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Monday, Feb 28, 2011
Bethell on Einstein's relativity
The net is fully of Einstein idolizers, and a few skeptics. One of the more prominent skeptics has written a book, and now a new article. Tom Bethell writes:
A major turning point in the public’s understanding of science came about a century ago, with the introduction of Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity. Before then, educated laymen were expected to and usually could understand new developments in science, at least in outline. After Einstein this changed. Science moved beyond the ken of educated laymen. ...

Special relativity theory (1905) has a special difficulty. It baffles almost everyone, yet nothing more than high school algebra is involved. So it’s not the math. It’s that we must accept something that is impossible to believe – except on Einstein’s authority. If Petr Beckmann is right, we should reject that authority, as indeed we should reject authority in all fields of science. ...

It was the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 that launched special relativity. It involves only unaccelerated, linear motion. If curved motion, acceleration, or gravity, are involved, then we must turn to general relativity (1916), where the math gets much more difficult. ...

Einstein postulated – assumed – that the speed of light is a constant irrespective of the motion, ...

Petr Beckman made a different claim. He argued that the ether is equivalent to the gravitational field, which of course is non-uniform. It is denser at the earth’s surface than it is near the moon, for example. The Sun’s gravitational field is much denser near the Sun than it is in outer space (where it is still not zero). The light medium, then, is non-uniform. ...

Beckmann’s theory gives the same results as Einstein’s general relativity, but by a far simpler method. For various reasons, Einstein’s special relativity should be discarded. ...

At present, the world of orthodox physics is unwilling to reexamine Einstein’s relativity, whether special or general. It would fall apart if subjected to real scrutiny, I believe. But in science (and perhaps everything else) the simple should always be preferred to the complex – all else being equal. Such a revision, if it ever came to pass, would also constitute a serious challenge to the priesthood of science. Perhaps that’s why the relativists are hanging tough.

Bethell is not a scientist, and he relies mainly on Beckmann, who is now dead. You don't need to know any physics to understand how unlikely his story is.

First, special relativity is a special case of general relativity. Special relativity is much more widely accepted and confirmed than the general theory. But Bethell claims that the general theory is true, but he special theory is false. How is that even possible?

Second, Beckmann published many things, but never his theory that is supposedly somehow better than Einstein's. Why not?

Third, he complains that we accept the constancy of the speed of light because of Einstein's authority, but he also admits that the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 already found that, before Einstein. Which is it?

I am all for simplicity, but how is Beckmann's non-uniform gravitational aether simpler than a uniform aether?

Some of this is the fault of the popular relativity books. Einstein denied that he used the experimental evidence, and claimed that he just applied pure thought. So in the process of fully crediting Einstein, the experimental evidence for special relativity is downplayed. Instead of saying that we know the speed of light is constant because of experiments like Michelson-Morley, the books say that Einstein postulated.

In fact, the Einstein postulates were ideas that were previously proved by theory and experiment. Acceptance of relativity had very little to do with Einstein's paper.

Update: I learned that Wikipedia has a page on this stuff, called Criticism of relativity theory.

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011
4 reasons to hate string theory
Phil Gibbs gives Four reasons why he likes string theory. They are:
(1) the inclusion of gravitons
(2) supersymmetry is a natural byproduct of string theory and if it does exist in nature at scales currently being probed by the LHC then it can explain several mysteries
(3) a holographic principle to avoid the paradox of thermodynamic information being lost inside a black hole
(4) I am comfortable with the platonic view that all mathematically consistent universes exist and we just inhabit some part of that realm ... the laws of physics are somehow selected to promote intelligent life ... string theory ... can be realized in many forms in lower dimensions ..., plenty enough to account for anthropic reasoning. In my view it is the perfect outcome.
Only reason (2) has any relation to experiment. However the latest evidence is against it:
The first results on supersymmetry from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have been analysed by physicists and some are suggesting that the theory may be in trouble. Data from proton collisions in both the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and ATLAS experiments have shown no evidence for supersymmetric particles – or sparticles – that are predicted by this extension to the Standard Model of particle physics.
See also Woit's comments. Supersymmetry was invented before string theory, and most of the reasons for and against it have nothing to do with string theory.

Reason (1) is based on the conjecture that gravity is transmitted by spin-2 bosons. Gravitons, if they exist, would be trillions of times harder to detect than gravity waves, and all attempts to detect gravity waves have failed. It is not even certain that they would have spin 2. (I think Pauli said that they would have spin 2, based on the field equations using rank 2 tensors, and gravity waves having 2 helicity states.) Reasons (3) and (4) are unobservable by definition.

