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By my will alone I set my mind in motion...
December 31, 2005 3:29 PM   Subscribe

May The Force be with you. Also: 13 things that don't make any sense. May your New Year - and the many years to come - be wild and wonderous and bright.
posted by loquacious (64 comments total)

 
Cold Fusion?

Puleeeze...
posted by sour cream at 3:42 PM on December 31, 2005


This is good! Down with Apollo. Long live Dionysius!
posted by stirfry at 3:49 PM on December 31, 2005


Have Phun !
posted by elpapacito at 3:53 PM on December 31, 2005


The Field also reveals a radical new biological paradigm-that on our most fundamental level, the human mind and body are not distinct and separate from their environment, but a packet of pulsating energy constantly interacting with this vast energy sea.

My skeptic knee just jerked through the ceiling. It's rarely wrong.
posted by gramschmidt at 3:59 PM on December 31, 2005


sour cream: Cold Fusion exists, and has for some time. Whether or not it is a viable power or energy source remains to be seen. Even if it isn't a viable power and/or energy source, it deserves exploration if only to further our understanding of physics.
posted by loquacious at 4:01 PM on December 31, 2005


What doesn't make sense about the placebo effect?
posted by Gyan at 4:02 PM on December 31, 2005


What The Field Has Discovered
* The communication of the world does not occur in the visible realm of Newton, but in the subatomic world of Werner Heisenberg.
"The other day, I'm at the deli and I say, 'Waiter, there's a subatomic particle in my borscht! It's enormous! Look at it go!' So the waiter says, 'I'm sorry, sir, but you know what Heisenberg says about the limitations of measuring two properties of a quantum object with infinite precision.' 'But Werner Heisenberg was a big fat Nazi,' I say. So the waiter says, 'I'll get the manager.'"
posted by gramschmidt at 4:06 PM on December 31, 2005


sour cream: Cold Fusion exists, and has for some time. Whether or not it is a viable power or energy source remains to be seen. Even if it isn't a viable power and/or energy source, it deserves exploration if only to further our understanding of physics.

If cold fusion existed, it would have existed for all time. However, it does not, and a cluttered, decayed wikipedia entry isn't proof of anything.
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on December 31, 2005


In fact, from the article you linked to about Cold Fusion:

Their results proved difficult to replicate [1], however, and the majority of professional chemists and physicists currently do not believe this phenomenon exists, referring to it as pseudoscience, while some regard the subject to be an example of pathological science.
posted by delmoi at 4:12 PM on December 31, 2005


13 things that do not make sense
posted by LinusMines at 4:13 PM on December 31, 2005


Can I flag this post for "doesn't make sense"?
posted by wendell at 4:19 PM on December 31, 2005


The cranks have WordPress now?
posted by Wolfdog at 4:26 PM on December 31, 2005


The problem is that when someone hears "cold fusion" they dismiss it as F&P's palladium crap.

Muon catalyzed fusion is here, its reproducible and researchers do it on a daily basis. However, the biggest problem is that they still haven't quite reached breakeven. It still take more energy to make a muon in a particle accelerator than the energy it gets back in catalyzing the fusion reactions. Once they get over this particularly large stumbling block there may be excellent potential for cold fusion to become the power source of the future.
posted by Talez at 4:50 PM on December 31, 2005


What doesn't make sense about the placebo effect?
You must read the whole thing, Gyan; the twist with the naloxone, which blocks the effect of morphine. Why should it also block the placebo effect?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:02 PM on December 31, 2005


weapons-grade pandemonium : "Why should it also block the placebo effect?"

Because the placebo effect was induced after a regimen with morphine. Obviously endogenous operant conditioning is induced. It is known that in regular drug users, say cocaine users, there's a surge of dopaminergic activity before consuming the cocaine. Since naxolone is an opioid antagonist and this pain placebo is opioid related, I don't see the great paradox here. Sure, the technical details might not be completely elucidated, but there's no paradigm break here. It's not something that "doesn't make sense".
posted by Gyan at 5:19 PM on December 31, 2005


Corrections:

..endogenous opioid-related operant..

