fun science
March 22, 2005 6:31 PM   Subscribe

13 things that do not make sense From the New Scientist. From Cold Fusion to Tetraneutrons. Enjoy
posted by edgeways (50 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful.

Hm.

cold fusion never really went away... You can't make it go away.

But we can hope.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:37 PM on March 22, 2005


nonsense. cold fusion goes away everytime the jrun server cannot connect.
posted by quonsar at 6:46 PM on March 22, 2005


could we just add "life in general," to the list?
posted by jonmc at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2005


That was an interesting read - thanks!
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2005


Top post.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:57 PM on March 22, 2005


That's quite a turnaround. The DoE's first report on the subject, published 15 years ago, concluded that the original cold fusion results, produced by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons of the University of Utah and unveiled at a press conference in 1989, were impossible to reproduce, and thus probably false.

The basic claim of cold fusion is that dunking palladium electrodes into heavy water - in which oxygen is combined with the hydrogen isotope deuterium - can release a large amount of energy. Placing a voltage across the electrodes supposedly allows deuterium nuclei to move into palladium's molecular lattice, enabling them to overcome their natural repulsion and fuse together, releasing a blast of energy. The snag is that fusion at room temperature is deemed impossible by every accepted scientific theory.


Sometimes the answer is to approach the problem from a different direction.
posted by Ryvar at 7:06 PM on March 22, 2005


Number 4: This business (and it certainly is business) about water retaining the imprint of a substance in order to cure ailments ignores all the other substances this water and all the other water we consume every day has come in contact with throughout history. But, yes, I know--it worked for you.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:06 PM on March 22, 2005 [2 favorites]


This was fascinating. Thanks!

How long would the placebo effect last after the switch was made? One treatment? two? ten?
posted by unsupervised at 7:09 PM on March 22, 2005


Aah, but weapons-grade, it's the shaking of the water that's all important :)
posted by Jimbob at 7:09 PM on March 22, 2005


I feel, given the number of quacks out there, that it is important to make clear that the homeopathy results that pandemonium refers to are irreproducible. That is; there is not now nor has there ever been any reproducible scientific evidence that homepathy does anything but line the pockets of snake oil salesmen.

Lots of studies and experiments come up with strange and surprising stuff (see "The Journal of Irreproducible Results"). But unless those results can be REPEATED, they are meaningless and likely a fluke or statistical anomaly.
posted by Justinian at 7:13 PM on March 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


Very interesting that they used morphine in that trial as well, unsupervised...did they monitor the activity of endorphins in the subjects? Does naloxone block the effect of endorphins as well?

(I'm assuming they did take all this into account. I'm not a biochemist. But they're interesting potential complications.)

By the way, how do I get involved in a trial where they subject me to pain then give me morphine?
posted by Jimbob at 7:14 PM on March 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


Um, *wow*. Great link, edgeways. I've always thought science is at its best when it embraces uncertainty, and this sure is a big heaping load of beautiful uncertainty. Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 7:16 PM on March 22, 2005


water retaining the imprint of a substance
it's the shaking of the water that's all important

Thus jarring it's memory!! Of course!!
posted by Balisong at 7:19 PM on March 22, 2005


I think you're onto something, Balisong. Want to start a mail-order company with me, marking amnesic water products?
posted by Jimbob at 7:23 PM on March 22, 2005


Justinian,
Didn't you read the part about the placebo effect? :-)
posted by winston at 7:31 PM on March 22, 2005


A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 7:39 PM on March 22, 2005


Jimbob,

Yep, naloxone blocks the effects of "endogenous opioids" (endorphins, enkephalins and dynorphins).

Very interesting post!
posted by gaspode at 7:45 PM on March 22, 2005


A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

Quack.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:00 PM on March 22, 2005


Aren't there supposed to be Wookies living on Endor somewhere in this post?
posted by weston at 8:13 PM on March 22, 2005


Damnit Weston!
posted by papakwanz at 8:47 PM on March 22, 2005


George_Spiggott Quack. Is that duck wearing a hat with a tassel? That doesn't make sense.
posted by tellurian at 8:48 PM on March 22, 2005


Nifty read, edgeways, thanks!

