Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pseudo Science with Prof. John0**; and very fast food

Beware any scientific information which you read or hear from normal news sources. The reason for this is simple; most journalists do not grasp the math behind it, nor do they catch the subtle, but important, defining factors, caveats, and limits which are important in truly understanding experiments, discoveries and studies, and the conclusions drawn from them.

"NASA says there's a 1 in 3200 chance that the space debris will land on a person!". This is a mild example. Very mild, because it contains enough information to analyze a bit further. At first you think, "I'm wearing my helmet because I have a 1 in 3200 chance of being squashed by a dead satellite!"

Wow. Chances are worse for winning the lottery or getting lucky at the lesbian sports bar in Memphis (straight male point of view). Do not fear. There are, what-a couple of billion earthlings scrounging around on the planet? So, you only have a 1 in however many billion chance of being the squashed earthling and, if they dumped this exact stuff 3200 times, odds are only once would anyone get nailed.

If space were privatized all those drunken, obese tyrants in DC would be filing all kinds of injunctions and making rules out the ying yang to prevent companies from being so irresponsible as to not pick up their space trash before putting someone at risk. That may be beside the point. The point is that the implication of the news report makes you think your chances are greater than they are.

It might be a good idea for a private outfit to go collect stuff that isn't being used before it comes flaming through the sky. They could come back and sell the stuff on ebay for big money. That is how it works in a free market without corruption, which means the government doesn't handle the money or assign the contract and force and fraud are squelched instead of promoted by publicly paid authorities.

Also, I question how accurate such an estimate of odds can really be. Especially since they can't even pin down the day of the event. Or couldn't at the time they gave the Vegas odds of a human getting bonked by the debris.

Another interesting tidbit I read concerned the problem some scientists are having in Europe (and elsewhere, come to find out) because the neutrinos sent from somewhere I forgot are arriving in Italy faster than the speed of light. This has been going on for three years. They originally sent the stuff there for some other reasons but noticed delivery time was a little faster than they allegedly thought possible.

I used to be able to do the kind of math involved in all such equations but I forgot it. And that bugs me because news stories first filter through a journalist which means some fact is almost always wrong. You have more like a 3200 to 1 chance of that happening. I know, that is like saying 10 times out of 9 they get something wrong. I stand by it.

Then the journalist decides to put it in terms the public will understand. Since they think you are idiots and they are lazy, they try to figure out the quick phrase that will sum it up. So, something that might take lengthy equations and all kinds of complicated parameters to properly describe is laid out in a phrase that may or may not contain any truth relevant to the issue.

As a result you have people asking questions like "Do you believe in GLOBAL WARMING?", as if they were asking if you believe in God, or the Tooth Fairy, or those trolls who make people get lost in that woods north of Seattle. We've heard that the science is all in, and Al Gore even rode on a Scissor lift to explain it (although the hockey stick model has been discredited). Believe in?

Anyway, these neutrinos, which I assume to be a rare spice used in fine Italian dishes, are really hauling ass. The article says this is shaking the world of science and much of Einstein's work because it is based on nothing with mass going faster than light.

This troubles me in more than one aspect. First, did anyone honestly believe that some way, some how, nothing would go faster than light? And does that really shake it up that much? I figure it is like Newtonian physics; it predicts and explains things within certain limits.

You get beyond those limits and the other stuff kicks in. If scientists don't expect and actually strive to formulate theories and discover proof beyond current limits, then why in hell do we allow them to be paid with tax dollars? I strongly dislike that sort of scientist--the one who is afraid of new knowledge--and believe me, that ilk is plentiful.

Actually, I thought they'd already found things trucking along faster than light, but like I said, I forgot what I used to know and the speedometer on the BallisticTourmobile doesn't go up that high, so who cares?

I think UPS, FEDEX and the Postal service should hook packages to these things and charge like crazy. Your package would be there before you could ask, "How long will it take to get here?". People would pay big bucks to have important things shipped right now.

We've yet to scratch the surface on the nature of all that is, both big and small. Some things are easy to see. Like vertical posts, set with precision instruments on earth should be parallel, right? Not really. Follow the line up to infinity and posts set exactly vertical a few yards apart will be way far apart up there near the infinity road marker.

That is assuming that gravity pulls toward a point at the center of the earth. That is probably only a rough and somewhat inaccurate assumption, but it works OK. Just like the ocean isn't flat on top even if the sea is totally calm. Other wise it would follow a plane which is tangent to the earth's surface. Even then it may not really be flat because the bigger picture of the heavens may actually look like the road up to Ballistic Mountain.

So, once again, don't get too set on an opinion because you hear about a discovery or study in the news. If you are lucky, you only have half the real story. And if a neutrino snatches your purse, don't waste your time trying to chase it down. It will be in Italy before you get the first step completed.

Here's an excerpt or two, hopefully out of context, from a source somewhat more astute than BBC or AP where I first saw the article.:

CERN has a similar, higher-energy version of the Fermi experiment called OPERA, which sends neutrinos from a source in Switzerland to a detector at Gran Sasso in Italy. After accounting for all the sources of error, the people running the OPERA experiment expect that their measurements may be off by as much as 10 nanoseconds. The neutrinos got there 60 nanoseconds ahead of when we'd expect them to arrive if they were moving at the speed of light.

Notice the reference to opera. Perhaps I was wrong about using these things only for seasoning food. Perhaps it has something to do with the fat lady singing, or people wearing helmets with horns on them on stage.

The OPERA neutrino detector hardware. (so say they!! Looks like old blowers in a junk yard if you ask me.)

In defense of my seasoning explanation, here's another bit from the same article:
Neutrinos have generally made the news because they engage in what are called flavor oscillations,...

Notice the word "flavor"? Case closed.

That article can be found here...and Haha. That's a trick--both heres go to the same place. So does the and. See how life and science are full of surprises?

The article cited is definitely more scholarly and complete than the one I read from the mainstream source.

I should note that many of those involved in the discovery of this oddity have been hoping someone will figure out what they did wrong so that it will be shown that these things don't exceed the speed of light. Otherwise they have to deal with something that requires new equations and theories. They admit it. Very smart on their part. They leave it to the skeptics to figure out if they screwed up. I respect their approach.

**Prof. John0 is the science editor for the BallisticTour Journal of All Things Worth Knowing, and the acknowledged science and poet laureate of Ballistic Mountain. He lives quietly with coyotes, wild animals and imaginary friends in southern California

[wondering how Fin and BG's whirlwind tour is going. Covering lots of territory. I hope to see some of the pics they took while I had them kidnapped in the Ballistic 'hood]

1 comment:

  1. Did you post this to mess with my brain? I've been drawing vertical posts ad infinitum and haven't had a chance to look up to see if the ocean is "flat" today, and for god's sake I know I don't have flavor oscillators in the cupboard so what am I going to make for dinner?!


Can't make comments any easier, I don't think. People are having trouble--google tries to kidnap them. I'll loosen up one more thing and let's see. Please give it a try

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