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Journal of No. 118

February 17th, 2007

How to distinguish Science from non-Science @ 08:52 am

Many of you have probably heard about the interesting memo circulated by Texas state representative Warren Chisum (and originally produced by Ben Bridges of Georgia).

Let's just skip over the fact that the document confuses the biological theory of evolution with the cosmological theory of the Big Bang.
Let's skip over the bizarre anti-Semitism inherent in a document blaming the Big Bang on the Pharisee religion and the "mystic 'holy book' Kabbala".
Let's skip over the fact that the informational websites given in the document are to www.fixedearth.com, which supports the view (as its primary issue) that "the Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun."

After all, we are scientists. Yes, you too. I'm sure you took a science class and learned some fable about the scientific method. You have eyes and ears and the ability to draw inferences based on experiment. There, you're a scientist.

And as scientists, we do not simply dismiss those who hold alternative theories. We impartially examine their arguments and evidence.

I was curious to see what they had to say about geosynchronous satellites. I draw your attention to the 4th paragraph:

As physicist Wal Thornhill (et al) agree: “Electromagnetic forces are infinitely more powerful than gravity…” (HERE, p. 4). As we know, a child can test this statement with a plain magnet or an electromagnet and a coin on the ground. Gravity holds the coin on the ground, but pass the magnet over it at some appropriate height and….

Thornhill can perhaps be forgiven his hyperbole that EM is infinitely more powerful than gravity, but then again, his bio doesn't inspire confidence. But that's neither here nor there. More importantly, the paragraph goes on to suggest an experimental test of the theory being developed. One you can test yourself. Surely if a child can do it, then a scientist like you or me can do it. Although the author has coyly left out the experimental results, we can deduce the expected outcome. Clearly, (we are led to believe) if EM is stronger than gravity, then a magnet will lift a coin off the ground.

Now, my little scientists, go and experiment! Really! Get up out of your seat, get a fridge magnet or something and get some change out of your pocket.

Now, unless your pocket was filled with 1943 war-time steel pennies, or Dutch guilders, you were probably baffled by the results. They suggest there might just possibly be something wrong with the fully elaborated theory of the fixed Earth! Now, to be sure, this has little directly to do with the fixed Earth, but here's the lesson that relates to my subject line.

The Fixed Earth people say that a magnet can pick coins off the ground.
I say that a magnet cannot pick (most) coins off the ground.

Now, between two points of view, how can we possibly decide? Well, there's another interested party with an opinion. Let's use the fucking universe as a tie-breaker, shall we? By performing an experiment, we can move from the world of opinion to the world of fact.

So, do you imagine the Fixed Earth people ever actually tried their own experiment? Highly doubtful. They were so certain of the outcome, so certain that they knew what the answer had to be, so certain that the universe has to work the way they think it does, that they didn't bother to check and see how the universe actually works.

This is not science. Science cannot be done solely in the imagination. Science has to be done in the 'lab'. But Nature is everywhere, so everywhere can be your lab, even the kitchen floor.
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[User Picture Icon]
Date:February 17th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
A magnet might not work, but I can sure pick up a coin with Scotch tape. Whoa! Maybe the earth is held in place via Scotch tape! Cos Scotch tape is stronger than EM.

[User Picture Icon]
Date:February 17th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)

I think she's got something

"Like The Force, duct tape has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together."
[User Picture Icon]
Date:February 17th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC)
Further information has been coming to light. The man behind fixedearth.com is the husband of the campaign manager (or possibly former campaign manager) for the Georgia state rep. Yay democracy!

Furthermore, fixedearth.com is nuttier than a Planter's factory. Sadly, most of it is not very amusing, but I'm still charmed by his claim that long-exposure star trail photographs demonstrate that the stars go around the earth. Because you can see it! The camera doesn't lie! How can it be an illusion if you can see it?!?!?
[User Picture Icon]
Date:February 17th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)

Just going back to Greeks

Thought experiments-isn't that what the Greek philosophers did? I don't think they were called scientists, were they?

Can't we please just go back to that time, it seemed life was so much better and simpler then. :)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:February 17th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
I've been watching Bill Nye for weeks. Magnets will only pick up coins if they have nickel, iron or cobalt in them. YEAH!
[User Picture Icon]
Date:February 17th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
Well, they have to have a lot of nickel in them to have magnetic effects. Nickels have nickel in them, but not enough to be magnetic. Apparently, up until the 1980's, Canadian nickels were almost pure nickel.

Journal of No. 118