Conspicuously absent in the reasons for liking string theory is any agreement with experiment. The guy doesn't seem to even have any interest in the physical world, or in experimental science. His view is that it is a "perfect outcome" to have a theory that says that anything is possible and predicts nothing except to say that we are here to observe whatever happened.

Friday, Feb 25, 2011
Most moral acts of that time
Harvard professor Gerald Holton is an Einstein idolizer. Besides being a physicist and an Einstein biographer, he is on the List of American philosophers. He got a prize named for a fellow Einstein worshipper. He said:
“During that war when much of humanity devoted itself to senseless destruction,” Holton has said, Einstein “revealed the outlines of the grand construction of the universe. That must count as one of the most moral acts of that time.”
Wow. Einstein wrote a 1916 paper on general relativity that was about 90% a recapitulation of the work of others, but did not reference a single paper. I guess that is supposed to make him more moral than those who were fighting World War I, but "most moral"?

This is absurd. The Einstein biographies are written by people like Holton. They are all unreliable idolizers.

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011
How Einstein got famous
I posted below about Einstein and the twelve men. The newspaper hype about that had a lot to do with Einstein's fame.

Michael Madow writes on publicity law, and explains how Einstein got famous, including the 12 men story:

Consider, for starters, the case of Einstein. Why did he, alone among theoretical physicists in this century, achieve worldwide recognition and commercially marketable fame? Why has his name, rather than Bohr's or Schrodinger's, become virtually synonymous in our vernacular with "genius"? Why is it his face, rather than Heisenberg's or Pauli's, that today stares out at us from advertisements, T-shirts, posters, greeting cards, and even party favors? n283 Why, in short, is his face a "sign," while theirs are not? Our first instinct may be to reject these questions as [*186] somewhat foolish. Einstein, we may think, was a great scientist, probably the greatest scientist of the century, and a "great soul" to boot. Surely, neither his renown nor his cultural significance needs explanation: things could not have turned out otherwise.

Yet a recent article by the historian Marshall Missner casts doubt on this easy answer. Missner has marshalled impressive evidence that Einstein's fame, in America at least, was "by no means inevitable." n284 The process by which Einstein became a celebrity in America in the years immediately after World War I was instead "a tale of serendipity -- a publicity campaign run by an invisible hand." n285 Although it is a long way from Einstein to Madonna and Vanilla Ice, and from the 1920s to the 1990s, Missner's study can teach us something about the mechanisms of renown and popular meaning-making in our society -- about the ways in which fame is generated and specific public images are formed in an era of mass communications. For that reason, I will set out a brief summary of his findings.

Missner suggests that the first puzzle to be explained is why the theory of relativity itself attracted so much public attention. The theory, put forward by Einstein in 1905, "did not have any obvious technological consequences at the time." n286 Nor did it conflict, in any obvious way at least, with religious dogma. True, it was a great theoretical achievement, but the achievements of Bohr and Heisenberg "were of at least similar magnitude" and yet "did not gain any public recognition at all." n287 Why, then, did Einstein's theory cause a public sensation, both in Europe and America, while their work did not? The initial factor, Missner claims, was the dramatic way in which the theory was confirmed: by observation of the deflection of light during the solar eclipse of May 1919. n288 This confirmation was announced, with great fanfare, at a scientific conference held in London in November of the same year. n289 Subsequent newspaper and magazine accounts did much to fuel public interest in the theory, trumpeting it as a "revolutionary" discovery that upset common sense assumptions about time and space. n290

[*187] According to Missner, however, the primary reason the theory aroused intense interest in the United States was its political and ideological resonance. n291 The period immediately after World War I was a time of intense xenophobia; there was widespread fear of social revolution and alien, antidemocratic conspiracies. The theory of relativity, at least as presented by the popular press, struck many Americans as elitist, sinister, and subversive. n292 Revealingly, a story somehow took hold after 1919 that only "twelve men" in the entire world (all foreigners, presumably) really understood Einstein's theory. n293 Editorialists voiced concern that this elite might ultimately use their knowledge of the theory to alter basic aspects of reality -- to "bend" space and time, to enter a "fourth dimension," and so on -- and thereby achieve world dominion. n294 Even the sober editors of The New York Times railed against the theory's antidemocratic implications. n295

