Junk Science Warning Signs: Part III

You keep citing that paper. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Another trap that laymen fall into when evaluating competing scientific claims is to uncritically accept scientific citations. When I first stumbled across Walter Wagner, I found in various places on the Internet the claim that he had discovered a magnetic monopole, and a citation on his website to this article. The citation was not in the normal format for scientific cites, and upon finding the publication, I figured out why. Wally was not even an author on that paper, he was the lab tech who looked at the stack of lexan sheets under a microscope for particle tracks that met the criteria outlined by the principal investigators – some of the lowest grunt work available in a physics lab. Wagner was, indeed listed in the acknowledgments of that paper, and has used that brief brush with fame to create a highly colorful, and highly fictional, scientific background for himself.

There is another object lesson in scientific citation for the layman here, as well. Science moves. It advances. The date on a cite is important. If someone is citing only older papers (and “old” in science means about 5 years), the layman needs to check for him or herself (or check with a trusted expert) that the argument presented has not been made obsolete by new evidence. Let’s look a little closer at the magnetic monopole, shall we?

Soon after publishing that paper claiming that the anomalous track might be evidence for a monopole, the authors got a slap on the wrist for jumping the gun. Three years later the group (minus one Walter Wagner) published a wonderful analysis of three possible origins of the anomalous track, one of which was still a magnetic monopole, but since a) it was the only such track ever observed and b) two other explanations fit the data, the experiment is regarded as a scientific curiosity rather than as evidence for Dirac’s monopole. Science moved on, the literature coughed up papers that better explain the data, and yet Walter Wagner continues to cite the original paper out of context.

Citations out of context among the anti-LHC crowd are most marked in the behavior of one James Blodgett, which, for your amusement, you can follow in this thread. His claim to be running a risk assessment program for MENSA only heightens the comedy.

But citations do make a post look more legitimate. I’ll give an example a la James Blodgett:

Under the right conditions, water itself can polymerize, or form chains of molecules. This little known fact was first discovered in Soviet Defense Department-funded labs in the Polytechnic Institute of the ancient town of Kostroma, in the Golden Circle of Old Russia. There a Russian Chemist named Nikolai Fedyakin discovered that he could make small quantities of a hyperviscous water with an elevated boiling point and a depressed freezing point.

Fedyakin was obviously a low-level guy in the Soviet hierarchy, so the Russians soon put their top surface chemist, B.V. Derjaguin, on the problem.(1) Derjaguin continued to work on the problem with his assistant Churaev until the Russians were sure that there were no military applications to this spectacular new discovery.(2) Then they published those discoveries in the West. (3,4)

From there, Western scientists took up the task of characterizing this new form of what’s probably the most commonly used substance on earth. (5,6,7,8) Human beings had been looking at water for millenia, and looking at it scientifically for centuries, without discovering this amazing property of the substance. In a similar vein, a soccer-ball shaped molecule of carbon was discovered in soot thirty years later, another case of something wonderful being hidden in a substance so common, no one bothered to look at it critically anymore.

Western scientists attempted to explain this amazing form of water with a variety of theories (9,10), the most promising being a form of p-electron delocalization. (11) No one was ever able to completely figure out just what was going on at the molecular level, however, because no one was able to synthesize large quantities of the substance.

Derjaguin himself (12) took a crack at providing an explanation a few years after the excitement in the West had died down. But it was not until recently that there was any hope of explaining the forces that bind this unique and possibly useful form of water together. With the recent advances in both experiment (13) and supercomputing (14,15), we are beginning to explore the forces behind the clustering of water molecules, we are beginning to understand the ways that water molecules can cluster together.

