everyone's a scientist
January 5, 2006 10:00 AM   Subscribe

The sun is solid (this has beautiful images, btw). The earth is fixed, or maybe growing; relativity is wrong, and so is most of current thinking... For the intriguing as well as the insane, visit the fringes of science.
posted by mdn (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is good, but there is no mention of the increase in Earth's gravity resulting from people hoarding National Geographics.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2006

I love the sun.
posted by NationalKato at 10:14 AM on January 5, 2006

On the more serious side, I just stumbled across Tangled Bank, a bi-weekly science carnival. Tangled Bank #44 is online at Afarensis. via the Bad Astronomy Blog.

Now back to the show.
posted by grateful at 10:20 AM on January 5, 2006

Awsome find, mdn. Very well done.
posted by JeffK at 10:24 AM on January 5, 2006

Thank you, mdn. The Flying Spaghetti Monster would be pleased.
posted by Scooter at 10:39 AM on January 5, 2006

What's funnier is that most currently accepted scientific theories started out about as popular as these theories. Re: "A Brief History of Nearly Everything".

Unfortunately, this is often used by crackpots to justify their crackpotedness.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on January 5, 2006

I was expecting that 'earth is growing' link to be about comic book legend Neal Adams' pet theory. More here and here.
posted by kimota at 10:50 AM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

All I'm saying is that we should teach the debate.
posted by iamck at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006

Play along at home with the crackpot index!

My advisor is well-known enough to get these kinds of manuscripts sent to him over the transom. He keeps a "crackpot table" just outside his office for such submissions. My favourite so far is the theory that the Crucifixion, combined with the rotation of the Earth, created "organogravitational waves."
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2006

I love and fear this post. Counterintuitive ideas have a delicious thrill to them. But with limited science knowledge, I am pretty sure this site would pollute my brain with all kinds of appealing but wrong "facts." And I would end up like most of the posters in the JFK assasination thread below.
posted by LarryC at 11:01 AM on January 5, 2006


Really, the people behind this deserve some sort of award.
posted by nixerman at 11:15 AM on January 5, 2006

GuyZero, which theories do you have in mind? I don't think that statement's true at all. Pretty much except for relativity and quantum mechanics, science has progressed pretty gradually with very few surprises.
posted by nixerman at 11:24 AM on January 5, 2006

Oh go read What Your Kids Know About Science..... It's brilliant!
Most books now say our sun is a star. But it still knows how to change back into a sun in the daytime.

A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way it wants to go.

Many dead animals in the past changed to fossils while others preferred to be oil.

Vacuums are nothings. We only mention them to let them know we know they're there.

Humidity is the experience of looking for air and finding water.

Cyanide is so poisonous that one drop of it on a dogs tongue will kill the strongest man.
I suppose those 5th and 6th graders will have some day their own crackpot science website.
posted by samelborp at 11:26 AM on January 5, 2006

[this is good]
posted by Rumple at 11:30 AM on January 5, 2006

You can click here to download a PDF manuscript that has been offered for general web peer review.

Sweet! Everything I say has passed general web peer review, and is thus unassailable. Eat it, suckers.
posted by COBRA! at 11:47 AM on January 5, 2006

This thread needs more cowbelltimecube.
posted by alumshubby at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2006

I stumbled across the 7 warning signs of bogus science from a few clicks. Sure would be nice to send to our reps in government.
posted by rubin at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2006

dang, that's great - I love the sun, too. The Chandra galactic photo gallery linked by the site in the first link deserves a FPP by itself: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2006

This thread needs more timecube.

You can generate it yourself. (generate link at bottom of page)
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:12 PM on January 5, 2006

wow, kimota, great stuff.
Guyzero, one thing that occurs to me reading these sites is how that really doesn't seem to be the case. The radical paradigm shifts many of these sites are insisting must take place are actually quite unlike what we've experienced in the past. Even stuff like relativity & QM a)did not just spring up out of nowhere (relative vs. absolute models of space were always a philosophical question, if put aside by physics for a while) and b)were quite immediately taken up into the mainstream discussion.

