Archive for
December 2015

Comments for Sunday, December 27, 2015, thru Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015:

December 31, 2015 - I wish everyone a very happy and safe New Year!

December 30, 2015 - Arguments paused for the night on a Facebook group titled "Rational Scientific Method Free for All" when that same RSMist posted another image that looks like the title card from a 1930's movie:

RSMist movie title card

It was the Science Truther's way of arguing his fixed opinion against the facts.

Since the "topic" is movies (sort of), maybe I should mention that I watched two movies last night, "Bone Tomahawk" and "Mistress America."

                      Tomahawk poster
                      America poster

The two movies couldn't be more different, but I thoroughly enjoyed both. "Bone Tomahawk" is a very grim western about 4 men on a search for a kidnapped woman, and "Mistress America" is a light-hearted comedy-drama about two young women living in today's New York.  Both, however, have very believable characters, compelling stories, and very very interesting dialog from their time periods and locations.    

December 29, 2015 - In my Facebook group yesterday, a Rationalized SEMANTIC Methodist ("RSMist") created the image below in response to various cartoons I had created to ridicule RSMism.

Ed Lake Movie (sarcasm) 

To me, it's the first CLEVER thing I've seen any of them do.

December 28, 2015 - The arguments on my Facebook group page are getting very interesting, now that it is clear that they are arguments over the differences between philosophy and science.  This morning I created a new cartoon to show one aspect of the difference:

philosophy versus

Below is a cartoon I created a week ago as part of the same debate.

an argument about arguing
I really enjoy trying to find different ways to get through to a Rationalized SEMANTIC Methodist ("RSMist") that endlessly arguing opinions versus opinions is not productive.  I have a lot of experience with such arguments after arguing opinions with Anthrax Truthers for over a decade.  And, anyone can see that 9/11 Truthers, JFK Truthers and all other Truthers prefer to argue opinion against opinion instead of looking at facts and evidence.  RSMists can probably be called "Science Truthers," since RSMists endlessly argue that they know "the truth" about SCIENCE, and "the Truth" is that all scientists are idiots.  I love science and discussions about science, even when the discussions are with people who do not believe in science.  I'm also finding that cartoons are a VERY effective way to make a point in an on-line debate. 

December 27, 2015 - For months I've been thinking about "What is Time?" and reading everything I could find on the subject.  But all I found was a lot of clues.  The problem was that there were not enough clues provided by the "experts" for me to figure things out to my satisfaction.  What the "experts" had to say was that Time was a mystery, and no one knows exactly what Time is.  Maybe there is no correct answer, or no precise answer, but I cannot get rid of the feeling that there is a precise, scientific answer.

Meanwhile, last week I was given a "Christmas present," when a Rationalized SEMANTIC Methodist ("RSMist") talking on a pod-cast provided what seemed like the "last clue" I needed to understand what Rationalized SEMANTIC Methodism (a.k.a. "Rational Scientific Method") is all about.

I was doing a Google search for the RSMist definition of the word "exist," and Google provided a link to the podcast web site (click HERE).  The pod-cast is an interesting discussion between the 16-year-old operator of the web site and and one of the top Rationalized Semantic Methodists, Mike Huttner.  The site describes the hour-long discussion this way:

Mike Huttner and I talk about his criticisms of the show Brett Veinotte from the School Sucks Podcast and I did about nihilism vs objectivism.  He calls us out for not defining our terms, and we talk about how we should define terms. Mike is a cofounder of the Rational Scientific Method forum on Facebook.
In the discussion, at the 5:35 minute mark, Huttner argues that discussions must begin by defining the definitions of the words you are going to use.  Earlier in the discussion, Huttner states that "word definitions do not require proof."  And later he argues that proof is just an assumption.  Those comments were like"final clues" I needed to understand RSMism.

I just needed to put my understanding into words -- preferably in the form of a single sentence or two.  I created the cartoon below to show what I came up with:

Rationlaized SEMANTIC Methodist Rules 

Then I got another "Christmas present."  On my Facebook group page, an RSMist who calls himself "Clapton Es Dios" responded to some comments I had written by arguing, in effect, that only RSMist word definitions are valid, since they will endlessly argue against any other definitions.

Boom!  I realized what RSMism is all about, and I created a new thread on my Facebook page to explain it:
It is an RSMist dictum that key words must be precisely defined before any intelligent discussion can begin.

What does that accomplish? NOTHING! It just means that THERE CAN BE NO INTELLIGENT DISCUSSION WITH AN RSMist, because they will not discuss anything EXCEPT word definitions until you accept their word definitions as the only valid definitions.

The Rationalized SEMANTIC Method: First, you require that everyone use RSMist word definitions. Second, you argue that RSMist word definitions are superior until the non-believer gives up and goes away. Third, declare you are right that RSMist word definitions are superior to science; thus there is no need for science, evidence or investigations; all you need to prove anything is to BELIEVE in the INFALLIBILITY of RSMist word definitions.   

If you listen to that podcast with Mike Huttner, you can see where their beliefs about science turn to total nonsense.  At the 30 minute mark, Huttner states his inexplicable belief that science begins with PREDICTIONS.  How can anyone believe such a thing?  The "scientific method" begins by asking a QUESTION about a scientific subject.   Here's an illustration showing the method:
The scientific method
It's only when you have asked enough questions and gotten enough answers to arrive at a PRELIMINARY THEORY that you can make a PREDICTION based upon the THEORY.  That "prediction" is typically in the form of an experiment where the results are predicted before the experiment is performed.  The Rationalized SEMANTIC Method is VERY different,  They simply assume that their word definitions explain how the universe works.  And if you don't agree, it can only be because you are too stupid to blindly accept their assumptions and word definitions.