1. Derjaguin, B. V., Churaev, N. V., Fedjakin, N. N., et al., Izv. Akad. Nauk. S.S.S.R., ser. khimich., N10, 2178 (1967).
2. Derjaguin, B. V., and Churaev, N. V., New Properties of Liquids (in Russian) (Nauka, Moscow, 1971).
3. Derjaguin, B. V., and Churaev, N. V., J. Coll. Interface Sci., 36, 415 (1971).
4. Derjaguin, B. V., and Churaev, N. V., Nature Phys. Sci., 232, 131 (1971).
5. C. T. O’Konski “Covalent Polymers of Water.” Science 168, 1089-1091 (1970)
6. C. A. Angell and E. J. Sare “Vitreous Water: Identification and Characterization.” Science 168, 280-281 (1970)
7. S. W. Rabideau and A. E. Florin “Anomalous Water: Characterization by Physical Methods.” Science 169, 48-52 (1970)
8. G. A. Castellion, D. G. Grabar, J. Hession, and H. Burkhard “Polywater: Methods for Identifying Polywater Columns and Evidence for Ordered Growth.” Science 167, 865-868 (1970)
9. L. C. Allen and P. A. Kollman “A Theory of Anomalous Water” Science 167, 1443-1454 (1970)
10. J. W. Linnett “Structure of Polywater” Science 167, 1719-1720 (1970)
11. R. P. Messmer “Polywater: Possibility of p-Electron Delocalization.” Science 168, 479-480 (1970)
12. Derjaguin, B. V., and Churaev, N. V., “Nature of “Anomalous Water” Nature 244, 430 – 431 (1973)
13. C.J. Gruenloh, J.R. Carney, C.A. Arrington, T.S. Zwier, S.Y. Fredericks, K.D. Jordan
“Infrared Spectrum of a Molecular Ice Cube: The S4 and D2d Water Octamers in Benzene-(Water)8” Science 276 1678 – 1681 (1997)
14. C.J. Tsai and K.D. Jordan, “Theoretical Study of the (H20)6 Cluster,” Chemical Physics Letters 213, 181-88 (1993).
15. C.J. Tsai and K.D. Jordan, “Theoretical Study of Small Water Clusters: Low-Energy Fused Cubic Structures for (H2O)n, n=8, 12, 16 and 20,” Journal of Physical Chemistry 97, 5208-10 (1993)

I hope you enjoyed this nicely documented piece I just put together.

Because it is complete and utter horse crap.

Fedyakin was real. He, as far as I know, was a two bit polytechnic teacher not associated with the Soviet Defense forces in any way expect the way that every Academic was in that highly militarized society. And, by the way, in the Soviet Union it was “Ministry of Defense”, not “Defense Department”.

Derjaguin and Churaev did run with the discovery, and then tout their results in the West. Western scientists did try to reproduce the results and study the structure of the substance for about four years. However, and I skipped this part, there were plenty of problems reproducing the results. I selectively did not cite these skeptical article from the heyday of polywater research:

W. M. Madigosky “Polywater or Sodium Acetate?” Science 172, 264-265 (1971)

D. L. Rousseau “ ‘Polywater’ and Sweat: Similarities between the Infrared Spectra” Science 171, 170-172 (1971)

S. L. Kurtin, C. A. Mead, W. A. Mueller, B. C. Kurtin, and E. D. Wolf “‘Polywater’: A Hydrosol?” Science 167, 1720-1722 (1970)

By the early seventies, Western scientists had concluded that polywater, which had only ever been made in trace amounts, was actually water with a whole lot of impurities in it, which explained the change in viscosity and colligative properties.

In addition, unless you actually went to look up the last Derjaguin reference, you would not be aware that it was actually the publication where he finally recanted and admitted that the Western scientists were correct about the composition of polywater.

And what about the more recent papers I cited? Well, water can polymerize to a slight degree via various methods of attraction between the molecules. Small polymers, less than a few hundred repeating units long, are often referred to as oligomers, and small amounts of these in a water sample will not cause the viscosity or colligative property changes claimed for polywater. The polywater part of the above essay has NOTHING to do with the water cluster work I cited. I just wanted to make that clear because one of the authors of the legitimate papers is a very old and dear friend of mine.

Moving on to another area of pseudoscience that caught the eye of proponents surfing the web, anti-vaccine commenter Chris has another excellent example of false authority. He cites two sources that the scientist looks at with skepticism – a book and a patent. Patents are horrible sources of scientific information, as the patent office often prefers to take an agnostic stance on questionable science and simply process the legal paperwork.

The patent talks about cell wall deficient microorganisms in vaccines. The premise is that the FDA does not monitor for these bugs in the manufacturing process, and that is the causal link between autism and vaccines.

In fact there is no proven, or even speculative link between infection and autism onset.

The FDA in fact does monitor for mycoplasmas, and recently held a panel to discuss more rapid detection methods, fearing that, in a pandemic, the normal, careful screening would need to be circumvented in order to produce vaccine at a high enough rate to stem the infection’s spread.

The second citation was a book. With the quote “been in textbooks for some time”. What has? cell wall deficient organisms? You betcha. A connection between them and vaccine side effects? No way.

Aside from that bait and switch, scientific books are often out of date before they hit the press. Most journal articles cite one to two books, with papers updating the work to show that it is still valid. I used to cite P.J. Flory’s Principles of Polymer Chemistry, with some updated journal articles by contemporary physicists – but that was the only book I ever cited in my publications. Professor Dutch has some pithy comments on this particular indicator of pseudoscience:

The dead giveaway that a person doesn’t have a clue what really goes on in professional circles is the question “how many books have you read on ……?” Books are just not the principal way information flows among professionals. Almost all professional fields report new information in journals. If you’re in show biz, you don’t find out about new plays and movie projects from books; you read Variety. If you’re a doctor, you don’t find out about new ways to remove gall bladders from books; you read the New England Journal of Medicine. And in any case, it’s not quantity but quality. One paper in the Geological Society of America Bulletin with a reliable age date for a rock unit outweighs ten thousand books by creationists arguing for a young earth.