In April 1921, Einstein himself paid his first visit to this country as part of a Zionist delegation led by Chaim Weizmann. The American mainstream press misinterpreted the tumultuous welcome that New York City's Jews gave to the delegation, and to Weizmann in particular, as a "hero's welcome" for Einstein. The Washington Post, for example, headlined its account of the arrival: "Thousands at Pier to Greet Einstein." n296 The New York Times misreported the event in similar fashion. n297 These erroneous reports helped to generate keen curiosity about Einstein as a person. Reporters who sought him out for interviews were relieved to find that he was not a "haughty, aloof European looking down on boorish Americans," n298 but a modest, humorous, and informal man, who "smiled when his picture was taken, and produced amusing and quotable answers to their inane questions." n299 The fact that Einstein wore rumpled, ill-fitting clothing, played the violin, and smoked a pipe seemed particularly reassuring. He simply did not look like "the 'frightening Dr[.] Einstein,'" the "destroyer of space and time." n300

Before very long, the press coverage turned sharply in Einstein's favor, and less was heard about his theory's sinister implications. Einstein had come to America in April 1921, as the somewhat obscure originator of a frightening and "un-American" theory. He left, two months later, a person revered in the American Jewish community and [*188] widely admired in the general populace, well on his way to secular sainthood and cultural iconization. n301

Yes, Einstein was lucky, the eclipse was dramatic, the press exaggerated the profundity of his ideas, and the Zionists made a hero out of him. But there is much more to the story.

Einstein was an egotistical publicity seeker. His 1905 relativity theory did not just fail to have any obvious technological applications at the time, it did not have any substantial original content at all. A lot of people cooperated to portray him as something that he was not.

I don't know why someone would say that Einstein was not a "haughty, aloof European looking down on boorish Americans". On that trip he said that American men are toy dogs for women.

Einstein certainly got a lot of lucky breaks.

I do wonder whether anyone told the newspapers that there were other physicists who were more important than Einstein. Since Einstein had enemies, it seems likely that they did. But didn't anyone explain it in detail? Surely a lot of people knew the truth about Einstein and kept quiet.

At any rate, a lot of people are lying about Einstein today. The truth is readily available.

Monday, Feb 21, 2011
The essence of atheistic evolution is that it is unsupervised
The leftist-atheist-evolutionist Cosmic Variance blog complains about compromising with theologians on the definition of evolution:
Apparently the National Association of Biology Teachers used to characterize the theory of evolution in the following way:
The diversity of life on earth is the result of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.
That’s a good description, because it’s true. But some religious thinkers, along with their enablers within the scientific establishment, objected to the parts about “unsupervised” and “impersonal,” because they seemed to exclude the possibility that the process was designed or guided by God.
The leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne agrees, and adds:
And, indeed, this is what I teach—that natural selection, and evolution in general, are material processes, blind, mindless, and purposeless. ...

As one Christian said to me, defining evolution as “unsupervised” and “impersonal” implied to many Americans that “God had nothing to do with it and life has no meaning.” ...

After all, Darwin’s greatest achievement was the explanation of organismal “design” by a completely naturalistic process, replacing the mindful, purposeful, and god-directed theory that preceded it.  That was a revolution in human thought, and students should know about it.  (This achievement is also why Dawkins claimed, in The Blind Watchmaker, that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”  Perhaps Darwin did not mandate that evolution ineluctably proves the absence of God, but he kicked out the last prop supporting the action of a deity in nature.)

Evolution and selection lack any sign of divine guidance.  ...

Actually -— and I thought this was implicit in my piece -— I don’t think it’s a good tactical move, for to strip those words from the characterization of selection is to rob it of its essence and intellectual (and biological) importance.

One comment asks:
Gravity, the electroweak force, the strong force, the Standard Model, both theories of relativity, among countless others are all considered “unsupervised” and “impersonal”. Nobody wrote letters about their characterizations as “unsupervised” and “impersonal”, and nobody has bothered with surveys, focus groups, etc to determine what “sells best” to the public. Why should the theory of evolution be any different?
No, the physics textbooks do not explicitly say that gravity is unsupervised. The physicists are not always trying to impose their atheism on their students. Saying that it is unsupervised, impersonal, and natural is just a gratuitous attack on religion.

I do not see any purpose to calling evolution "an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process", except to attack religion. Saying that evolution is "unpredictable" is what robs it of its scientific importance. If it is unpredictable, then it is unscientific. Science is all about making hypotheses, predicting the outcome of experiments, and observing those outcomes.

Carroll and Coyne are happy to disclaim any scientific content to the theory of evolution as long as it is declares that God had no part in life on Earth.

Yes, chance has a role in the theory of evolution, but the same is true about quantum mechanics. But no physics book would characterize quantum mechanics as "an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process". It is predictable, and there is scientific merit to considering it a personal and unnatural process. See the Copenhagen interpretation for details.

