

Problem for next time: Consider the first excited state for an infinite square well, and obtain the expectation value in position (x) for it. Hint: the wave function U = sin (2pix/a).

Lastly, the energy level diagram for the solution to the previous problem is given in Fig. 4. The key step is to obtain the lowest energy state first, by getting: l’(max), s’(max) and j’(min). Thus: l’(max)= l1 + l2 = 0 + 1 = 1; s’(max) = ½ + ½ = 1 and j’(min) = [s’- l’] = 0. Then the lowest energy state is 3P_o. From LS coupling the other states of the multiplicity can easily be obtained (using s’ = 1, l’ =1)


One has to really wonder if the Fundies truly believe the whole populace is as stupid and bereft of basic reasoning skills as they are. The latest gambit is a YOU-Tube video entitled ‘The Reality Of Hell” which is being circulated amongst the Fundie-gelical blogs as yet another terrifying scare tactic to subdue unbelievers. The thing is little better than a 2 minute short cartoon and can be accessed here, for those who want a good laugh:

One thing one has to say for these peanut-brained miscreants, is they know how to parlay logical fallacies into a semi-coherent vehicle – at least to keep their own minions in line- and maybe the gullible who’ve never been exposed to critical thinking!

As we behold the video we see true facts flash onto the screen, mainly to do with the statistics for worldwide death rates:

- 6.5 billion people (actually it’s now more like 6.9 billion)
- 193 countries
- 56 million dead per year
- 53,000 per day
- 6390 every hour
- 107 die every minute

None of these statistics can be argued with or disputed but they are a DIFFERENT category (validated from collated actuarial statistics) from the claim that “HELL” exists! This is the crucial thing. What the manipulative fundies have done, is deliberately conflated the true death statistics of the planet with the spurious, supernatural baloney that Hell "really exists". Then, this garbage is passed off as the “Reality of Hell”. In fact, not. It is rather the reality of bullshit, or plain old religious horse pockey and total recycled rubbish, intended to sway weak or gullible minds. Rubbish based purely the "seeing is believing" fallacy. (Never mind it's basically a cartoon put together by nimrods with too much time on their hands).

Nowhere, at no point, is any separate evidentiary piece for the existence of “Hell” put forward that is apart from sound tracks of people screaming and the usual flame scenes (which could have been copied from any disaster or even configured on a software program).

However, the fundies are hoping that a person viewing this crap will be so utterly shocked by the parade of (true) death statistics that he’ll let his brain go on vacation and automatically insinuate a “reality of Hell” (from the fear centers of his amygdala) therby committing the error of transference of association: putting the fact of death (which is as certain as taxes) into a mental nexus with the fable of “Hell”. But the god-peddlers and their supersititious ilk have been using these sort of ruses since the Dark Ages.

To cement this BS, they invent a totally bogus (no evidence, period), dreamed up pseudo-stat: “one soul goes to Hell each second” (meaning 56% of all humans are damned!) and insert it after the statistical death facts. Thus, the viewer – if not careful- is lured into making a subliminal connection that hasn't one nanobyte of actual, factual basis. Indeed, the fundies are hoping in this way millions will be mentally manipulated.

But let’s leave all the cartoon tricks and conflation of real stats with fake ones aside: up to now none of these fundies have disproven the Hell-God=infinite paradox I noted earlier, showing that a "Hell" is incompatible with any infinite Being (putative "God"):

Until they can offer a cogent rebuttal to that paradox, all their useless ploys including: made up cartoons - complete with soundtrack screams & howls, and visual tricks (as well as cynically and dishonestly mixing actual facts with fraudulent, baseless claims) aren’t worth yesterday’s doggie lickspittle mixed with warmed over vomit. They could as well march off the stats of all the humans who’ve disappeared over the past 100 years and scare us with “Alien abductions” – though wait! They don’t believe in flesh and blood aliens despite there being ten septillion stars in the cosmos. They’d rather believe in invisible horned demons with pitch forks!

Can We Puh-leeze Have a Break from Fundie Idiocy?

I mean, really? Is that asking too much? After posting extensively – including cited peer-reviewed papers as to exactly how the cosmos began with spontaneous inception – must the fundies continue to parade their ignorance, about things they don’t know? One wonders what menial IQ can’t process the fact that if something at least can be shown to have a quantitative basis in physics, it more likely has an evidentiary basis too. A perfect example is the positive electron or positron, which Paul Dirac postulated from theory in a 1928 paper, and then again in 1929. Everyone believed him insane, 'A POSITIVE electron with negative energy ?’ when everyone KNEW all electrons were negative! Until the positron was discovered by Carl D. Anderson in 1932 (for which he won the 1936 Nobel Physics Prize).

Yet the fundies and their derelict, pygmy -sized brains never cease attempting to impute that "atheists" (actually, quantum cosmologists - but they're too dense to process the difference- especially as most atheists hold no position one way or the other on the cosmos' origin) are either mad or suffer from dementia- despite the fact they (fundies) haven’t mathematically shown the converse.

We behold then the usual clueless buffoonery masquerading as blogging:

“Brothers and Sisters ; I can sometimes just picture in my mind the field day that Satan must be having with the atheists' brain by planting in it the notion that out of absolute nothingness came a "BANG," and all of a sudden the universe came into existence . But , then , where did this "BANG" come from ? And , as if that weren't enough for Satan , he THEN , convinced these poor lost souls to believe that we humans , "evolved" from King Kong ! Oh well , stupid is as stupid does , huh ?”

Actually, stupid is also as stupid writes, when it hasn’t DONE anything to support its own case. And when it has been provided with the basis to see WHY quantum cosmologists – not “atheists” – embrace spontaneous inception (since most atheists - who aren't physicists- don't believe any true, physical theory origin of the cosmos dilutes their unbelief position. They only know a supernatural agent wasn't responsible, just as they know that millions of ghosts don't move the planets in their orbits). But what can we expect from those who are so deplorably deficient in basic biology their only recourse it to offer pathetic, irrelevant jokes about “evolving from King Kong”. Yuck, yuck but the joke’s on you., Alfred E. Newman- TWO.