[and]

..there's a surge of dopaminergic activity, in anticipation of, before consuming the cocaine..
posted by Gyan at 5:22 PM on December 31, 2005


There's one answer to all these problems:

Jesus.

Discuss.
posted by papakwanz at 5:25 PM on December 31, 2005


OK, Gyan, we're on the same page. Everything ultimately makes sense, like the extra second tonight, yet it's amazing how many people think something is happening with time, rather than our measurement of it. Even their misunderstanding makes sense, I suppose. I think the article means the placebo effect is counterintuitive.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:30 PM on December 31, 2005


Easy. Jesus was a space alien. A space alien who threatens us to this very day. There's only one solution: Destroy. My lizard hindbrain demands it.
posted by loquacious at 5:30 PM on December 31, 2005


How about the oh my god particle?
posted by rolypolyman at 5:39 PM on December 31, 2005


Easy. Jesus was a space alien. A space alien who threatens us to this very day. There's only one solution: Destroy. My lizard hindbrain demands it.

Jesus is coming, and we'll get him again.
posted by longsleeves at 5:58 PM on December 31, 2005


And I'd like to have a word with that father of his for deliberately arranging for him to be murdered like that.
posted by alumshubby at 6:08 PM on December 31, 2005


Contrary to what the article seems to suggest, The Field appears to be neither new nor mainstream physics. It's a popular science book by investigative reporter Lynne McTaggart, first published four years ago. Most of the reviews and references I've found are from New Age-type journals and sites. According to the HarperCollins site:

[McTaggart] reveals a radical new biological paradigm -- that on our most fundamental level, the human mind and body are not distinct and separate from their environment but a packet of pulsating power constantly interacting with this vast energy sea.

IANAP, but I'd hold off booking your tickets to Odo's home world just yet.
posted by rob511 at 6:18 PM on December 31, 2005


Talez, the interesting thing is that the New Scientist article says that it's Pons & Fleischmann style cold fusion that is showing results interesting enough to draw research.

Other kinds of cold fusion, like muon-catalyzed cold fusion, are not at all controversial — nobody really claims that they don't happen. Unfortunately they're not useful for power generation.
posted by hattifattener at 6:49 PM on December 31, 2005


I got your pulsating power right here, baby. Don't you worry about none of that cold fusion, I'm gonna accelerate your particles into the next year. Giddigity.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on December 31, 2005


The Oh My God Particle has the force of a fastball? Does that mean that you could get your guts blown out by one?
posted by parallax7d at 7:24 PM on December 31, 2005


Apparently you could get something blown by one. Giddigity.

The "Oh My God Particle" thing makes me think of PKD's VALIS.
posted by loquacious at 8:18 PM on December 31, 2005


The story of their thrilling discovery is a thriller in its own right, involving the CIA, secret Russian testing sites, NASA space programmes and time travel, as a small band of men and women come to grips with the physics of the impossible.

The theory they developed isn't open to peer review, but it is available on Amazon for $10.46! Why selfishly share it only with respected science when this information can be made available to any man!

Seriously loquacious, I have a lot less respect for you now.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:04 PM on December 31, 2005


I thought 2006 was the year of the dog, not the pseudo-scientist. It doesn't bug me that people want to believe wacky things, but it does bug me when they dress it up as science. The stuff quantumbiocommunication.com is so vague is laughable.
posted by skallas at 12:41 AM on January 1, 2006


Mobile phones healed my arm dna! Just point and speak those sweet, soothing platitudes.
The great thing is, you don't need to worry about where the local transmitter is or any other reality based flarn! Also works with hairdriers, ipods, aibos, and yo mama.
I like to have an open mind, but this is either fake fake fake!1!!! or in more dire need of a brain enema than any website in history.
Then again, thank FSM that we are not in Lebanon!
Ha ha ha. Messages from the infinite, glad we don't have to worry about influential people being led by such things.
posted by asok at 3:58 AM on January 1, 2006


Not only cold fusion, but homeopathy! But wait, where are the zombies? The universe is not only wild and crazy, it's undead!
posted by languagehat at 4:50 AM on January 1, 2006


interesting list. number 12 is in the field where i used to work and i knew both john webb and patrick petitjean, slightly. if i had to put money on which one was right, i'd pick patrick (who supports standard physics).