Beyond that, the book that was cited is by an author who was once a legitimate researcher, but who descended into quackery in her later years. Lida Mattman’s careeer very much resembles Linus Pauling’s in her fall into junk science, finally landing on outrageous claims such as:

Dr. Lida Mattman, who has been culturing cell wall deficient (CWD) organisms from blood for 40 years was contacted to culture specimens from 25 individuals diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome. She found every samplepositive for CWD Bb, the causative organism of Lyme disease.
Following this finding, 103 seriously ill subjects with a variety of diagnoses were tested and found to be positive for Bb based on Mattman’s Gold Standard Culture method. The conditions included: Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Mixed Connective Tissue Diseases, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Lupus Erythematosus, Palindromic Rheumatism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Uh huh. If I have to explain the red flags for junk science in that quote to you, you might as well stop reading right now. The book cited by the anti-vaccine crowd was first published in the 1970s, and has been updated, but is not a significant source of information today. In fact the reason that Mattman is mentioned (rather than more current researchers on CWD organisms) at all by the anti-vaccine crowd is that her quack notions about Lyme disease have led to speculation about a connection between Lyme and autism. I kid you not. (See the comments in that last link).

In the 1990s, Mattman claimed that the cell wall deficient organisms that were the subject of her legitimate research in the 50s, 60s and 70s were so hardy that:

Dr. Mattman believes that touching can spread Lyme disease. The Lyme spirochete can actually occur in tears, and therefore can be transmitted to hands, which contaminates doorknobs, pens, people shaking hands, etc. This appears to be consistent with the observation that whole families often culture positive for Lyme and present with symptoms.

Her name comes up often with the tag “Nobel Nominee in 1998” – uh, news flash, anyone can be nominated for the Nobel, many cranks are by their followers, and a single year’s nomination is hardly a groundswell of recognition, in addition to sounding quite strange. As I mentioned in my previous posts, credential inflation is a bad, bad sign.

Mattman’s later 1990s-era research also comes up in connection with Rife Machines and the Marshall Protocol – known quackery. All red flags. For the layman trying to evaluate claims, Google should be the first resource. Unfortunately in the case of Mattman, there is not a lot of material on the Web about her more outlandish claims, but there is enough citation of her by known, clear quacks that the layman should suspect that either a) her work is easily taken out of context by junk scientists or b) she herself was a junk scientist. I tend to think both answers are correct.

So the next time someone comes citing scientific literature, remember this: always go back and READ THE ORIGINAL SOURCE when someone is citing papers in a scientific argument, or you may find that, like my Derjaguin paper, the citation actually comes to the opposite conclusion of that of the citing “authority”*. Also, when you see papers or especially books, that are more than a few years old being cited, go back and check to see if there are retractions, arguments, or alternative explanations proposed in the literature. Just because an argument cites scientific publications, it does not necessarily follow that the argument is scientifically valid.

*Specifically something such as this reference, which predicts black holes – in certain very unlikely scenarios of string theory – and also predicts their rapid decay. You can’t have one without the other, the theory predicts both events, but that title “Black Hole Factories” doesn’t give you a clue as to that conclusion, you need to go look up the paper for yourself to find it. Bad physicist, bad.

[UPDATE] – I was going to add the following as a comment, but it spiraled out of control, so I will add it here:

In answer to Phil’s request for a layman-friendly explanation, I highly recommend this September 2008 paper, and as it is the most up-to-date view on the issues, I’ll crib from it copiously here. The appendices are math-heavy for folks like Shannon who want to see the guts of the argument, while the body of the paper is remarkably well-suited for a lay audience.

The central argument of CERN (and by association my central argument, as I do not claim any special knowledge outside of my fields of expertise: while I am quite capable of evaluating arguments in Physics, while I would require many years of study to actually make those arguments on the graduate level) is not that black holes and hawking radiation are theoretically coupled. The central argument is that astronomical bodies have not been destroyed by collisions with cosmic rays, or as one physicist pithily put it: the central argument that the LHC is safe is that the moon continues to exist:

We estimate that the Universe is replicating the total number of collisions to be made by the LHC over 10^13 times per second, and has already done so some 10^31 times since the origin of the Universe. The fact that astronomical bodies withstand cosmic-ray bombardment imposes strong upper limits on many hypothetical sources of danger.

