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article imageOp-Ed: Physics, the science of holiday camp pedants

By Paul Wallis     Jun 15, 2009 in Science
It was once said that “The only real science is physics, and everything else is stamp collecting.” This is the insufferable science, the one that makes pronouncements and doesn’t tolerate anyone answering back. It’s almost a religion itself.
This is a science which was recently saying everything could be explained by black holes, and now says it can be explained by dark matter, which it hasn’t even yet defined, but has got heaps of money promoting it. Physics must be like a holiday camp for some. You can have dark matter, chaos theory, string theory, and quantum theory, none of which do very much that’s useful, and have a career. You can argue with other physicists, and both sneer that no outsider understands your science.
It so happens that physics hasn’t really done much but blow its own trumpet for quite a while now. A couple of generations ago, places like Skunk Works and the old X projects were blowing away the whole concept of air frames. That’s practical physics, and it’s tough stuff.
Probably too tough for the current culture of modern physics, which has produced:
Endless documentaries devoted to explaining Einstein’s 80 year old mathematics.
Interminable pontifications about obscure arguments regarding things that haven’t even been defined.
Not a hell of a lot else.
This is Physics, The Museum Tour And Pedagogue’s Rest Home. You can form a line behind Archimedes, the laws of thermodynamics, Newton, Einstein, and virtually the rest of the scientific Yellow Pages, and fearlessly agree with them. That’s been the basic method of dealing with non-physicists for some time. It's not actual physics, in the sense of actually doing anything to contribute anything to anyone, or anything, let alone science, but it's the common perception of a science which just doesn't give a damn.
The only real problem is that people keep having ideas, and expecting physics to try and explain them, or worse, figure out how to make them work. Like space travel. The practical physics of rocket technology, for space travel, are so inefficient that lighting a candle with a thousand dollar note is comparatively miserly. As physics, rocket science is partly Wile E. Coyote, and partly someone’s vague idea that there are supposed to be rockets, because nobody’s heard of anything else. Not even paper darts, which are cheaper, and carry better payloads, if you pack them right.
Does modern physics have a problem with that? Nope. Using ancient Chinese technology, or German V-2 technology seems to work just dandy. It’s just one of those things where you get paid to talk physics to people who don’t understand it, and get paid for explaining it to them in private afterwards.. So it’s perfectly normal, and any concept of actual science or use of intellect need not be bothered by it.
However: If you want to really upset physicists, talk about integrated field theory or worse, try getting anything on the subject of faster than light physics out of any of these Saints of the Scientific Sarcophagi. It’s fun.
Einstein couldn’t get integrated field theory because he didn’t have Mandelbrots to work with. The use of the “equals” function won’t achieve a field ratio, because it can’t. This is the only weak point in Einstein’s otherwise almost bullet proof career, and it rankles with some that they can’t produce a great set of quotes for that, too.
Try E is to F, idiots.
Then try E is to Fx, etc.
Then have some milk and cookies. You’ll feel better.
Then we can try articulated fields, where you can make a human hand out of pure fields, if you really, really try.
Or would you like your quiet time, instead?
Faster than light physics, aka pedantry in estrus
If you want to find a subject on which the entire science of physics is happy to cop out, try faster than light. Einstein will be quoted, space time will come out and do its miraculous impersonation of nothing much, and some freaky out of date sound will be added. And that, folks, is it. Physics has spoken.
OK, this is why I wrote this article. I’m getting sick of physics being the useless naysayer to all new ideas. The latest effort was the last straw. Some years ago, a guy called Michael Alcubierre, a Mexican physicist, designed a “warp field”, like in Star Trek.
So physics, the scientific stand-in for ultra Evangelistic Creationism, has decided to kill of the idea with this little piece on Discovery, which includes references to string theory, so it must be true.
A few points, buttercups. No theory means a damn thing until proven and verified, and never has, and never will. To produce statements like “an infinite amount of power is required” to produce acceleration of anything to any speed is just miserable arithmetic.
It’s also demonstrably untrue. Well, that's not too surprising, either.
The complete lack of knowledge or information hasn’t prevented the theorists producing a black hole out of a warp field that hasn’t even been tested yet.
It’s like Carl Sagan’s comment on the old science fiction about Venus: "Clouds, therefore dinosaurs".
Even the quotes from Einstein are misinterpreted, which is perhaps understandable.
To quote from the Discovery article:
In normal physics, nothing can move faster than the speed of light. Einstein's theory of relativity forbids it. In normal space any object approaching the speed of light will increase in mass exponentially, and require an exponential increase in the amount of power needed to propel it forward.
To explain the power requirement: A car is traveling at X miles per hour. It has a kinetic mass of the mass of the car, multiplied by the speed. What this explanation is saying is that the car will require more energy to travel faster. Well, wow, what a surprise.
But this goes further. Using the mass of the acceleration, it then assumes that the mass multiplies.
So the car, which, incidentally, is still a car, not an ocean liner, is assumed to require the acceleration necessary to move something with the mass of an ocean liner, according to this interpretation.
No it bloody well doesn’t.
Why would it?
The only mass in the equation is the stated mass. When did the car become an ocean liner? Because if it did, the entire equation is invalid.
This is exactly the same mathematics which proved conclusively that human beings couldn’t stand accelerations of speeds of more than 25 miles an hour, because the mass increase would put too much pressure on the heart, and kill them.
It’s drivel. Light travels as 186,300 miles per second. What’s so damn incomprehensible about 186,301? What’s so impossible to understand about X mass requires Y acceleration to travel at Z speed?
Photons have now been proven to have mass. They move at the speed of light. They have a direct interaction with matter moving at slower speeds. They do not cause black holes, dark matter, string theory, or anything even remotely marketable to network television. They also prove that matter isn’t too fussed by things with mass moving at light speed.
According to theory, anything moving at light speed has infinite mass.
No it bloody well doesn’t.
Why would it?
X times Y = Z. There’s no infinite speed, or mass, nor can there be, because Newton explained that, remember? Where do you get any exponential function, in terms of mass or energy?
Because there’s nothing in the equation to produce infinity, clowns. It's a mathematical axiom. Any equation producing infinity as a result is by definition wrong. Maths is one of those "stamp collecting" sciences, so you might have missed that. Doesn't explain how you avoided Isaac's kindly comments about conservation of energy, though. Exponential energies can't just happen, because they need something to produce them, and you can't get infinite anything, not even donuts, out of multiplying finite quantities by each other.
Einstein only had an IQ of 160. Jayne Mansfield had an IQ of 163, so make allowances for the odd glitch in theories and the strange absence of photos of Einstein in a bikini.
This is the science of super minds, which is supposed to be preparing humanity to travel the stars.
It looks like they haven’t even read the brochures yet. So we can look forward to another few million years playing office boys and accountants, can we? I actually once read “No, you’re not going to the stars, ever” during the heyday of the browbeating era in physics.
Well, guys, you’re going to the stars, if I have to kick you there, myself.
Future generations, hit c, hit the accelerator, and if the Universe doesn't like it, it can get out of the bloody way.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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