The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘david icke’

Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 28, 2009

Well, it’s all over the news, folks.  I’m speaking about the outbreak of swine flu around the world which has so many people concerned.  Now, for reasons outlined clearly with various medical authorities, there is legitimate cause for concern, but at the same time people need to think as rationally as possible to deal with the situation.  Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control to help you do just that.

Unfortunately, in situations such as these there are a considerable number of kooks & crazies that come crawling out of the woodwork to muddy the issue and spout (sometimes dangerous) nonsense.  I’m specifically referring to conspiracy theorists who are convinced that the swine flu is part of grand, nefarious plot by someone or something… out there  **cue spooky music**

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in conspiracy theories, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Gravity: Only A Theory

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 12, 2009

Going through my email inbox today, I got a very interesting message from a fellow skeptic. It was a forwarded story from physicist Ellery Schempp about an article he wrote called “Gravity is only a theory”, which appeared on a Christian apologetics website. The silly thing is that the entire thing was meant as a spoof of intelligent design creationists and their bogus “evolution is only a theory” arguments, yet apparently there are some who actually took Schempp seriously! These whackos most often are those who espouse anti-gravity physics or free-energy physics. Wow, it takes all kinds…

LOL

In any case, I cannot do the story justice by making any more comments about it, so I have decided to share it with you in its entirety. Enjoy! :D

============================================
GRAVITY: ONLY A THEORY–ANNOTATED by Ellery Schempp

I wrote my “critique of gravity” as a spoof on the arguments used by creationists and proponents of “intelligent design” in their attacks on evolution and the efforts to put “disclaimer labels” in biology textbooks that “evolution is only a theory”. It was intended as a parody of the creationists, using all the best techniques of half-truths, non-sequiturs, logical fallacies, over-simplification, misleading statements, authoritative assertion, biased words, and general absurdity that I learned from them. To my surprise, some people didn’t get the joke; others wondered what was really true. One wrote me a lengthy email, ending: “If you would like me to refute any of the other points made in the article, I will happily do so but I believe the discussion above is enough to set the record straight.” That anyone would not get the joke is a sad commentary on the state of science knowledge or our sense of humor or both! I mean, if you tie in gravity to obesity, Saturn’s rings, moral ‘decline’, and universal health care, and you don’t see the fun, what’s to say?

Even a question and answer forum responded to a question:
http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2005-03/1110592847.As.r.html

Wolfgang Pauli made many seminal contributions to chemistry and physics and is often quoted to the effect that something is so laughable that it is “not even wrong”. There are many variations of this quote, but I take as authoritative from the original German: “Das its night nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!” “That is not only not right, it is not even wrong.”

So I offer explanations for the parts that come under the heading: A little knowledge can lead you to ‘Intelligent Design’.

All physics textbooks should include this warning label:

“This textbook contains material on Gravity. Universal Gravity is a
theory, not a fact, regarding the natural law of attraction. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

The Universal Theory of Gravity is often taught in schools as a fact,
when in fact it is not even a good theory.

First of all, no one has measured gravity for every atom and every star. It is simply a religious belief that it is “universal”. There are notions, ideas, speculations, thoughts, wonderments, etc. Is it a “fact” that the present king of Germany is bald? Or that the Bible or the Qu’ran is always true? We learn that some things seem to be true for our present day, and we live accordingly, recognizing that new information and understanding might emerge in the future.

We do make assumptions. No physicist jumps out of bed thinking, “Gee, gravity was well-established yesterday, but I wonder if it is still true this morning.” Scientists do consider that the Universe is orderly, and our hard-won understandings are not subject to random supra natural interventions. Every atom and every star is the same as regards gravity, in accord with all current observations. Prayer has never changed the laws of the Universe. The burden of proof lies with those who think otherwise.

Secondly, school textbooks routinely make false statements. For example, “the moon goes around the earth.” If the theory of gravity were true, it would show that the sun’s gravitational force on the moon is much stronger than the earth’s gravitational force on the moon, so the moon would go around the sun. Anybody can look up at night and see the obvious gaps in gravity theory. First of all, let me assure you that the moon actually does go around the sun! It is absolutely true that the gravitational force exerted by the sun on the moon is greater than the gravitational force exerted by earth on the moon. Something wrong here? Well, if the moon didn’t go around the sun, while the earth does, then the moon would fall behind. Where else could the moon go as the earth moves in its orbit? The moon does this in consort with earth. The earth-moon system goes around the sun, so the moon does go around the sun. Seen from above the plane of the orbit, the moon makes a curly path close to the earth.

I thought this was a fun example of how one can be correct in stating
a scientific fact and be totally misleading as to what it means.

A little history here: In biblical times, it was imagined that the sun and heavens revolved around the earth; this was found to be wrong in the 16th and 17th centuries and replaced by the heliocentric understanding of the earth’s rotation on its axis (days) and revolution around the sun (years).

Anyone can look up the numbers for the mass of earth, sun, moon, and confirm that Newton’s formula for the gravitational force shows that the sun’s force on the moon is greater than the earth’s force on the moon.(1)

Something was left out. Namely, there are also laws of motion.(2) Some people naively assume that gravity explains how things move. Not so. There are laws for motion, which were discovered by Galileo, Newton, and others, and it wasn’t trivial. Aristotle got it wrong, as did many ancient thinkers. Nobody in biblical/koranic times figured it out.

Without going into a one-semester course in the physics of moving bodies, here is a simplified explanation.

The distance of the earth from the sun is 93,000,000 miles, on average-let’s say 100 million miles as close enough.(3) The moon is about 250,000 miles from earth nowadays. This is ¼ million miles.

So the moon-to-sun distance varies ±¼ million miles out of 100 million
miles, a variation of one part in 400 or about 0.25%.

So to explain this apparent “paradox”, the moon’s path is actually a
wiggly line on the overall circle (actually an ellipse of low eccentricity) of earth’s path around the sun. Maybe ripples on the earth’s line is a better description, because the ‘ripples’ are only 1/400 of the earth-sun distance.

One can get a picture of this on this wonderful website:
http://www.math.dartmouth.edu/~dlittle/java/SpiroGraph/ (4)

My point here is to show how the moon actually does go around the sun. It goes around the sun at an average distance of 93 million miles,
but it’s path wiggles a bit. ± 1/400, overall extreme 1/200 = 465,000
miles. That is, the moon’s path around the sun wiggles about twice the
average earth-moon distance. (3,4,5)

Summary: the moon goes around the sun in a nearly, but not quite
circular path, in a path that has ripples, as described above. The earth’s path also has tiny ripples. The original assertion was misleading and false. There is no “gap” in gravity theory. (This was meant as a poke in the ribs to creationists who ad nauseam insist on “gaps in transitional forms”. In the geological record, there are, of course, some gaps and a great many transitional forms demonstrating continuity. But, as one creationist said, “well if you have two fossils, and now you offer a transitional one, then now you have two gaps”!)

The existence of tides is often taken as a proof of gravity, but this is logically flawed. Because if the moon’s “gravity” were responsible for a bulge underneath it, then how can anyone explain a high tide on the opposite side of the earth at the same time? Anyone can observe that there are two-not just one-high tides every day. It is far more likely that tides were given us by an Intelligent Creator long ago and they have been with us ever since. In any case, two high tides falsifies gravity. The gravitational force(1) depends upon the mass of each object and upon the distance between the objects. The closer they are to each other, the more strongly they attract. In the case of the moon and the earth, the moon pulls the ocean water on the nearer side of the earth more strongly than it pulls the rest of the earth, so the water forms a bulge. On the far side of the earth, the water experiences the least pull because it is farthest from the moon. The rest of the earth is pulled away from the far-side water, leaving a bulge of water opposite to the moon, though this bulge is not quite as large as the first one.(6) The moon holds these bulges (more or less) in place while the earth rotates beneath them. The net effect is the tides we experience at the seashore. By the way, there are also small land tides-these are about a centimeter.

A very complete explanation of the tides is presented here.(7)
http://www.coops.nos.noaa.gov/restles3.html

Here again, my point was to show that simple assertions can be totally
wrong to the unwary.

This goes back to science education and children. Doesn’t anybody living near the sea ask, why are there two high tides a day? Every kid should ask, “How does it happen that leaves come out on trees every spring?” Shouldn’t every educated human know that television waves, radio waves, cell-phone transmissions, light that our eyes perceive, X-rays, etc., are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum? There are complexities, to be sure, but shouldn’t every educated human know that there are only three fundamental forces in the Universe-gravity, electromagnetic, nuclear.(8) Creationists (mis)-use this ignorance all the time to promote a Bible-based view. Their ignorance is profound, but they win popular polls because of gaps in their understanding.