This morning, everything fell into place.  It became clear that the RSMists are NOT talking about SCIENCE.  They are talking about PHILOSOPHY. 

I should have realized this long ago, but the pieces just never fell together the way they did on my Facebook group this morning.  I did some research and found that Philosophy versus Science is a topic of discussion that has been going on for a long time.  I found a Scientific American article where the author attempts to justify "scientific philosophy" in today's world, but the quotes he provides from scientists who argue that scientific philosophy is "effectively dead" are far more reasonable and compelling to me.  An example:
“Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, “those that can't do, teach, and those that can't teach, teach gym.” And the worst part of philosophy is the philosophy of science; the only people, as far as I can tell, that read work by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science. It has no impact on physics whatsoever, and I doubt that other philosophers read it because it's fairly technical. And so it's really hard to understand what justifies it. And so I'd say that this tension occurs because people in philosophy feel threatened—and they have every right to feel threatened, because science progresses and philosophy doesn't.”
I couldn't have said it better myself.  This morning I decided there is no point in arguing philosophy.  I have no interest in philosophy - particularly "scientific philosophy."  And RSMists seem to have no understanding of science.  So, our arguments MAY be coming to an end.

Comments for Sunday, December 20, 2015, thru Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015:

December 24, 2015 - I sincerely wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

For the record, on my way home from the gym this afternoon, I finished listening to CD #17 of the 17 CDs I burned for the audio book "The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through Civilization's Best Bits."

The Mental Floss History
                  of the World

It was a VERY enjoyable book and just perfect for listening to while driving, since it consisted of light-hearted comments on bits of history, which meant that it could be listened to in 10 and 15 minute bits.  (Human history can be summed up as "man's inhumanity to man."  It's basically a description of one war after another.)  I finished the book while driving into a grocery store parking lot on my way home.  I knew I was nearly finished, so had another CD waiting behind the visor.  While the car was parked in the lot, I changed CDs, and now I'm listening to another audio book consisting of 11 CDs.  I won't mention its name right now, because it's a science book and might not be suited to listening in 10 and 15 minute bits.  That will mean I'll have to stop and switch to a different book.  I'm just going to mention the titles of books when I finish them.    

December 22, 2015 - Yesterday afternoon, I finished listening to a humorous audio book about robotics, titled "How to Survive a Robot Uprising."

How to Survive a Robot

In paperback form it is only 175 pages.  In audio book format it is just a bit over three hours of listening time.  It's a humor book while also being very serious in its explanation of robotics.  It explains how robots work while teaching you how to protect yourself from one that goes haywire.  The chances of robots going haywire and taking over the world may be virtually nil (today), but it's still interesting to know how they work, what their weaknesses are and how to trick them.  After all, there are countless robots already in existence.  The one you deal with in the automated checkout line at the grocery store just doesn't have the artificial intelligence or equipment needed to kick you in the shin, or tell you to "Pay attention!", when you repeatedly put your grocery items in the plastic bags without first scanning them.   

December 21, 2015 - I just spent an hour making a copy (in WORD format) of the discussion I've been having with a Rationalized Semantic Methodist ("RSMist") on my Facebook group.  I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but it seems like it could be converted into some kind of prime example of why arguing with RSMists can never lead to any kind of mutual agreement.  It will just go on and on and on and on with the same arguments being repeated over and over and over.  I can't say that it is "a total waste of time," since it is often an interesting intellectual exercise.  I just I keep wondering if it can't also be turned into some kind of psychology "case study" which people can use to try to figure out some way to break such an impasse.  I keep trying to break the impasse, but the RSMist just changes the subject and we start all over again.

His latest argument is that "China doesn't exist," because it is not a "physical entity."  Last night he wrote:

The terrain exists, the country doesn't exit in the physical realm, it's a human invention.
A human ape draws a line on the ground and he creates a physical entity called a nationality???
I responded with this:
Everyone knows that the property line separating their property from that of their neighbor is just a legal HUMAN agreement. What is accomplished by arguing that it is not a PHYSICAL ENTITY? Did anyone say it was?
Maybe there's a much better way to have responded, but I keep trying to get him to explain why he believes what he believes.  (He believes that nothing can "exist" unless it is a "physical entity," because the RSMist definition for the word "exist" is: to be an object with a location.  China is NOT an "object," which means it cannot "exist.") But, all he does is change the subject and rant about something else he sees as "unbelievable."  He evidently believes what he believes because other RSMists believe the same thing: that the word definitions they use should be the only valid word definitions, and anyone who uses word definitions from a dictionary is just a mindless dupe.    

Meanwhile, during breakfast and lunch, I'm now reading a book about writing with the hope that it will help me get back into actually working on my sci-fi novel.  It may not help, but I don't see how it can hurt.

December 20, 2015 - Yesterday, someone sent me a link to a VERY interesting Washington Post article titled "What was fake on the Internet this week: Why this is the final column."  I'd never heard of the "What was Fake" column before, and now they're evidently discontinuing the column because they feel no one cares what is fake on the Internet.  The "final column" at the link begins with this:
There is nothing — NOTHING — too crazy for the Internet hoax beat. Pregnancy by flu shot? Six days of total darkness? In the past 82 weeks, I’m prettyyyy sure I’ve seen just about everything.

We launched “What was Fake” in May 2014 in response to what seemed, at the time, like an epidemic of urban legends and Internet pranks: light-hearted, silly things, for the most part, like new flavors of Oreos and babies with absurd names.

