More junk science in astrophysics. Sigh.

How long will the sun last?  Well for starters, we don’t have nearly enough information to address that question.   A couple of geeks did something in a short period and on that they are making projections about what is going to happen to a body that we don’t fully understand yet, in billions of years.
This is wrong on so many levels, not least of which it is more of a publicity stunt than a scientific exercise, but probably the worst error is in the presumption of a static system.
Solar systems are not gated communities.  Quite the opposite.  Gravity drags things in.  Not just big things, that make an exciting splash.  Gravity draws in everything.
In all likelihood the majority of the mass captured by a solar system over time will be in the form of dust and gas, not the flashy things that we like to look at like comets and asteroids, most of which have been around for a long time anyways.  Right now we aren’t doing anything that I’m aware of to try to quantify the capture of gas and dust by the solar system.   One would expect that there would be an increase in mass of a solar system over time, with the amount of increase of mass dependent on the available material.   How much material is there out there to be taken in?  Hard to say, but the most reasonable explanation for the alleged missing mass of the universe is that it is composed of material that is in bits too small to see with present technology [not dork matter].
Over billions of years, such capture could have enormous effect.  Right now the solar system appears to be, from a chart of the galaxy that I’ve seen, starting to pass through a largish gas cloud.
In many ways earth itself is an extrasolar body.   There is no body in the solar system that, for instance, is capable of producing uranium.  Not even the sun.   Not only is our sun unable to produce most of the heavy elements, but even if it did there would be no way to get them out without a supernova explosion.
Outside origins for different planets would easily explain why many of the planets are different.
Of course if the planets were added at random times then the addition of each new planet would throw orbits out.   That would be incredibly irritating for scientists that want to write books rather than do science, because the additional variables would likely make it impossible to ever accurately reconstruct a history of the solar system.   We would have the end state but not when planets (and their moons) joined or their initial orbits.
My vote for the likely newest planetary addition to the solar system would be Venus- there are hardly any impact craters and I have difficulty believing that would be chance.
My vote for the likely oldest planet in the solar system would be Jupiter, because of its’ size.  That suggests being around longer for gases to attach to it.
Then there is the matter of the closest four planets to the sun being “solid” planets, and the next four being gaseous.  We know from new studies of other solar systems that gas giants can form quite close to other stars.
So is the 4-4 configuration just chance?  Possibly.  But another possibility is that our sun has done something like go nova in the past and either destroyed all inner planets (and later had them replaced), or stripped the gas giant atmosphere off of them.
Once a star has such an explosion there is no need for it to follow the stereotypical trajectory because the “universe” is not in fact static.    There is no reason why a dead star could not reignite if it, say, passed through a dense gas cloud.  There’s lots and lots of material around.
Advertisements

Ockham’s Razor and more blows to the “dark matter” fad

Well here is some of the mass previously attributed to dark matter explained away:
When children reach about two or three, they start to realize that things that aren’t in their sight continue to exist, unless that is they go on to become leading scientists corrupted by bad philosophy such as instrumentalism or phenomenalism.
Astro-physicists are the worst culprits, creating what is little more than a religion of science in which forces and entities are created, like “dark matter” and “dark force”, with the only evidence being that if these things and forces don’t exist, then their theories and equations are wrong.    This manner of reasoning is no better and probably worse than saying that things move the way they do because it is God’s will.
Ockham’s razor would suggest calculating how much of the same kind of things that we already know exist would have to be out there to create the masses that we are seeing evidence of.   Why postulate mysterious “dark matter” the mass of a red dwarf if postulating just a red dwarf will do?  It’s just poetical voodoo hocus-pocus nonsense that doesn’t resemble science.
And so a lot of the “missing mass of the universe” has just been explained by the presence of a lot more of the red dwarf stars than had previously discovered.   I expect there are likely to be more like discoveries or calculations and it is a much more credible way to reconcile discrepancies in calculations than creating some mumbo-jumbo new substance.
Ideas like “dark matter” catch on because they are interesting but real explanations are more likely to be banal.   Even though ridiculous ideas like this are probably promoted in part with a view to increasing interest in science, they turn science into a kind of mathematical cult and do not teach anybody how to think scientifically.  They do cultural damage by undermining the empirical manner of thinking.
Never explained is why this dark matter would be everywhere else in the universe but our own galaxy.   It is quite a hatchet job as an ad hoc saving hypothesis and I feel quite safe in declaring it probably false.
Good to see from the above cited article that at least some people in astro-physics are still doing real science instead of writing Hawking style children’s books.