There are numerous other flaws. For example, astronomers, who seem to have a fetish for gravity, tell us that the moon rotates on its axis
but at the same time it always presents the same face to the earth.
This is patently absurd. Another false paradox. The moon does always
present the same face to the earth, and before rockets, nobody had
ever seen the back side of the moon. The moon revolves around the
earth once every 28.3 days. The moon also rotates on its axis the same. As it changes its position around the earth, it has to rotate a
little every day in order to keep the same face toward earth. You can
prove this to yourself by walking around a tree and seeing what you
have to do to always face the trunk.(9)

Moreover, if gravity were working on the early earth, then earth would
have been bombarded out of existence by falling asteroids, meteors,
comets, and other space junk. Well, early earth was formed by the
coalescing of lots of matter orbiting the sun-via gravity-to form a proto-earth, which, once large enough, began to attract more stuff, and thus the earth grew at the expense of other chunks of orbiting stuff. Many of these collisions were indeed violent, breaking things apart, but then gravity brought them back again. The same was true for other planets. Eventually our region of the solar system was swept mostly free of these little bits, leaving earth alone. However, one consequence of these bombardments was the moon. A major collision fairly late in proto-earth’s history resulted in a chunk spinning off (1/80th the mass of earth). Other products of this collision were eventually recaptured by earth or the moon-hence the many craters on the moon and some on earth.(10)

Furthermore, gravity theory suggests that the planets have been moving in orderly orbits for millions and millions of years, which wholly
contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Since everything in the Universe tends to disorder according to the 2nd Law, orderly orbits
are impossible. It is frequently stated by creationists that the Second Law means that “everything in the Universe tends to disorder”. This statement is vaguely correct, but of little relevance to the formation of the solar system and evolution of species. It comes from the Theory of Thermodynamics, which creationist IDers seem to love, but do not understand. It is informative that they pick and choose which parts of science they accept. A valid alternative statement of the Second Law is that “heat flows from a hot region spontaneously to a cold region, but the converse does not occur”. Stated this way, it is far less impressive. The whole notion of asserting the Second Law in connection with the planetary orbits meets Pauli’s test: it is not even wrong, i.e., too absurd to waste time on.

This cannot be resolved by pointing to the huge outpouring of energy
from the sun. In fact, it is known that the flux of photons from the sun and the “solar wind” actually tends to push earth away. The energy received from the sun shows that the earth is not a “closed system” to which the 2nd law would apply. This is a true statement. However, the force of photons and high energy particles from the sun is very small compared to gravity.

There are numerous alternative theories that should be taught on an
equal basis. For example, the observed behavior of the earth revolving around the sun can be perfectly explained if the sun has a net positive charge and the planets have a net negative charge, since opposite charges attract and the force is an inverse-square law, exactly as the increasingly discredited Theory of Gravity. Physics and chemistry texts emphasize that this is the explanation for electrons going around the nucleus, so if it works for atoms, why not for the solar system? The answer is simple: scientific orthodoxy. At first blush, this would seem to be viable-the law of attraction between oppositely charged particles is identical to the gravitation attraction formula(1), except for the value of the constant and the values assigned to electrical charges. However, this would require a large imbalance of electrons between the sun and the planets, and the electromagnetic force prevents sustaining such an imbalance. Moreover, if all the planets and their moons had a negative charge (as
required to be attracted to the sun), then they would repel each other! We would not have a moon!

The mention of “scientific orthodoxy” is just a bone for creationists.
Copernicus, Kepler(11), Galileo, Newton, and others are honored today
for having ideas and evidence that have withstood all critiques over centuries of time, with added insights from, e.g., Einstein. A rational, evidence-based approach to the world cannot be equated to a faith-based view of orthodoxy.

While micro-gravity is observed when, for example, dropping an egg on
the floor, this does not prove that macro-gravity exists. Microgravity
only makes stuff on earth fall. If there is macrogravity, why don’t the sun, the moon, and the planets all fall down and hit the earth? Heavenly bodies do not fall, obviously, because there is no macrogravity. Some say that planetary orbits are proof of gravity. According to gravitationalists, gravity applies in a straight line between different objects; gravity does not make things spin in circles. But the planets do move in circles, and then they say such orbits prove macro-gravity. This is mere circular reasoning.

Moreover, if gravity were a complete theory, it would show a full range of transitional forms. No one has ever found the missing links in gravity; instead it is presented as fact, with no adequate explanation of its origins. Gravity has not been shown to be irreducibly complex, which undermines the claims for a universal theory. There is no such thing as micro- or macro-gravity. Faced with the evidence that dogs have been bred from the Asiatic wolf to produce dachshunds and Saint Bernards and the evidence that bacteria evolve to become drug-resistant, creationists finally agreed that ‘micro-evolution’ occurs. They steadfastly maintain that “macro-evolution is a fiction”, that God created ‘kinds’, although they are unable to define what a ‘kind’ is. No biologist ever uses micro/macroevolution, and the dichotomy is a specious invention of biblical literalists.

Gravity does not alone explain circular orbits(2). There are also the laws of motion, as discovered by Galileo, Newton, and others, and these, combined with a ‘central force’ produce a variety of curvilinear paths, one of which is a closed ellipse. Creationists often argue that geology is circular reasoning-”we know the age of rocks from the fossils found in them; we know the age of fossils from the rock strata”. This displays ignorance of the geological column and the way dates are determined, but I couldn’t resist the pun.