Since then, those sorts of rumors and pranks haven’t slowed down, exactly, but the pace and tenor of fake news has changed. [...] And where a willingness to believe hoaxes once seemed to come from a place of honest ignorance or misunderstanding, that’s frequently no longer the case.  [...]
There’s a simple, economic explanation for this shift: If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.
Some of the hoaxes are pretty interesting.  The column entry about "Six days of total darkness" is a very good example, because it links to a "satirical" web site I never heard of before where they have an article titled "NASA Confirms Earth Will Experience 6 Days of Total Darkness in December 2014!"  The site looks real and very professional, and you can see how they must be making money by letting real, well-known companies advertise on the site.  You just need to read the fine print that says, " is the most notorious urban satirical entertainment website in the world with the most shocking headlines and articles shared by trillions around the world."

One of the hoaxes mentioned is a video of Pope Francis doing a tablecloth trick:

Here's the same video side by side with what really happened:

Any way you look at it, it's actually a pretty clever fake showing the amazing things people can do with videos these days. 

And fakers on the Internet are getting very good at fake photos, too.  The fake photo below is part of a fake news story about how a McDonalds in Colorado installed marijuana smoking pods (or cones) for customers who want to smoke a joint while eating their Big Macs.  The fake photo has apparently been around for months and seems to have originated in Japan.
fake photo of marijuana smoking pods

A fake article from August on "Empire News" has the headline "Netflix Pulls Plug On Orange Is The New Black; The Reason Why May Shock You."  Here's part of the "reason" as described in the fake article:
“A woman’s place has always been in the home, in the kitchen, taking care of children, doing laundry, waiting for her man to come home,” said an anonymous source inside the Netflix production team. “Women in jail? Ugh. It’s like we took everything great about OZ, threw that out the window completely, and make this show with the crappy leftovers.
One link on the "What was Fake" article goes to a real Milwaukee Journal article reporting that stories about a new fried chicken flavored Oreo cookie are false.

Another link goes to a real article about how Fox News fell for a fake story about feminists trying to put an end to Father's Day.

There are undoubtedly a lot more, but the Washington Post has a limit on how many articles you can read for free in a month, and I passed the limit. So, now I can't even look at the articles for which I've provided links.    

But, I can still refer to the section I quoted above that says:

Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes.
You don't have to be on the Internet to do that.  Inflaming biases is what Talk Radio is all about.  It's what Rush Limbaugh does endlessly.   Elderly and middle-aged biased conservatives are his entire audience.

Plus, for every "Internet entrepreneur"  who is out to "inflame the biases of their readers," there are probably several dozen non-entrepreneurs who are trying to inflame the biases of their readers as a way to vent their own biases.

As I was writing the comment above, I was notified that a Rationalized Semantic Methodist ("RSMist") just re-started the argument on my Facebook group after being silent for over a week.  He's once again venting his biases against science and modern scientists by trying to show that I "mindlessly" agree with the "false" findings of scientists like Einstein, Feynman and others.  The RSMist does this by twisting and distorting the findings until they are nothing but nonsense and then arguing against the nonsense he created.

I realize that sensible people just ignore all these rabid, biased nitwits.  Sensible people seem to know there is no way to shut them up.  As a result, there are only non-sensible people like me who routinely argue with them.  I argue with them because I find it educational and interesting.  Most sensible people have better things to do.  So do I.  But, I'm also a writer.  There's very little about writing for the pure enjoyment of it, and learning for the pure enjoyment of it, that the average "sensible" person would consider to be "sensible.

Comments for Sunday, December 13, 2015, thru Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015:

December 19, 2015 (B) - I did a Google news search this morning for "Professor James Tracy" and was presented with some interesting headlines.  An example:
FINALLY! America’s Worst University Set To Ax Nutty SANDY HOOK-DENYING Professor
The article begins with this:
Officials at Florida Atlantic University may finally be doing something to end the school’s undisputed dominance as quite obviously the worst place in the United States to attend college.

On Wednesday, officials at the taxpayer-funded school announced their intention to fire James Tracy, the wackadoodle professor who denies the reality of many mass shootings, including the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, as well as the 2013 Boston bombing.
Another headline:
Tenure be damned, Professor James Tracy embarrasses FAU
The article begins with this:
Florida Atlantic University Professor James Tracy likes a debate, so we'll offer an important topic:

Should professors be able to espouse hurtful and offensive opinions while hiding behind the protective shields of academic freedom and tenure?

In our view, academic freedom is not a license to do or say whatever you want, consequences be damned. So we welcome the termination proceedings begun against Tracy this week by FAU, a university he continues to embarrass with his "didn't happen" conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, the Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernardino shooting and other mass attacks.
Another headline:
Crazed Florida professor could be fired for harassing parents of Sandy Hook victim for 3 years while claiming school massacre was a hoax
The article begins with this:
A twisted professor at a Florida college is about to lose his job after waging a sick conspiracy campaign against the parents of one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.
Another headline:
This Professor Trolled Sandy Hook Parents—And His University Wants Him Gone
And, lastly, a headline from The New York Times:
University in Florida Seeks to Fire Newtown Conspiracy Theorist
The article begins with this:
The case opens a window on the world of conspiracy theorists who promote an alternative narrative of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which Adam Lanza killed his mother, 20 children and six school staff members before committing suicide. They contend the killings were orchestrated by the Obama administration as a pretext to strengthen gun control. Some have gone so far as to declare that the thoroughly documented massacre did not occur.
But, the story isn't over.  Professor Tracy will very likely fight the termination notice.  If so, he'll probably argue his right to "free speech," and he'll argue that he has tenure at FAU.  And, perhaps, he'll argue that his termination is part of a massive criminal conspiracy by the U.S. Government to shut him up.

