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Author Topic: Kicking the Sacred Cow
Lisa
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One of my favorite books... well, it was a trilogy, actually, and it's since then expanded to five books, was James P. Hogan's Giants Trilogy.

It was extremely heavy on evolution and genetics and just science in general. The brilliant thinking really impressed me, and I've read just about everything he's written.

He's a heretic, though. Once a fiery defender of scientific orthodoxies like natural selection from random mutations and the like, he gradually began to see flaws in the way science was being applied. Very often, scientific orthodoxies were subverting science itself by excommunicating anyone who wouldn't tow the consensus line. He first saw this with some of the environmental hysteria that was based on really, really bad science. This made him take a look at some other areas that are often advertised as being dead issues.

He wound up putting together a book called Kicking the Sacred Cow. in which he... well, does exactly what the title says. Over and over and over again.

It doesn't really matter what field of science you know most about. There's something in this book to infuriate just about everyone:
  • Humanistic Religion: The Rush to Embrace Darwinism
    In which Hogan, despite his atheistic contempt for religion, dares to question the logic and science behind evolution.
  • Of Bangs and Braids: Cosmology's Mathematical Abstractions
    In which Hogan takes on the Hubble Law and the conventional interpretation of redshift.
  • Drifting in the Ether: Did Relativity Take a Wrong Turn?
    In which Hogan points out that an awful lot of physicists have found Einstein's Theory of Relativity to be unnecessarily complex and all of its "experimentally proven" elements derivable from classical physics.
  • Catastrophe of Ethics: The Case for Taking Velikovsky Seriously
    In which Hogan looks at one of the most famous modern cases of a scientific orthodoxy resorting to appalling measures to prevent heretical views from being heard, and kicks Carl Sagan's dishonest rear even harder than most of the sacred cows in the book.
  • Environmental Fantasies: Politics and Ideology Masquerading As Science
    In which Hogan discusses the near-genocide resulting from the ignorant banning of DDT and some of the real reasons behind the banning of CFCs. Oh, and the "ozone hole" and "global warming" get trampled as well.
  • Closing Ranks: AIDS Heresy In The Viricentric Universe
    In which Hogan questions the whole idea of AIDS as a communicable disease or a virus.
So... I was wondering whether anyone else has read this book. I think it should be required reading for any classes on the sociology of science.
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King of Men
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Velikovsky? I'm sorry, but I think Hogan must be writing a parody that you haven't spotted yet. That list reads like the hot issues of the local Tinfoil Hats Club.

And just to take one example, how does one derive the extra lifetime that elementary particles get near lightspeed, from calssical physics? I mean, does he give the mathematical details, or are these just vague assertions?

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Destineer
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I'd have a hard time trusting a book that purports to treat such disparate topics. I can't see how one guy could possibly know enough about evolutionary biology, relativistic physics, climate science and immunology to raise a credible objection to all four fields at once. I know from my own experience with relativity that one has to be a pretty serious specialist in order to really see how it fits together, and I imagine this is just as true of the other fields on his hit list.
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Tante Shvester
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Moo!

oof!

Hey, cut that out!

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Destineer
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Wow, I'd never heard of Velikovsky, so I just googled him.

The guy seems to define 'crackpot.'

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SteveRogers
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Blasphemy!
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Tatiana
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Amateur refutes basic scientific understanding in half a dozen different fields in one breakthrough book? That's odd.

Remember Lord Kelvin's short paper refuting the geologist's idea of the age of the earth? He, arguing that the sun (which he did not question was powered by gravitational contraction alone) couldn't possibly still be burning after that long. Thus he handily dismissed the entire field of geology without bothering to look very hard at their evidence. [Smile]

Turns out the sun is powered by a then-unknown process called nuclear fusion. Oops.

When outsiders handily refute the basic understandings in a field of science they haven't studied well, no matter if they happen to be very brilliant people like Lord Kelvin, they still are almost always wrong (on top of being pretty darned arrogant). If someone claims to have done this for half a dozen different fields at once, then that tiny chance becomes infinitessimal.

I've actually read one of Velikovsky's books. The man made no sense whatsoever and had zero understanding of gravity, mass, force, or inertia, not to mention celestial mechanics.