Science vs. non-science

There is an interesting study out, purporting to show some element of precognition existing: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/11/12/5456572-can-science-prove-were-psychic?gt1=43001
I have my doubts about the replicability of that, but I would make a point about science vs. non-science.
For a proposal to be properly in the scientific arena, it has to be reproducable by others.   It has to either be verifiable by means that are so unambiguous that you know what you have verified, or falsifiable for it to have scientific meaning.
That said, the proposal that any phenomena that exist must be reproducible by scientific means, is not itself a scientific proposition.  It is neither cabable of being falsified or verified and becomes  a de facto tautology which when improperly and inflexibly used, may actually stunt science.
When dismissing old ideas we must be careful.  For instance, wiith Darwin and genetics it was thought for many years that the ideas of Lamarck, that parents would pass along specific traits to their offspring based on the environment that was experienced, was naive.    Now it has been found that a number of traits can be affected by the experiences and exposures of the parent of a child.   This is not actually inconsistent with the ideas of Darwin and genetics as the ability to modify endocrine output based on the environment that a child would be born to is a significant advantage.
Beware of binary all or nothing statements posing as science.  Darwin and Lamarck were not alternative solutions.
It may be that something is found someday that would now be thought of as psychic.   Then it will be part of science.   Cell phones and wireless computers would have been thought of as magical in most other eras.  Once you discover something in a scientific manner, it becomes science.
I would also make an analogy to show another error in the conception of science.
I remember reading about a certain type of desert scorpion with poor vision that would hunt by stinging anything that looked vaguely like food that passed by.   Only about one in ten sting attempts were at real food, and the rest were just wasted.
In other words, whatever methods the scorpions are using to hunt are highly inconsistent and cannot be replicated with any kind of consistency.  They are however, sufficiently effective to evolve and survive.
If you go fishing and catch a 50 pound bass, the failure of anybody else to do the same at the same location does not make you uncatch the fish.
Replicability is an important consideration for numerous scenarios but the ability to replicate results is not a necessary condition for truth and generally not a sufficient condition either for proof that a proposal is true in cases of abstract scientific theories.
For example, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is good at predicting results in practice as the equations correctly predict certain difficulties in determining both the position and vector of a particle.   On the other hand, his explanation for this, that because you don’t know where a particle is, that it is not literally true that it is in one place or another, is a certain type of garbage philosophy called instrumentalism, which is completely discredited with philosophers as idiotic but still believed by most physicists.  Real science is done by finding end runs around such limitations rather than deciding arbitrarily that there is nothing else to look for.  But I digress.
The lack of a physical trophy such as a bass to prove that something has happened does not put the idea that if X is not replicable then X is untrue or did not occur, any greater validity.   The lack of replicability is a serious impediment to study of a phenomenon but doesn’t tell you that something didn’t happen.
Scientists should be careful in taking strong stances on, for example, allegations of psychic or religious occurrences as science is not a religious mission.
It was recently discovered that the presence of an electromagnetic field can affect people’s ethical decision making, and that in particular the presence of such a field tended to make people’s views more draconian (with all the fields around us these days, one has to wonder if that is helping turn western civilization into a bunch of radicalized a-holes).
So if your brain can react to such a stimulus without stimulation of any of the five regular senses, does that make it some kind of psychic phenomenon?  Why not?
Both the new age types and the scientist types have a common interest in neatly dividing the world into scientific ideas and unscientific ideas, with the new agers and religious types wanting to safeguard an area as untouchable by science so that the world doesn’t seem drab and awful and the scientific types looking at certain ideas make believe or deceptions.  But phenomena either exist or they don’t.
It is also unnecessarily dangerous to put science into conflict with, for example, religious ideas.   The more science progresses the more potential loopholes are created for the world to be a messy place.   We are designed to see and experience things as solid, for obvious natural selection reasons.
However, the “universe” is on other levels little more than lots and lots of overlapping waves.   Looking at things from the point of view of vision, it is logical to say for instance that there can’t be two things at the same place at the same time.   In the sense of two objects that are solid with respect to each other, that is certainly true.
On the other hand, consider the “tachyon” particles that allegedly exist, that supposedly pass through almost everything without disturbance.  Consider also the basic concepts of waves- waves as we know them on the macroscopic scale pass over or through each other all the time.   You can have two waves at the same place, it happens a trillion times a day in the oceans.
Could there be a “god” somehow made of e.g. tachyons?  I can’t see any basis for rejecting that out of hand a priori.  Could there be some people that are more sensitive to the world around them, but not on a consistent basis so that it is like catching a 50 pound bass?  Maybe, maybe not.
When dogs and other animals start acting out right before an earthquake, are they being psychic?   Why not?  If we find a mechanism for it, does that prove that it isn’t psychic, or prove that it is?
Birds supposedly migrate using an ability to sense the earth’s magnetic fields.  That isn’t sight, sound, touch, smell or taste.  Is it psychic?  If not, why not?  If we prove a way that it works, how does proving that it works prove that it is not psychic? (note a recent study found smell to be more important and some birds with inability to smell could not find their way north alone- with the important deficiency that they had radio transmitters attached to them which plausibly could have interfered with the internal ability to sense magnetism)
Knowing the way that human beings work, if 99% of us were color blind we’d probably think that the other 1% were delusional, a concept that I intensely dislike.  Propositions are either true or false (or part true).   Nothing can make them super true or super false, and attaching derogatory descriptions does not generally assist debate.   A defensive reaction indicates on the contrary investment in a certain outcome, which may impede objectivity.    Nobody says that someone else is delusional if they think that the Detroit Lions will win the Superbowl.   Only ideas that are offensive or threatening to the observer are described that way, meaning that the key symptom is actually in the observer.
Scientists are not supposed to feel threatened by different possibilities.   If something cannot be tested by science, maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t, but don’t get hung up about it.   Science is about discovery, not dogma.