also, i thought that the horizon problem and dark energy were related. but not that i re-read the explanations i must admit that they seem to be separate things to me.

astronomy (cosmology - the big scale stuff) really is in a mess at the moment. there are an awful lot of things that we don't have good explanations for. very big, important things. this is a good thing, in that it means we're going to learn something new. but since physics at normal/local scales works well i'm not sure it's going to change our lives significantly when we do. on the other hand, it would be kind of cool if explaining dark energy and matter somehow made sense of things like homeopathy...
posted by andrew cooke at 8:00 AM on January 1, 2006


"Here is the news. Today a young man on acid realized all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are all the imagination of ourselves. Now here's Bob with the weather..."

Hicks
posted by Justin Case at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2006


sacred geometry IMPLOSION is the life creating opposite of explosion. Fractal or self-similar biologic capacitors like pine cones, roses, your land, and your EKG during compassion choose Golden Mean (phylotactic) recursive nests. This creates centripedal (implosive) force among waves of charge (spirit/chi/orgone/barrakah/life force). This initiates compression - makes heart - starts sorting/self-organization. Waves in Golden Ratio add and multiply constructively their wave velocities (pic left). Only this wave music which makes self-similarity - (Golden Ratio) - allows compression to turn in to acceleration (Gravity). This explains the voltage called LIFE from gravity which fresh eggs, pine cones, and your HEART make. It also descibes for the first time WHY objects fall to the ground (charge has a way out thru light speed)- explaining for example why capacitors in a pine cone make gravity (eliminating for example the embarassing need to drive around in cars powered by dinosaurs farting). Also documenting for the first time the REASON that GOLDEN MEAN RATIO among brain EEG harmonics identifies BLISS & euphoria clinically. Implosion (bliss-the ultimate A.D.D/ritalin solution) creates suction whose self steering is the difference between being self-directing (for example at death or lucid dream) versus being a parasite (priests for example who say God is outside you.)
like time cube squared!
posted by hortense at 9:19 AM on January 1, 2006


It's rarely wrong.

how could you possibly know how right or wrong it is about fundamental philosophical/scientific understanding of the universe? My only real problem with that quote is that it's a "radical new biological paradigm" and that a human being being a pulsating packet of energy would therefore make it "not distinct" from its environment. We already know everything that exists is a "pulsating packet of energy" - that's what matter is. But the individual "units" are distinct enough to have their own forms, etc.

The placebo effect article example me too - how could it not be biochemical? Wasn't that the whole point, that our thoughts can effect our bodies?
posted by mdn at 9:30 AM on January 1, 2006


I thought the "dark matter" thing was already resolved simply by moving from Newtonian to Einsteinian calculations?

To wit.
Determinations of the rotation speed of stars in galaxies (galactic rotation curves) based on the assumption that Newtonian gravity is a good approximation have led to the inference that a large amount of dark matter must be present - more than can be accounted for by non-luminous baryonic matter. While there are plenty of attractive theoretical candidates for the additional dark matter, such as a lightest supersymmetric particle (LSP), it is also interesting to look into the details of the calculations that suggest the need for such exotica. Now F I Cooperstock and S Tieu of the University of Victoria have reworked the problem using general relativity in place of Newtonian gravity, and they find no need to assume the existence of a halo of exotic dark matter to fit the observed rotation curves.
[aqui]
posted by wah at 9:38 AM on January 1, 2006


There's another thing that doesn't make sense:

Why would Chewbacca, a Wookie, live on a planet full of Ewoks?!
posted by papakwanz at 9:53 AM on January 1, 2006


on the other hand, it would be kind of cool if explaining dark energy and matter somehow made sense of things like homeopathy...

andrew cooke gets it. I merely ask What if? As a huge fan - as in fanatic - of humanist science fiction, it's my duty to ask, and keep asking.

And while my intuition is sometimes wrong, it is also often right. And there's something about this whole inherent interconnectedness of things that rings my intuition like the clearest, purest bell.

It's like hearing music you've never heard before, music that you somehow already know the melody and words for.