[ November 13, 2005, 04:00 PM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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King of Men
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Let me just say, before starLisa does, that it's actually five books.

By the way, the name sounds familiar; isn't he a science fiction author? Are you sure the science was intended to be taken seriously?

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Rakeesh
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People say that "aopeal to authority" is a fallacy...and yet it's so easy to fall back on, isn't it?

Apparently Velikovsky-whoever the hell he is-plays only a small part of this book.

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fugu13
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Fascinatingly, Tatiana, it seems that Hogan is at least entertaining the notion that the sun is not powered by nuclear reactions, but by "electricity" (how electricity generates its own power I'm not quite certain).

This is based off of perusing the newsletter archives on his site.

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Destineer
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quote:
People say that "aopeal to authority" is a fallacy...and yet it's so easy to fall back on, isn't it?
Well, it's only a fallacy in deductive logic. So you can't get a completely certain proof from appeal to authority; that doesn't mean it can't bolster your case.

The nicer word for it is "testimony," and if you don't accept the testimony of reliable sources, you're going to have a hard time getting through this life.

Anyway, questioning relativity is not going to make me view your other opinions in a positive light. Relativity is an elegant theory that's been confirmed by a great number of well-constructed experiments. I've personally done the experiment KoM mentioned above: measuring the relativistic increase in the lifetime of a muon. Those were the cleanest results I ever got in advanced lab class.

You'd have to be either nuts or committed to a weird ideology in order to question relativity within its domain of application. I don't trust the testimony of such people.

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Destineer
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quote:
it seems that Hogan is at least entertaining the notion that the sun is not powered by nuclear reactions, but by "electricity" (how electricity generates its own power I'm not quite certain).

[ROFL]
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Velikovsky? I'm sorry, but I think Hogan must be writing a parody that you haven't spotted yet. That list reads like the hot issues of the local Tinfoil Hats Club.

Ah, yes. Well, I didn't expect anything other than a kneejerk response from you, O King.

quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
And just to take one example, how does one derive the extra lifetime that elementary particles get near lightspeed, from calssical physics? I mean, does he give the mathematical details, or are these just vague assertions?

Muon decay, for instance? For those who don't get what KoM is talking about, let me quote briefly from Hogan's book (page 127):

quote:
An example is the extended lifetimes shown by muons created by bombardment of the upper atmosphere by protons from the Sun. The muons reach the Earth's surface in numbers about nine times greater than their natural decay time (half-life 2.2 microseconds) says they should. This is explained by time in the muon's moving frame being dilated as measured from the surface, giving a longer decay period than would be experienced by a muon at rest.
And then on pages 143-145:

quote:
Is some semi-abstract quantity called "time" actually being dilated? Or is it simply that a difference in the internal dynamics (increased mass, for example) of moving clocks--meaning time-varying processes in general--makes them run slower? What's the difference? The difference is fundamental if by "moving" we mean with respect to some privileged reference frame such as a general Lorentzian ether, the local gravity field, or whatever. Simply put, a clock moving in that frame runs slower--a physical reality, not some trick of appearances or mathematical acrobatics--than a clock that's at rest in in. The laboratory is at rest in the Earth's frame while the muon isn't, and so the muon's clock actually runs slower.

As an illustration of the principle (one which has nothing to do with relativity), consider an ordinary pendulum clock being flown around the world in an eastbound direction. The rate of a pendulum clock depends on g, the acceleration due to gravity. The Earth's rotation generates an upward centrifugal force that acts against g, reducing it slightly. Since an eastbound clock is adding to the Earth's rotation speed, this effect will be increased, causing the airborne clock to run marginally slower. This isn't due to time in the aircraft "dilating," but a real, physical effect arising from its motion.

Of course, you could always go to the library and read the book. Who knows? You might learn something.

Oh, and about Velikovsky? Speaking as someone with more than a little knowledge of the ancient near east and cuneiform documents, I personally think his chronology is utterly unworkable. I'm a lot more willing to make a categorical statement about that than I am about the astronomy stuff, simply because I know more about it. That said, his questions were almost all excellent ones, even if the answers he found didn't work. Others have continued down the road he started, and found answers that actually do work.