For those of you, like me, who think that an argument without numbers is a religious one:

The area of the Earth’s surface is about 5×1018 square centimeters, and the age of the Earth is about 4.5 billion years. Therefore, over 3×10^22 cosmic rays with energies of 10^17 eV or more, equal to or greater than the LHC energy, have struck the Earth’s surface since its formation. This means [6] that Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth already – and the planet still exists.

Now, in the tradition of true believers everywhere, the anti-LHC crowd started picking at that argument. First, they claim that Hawking Radiation has not been directly observed. True. Even the closest black holes would radiate far too weakly to be observed from Earth. However, Hawking radiation has a strong theoretical basis in the physics we already are pretty sure is true. Aside from that there are other quantum mechanical stability arguments no related to Hawking radiation that make stable microscopic black holes violate known laws of physics. To claim that microscopic black holes would be stable or is to cast doubt on same fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics (and not only ones associated with Dr. Hawking’s theory), and if that is wrong, then we should be equally worried, as one physicist put it, about about dragons being produced by the LHC.

The funniest line of attack I have seen on the internet was couched in terms of pool: two billiard balls of the same energy colliding head on will stop dead, so the analogy was that the black holes will stop dead in the LHC. For those of you who don’t see the problem with that analogy, I invite you to do the experiment yourself and try to collide 2 balls at any velocity more than a gentle roll to stop dead upon collision.

Eventually a few of the anti-LHC group got tired of being made fun of and came up with a slightly more plausible scenario (as in (10^-30)% more plausible), that the slow black holes that might be created according to some (yet unproven) theories in the LHC are just slow enough to stop inside the Earth, whereas the high velocity cosmic ray particles would not. Once again, the continued existence of known astronomical bodies comes to the rescue

In the extradimensional scenarios that motivate the existence of microscopic black holes (but not their stability), the rate at which absorption would take place would be so slow if there are seven or more dimensions that Earth would survive for billions of years before any harm befell it. The reason is that in such scenarios the size of the extra dimensions is very small, so small that the evolution driven by the strong extradimensional gravity forces terminates while the growing black hole is still of microscopic size. If there are only five or six dimensions of space-time relevant at the LHC scale, on the other hand, the gravitational interactions of black holes are strong enough that their impact, should they exist, would be detectable in the Universe.

Now, let’s look at the authors of the papers cited by our newly-resident anti-LHC gadfly. As I said, science moves on, and citing older papers is a sign that one ought to do a little digging before deciding which argument to believe.

First ask yourself, who was contacted by CERN to write the safety report?

Answer: Steven Giddings of UC Santa Barbara and Michelangelo Mangano of CERN.

Hmmmm. If those authors think there is no risk, then any use of their papers to justify belief in risk needs to be accompanied by some serious physics to explain why the conclusions and further investigations of the authors of the paper do not agree with the critic’s reading of said paper. Since I don’t see any of that anywhere, the obvious spurious references in Blodgett’s original comment below are #s 2,9 and 10. As Shannon noted, references 4, 9 and 10 are cited by Blodgett in a similar vein to they way I cited the last Derjaguin post about polywater – the papers are cited in an argument that comes to the opposite conclusion of the authors.

Furthermore, Dr. Mangano is the author of the new paper I cited at the beginning of this comment.

In the same vein, Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek has argued for the safety of the Brookhaven Collider, so citing the paper by him that argues that the RHIC was safe in an argument against collider safety is also spurious in the absence of a detailed, scientific argument as to why the older paper outlines a threat. In the same way, reference #4 argues for the safety of the LHC.

All that is left are references #3,6,7 and 8, all of which are older (5+ years) papers. All of which have been dealt with in later papers in the field, including the comprehensive safety reviews, most especially the paper I referenced at the top of this comment and the 97 page CERN safety report by Giddings and Mangano.

What’s most amusing is that there is a paper that, however slightly, bolsters their case (I might regret posting this, but as a practitioner of science as outlined by Feynman in “Cargo Cult Science, I have to): to wit this paper argues that black holes, under certain unproven theoretical conditions will last for seconds to minutes. The perfect opportunity for the anti-LHCers to yell “see, you guys don’t know what you are talking about”. Unfortunately for the potential new counter-argument, a three minute lifetime however is a far cry from the time it would take a black hole to eat the Earth, and the “moon continues to exist” argument still holds.

19 thoughts on “Junk Science Warning Signs: Part III”

  1. Below are the footnotes that John Jay challenges, with the text that generates them. He only mentions one footnote with which he can find fault. The fault is that the paper at issue, a paper predicting black hole creation, also claims that black holes will dissipate via Hawking radiation. But I mention that claim in the text (albeit in later sources), and cite further papers that question Hawking radiation. Jay shows how folks can blow smoke with citations. His best example of smoke blowing is his own piece.