Does this officious commentator understand one tiny nugget about conformal space time? About dark – vacuum energy? About the equation of state that applies to it? Does he know what a stationary state is? What about Hermite polynomials (H_n (q)) for solutions to the harmonic oscillator- on which the action of the dark energy bubble is based? Can this bozo even distinguish singular from non-singular space-times? Well, uh…no, because he’s never even taken a basic high school physics course, far less cosmology 101 – yet he purports or claims to pontificate in some way about the Big Bang! (Of course, interjecting a superstitious piece of rot like “Satan” shows he’s capitulated before he begins, since anyone compelled to invoke such backward, mythical gibberish obviously has no business commenting on the Big Bang, far less evolution. Rather, he or she has basically admitted to pathological loss of mental ability and rationality and a need to be strapped into a straightjacket and administered ECT on the hour, along with appropriate doses of lithium to assuage the internal brain delirium.)

Oh and then he purports to “get serious”:

OK , I'll get serious now .After reviewing the evidence that the cosmos had a beginning , physicist Edmund Whittaker concluded : "It is simpler to postulate creation ex nihilo - divine will constituting nature from nothingness" ( cited in Jastrow , "A Scientist Caught," 111 ) . Even Jastrow , a confirmed agnostic , said "That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now , I think , a scientifically proven fact" ( God and the Astronomers”)

And this malarkey is supposed to convince us he’s right and trump the (actually) serious Physical Review D paper (‘Universe Before Planck Time – A Quantum Gravity Model', in Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756.) of T. Padmanbhan? Surely he jests, but what can we expect of a court… blog….jester? He isn’t even clever enough to grasp Jastrow was never an agnostic and - as I reviewed his book more than two decades ago- I pointed this out then, noting he was a religionist and supernaturalist masquerading as a scientist and pseudo-agnostic. Bringing water to the well of mentally -deformed religiosity to (hopefully) collect a few more coins in royalties as a resurgence of religious dopeyness flooded the nation during the Ray-gun years. (At the instigation of clowns like Jim & Tammy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jerry Falwell ...not to mention Pat Robertson).

Oh, and then there’s the choice move of citing Whittaker, who died in March, 1956- nearly a DECADE before the background microwave radiation of the Big Bang was discovered in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson (who actually won a Nobel Prize in Physics, unlike Whittaker). Obviously then, even the most ill-informed, educationally challenged observer would realize that Whittaker wouldn’t have been aware of a single scintilla of physical evidence for the Big Bang, such as the isotropic black body radiation curve at 2.7 K, so wouldn’t have grasped anything – or been able to comment intelligently on it. It would have been better for this fundie to have cited a typing monkey.

Yet this is what passes for perceptive insight ….at least on this particular blog. (One hopes there aren't too many clones, but who knows? As Isaac Asimov once pointed out, stupidity and ignorance always propagate faster than facts.)

Far from any “embarrassing words” Jastrow may have for serious scientists, (who basically began ignoring all his work after his book came out) this fundie’s clown blog site is a monumental embarrassment to him as well as his clueless followers.

Rather than embarrass himself even more, disclosing he’s a confirmed dolt (right now it's still borderline), he’d do better to close shop on any issue pertaining to advanced scientific discourse like physics, cosmology and astrophysics (at least until he learns how to write the equation of state for dark energy, i.e. w = (Pressure/ energy density) = -1 ) and stick to more prosaic items he claims to know about, like the “reality” of Hell (though he’s never been able to disprove the Hell—Infinite = God paradox. More on this later).

But hey, one thing we can be sure of, he will never fail to entertain us with more malarkey and unintentional comic bilge that really belongs in a MAD magazine, not on a blog claiming to discuss serious topics.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Attack Iran? Has the M-I-C Gone Stark Raving Mad?

Let's see if I've got this straight: The country is drowning in so much debt right now (total national deficit approaching $14 TRILLION) that within ten years our kids will be saddled with about $250 grand a year just in interest to pay back - mostly to Chinese bankers. Meanwhile, the political elites won't get off their fat asses and either halt more Afghan "war" funding or make the damn thing pay for itself (higher taxes - as in all other real wars) - and this even as Wikileaks has confirmed the utter futility of this ongoing farce - the longest, most useless military fiasco in U.S. history.. Oh, and the military elites ensconced in the Pentagon (at the heart of the Military Industrial Complex) still can't locate the $1.1 trillion they lost in the late 90s (as former defense analyst Chuck Spinney exposed) even as they now can't find $8.7 billion earmarked for Iraq rebuilding - even as they want to start a WAR with Iran??? (I guess Iraq and Afghanistan demands and costs aren't enough for them.....or maybe their defense contractors)

Has the Military-Industrial Complex totally taken over the country, as Ike warned about in his January, 1961 'Farewell' address?

Where in Hell's bells are these war mongering buffoons going to get the money to mount another offensive? Hell, where are they going to get the manpower, given they're already in a condition of military overstretch - much like the Romans facing the barbarian hordes, ca. 450 -500 AD. Should Iran (in retaliation from missile strikes) mobilize ground forces and attack U.S.-NATO positions and bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, will these nimrods be prepared to install a new military draft? Say, to enlist forcibly another one million at least? (Iran has nearly one million hardened troops under arms.)

At first I didn't believe this horse manure, and thought the imagination of Joe Klein (TIME, July 26, 'Back on the Table', p. 22) was running away with him. According to Klein, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his inner military honchos (aka Joint Chiefs) have now put the military option "back on the table". They want to keep on with the economic and other sanctions, but are gradually coming to believe an attack of some kind is the only realistic option.

Klein posits that the U.S. Army's Central Command - in charge of organizing military operations in the Middle East, "has made some real progress in planning targeted air strikes". One Israeli source evidently informed Klein: "There wasn't really a military option until a year ago". Klein also adds that U.S. officials are terrified that if they don't act, Israeli Premier Ben Netanyahu will "go rogue" and act on his own.

Oh- then there's the issue that Iran's Sunni neighbors, starting with Saudi Arabia, "really want the U.S. to do it".