As far as catastrophism, my skepticism applies primarily to the specifics he tried to claim. I can believe that some or other phenomenon in the skies was identified by nations all over the world as Venus. That doesn't mean that it actually was.

I remember one afternoon when I was coming home from work in Israel. I got out of the van, and started walking towards my building. And stopped, completely stunned. Up in the sky, the clouds were these deep pastel colors (due to the time of day, it being not long before sunset). And they were identifiable shapes. There was a giant guy on a throne. There was what looked like this humongous stalactite with someone equally enormous chained to it.

I kid you not. It was vivid and it was crystal clear. As I stood there, the clouds dispersed and the illusion went with it, but had it been 3000 years earlier, I could easily see people telling god stories about what they'd seen.

So I'm no wide-eyed disciple of Velikovsky, but a lot of what he said deserves to be taken more seriously, and some of the utterly lame arguments against his claims (which were later shown to be true) deserve condemnation.

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Teshi
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I always think I should write a book like this and get-rich-quick. Controversy is always good to get people to buy a book.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
I'd have a hard time trusting a book that purports to treat such disparate topics. I can't see how one guy could possibly know enough about evolutionary biology, relativistic physics, climate science and immunology to raise a credible objection to all four fields at once.

Because he's not doing it based on his own authority. He's bringing sources from real authorities. Sources like Halton Arp, who was excommunicated from the field of astronomy for daring to dispute the conventional view of redshift. Peter Duesberg, who was instrumental in proving that cancer isn't virally caused, and was quickly marginalized when it looked as though he was going to do the same thing for the AIDS gravy train.
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fugu13
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Wow, that statement on muon decay is one of the best examples of pseudo-scientific babble I've ever seen. Just to pick out one particularly amusing thing, actually using the words "centrifugal force" in anything that purports to be science (other than explaining how there is no centrifugal force).

Or then there's that he doesn't make any attempt at actually explaining why a muon's lifetime miraculously lengthens at high speed, much less why it lengthens in exact accordance with relativity theory, much less why it lengthens in exact agreement with all the other time dilation experiments, using different tests, that have been done.

No, he merely asserts that it somehow happens. He says that the theory which matches observed facts should be tossed out because . . . Oh wait, he doesn't fill in the because. This isn't science, this is absurdist fantasy.

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Destineer
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Ah, I see now... Hogan seems to be a fan of the original Lorentz ether theory that was superseded by relativity.

Let me explain a bit further. Relativity is the view that the only physically real quantities are Lorentz invariant ones: quantities that don't change depending on which reference frame you're in (that is, how fast you're moving and in what direction). The ether theory, on the other hand, is the view that frame-dependent quantities have real existence, but only in a single, preferred frame. Observers in all the other frames are being deceived by actual, physical changes in the length of their measuring rods and the speed of their clocks.

What Hogan seems not to realize is that the ether frame is unobservable. If the Lorentz transformations work (and they do) we have no way of telling by experiment which frame is the "real" one. He seems to think that the Earth's rest frame is the real frame, but there can be no basis for believing that. We have just as much evidence for the possibility that the "real" frame is moving 1,000 mph to your left.

quote:
Is some semi-abstract quantity called "time" actually being dilated?
A relativity theorist would say there's no such thing, except as a frame-dependent component of four-dimensional spacetime. This seems to be a basic confusion.

quote:
Or is it simply that a difference in the internal dynamics (increased mass, for example) of moving clocks--meaning time-varying processes in general--makes them run slower?
Increased mass has nothing to do with it, except insofar as an object's observed "mass" is another one of these frame-dependent quantities that, according to relativity, don't really exist. They are merely observed features of a more basic reality.

Now, as a philosopher of physics I know some very smart but very strange people who believe the ether theory. (The physicist John Bell was one such, philosophers David Albert and Tim Maudlin have basically followed his lead.) But these people have very quirky reasons for adopting this position, having to do with their views on measurement in quantum mechanics. Within the scope of relativity itself, I can see no reason for adopting the ether theory. Compared with relativity, it's sickeningly inelegant and under-determined by experiment to boot.

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Teshi
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So basically it's like I said, he's putting together a lot of other people's ideas in what amounts to being a very, very controversial book that "makes you 'think'."

Makes you buy.

Oh, look, it's five books!

Makes you buy more!

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fugu13
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I thought the following quotation from wikipedia particularly appropriate, re: Duesberg's hypothesis

quote:
The Duesberg proponents say that AIDS in Africa is the result of poor sanitation and malnutrition, not HIV. Opponents note the following facts:

AIDS in Africa has increased during the last two decades, and so has the prevalence of HIV.

Sanitation and nutrition, on the other hand, have noticeably improved since the 1980s, when the Ethiopian famine was prominent in the news.

AIDS in Africa largely kills sexually active working-age adults.

The groups that have HIV are the ones dying from AIDS. For example, in areas where surveys show 50% of people with HIV are women, that area will show that 50% of people dying from AIDS are women. In areas where 20% of HIV+ people use recreational drugs, then 20% of the people dying from AIDS use recreational drugs.

If the Duesberg hypothesis is right, one wonders why AIDS kills so many otherwise healthy adults in Africa at the same time that health has improved among the children and the elderly, who are normally the most vulnerable to poor sanitation and malnutrition, and least vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duesberg_hypothesis
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Destineer
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quote:
Just to pick out one particularly amusing thing, actually using the words "centrifugal force" in anything that purports to be science (other than explaining how there is no centrifugal force).
Um, not sure what you mean by that, man. There certainly is centrifugal force, at least in the same sense that there's gravitational force.
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fugu13
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You're right, there is in some uses, I forget that some people use centrifugal instead of centripetal.

Not in this sense, though:

quote:
The Earth's rotation generates an upward centrifugal force that acts against g, reducing it slightly.

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King of Men
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Depends on your definitions. However, there is certainly no centrifugal force on the pendulum clock, in his example. And indeed, this is the reason most actual physicists prefer not to operate with centrifugal force due to circular motion; it's too easy to get confused.
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King of Men
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quote:
Is some semi-abstract quantity called "time" actually being dilated? Or is it simply that a difference in the internal dynamics (increased mass, for example) of moving clocks--meaning time-varying processes in general--makes them run slower? What's the difference? The difference is fundamental if by "moving" we mean with respect to some privileged reference frame such as a general Lorentzian ether, the local gravity field, or whatever. Simply put, a clock moving in that frame runs slower--a physical reality, not some trick of appearances or mathematical acrobatics--than a clock that's at rest in in. The laboratory is at rest in the Earth's frame while the muon isn't, and so the muon's clock actually runs slower.
Hang on a moment. I shouldn't have got hung up on the centrifugal force bit, it's a useless argument and not really that relevant, except to show that comrade Hogan knows not whereof he speaks. (I mean, he's supposed to be showing relativistic effects from classical mechanics, and then he gets classical mehanics wrong!)

Ah, but there I go again. The point I actually set out to make was, where in the quoted part does he show anything at all, starting from classical physics? As far as I can tell, he is just explaining what time dilation is, not where it comes from.

And, by the way, I want math. Not words. This is not social science, or even biology; if you can't show it with equations, it ain't no theory.

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Destineer
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He's not trying to derive anything from classical physics a la Newton. The view is that our world is Newtonian, but only in a special preferred frame. In all other frames, time is actually drawn out and length is actually shortened by the influence of the "ether."
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fugu13
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I think its pretty clear he's saying that in no frame is time drawn out at all, it just seems drawn out due to other distortions.
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Destineer
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Section 3 of this paper has a good description of the ether theory: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/perspectives_on_science/v009/9.3bokulich.html
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King of Men
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So how does he deal with the Michelson-Morley experiment?
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Destineer
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The same way Lorentz did prior to Einstein. Light doesn't really move at the same speed in all frames. It just seems that way because the ether's properties change when you begin to move.

It's a consistent theory, it's just stupid. Like I said, inelegant enough to make you sick.

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Destineer
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An analogy: suppose you had a theory where, instead of electric charge, you had two different quantities called charge and quarge. Some protons have quarge of +1, some have charge of +1. An object with quarge Q acts exactly the same way as an object with charge Q.