December 19, 2105 (A) - After breakfast this morning, I finished reading "Seven Up," the seventh book in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.  It was another very enjoyable read.  I also have a paperback copy of the next book in the series, "Hard Eight" (along with "To the Nines," "Ten Big Ones," "Eleven On Top"), but if I get into the novel reading mood again any time soon, I might switch to a Harry Bosch or Jack Reacher thriller.  I've got some of those in the queue in various formats, too.

December 18, 2015 - Hmm.  A familiar name just appeared in the news.  Florida Atlantic University Professor James Tracy was all over the news in 2013.  I wrote about him on my old web site on April 28, 2013, when he was ranting about the Boston Marathon Bombing being a government conspiracy.  I wrote about him again on July 28, 2013, for the same reason.  Now Florida Atlantic University is trying to fire him for harassing the parents of children who were killed during the Sandy Hook School massacre. 

Tracy, a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, has claimed on his "Memory Hole blog" that virtually every major mass shooting or terror attack, including 9/11, Sandy Hook and San Bernardino, was fake. Sometimes he throws in some denialism about global warming, and promotes books like Nobody Died At Sandy Hook. None of that has caused much trouble for him at work.

But this week, he may have gone too far. Lenny and Veronique Pozner, parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting, accused Tracy of leading a harassment campaign against them.

The Pozners wrote in a Sun Sentinel commentary on Dec. 10 that Tracy demanded that they send him a certificate to prove their child was dead, and documentation showing they were parents. The Ponzers said they have tried to prevent photos of their son from being used by conspiracy theorists like Tracy. They filed a police report accusing Tracy of harassment.

This is the first I heard of anyone suggesting that the San Bernardino shooting was some government conspiracy.  But, I should have assumed there were some nut cases out there who would have such a theory.   I suppose I should also have assumed that some nut case would also believe that the shootings in Paris were somehow staged by the U.S. Government.  Professor Tracy evidently believes BOTH were may have been government plots.  His blog says:

What is clearly excluded from such interpretations and Obama’s speech overall is the fact that the United States, its intelligence agencies and international allies are the main sources of terrorism–including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda–while many of the terroristic mass shooting events over the past few years, including the 11/13 Paris “attacks” and last week’s San Bernardino event, are highly questionable.

Obama claims he wants to protect the country from terror and “fight ISIL.” Yet how should one regard a leader who consciously trains and arms thousands of marauding killers abroad to terrorize entire populations  while spying on and disarming the citizenry at home? Who is the real terrorist?

I'm no longer keeping track of conspiracy theorists, but I do find it interesting that there seems to be absolutely no way to change their minds about anything.   In that way, they are just like Rationalized Semantic Methodists and other True Believers.  They believe what they want to believe, and they think everyone else in the world is stupid for not agreeing with their unproven, idiotic beliefs.

December 17, 2015 - I doubt that anyone cares, but this morning when I found myself just staring at my computer screen, unable to get started on writing my third sci-fi novel, I decided my time would be better spent reading a novel.  So, I reached into my stack of paperback and hardcover novels waiting to be read, grabbed "Seven Up" by Janet Evanovich, and started reading. 

"Seven Up" by
                  Janet Evanovich

I finished more than a third of it before deciding to take a break in the afternoon to write this comment.  While it is another very funny Stephanie Plum mystery, the most noteworthy thing about it may be that I have it in MP3 format on my MP3 player, I have it in CD format, and I have the paperback version.  It was one of the first books I borrowed from the library in MP3 format, back when I didn't really know the pluses and minuses of the various formats.  Now I know I can read it a lot faster when it is in paper format and I have the time to focus on it.  So, that's what I'm doing.      

December 16, 2015 - Hmm.  The discussions suddenly came to an end on my Facebook group.  I don't know why.  I assume it was NOT because the Rational SEMANTIC Methodists with whom I was arguing suddenly saw the error of their ways.  So, I'm back to staring at a blank computer screen as I try to come up with a story line for my 3rd sci-fi novel.

December 14, 2015 - As part of a discussion about Time on my Facebook group page, someone provided a link to the entire June 2010 issue of Scientific American so that I could read the article "Is Time An Illusion?" that begins on page 40.  It's an interesting article which got me to thinking once again about "What is Time?"  It was like receiving another bunch of clues which I still can't fully piece together.  Example:
     We have a deep intuition that the future is open until it becomes present and that the past is fixed. As time flows, this structure of fixed past, immediate present and open future gets carried forward in time. This structure is built into our language, thought and behavior. How we live our lives hangs on it.
     Yet as natural as this way of thinking is, you will not find it reflected in science. The equations of physics do not tell us which events are occurring right nowthey are like a map without the “you are here” symbol. The present moment does not exist in them, and therefore neither does the flow of time.
When I was trying to explain "What is Time?," I kept viewing Time as related to both entropy and our position relative to the "Big Bang."  We call it "now," but it doesn't really mean anything unless there is some kind of "end" where Time stops because entropy is complete, which means that "Now" is somewhere along the line between the "Big Bang" and "The End."  The question then becomes: "Where is Now?" which cannot be answered without knowing "What is 'The End'?"  Deep.   

The article also says,
Time is an especially hot topic right now in physics. The search for a unified theory is forcing physicists to reexamine very basic assumptions, and few things are more basic than time.