Another comment adds:

But Dr. Scott is not really interested in speaking for “S”cience: “Nobody speaks for capital ‘S’ science, neither people of faith nor atheists,” she said. “Science is religiously neutral. Whether you’re religious or not, you use the same method and rationale in the way you do science, and if you don’t, then you’re stepping outside of science.”
Coyne tries to speak for Science, and he mainly attacks religion when he does.

Notes: The history of the NABT is that it adopted the original statement in 1995, and was eventually persuaded to remove "unsupervised, impersonal" in 1998. The revision is here and here. The current abbreviated NABT statement drops the whole sentence. NABT Statement on Evolution Evolves by Eugenie C. Scott says that "The strong position of evolution in biology and other sciences was not compromised by removing two adjectives that miscommunicated NABT's meaning.", but has removed her statement from her own web site. One of Coyne's critics says:

You guys are sneaking metaphysics into science class. The logical support that biology lends to atheism is no stronger than that between, say, meteorology and atheism, yet for basically historical reasons we have some evolutionary biologists who consider it part of their job to issue rulings on imponderable cosmic matters, whereas such things are very rare elsewhere in science (excepting perhaps cosmology itself).
I agree with that. These evolutionists are constantly picking unnecessary fights with religion. It would not be so bad if they were at least defending science in the process. But they push a horrible idea of what science is all about.

Sunday, Feb 20, 2011
Ardi and Africa theories doubted
From yesterday's Razib Khan and Milford Wolpoff video podcast, I learned that the multiregional human evolution theory is in sharp contrast to the Out of Africa theory, that both theories cannot be true, that the Out of Africa theory dominated public opinion because of the prominence of fossil finders but profession opinion has been split, that many experts do not believe that Ardi was a hominid (ie, in the human line from the human-chimp split), and that the professors promoting the idea that Ardi was a hominid are sufficiently powerful that a young scholar would be foolish to question it.

I have expressed doubts about the out-of-africa and Ardi-hominid theories on this blog. I was suspicious because the announcements were so conveniently aligned with the career goals of those making the claims, because the press had so uncritically accepted the claims, and because of the lack of hard evidence supporting those claims.

Friday, Feb 18, 2011
Einstein's wandering mind
SciAm has a new slideshow on great breakthrus, and Einstein leads the show:
Delivered in a Daydream: 7 Great Achievements That Arose from a Wandering Mind [Slide Show]

Daydreaming and downtime can lead to solutions for difficult scientific problems and provide inspiration for creative works. Some of history's best-known scientific and literary achievements grew out of such mental meandering

Relativity Revelation

Albert Einstein's unleashed imagination was an important ingredient to his success. After months of intense mathematical exercises he homed in on the gist of his special theory of relativity while taking a break from his work "and let his imagination wander about the concepts of space and time," wrote Guenther Knoblich and Michael Oellinger in the October 2006 Scientific American MIND. In his mental meanderings Einstein imagined two bolts of lightning striking the front and back of a moving train at the same instant. He realized that those strikes would not seem simultaneous to a person standing next to the track even if they did seem so to an individual on the moving train. Einstein described his moment of insight in 1924: "After seven years of reflection in vain [1898 to 1905] the solution came to me suddenly with the thought that our concepts and laws of space and time can only claim validity insofar as they stand in a clear relation to our experiences; and that experience could very well lead to the alteration of these concepts and laws."

Einstein gave interviews all his life, and always told a story about how he invented special relativity all by himself in a flash of brilliance. But FitzGerald proposed altering our concept of space in 1889, and Lorentz proposed altering time in 1892. It was old news by 1898. Even Einstein's biograhers and defenders admit that he read Lorentz's 1895 paper and Poincare's 1902 book. Lorentz got his Nobel Prize for his electrodynamics in 1902. Einstein spent his whole life pretending that he did relativity on his own.

It is often remarked that Einstein's 1905 relativity paper did not cite any previous work. That was irresponsible enough, but it could have just been laziness, and not dishonesty. But nobody has ever been able to give an explanation to justify all these phony stories that Einstein gave in his later life.

This false Einstein story is used today to justify elite physicists daydreaming about new theories that have no scientific merit. They argue that they are just following Einstein's example.

Thursday, Feb 17, 2011
Claiming that gross evolution that has stopped
Dr. Neandertal complains about physicist Michio Kaku saying that human evolution has stopped.

Kaku is just reciting what the evolutionists said themselves, just a few years ago. The NY Times reported in 2005:

It had been widely assumed until recently that human evolution more or less stopped 50,000 years ago.
This was proved wrong in 2007.