Now, let's see if I've got this straight: the nation from whose deserts and outposts the 9-11 attackers sprung (all 19 of them), want the U.S. to bomb Iran for them? Have I got that correct? Is this really insane or what? And just what do these military geniuses expect the Iranians (who have a far more formidable military than either minor foes the U.S. is now fighting) will do? Sit back, take it on the chin and sing several verses of 'Kumbiyah"? And, IF a U.S. strike should happen to take out a joint RUSSIAN-Iranian nuke site, do these four stars really think Putin will sit back and take it - after he's invested say $20 billion? What f*$!#@ planet are you living on? (For those with the nerve to see how a fictional attack on an Iranian nuclear plant leads to total nuclear war, check out the chilling 1983 Brit movie, THREADS. Note especially the last scene, set ten years after the initial 10,000 megaton exchange and a global nuclear winter. If it doesn't make you piss in your pants, you aren't human!)

Anyway, I didn't take Klein's single frame story too seriously until earlier this week when the Associated Press broke the contents of a CNN-interview with Michael Hayden(former head of the CIA under Bush), who believes war with Iran is now "inexorable". (I believe he actually meant "inevitable", but at least he didn't enter a Palinism like "irrefudiatiable")

But this would be a serious mistake. As John F. Kennedy first noted in his American University speech in June, 1963, this country "cannot enforce its will on other nations at the end of American weapons of war", or what he called "Pax Americana". We cannot afford to impose our agenda on every rogue nation that develops nuclear weapons, or even has vague pretensions to - especially as Obama is talking about allocating $80 billion for updating the existing arsenal of U.S. warheads (even as he talks about cutting weapons in toto). This is ridiculous! Stick to one principle and cease splitting differences, Mr. President, then more people might understand you - and be in your favor- and you wouldn't have to go cross-country to enhance ratings.

Beyond all this, we have neither the additional resources - in manpower or treasure- to sustain the type of global conflict that attacking Iran would bring. The military adventures being conducted now have crippled our economy and taken the lives of thousands of American men and women for little in return (certainly not preserving our "freedom" - that is pure bull pockey). It is a given that no nation can prosper while remaining in a perpetual state of war because death and destruction, while sometimes essential for a nation’s survival (as with World War II), do not produce wealth, they bleed it off remorselessly. For an excellent portrayal, readers ought to get hold of George Orwell's '1984' and read how endless war sucked the very life force from the poor citizens of Oceania- until they inexorably became the brainwashed slaves of a total fascist military state.

Founder James Madison's words say it best:

"Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises the germ of every other. As the parent of armies, war encourages debts and taxes, the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Nonsense from the Fundies on "Design"

Sometimes it appears the well of ignorance of the fundies yapping about "design" and "intelligence" appears to emanate from a bottomless pit. In this blog we lacerate even more of their nonsense and outlandish claims, which have no basis at all (as I will show). We return to the same blog and some further sputterings:

"Whence arises all the order and beauty we see in the world ?" asked Sir Isaac Newton . The question is natural , and it was asked by a believing scientist who recognized the necessity of a cause for every effect"

Actually, Newton was no "believing scientist" of the orthodox sort, a little trifle this particular fundie always sidesteps in order to dishonestly conflate all types of believers (though at other times, when it suits his purpose, he condemns them all to Hell).

In the PBS documentary ‘Newton’s Dark Secrets’ – much of Newton’s occultism is made known, including his calculation that the world would end in 2060. This and other discoveries shed light that Newton was not the “rationalist believer” so many fundies and other religionists make him out to be but rather an irrationalist – and as we know this lot gravitate more to superstitious beliefs.

The documentary also goes on to note Newton violently rejected becoming a Minister at Trinity College – which had been required of all Fellows. Instead, Newton veered into heresy denying the divinity of Christ, as well as the Trinity. Just the first part would ordinarily put Newton (along with the Pope) in this particular fundie's Hell conga line, but no matter, in this case he finds it convenient to invoke him! Desperation breeds strange bedfellows!

Some more offal about "design" proclamators (or would be ones):

"Albert Einstein also marveled at the order and harmony he and his fellow scientists observed throughout the universe . He noted that the religious feeling of the scientist "takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law , which reveals an INTELLIGENCE OF SUCH SUPERIORITY that , compared with it , all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly INSIGNIFICANT REFLECTION"

However, to all intents, Einstein was an implicit atheist – in the sense of not accepting a personal God, nor even free will. As Einstein biographer Jeremy Bernstein notes (‘Einstein’, 1973, p. 20), Einstein “was consistently agnostic with respect to any belief in a God preoccupied with the working out of human destiny. Though Einstein made constant and amiable references to “God” throughout his life, these were always taken to mean the rational connections, the laws, governing the behavior of the universe”. And as Bernstein notes later (ibid.) Einstein had no use at all for any personal God concept or “Savior” derived from it. Nor did he even accept a life after death, as when he writes:

"Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death. Let those feeble souls, whether from fear or absurd egotism, cherish such thoughts

Einstein also rejected a "God who rewards or punishes" as well as free will, as when he wrote in his book Ideas and Opinions:

"A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity – internal and external- so that he cannot be responsible….any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motion it undergoes.”

Yet this fundie definitely believes in a God who rewards and punishes, as well as free will. SO why invoke Einstein? Because he is dishonest, and in this instance - so desperate to enlist scientific "support" for his designer premise, that it matters not the scientists he invokes would be condemned to Hell (along with Atheists, Jews and Catholics) in any other sphere.

Now we get into the nitty gritty of his remarks:

"No wonder the late renowned British astrophysicist and mathematician Sir Fred Hoyle , after examining the different settings that regulate our planet and the rest of the universe , marveled : "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics , as well as the chemistry and biology [ of the universe ] , and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature"

Since he's cited Hoyle, let's probe the putative logical basis of his remarks more closely. The negative last statement, "there are no blind forces worth speaking about" . Let us call that statement S(A). Then the implied corollary statement is S(B): that a purposive force or "designer" exists.

The trick is to show that S(A) "proves" S(B) and not merely (subjectively) suggests or intimates it. In terms of propositional functions, let q = S(A) and p = S(B).

Then p = f(q)

the contradictory hypothesis (NO designer) is

p' = f(~q)

e.g. remote probabilities for natural outcomes do not prove special design. The central problem is that of testing the hypothesis p = f(q): How does one separate naturally low probabilities from outcomes based on the intervention of a special agent? What criteria allow such separation?

For example - we know that any one supposed single fusion of (proton) nuclei in the Sun is expected to occur on average once every 14 billion years.However, no designer is required to explain how the Sun shines (from fusion reactions) rather, quantum mechanical tunneling does. Thus, in this case, the contradictory hypothesis p' = f(~q) applies.