Some physicists argue that there is no such thing as time. Others think time ought to be promoted rather than demoted. In between these two positions is the fascinating idea that time exists but is not fundamental. A static world somehow gives rise to the time we perceive.
Thinking about Time is NOT consuming all my time.  For what it's worth, last night I finished watching Season 2 of "Game of Thrones."  I'd finished watching Season 1 about five or six days earlier.  I bought the two DVD sets on "Black Friday" for $9.99 each, just because I was tired of hearing about "Game of Thrones" without really knowing enough about it.  Curiosity got the better of me.  Now I know enough.  Seasons 1 & 2 of "Game of Thrones" were interesting and certainly "watchable," but not my favorite cup of tea.  I do not plan to buy any more seasons, even on the Friday after NEXT Thanksgiving.  However, by then my curiosity may again be a lot greater than it is now.

On Black Friday I also bought the Blue-Ray version of Season 1 of "Orange is the New Black" for $4.99 because my curiosity again got the the better of me.  I haven't started it yet, and I'll try to avoid "binge watching" it.  I binge watched "Game of Thrones" because there were so many characters and so many different conflicts going on in so many different places that I felt that if I stopped watching for a few days I'd totally lose track of what's going on.  Hopefully, the same won't be true with "Orange is the New Black."

December 13, 2015 - Yesterday, I finished listening to a science audio book titled "About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang" by Adam Frank.  I'd started listening to it on November 22, listening for 30 minutes while on a treadmill at the gym and 20 minutes while on an Exercycle, four times per week.  I had 47 minutes left on Friday, so I did that on Saturday while just laying on my couch.   

About Time by Adam Frank

It was a surprisingly good book to listen to.  I was looking for some insights into "What is Time?," a question that has been bugging me since I wrote my paper about "Time Dilation."  I keep asking myself, "What exactly IS Time if it can dilate?  Exactly WHAT is being dilated?"  I have the feeling that the question is answered in the title of Albert Einstein's 1905 paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" which introduced us to Special Relativity.  It's just that, as far as I can tell, no one has yet put the answer into layman's terms. 

I thought "About Time" might do so, but it turned out to be more of a history book than a science book -- at least until near the end, when the author started summing things up.  While the question "What is Time?" is never satisfactorily answered for me, the book does indicate that it is a question a lot of scientists are still asking.  And then it mentions two scientists, Lee Smolin and Roberto Mangabeira Unger, who have written a very technical science book titled "The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time." 

I have no intentions of reading it.  It's undoubtedly far too technical for me (plus there seems no chance that I could read it for free by getting it from my library).  But, I found the philosophies of Smolin and Unger that are described in "About Time" to be very interesting.  In section 13 of the 14 audio sections (and on page 312 of the Amazon sample), it says,
"The treasures of a scientist are his riddles," says Unger, speaking sadly of the modern history of physics, which led scientists to embrace theories with hidden dimensions and alternate universes.  For Unger, these kinds of theoretical constructions are "allegories" because they are, essentially, fictions.  As he points out, no one has observed another universe or an extra, hidden dimension of space.  That fundamental fact constitutes the shaky ground upon which entire fields of research in modern cosmology have been built.  "The scientist should treasure the riddles he can't solve," continues Unger, "not explain them away at the outset."     
The book goes on to explain how Smolin and Unger feel that too many modern scientists create "fictions" to "explain away" problems they cannot solve -- such as the connection between gravity and quantum mechanics.  To explain away such things, those modern scientists create "fictions" like unobserved multiple universes and unobserved hidden dimensions of space, things which no one has ever observed or can observe, and which no one knows how to disprove.  If they run into another problem, they create another "fiction" to explain away the new problem.  Then they spend their lives justifying the "fictions" they have created.

That description really hit home with me, since I've never been able to visualize multiple universes and hidden dimensions as a solution to any question I have about the universe.  While I can see how playing around with "fictions" might result in somehow uncovering some solid Law of Nature that that no one ever thought of before, I agree with Smolin and Unger who feel we should try to more accurately describe problems than just simply "explain away" unsolved problems by dreaming up "possible solutions" that cannot be disproved.  They feel it's better to have an unsolved problem than to think you have solved the problem with a work of fiction.  I agree.

But there is something that interests me about scientists who explain away problems with physics by creating "fictions" like multi-universes and hidden dimensions.  They might possibly provide a way of finally communicating with Rational Science Methodists ("RSMists"), who seem to think that ALL of science is just scientists creating "fictions" instead of looking at visible evidence. So, they create "fictions" of their own to argue against Einstein and other scientists, who the RSMists see as merely creators of different "fictions."  RSMists try to create new word definitions to turn their nonsensical "fictions" into "realities," but all that accomplishes is to make communication with them next to impossible.  It might help with communications if I can explain to them that Einstein didn't work with "fictions," he and many others worked with observations about the universe we live in, not other "possible" universes.

After I finished reading the sci-fi novel "Year Zero" on my Kindle, I started reading "Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World," a book about material science.  Meanwhile, when driving in my car, I am currently listening to CD #15 of the 17 CDs that comprise the audio book for "
The Mental Floss History of the World."   

Tomorrow, when I go to the gym, I'll start listening to a new book on my MP3 player while I exercise.  I think I may try listening to a joke book.  

December 11, 2015 - I doubt that anyone will care, but I just finished reading "Year Zero," a hilarious science fiction novel by Rob Reid.

Year Zero by Rob Reid

It's about a copyrights lawyer who is confronted by aliens who are seeking legal advice because nearly every species in the distant parts of the universe has been illegally copying Earth's music since October 13, 1977, and thereby violating Earth's copyright laws.  An Earth law passed in 1999 says that a fine of "up to $150,000" can be levied for every single copy that is illegally copied. That means that beings in the rest of the universe owe Earth's musicians vastly more money than there is in the entire universe.  One extraterrestrial faction wants to negotiate while another faction just wants to destroy the earth to eliminate the debt.

