Pictures of the Lunar Eclipse

Best photo I got of the first few minutes of the solar eclipse.

The best photo I got of the lunar eclipse during its full coverage.

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.

 

Red Flags to watch out for

I am going to start blogging every now and then on some red flags you can find to help you distinguish a pseudoscience from a real science. These are very important to learn and can help you to make a quick judgement on the reliability of websites or books or articles, without having to do a big scientific study or finding one that had been done to assess the validity of people’s claims.

I will start out by making a clarifying statement. Just because an article or ‘scientist’ displays some red flags in his reasoning, logic and evidence, does not make that argument false. The same goes for a logical fallacy. An argument can never be proven to be wrong, but if the only evidence for it is illogical and suspicious, then it should be disregarded.

The red flag I will be discussing today is one which is as much a difference between science and pseudoscience as it is a red flag. It is the hyping up of very flimsy evidence to prove ones case. This is what distinguishes the scientists from the cranks. I will give some examples.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a great new battery technology which is able to generate power from the ambient heat from a person’s body, or a light, or the sun, or just heat which exists around us. Now this is a pretty amazing application of technology, but the scientists who were behind it played it down quite a lot. The same things happen with all of the great new discoveries in the search for the god particle, the Higgs  Boson. At one stage, late last year, there were a series of big steps made towards finally finding this elusive particle, and I was getting very exited about it, because they were very close to uncovering the particle. That was the opinion of most of the scientific and skeptical blogging community, and I got the feeling that the discovery was right around the corner.
But there were the scientists behind the discovery, just saying, “You know what, we are getting close, but we haven’t found it yet, lets just keep low and celebrate and dance when we finally uncover it.”
This is very humble of them, and it is very telling.

Could you imagine if a perpetual motion crank got a hold of evidence 1% as much of a breakthrough as that of the new battery? It would be all over the news, they would be asking for Nobel prizes, holding press conferences and they would probably be set for life.

This is a big red flag, if somebody is holding up their entire medical practice or ideology on one or two flimsy testimonials, and they are drumming them up like when man landed on the moon, then you should be suspicious. If somebody, however, is playing down a big scientific discovery, then you can probably lend credit to the reliability of the website.

I will leave you with a quote from Xi Zhi, “Large skepticism leads to large understanding. Small skepticism leads to small understanding. No skepticism leads to no understanding.” Xi Zhi, A Chinese Calligrapher of some note.