    Jay finds humor in my “claim to be running a risk assessment program for MENSA.” I do not see what is funny about that. I should explain that I rarely mention Mensa, and I am not pulling rank or claiming authority by mentioning it here. I only brought up Mensa in the thread where the footnoted piece discussed here was posted because Mensa was the topic of the thread. The thread was titled: “Mensa: Proving that IQ doesn’t make you smarter since 1946.” That title is indicative of the tenor of the thread. Jay typically gets it a bit wrong. For the record, I am coordinator of the Global Risk Reduction Special Interest Group, a SIG in American Mensa (and also international Mensa). Check that out on http://www.us.mensa.org . Also check our SIG website at http://www.global-risk-sig.org . Another site which describes the collider issue in more detail with annotated references is http://www.risk-evaluation-forum.org .

    While on the subject of global risk reduction, the purpose of our SIG, I should give readers my recruiting pitch. There are many global risks, and sometimes they can be reduced, if sometimes only by a small amount. Even a small reduction has an enormous expected value (probability times value, the standard metric of decision theory) since the value at issue is 6.5 billion lives. Historically, the Asilomar compromise reduced risk from recombinant DNA, the near-earth asteroid watch (conducted partly by amateur astronomers) reduces risk from asteroid impact, and Reagan/Gorbachev reduced risk from nuclear war. Our SIG had nothing to do with these, but we were involved with others including collider risk. Part of the claim that Jay challenges is the claim that collider risk was reduced by the recent CERN safety study, in the same sense that flight risk is reduced by running a pre-flight checklist. Prior to the recent CERN study, safety factors had eroded as described in the text that is footnoted below. Collider critics can claim some of the credit for this reduction because they detailed the erosion of safety factors and pressed CERN to do another study. There are more global risks than these quick examples, and therefore more contributions to be made. If readers want to help with global risk reduction, you don’t need my permission. We are all independent intellectuals, many independent of Mensa, and you are independent intellectuals too. You are independent, but we would be glad to make suggestions of risks that could use work. Find contact information on one of the websites mentioned here.

    Below is the post and the footnotes in question. One statement may be slightly misleading because the text is abbreviated; I have written more about this particular issue elsewhere. The statement in question is the statement that the “weak” version of the collider/cosmic ray analogy is refuted in footnote [9]. The “weak” version of the analogy claims that cosmic ray collisions with earth particles are analogous to collider collisions, an analogy claimed by collider advocates but disputed by collider critics. Giddings and Mangano “refute” this version of the analogy in that they agree with collider critics that earth conditions are not analogous; they then consider the more extreme conditions in neutron stars and white dwarf stars to postulate what I am calling the “strong” version of the analogy, perhaps saving the analogy, but also confirming the validity of collider critic objections to the earlier version.

    – – – – – –
    Post 3/2/09 Stonekettle Station
    – – – – – –
    Hello, “John the Scientist”

    You say:

    >The safety studies conducted for the Brookhaven facility would have been
    > enough to cover the LHC in a rational world.

    I have been over the next paragraph before, so I will keep it short:

    You mean this Brookhaven study [1], published in 2000. I agree that it seemed adequate when first published. It stated, among other things, that black hole creation required energy beyond the reach of any collider. However, shortly after publication, new physics papers appeared, based on new theory and unrelated to the collider controversy, predicting creation of black holes at colliders. [2],[3] Then in 2003 CERN published a new safety study [4] that anticipated black hole production, touting the great science that could be done if black holes were available for study. Black hole production would be safe, the study said, because they would dissipate instantly in a burst of Hawking radiation. [5] At about the same time, and unrelated to the collider controversy, physicists published papers questioning the fundamental theory behind Hawking radiation, a radiation that has never been seen. [6],[7] Two other safety factors that later eroded were the idea that strangelets should be electrically positive on their surface and not attract normal matter, refuted in [8] and the “weak” version of the collider/cosmic ray analogy, refuted in [9].

    It seems strange to say that this history was “enough to cover the LHC.” The best safety factor left was the fact that theories enabling disaster were somewhat speculative, albeit published in peer-reviewed journals. Given the erosion of safety factors, and given the stakes, I say it would have been immoral to launch without further checking.

    Fortunately, CERN was persuaded to do another safety study, released in 2008. [10] Michelangelo Mangano, one of the study authors, did a fairly good job and developed new safety factors. My point is that, without collider critics, CERN would have launched without this check. Some of us debate whether it was good enough, but at least it was a lot better.

    The dialog of criticism can lead to truth. You guys are critics too. With a slight difference in focus and style, or perhaps even with your current focus, you can perform important service.

    [1] W. Busza, R.L. Jaffe, J. Sandweiss, and F. Wilczek; “Review of Speculative ‘Disaster Scenarios’ Brookhaven, 2000

    [2] Steven Giddings and Scott Thomas, “High energy colliders as black hole factories: the end of short-distance physics,” Physical Review D 65(5) (2002) 056010.