You might have to be a music lover and a sci-fi fan to enjoy the book (I'm both), but it had me almost rolling on the floor.  (It's also enlightening.  Example: I did not previously know that John Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico.)

One minor problem was the footnotes, which are time-consuming to access on a Kindle (and I have no idea how they were handled in the "incomprehensible" audio version), so I just read the footnotes when I reached the end of a chapter instead of when I encountered the superscript notation (i.e., 1 or 2 etc.) in the text.  The footnotes would have been funnier and made a lot more sense if I could have accessed them by simply shifting my eyes to view the bottom of the page, as would be the case for the paperback and hardcover versions.

December 9, 2015 - At about 5 a.m. this morning, I awoke realizing that the muon experiments totally shoot down any theory I was developing which would relate only the orbits of electrons to Time and Time Dilation.  It also shoots down what I wrote about orbits of electrons in my scientific paper about Time Dilation. I should have stuck with simply re-visualizing the "Twin Paradox" using a pulsar as a clock.  I shouldn't have gotten into the exact cause of Time Dilation.  I suspect the exact cause is already defined in layman's terms somewhere, I just haven't used the right search argument to find it.  Fortunately, I came to this realization before "publishing" my paper "What is Time?" which I now see as a total waste of time.

Meanwhile, after I finished reading the psychology book "The Tipping Point"" on my Kindle, which I'd been reading during breakfast and lunch for many weeks, I browsed through the other Kindle books available and found a science fiction novel titled "Year Zero," by Rob Reid.  I'd tried listening to the audio book version on my MP3 player a few weeks ago.  I thought the introduction was terrific and hilarious, but I gave up somewhere in chapter 1 or 2 when it seemed to become nearly incomprehensible.  Out of curiousity, I started reading the Kindle version, beginning with Chapter 1.  It was as hilarious and terrific as the introduction.  The same with Chapters 2 - 6.  Somehow, seeing and reading the words makes things far more comprehensible than hearing them.  Evidently, it is much easier to visualize the weird things that happen in the story while reading than while listening. Plus, when you're reading, your eyes can quickly go back to check or verify a word, but there's no way to do that when listening to an audio book.  So, some kinds of books may not be suitable for listening, while others may be more suitable for listening than reading.  That's something else I've learned recently.  Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

On my Facebook group, I'm trying to bring the argument with the Rationalized SEMANTIC Methodist to a close - or at least to get off arguments about word definitions and into science topics.  But Rationalized SEMANTIC Methodists seem able to turn any argument into an argument over word definitions.       

December 7, 2015
- The argument with the "Rationalized Semantic Methodist" continues on my Facebook group page.  As a result of the debate, I have to keep viewing Time from different angles.  This morning I realized that "Time" comes in three varieties.  First, there is "Agreed Upon Time" which we all use every day to go about our business.  We've all agreed (wittingly or not) to use the standard set by the atomic clock controlled by the National Institute for Standards and Technology.  And we've agreed when "noon" occurs in our specific time zone, regardless of the position of the sun in the sky.  Second, there is "perfect time" or "cosmic standard time," which is measured by an electron spinning around the nucleus of a stationary atom in empty space.  One orbit of the electron equals one unit of "perfect time."  Third, there is "Dilated Time."  Because we are moving about on the Earth as it spins on on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour, and moving with the Earth as it orbits around the Sun at 67,000 miles  per hour, and moving with the Sun as it orbits around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy at 483,000 miles per hour, and we may be at different distances from the center of the earth if we are in upper floors of a building versus being on a street next to the building, we all experience "Time Dilation" to a slightly different degree.  I.e., our time slower than "perfect cosmic time" by a tiny amount. 

I've seen scientific articles which talk about how we all experience "Dilated Time," but I've never seen anything that explains "perfect time."  That's exactly what I'm trying to do in my "scientific paper" titled "What is Time?"  Maybe in the paper I should thank the Rationalized Semantic Methodist for his help in getting me to see more clearly how Time works.  Or maybe not.     

December 6, 2015
- I'm currently involved in another frustrating argument with a Rational Scientific Methodist (RSMist), sometimes also known as Rationalized Semantic Methodists because of their practice of turning everything into a debate over the definitions of words.  The argument is taking place on my Facebook page about "Rational Scientific Methodists & Their Beliefs".  The RSMist argues that
"There are no 'EXPLANATIONS' in mainstream cosmology or QM [Quantum Mechanics], they only give DESCRIPTIONS."  My response yesterday was that what cosmologists try to do is EXPLAIN what they are seeing.  They are trying to understand the universe.  Their explanations are their current understandings.  If they use descriptions of some phenomenon, it is only to set the stage for an explanation of that phenomenon. 

The problem I saw yesterday afternoon when I shut down my computer after writing a response to RSMist's comment was to get the RSMist to EXPLAIN why he believes that cosmologists "only give descriptions."
  I've never been able to get an RSMist to explain anything.  Presumably, it is because RSMists do not really try to understand anything. They seem to simply make up explanations for scientific phenomena, and then they demand that others try to prove that what they are saying is impossible.  If you cannot prove what they are saying is impossible, then to them that means it is a proven fact.

Overnight, the RSMist posted another long message that consists almost entirely of RSMist word definition arguments.  But he also wrote a few things that will require some thinking for me to prepare a response.  Two examples:

Time can only dilate if you treat it like a physical object, abstract entities can not dilate.