Statistics traps and survival rates in hospitals

Science has various means of getting at explanations including statistics, first hand or “anecdotal” evidence and the theoretical basis for an event.
Ideally you will have all three.   Statistics have the advantage of large samples but the disadvantage that you don’t know what you are measuring, which may be a meaningless correlation or a transitive correlation based on a common root cause.  Anecdotal evidence can be higher quality due to first hand observation.   In scientific circles “anecdotal” is often used in a derogatory manner which may be appropriate for old wives tales and the like where the conclusions are a stretch from the premises.  If on the other hand you burn your hand on the stove or zap yourself with an electrical outlet you can get a highly reliable anecdotal basis for predicting the outcome of similar events in the future based on a single first hand observation.   Dismissing all first hand observation with the wave of a hand as “anecdotal” is not scientific.  Having a theoretical explanation for events is important to help test whether a believed correlation has anything to it or not.
For things like hospital administrative problems anecdotal observations are probably the best starting place, whereas statistics may leave you befuddled.  Take the following for example:
There is a concept in medicine and first aid called the “golden hour”.  For anybody in serious trouble, if you can get them on an operating table within one hour you have the best odds, and after than the odds drop off steeply.
In straightforward cases, like a pedestrian hit by a car, that will operate in a fairly mechanical manner.  Somebody is hit, it gets phoned in, the ambulance comes, and away you go.  Problems with response times due to traffic concerns, inadequate ambulance availability, the size of the area feeding the hospital and the like are likely significant in some areas, especially where there is very bad congestion.
However not all cases are straightforward.   Some are judgment calls and the key to judgment calls is due diligence.   I once had a bad fall and broke both arms.  I didn’t know that, because it wasn’t cinematic- no jagged bones sticking out of skin or anything like that, no severe pain, just mostly undisplaced fractures.   But I knew it was bad with crepitus in my right elbow (a grinding or crackling when it moved) and both arms freezing up, so I went to a clinic.  There was no point sensitivity so the doctor was sneering and suggesting that I was fine- but he did his due diligence, even though he was an ass.  He sent me immediately for x-rays as a precaution and I discovered that I had two broken arms, my right elbow was dislocated and there was bone schrapnel in my left elbow.   The lesson is that the off the cuff, seat of the pants decision with incomplete information is often wrong and you cover yourself.
There was an infamous case in British Columbia where a man was having a heart attack, but was observed and released by several hospitals that decided off the cuff that he was fine and sent him on his way.  He died.  His daughter had been driving around frantically, trying to find a hospital that would take him seriously.  Probably part of the reason is, and by this I do not mean to imply racism, that he was not white.
White people turn pale and can go cyanotic when they are in serious trouble.   The most prominent visual cue that somebody is in trouble for a white person may be unavailable if the skin is dark enough.  So you have to check alternatives such as pulling down the lower eyelid to see if the pink area there is turning blue and use extra diligence on the physical testing to compensate.