'Quarge' in my example is much like the preferred frame in the ether theory. It does no work in explaining experiments. So you can see why physicists decided to do without the preferred frame and moved on to relativity once the idea was proposed.

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King of Men
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Oh, I see. Does that give you length contraction as well? What about gravity waves - if we see them, won't that disprove the theory? So we can just wait a couple of years for the data to come in.

But in any case, this isn't actually very controversial. Presumably the eventual predictions of the theory are going to be the same, with the possible exception of gravity waves - that's what we like about relativity, it gives you new predictions, it doesn't just explain the old ones. So if it's mathematically equivalent to relativity, then there is every reason to prefer the elegant theory; and if not, then it's been experimentally disproven.

Let me make this clear : There are plenty of theories that give results equivalent to Einstein's. The reason we don't use them is because relativity is mathematically and conceptually simpler, as soon as you begin to ask the kind of question that working scientists have to answer. Sure, in words it might be simpler to visualise some kind of ether; but that's not relevant. We want math to do actual problems.

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Destineer
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quote:
Does that give you length contraction as well?
Yes, that follows from the variable speed of light.

quote:
What about gravity waves - if we see them, won't that disprove the theory?
I don't know if there's an ether-based theory of gravity. I've never heard of one.

One thing that can occur in relativity which could never be explained by an ether theory is non-trivial topology. For example, if we have wormholes or a universe that's shaped like a donut, where you can start out in one direction, go in a straight line and eventually come back where you started. Such things could never happen in an ether theory.

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SteveRogers
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Wow, you know a lot about science and math and stuff Destineer. Are you some sort of scientist? Mathmetician? Teacher?
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Destineer
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I am a philosopher. [Big Grin]

Of physics.

Just a grad student at this point, and for another two years.

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SteveRogers
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Wow, I could never get into that sort of thing. I'd either confuse myself to death or get so bored I'd never graduate. I'm not cut out for this higher understanding thing.
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Destineer
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It's fun, but it is pretty hard. I could never be a real physicist. I just like learning the stuff, I could never do actual creative work with it.

I'm actually surprised how often I find a thread on Hatrack, like this one, that has something to do with my academic interests. People here are pretty smart.

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MrSquicky
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Rakeesh,
I think you may be using an invalid defintion of the "appeal to authority" fallacy. The fallacy lies not in any appeal to authority - that would be stupid - but rather to appealing to someone who does't have authority on the subject in question. The most common form of this is to appeal to a generalized authority, such as saying Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, believes that String Theory is invalid. Because Kofi Annan in his position at the U.N. is not an authority in advanced physics, this is a fallacious appeal to authority.

Here's the wikipedia article that lays out when it's a fallacy and when it's legitimate.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
I thought the following quotation from wikipedia particularly appropriate, re: Duesberg's hypothesis

quote:
The Duesberg proponents say that AIDS in Africa is the result of poor sanitation and malnutrition, not HIV. Opponents note the following facts:

AIDS in Africa has increased during the last two decades, and so has the prevalence of HIV.

Sanitation and nutrition, on the other hand, have noticeably improved since the 1980s, when the Ethiopian famine was prominent in the news.

AIDS in Africa largely kills sexually active working-age adults.

The groups that have HIV are the ones dying from AIDS. For example, in areas where surveys show 50% of people with HIV are women, that area will show that 50% of people dying from AIDS are women. In areas where 20% of HIV+ people use recreational drugs, then 20% of the people dying from AIDS use recreational drugs.