    [3] Savas Dimopoulos and Greg Landsberg, “Black holes at the Large Hadron Collider,” Physical Review Letters, 87(16) 161602, (2001).

    [4]J.-P. Blaizot, J. Iliopoulos, J. Madsen, G.G. Ross, P. Sonderegger, and H.-J. Specht, “Study Of Potentially Dangerous Events During Heavy-Ion Collisions At The LHC: Report Of The LHC Safety Study Group” CERN, 2003

    [5] Ibid, pg 12. “Thermal processes” in this context means Hawking radiation.

    [6] Adam D. Helfer, “Do black holes radiate?” Reports on Progress in Physics. Vol. 66 No. 6 (2003) pp. 943-1008.

    [7] William G. Unruh and Ralf Schützhold, “On the Universality of the Hawking Effect,” Physics Review D 71(2005) 024028.

    [8] G. X. Peng, X. J. Wen, Y. D. Chen, New solutions for the color-Favor locked strangelets Physics Letters B 633 (2006) 314-318.

    [9] Steven B. Giddings and Michelangelo L. Mangano, “Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes, Physical Review D, 78, 035009 (2008)

    [10] John Ellis, Gian Giudice, Michelangelo Mangano, Igor Tkachev, and Urs Wiedemann, (Large Hadron Collider Safety Assessment Group(LSAG)) “Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions,” CERN June 2008.

  2. I take it that he’s not really responding but just taking the opportunity to spam, because he’s ignoring your arguments regarding one of the cites in the bit he reposted?

  3. One giveaway is that if people use highly emotive language about polar bears being endangered, or skeptics being like holocaust deniers you are very likely in the presence of some kind of fraud.People in the right don’t have to lie or engage in loathesome tactics.

  4. That’s his pattern. He’s not actually addressing you or John. He appears to address you, but what he’s really doing is talking past you, lecturing.

    He speaks in set-piece sound bites, and thinks that footnotes are the key to actual science – and completely misses the crux of this post.

    Bloggett sees himself has a superior intellect whose job it is to school the rest of us. He also has a habit of reposting the same garbage verbatim on multiple sites, the crap above he posted on my site, then copied it here. What he failed to mention is that he got soundly spanked, by John. Then he acted like an arrogant ass and got himself banned. So he then went crying to one of my friends’ blog about how he’d been treated and specifically how he was so smart that it was difficult to speak to us on our level. When that didn’t work he protested that he really didn’t have time to deal with these things because he was busy working on world threats with some Mensa spawned special interest group, he also made this claim on my site – and yet, here he is. Frantically googling his own name and chasing John and I around the blogosphere.

    This is classic behavior for the junk-science and conspiracy theory crowd.

  5. I take it that if I ask y’all to look at the “Electric Universe” advocates in the same vein in which John just examined the black hole collider arguments, the same patterns would show up?

    (I should confess right now to being interested in stuff along that fringe, but I’m kind of disturbed by the style of argumentation, which basically seems to involve a lot of straw-man type attacks, falsely claiming any unexpected discovery as something they predicted (although they never seem to get around to making these predictions in advance) or as something that validates their theory (even when it doesn’t).

  6. John Jay’s key assertion is that black hole production and Hawking radiation are necessarily linked. This (he says) is because both are predicted by the same theory. Agreed, the two predictions appear together in some papers. Agreed, string theory can be adjusted so that both are predicted, and in that sense both are predicted by the same theory. One of the problems with string theory is that it is protean, and can be adjusted to predict almost anything. However, the main requirement for black hole production is multiple dimensions on a small scale, predicted by string theory, but also postulated for other reasons by other theories. Multiple dimensions with the right parameters enable black hole production for the simple reason that the inverse square law of gravity becomes an inverse hypercube law on the scales where the dimensions are visible, making gravity much much stronger at small scales than would be predicted by an inverse square law, and this stronger gravity enables black hole production. Hawking radiation grows out of quantum considerations that seem independent of the postulate of multiple dimensions. Now, I am not a physicist, so I could be wrong about this. We did ask a group of physicists in a Delphi exercise about the probability that black holes would be produced, and also about the conditional probability that Hawking radiation would not work given black hole production. Any probability other than zero implies that the link is not absolute. We received only two zero replies from ten participants. I do not claim that this small exercise is definitive, but it does show that some physicists do not see a necessary link. Since Jay asserts otherwise, I ask him to explain why the two results are inexorably linked, with appropriate theory or citations.

  7. James Blodgett,

    Now, I am not a physicist, so I could be wrong about this.