My guess is that many of the leftist-atheist-evolutionists are still saying that human are not evolving, but the subject of human diversity is unpleasant for them. They have hated the subject ever since Darwin described the widening gap between humans and apes.

I have criticized Kaku for saying kooky things about physics many times, such as here:

Einstein said that the harmony he sees could not have been an accident. ... I work in something called String Theory which makes the statement that we are reading the mind of God. ... We physicists are the only scientists who can say the word “God” and not blush.
and here:
Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time. By Michio Kaku. ... As Kaku writes, “crumbs that have tumbled off Einstein’s plate are now winning Nobel Prizes for other scientists.”
No, no Nobel Prize has ever come out of Einstein's crumbs. Some have been given for relativity-derived work, but not based on Einstein's contributions. None will ever be given for string theory.

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011
Relativity is easy
The Cosmic Variance blog today agrees with DeLong:
My point is that Relativity is easy, intuitive, and consonant with every day human experience when compared to Quantum Mechanics, which is the other branch of twentieth-century physics. Quantum Mechanics is genuinely mind-bending, is genuinely incomprehensible in a way that Relativity is not. It is so incomprehensinblr that physicists' standard advice to their students when they try to make sense of Quantum Mechanics is that they should stop: instead they should just "shut up and calculate."
and Carroll agrees with Feynman who said:
There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.
Those newspapers were in New York and London. The 1955 NY Times obituary said:
The scientific fraternity in the world of physics, particularly the leaders of the group, recognized from the beginning that a new star of the first magnitude had appeared on their firmament. But with the passing of time his fame spread to other circles, and by 1920 the name of Einstein had become synonymous with relativity, a theory universally regarded as so profound that only twelve men in the entire world were believed able to fathom its depths.
(It was tricky to find the above text. The NY Times Einstein page only has a link to a scanned newspaper image.)

Why 12 men? Relativity was surely more widely understood than quantum mechanics. It appears that the NY Times wanted to portray him as the new Messiah, with 12 enlightened followers just as Jesus had 12 disciples.

Next, I will explain about how the "12 men" story goes back to 1919, when Einstein became a world-wide celebrity. And it continued for decades, even while quantum mechanics was being developed in the 1920s, and never got these stories. The newspapers should have been able to ask any physicist and learn that quantum mechanics was where the action is. Yet they continued with these crazy stories about Einstein and the 12 men.

This sounds like a Jewish story, because Albert Einstein was Jewish, because of the religious overtones of the "12 men" story, and because the NY Times was a Jewish newspaper. But many of the pioneers of quantum mechanics were also Jewish (or of Jewish descent), including Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli, Max Born, John von Neumann, Eugene Wigner, and Richard Feynman. Hermann Weyl had a Jewish wife. Their work was more important than Einstein's, but they never got he royal treatment that he got.

Update: A physicist writes:

Relativity is “hard” because there’s like one million books full of confusing stories about spaceships and lasers and somebody observing somebody’s something, which is all completely irrelevant decoration. As a teenager I read a whole stack of these books and failed to make much sense out of them because one starts asking all sorts of questions about the construction of clocks and what it means to actually ‘see’ something etc. Then, hallelujah, somebody handed me a book in which it said the Poincaré-group is the symmetry group of Minkowski-space.
That understanding of relativity in terms of the symmetry group is due to Poincare and Minkowski, not Einstein. Einstein's view of symmetry was slightly improved over Lorentz, in that he seemed to have understood that if there are two moving frames A and B, then transforming from A to B has to be to inverse of transforming from B to A. But he did not have the concept of a group, or have a formulation in terms of the symmetries of spacetime. He really did not have what has been considered the core of relativity since 1910.

Monday, Feb 14, 2011
When do anomalies begin?
Alan Lightman and Owen Gingerich wrote in 1992 (behind AAAS Science paywall here, and summarized here):
As our final example, we consider the equality of inertial and gravitational mass. The first mass resists a body's change in motion whereas the second determines its gravitational force. It is the equality of these two masses that causes bodies of different masses or different materials to fall with the same acceleration in a gravitational field, a long-observed fact. Indeed, in 1592 Galileo wrote in his De Motu (12, p. 48): ...

In Newtonian physics, the inertial mass and gravitational mass are regularly canceled against each other. Newton himself was perplexed by this extraordinary equality between quantities that seemed conceptually very different, and he went to considerable lengths to establish their experimental equivalence. ...

It was not until Albert Einstein's new theory of gravity, general relativity, that a fundamental explanation was given for the equality of inertial and gravitational mass. Indeed, Einstein saw this equality, which was a part of his "equivalence principle," as a profound statement about the nature of gravity, and he constructed his entire theory around it. In the resulting theory, gravity is understood as a geometrical phenomenon, with the equality of the two masses a fundamental and necessary part of that picture.

