July 23, 2006


What if Black Holes Didn't Exist?: How an alternate theory of the universe exposes the 'war of words' that underlies modern cosmology. (Richard Morgan, July 21, 2006, Seed)

[George Chapline's] work reinvents black holes as so-called "dark energy stars," which are what is left over when matter transitions to dark energy as it passes a point of no return similar to a black hole's event horizon. That redefinition, if correct, would invalidate much of the intellectual framework of traditional black holes.

Chapline's ideas take inspiration from his colleague Robert Laughlin, a condensed matter physicist at Stanford University who won a Nobel for his work on quantum fluids.

Laughlin is quick to point out that the hubbub he and Chapline's ideas have caused "is a battle of words rather than a battle of science.

"In science, you decide whose theory is right (or wrong) by means of an experiment," he said, "not by polling experts."

Unfortunately for theoretical physicists, experimenting on the nature of the universe is not an easy undertaking. Revisionism of one sort or another is constantly occurring, due to the field's heavier-than-normal reliance on theories based on observation, extrapolation and imagination.

"In some ways our playground is too big," said Leonard Susskind, a theoretical particle physicist at Stanford and an outspoken critic of the Chapline-Laughlin theory.

"Practically speaking, much of our subject matter is inaccessible to direct experimentation," he continued. "It doesn't make the science any less valid...

Though it does make it not science.

Meanwhile, leave it to a baseball man to display the kind of humility foreign to modern science:

At the time of [Bill] James hiring, some observers predicted the Red Sox would be transformed into a team that relied on the computations of pasty, number-crunching geeks and completely ignored the tobacco-chewing wisdom of traditional scouts. James found this viewpoint comical. "I believe In a universe that is too complex for any of us to really understand," he says. "Each of us has an organized way of thinking about the world--a paradigm, if you will... But the problem is the real world is vastly more complicated than the image of it we carry around in our heads."

Darwinists, String Theorists, etc. confuse their paradigm with reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 23, 2006 6:51 PM

" 'It doesn't make the science any less valid...' Though it does make it not science."
If black holes do not exist, then general relativity is wrong. Though this is certainly possible, at least relativity has a century of experimental verification. These quantum physicists would overthrow relativity based on extravagant speculations which can not even account for gravity, based on presumed, but unobserved, entities which have no known physical basis (i.e., dark energy).

Posted by: jd watson at July 23, 2006 11:13 PM

I'll bet Thomas Friedman and his bong could come up with a unified theory for all of this, once he's solved the Middle East crisis...

Posted by: John at July 23, 2006 11:55 PM

Of course Relativity is bogus, it was an effect of the intellectual climate.

Posted by: oj at July 24, 2006 12:02 AM

The only thing wrong with the Theory of Relativity is the name. It should be called the Theory of Invariants.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at July 24, 2006 12:24 AM

Darwinists, String Theorists, etc. confuse their paradigm with reality.

Well, duh, that is at least partially true of everyone with a paradigm, which means everyone. Although I suppose OJ could always define paradigm in such a way as to claim he is free of such things.

The objects of OJ's scorn are actually trying to explain aspects of the observable world that can't otherwise be explained with good old fashioned common sense. Belief in evolution is nearly universal in the biological sciences not because it's some sort of plot by a 19th century Godkiller wannabe that's brainwashed people for the last century, but because there are many aspects of the fossil and DNA records that make no sense except as the result of evolution. (Well, there's one alternative p.o.v.: that God planted all that fossil and DNA evidence to trick us into believing in evolution. That seems unlikely to me.)

Just claiming "bogus" while pointing at evolutionary theory or quantum physics or relativity doesn't cut any ice. If you've got alternative explanations more detailed than "God did it" that cover observed facts like shared genes and quantum superposition and the precession of Mercury, let's hear them.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 24, 2006 12:50 AM

PapayaSF: What you're basically saying is that the "falsifiability" rule invented by Popper (in order to seize for philosophy the legitimacy that had accumulated around science) is nonsense. Which it is.

Posted by: b at July 24, 2006 11:35 AM

B: You may be right on Popper, but I'm just saying that science has some fuzzy edges. Not everything that can be observed (the fossil record, stars, etc.) can be reproduced in a lab for a tidy series of experiments. Sometimes even the things that can be experimented upon and are falsifiable (e.g. particle physics) lead to ideas (String theory) where experiments are currently impossible or impractical. Does that make String theory "not science," in the same category as astrology? I don't think so. Those scientists just used science to get to a point where they could go no farther, and are making informed speculation about the areas they can't quite reach yet. Mendel did the same thing with genetics. Theories of the atom did the same until 100 and some years ago.

String theory may well be wrong, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand. Relativity is pretty well-proven. Evolution, very well proven: I wish folks would accept the fact that God is more likely to have created a universe where evolution occurs than he is to have created one filled with false clues that tries to trick us into a false belief.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 24, 2006 12:37 PM

PapayaSF: "Science" means making observations, and then attempting to come up with a coherent explanation for what is observed. Predictions are nice, and speak perhaps to the utility of the theory, but are often not feasible, as you say. Which means that the choice between various competing theories often comes down purely to aesthetics.

I have absolutely no attachment to ID, or even any interest in it. It is merely the creation of insecure evangelicals. But I absolutely feel that the vast majority of the arguments AGAINST ID are utterly bogus, and if they were serious arguments (they're not), could equally well be applied to much of contemporary science (most especially all aspects of modern cosmology). Science deserves more serious defenders.

String theory as it currently stand isn't physics--it's purely math. At least relativity-related math tricks such as the wavefunction are related to things that are related to things that have predictable observable consequences.

Posted by: b at July 24, 2006 1:01 PM


It can be dismissed out of hand.

Posted by: oj at July 24, 2006 1:09 PM