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Old June 1 2013, 05:58 PM   #36
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Location: Edinburgh/London
Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
- Albert Einstein (Which is also attributed to Richard Feynman by some people)
Except these things aren't simple, and after a point any non-mathematical explanation just won't cut it. You can give someone a vague idea of the more advanced ideas in physics, but any real understanding of a concept requires a solid grasp of highly complex mathematics.

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
Just remember, Einstein's famous equation - E equals m times c squared - is 8th grade or Freshman year math, no matter the physics behind it.
Wow, those must be very smart eighth graders to have learned about tensor algebra, relativistic mass and invariance and metric tensors. You missed out the part of the energy-momentum relation contributed by (pc)^2, by the way. Where that comes from is not 8th grade math.

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
Lay people get honorary degrees all the time.
People who get an honorary doctorate from a university usually are highly accomplished at something. They don't just hand them out willy-nilly - you still have to have worked hard to be worthy of the honor.

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
These scientists aren't magicians. You can learn their 'secrets'.
You can if you work hard to become competent. Me and iguana (any other scientists in here) put an awful lot of work to earn our qualifications, which are a measure of that hard work which people trust.

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
That amateur could possibly know more than some college professors.
Maybe he does. There are some incredibly well-read people out there, but...

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
Don't get stuck on the credentials.
I have a PhD in theoretical physics and an MMath in Mathematics. What do those credentials say to people? Well, they say that I've managed to pass a lot of exams to a high standard, so they know I have a solid grasp of mathematical and physical concept. If I didn't, I'd have neither of those qualifications as I would have been weeded out by the exams or by the examination board at my viva.

Credentials in physics, and in the rest of society, are not just pieces of paper. If you've gone to a reputable school such as Cambridge or MIT and graduated with high honors from said institution, it's quite fair for me to assume that this person does indeed know what they're talking about, and if they cast doubt on a theory, there's reason to believe them over someone unproven.

If you come to me and say "I've solved everything!" out of the blue, and I look over your history and see a) no effort to actually attend an institution to gain formal qualification and b) evidence of bizarre ideas, alarm bells start going off. Then we come to this:

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
It is the height of arrogance to think that no one can learn this.
Never said anyone couldn't. It just takes years of effort and hard work to become competent. Anyone who reads a few science books and suddenly "has solved it all" without acquiring a keen grasp of mathematics probably hasn't.

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
Or that any of the scientists couldn't be wrong.
On the contrary, knowing when you're wrong is one of the hallmarks of a competent scientist. How do we know when we're wrong? Well, there are several methods such as experimentation and simulation, but the most basic tool in understanding whether a theory is correct or not is dimensional analysis.

You see, in physics all of the terms in the equations generally have a unit, and if they don't have a unit there's usually a good reason for it which can be explained through sitting down and working out what the units are. Physics is ultimately the mapping from mathematics onto the physical world, and if your theory is going to be any good it has to be expressed in scientifically measured units.

A hallmark of many fringe theories is that the don't make use of this basic tool. Constants appear and disappear with impunity, and the answers seemingly come thick and fast which makes the fringe theorist crow about how he has confounded all of modern science with his wonderful theory of everything.

Except there's one thing: probably he hasn't sat down and checked his units, or he's invented his own ones which haven't been empirically measured and standardized like the System Internationale (SI) ones have been and so they can't really be trusted.

Fringe theories are big on the "answers", but if checked many of those answers are either in gibberish units that make no sense, or if the crank is a bit more scientifically literate, often in energy scales that have been ruled out by experiment and if they were true would manifest themselves in phenomena that would have been plainly obvious long before now.

If someone comes up with a well-thought out theory that shows all the signs of being carefully checked by its author and is logically argued, then it's worth listening to. If, as so often, it's just a collection of bad math that makes no physical sense coupled with physical threats to those who point out its flaws (as is often the case), then there's no reason at all to take either the theory or the individual advocating for it seriously.

You can have all the bluster you want, but at the end of the day it comes down to one thing: either you're competent, or not. Simple as that.
"Goverment, keep yore hands of my medicare" - the Tea Party in one sentence.
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