Though Brooks doesn't mention it explicitly in this one, here Reich points out that a changing fine structure constant (#12) could fix the horizon problem (#2).
posted by solotoro at 9:06 PM on March 22, 2005


excellent read!!
posted by j.p. Hung at 9:39 PM on March 22, 2005


I can answer every one of these problems, buddy:
JESUS DID IT
posted by papakwanz at 10:08 PM on March 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


tellurian: It's a santa hat, to go with the christmas song.
posted by fvw at 12:43 AM on March 23, 2005


Thanks edgeways, excellent post.
posted by joedharma at 1:20 AM on March 23, 2005


JESUS DID IT

Wow, I had no idea my gardener Jesus had been that busy. I knew he was great at getting the hedges trimmed just so, and keeping the lawn green, but cold fusion too? Apparently there's no end to what a good gardener can do.
posted by joedharma at 1:30 AM on March 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


Weston beat me to it. Look at the silly monkey!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:09 AM on March 23, 2005


A few weeks ago, I met a post-doc reseracher who is working on #3 -- the ultra-high energy cosmic ray question. He mentioned the detector array they are building in Argentina.

The reason: There are two detectors spotting cosmic rays of these energies. One is in japan, and uses tanks similar to neutrino detectors. Another is in Utah, and looks for skyglow effects from them on very dark nights. The two detectors are getting different results. So, they're building a larger detector array with both tanks and telescopes, to try and catch the same events on both detectors.

The energies some of these particles are carrying is stunning, which is why they are known as the Oh-my-god particle.
posted by eriko at 4:22 AM on March 23, 2005


Justinian -
it is important to make clear that the homeopathy results that pandemonium refers to are irreproducible

directly contradicts this from the article:

The study, replicated in four different labs


posted by TungstenChef at 4:41 AM on March 23, 2005


Thoughts:

the article mixes true "mysteries" with other observations that are likely to be bunk.

Without citations to results published in reputable (and I do emphasize reputable) peer-reviewed scientific journals, saying that Doctor so-and-so published this or that means very little.

Giving citations would let us see the impact factor of the journal (how often things are cited, quality of peer reviewers, general journal quality), and would allow the reader to read the publication for themselves and decide whether there are glaring holes in the methology or reasoning.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 5:00 AM on March 23, 2005


Re: homeopathy -- just FYI, it's much more widely accepted here in Germany. Sure, there are plenty of people who don't think it works, but there isn't the hostility toward it like I used to feel in the USA. There are lots and lots of doctors who will prescribe you homeopathic drugs, some probably without even asking if you believe in it (but they would of course give you something else if you asked them to).

So it may just be the placebo effect or whatever, but seeing the culture here I can at least rule out the idea that they're mixing water with water to intentionally defraud us... the people who use and market homeopathic drugs here, in my opinion, also really believe it works!
posted by sninky-chan at 5:23 AM on March 23, 2005


14. Women.

As sninky-chan says, those who use homeopathic remedies really believe they work and I suspect that this may be the key - the power of the mind is a wonder to behold and all that.
posted by dg at 5:38 AM on March 23, 2005


Geeez, New Scientist is really going downhill. Writing uncritically about homeopathic medicine? Wasn't it enough to mention the placebo effect?
posted by spazzm at 7:23 AM on March 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


I hold a patent on a homeopathic oxygen chamber. It permanently solves all health problems of those who partake of it. Homeopathic doses of oxygen are really quite remarkable in their ability to effect change in the human organism!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:32 AM on March 23, 2005


spazzm writes " Geeez, New Scientist is really going downhill. Writing uncritically about homeopathic medicine? Wasn't it enough to mention the placebo effect?"

The placebo effect is well documented, and not simply in studies like the ones mentioned. It's a major part of most health care, and has been recognized as such for a long long time. I thought that the bit about homeopathy was interesting because of where it came from; I would have been much less interested if the evidence came from people who set out to prove homeopathy works. The magazine makes a point of saying that this is an effect in the lab that is unexplained, and that homeopathy has never succeeded in a RTC as it needs to to be taken seriously.

I liked the post, thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 9:50 AM on March 23, 2005


TungstenChef: I read the article just fine. I belief the claim that this study was replicated in four different labs was, well, false.
posted by Justinian at 11:32 AM on March 23, 2005


Did you people criticizing the inclusion of the homeopathy results RTFA?

Without citations to results published in reputable (and I do emphasize reputable) peer-reviewed scientific journals, saying that Doctor so-and-so published this or that means very little.

IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE ARTICLE. And I quote: "Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181". Impact factor of 1.498, which is respectable, if not particularly outstanding. Read the paper here, if your library subscribes.