The second problem for the hypothesis:Why doesn't the "designer" insinuate itself into the domains of other worlds in the solar system to create ("design") life? Why isn't Mercury inhabited, or Venus? Or Jupiter? IF the designer is also omnipotent it ought to be able to design outside of purely natural (or terrestrial) norms and limits. (Thus an organism on Venus, for example, that can live off sulphuric acid, CO2 in the atmosphere and an atmospheric pressure of 90 atm.)

If the designer is not omnipotent, and indeed doesn't exist in the first place - it makes more sense that life will only occur on certain planets within habitable temperature zones and containing the elements (oxygen, nitrogen, water etc.) needed for life. In such cases, it isn't "design" at work but a long, gradual process of chemical evolution that eventually leads to life forms.

Thus, the only real emergent reason for a designer in the first place would be that it possesses ubiquitous power to design ANYWHERE! If it can't do that, or is limited by conditions already in place - we simply don't need it, it's redundant.

Third problem for the hypothesis:Predict what the designer or design agent can do for another planet other than Earth:

IF the designer exists and is not a figment of Hoyle's (or the fundie's) imagination, then it should be possible to predict what it can design in a totally novel situation. Say, different planetary conditions, mass, gravity, etc.Test: Predict the predominant life form that will appear on Planet `X', IF:

a)It orbits a spectral class F-9 type star (the Sun is G-2 so has a cooler surface temp.)

b)The mean distance from the central star is 252 million miles (2.7 A.U.)

c)At its aphelion (farthest point in orbit from its Sun) it receives 57% of the radiative intensity that Earth receivesd)

d)At its perihelion, or closest point, it receives 79%.

e)The g-force for the planet is 1.2 Earth value (e.g. 1.2 x 9.8 m/s^2)

f)The mean global air temperature of the planet is 24F compared to roughly 58F for Earth.

g)The atmosphere is: 40% oxygen, 40% nitrogen, 18% CO2, and 2% Argon

h)The planet's surface is 1/3 ocean which has 3% greater acidity than Earth's oceans.

i)The primordial atmosphere of the planet had twice the CO2 of the primordial Earth, and one third more methane, plus ammonia (NH3)

j) The planet has no molten iron core so produces no magnetic field - hence there is no magnetosphere to trap incoming, high intensity solar particles & radiation. (E.g. high energy protons, electrons from solar flares)

Given these parameters any advocate of a designer, who goes so far as to assert "design" trumps random chance algorithms, should be able to predict with high accuracy the main species that such a designer would allow to emerge on Planet X. (If he can't, he doesn't know the potentials of his designer very well, and then it's not a very credible hypothesis). Generally, when one advocates for "straightforward causes" in defending a "designer", he confuses the principles of sufficient reason and causation in the context of inquiry. But as philosopher of science Mario Bunge has noted (`Causality and Modern Science', Dover Publications, 1979, p. 231):

"Giving reasons is no longer regarded as assigning causes. In Science, it means to combine particular propositions about facts with hypotheses, laws, axioms and definitions. In general, there is no correspondence between sufficient reason and causation."

In addition, one can have a disjunctive plurality of causes for one effect. In this case, it is well nigh impossible to parse and isolate causes. One can also have causal indeterminacy, such as we behold in quantum mechanics (as in the case of particle-wave duality, quantum non-locality)In the end, "irreducible complexity" (which is the specious basis of ID) inevitably amounts to a cop-out argument from ignorance. Because a structure (e.g. eardrum) or process (origin of life from inanimate matter) appears difficult from the inferior vantage point of the percipient, it's automatically assumed that no scientific appeal can be made. No model, however remotely probable, can be offered.

Thus "intelligent design" is latched on to as a "god of the gaps". But history shows how absurd such an approach is. Though proponents bandy about words like "design" and "designer" they are yet unable to state clearly what this entity is. Is it some kind of deity? (If so, they are definitely in the realm of religious dogma). Is it a space alien from Tau Ceti, or Zeta Reticuli? Is it an invisible, inter-dimensional "essence"? They can't even specify their "designer" so why should we take it any more seriously than the tooth fairy or elves? (I take it back, if they can predict the form of outcomes a designer would have using the listed parameters for a planet above)

And lastly, we look at this choice canard:

"Supporters of evolution like to point out that acceptance of the idea of a divine Creator requires faith in someone or something we cannot see . Yet they are far from comfortable admitting that all who believe that life evolved from inert matter ALSO have faith in a theory that CANNOT BE PROVEN"

First, let's correct the fundie again, since no evolutionist is concerned with life origin - but rather the evolution of species after that fact. He again confuses ontogenesis with evolution. Anyway, we will defend the ontogenesists here. No, their hypothesis of life origin hasn't yet been "proven" BUT it has been demonstrated via plausible premises from bio-chemical processes and thermal (energy) considerations.

Thus, the most likely form of such a proto-organism would be as coacervate droplets. To obtain energy (the most critical need of any life or proto-life) they could use one of two basic reactions involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP):

L*M + R + ADP + P -> R + L + M + ATP


ATP + X + Y + X*Y -> ADP + X*Y + P

where L*M is some large, indeterminate energy-rich compound that could serve as "food". Whatever the specific form, it is conceived to have two major parts (L, M) capable of being broken down to liberate energy. Concurrent with the first reaction is a second entailing autocatalytic molecules designated X*Y. They can accelerate their own formation using ATP.

On the basis of the above chemical reactions, the hypothetical coacervate would consist of the combination: X*Y + R (where R is a likely compound called a protenoid). Does the coacervate meet the conditions for life? Well, it has very simple organization consisting of the molecules X*Y and R. It can increase size ("grow") until it becomes metastable then unstable. Whereupon it fissions - effectively disclosing reproduction. Finally, it can maintain itself over indefinite intervals so long as it extracts the compounds it needs for energy.

Some have demanded to know the nearest extant or current organism to the hypothetical one above. That would be none other than the PPLO or pleuro-pneumonia like organism, which is as close to the theoretical lower limit of a viable "organism" as possible. About 12 million atoms and a molecular weight of 2.88 million daltons.