Hmm, a transitional form/missing link/’irreducible complexity’ in gravity in order to make it a ‘complete’ theory? It is interesting that these “tests” are applied to evolution, but not to the Theory of Quantum Mechanics nor to the Germ Theory of Disease.

The US Patent Office has never issued a patent for anti-gravity. Why
is this? According to natural law and homeopathy, everything exists in opposites: good-evil; grace-sin; positive charges-negative charges; north poles-south poles; good vibes-bad vibes; etc. We know there are anti-evolutionists, so why not anti-gravitationalists? It is clearly a matter of the scientific establishment elite protecting their own. Anti-gravity papers are routinely rejected from peer-reviewed journals, and scientists who propose anti-gravity quickly lose their funding. Universal gravity theory is just a way to keep the grant money flowing. “Natural law” is an invention of certain religionists with a black-white perspective. Does everything exist in opposites? A wild-assed assertion. Actually, I have no idea what the patent office did in the 19th Century, but they did decide not to issue patents for perpetual motion machines. The patent office was constantly bombarded with perpetual motion devices based on magnets, spinning this and that, and, of course, none of them work. Conspiracy theorists have been sleepless ever since.

There seems an amusing connection between the anti-evolutionists and the anti-gravitationalists. The Patent Office is pretty good overall,
occasionally accepts silly things, but never, so far as I can determine, issued a patent for an anti-gravity device. The sheer number of sites brought up by Google under “anti-gravity” gives one to take a very deep breath. Nonsense tends to proliferate.(12)

Even Isaac Newton, said to be the discoverer of gravity, knew there were problems with the theory. He claims to have invented the idea early in his life, but he knew that no mathematician of his day would approve his theory, so he invented a whole new branch of mathematics, called fluxions, just to “prove” his theory. This became calculus, a deeply flawed branch having to do with so-called “infinitesimals” which have never been observed. Then when Einstein invented a new theory of gravity, he, too, used an obscure bit of mathematics called tensors. It seems that every time there is a theory of gravity, it is mixed up with fringe mathematics. Newton, by the way, was far from a secular scientist, and the bulk of his writings is actually on theology and Christianity. His dabbling in gravity, alchemy, and calculus was a mere sideline, perhaps an aberration best left forgotten in describing his career and faith in a Creator. It is true that Newton wrote extensively on theology. It is true that Newton and
Leibniz co-invented the powerful branch of math, now called calculus, and that Newton needed calculus to show that the earth, as a large sphere, acts as if all its mass is concentrated in the center from the point of view of attracting the moon. Calculus and tensors are mainstream mathematics today, taught in high schools and colleges. It is possible that even the Discovery Institute has heard of them.

Both Newton and Leibniz made valuable contributions to the invention of calculus, and I am not going to weigh in on the issue. Suffice it to say, that modern calculus takes about equally from the symbolism invented by each man.(13)

The statement that “infinitesimals never observed” is a poke at creationists who reiterate that “evolution” of a dinosaur to a bird has never been observed. It would be almost impossible to design a modern jet airplane without using calculus and ‘infinitesimals’, and nobody has every ‘seen’ an electron. Yet, we infer their existence on the basis of a thousand pieces of evidence.

To make matters worse, proponents of gravity theory hypothesize about mysterious things called gravitons and gravity waves. These have never been observed, and when some accounts of detecting gravity waves were published, the physicists involved had to quickly retract them.

Every account of anti-gravity and gravity waves quickly turns to laughter. This is not a theory suitable for children. And even children can see how ridiculous it is to imagine that people in Australia are upside down with respect to us, as gravity theory would have it. If this is an example of the predictive power of the theory of gravity, we can see that at the core there is no foundation. It is true that physicists have reasons to expect that gravity waves exist and that the gravitational force is carried by a particle called a graviton, just as the electro-magnetic force is carried by photons.

However, gravity is by far the weakest of the three forces (nuclear, EM, gravity).(8) The only reason that gravity appears strong is because there are large chunks of matter in our Universe. Finding gravity waves has been extremely difficult; true, some early accounts were withdrawn; gravity waves are still being actively searched for to confirm the theory, and this search is entirely respectable science.

Gravity totally fails to explain why Saturn has rings and Jupiter does not. It utterly fails to account for obesity. In fact, what it does “explain” is far out-weighed by what it does not explain.

I am rather fond of this: obesity…outweighed. Of course, gravity does not explain why people like ice cream, either–it was never intended to.