I feel, given the number of quacks out there, that it is important to make clear that the homeopathy results that pandemonium refers to are irreproducible


Read the paper, if you have access. I quote: "Four independent European laboratories participated in the trial (Laboratory 1: France; Laboratory 2: The Netherlands; Laboratory 3: UK; Laboratory 4: Italy).... Given the results of the above study, a further multi-centre study was devised. This was based on a new flow cytometric method designed for allergy diagnosis, which has high specificity [and] is not subjective.... Three laboratories took part in this study (Laboratories 1, 3 and 4)."

So yeah, they reproduced their results in independent laboratories. Do you have a citation that claims irreproducibility, or are you just talking out of your ass?

I belief the claim that this study was replicated in four different labs was, well, false.

What is the basis of this belief? Are you claiming that the cited study was falsified? Because that's an awfully strong claim, and I would expect strong evidence to back it up. If you are claiming that the Inflammation Research study was falsified, please point us to your evidence.

I'm as skeptical of homeopathy as the next trained scientist, and I'm sure that the "imprinting on water" theory is hogwash. But read and understand the science that the article is talking about before dismissing it out of hand. The attitude in this thread is truly unscientific.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:43 AM on March 23, 2005 [2 favorites]


mr_roboto: Agreed. Homeopathy sounds like a wad of New Age hooey to me, but no one should doubt the power of Nature to consistently surprise us scientists. I mean, this FPP from today describes something that I really don't think anyone ever expected to discover. Who knows what's next?
posted by greatgefilte at 1:14 PM on March 23, 2005


Yeah, who knows what's next? Maybe I'll get a date.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:08 PM on March 23, 2005


I belief[sp] the claim that you will get a date is, well, false.

(heh)
posted by davejay at 3:29 PM on March 23, 2005


I mean, this FPP from today describes something that I really don't think anyone ever expected to discover. Who knows what's next?

Great point. I think non-linear causality - perhaps, say, in the form of simultaneous resonances between objects between which we can't yet perceive connections - is an interesting bet for a coming revolution in the way we perceive science.

Which, I suppose, *could* open new avenues of exploration into anecdotal reports of homeopathic treatment success.

*shrugs*

/speculative
posted by mediareport at 4:16 PM on March 23, 2005


OmieWise, I do not doubt the placebo effect.
The point I was trying to make is that the observed effects of homeopatic medicine is best explained trough the placebo effect. Therefore, mentioning both is redundant.
posted by spazzm at 12:50 AM on March 24, 2005


Great point. I think non-linear causality - perhaps, say, in the form of simultaneous resonances between objects between which we can't yet perceive connections - is an interesting bet for a coming revolution in the way we perceive science.

wonderful. bravo, mediareport!

as a non-scientist who respects science, one of the things that really irks me is when scientists are as closed minded as the fanatically religious. it defeats the purpose of science, which is finding answers, not clinging to belief.

when data suggests theories are incorrect, we should remain open minded. otherwise we'd still revolve around the sun.
posted by xz at 3:00 PM on March 24, 2005


otherwise we'd still revolve around the sun.

hummm?
posted by edgeways at 3:56 PM on March 24, 2005


You must have missed it, edgeways. Back during the Y2K scare the powers-that-be signed an international pact that resolved the earth would no longer revolve around the sun. From Jan 01, 2001, onwards, this old-fashioned notion of "revolving" would be replaced with a far more scientific motion of "narglinative preturgation." Further, the earth's orbit was changed from slightly ellipitical to a more aesthetically pleasing perfect circle, though one with several sharp corners.

It's all very science-y, and probably not worth worrying about.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:31 PM on March 24, 2005


Ok, edgeways and fff, it should have been revolve around the earth or something. But xz's larger point about the lack of open-mindedness of many scientists when it comes to their bedrock assumptions - despite the fact that the history of science is strewn with the bleached and dessicated bones of misguided bedrock assumptions - still stands.
posted by mediareport at 7:40 PM on March 24, 2005


Quick followup a couple days later...

Dark Energy Not Needed released from the Fermilab *before* this post ever happened :)
posted by gren at 8:46 PM on March 24, 2005


always happy to sidetrack the conversation with a meaningless typo...
posted by xz at 4:26 PM on March 28, 2005


Well, I thought I was funny, even if no one else did.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:32 PM on March 28, 2005


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