A (discovered) variant of this is a primitve form of bacterial life that existed on Earth at least 3.85 billion years ago in the form of methanotrophs- simple organisms living on methane. The emergence of these is not that difficult to comprehend - given the volatile nature of the early reducing atmosphere, and the chemicals etc. available.Based on the methanotroph find (e.g. reported by Holland, H.D., 'Evidence for Life on Earth More than 3850 Million Years Ago', in Science, Vol. 275, p. 38) one can say the first life forms were almost certainly prokaryotic autotrophs. 'Prokaryotic' meaning having one chromosome only, and 'autotroph' meaning it didn't have to depend on other organisms for nutrition.

The bottom line basis here is that, no matter how hard it might be to accept or believe, random processes can more easily be invoked to account for the origin of life on Earth than appealing to any "designer". As I showed, that concept has severe logical contradictions and inconsistencies which can't be remedied merely by papering over its faults.

Any more than by citing "support" from "believing scientists" (sic) who in other contexts the invokers would roundly and rapidly condemn to eternal hellfire - if not for denying Christ's divinity (Newton) then for denying his yen for reward or punishment, as well as the free will of humans (Einstein).

The Myth of the Clockwork Universe

It is amazing to behold the thought processes of fundamentalist Christians in action, especially when it comes to disciplines way beyond their ken, such as modern astrophysics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. But determined to make fools of themselves, they nevertheless rush in and end up merely showing monumental ignorance – even as they try to castigate atheists and evolutionists.

It is instructive to look at some recent quotes in an evangelical blog to see how far off they are in terms of the way the cosmos actually works.

Let’s start with one of the most ignorant, egregious remarks ever to see the light of day on any blog:

Our universe works like a giant watch , vast in scale and complexity yet precise in its mechanics . Several decades of space exploration have shown the precision of the universe .

Let’s take this apart because there are two separate major fallacies in the two sentences. First, modern astrophysics shows the universe is anything but “like a giant watch”. The clockwork cosmos actually went out around the early 1920s when quantum mechanics came to the fore and introduced a large measure of acausality at the fundamental level of matter.

Unfortunately, while the practicing physicist or astronomer has long since had to adopt an indeterminate, non-mechanistic world view (e.g. guided by the experimental results from quantum physics), the same cannot be said for non-physicists, including theologians, philosophers and multitudes of laypersons – including evangelical bloggers, it seems.These groups continue to labor under erroneous assumptions of causality and "order" generated almost exclusively by an ignorance of modern physics. For example, an ignorance of the fact that simultaneous measurements at the atomic level are fundamentally indeterminate.

In cosmological terms, the whole concept of "order" has been relegated to a minor and tiny niche of the extant cosmos. For example, the recent balloon-borne Boomerang and MAXIMA UV measurements to do with Type I a supernovae, have disclosed a cosmic content:

7% - ordinary visible matter

93% - dark component, of which:

- 70% is DARK (vacuum) energy and

- 23% is dark matter

In effect, 93% of the universe can't even be assessed for "order" since it can't be seen! In the case of dark matter, one can only discern its presence indirectly by the visible effects on neighboring matter. In the case of dark energy, the underlying physical basis isn't even known - though we know the result is an increase in the acceleration of the universe (arising from a cosmic repulsion attributed to dark energy).

Even in the 7% that is ordinary matter, more than 99% is tied to plasma or ionized gases(for example in nebulae and interstellar or intergalactic gas). The segment of the cosmos that DOES display some degree of precision (e.g. our solar system, and the systems of other exo-planetary systems so far discovered) is probably barely 0.000000001% of the whole, if that. In other words, the fundie is extrapolating to the whole cosmos a property of “precision” that applies only to a very minor fraction. This commits the error of generalizing from the particular to the general.

The second fallacy is just that “space exploration has shown the precision of space”. No it has not. Space exploration has shown the validity of a branch of astronomy known as celestial mechanics in sending manned craft to other planets – to land and conduct experiments, such as the Mars Rover.

In other words, space exploration shows the precision of celestial mechanics, and how accurate it can be in getting manned craft to their destinations. Using it, we can predict the position of any planet at any future time, because we can measure and obtain orbital parameters that we feed into the basic equations, say, like me predicting where Jupiter will be on July 27, 2028, using the Lagrange expansion of Kepler's equation for elliptic motion, viz:

E = M + e* sin M + e^2/2 (sin 2M) + . . .

where E is the eccentric anomaly, M the mean anomaly and e the eccentricity of the orbit.

Again, the precision of celestial mechanics is NOT the same as the "precision of the universe" in a giant , clockwork sense. It is confined to the nearby planets of the solar system for which we can make thousands of observations for specific orbits, not the whole universe! We can’t measure any orbital parameters for any of the exo-planets, for example, because they are too distant.

The fundie compounds his ignorance even more by writing:

"It is because of this predictability that NASA can rely on split-second timing when launching men into space and sending spacecraft to explore planets so far away that it sometimes takes years to reach them even at speeds of thousands of miles per hour .”

Again, he’s mixing chalk and cheese. Launching men into space or sending spacecraft to Mars (see photo) or Venus is not the same logical context or category as claiming precision for the whole universe. That precision is only applicable to our tiny solar system – because the orbiting bodies (Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter etc.) are close enough to derive their orbital parameters (such as eccentricity, inclination of the orbit to the plane of the ecliptic and so on).

There is NO way we’d even attempt it through the sea of dark energy – since celestial mechanics would not work there. (Especially as gravity is repulsive not attractive). Once again, he confuses a limited objective or set of planetary missions (made possible by celestial mechanics) with a precision assumed for the entire cosmos - which simply isn't supported by the evidence.

A more serious error, since it confuses different sciences, is in this quote:

"Evolutionists' faith assumes that our unimaginably complex universe created itself or somehow came to exist from NOTHING !"

But "evolutionists" make no such assertion! Evolutionists, meaning researchers in the domain of Darwinian evolution, are exclusively concerned with the evolution of life on Earth, not with cosmic origin - which issues extend far beyond their purview. It is quantum cosmologists who -based on their mathematics - show how the cosmos can arise from nothing. As a spontaneous "burp" of dark energy from a conformal space time- leading to the Big Bang.