When the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, he relied on “gravitational calculations”. But Tombaugh was a Unitarian, a liberal religious group that supports the Theory of Gravity. The modern-day Unitarian-Universalists continue to rely on liberal notions and dismiss ideas of anti-gravity as heretical. Tombaugh never even attempted to justify his “gravitational calculations” on the basis of Scripture, and he went on to be a founding member of the liberal Unitarian Fellowship of Las Cruces, New Mexico. One of the beauties of mathematics is that there is no such thing as Christian math, liberal math, Middle Eastern math. Anybody who does it correctly will get the same answer. Hence, it is totally irrelevant what Tombaugh’s religious views were.

It is safe to say that without the Theory of Gravity, there would be no talk about a “Big Bang”, and important limitations in such sports as basketball would be lifted. This would greatly benefit the games and enhance revenue as is proper in a faith-based, free-enterprise society. This is just plain silly.

The theory of gravity violates common sense in many ways. Adherents have a hard time explaining, for instance, why airplanes do not fall. Since anti-gravity is rejected by the scientific establishment, they resort to lots of hand-waving. The theory, if taken seriously, implies that the default position for all airplanes is on the ground. While this is obviously true for Northwest airplanes (relying on “A Wing and a Prayer”), it appears that Jet Blue and Southwest have a superior theory that effectively harnesses forces that overcome so-called gravity. Of course, there is an atmosphere and aerodynamic forces(2,8,14) at work that provide lift to airplanes. The rest of it is a deliberate poke at Northwest airlines, my least-favorite. I sent this paragraph to Northwest Customer Concerns, and they replied: Case Number 1141878; <> Makes me wonder.

Doesn’t anyone ask, “how do airplanes stay up in the air despite gravity?”

It is unlikely that the Law of Gravity will be repealed given the present geo-political climate, but there is no need to teach unfounded theories in the public schools. There is, indeed, evidence that the Theory of Gravity is having a grave effect on morality. Activist judges and left-leaning teachers often use the phrase “what goes up must come down” as a way of describing gravity, and relativists have been quick to apply this to moral standards and common decency. It is an absurdity to imagine that a natural law arising from careful observation can be ‘repealed’-this is a play on words. Twisting the idea to tweak the conservatives about judges and morality is just for fun.

It is not even clear why we need a theory of gravity—there is not a
single mention in the Bible, and the patriotic founding fathers never referred to it. This has a little seriousness about it. It is worth remembering that when the Bible was written, there wasn’t the slightest clue about gravity. Nobody should take a text written 2000 years ago as incorporating much wisdom, especially about scientific matters. Newton’s law of gravity was published in 1639, so it was known at the time of the founding fathers. It seemed to explain the solar system, and I imagine they were content with that.

The idea that humans could observe, think, test and reject hypotheses, learn, and thus develop an understanding of how the world works is a very important one. It was neither priests nor scripture that revealed such understandings. It is a joyous example of the human mind. The idea of gravity is a human invention.

Finally, the mere name “Universal Theory of Gravity” or “Theory of Universal Gravity” (the secularists like to use confusing language) has a distinctly socialist ring to it. The core idea of “to each according to his weight, from each according to his mass” is communist. There is no reason that gravity should apply to the just and the unjust equally, and the saved should have relief from such “universalism.” If we have Universal Gravity now, then Universal health care will be sure to follow. It is this kind of Universalism that saps a nation’s moral fiber. Just imagine. The observed behavior of the universe, codified in a ‘law’ that helps us understand how things work-and this is supposed to have moral consequences?

Does the Theory of Evolution sap our moral fiber? Some of us think that being good to our fellow human beings and causing no harm to our planet is a sign of moral evolution.

Overall, The Theory of Universal Gravity is just not an attractive theory. It is based on borderline evidence, has many serious gaps in what it claims to explain, is clearly wrong in important respects, and has social and moral deficiencies. If taught in the public schools, by mis-directed “educators”, it has to be balanced with alternative, more attractive theories with genuine gravamen and spiritual gravitas. Not an “attractive” theory, eh?

Gravamen and gravitas.(10)

[Notes]
(1) “Every object in the universe attracts every other object with a
force directed along the line of centers for the two objects that is
proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional
to the square of the separation between the two objects.”

F = G*m1m2/R2

where:
F equals the gravitational force between two objects;
m1 is the mass of the first object;
m2 is the mass of the second object;
R is the distance between the objects;
G is the universal constant of gravitation = 6.6726 10-11 Nm2/kg2.
Anyone can look up the numbers for the mass of earth, sun, moon, and confirm that Newton’s formula for the gravitational force shows that the sun’s force on the moon is greater than the earth’s force on the moon.

(This is a simple form of the equation and is only applicable to point
sources. Usually it is expressed as a vector equation.)