I see that you recently wrote time = speed.
Tell us, venerable Ed, how can speed dilate?
He doesn't explain where I wrote "time = speed," but I may have done so, since I'm thinking that Time relates to the speed of an electron orbiting a nucleus of an atom.  An electron moves at a "fixed" speed in its orbit.  It is a fixed speed the same way the speed of light is fixed.  The time it takes an electron to complete one orbit of the nucleus at its fixed speed is "one unit of time."  The key is: The time it takes for an electron to complete one orbit is not fixed, therefore a "unit of time" is not fixed.  If you can elongate the shape of the orbit, turning it into a parabolic orbit instead of circular orbit, the electron will take longer to complete an orbit, i.e., to tick off "one unit of time."  This will have the effect of slowing down Time. 

You can change the shape of the orbit by putting the atom near a large object with significant gravitational pull.  Gravity will cause the orbit to elongate, the orbital speed of the electron will thereby be slowed down, and "Time" will also slow down for that atom (and all other atoms in that same situation).  The same Time Dilation effect can be caused by accelerating the atom laterally across the universe at near-light speeds.  The time it takes for an electron to complete an orbit will increase because the fixed speed of the electron is affected by the lateral speed of the moving atom.  As a result, Time slows down. 

It's just the way I visualize Time as of this moment in Time.  I could be totally wrong, of course.  But the argument with the RSMist caused me to see some missing pieces and put my thoughts into words in a way I've never done it before.  That's why I (sometimes) really enjoy arguing with people who have different views about science.

But, I've written about some of this before.  Unfortunately, there is no way I could ever convince an RSMists of any of this.  But it definitely helps my own  understanding of the subject.  When you explain the same thing fifteen different ways, you can end up with a pretty good understanding -- even if the RSMist has a closed mind and didn't pay any attention.  It's mental exercise.  Like physical exercise on a treadmill or lifting weights, you don't really go anywhere, but you still feel as if you have accomplished something when you are done.  And you feel ready to do it again - anytime and anywhere.

Right now, I need to write a response to the nonsense the RSMist posted overnight.

Okay.  I just finished. Click HERE to view what I wrote.  It's mind-boggling.  The problem is that I don't know if it's the way scientists have been viewing Time and Time Dilation for over a century, or if it is a totally new way of viewing Time.  Until someone pokes holes in it, it's complete.  So, I guess the next step will be to put it in the form of a "scientific paper." 

Comments for Tuesday, December 1, 2015, thru Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015:

December 5, 2015 - During lunch yesterday, I finished reading "The Tipping Point: How Little Things can make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell.  It's a very interesting psychology book with a lot of interesting thoughts about "when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or 'tipping point' is reached, changing the world. Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors 'spread just like viruses do' remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of 'word-of-mouth epidemics' triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened." 

The book uses Paul Revere as an example of a "connector."  When he went riding through the countryside telling everyone that "The British are coming," everyone listened and jumped into action.  Meanwhile, William Dawes made a similar ride at the same time, and no one paid any attention to him. 

I like to think I fall into the "Maven" category, but, while I like to pass along information via this website, on Facebook and on my blog, I don't know how many people are paying attention.  I doubt that anything I write is going to cause a "tipping point" and start a mass movement that changes the world.  But that doesn't invalidate the idea.

December 3, 2015 - The subject of "singularities" and the nonsense published by Stephen J. Crothers suggesting that black holes cannot exist because singularities are illogical (see yesterday's comment), prompted me to do some research into singularities, black holes and The Big Bang.  It was an interesting way to spend a few hours.  I just put the results of my research on my interactive blog HERE.  And I've created a new cartoon to illustrate the illogical Rational Scientific Methodist "logic" used in the Stephen Crothers' article:
Illogical logic from an
                  Rational Scientific Methodist

December 2, 2015 - I really like the new upcoming cover of Mad Magazine:
Cover of Mad Magazine

It also reminds me I should probably be using the word "dumb" instead of "stupid" when referring to Republican candidates.  You don't have to be stupid to do dumb things.  Smart people can also do dumb things.

For example, there are people with impressive credentials who argue silly things like this:

"Just as people who believe in ghosts assign the action of ghosts to that which they do not understand, cosmologists assign the action of black holes to that which they do not understand."
The above quote is from a new "scientific article" by Stephen J. Crothers of the Alpha Institute of Advanced Study, Brisbane, Australia.  The article is titled "The Painlevé-Gullstrand ‘Extension’ - A Black Hole Fallacy" and appears in the February 2016 issue of the American Journal of Modern Physics.

I learned about the article when someone posted a link on a Facebook group page.  I was a member of that group until yesterday.  Yesterday, I posted a response to the comment with the link, explaining that the American Journal of Modern Physics is another new "scientific journal" that will evidently publish just about anything if the author is willing to pay.  I provided a link to an article from Columbia University's web site criticizing the journal.  I also found another article titled "Mysterious Publisher Launches with 44 Journals" which explains more about the company that is publishing those "science journals."  The article says,

The two main problems with this publisher that I observe are deceit and lack of transparency.  In terms of deceit, this publisher tries to make prospective authors and readers believe that it is based on Park Avenue in New York. The address it gives there is that of a mail-forwarding service.

We are left with no information about the true location of this publisher and why it wants to hide the true location. Also, the site gives no phone number, despite its invitation to call.

There is no information about who the true owners of this publishing operation are or where they are based. The site gives no hint of this information — it is cleverly concealed. If you can figure out where Open Science is based, please let me know.    