Mysticism? Spirituality? Religion? Perhaps. So be it. Only time - and asking questions - will tell.
posted by loquacious at 10:17 AM on January 1, 2006


Chewbacca was a pedophile?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:17 AM on January 1, 2006


Why would Chewbacca, a Wookie, live on a planet full of Ewoks?!

Because Ewoks are so impossibly cute, and Chewbacca is really a big softy?

That or he has a fetish for midget Wookies that can't be satisfied elsewhere.
posted by loquacious at 10:18 AM on January 1, 2006


I like my theory: there are three fundamental aspects of the universe. These are energy, matter, and consciousness. Consciousness creates matter from energy. The more complex the organization of matter, the more complex the consciousness. When you get to the level of complexity of brainz, you get the level of complexity of self-awareness.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 AM on January 1, 2006


I'm hesistant to explore why he hooked up with Han Solo, then. *shudder*
posted by loquacious at 10:19 AM on January 1, 2006


wah - as far as i can tell, that's (at best) still a very open question. general relativity is a bunch of equations that relate matter and space, so if you're a theoretician what you do is try come up with neat solution to those equations that looks like something real. finding a solution is hard enough, but you also need the solution to "make sense" as physics as well as maths. for example, it would be nice if the effect of a single galaxy (which they were modelling) tailed away at large distances. now in turns out that their solution doesn't (the solution is "not asymptotically flat", apparently). there are more details here.

i'm way out of my depth here - i was just an observational astronomer using telescopes and computers, and i never took an exam in anything related to general relativity past the very minimal basics. but the above is what i understand - it's far from a widely accepted solution.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:53 AM on January 1, 2006


(also, it's not clear what's been published/peer-reviewed and what hasn't - there appears to be a quite intense public exchange at the level of preprints, which are not peer-reviewed. there's been a shift towards this as preprints have become easier to download on the net, and it means that things hit the news before "the community" has chewed them over and ironed out the bugs.)
posted by andrew cooke at 10:58 AM on January 1, 2006


And while my intuition is sometimes wrong, it is also often right.

Isn't unchecked intuition one of the worst tools for understanding the physical universe?

Examples:

The world is flat.

Light objects fall slower than heavy objects.

When i rub this coin over the sick person's body, they seem to get better....
posted by storybored at 11:09 AM on January 1, 2006


Isn't unchecked intuition one of the worst tools for understanding the physical universe?

Yes, but most people are more interested in a good story than in understanding the physical universe.
posted by languagehat at 11:13 AM on January 1, 2006


The placebo effect article example me too

...should have been bothered me too.

posted by mdn at 11:22 AM on January 1, 2006


i've been worrying about what i wrote above. maybe the following clarifies things a bit.

general relativity is a description of how time/space and matter/energy are related. it's a bunch of equations just because we use maths to describe things in physics.

you can find a simple solution to the equaltion if you have just a single blob of matter, or if you have a "uniformly smooth" universe. and those answers correspond to classical physics, more or less (newton etc).

but things get more difficult when you have extended, complex, objects, because things are non-linear. you can't say "ok, this galaxy is made out of a collection of blobs, so i'll just add up the solution for each individual blob". that only works for the nice, linear, maths that appears in a lot of traditional physics. general relativity isn't that simple.

instead, you have to find a single, complex, mathemtical description for the whole damn thing at once. which is tricky if you want to model the whole universe, because it's kind of complicated.

so you have to find some kind of middle ground. in this case, they found a nice (well, maybe not so nice, if you read some of the criticism) solution to the equations that explained a single, isolated, rotating, galaxy, made of an idealised gas.

now, obviously, that's not what theuniverse is like. so the question then is - is this solution something that gives us a good idea of what the real, unimaginably complex, solution for a real galaxy embedded in our universe?

and that's when the very smart and slightly manic people start getting excited and writing papers...