All such theories depend on the concept of “quantum bootstrapping”. This means, formulating a quantum fluctuation which could have incepted the cosmos via the Big Bang.

The starting point for these sorts of theories actually resides in a real world phenomenon: Particle production - wherein particles are created then quickly destroyed with energy release. The typical pi meson (call it pi) lasts 10^-16 sec then vanishes yielding two gamma ray photons in its wake,viz.

Pi -> gamma + gamma

Thus, rest energy is real energy and is capable of doing work. In the case of the pion above, the total mass 2.4 x 10^-28 kg, is converted to electromagnetic energy.

The amount of the energy can be estimated using the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in the energy-time format:

Delta (E) Delta (t) less than h/bar

Where h-bar = h/ 2 pi with h = 6.62 x 10^-34 J-s (the Planck constant)

Thus – if the time uncertainty for disappearance of the pi meson is dt = 10^-16s

Then the energy available that comes off is:

Delta (E) = (h-bar)/ delta t = 1.054 x 10^-18 J = 6.5 eV

In the same manner, a number of theoreticians (e.g. T. Padmanabhan) have speculated the universe could have emerged like the pi meson using the same basis for energy arising out of “nothing”.

Padmanabhan’s full paper - Universe Before Planck Time – A Quantum Gravity Model, can be found in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756. Note here that it doesn't really matter how much the spontaneous inception concept blows an evangelical's mind (rudimentary as it is) or violates his notions of common sense or any of his limited mental maps. Unless he can disprove the mathematical basis, he could as well argue that wind isn't really matter in motion but spirits.

Even more codswallop can be found here:

"Conveniently sidestepping the issue of where matter and the universe originated , proponents of evolution begin with an existing universe operating according to precise and predictable laws . They recognize that those laws exist and function flawlessly . Yet they haven't the slightest idea of their origin . "

Actually, we DO! It is the fundie that doesn't because he assumes too much and doesn't have the necessary scientific background to discriminate between the levels of applicability and precision of the laws. In fact, barely 10% of natural laws operate in any domain remotely concerned with precision. These are mainly those based on Newtonian gravitation which are subsumed in celestial mechanics. However, 90% of the laws are not so precise, such as those pertaining to quantum mechanical descriptions (e.g. the probability waves in atoms - see diagram) and statistical mechanics - such as the entropy law where: s = log (g(N.m)) and g (N,m)is the number of accessible states for N particles of mass m each. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle alone is a law bearing the death sentence for any hope of simultaneous precision of measurements - say for both position(x) and momentum (p) for an electron. This shattered once and for all the notion that all natural laws are "precise and predictable" or yield such results.

As for the origin of the laws above, well they all came from human hands and research, at the expense of much blood, sweat and tears. And often wrong leads! The development of the mathematical basis for the 2nd law of thermodynamics (the "entropy law") engendered such mental pressure in Ludwig Boltzmann that he ended up taking his own life. Einstein, after deducing his fundamental law: E= mc squared from his principle of special relativity, worried night and day the insight would lead to a horrific new weapon - the Atomic bomb- which it did. He became so concerned he wrote a letter to FDR in 1939 begging him not to proceed with any bomb construction.

More rubbish:

They choose to ignore the overwhelming evidence that a great intelligence is behind these orderly and harmonious laws .

But the evidence doesn't support it! Given what I noted, that only a minority (10%) of laws are remotely based on precision, and that barely 0.000000001% of the universe (in isolated, scattered solar systems) is susceptible to precise computations, then that is no basis to claim existence of a "great intelligence". It falls down because the assumption that ALL the laws governing the cosmos are "orderly" and "harmonious" falls down. In addition, WHY would a "great intelligence" create a cosmos for which nearly 93% displays no order - far less precision? This type of cosmos instead bespeaks an accidental universe with a random basis physical "creator" not one of conscious design. IF the cosmos was ALL order, with zero dark energy and zero dark matter, that might point otherwise, but it simply doesn't!

Precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), including data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), have provided further dramatic evidence for dark energy. The same is true of data from two extensive projects charting the large-scale distribution of galaxies - the Two-Degree Field (2DF) and Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Yet it seems the fundies would rather wade in antedated and archaic information from a long bygone 19th century view of a "100% mechanical" universe than avail themselves of modern research. In a way it makes sense, since they still haven't availed themselves of the most recent genetic research (such as the sequencing of the cytochrome -c protein sequence) in terms of Darwinian Evolution and common descent.

More to Come...

More Damned Lies with Statistics

The oft -heard remark "lies, damned lies, and statistics" - has been repeated so often and in such varied contexts that many people now automatically associate statistics with sophisticated lies. However, this is not so. Once any statistical test is used with honesty and responsibility, the methodology and results provide a legitimate path to further inquiry.

For example, in observing the Sun over a period of months or years, one can accumulate data on: changing sunspot area, occurrence of specific types of solar flares (e.g. different optical and morphological classes). When this data is assembled into categories (e.g. A for sunspot area, F for flare frequency etc.), and fitted statistically, it can describe a rudimentary empirical system.

If I do a linear regression to find a fit for F (flare frequency, or flares per day) vs. A(area) of a sunspot group, I may obtain a statistical function of the form:

F = A(S1) + C

where C is some quantity that intersects the particular (y-axis), in this case the one for F. This is a mathematical representation of an empirical relationship. The mathematical form is dictated by how the data fits, and is a matter of using standard statistical tests. The empirical system that results is not a matter of “belief” but simply the degree of goodness of fit for the data.

In acquiring the data via random sample, and then assembling it, a precise statistical procedure called a “least squares regression” line represents the best fit given the data points. The beauty is that once the raw data is available, and key parameters (such as r, the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient) are known - one can easily ascertain whether any trickery is afoot.

In economics (which to be sure is not a science) it appears such cross-checks are not so common. This paves the way for egregious claims such as appeared in The Wall Street Journal's Op-ed two days ago. The editorial makes use of a table from the White House Office of Management and Budget to attempt to show the deficits were significantly less under Reagan than under Obama - and hence Reagan (with all his supply side crappola) must have been some kind of master guru at Econ.

