How to decide on what to take seriously

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How to decide on what to take seriously

#1  Postby Ristaaf » Mar 09, 2011 11:24 am

I initially wanted to ask specifically about a "theory" that I stumbled across on the internet, but now I realize that it is not alone.

After having looked at the page http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Grand_Unified_Theories I can see that there are a lot of "theories" out there.

I will take the one "theory" I stumbled across as an example, but I am sure that it is not the only one with similar problems.

So the "theory" in question is the "Spacetime model" in the above list mentioned as "Continuation of Einstein's work" proposed by Jacky Jerome http://www.spacetime-model.com.

I started to read through this and thought "wow he is really on to something here", naturally I continued to look for information on this and started googling only to find that almost all the hits I got was for pages identical to his homepage. Even on the list of theories linked to above the text about this theory is a direct copy from one of Jerome's own pages.

How much I try I can't seem to find anyone (but Jerome himself) commenting or even mentioning this theory.

So since I have little knowledge about how the world of physicists behave my question is this:
How am I as a layman supposed to know how what to think about "theories" like this, I have no problem smelling something fishy about Jerome's theory, but I don't understand what I am smelling.

In this case I can think of a couple of answers:
1. The theory in question is completely wrong in every possible way and not even worth mentioning by anyone, the reason I keep stumbling on it is because Mr. Jerome is creating lots of webpages (or directing lots of domains to his one page) trying to make it look important.
2. The theory is so completely mind numbing for the world of physicists that they try to make it disappear by keeping silent.
3. No one dares to comment on these kinds of theories as it would destroy their reputation in some way.
4. The world of physicists is really never interested in the work of other physicists and simply never remarks on any other theory than the one they believe in.

I would be glad to get at least some responses on the thoughts posted here, and would be overjoyed if someone would give any comment at all on the Jerome theory in specific.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#2  Postby twistor59 » Mar 09, 2011 12:13 pm

It's really option 1 in your list.

If you don't have a physics background, but still want a bullshit detector, then I would say any claim that goes along the lines of

"There's this complicated theory that is mainstream physics, but I have a much SIMPLER theory that explains the same stuff"

then that should ring a loud alarm bell. Theories are complicated for a reason - they're that way because that's what they have to do to explain nature.

Theories do not get "simpler" over time:

Geometric optics ->Maxwell's Equations->Quantum Electrodynamics
Newtonian gravity->General Relativity

They may be elegant, but they're not "simple".

Practicing physicsts will have seen so much of this stuff that they just can't afford to spend the time refuting it. It's a waste of effort.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#3  Postby Ristaaf » Mar 09, 2011 12:39 pm

Thanks for the answer.

This seems to explain a lot, physicists basically know according to current paradigms that theories have to get more complicated with time and not simpler, therefore they think that theories like Jerome's is a waste of time to even consider.

I am not sure that I would agree on that theories necessarily have to get more complicated to eventually find the truth. I get that that is the common way of seeing things and that as you show it is the way it has happened before.

But I hope that one day the theory of everything explaining all observations perfectly will emerge and that it will be a really simple theory, probably thinking in a completely different way maybe using maths that are also completely new. Therefore I kind of like to read about these kinds of paradigm challenging theories.

But never mind what I hope for, you perfectly explained to me why these kinds of theories (Maybe with the exception of E8) don't get much attention.

Thanks
/Rickard
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#4  Postby twistor59 » Mar 09, 2011 1:01 pm

Another indicator to watch out for is when the propounder of the new theory makes imprecise statements about the existing theory, for example in the abstract of http://www.spacetime-model.com/files/mass_physicists.pdf he says

Since the spacetime curvature is synonym of mass (Einstein Field Equations)


That statement displays an ignorance of the theory he's trying to replace (in this case general relativity). There mass is not a "synonym" for spacetime curvature. There can be spacetime curvature in regions without mass. Also, the source of spacetime curvature is not mass, it's the energy momentum tensor.

I, also, would like it to be the case that maybe someday a simple model of everything will emerge, but I'm not hopeful that it will ever happen !!

