Archive for the ‘Math and Physics’ Category

Some crazy for your Sunday

June 13, 2010 5 comments

Those of you who can remember high-school physics will know that kinetic energy is the energy a body has due to its motion, or the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its current velocity. Not according to “psychic” and convicted fraud, Sylvia Browne, who defines it thusly in her latest book :

Kinetic energy is the unintentional, spontaneous manipulation of inanimate objects through no obvious physical means, causing its possessor to become kind of a hapless walking force field. There are several theories about what creates kinetic energy. And, of course, there are just as many skeptics who will swear it doesn’t exist at all, which I’d be happy to consider if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes a few thousand times.

What? You see, Browne believes that your “kinetic energy” can can cause inanimate objects to be spontaneously manipulated without your volition.

(Hat tip to J-Walk Blog)

Critique of the Dembski/Marks papers

January 1, 2010 Comments off

Since the Discovery Institute have recently been pimping the Dembksi & Marks dreck as “mainstream scientific paper[s]“, I’m going to take this opportunity to point out a new blog by computer scientist Tom English which directly takes on the claims and errors within the papers. English has worked on evolutionary computation since 1991 and six of his publications have been related to the “no free lunch” theorems that Dembski loves so much. Interestingly, in September 2007, English was briefly a member of the virtual Evolutionary Informatics Lab.

Blue shift

December 5, 2009 Comments off


From here.

Feynman’s “Messenger series” lectures online

July 15, 2009 2 comments


Microsoft has put seven videos of Richard Feynman lecturing at Cornell in 1964 online (“The Messenger Series” for the BBC, published in 1967 as The Character of Physical Law) in the form of streaming video with media extras.

  1. Law of Gravitation – an example of physical law
  2. The Relation of Mathematics and Physics
  3. The Great Conservation Principles
  4. Symmetry in Physical Law
  5. The Distinction of Past and Future
  6. Probability and Uncertainty – The Quantum Mechanical View of Nature
  7. Seeking New Laws

See here and enjoy.

Update: And as a bonus, four lectures from 1979 on quantum electrodynamics.

“Same old rubbish” from Dembski – film at eleven.

May 7, 2009 1 comment

Mark Chu-Carroll has done it so that you don’t have to … read the Dembski & Marks paper that I mentioned a few days back. Shorter MC-C: “Same old rubbish.” Read his full verdict here.

Update (5/11): Dembski “responds” (and apparently cannot bring himself to actually name who makes the criticism) and Mark sets him straight.

The Tyndall Correspondence Project

November 22, 2008 5 comments


The Tyndall Correspondence Project (of which I am a participant) has now gone online. Our aim is to follow in the footsteps of the Darwin Correspondence Project and transcribe the letters of the Irish physicist, John Tyndall. The site is a little bare at the moment, but more information and resources will be forthcoming.


March 14, 2007 1 comment

Slo-mo pool with thermal imaging

December 30, 2006 1 comment

This is kind of cool – pool shots in slow motion with thermal imaging.

(Seen on

Einstein was a dunce

November 19, 2006 22 comments

Bob Henderson is an 80 year old retired electrical engineer who thinks “Albert Einstein was a dunce.” So convinced is he of this that he has written a third book on the subject: Einstein and The-Emperor’s-New-Clothes Syndrome: The Exposé of a Charlatan. Notes the AZ Republic:

Henderson was, and is, qualified to be asking these questions because his work was science. He says he graduated second in his class from the University of Arizona in 1950 with a degree in electrical engineering. He then worked for RCA in New Jersey before returning home to work at Motorola. Some of his work was in the guided-missile division. And yes, that technically makes him a rocket scientist.

Eh, no, he’s not qualified. He is an engineer, not a scientist, and being an engineer does not necessarily provide any expertise in relativity. The reporter falls into a common trap – because Henderson’s “work was science,” Henderson can comment on all scientific ideas. This is obviously not the case.


“When I was younger, it was repeated and written everywhere that only three people understood (Einstein’s) theories … I always thought science was supposed to clarify things, so that didn’t make much sense to me… I said to myself this is the greatest intellect in the world, I need to understand him. I believed that because everybody did… I started reading everything I could by him and about him and every one of them was double talk. It began to occur to me that this is all gobbledygook… His theory was so lacking in common sense. It became clear to me that Einstein was a dunce.” (emphasis mine)

What has “common sense” got to do with science? “Common sense” tells us that the Sun goes round the Earth, that the Earth is flat, and that it is not hurtling through space at a god-awful speed. The fact is, Einstein’s theories have been vindicated by experiment and observation. Yes, his ideas go against “common sense.” Get over it.

It all sounds very … familiar, doesn’t it? Evolutionary theory has been suffering the same idiotic attacks for a long time now. As Andrew Odell points out in a letter in today’s Republic:

[T]he rightness or wrongness of a scientific theory depends on how well it agrees with observations of nature, not on whether or not Henderson can understand it… Many people make this same mistake in trying to discredit biological evolution. Just because you can’t understand it, it isn’t necessarily wrong. It is also possible that the dunce is on the other side of the book.

String Theory

October 16, 2006 2 comments

Titles I wish I had used

July 25, 2006 3 comments

I was reminded of this by a recent post over at Crooked Timber. Cosma Shalazi‘s review of Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science [amz] is titled “A Rare Blend of Monster Raving Egomania and Utter Batshit Insanity” – I’d love to be able to stick that on a review!

Einstein … “it is a theory”

December 21, 2005 Comments off

Next semester I will be teaching Einstein’s own account of relativity (amaz) in my HON 172 class. It will be interesting to see how that goes as it’s not the easiest text in the world. Given that, the following caught my eye:

In a fitting cap to the World Year of Physics 2005, MIT physicists and colleagues from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) report the most precise direct test yet of Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2.

And, yes, Einstein still rules.

The team found that the formula predicting that energy and mass are equivalent is correct to an incredible accuracy of better than one part in a million. That’s 55 times more precise than the best previous test.

Why undertake the exercise? “In spite of widespread acceptance of this equation as gospel, we should remember that it is a theory. It can be trusted only to the extent that it is tested with experiments,” said team member David E. Pritchard, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics at MIT, associate director of MIT’s Research Laboratory for Electronics (RLE) and a principal investigator in the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms. (source)

Are we going to see ID supporters calling for teaching Einstein as “just a theory”? Hah.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers

%d bloggers like this: