Another Roy Williams example of idiocy

Hello there, skeptical friends,

Lets all guess what I’m going to be blogging about today? That’s right, I’m sure you all guessed it, I’m going to be continuing my constant crusade against Roy Williams and his idiotic arguments, which seem alright on the surface, but soon seem not so alright when you actually look at them deeply. Today’s post is about an argument which was used by Williams to demonstrate the ‘deep, designed plan’ of the universe. Williams has made the claim that the fact that the moon lines up nicely with the sun, points towards the fact that there is design in the universe.

But unlike ‘the other creationists’, who say that the moon, with its protecting of the earth from asteroids and things, shows that god is looking out for us, Williams makes the claim that the fact that there is a solar eclipse shows proof of a god. This allows for things like the first proof of relativity, (with the measuring of the lensing of the stars) to occur. This is all part of Williams’ “God designed the universe to allow humans to figure out its inner workings.” Idea. I have some rebuttals for this argument.

The first point is that our moon is not that special. The fact that the moon eclipses the sun perfectly once in human history is not a big deal. There are a couple of factors which make this occurrence not all that rare. The distance from the earth to the moon is changing quite a lot, meaning that the size of the moon in the sky changes a lot. This means that sometimes the moon is a bit big for the sun, and sometimes the moon is not big enough to cover the sun completely, this is why you should never look directly at an eclipse. This means that there is a big variance and this leaves a big window.

The other thing that varies a lot in the sun, moon, earth system is the distance from the sun to the earth. This means that the size of the sun in the sky varies a lot. So this opens the window even more. The last thing that would change this is the fact that the moon is getting further and further away from us all the time. This means that at one time in early history, very early history, the moon appeared very large in the sky, and in a few more years, the moon will be very small in the sky, and it will not cover the sun at any time.

The second point against this argument is this. There are a lot of things that could be a certain way, but aren’t, why doesn’t god make them line up nice and pretty?

The last argument I will use is this. The eclipse of 1919 is not the only proof of relativity, there have been thousands of since proofs of relativity, and the only reason why this eclipse is still remembered is because it was the first one.

I will leave you with a humorous quote from Brian Greene, “No matter how hard you try to teach your cat general relativity, you’re going to fail”, If you don’t get it, get of my blog, or read my Quantum Mechanics posts. Brian Greene, A theoretical physicist of some note.



Legacy – the only immortality for a skeptic

Hello there fellow bloggers, readers and browsers,

I was recently reading through my issue of Scientific American (which I subscribe to), and I came to the columns in the back of the magazine, and the one written by Michael Shermer really appealed to me. It is entitled ‘Climbing Mount Immortality’. The whole topic of the column was to discuss mortality and how it shaped our civilizations., but what really appealed to me was the topic of immortality itself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all spiritual-after-life crazy on you, I want to discuss the concept of Legacy.

Legacy is the only immortality a skeptic can subscribe to. Albeit a very partial immortality, it is the only one there is. If one believes that there is no afterlife, then the only way in which that person can survive in the minds of those around him, is by doing something to remember him for.

This concept is very readily visible for Alfred Nobel. You will be aware of the Nobel prize. If you are, (you should, or you should stop looking at my blog right now) then you will know that it is an award given to scientists, essayists and peace activists for showing exemplary skills in their area, and making great discoveries.
Seeing that 99% of people know about the Nobel prize, Alfred Nobel could say that he is a success.

What most people don’t know about Alfred Nobel is that he was actually the inventor of dynamite. He created this lethal weapon off war in the hope that ‘war would become so bad, that it would be done by nobody’. But this did not happen, wars just became bloodier and more violent, and you must feel for Nobel for having his invention turn into such a disaster in his mind. This is what inspired him to set up the Nobel prize.

He was worried that all of the world would see him as an evil man for thousands of years to come. So what he did was posthumously donate all his money to set up the Nobel prize. this has worked because now, instead of everybody seeing Alfred Nobel as a villainous person with sinister intentions, we see him as the most famous and prestigious prizes handed out to scientists.