What I would say though is that, anybody who's interested in physics is better off spending their time learning about the models of nature which do work, and have been proved to work. It's fun to think there might someday be another Einstein who'll turn everything on its head, but I really can't see such a contribution as being easy to identify !!

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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#5  Postby Evolving » Mar 09, 2011 2:53 pm

twistor59 wrote:
Theories do not get "simpler" over time:


...though, in maths as opposed to physics, I think they often do. New, much more powerful ways of looking at things emerge, which throw out what used to be advanced and deep results almost as a by-product.

I once spent a semester (among other things) studying a slim volume called "Calculus on Manifolds", which started with that 19th century achievement, Stokes' Theorem, the high-water mark of calculus at the time, and by the time we got through to the final chapter, that theorem had become pretty much a trivial special case of the mathematical tools we had acquired during the course of the book.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#6  Postby twistor59 » Mar 10, 2011 12:33 pm

Evolving wrote:

I once spent a semester (among other things) studying a slim volume called "Calculus on Manifolds", which started with that 19th century achievement, Stokes' Theorem, the high-water mark of calculus at the time, and by the time we got through to the final chapter, that theorem had become pretty much a trivial special case of the mathematical tools we had acquired during the course of the book.


Those would be ..... differential forms and associated stuff ? <sighs wistfully and wishes he'd gone academic>
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#7  Postby zaybu » Mar 12, 2011 6:29 pm

Here's the total lagrangian( EM, Weak, Strong interaction without gravity):

http://nuclear.ucdavis.edu/~tgutierr/files/sml2.pdf

It doesn't get easy, and it ain't beautiful. Physics is messy and downright ugly.

EDIT: fourth line, first term is the Higgs mass.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#8  Postby philippe.fullsack » Jul 05, 2011 1:52 am

The question asked here is extremely interesting and I decided to register here in order to have a chance to post a reply.
I am a mathematician and have read the page of Jacky Jerome (discussed here), with a mixed sense of suspicion and wonder:
It takes guts -or arrogance- to stand alone against an army of -often if not always- humble mainstream physicists.

As already noticed in several of the replies to the original post here, it is not difficult to realize that the theory presented is not substantial.
However, I would be interested in a more quantitative criticism.
It could for example take the form of an experience suggested to falsify the suggested theory.
If the theory is naive and wrong, there must be a clear and quantitative way to identify the source(s) of error(s), and convince, may be in a few lines, the majority of 'rational readers' that JJ's theory cannot hold.
To be honest, I have not tried hard to create such an argument.

It may be that the theory has already been explored by others, or that
there is simply not enough formalism to put the ideas to test, in which case there is no theory (i.e. any reader/experimenter would need to fill the gaps themselves...)

If any one among you - e.g. a physics teacher- would be willing to provide such a proof, I would be delighted.
Last edited by philippe.fullsack on Jul 05, 2011 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#9  Postby Durro » Jul 05, 2011 3:03 am

Bonjour Philippe and welcome to ratskep. If you're having trouble framing questions in English, perhaps you might wish to check out our French language section at :-

http://www.rationalskepticism.org/francais/

I'm sure that some of our multilingual members might be able to assist you further.

Regards,

Durro
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#10  Postby twistor59 » Jul 05, 2011 8:01 pm

philippe.fullsack wrote:The question asked here is extremely interesting and I decided to register here in order to have a chance to post a reply.
I am a mathematician and have read the page of Jacky Jerome (discussed here), with a mixed sense of suspicion and wonder:
It takes guts -or arrogance- to stand alone against an army of -often if not always- humble mainstream physicists.

As already noticed in several of the replies to the original post here, it is not difficult to realize that the theory presented is not substantial.
However, I would be interested in a more quantitative criticism.
It could for example take the form of an experience suggested to falsify the suggested theory.
If the theory is naive and wrong, there must be a clear and quantitative way to identify the source(s) of error(s), and convince, may be in a few lines, the majority of 'rational readers' that JJ's theory cannot hold.
To be honest, I have not tried hard to create such an argument.