(2) Conservation of Momentum, Conservation of Angular Momentum,
Conservation of Kinetic Energy–all come with caveats–a little basic
physics is helpful.

(3) I can do this in kilometers, and nitpickers may have other
objections, but humor me.

(4) Choose Radius1 = 150, Radius2 = 18, Position=10. Choose “pause”
after 1 cycle. There should be about 13 moon ripples in one earth-sun
cycle.

This is a pictorial representation, and interested readers can do
refinements. It is interesting to choose radius2 = 19. Then the loops are not closed, corresponding to the fact that lunar cycles are not commensurate with earth’s solar cycle, and hence, lunar calendars
inevitably get out of synchronization with seasons.

I am grateful to Alan MacRoberts, Senior Editor, Sky and Telescope
Magazine, for pointing out to me that a representation of the cusps in
the moon’s orbit must always be convex outward, always concave toward the sun.

Thanks also to Dr. David A. Kornreich at Humboldt State University
Department of Physics for giving me the spirograph website
http://www.humboldt.edu/~phyx/faculty/kornreich.html

(5) Observant readers might ask, if the earth-moon center of mass
system is constant in its path around the sun (ignoring perturbations
from Jupiter, et al), then doesn’t the earth wiggle a little in its
path? The answer is yes, the ripple in the earth’s path is similar to
that from above, but even smaller. The center of mass in the
earth-moon system is about 1000 miles under our feet (when the moon is overhead), or about ¾ of the way from earth’s center.

(6) High and low tides often have a time delay from when the moon is
overhead. For example, it takes 2-4 hours to fill/empty San Francisco
Bay through the Golden Gate. Cf. high tide on the Pacific side of the
peninsula vs. San Jose.

(7) I am grateful to Paul Whitford posting on a Yahoo forum for this
link and further comment.

(8) Ignoring the “weak interaction” and the Casimir force for the
cognescenti. Apologies to those who know details of the electro-weak
and the Casimir force. There are also, for example, ‘forces’ associated with changing the axis of rotation of a gyroscope. See (2). This is not a physics 101 course.

(9) By the way, this has almost nothing to do with the Theory of
Gravity (although the gravitational attraction between earth and moon
produced this situation-the moon has a tidal bulge toward the earth,
and this, over a billion or so years, slowed the moon’s rotation to
what it is today.) More at http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/nineplanets/nineplanets/luna.html

(10). IDers have a particular dislike for randomness, because they
wish to think that everything is directed by some supra-natural entity
(they actually mean the usual God, but pretend to accept other
god-like types). Exactly how stars and planets coalesce from a
circulating cloud of matter is an on-going area of investigation, but it is clear that accidents resulted in some chunks becoming large enough to perturb the system and thus accumulated at the expense of
smaller chunks. This is pretty close to a random series of events.

The dislike for randomness is curious. In fact, every individual is a product of at least quasi-random events. Who we meet and have children with. And from basic facts of sexual reproduction itself, every ovum has a slightly different DNA arising from meiosis, and likewise every sperm. Granted that some parts of the divided-in-two chromosomes carry genetic information from the parent, but it is random which ones happen to combine. There is increasing evidence for a degree of randomness as to the chemical environment in the womb, which appears to have influence on the degrees of femaleness and maleness in the offspring. There is, thus, a large number of random events that is part of the heritage of every individual. (Unless, of course, one takes the view that each egg and sperm were individually directed by God. Nobody in biology would accept this, but as a matter of faith, it is unprovable.) Over the long course of history, there has been quasi-randomness in which individuals get wiped out by natural disasters, from impacting asteroids to which succumb to disease. Chance has always played a role in life and always will.

(11). See, for example, http://zebu.uoregon.edu/textbook/planets.html;
http://www.thespacesite.com/space/history/dawn.php; http://home.cvc.org/science/kepler.htm; for a totally nutsy view http://www.davidicke.net/medicalarchives/nutrition/cosmiclaw.html
“The incoming electromagnetic energy is centripetal, generated by the
movement of planets, solar systems and galaxies. The outgoing
centrifugal energy however, is caused by Earth’s rotation on its axis,
being strongest on the tropics and the weakest on the poles… The
incoming energies are stronger in the polar regions and weaker in the
tropical region.”

(12). Hmm, if anti-gravity devices exist, why can’t I just float up to
my bedroom? Oh, I forgot, there is a cabal to suppress them. Okay.
Why do informed people accept evolution? There is a cabal to suppress the truth. OK. I am encouraged to believe that there is a similar cabal preventing cars from achieving 1000 miles per gallon using
magnetic energy.

(13). http://www.andrews.edu/~calkins/math/biograph/bioleib.htm; http://www1.umn.edu/ships/9-1/calculus.htm.