It seems a little strange to say that Einstein discovered an anomaly, when he just said the same thing that everyone else said for 300 years. The Equivalence principle is no big deal, and general relativity is no more founded on it than Newtonian celestial mechanics was.

A better example is the finite propagation speed of gravity. Newton had identificd the apparent action-as-a-distance as an anomaly. The speed was not identified until the discovery of relativity in 1905. No, Einstein had nothing to do with it.

Apparently the article examples were chosen to support Kuhnian Paradigm shift theory, where the emphasis is on anomalies that are not really anomalies. I don't see much merit to this. Just about anything could be called an anomaly, if the method of the article is applied.

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011
Evidence that Lucy walked upright
I have been skeptical about the 3 million year old missing link Lucy here, here, and here. The NY Times reports some evidence that I could be wrong:
Lucy may well be the world’s most famous fossil hominid. She is the best-known specimen of the species Australopithecus afarensis, and her partial skeleton, found in 1974, revealed that she and her kin could walk upright.

But because of a lack of foot bone specimens, scientists have long debated how well she walked — that is, whether A. afarensis also used a grasping movement with the feet, as apes do when they grab tree branches.

Now, a fossilized foot bone from Hadar, Ethiopia, reveals that A. afarensis had arched feet, as do modern humans, and was fully committed to walking upright. The species lived between 3.7 million and 2.9 million years ago.

This is still just one lousy footbone. It is the long bone leading to the fourth toe. I am still not convinced that this is so significant. Supposedly this proves that walking upright is the essence of being human.

The new bone suggests that Lucy's foot was slightly arched. But many modern humans have flat feet with no ill effects, so I am not so sure why an arch is so important.

There are apes today who walk upright:

Orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees do it. Bonobos seem to love doing it. Apparently gibbons do it really well. Indeed, bipedalism is not unique to humans and is quite common among apes. Apes are known to walk upright once in awhile, although bonobos seem to do it more frequently than other apes. Bipedalism is just one of the natural repertoire of ape locomotion.
There are videos to prove it. So maybe Lucy was just an ape that could walk upright as well as the gorilla in the video. If so, then it is no big deal. If not, then some scientific paper ought to say so.

Friday, Feb 11, 2011
Climate change not causing extreme weather
A WSJ op-ed reports:
As it happens, the project's initial findings, published last month, show no evidence of an intensifying weather trend. "In the climate models, the extremes get more extreme as we move into a doubled CO2 world in 100 years," atmospheric scientist Gilbert Compo, one of the researchers on the project, tells me from his office at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "So we were surprised that none of the three major indices of climate variability that we used show a trend of increased circulation going back to 1871."

In other words, researchers have yet to find evidence of more-extreme weather patterns over the period, contrary to what the models predict. "There's no data-driven answer yet to the question of how human activity has affected extreme weather," adds Roger Pielke Jr., another University of Colorado climate researcher.

We do know that carbon dioxide and other gases trap and re-radiate heat. We also know that humans have emitted ever-more of these gases since the Industrial Revolution. What we don't know is exactly how sensitive the climate is to increases in these gases versus other possible factors -— solar variability, oceanic currents, Pacific heating and cooling cycles, planets' gravitational and magnetic oscillations, and so on.

This seems correct. There is some reason to believe that most of the warming in recent decades is attributable to gas emissions of man-made processes. But there is no reason to believe that weather variability is increasing.

Thursday, Feb 10, 2011
Evidence from climate science
Here is a new open letter from climate skeptics to Congress:
Do the 678 scientific studies referenced in the CO2 Science document, or the thousands of studies cited in the NIPCC report, provide real-world evidence (as opposed to theoretical climate model predictions) for global warming-induced increases in the worldwide number and severity of floods? No. In the global number and severity of droughts? No. In the number and severity of hurricanes and other storms? No.

Do they provide any real-world evidence of Earth's seas inundating coastal lowlands around the globe? No. Increased human mortality? No. Plant and animal extinctions? No. Declining vegetative productivity? No. More frequent and deadly coral bleaching? No. Marine life dissolving away in acidified oceans? No.

Quite to the contrary, in fact, these reports provide extensive empirical evidence that these things are not happening. And in many of these areas, the referenced papers report finding just the opposite response to global warming, i.e., biosphere-friendly effects of rising temperatures and rising CO2 levels.

The letter makes some good points, and responds to this letter:
We want to assure you that the science is strong and that there is nothing abstract about the risks facing our Nation. ... increasingly vulnerable to drought ... massive flooding ... extreme storms ... increasing frequency ... direct security implications for the country ... Climate change poses unique challenges to human health. ...