It may be that the theory has already been explored by others, or that
there is simply not enough formalism to put the ideas to test, in which case there is no theory (i.e. any reader/experimenter would need to fill the gaps themselves...)

If any one among you - e.g. a physics teacher- would be willing to provide such a proof, I would be delighted.



I'm not a physicist, just a physics hobbyist, but when you read statements like this (right at the beginning):

The same phenomenon also exists in spacetime. Contrary to preconceived ideas, it is the volume of elementary particles, and not their mass, which deforms spacetime.


It displays such an ignorance of established physics that it's hard to know where to begin. But for starters:

1) Even in general relativity, the source of the gravitational field is Energy-Momentum, not just mass. He should at least understand the theory he's trying to replace. Also, how would his theory possibly cope with the gravitational field generated by, for example, pressure, or electromagnetic radiation ?

2) What on earth is the "volume of an elementary particle" ?

3) He presents a "derivation" of the Schwarszchild metric based on some sort of elasticity idea. There are many much more reasonable non general-relativistic derivations of the Schwarzschild solution http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0611104
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#11  Postby campermon » Jul 05, 2011 8:19 pm

Did somebody call for a physics teacher? :grin:
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#12  Postby twistor59 » Jul 05, 2011 8:26 pm

campermon wrote:Did somebody call for a physics teacher? :grin:


Yeah, "physics teacher", not "Brummuey Physics Tueycha"
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#13  Postby campermon » Jul 05, 2011 8:28 pm

twistor59 wrote:
campermon wrote:Did somebody call for a physics teacher? :grin:


Yeah, "physics teacher", not "Brummuey Physics Tueycha"


:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

'Tueycha' !!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Love it!

:thumbup:
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#14  Postby twistor59 » Jul 05, 2011 8:33 pm

campermon wrote:
twistor59 wrote:
campermon wrote:Did somebody call for a physics teacher? :grin:


Yeah, "physics teacher", not "Brummuey Physics Tueycha"


:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

'Tueycha' !!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Love it!

:thumbup:


I'd do some phonetic scouse for myself but I don't know how to.....unless certain words are involved, like "RRRReeeeeeeed the fuchhh'n buchhh." Anyway, must stop this - will get told off for derailing.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#15  Postby campermon » Jul 05, 2011 8:34 pm

...and on topic; my advice to the OP is: Appeal to authority. In other words, look to recognised sources for physics information and not websites. In my experience, websites that claim to offer some new understanding of physics tend to be authored by cranks.

PS - welcome to the forum!

:cheers:
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#16  Postby campermon » Jul 05, 2011 8:36 pm

twistor59 wrote:

I'd do some phonetic scouse for myself but I don't know how to.....unless certain words are involved, like "RRRReeeeeeeed the fuchhh'n buchhh." Anyway, must stop this - will get told off for derailing.


How do you express that 'phlegm at the back of the palate' sound in text? :ask:

:lol:
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#17  Postby Darkchilde » Jul 06, 2011 9:43 am

Clue No. 1: Usually most people trying to do revelations in physics that are doing pseudoscience, have read a few popular science books and have decided that their pet "theory" is the next revelation in physics. So, they will have absolutely no maths. If you do not see any maths in it, chances are that it is pseudoscience. Notable example: Harley Borgais. No maths whatsoever.

Clue No. 2: Look for anything that is considered pseudoscience in general, whether that is something like "electric universe" or something more easily seen like "astrology" or even some people try to "prove" god with their pet "theory".

Clue No. 3: look for the word quantum and words that have no relation to QM, and yet they are being shoved together. Example is Nassim Haramein and Deepak Chopra with their "quantum consciousness" woo and similar.

Clue No. 4: look for the words "free energy". That is always a good one. Anyone claiming to have found a source of free energy. Nothing says pseudoscience as much as misusing thermodynamics.

Clue No. 5: anyone claiming that they are misunderstood by the scientific community, that their ideas are scientific but that the scientific community is a clique or similar. persecution complexes, etc.

Clue No. 6: Anyone claiming that they have found a way to deny the theory of relativity or similar. Most probably they do not even understand the basics of it.