(previous disclaimer applies here too)
posted by andrew cooke at 11:56 AM on January 1, 2006


bleagh. that's not quite right either. newtonian gravity is also hard when you have complex structures, but nobody expects to get insane stuff like that paper. anyway, that doesn't alter the general ideas above. i'll shut up now.

oh, one more thing - you also have a "dark matter problem" with galaxies in clusters, i believe, and there things are a much better approximation to classical mechanics (each galaxy is a little blob).

and numerical simulations should show the behaviour they claim, since those use linear approximations to the theory and then numerically integrate (so effectively solve the maths by doing it, rather than finding a nice analytic approximation).

i think it's just wrong, to be honest.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:08 PM on January 1, 2006


Isn't unchecked intuition one of the worst tools for understanding the physical universe?

Examples:

The world is flat.

Light objects fall slower than heavy objects.

When i rub this coin over the sick person's body, they seem to get better....


I don't think those are really examples of the sorts of intuition I'm talking about. Those are more along the lines of unconnected or uninformed observations. Frankly I have a hard time grasping how anyone could have ever assumed the world was flat, but I live in a different world than they did.

The world simply looks round to me, even from my small, insignificant perspective. Laying still on my back upon the Earth on a still night, looking outward to the stars I can see the stars slide by in a spherical manner as the Earth rotates. How people could have ever argued that it was round baffles me.

Leaps of intuition and leaps of logic - founded upon and informed by what is already known - are a powerful influence upon science. Einstein spoke of intuition, so did Teller, so did Turing and other notable scientists. Intuition is often the spark that provides the question, logic and science attempt to answer the question.

And much like knowing and feeling the roundess of the Earth, it baffles me that some people can't sense or understand the interconnectedness of all things; Ourselsves, the Cosmos and everything in it.

It's not a new argument or hypothesis at all - it is indeed a very old one. And if it is true as I feel it to be, it may be among the last to be proven true.

I sometimes wish that it were simple and easy to prove. Sometimes. But then I'm reminded that not knowing something - like not knowing the end of a story, or the punchline to a joke - can make the Universe around us a more beautiful, mysterious and engaging place to be.
posted by loquacious at 12:39 PM on January 1, 2006


how could you possibly know how right or wrong it is about fundamental philosophical/scientific understanding of the universe?

I don't know. I haven't read the book it advertises. I also haven't read this catalogue from REI I just received in the mail, and I suppose it could contain legitimate views about a "fundamental philosophical/scientific understanding of the universe". I'm an empiricist-rationalist-materialist (with Kantian / Humeian leanings) who has a lot of experience with and assigns very little validity to utopianist, pseudo-scientific ideas (even though the discordian in me loves them and collects them). Upon even cursory inspection, The Field has most of the watermarks of an imprecise New Age text that tries to flatter the reader into thinking that a vague, non-mathematical understanding of quantum mechanics is sufficient to immediately apply it to a fundamental philosophical understanding of the universe -- just like the film What the Bleep Do We Know?. People have been doing this since the 20s. There is a huge ontological and epistemological separation between physics and metaphysics. I tend to discard the latter.

I favor the other approach to combining physics and philosophy, that of David Bohm: make several important advances in QM and relativity, write a well-received standard textbook on QM, and then investigate the relations between physical law and the vexing empirical aspects of cognition.

This might reek of the genetic fallacy to you, but, alas, association is often a valuable heuristic in these sorts of cases. Jesus, what a rant.

I agree with you about the placebo effect thing, though.
posted by gramschmidt at 12:42 PM on January 1, 2006


Just in case funny
posted by jouke at 12:46 PM on January 1, 2006


For the record, I agree with gramschmidt's rant. And Bohm does a fine job of it.

On one hand, I also collect utopianist, pseudo-scientific ideas. On another, my intuition (or lack of knowledge) drives me to believe or wish for some of them. On an entirely different hand wishy-washy new age (and old age) belief systems drive me to teeth-gnashing irritation. And on yet another hand, I'm absolutely fascinated by and supportive of real, hard science of all kinds. (Yes, that's four hands. You only have two? My apologies.)

I don't have any problems with keeping Terrance McKenna on my bookshelf next to Bohr, or Bohr next to Hofstadter, or Hofstadter next to Sacks, or Sacks next to Sagan.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 PM on January 1, 2006


Mysticism? Spirituality? Religion?