I also remember a long time ago when on guard duty in a hospital when somebody came in with classic symptoms of heart attack.  He looked ghastly.  The triage nurse decided to make him wait 15 minutes before sending him into the emergency ward because the orderly was on break.   I was in disbelief.  And if she hadn’t bothered to prioritize him it could easily be an hour from him walking in the door before he ever sees a doctor.  Remember that “golden hour”?  I don’t know what ultimately happened to that man but I’ve often wondered.
I suspect that doctors and nurses get jaded from all of the hypochondriacs they see and all the people that think they are having a heart attack that have heart burn.  But if they get too cynical and start blowing people off in ambiguous cases there will be a body count attached to that.
I think that one of the main factors that would lead to significantly different outcomes in hospitals is something that statistics don’t look at, the triage nurse.  I think that the triage nurse should be the nurse with the best instincts in the hospital.   A blown call by the triage nurse and the “golden hour” is gone.   The patient may code out before ever seeing a doctor and in patients that are in trouble who survive, added delay in treatment may lead to more damage, longer hospital stays etc.
The research statistics may be difficult to use unless you find a way to break them down into lots of different components.  The triage nurse is one obvious one, there are likely others, for instance the ventilation systems of many hospitals are very efficient in distributing infectuous diseases notwithstanding people wearing gowns and masks and having warning signs on doors.   That is again something that lends itself more to hands on than statistical analysis.
There is also an implicit assumption in making a hospital the appropriate unit of measurement.    You may find that the correlations are much higher if specific important people on duty, like triage nurses, surgeons, head surgical nurses, etc., are measured instead of the whole hospital to correlate success and failure when they are on duty.   In most professions from what I’ve seen about 10% are good at what they do, 65% are hit and miss and 25% are dangerously incompetent.   Common sense is more important than I.Q. or grade point and their art work will probably be a better predictor of ability than certificates on their walls.
The doctors that tend to make mistakes tend to make bushels of them, they just don’t get removed.  You need to deal with such issues to get a better handle on whether a given statistic is a hospital issue.
A major problem with getting problems in hospitals fixed is the “white wall”.   Doctors show more internal unity than the Taliban.   They tend to cover for each other and getting doctors that are not actively pursuing a career as plaintiff’s experts to break ranks and say that another doctor screwed up, is notoriously difficult.   There is a surprising degree of solidarity there given that they could probably cut their insurance premiums by more than half if they would drum out the ones they know are morons.  But everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes blown judgment calls aren’t even negligent.    My guess is most doctors have lost a patient or had a patient do poorly due to a blown call which makes them leery of judging anybody else.
One of the problems in the health care system I think is that doctors and nurses are often treated as if they are interchangeable widgets, like a bunch of 3/4″ wrenches at home depot.   You can’t have the right person in the right job if you have a fiction that they are interchangeable.    The “white wall” and nursing equivalent are huge obstacles to fixing problems with the system, because nobody wants to admit mistakes.   One thing necessary to make hospitals better will be to get sufficient data to figure out who is more effective and why, and that will require research that will make doctor and nurse associations extremely resistant and defensive.