As the editorial puts it (referencing the table - see inset image):

"Yet as the table shows the Reagan deficits never reached more than 6% of GDP and that happened only in 1983, the first year of economic recovery"

The last phrase is a reference to the 1981-82 recession. The op-ed goes on to say:

"The Obama deficits are double that, and more than one-third higher than even un der the Gipper's worst year"

Now, let's try to shed some perspective on these claims. First, the WSJ omitted a huge piece of background information: that the Reagan Administration commenced with the U.S. in the position of a global creditor nation, not debtor. It was precisely Reagan's wanton defense spending ($2.1 trillion total then or nearly $4.2 trillion in today's dollars!) that propelled the inital mammoth deficits that would become long lasting millstones around the nation's neck. Meanwhile, Obama inherited nearly 30 years of accumulated deficits with only some surplus year breaks duriing Clinton's term - made possible by take hikes in 1994.

Thus, the WSJ's comparison is somewhat like comparing a thoroughbred's performance - even after it's saddled by a 200 lb. jockey, with a tortoise's over the same furlong span. Obviously, the thoroughbred will still prevail - though the much heavier than normal jockey weight might slow him down a tad.

So, starting at $0 deficits (in 1980)is not the same as starting from a nearly $7 trillion hole as Obama did in January, 2009. No wonder then Reagan's deficit numbers are so low.

What we do know, however, is that deficits created via supply side tax cuts propagate forward in time, as the value of currency debases or inflation rises. Thus, no surprise that the actual calamity of the Reagan tax cuts wasn't felt until Bush Senior's last year in office:

James Medoff and Andrew Harless, in their book, The Indebted Society, 1995, p. 23:

"..In 1993, the year that Bush left office, the public debt was a staggering 51.9 percent of the GDP."

And realize here that this was after the senior Bush went back on his "Read my lips: No new taxes!" pledge. Thus, even his tax increase (which may have cost him re-election in 1992) wasn't adequate to control the damage done during the Reagan years, which we are still living with.

The Journal editorial also makes a false comparison between revenue as a share of GDP during the Reagan era ("never fell lower than 17.3% of GDP") and that in the Obama era ("astonishing low of 14.5% only to rise to 15.8% in 2011 even with the huge tax increase that hits on January 1, 2011")

But unmentioned by the Journal is that Reagan's revenues "never went below 17.3% of GDP" because he raided Social Security monies to conceal the size of the deficits! Meanwhile, Obama's revenue of 14.5% of GDP is actually damned good, considering what he inherited from Shrubya: not the least of which was a $2.2 trillion tax cut hole, plus a $1.1 trillion hole from military adventures and occupations.

As for "only rising to 15.8% in 2011", well give me a break already! After all, just as the tax cuts took time to inflict their calamitous budget damage, it will take time to correct it. Again, what the Journal doesn't say is more illuminating than what it does: namely that if ALL the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire nearly $2.2 trillion will be saved by 2020. That is $2.2 trillion in deficits that might otherwise have to be taken out of Social Security (via cuts) or Medicare.

Economic statistics, in other words, can be justified for comparisons - say of the performance of two different leaders in different eras - provided they compare the same things, or make adjustments for the differing contexts. If not, then it's no more useful than comparing dust storms on Mars to tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

HELL- An impossible fiction

We inhabit the most technologically advanced nation on the face of the Earth, and yet 80% in assorted surveys profess to believe in "miracles" and more than 57% sincerely believe "Hell" is a genuine afterlife abode. Never mind that not one scintilla of hard evidence has been found, other than in corrupted ancient manuscripts - one of whose objectives was to extort unbelievers into joining them.

Why do these atavistic beliefs persist, when even simple logic can disprove them? Make no mistake here that "Hell" is a degenerate and ignoble fiction and the product of crude, vicious minds. These are the same type that used to apply wasps and hornets to people’s wounds and of having blood sucking slugs attached to one's external genitalia to remove "demonic humors". What happened is that in each case, the “patient” died in horrible agony. The inbred vicious minds who thought that they were “healing” were actually torturing the poor wretches. The wasps didn’t extract toxins, they continued to sting the victim until she died. The leeches continued to suck blood until the poor victim was bloodless. In the same way, the Hell peddlers – as on their various derelict blogs- think they are healing by writing about their savage swill, but they are doing untold harm.

Some fundies, on their blogs, try to address the issue of critics in a sideways manner with statements such as: "Critics of hell argue that if God knew that people would reject Him and eventuate in such a horrible place as hell , then why did He create them in the first place ? Wouldn't it have been better to have never existed than to exist and go to hell ? It is important to note that nonexistence cannot be said to be a better condition than any kind of existence , since nonexistence is nothing "
But like all fundies, he misses the point. The point isn't about categories of "existence v. non-existence" (and besides is he saying God existing ALONE is "nothing"?), but whether divine perfection is more embraced by the primordial state of nothingness than creation! Looking at it in this way, the onus is where it needs to be: on the divinity for choosing to embrace violence (including the eternal violence inflicted in Hell) by its act of creation because he had to know (being omniscient) it would lead to tens of billions of humans being damned. Thus, materially and in every way (especially LOGICALLY) it would surely have been better had the state of nothingness (e.g. God alone, no added creation) been maintained - then that over a hundred billion humans be burned in Hell. Unless the fundie is arguing that to have existed but then earned damnation in Hell for eternity is better than nothingness! I can imagine how all the billions of Buddhists, Hindus and others would be delighted to know about that!

A far more subtle divine intellect would appreciate that burning up his "creation" makes no sense, and he'd do better (have less waste) by "recycling" souls (assuming they exist- but since human and chimp cytochrome -c are the same, it's likely they don't) through multiple lives until they are honed to the perfection desired. As opposed to one life, one chance - no matter where you're born or how (e.g. as a drug addict's infant) then to do or be damned.

"Hell" is not only retrogressive, but utterly stupid. It is inchoate as a principle for sanction because for it to exist contradicts the putative nature of the divinity that most believers posit. The odd and strange fact is they lack the brain power to see the contradictions inherent in their insane swill.

In the accompanying diagrams I show the core problem and the paradox, from a logical perspective. The assumptions operating are that:

1) God exists and is INFINITE

2) Hell also exists as a place of eternal punishment

We see that these assumptions taken in tandem create enormous contradiction which I depict in Fig. 1. That is, Hell must be located within the infinite deity - AS PART OF IT! In other words, the eternal place of damnation must actually be WITHIN God's own Being!