(14). Aerodynamic forces are fundamentally electromagnetic, but most
easily understood using conservation laws.

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Quick Update on Flight 1549

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 5, 2009

The entries on this blog which seem to have gotten the most attention are “Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo and Flight 1549 Follow Up, from both skeptics & conspiracy theorists alike. Well, I just wanted to provide a quick update about the NTSB investigation into the crash landing.

The New York Times has reported just today that the investigation has now revealed organic material (strongly suspected to be goose remains) has been extracted from both engines from the plane. In addition, the NTSB has released information which seems to show that there was no connection between potential engine problems two days earlier and the crash landing itself.

Some excerpts from the NYTimes article…

Material from both engines has been sent to the bird lab at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History to determine its species; geese are suspected.

The board also released information that seems to show that two possible engine problems were unrelated to the accident. Two days earlier, the same plane took off on the same route, La Guardia to Charlotte, N.C., and suffered an engine surge; the crew consulted with maintenance people on the ground and decided to continue the flight. The safety board said that the surge was caused by a faulty temperature sensor, which was replaced, and that the engine did not appear to have been damaged.

It’ll be interesting to see how the conspiracy theorists attempt to spin this new information, but I’m sure whatever they come up with will be… creative. Stay tuned.

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Flight 1549 Follow Up

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 24, 2009

A few days ago I wrote a post about conspiracy theories related to last week’s story about U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crash-landing into the Hudson River (see “Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo).

In that post I argued that it was entirely possible that bird-strikes could have brought down the plane, and this hypothesis was consistent with reports from the pilot about hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. Well, it seems there is yet more evidence supporting the bird-strike hypothesis. Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story about new evidence uncovered by the NTSB, and here are some key excerpts:

The National Safety Transportation Safety Board yesterday said an external examination of the plane’s right engine revealed evidence of “soft body impact” damage on fan blades. The agency said its review showed that internal engine parts were either significantly damaged or missing.

John Cox, a former US Airways pilot and former safety investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association, said results of the engine probe so far were consistent with a bird striking the engine fan, damaging metal pieces that then broke loose. The pieces were pulled deeper inside the engine, causing further damage, he said.

The NTSB said the organic material was found inside the engine, on the plane’s wings and on other parts of the plane. Additionally, investigators found a single feather attached to a part known as a flap track of one of the plane’s wings.

So the bird-strike hypothesis seems more and more likely to be the explanation for the engine failure which led to Flight 1549′s desperation landing in the Hudson River. Now, allow me to take a moment to compare and contrast the methodologies employed by those who actually use critical thinking and those who are spinning conspiracy theories.

Those who are rigorously investigating this disaster are very frugal in their approach, making sure to look for evidence in a very deliberate & systematic manner. All hypotheses are considered, but once they are found to be in contradiction to the facts available, they are discarded or revised – this is common in the scientific method of investigation.

For example, I was supporting the bird-strike hypothesis in my earlier post. To test this hypothesis for validity, we would expect – upon further analysis of the engines – to see physical evidence that is consistent with bird-strikes on airplanes. And, according to recent news reports, this is indeed what we see (including feathers in the engine!). This gives us greater confidence that bird-strikes had something to do with the downing of Flight 1549.

Now, let’s look at the “reasoning” of conspiracy theorists – like those at the David Icke Forum. Much of their argumentation rests upon being suspicious of “coincidences”, making arguments from ignorance (“The NWO could be responsible for this, we just don’t know”), selective thinking, confirmation bias, and basically outright ignoring or dismissing any evidence contrary to their claims. In short, the CTists use anything to justify their worldview that…

conspiracy

As such, CT-thinking is non-falsifiable. And ideas which are not falsifiable are clearly unscientific; yet, ironically, many CTists claim to be employing science in making their arguments. This is a classic mark of what skeptics call pseudoscience.

In closing I’ll refer you to a great blog entry and discussion on this topic over at the SkepticBlog.org – the entry is titled “The US Airways Hudson River Conspiracy” and Brian Dunning deals with other aspects of the CTist claims that I have not yet addressed. Check it out.

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“Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2009

No doubt that by now you’ve heard all about the “Miracle on the Hudson” – namely the crash-landing of a United Airways Airbus A320 into the Hudson River next to Manhattan island this past Thursday. The kicker is that, while there were some injuries and some suffered from exposure to the extreme temperatures, nobody among the 155 aboard Flight 1549 died. Through a combination of luck and the skills of the pilot, it seems this would-be tragedy gave everyone a bit of good news at the end of the week.