    And since none of the other people in your little group are serious physicist either, why do think any of them know what is going on? You know I actually went and looked up your foot note # 10 and it’s result show that there is, and never was any basis, for concern. Your claim that you prompted a safety review that did some good is just a bald faced lie.

    I’ve seen this kind of pseudo-scientific argument before. You hurl a lot of jargon at people and buffalo them into thinking your know something. One of my professors used to do a little a trick where he would string some valid concepts together and use slightly altered vocabulary to make a physics argument. Then he would ask people if they thought he was onto something and a lot of people would say yes. Turns out he had created an argument for the earth being flat.

  8. So he then went crying to one of my friends’ blog about how he’d been treated and specifically how he was so smart that it was difficult to speak to us on our level.

    Don’t forget about how he also thinks everyone is in need of his “schooling” and “recruitment” pitches, as well.

    Because evidently the oh-so-fabulous work his SIG does doesn’t recruit the caliber of people he thinks his little group deserves?

  9. Wow. We have the whole UCF here. That changes the conversation.

    The UCF is an interesting bunch, mostly former military people who “swear like the sailors we are,” a direct quote from the introduction to Janiece’s blog, a blog titled “Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men.” I won’t quote the actual swearing, which features much of use of the f-word. Even “John the Scientist,” apparently the one semi-real scientist among them, slips into heavy swearing occasionally, an interesting way to conduct scientific discourse. The UCF has taken on the potentially laudable role of debunking what they see as junk science, unfortunately debunking with a vengeance that would do credit to a biker gang and with a sense of fairness that would do credit to a kangaroo court. Socrates demonstrated how strong debate could converge on truth. The problem with UCF debate is that it becomes a mudslinging rumble that converges on mud. (They would use a stronger word.) Readers can see mild samples of that here already.

    The UCF position is that collider critics were never right. If so,why did collider advocates find it necessary to do three safety studies? If safety studies were right initially, one would have sufficed. The UCF asks why the world should listen to collider critics. But why should the world listen to the UCF? In general the world votes with its indifference and listens to neither.

    Will the UCF agree that anyone present is competent to discuss science? Even if one side is competent, the other side can ask questions from Socratic ignorance. If the UCF denies competence to debate science, how about debating procedure? Resolved: methods used to certify collider safety were adequate (or inadequate) from a procedural point of view.

  10. The UCF position is that collider critics were never right. If so,why did collider advocates find it necessary to do three safety studies? If safety studies were right initially, one would have sufficed.

    So you basically take the position that if anyone else has even looked at the situation it’s an admission that you’re right, even if they eventually conclude that you’re wrong?

  11. Phil Fraering Says:

    >So you basically take the position that if anyone else
    >has even looked at the situation it’s an admission that
    >you’re right, even if they eventually conclude that
    >you’re wrong?

    1) Demonstrate your assertion that the Large Hadron Collider Safety Assessment Group process, which resulted in a major study and two auxiliary papers, can be characterized as “anyone else even looked at the situation” and I will agree with that aspect.

    2) A major assertion of collider critics was that existing safety factors were inadequate. The new studies, especially Giddings and Mangano, found new safety factors. We may argue about the adequacy of the new safety factors, but they are an improvement.

    3) Running a preflight checklist reduces risk, even if everything is okay.

    4) This is not a matter of being right or wrong. We all want the collider to be safe.

  12. No one here (other than me) seems to want a real debate. Let’s get back to the topic of the original post. Jay seems to find sin in footnotes by any other than a “real” scientist. Actually, most of the footnotes at issue did originate from appropriately credentialed scientists. Criticism of colliders has been a cooperative endeavor, albeit a fundamental principle has been “we are all independent intellectuals,” and therefore each does his own thing. I didn’t find all those citations; most of those that raise issues with colliders were pointed out to me by colleagues who follow the literature, colleagues with legitimate Ph.D.s. When we broaden to global risk issues, there is a book discussing these issues by the Astronomer Royal of England, Sir (and Ph.D.) Martin Rees. Are those adequate credentials?

    However, I reject the form of Jay’s criticism. Footnotes can be misused; therefore he finds sin in footnotes. Consider other relevant propositions following the same logic. A discussion like Jay’s can become a kangaroo court; therefore Jay should not say such things. Similarly, language can be misused; therefore the UCF should shut up. The logic in these examples does not follow. However, I suggest, with an ironic smile, that the conclusions happen to be true.

    I challenge anyone to find misrepresentation or misunderstanding in any of the footnotes that Jay challenges. But I submit that folks responding to this challenge have to do more than make the claim, they have to say why, subject to the challenge of a fair debate.

    I don’t expect debate on these footnotes. Challengers will see that a fair debate would be unproductive, because in fact the footnotes are correct. However, a debate on collider or global risk issues could be interesting.