Here are some other issues I observe with this publisher:

  • It is accepting article and book submissions even though none of the 44 journals has any editorial board members yet.
  • It uses lofty language to promote itself: “Open Science is an independent, open access publisher and unique cultural institution. We promote widespread awareness and boundary-breaking ideas. Through our well-crafted books, journals, public events, and innovative outreach programs we are building a vibrant community of readers, writers, and thinkers.”
  •  It is currently undertaking a major spam campaign, soliciting editorial board memberships.
In my comment to the Facebook group I wrote about how a lot of cosmologists have a problem with "singularities" being at the center of black holes.  But saying that black holes cannot exist because "singularities" are illogical is like saying that fire cannot exist because dragons that breath fire do not exist.  It's two different issues.  There is excellent evidence that black holes exist.  (Click HERE, HERE and HERE.)  But that does not mean that there is a singularity at the center of every (or any) black hole.  It's just what the math seems to say. 

I personally find it illogical to believe that a "singularity" which has no dimensions can come in different sizes, causing both ordinary black holes and super-massive black holes.  It seems more logical to me that the center of a black hole is actually a variable-sized sphere of compressed matter.  The problem is that I have no facts or evidence which can explain how such a sphere can exist (or be created).  I can visualize a supernova stripping atoms of their electrons by turning them into X-rays and/or photons and compressing the remaining protons and neutrons into a sphere of an incredible maximum density that can keep the accumulation process going.  (That process was hinted at in an audio book I've been listening to while at the gym, "About Time", but there are other possible explanations.)  There just isn't any proof.  The only theory with "proof" is the singularity theory, which is almost certainly wrong due to some unknown law governing how dense matter can get.

A book I read back in August, "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking, said this about a "singularity" at the beginning of Time:
Measurements of helium abundance and the CMBR [Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation] provided convincing evidence in favor of the big bang picture of the very early universe, but although one can think of the big bang picture as a valid description of early times, it is wrong to take the big bang literally, that is, to think of Einstein’s theory as providing a true picture of the origin of the universe. That is because general relativity predicts there to be a point in time at which the temperature, density, and curvature of the universe are all infinite, a situation mathematicians call a singularity. To a physicist this means that Einstein’s theory breaks down at that point and therefore cannot be used to predict how the universe began, only how it evolved afterward. So although we can employ the equations of general relativity and our observations of the heavens to learn about the universe at a very young age, it is not correct to carry the big bang picture all the way back to the beginning.
I strongly suspect this also holds true with "singularities" at the center of black holes. No physicist  is really saying there is a "singularity" at the the center of a black hole.  What they are saying is that the theory of what is inside a black hole breaks down at that point.  I.e., the theory stops working. 

Anyway, I posted my thoughts after the Facebook comment, and this morning I found that my comment had been deleted and I am no longer member of that particular group.  I also received a message from someone sympathizing with me due all the vicious attacks I got from Rational Scientific Methodists.  I'm not sure which attacks he was talking about, but they could have been in response to my post which were also deleted overnight when my post was deleted.

I really enjoy discussing and reading about science.  It's too bad that the rest of the world seems to consist of only three kinds of people: (1) Those who have no real interest in science or discussing science, (2) scientists and others who are too busy to discuss science with a non-scientist, and (3) people who use beliefs instead of facts and evidence to come to their conclusions, who do not believe in evidence and who cannot lower themselves to discuss facts and evidence with a non-believer.       

December 1, 2015 - Newsweek has a very interesting article dated today, titled "To Defeat ISIS, Know Thy Terrorist."  It explains in detail why the idiotic beliefs and policies of the Republican candidates for President are causing them to do exactly what ISIS wants them to do.  Beyond any doubt, the Republican policies would make things worse, not better. 

The problem seems to be that Republicans do not think, they react.  They seem to be perfect examples from the book I finished reading a few months ago: "Thinking, Fast and Slow."  They do not want to sit down and think about what do to, they want immediate action.  They seem to believe that thinking is for wimps! 

The Newsweek article beings with this:

They are convinced the world is reaching End Times, the apocalypse foretold in Scripture. They believe Jesus the Messiah will then return to join the faithful in a battle against the antichrist. The glorious confrontation will be won, with Jesus and his followers reigning supreme after the defeat of evil.

And who are these believers? No, not evangelical Christians—they’re the members of ISIS.

If that’s surprising, it reflects the general lack of understanding about this group. That Jesus will return in humanity’s last days is a tenet of fundamentalist Islam and is a driving force behind some of ISIS’s decisions. Unfortunately, many Americans have fallen prey to the idea that studying the enemy is a sign of placation or weakness. Too many people—led by disingenuous or ignorant politicians — take pride in their refusal to make the militarily essential decision to learn about the extremists.
Here's another paragraph worth remembering:
Its members do not fear death in battle; they pray for it. American politicians who proclaim they will terrify ISIS with their commitment to fight do not understand what motivates the enemy. Saying, “We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you,” as Marco Rubio did in May might satisfy tough-guy emotional impulses (his words are plural versions of sentences straight out of the action movie Taken) but they are promises that bring joy, not fear, to ISIS fighters.
The book I'm reading now, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things can make a Big Difference," seems very relevant, too.  It's all about how the right answer might seem illogical if you do not understand the problem and human nature.

More from the Newsweek article:
When knuckleheads march with assault rifles outside of American mosques, ISIS tweets the news as proof that the West wants to destroy their religion. When Donald Trump proclaims American Muslims should wear badges, there is dancing at ISIS camps as militants spread the word across the Internet.
The problem seems to be that there are too many stupid people in this world, and the stupid people are the ones who demand immediate action when the proper course may be to study the situation and - perhaps - do things that would seem totally illogical if you do not fully understand what's going on.  While people who think are trying to figure out the right way to do things, people who do not think are ranting and preaching that we should do the wrong things right now.

I highly recommend reading that Newsweek article.

© 2015 by Ed Lake