He testified that the scientific process “is inherently adversarial – scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. ...”

Sounds like a recitation of absract risks to me, with no solid evidence to back them up.

When did Einstein ever demonstrate that the scientific consensus was wrong? Certainly not with relativity, as his papers were squarely in support of the most respected theories at the time. His special relativity papers never said that the earlier Lorentz theory was wrong, and only had favorable comments about it. His theory was contrary to the aether drift theory and Max Abraham's 1902 theory, but neither was a scientific consensus, and Einstein made no direct attempt to demonstrate that they were wrong.

Einstein did say that Planck's particle model of light was a useful heuristic, and that could be seen as contrary to the Maxwell wave theory. But he never said that the Maxwell theory was wrong, and he continued to write papers about the Maxwell theory as if it were correct.

Einstein did attempt to prove quantum mechanics wrong. But he was the one who was proved wrong. He was wrong about a lot of other things also.

There are better examples of demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong. One is Alfred Wegener. In relativity, George FitzGerald went against the consensus by proposing the length contraction. He said that everyone laughed at him for years. Hendrik Lorentz proposed that motion could alter time. Henri Poincaré advocated the relativity principle when no one else believed in it. They all openly criticized other physicists, such as those supporting aether drift theories. Einstein never did anything so original and correct and contrary to consensus.

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2011
Evolutionist intolerance
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
While the Catholic church officially accepts evolution, it accepts theistic evolution, in which God guided the process and casually slipped an immortal soul into the hominin lineage.  And theistic evolution, in which God has a role in the process, is not acceptance of evolution as we biologists understand it.  So yes, the true biological view of evolution as a materialistic, unguided process is indeed at odds with most religions.  Organizations that promote evolution, such as the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), prefer to avoid this critical point: all they care about is that evolution get taught in the schools, not whether believers wind up accepting the concept of evolution as it’s understood by scientists.
Whether "God guided the process" is not a scientific hypothesis, as far as I know. That is, there is no scientific evidence for or against it, and no known way to collect such evidence.

Coyne's point is that the schools should teach kids atheistic evolution, as long as the elite scientists understand evolution as atheistic. He hates all religion.

Many Christians have complained for years that they are happy with the science of evolution being taught, but they object to atheism being taught along with it in science classes. Coyne makes it clear that his real objective is to promote the atheism.

The NY Times reports:

Einstein is a household name today. But at the end of the 19th century, it was Poincaré, a mathematician, physicist, philosopher and member of national academies, who was the famous one …

Among his noteworthy feats now is what he did not do: he did not invent relativity, even though he had some of the same ideas as Einstein, often in advance, and arrived, with the Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz at a theory that was mathematically identical.

The difference was that Poincaré refused to abandon the idea of the ether, the substance in which light waves supposedly vibrated and which presumably filled all space.

This is false. Poincare denied the aether more forcefully than Einstein. But even if it were true, why would anyone care so much about the aether if it were invisible and undetectable?

My objection here is to scientists claiming that there is some scientifically correct position on some issue, when there is no actual scientific evidence. At least the Catholic church does not claim that its theological beliefs are scientific, and does not insist that they be taught in public schools.

Coyne and the Einstein fans are not being scientific when they make these arguments. They are just pushing their pseudo-religious beliefs in the non-existence of God and the aether.

Saturday, Feb 05, 2011
Lorentz invented relativistic mass
Lorentz invented relativistic mass in this 1899 paper:
Since k is different from unity, these values cannot both be 1; consequently, states of motion, related to each other in the way we have indicated, will only be possible, if in the transformation of S0 into S the masses of the ions change; even, this must take place in such a way that the same ion will have different masses for vibrations parallel and perpendicular to the velocity of translation.

Such a hypothesis seems very startling at first sight. Nevertheless we need not wholly reject it. Indeed, as is well known, the effective mass of an ion depends on what goes on in the aether; it may therefore very well be altered by a translation and even to different degrees for vibrations of different directions.

He introduced new terminology for it in this 1904 paper:
Hence, in phenomena in which there is an acceleration in the direction of motion, the electron behaves as if it had a mass m1, those in which the acceleration is normal to the path, as if the mass were m2. These quantities m1 and m2 may therefore properly be called the "longitudinal" and "transverse" electromagnetic masses of the electron. I shall suppose that there is no other, no "true" or "material" mass.
Einstein addresses the subject in the final section of his famous 1905 paper:
Taking the ordinary point of view we now inquire as to the ``longitudinal'' and the ``transverse'' mass of the moving electron.
Einstein has no references, but he appears to be referring to Lorentz's work. The wording is strikingly similar. Lorentz is using quote marks because he is explicitly defining new terms, but why is Einstein using quote marks if not to quote Lorentz?