I will post more if I remember, or come across them.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#18  Postby Darkchilde » Jul 06, 2011 10:09 am

Clue No. 7: Important one. Usually, these people have no formal training in any science, nothing at all. You will find no mention of any degrees or even classes they have taken, nor any actual textbooks or books they have read. Of course, there are numerous exceptions to this, like Nassim Haramein, who has formal training as a physicist and has presented a couple of talks in respectable conferences.

Clue No. 8: As a corollary to Clue No. 7, there will probably be no publications whatsoever in any respectable journal, or even a popular science magazine, or something. Some of them may have self-published, seeing as noone took them seriously. Who was it with relativity+ or similar, that had self-published?
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#19  Postby hackenslash » Jul 15, 2011 8:37 am

One important point:

Theories actually do tend to get simpler over time, although it doesn't always seem that way, not least because, as the theories get simpler, the maths required to described them gets ever more complicated. As an example, the curvature of spacetime in relativity is actually a lot simpler in principle than action at a distance. Atomic physics gives an even starker example. What were thought to be a whole range of fundamental constituents (atoms) turned out to be composed of even simpler constituents (neutrons, protons, etc), and those turned out to be made of even simpler constituents (quarks). It may even be that those, and all other particles, are made of simpler constituents still (strings/branes).

Of course, the science itself gets ever more complex, because it also includes the interactions of those constituents and, as the constituents get simpler, the interactions tend toward complexity, but the core principles tend toward simplicity, at least in some sense.
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Re: How to decide on what to take seriously

#20  Postby susu.exp » Jul 15, 2011 10:56 pm

The question is what simpler means. Theories are sets of predictions, so we are basically talking about some way to define how simple a set is. One way to go about this would be Komolgorov complexity, but other measures might also be adequate...

Darkchilde wrote:Clue No. 1: Usually most people trying to do revelations in physics that are doing pseudoscience, have read a few popular science books and have decided that their pet "theory" is the next revelation in physics. So, they will have absolutely no maths. If you do not see any maths in it, chances are that it is pseudoscience. Notable example: Harley Borgais. No maths whatsoever.


On the other hand, quite a bit of pseudoscience I´ve encountered smashes you with a lot of "maths" and the parantheses are there because what this means is a lot of symbols used without the formal logic used in maths.

Darkchilde wrote:Clue No. 3: look for the word quantum and words that have no relation to QM, and yet they are being shoved together. Example is Nassim Haramein and Deepak Chopra with their "quantum consciousness" woo and similar.


I have to interject there, because I think I´ve come under attack for this in the past, unfairly I think. QM does provide a justification for using stochastic models in a wide range of fields and that´s a germane point to be made in a lot of places - macroscopic systems are only approximately deterministic in properties for which you can use the law of large numbers, i.e. those that can be expressed as means of microscopic properties. A case in point are point mutations, which are pretty much the breaking up and fusion of some covalent bonds. Covalent bonds are rather stable, but they do break up at random intervals and this stochasticity is an effect of quantum mechanics. Point mutations can have markedly large scale effects and these also occur in a stochastic fashion.

Darkchilde wrote:Clue No. 5: anyone claiming that they are misunderstood by the scientific community, that their ideas are scientific but that the scientific community is a clique or similar. persecution complexes, etc.


It´s often a good indicator, but not always. Bolzmann felt this way and he was brilliant for instance. And sometimes the scientific community actually is a clique. The key to getting ideas in that seem far out is to show that they are actually better than what´s currently around and sometimes this takes a lot of work.

A final comment on papers: The advantage of a paper is that it´s peer-reviewed. This keeps some crap out. On the other hand some works have been published outside of journals that are good science anyway. Peer review in this case is people citing the publication and using it. Dawin didn´t publish a peer-reviewed article. Or for a more recent case: Signor and Lipps gave a talk on sampling effects in the fossil record in the 80s, which got a short non peer-reviewed article in the conference proceedings. It´s valid statistics and rather important, so this has been cited a lot and there are quite a few articles dealing with the Signor-Lipps effect or backsmearing.

In effect: It´s hard to figure out what to take seriously because there are counterexamples to every criterion.
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