I think part of it is that there's just so much more information out there now - like LarryC, I often tend to have just too slightly too much of an open mind, so I spend hours trying to understand theories which are often just plain ill-conceived. But then, sometimes bizarre theories help you think about something in a new way, or just propel you to better understand the orthodox model (I learned a lot about the sun after finding that iron sun site, for instance). (& yeah, I love the sun too).

I guess I never quite feel certain about any level of knowledge anyway, so I can be vulnerable to the more well-dressed crackpottery, so to speak. Plus there are also definite shifts in interpretation that muddy things - the ether theories linked above all claim to overthrow Einstein, but then there are ether-esque interpretations of space-time being discussed in mainstream circles (e.g.) at the same time...
posted by mdn at 12:23 PM on January 5, 2006

(What I meant to get at there though was that even Einstein never claimed "newton was an idiot" - rather, he showed that a new interpretation could solve some of the issues that the newtonian theory was unable to deal with, without rejecting previous science - just assigning it a particular domain. The ether-esque stuff that's taken seriously likewise doesn't overturn things but reinterprets certain elements)
posted by mdn at 12:32 PM on January 5, 2006

The example from "Brief History" is the theory (though it's not really a theory anymore) of plate tectonics. Also the idea that various geological features were formed by glaciers. Back when it was proposed, saying that valleys were carved by glaciers was about as well accepted as saying the sun has a surface of solid iron. Most geologists work pretty well with both these ideas nowadays. (plates & glaciers, not the one about the sun)

And they had to do a pretty fancy experiment before physicists gave up on the concept of the luminous ether... it was as well accepted as any modern theory in its day. I think someone once said "every great truth starts out as heresy".

New ideas in physics are a lot rarer and disproving very fundamental laws needs a lot of evidence, which is why these examples are so obviously bad - is the surface of the sun supposed to be below the melting point of iron? Or by solid does that guy mean liquid? And what's the magma that comes out of the cracks made of?

Also, you may have heard there's still some controversy about a theory called "evolution" in some quarters. Many dismiss it as cranks & fundamentalists doing their thing, but debate is debate. When non-idiots debate crackpots, the crackpots make out like you're on the Dover schoolboard and say you're just trying to keep 'em down.
posted by GuyZero at 12:36 PM on January 5, 2006

Actually, of all of the sciences, physics is by far the easiest one in which to get a hearing for apparently wacky ideas. One of the most conservative is medicine: the story of stomach ulcers and H. Pylori was fought out through the 80's and 90's: public pillory! self-experimentation! big business supressing science! It's like a story out of Victoriana. Of course the capper is that Marshal and Warren won the Nobel for medicine this past year.
posted by bonehead at 1:24 PM on January 5, 2006

Besides the Tangled Bank, the Skeptic's Circle is also an excellent blog carnival devoted to debunking bad science.
posted by blendor at 1:38 PM on January 5, 2006

Awesome post.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2006

At the boundary between quack science and real science you get Pseudo-Science , I guess...

I have been trying to find a place to put that link for a while now. I found it doing a search on Doug Sweetser author of Doing Physics with Quaternions. I had to read up on quaternions for a project and for whatever reason I didn't feel like going to the library. Sweetser's work helped me out a lot, along with some other online references.

There was also the Moving AI out of its infancy post a couple of weeks ago. The author of the first link, Steve Grand, is an independent researcher.
posted by Chuckles at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2006

I agree, this is a fantastic post.
posted by riffola at 1:49 PM on January 5, 2006

"The evidence is obvious, unmistakable and irrefutable!"

Those three words are all favorites of junk scientists. Most real scientists I know don't use those words to describe their emergent theories (they may apply them to individual concepts underlying their research, but not the body of the work itself).