Consider, IF God as infinite is taken literally, this can only mean there is no place where he isn't. Either he is infinite or not infinite. If he is infinite, and HELL also exists, then Hell must be part of the same infinity. It cannot be isolated from it or else we have a condition such as shown in Fig. 2 - where Hell is apart from God's being.

BUT - if this is so, then God can no longer be infinite because something exists (Hell) in addition to his being wherein he conducts punishments.

So, we have these ineffable logical conclusions:

EITHER - Hell exists but GOD is not infinite.


GOD is infinite, and Hell must exist WITHIN God. (But Heaven does also)

Up to now, I've seen no fundie or evangelical clever enough to resolve the Hell-God=infinite paradox. There could be two reasons: 1) none of them is smart enough to do it, or 2) they know deep down in their little atavistic pea brains that the paradox is logically insoluble because their assumptions are in error. (Or, just as bad, they allow the blatherings in an ancient book to trump the importance of examining the assumptions.)

Thus, if they want to preserve their "Hell" they will have to admit their God isn't infinite. If they demand God to be infinite, they will have to jettison their "Hell'.

Will they? Hardly, because hard logic never works on their neurons, especially the ones in their amygdala. However, until these Hell believers either change their assumptions or re-work them for consistency, we are entitled to take them no more seriously than the incoherent fulminations of a street drunk or a crazed coke head. Without some manner of logical coherence, all they have is a puerile invention based more on mental "vomit" than any abiding reality.

Why Darwin Rejected Intelligent Design

In all the annals of evolution and also in references to Charles Darwin's seminal work (The Origin of Species) it is seldom mentioned that he was originally a creationist - and that he approached the origin of species from the creationist (or now, "Intelligent Design") standard. It is interesting to explore what transpired to cause him to change his mind. Briefly, we will see it largely had to do with his observations of assorted species during The Beagle's sojourn in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin basically found that the observations made couldn't be reconciled with creationist "theory".

Darwin was so imbued with the creationist perspective that he failed to collect one single species of giant tortoise present in the islands. Fortunately, the occurrence of other species - and their recording- ultimately held away with the assistance of a consummate taxonomic researcher: John Gould - an ornithological expert at the London Zoological Society.

For sake of brevity here, I will just touch on the assaying of two avian species: finches and mockingbirds. No less than 14 species of finches were recorded in the Galapagos and this eventually impacted Darwin's point of view. At the time, as with the giant tortoises, Darwin's cavalier creationist view led him to sloppy techniques and lack of rigor in recording observations. In particular, his creationist chauvinism prevented him from grasping (at the time he behled the finches in the islands) that they all might have evolved on different islands.

Indeed, had he already been privy to natural selection, and how adaptations operate within its purview, he'd have easily seen that the variety of beaks displayed among the finches was directly traceable to the sort of foods they ate, in the respective islands. In point of fact, 4 of the fourteen finch species fed on seeds (as finches generally do), and another two species consumed fruits, flesh and flowers of cacti. Seven other finch species were primarily insectivorous, while one fed exclusively on leaves. Thus, from his creationist disadvantage point, it wasn't suprising that Darwin was fooled to the extent of believing some of the birds weren't finches at all (Assisted by the fact they didn't particularly look like European finches).

Re: the mockingbirds, Darwin found four species on four different islands. Despite the drawbacks of his creationism, he was too consummate a naturalist not to notice that the birds were either distinct or separate species. In one of his journals, writing about them, he hinted at a natural selection basis but couldn't quite go the whole hog:

"When I see these Islands in sight of each other & possessed of by a scanty stock of animals, tenanted by these birds but slightly differing in structure & filling the same place in Nature, I must suspect they are only varieties...If there is the slightest foundation for these remarks the zoology of Archipelagoes - will be well worth examining, for such facts would undermine the stability of species"

Faced with an absence of critical information to resolve the issue, Darwin continued to be influenced by the creationist assumption of special, separate species - until he returned to England, on October 2, 1836. Three months later, he deposited his Beagle collection with the earlier mentioned John Gould. Darwin did not receive the full report of Gould's findings until March, 1837.

Then, Gould informed Darwin that 3 of his 4 mockingbird species were distinct - new to science - and different from all other known mockingbirds. He also notified Darwin that his collection included 13 or possibly 14 species of very unusual finches, all so closely related that Gould had categorized them in a single new group. In that brief exchange with Gould, all of a sudden the Galapagos had become their own special "center of creation". Darwin then found himself confronted by the problem of the origin of species he'd not been while actually there, imbued with his creationist mentality.

It would not be exaggeration to say Darwin was stunned by Gould's results. Indeed, if Gould was correct about the mockingbirds it meant that the supposed "barrier" between species had been broken by these birds on a set of isolated islands. Thus, gradual evolution through geographic isolation was the only plausible explanation that fit with the observational record (clarified by Gould, an expert ornithologist)

Gould's taxonomic analyses and insights into the Galapagos finches were also central to changing Darwin's creationist mindset. Again, Gould convinced Darwin all the finches were closely related and differed anatomically, especially in their beaks - only because of their different diets, on the different islands.

Darwin was later compelled to write in his Journal of Researches:

"Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends."

As Darwin then came to examine more of his Beagle records from his new viewpoint, he realized he'd been blinded by the creationist codswallop. After reading Thomas Malthus' An Essay on the Principle of Population, Darwin realized that in the ongoing struggle for scarce resources, slight variations of beneficial nature would tend to be naturally selected - leading to increased survival and hence increase in adaptive traits.

Thus, a finch peculiar to one island lacking in fruits, or other normal finch fare, could survive if it simply increased its adaptive repertoire - say by eating insects instead.

Thanks to Darwin, going with his re-evaluated observations (in the light of John Gould's taxonomic inputs and insight) we had a genuine scientific theory to account for species' origins. The beauty of the theory of Evolution, inhered in its being powerful and all encompassing - explaining everything from the telomeric fusion of the ape chromosomes 2p and 2q (to become the 2) in humans, to the fact that chimps and humans have the exact same cytochrome -c protein sequence - impossible were it not for common origin. More to the point, the theory of Evolution was fully testable based on science, and not religious fiats, dictates or antiquated bibles written hundreds of years ago and corrupted over time with re-translations and mistranslations.