Bullshit?
posted by Bort at 1:27 PM on January 1, 2006


Ewoks are larval wookies.
posted by teirnon at 2:09 PM on January 1, 2006


Isn't unchecked intuition one of the worst tools for understanding the physical universe?

--Yes, but most people are more interested in a good story than in understanding the physical universe.


That's an insightful comment, LH. I think it ties into a comment that Richard Feynman made which was that when doing science, "the easiest person to fool is....me".
posted by storybored at 2:20 PM on January 1, 2006


it baffles me that some people can't sense or understand the interconnectedness of all things; Ourselsves, the Cosmos and everything in it.

Depends on what you mean by "interconnectedness". Most people probably would agree we're connected to the cosmos via our senses....
posted by storybored at 2:25 PM on January 1, 2006


Define "senses". Do you have 5? 6? More? Less? Sight, sound, smell, heat, touch. Movement? Pressure? Pain? Texture? Is love a sense? Intuition? Creativity? Awareness?

How about that ability some people seem to have that indicates to them when they're being observed? What about that intuition that tells a mother or a married woman that her husband or child has died - before anyone has ever told her? Is that a sense? How empirically sure are you that you know exactly how many senses there are, and what capabilities the human mind and body has? What about awareness and consciousness?

Wave your arms or jump up and down. In reaction, the Earth, Moon, and Sun themselves move an infinitesimal amount in reaction. The rest of the Universe eventually will react in kind until reaching equilibrium.

The slightest mass of my fingers weaving and waving to and fro, striking these keys are not only moving mountains, but the entire planet. I laugh and the Solar system itself wobbles along with me, ever so minutely.

Have we discovered all that there is to know about physics large and small? How hubristic is it to dismissively say "that's impossible" about that which we don't yet fully understand? Weekly and monthly we're discovering bizarre things about the energy matter that makes up our reality.

What if these metaphysical phenomenon are undiscoverable or untestable using the current techniques of observational science. What if they broke down under observation? What if our tools are too crude, too indelicate? What if our imaginations too small?

How many things do we accept as routine fact today that would have been heretical - 10 years ago? 100? 1000?

What if the truth is stranger than fiction?
posted by loquacious at 4:18 PM on January 1, 2006


*Orders whatever loquacious is drinking*
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:28 PM on January 1, 2006


Guh, today I'm drinking coffee. But there's still vodka martini fixin's from last night on the sideboard over yonder. Help yourself.
posted by loquacious at 4:37 PM on January 1, 2006


Loquacious has entered the Matrix.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:23 PM on January 1, 2006


gramschmidt, I don't know anything about the Field either, and was just responding to the quote which jerked yr knee. I absolutely agree with you re: Bohm>>>>'what the bleep do we know' - I am annoyed by half-assed psuedo-scientific spirituality too (& I really like david bohm).

Like I said, the part of that sentence that set off my bullshit detector was that it claimed to be a radical new paradigm. If they were familiar with 20th century science, they'd know that matter as pulsating energy, and space-time as a unity (with humans as 'vibrations' in it, not separate objects), wouldn't be anything new. Science is often just as weird as the unfounded theories thrown out there by human imagination.

like Bertrand Russell once said: "Thus our familiar table, which has roused but the slightest thoughts in us hitherto, has become a problem full of surprising possibilities. The one thing we know about it is that it is not what it seems. Beyond this modest result, so far, we have the most complete liberty of conjecture. Leibniz tells us it is a community of souls: Berkeley tells us it is an idea in the mind of God; sober science, scarcely less wonderful, tells us it is a vast collection of electric charges in violent motion."
posted by mdn at 8:10 AM on January 2, 2006


How many things do we accept as routine fact today that would have been heretical - 10 years ago? 100? 1000?

How many things do we *not* accept as routine fact that was regularly accepted as fact 10 years ago? 100? 1000?

I'd like to wager that the numerical answer to this question is larger than the answer to the original question.
posted by storybored at 1:20 PM on January 3, 2006


How about that ability some people seem to have that indicates to them when they're being observed?

Cover their eyes and ears, and I bet I'd be able to sneak up on them no problemo.
posted by storybored at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2006


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