The idea of legacy has an impact on me, I want people to remember me after I die, not just by my family for being a brother or a son or a husband or a father, but by the world as a person who changed a field for ever, like Einstein, Hawking or Nobel. This is the only way for me to stick around after my death, I wont be able to experience it, but my family will be proud, and so will I on my deathbed, knowing that I can be content with what I have done with my life.

I will leave you with a quote from Amanda from Saw II, “The answer is immortality. By creating a legacy, by living a life worth remembering, you become immortal.”

Concluding Schrodinger’s cat

Hello to the skeptical gang, and that one creationist (you know who you are.),

Yesterday I made a post about how there may be infinite universes out there where every single possibility is fulfilled in that universe, and I also said that it not only talks about sub-atomic things like nuclear radiation of particles or whether or not the cat dies, but it most likely also relates to everyday things, like tossing coins.

Now, when I first heard about this theory and when I have since described it to other people, we have all had the same initial reaction. It’s just like those times in a TV series or book series where the writer has clearly run out of ideas for the season so decides to do the cliché parallel universe episode, where the personalities are turned around and it provides everybody with some ironic humor.  This is probably not the case for most universes. Out there somewhere in the multiverse, there will be a universe where that happens, but it won’t be the norm. And no, the way to access these parallel universes is not through a mirror.

I must explain, when things like this happen, obviously our universe is the universe which follows one line through the probability tree, there is no way in which we can change it, and there is no way in which we can leap from branch to branch through universes.

I also referenced a crazy experiment where a scientist conducts the Schrödinger’s cat experiment on themselves. This is just suicidal, because in almost every single instance, the scientist will be killed, but in one of the multiverses, he will survive. In this lucky universe, the scientist will survive and live to fight another day and to research more stuff in particle physics. In the other universes however, there will be much mourning for the gallant scientist who chanced his life for science, and will be forever more wondering, “Was there another universe out there with ‘the scientist that lived'”. The only proof for the multiverse so far, other than disturbances in the CMBR, is that experiment. Proof would be a living scientist, and a dead scientist proves nothing.

CMBR image

Circular disturbances to the CMBR are the only other way which we would be able to test the multiverse.

That’s about it for Schrödinger’s cat and the implications this thought experiment has had on current quantum theory. Originally designed to show how ridiculous it all is, it is now one of the most common descriptions of quantum mechanics around today. It is also the only reason why we remember Erwin Schrödinger, and is his lasting legacy.
To be honest, if there is one thing I would like to achieve in my life, is to have something such as a thought experiment like this named after me, it’s the only way for an Atheist to stick around after his death.

I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “God does not play dice.” Albert Einstein, possibly the greatest mind to reject the theory of quantum mechanics.

The wonderful world of quantum mechanics

Greetings to all thinking people out there,

Today I am going to be blogging about the thought experiment first pondered by Erwin Schrödinger, and was later to become known as Schrödinger’s cat, and the implications it has on quantum theory. Keep it in mind that when Schrödinger first proposed this experiment, it was actually meant to be an argument against quantum mechanics, rather than the explanation of quantum mechanics in large-scale objects.

Right, Schrödinger’s cat. Take a cat, put it in a box which has enough food, water, and air for it to survive indefinitely under normal circumstances. Along with the cat, in the box, you place a small amount of radioactive material which on average will decay once every hour. (This does not mean that one atom will decay every hour, it means that on average, one atom will decay every hour. If you run the experiment multiple times, sometimes it will decay almost straight away, sometimes it will never decay.) Once you have done that, you install a Geiger counter which, upon detection of the decay of an atom, will smash the flask containing the poison, thus killing the cat. You then proceed to seal up the box so that no observations of the interior of the box will occur.

Schrodinger's Cat

It's OK kitty, I would never think of harming you for science.

Now everything is set up, I’ll let you take a guess as to what will happen. Because of the uncertainty principle, where until observation, there is a superposition of all possible states, the wave functions of all of the possible outcomes will be bouncing around inside the box, but untill they are observed, they all exist at once. There will be the wave function of a living cat, the wave function of a dead cat and the wave function of the cat that is not yet dead but has already taken the poison, so amazingly, the cat is both alive and dead!

Of course, you can never actually see this superposition of states, because as soon as there is an observation of this superposition, the wave functions collapse into one, and this will be either an alive cat or a dead cat.