Gravity variations near volcanoes interesting

Check out the link here.  That there are stronger gravitational fields at volcanic areas is something that is most interesting, especially with the areas of Indonesia and near Iceland being the strongest.   That doesn’t look accidental.   If these shift over time it may turn out to be a good predictor of eruptions.
It had also crossed my mind before that it would be interesting to see if heat affects gravity as gravity behaves in a lot of ways like any other kind of emission and it would be interesting to see if heat would increase gravity much like it increases black body radiation.   Or, instead of gravity being some totally different wave or particle such as “gravitons” [which are as circular an explanation as gravity itself], it could be a component of radiation that is already known but acting in a way which is not well understood, perhaps even a component of black body radiation.  We don’t have to automatically invent a new wave or force or particle every time we don’t understand something.  Oakham’s razor would suggest looking first at what we already know exists before positing something else.    If you have phenomena A that you know nothing about and you propose that this is somehow explained by phenomena B which you also know nothing about, that leaves two mysteries instead of one and the possibility of spending a lot of time going in circles chasing your tail if phenomena B is balderdash.   There is nothing inherently constructive about that process unless the conceptual framework leads to specific predictions that can be tested.
In any case, if there is an increase in gravity where there is more magma, unless the mass in the location is greater, you may be left with the question of how it is that the same mass seems to be producing a stronger gravitational field and question whether the greater heat has something to do with it.   Of course if the mass is greater that would be interesting as well.    There are a number of island volcanoes in the otherwise non-descript higher gravity area to the south of Africa too.
And then there is the curious lower gravitational field in the Indian Ocean just south of India, in an area where not much of anything seems to happen.  It would be interesting to see if there is anything unique about that area.

First reliable information on particle concentrations in deeper space

Here is an interesting article about information that has likely been misinterpreted:
Deep space probes are getting slowed down at a fairly consistent rate outside the regular solar system.
I don’t see any reason to posit a new force, the problem is the whole concept of “space” is misleading as space isn’t a thing let alone an empty thing.
Figure out the density of particles (in terms of mass) required to cause the size of the measured effect and you’ll have figured out something far more important than the discovery of some small previously unknown force.

Stephen Hawking proposes metaphor travel

Scientists are usually bad philosophers and bad philosophy typically translates into bad science.
Again, the idea of there being a “Time” with a capital T as opposed to using the word like we do in normal discourse is only a metaphor, likewise with space.  Metaphors don’t move anything.  Metaphors aren’t twisted into shapes.  Closeted resurrections of unexplanatory concepts like that of an ether do not advance understanding of anything.   Wittgenstein discredited most of bad philosophy more than 50 years ago but it is as tenacious as a religious cult.
Maybe we teach advanced math too early and it warps peoples minds when they are kids so that they can no longer see anything as it is.
We are indoctorinated into taking all kinds of science related premises as truths.   Are there three dimensions for instance in “space”?  We need to use three dimensions to use math to locate an object in “space”, but that is about math.
From the standpoint of observation rather than math, near as I can tell a meter seems to be about the same whether it is backward, forward, side to side, up, or down 43.1 degrees to the left.   The closest thing to a natural axis is that of gravity but there is nothing to chose from as between other directions.   In natural all I see is distance, not dimensions, and I’ve never seen a dimension outside of a math or physics text.
As for time travel, in one sense we do it every day whether we like it or not.   But when we talk about “the past” as if it is somehow out there, like Hawaii, there isn’t any evidence of that.   There is only an omnipresent “right now” which all matter goes through simultaneously (relativity problems with confirming what is simultaneous are irrelevant).
Do cats and dogs see dimensions?  Of course not.  They see cars, houses, televisions and everything else the same as we do.  They don’t see dimensions because dimensions only exist in human mathematics.   They are part of a new religion of science- and they obstruct science because talking about space and time bending is just going to get in the way of understanding the physical reason why things do what they do.   Postulating that some non-existent thing creates the effects that we see in the world can only lead to circular non-explanations such as “gravity”.
On Mr. Hawking’s proposal that we fire him off in to space, I am on the other hand in wholehearted agreement.