    I am willing to meet anyone in a fair debate on these issues, fair meaning a balanced topic, a neutral moderator, fair rules, and reimbursement for expenses if appropriate. ( I am quite willing to wave reimbursement when reasonable.) That could be done here, but the comment section of a blog is perhaps not the best venue, and I don’t have time to visit frequently and see if anyone responds. Anyone wanting to respond to this challenge can contact me.

  13. The UCF is an interesting bunch, mostly former military people… Wrong. Bloggett is talking out his excretory orifice, as usual, his assessment of the UCF is about as accurate as his physics. The Anti-LHC conspiracy crowd has managed to turn us into some kind of bogeyman, Bloggett fantasizes that we’re some kind of biker gang, his Mensan cohort, James Tankersley has decided that we’re some kind of government agency of secret NSA agents out to get him, Walter Wagner has gone off to pout after being exposed as an utter and complete fraud, and little Johnnie Carter sends us death threats. The simple truth of the matter is that the UCF is exactly what we say it is, a group of friends who enjoy each other’s online company and share a group of linked blogs. Some of us are scientists, some are educators, some are doctors, and some, like me, are former military. In point of fact, I am the only member of the UCF who is retired professional military. Our blogs aren’t hard to find, nor is information about us. Bloggett’s assessment of who we are, and his bizarre fantasy of our informal little group, is precisely the same as his so-called risk assessment, i.e. complete bilge. He has created a fantasy of LHC conspiracy and global risk, and then gone cherry picking for ‘facts’ and footnotes to support it – exactly the same as every conspiracy nut, if it wasn’t the LHC, it would be Bigfoot or the Face on Mars or Creationism.

    The UCF position is that collider critics were never right. Wrong again. Our position is that Bloggett, Wagner, Tankersley, and the rest of the conspiracy nuts who think they’re actually doing advanced particle physics while sitting around some Mensa SIG were never right.

    No one here (other than me) seems to want a real debate. And finally wrong again. Bloggett isn’t interested in any debate, serious or otherwise. He’s doing what he always does, in every forum and probably in his boorish real life, lecture, grandstand, talk down, and condescend. When his footnotes are shown to be wrong, he attempts to divert attention by criticizing our speech or the language we use. When that doesn’t work he takes on the mantle of the long suffering sighted man in the kingdom of the blind – and yet examination of his credentials shows that he is no more a scientist or an expert in physics than I am, which is where Mensa comes in, it’s his trump card. When that does work, he attempts to recruit you. When that doesn’t work he positions himself so as to appear under attack by the mob and calls for “debate” and even magnanimously agrees to waive ‘reimbursement’ for Christ’s sake – his tactics are nearly indistinguishable for those of the Discovery Institute and the Creationists – this, of course, after once again claiming that he doesn’t have time for us simple folk, and yet here he is, again, and again, and again. Doesn’t have time for this? This is all he has time for – this kind of crap is his whole life, he lives for it.

    The simple truth of the matter is that Bloggett et al are not scientists. They are pretenders, losers who were never good enough to make it in actual science, so they’ve put on a lab coat and picked up a clipboard and are wandering around demanding the same respect as actual scientists who have done the real work, gained real experience, completed real education, done the actual engineering, and spent their entire lives immersed in advanced science. Understand exactly what Bloggett is saying above: He is demanding the same exact consideration when is comes to cutting edge advanced particle physics as somebody like, oh, say Stephen Hawking. That’s what he’s claiming, right there – and the only thing he can use as a justification for this extraordinary demand is that he is a member of Mensa, which supposedly gives him equal weight with the giants of the field.

    Forgive us in the UCF if we’re just a little skeptical.

  14. It’s early here in Alaska and I’m not fully awake yet, I’m still tired and sore for the Iditarod Race start yesterday. Please ignore the obvious typos in the previous post and the misspelling of Blodgett’s name, it wasn’t on purpose – or was it? Hmmmm, maybe I am part of an illiterate biker gang or NSA disinformation campaign, or maybe I just haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning.

  15. Ah,Mensa.A place to grab an occasional “piece of *ss” before I was married. I never met a bunch so impressed with themselves, a bunch of third raters imagining themselves to second rate.

  16. Update added above. I’m going to let this run for a little longer, then I’m going to close the comments. This stuff attracts crazy like a junkyard electromagnet attracts iron filings.

  17. http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/cargocul.htm

    Here is the link to Cargo Cult Science- this is as good as it gets.Those who haven’t read it-well,here’s your chance.
    I read that in HS Feynmann’s IQ tested out as mid 124 or thereabouts, so I guess he wasn’t smart enough to make Mensa.From what I said before I didn’t mean to imply that most people in Mensa are self-important twits, but they do set the tone. They also are drawn to the better blogs; they at least have some eye for quality!

Comments are closed.