The trouble is that Einstein claimed all of his life that he had seen Lorentz's 1895 paper, but not the 1899 and 1904 papers. When Einstein's 1905 paper was reprinted in 1923, Sommerfield inserted a footnote explaining Einstein's story that "The preceding memoir by Lorentz was not at this time known to the author."

Einstein's claim is farfetched. The main purpose of his 1905 paper was to improve Lorentz's 1895 paper, and Lorentz was one of the most famous physicists in Europe. Lorentz had received a Nobel prize in 1902 for his electrodynamics work. Einstein had access to the later papers, and he would surely have checked before trying to publish an update on a 10-year-old paper. Einstein even wrote reviews for a journal that published a review of Lorentz's 1904 paper.

The only reason for believing Einstein is that Lorentz got the mass formulas correct, and Einstein did not. If Einstein were just plagiarizing Lorentz, then he should have gotten the formulas correct.

My guess is that Einstein had trouble understanding Lorentz's papers because they were in English and his English was poor. But he certainly got the main ideas, and may have thought that Lorentz's mass formulas were wrong but did not have the guts to say so. When it turned out that Einstein published incorrect formulas for something that Lorentz had already published correctly, he was too embarrassed to even admit that he read Lorentz's paper. Einstein also had a hard time explaining what was original about his 1905 paper. So he lied about it all of his life.

If you don't think that Einstein could keep a secret like that, then read about Lieserl Einstein. Einstein spent his entire life denying the existence of his illegitimate daughter.

Lorentz's prediction of relativistic mass was observed in 1901, and Lorentz got a Nobel Prize in 1902. This is the origin of the famous mass-energy equivalence of relativity, as energy used to accelerate an electron gets turned into mass.

Wednesday, Feb 02, 2011
Gravity is no incompatibility
The current Scientific American Magazine (February 2011) reports:
A magazine news story on the unification of physics usually begins by saying that Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum theory are irreconcilable. The one handles the force of gravity, the other takes care of electromagnetic and nuclear forces, but neither covers all, so physicists are left with a big jagged crack running down the middle of their theoretical world. It’s a nice story line, except it’s not true. “Everyone says quantum mechanics and gravity don’t get along -— they’re incompatible,” says John F. Donoghue of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “And you still hear that, but it’s wrong.”
That's right, there is no known incompatibility at any observable scale. For details, see Effective field theory or Donoghue's paper.

This alleged incompatibility is the justification for String theory. Here is a recent Brian Greene interview on NPR:

GROSS: Okay. Let's backtrack just a little bit. So the unified theory that Einstein sought and never found, that's a theory that would explain both subatomic particles but also explain, like, the laws of gravity and speed and light and the cosmos and make the large coincide with the small.

Prof. GREENE: That's exactly right. What we have found is that in the 20th century there are two major developments in physics. One as you mentioned, general theory of relativity, Einstein's theory of gravity. It does a fantastic job for big things, stars and galaxies and so forth. The other development we were talking about, quantum mechanics, and it does a fantastic job at the other end of the spectrum for small things -- molecules, atoms and subatomic particles. The big problem for 70 years is that each of these theories does fantastically well in its own realm, but whenever these theories confront one another, they are ferocious antagonists. The math completely falls apart.

Now you might say when would they ever confront each other, one's for the big, the other is for the small? But there are realms in the cosmos, such as at the center of a black hole, where an entire star is being crushed to a very small size. A star is big and heavy. You need the theory of gravity. It's being crushed to a fantastically small size. You need quantum mechanics. In that domain you need both of these theories and when you bring them both to bear, everything falls apart.

GROSS: So - yeah.

Prof. GREENE: String theory is an attempt to fix that.

So if a star collapses down to the size of an atom, then all of the known laws of physics break down. That is true, but we could never observe any such thing anyway. The Schwarzschild radius for any star large enough to collapse is at least five miles. That means that any star that small will be a black hole, and no light or other information can escape. (This is due largely to work of Chandrasekhar in 1931, and Lemaître in 1933. I knew that Lemaître discovered the big bang, but I didn't know that he had a role in black holes also. Einstein did not believe in black holes at this time.)

Quantum mechanics is a theory about observables. It does not, and cannot, have anything to say about the interior of a black hole. The whole subject of quantum gravity is bogus, as it aims to solve a problem that has already be solved to the extent that it is solvable.