Thanks for sharing, mdn.
posted by Eideteker at 2:41 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm suddenly embarrassed that I'm a coast to coast fan... good post.
posted by Nquire at 3:04 PM on January 5, 2006

Kind of reminds me of that rediculous book "The Final Theory". If you see someone who owns a copy, promptly smack them.
posted by Farengast at 4:14 PM on January 5, 2006

harmonic resolution, to round out crackpots. And it's a business model too! For example.
posted by arialblack at 4:30 PM on January 5, 2006

The post and the subsequent links have been genius!
posted by dejah420 at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2006

Does this do anything to explain where the "other 80%" of the mass of the universe is? Is it really inside all those stars that I was taught were composed 'mostly' of hydrogen gas under pressure?
posted by Balisong at 8:05 PM on January 5, 2006

What 80%? There is no 80%; never was. We run a legitimate business here. Now scram, kid.
posted by Eideteker at 8:06 PM on January 5, 2006

**Scrams, still puzzled**
posted by Balisong at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2006

My brain is trying to escape out of my ears
posted by MetaMonkey at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2006

Best post and discussion in weeks. Thanks, everyone, for the killer links. Here's an appropriate one to round them out.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:17 PM on January 5, 2006

That's a great Onion piece, Optimus.
Right on the edge of satire and truth.
Lots of smart street people out there.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:26 PM on January 5, 2006

My boyfriend actually attends the University of Missouri - Rolla, where one of the iron-sun crackpots, Dr. Oliver Manuel, teaches. This article doesn't just make Manuel seem crazy, he says that Manuel actually, well, is.

Said boyfriend is a Physics major at UMR, and says that the Physics faculty and Dr. Manuel (who is a member of the Chem dept.) have spats all the time; mostly because Manuel provides no counter to the established hydrogen-helium composition theories, he just asserts his iron-core sun hypothesis with very little valid scientific backing. He has seen Manuel's talks first-hand, and it's not just the ignorance of being an undergrad at work when he doesn't understand it - the Physics profs are baffled at Manuel's leaps of logic and flawed reasoning.

Really, only time will tell if we've been thinking the wrong thing for the last couple hundred years, but Manuel and his associates had better start coming up with more than random coincidences if they want to make their research believable to more than crackpots.
posted by luftmensch at 9:44 PM on January 5, 2006

I recently found a big toe
posted by hortense at 10:36 PM on January 5, 2006

Wack-o-rific, thanks!
posted by safetyfork at 6:59 AM on January 6, 2006

My boyfriend actually attends the University of Missouri - Rolla, where one of the iron-sun crackpots, Dr. Oliver Manuel, teaches..... it's not just the ignorance of being an undergrad at work when he doesn't understand it - the Physics profs are baffled at Manuel's leaps of logic and flawed reasoning.

Wow, that's pretty wild. Yeah, the incoherence is what is so weird - I honestly tried to get my head around exactly what the theory was, but I could not really make sense of it. I even emailed michael mozina to ask how iron could be solid at the 11000 degree temperatures in the sun. He wrote back to say that's just the surface, and it's somewhat cooler underneath, more like 4-6000 degrees. But iron melts at 1536 and boils at 2750 (that's C, but it's only a little higher in K), so I still dont' get it... which isn't to say it would be completely impossible for someone to explain some mechanism which would make it possible, but wouldn't that be like the first thing to clariify if you're going to set out a theory like that? I am definitely open to new ways to think of things, but it's gotta be a)internally coherent, ie, fully explicable how it could be that way regardless of whether it actually is; and b)backed up by empirical evidence that in fact it actually is.

It's true that a lot of science starts on one end or the other - come up with a beautiful theory and see if it matches, or come up with a bunch of data that contradict previous theories & start cobbling together a new possibility. So if the pictures really seem to show an unchanging layer underneath and this cannot be explained by current models, then yes, it should be addressed, but you can't just make a claim without addressing all the thinking which would need to change in order for it to be true.

Re: the ulcer question, the major thinking that needed to change for that was that bacteria could survive and even thrive in acid. We only recently discovered that some forms of bacteria can live at extremely high temperatures, e.g. So that wasn't exactly a law, though it was an expectation about how life works...

Thanks for all the great links in the thread, everyone!
posted by mdn at 1:09 PM on January 6, 2006

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