At this point you may be asking, “You believe in this but you don’t believe in psychics?”, I know one of you will because my mother asked this same question while reading over my shoulder. Well, mum, there is some proof for all of this.

Imagine a soccer player shooting lots of balls at a goal, with a brick wall with a gap in the middle of it (about the width of a soccer ball) in front of him. If you were to predict the result of this experiment, you would say that all of the balls that got through to the goal to be in a small cluster right in the middle. Well, this experiment has been conducted with a beam of photons, and it is not as you would expect from particles, but more what you would expect from waves, some splay right of right and some way out left, all because the particles are interfering with each others waves, essential to Schrödinger’s cat, and you can make some probabilities as to what the possibilities are of a photon hitting a particular part of the ‘goal’, say, 1 in 1000 will hit wide right. What is amazing is that this holds up even when you just shoot one photon, meaning that this particle is interfering with itself because it takes every possible outcome, and then collapses into one when it is observed.

That’s all for me for now, this is a very interesting topic and I will definitely be blogging about it again. I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “I cannot accept quantum mechanics because I like to think the moon is there even when I am not looking at it.” Albert Einstein, possibly the most famous Jewish, German-born American Citizen ever.

Does Christianity have free will?

Over the past few weeks I have been reading a book which is written by several authors which is full of daily devotionals for christian children aged about 6 – 12. It covers a lot of subjects including sin, making friends and honoring your parents, but there is one recurrent theme which I want to touch on today.

That theme is that you have to give your life up to god, let him make all the decisions, if you want to have a place in heaven.

Now, think about that for a minute. That’s not really free will is it? One of Christianity’s few claims to fame is that you are given free will. If the whole aim of Christianity is to just give your life up to god, then god rules your life and you don’t have free will. Christians have always said though, that you have the right to choose whether to listen to god , or whether you do what you think is best.

I’ll let you think about that one for a minute before I continue. OK. What is the punishment for not doing what god tells you? It’s nothing less than eternal hell fire & brimstone. We still haven’t found free will yet because god is making threats with rather serious consequences. God is saying “Do exactly what I tell you or you will spend the rest of eternity in hell.” That’s not free will. That’s like sitting a child in an empty room with a piece of cake on a table in the corner and saying, “If you don’t eat the cake, you can have all of the candy in the candy shop. If you do eat the cake I will belt you 30 times around the back of the ear. But It’s your choice whether you want to eat the cake or not.”

Heaven - Hell "It's your choice, pick whichever you want."

That’s all from me today. I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbour such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.” Albert Einstein, a patent-office clerk of some note.

ESP Researchers looking for invisible keys

Hello fellow skeptics,

I’m sure you have all heard the analogy comparing science to somebody trying to find their keys, and it demonstrates well how people use the process of science quite often in their everyday lives. For those who haven’t heard it though, it goes that when somebody looses their keys, they develop a hypothesis (my keys are under the couch) and then they proceed to test it. (look under the couch.) If their hypothesis was deemed incorrect (the keys weren’t under the couch), then they formulate a new one (the keys are locked in the car). This process is repeated until a suitable hypothesis which holds up to observation, (I found the keys) is found.

Now this is all well and good, but I recently heard this analogy abused by an ESP research proponent. He stated that when you lose your keys, you will keep checking the same place over and over again, ‘just to be sure’. This is his justification for why ESP research should continue to be done.

This is not true, for a couple of reasons. When somebody looses their keys, they first assess the prior probability of the likelihood that they lost their keys there. One does not check at great Aunt Sherle’s house if the last time one went there was when they were 11 for Easter one year. Nor does one check under the couch, if one has already looked 40 times, because every second time they checked they thought they saw something under there. I feel this is the point at which ESP research is at.

Prior probability says its unlikely, but we had a little look, just to make sure. We looked, we found nothing, the general scientific community left it, but a few cranks, nuts and loons stayed behind, convinced that 0.5000002 is worth investing millions of dollars in research. I think its well past time to move on, and the sooner ESP research is brought to a stop, The sooner the money can go to worthy science with real, interesting outcomes.

I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not to sure about the former.” Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, master mind behind general relativity, special relativity, and mass-energy equivalence, Nobel prize winner & patent-office clerk of some note.