If the Duesberg hypothesis is right, one wonders why AIDS kills so many otherwise healthy adults in Africa at the same time that health has improved among the children and the elderly, who are normally the most vulnerable to poor sanitation and malnutrition, and least vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duesberg_hypothesis
Diagnosis of AIDS in Africa is no longer done according to HIV tests. Basically, if you have pneumonia, you go into the AIDS stats. If you have any of the indicator diseases (which are different from the list of indicator diseases in the US), you're an AIDS stat. And hell, since the list of indicator diseases differs in the US and Canada (just for example), you can actually cure yourself of AIDS by crossing the border.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
Is some semi-abstract quantity called "time" actually being dilated? Or is it simply that a difference in the internal dynamics (increased mass, for example) of moving clocks--meaning time-varying processes in general--makes them run slower? What's the difference? The difference is fundamental if by "moving" we mean with respect to some privileged reference frame such as a general Lorentzian ether, the local gravity field, or whatever. Simply put, a clock moving in that frame runs slower--a physical reality, not some trick of appearances or mathematical acrobatics--than a clock that's at rest in in. The laboratory is at rest in the Earth's frame while the muon isn't, and so the muon's clock actually runs slower.
Hang on a moment. I shouldn't have got hung up on the centrifugal force bit, it's a useless argument and not really that relevant, except to show that comrade Hogan knows not whereof he speaks. (I mean, he's supposed to be showing relativistic effects from classical mechanics, and then he gets classical mehanics wrong!)

Ah, but there I go again. The point I actually set out to make was, where in the quoted part does he show anything at all, starting from classical physics? As far as I can tell, he is just explaining what time dilation is, not where it comes from.

And, by the way, I want math. Not words. This is not social science, or even biology; if you can't show it with equations, it ain't no theory.

Beg your pardon, O King. But your local library will have the book. I've posted more than Fair Use probably allows for, and I'm hardly going to type in the whole damned book.

So read the book and comment intelligently, or don't read the book and have the honesty to say that you don't know enough to be able to make any claims one way or the other about the contents.

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SteveRogers
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Destineer- I'm afraid that I'm probably the only person who doesn't know at least a little bit of information about most of the stuff they talk about here.
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fugu13
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How strange there's such good correlation by population by percent HIV positive, then, sL [Smile] . One might also wonder why all the children are getting healthier but more adults are at least listed as getting AIDS. One might also wonder where you're pulling your assertion out of [Smile] .

And no, you're well within fair use.

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MrSquicky
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starL,
That doesn't match up at all with what my doctor friend told me about his time working in a clinic in Africa after he got back a little over a year and a half ago. I have to wonder where you're getting that information. Could you substantiate your assertion?

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Scott R
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Translation: Link, please?

[Smile]

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Will B
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If muons moving near lightspeed have a delayed decay due to increased mass . . . then this is not classical physics, since classical physics doesn't account for increased mass in fast-moving particles. Relativity does, however.

I can't tell if this book is parody or serious, but relativity has overwhelming evidence for it, and there's overwhelming evidence against classical physics. The same is true regarding his claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. And, defending Velivovsky! Velivovsky doesn't even work with classical physics.

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Sartorius
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
Destineer- I'm afraid that I'm probably the only person who doesn't know at least a little bit of information about most of the stuff they talk about here.

No, I'm in your club. I've read a couple Steven Hawking books, and I know I like relativity, but I like reading these threads better than trying to contribute.
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Rakeesh
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When I posted that, Mr. Squicky, there was no specific authority cited. Only that the book is ridiculous and stupid because "sane scientists" say so, more or less. The thread has changed since then, though. Specific things are being discussed and refuted.
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Paul Goldner
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http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=004095;p=1&r=nfx

If you've got time, I recommend reading Vulture's posts on the above link.

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Destineer
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Interesting. I gather from Vulture's posts that Hogan is actually extolling a version of the ether theory I talked about which has been modified to give similar predictions to general relativity. So I guess there is an ether theory for gravitation.
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Paul Goldner
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Probably, but as he also points out, some of the modifications are completely ad hoc, and still don't allow for certain observed phenomena.
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Lisa
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It's pretty amazing how much more civil the discussion was over on Ornery.

Anyway, it's not the whole book, but the first 12 chapters (including all the evolution stuff) is online here , for those who'd like to comment with eyes open.

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Destineer
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quote:
It's pretty amazing how much more civil the discussion was over on Ornery.
The topic is a bit more tame than the typical Ornery fare of, e.g., "TERRORIST SCUM should be racially profiled and then tortured with burning poop-stained Korans!" vs. "George Bush is a war criminal anti-christ and the Libby indictment is the greatest scandal since Watergate!"
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