Miracle on the Hudson

The exact cause of the crash is still unknown, though early reports have been suggesting that the Airbus flew through a flock of geese and both engines were disabled by bird-strikes. There are reports that the pilot radioed air-traffic-control shortly after takeoff notifying them of the bird-strikes. However, until the NTSB releases its report we cannot be certain of what brought down the plane.

But, believe it or not, there are those who have spun the “Miracle” as some kind of conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists all over the Internet are making a variety of loony claims for the real reason Flight 1549 came down on Thursday. A perfect example is the budding “Water Landing Truth Movement” over at the David Icke Forums. Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve seen in the past two days while wading my way through the stupid over there…

All’s good to distract the sheeple’s attention from the carnage of Gaza.

Interesting, all the news outlets seem to be “waiting” to hear from the “HERO” pilot, BBC mentioned it, as did Sky News… I wonder what fictional account of what happened is being programmed into him?

Could be strange coincidences but it turns out the pilot allegedly ‘turned down’ two offers of emergency landings at airports in vicinity. The following is fact but a strange coincidence, it also turns out that the pilot, (who is keeping a low profile) also happens to own his own business advising airlines on airline safety and events such as how to keep the airline staff under control when a jet ditches in the sea.

In fact it has a NWO link, run some statistics on plane crashes and you’ll know why.

A plane just happens to crash land in the hudson river on the day israeli troops bomb another U.N. shelter without any justification whatsoever. Fucking bullshit! I wonder how difficult it would be for an experienced pilot to bring a plane down safely on water like that? Probably a lot less difficult than they would have us believe.

… landing a plane on water is easy. All the pilots of the world are part of the NWO order too. Fact.

I cant help but think this is a confirmation ad for the planecrash in wtcs. it sounds cartoonish taht a plane can actually land in the water like that , without a scratch or budge. it didnt even sink before evryone was evacuated (on camera). incredibly weird story but seeing more and more people question the wtc plane crash it may as well be just another psy op, just like any other news story these days.

Bush, Cheney & Co must be cacking themselves…a missed opportunity, surely…they must be thinking…!? The fact everyone survived, would be seen as a bad omen, by those in the “inside job” business…

Don’t forget Colin Powell’s “warning” for the 21st – 22nd of January “that we don’t know about yet…” lol I don’t think geese could take the engines off or that the plane could fly with no engines, sufficiently to glide onto a river perfectly. The level of coverage over something where not one person was even injured, shows it’s a distraction story. Gaza is being flattened as we speak and the Israeli’s are stepping it up yet further. Financial collapse on the 10th feb and Powell/Biden/Albright saying it’s about to go off on 21st – 22nd January. Hope you’re ready for some shit.

It’s clear that the plane crash was planned as a distraction story. like people in the thread are saying “the miracle plane crash”. and the fact the government chose someone that is an expert in water based landing and 20+ years experience in the raf backs it up even more

It gets nuttier from there. Conspiracy theorists are, to say the least, an interesting bunch – in many cases, they exhibit a kind of pseudo-magical thinking wherein they twist history and (in more extreme cases) the very laws of physics to fit with their conspiracy-driven worldview. Often these conspiracies (whether it is those espousing Holocaust denial, “9/11 Truth”, or “Big Pharma” conspiracies) invoke some kind of secretive, ultra-powerful entity such as the Illuminati & New World Order (NWO) which somehow has the capability to pull off such a deep & widespread deception.

In the case of the developing conspiracy of the “Miracle”, some of the CTists argue that it’s not possible that bird-strikes could cripple a jet engine. Either these folks have a profound ignorance of physics, or they are engaging in magical thinking – it is very easy for a bird-strike to damage a jet engine. Think about it… the turbine blades of a jet engine rotate really fast; because of this, even if there were no relative translational motion between the bird and engine, there would be a considerable amount of damage done in collision due to a massive transfer of kinetic energy. This is because the relative rotational motion between the turbine blade and bird is enormous (birds tend not to spin in the air at many hundreds or thousands of rpm). Plus, any pieces of turbine blade that might break off run into other parts of the engine, causing further damage.

And then there’s video footage of bird-strikes on jet engines…

So, it is pretty clear that bird-strikes can cripple jet engines. This fact alone should be enough to defeat the conspiracy theory that the “Miracle” was part of a larger NWO plan or “inside-job”. But the really sad thing about dealing with CTists and their arguments is that no matter what evidence you present against them, such as that given above, the hard core types (such as arch-CTist David Icke) will always dismiss it. They rationalize this in a variety of ways, from employing unhealthy doses of selective thinking or arguing from ignorance to claiming their critics are part of the wider conspiracy!

I have dealt with some people like this before, and they can be a frightening bunch. Many of the most devout CTists have an almost fundamentalist religious belief in their conspiracy-driven worldview, and it can be a journey into a very dark & scary place to go there.

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