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Science and Technology "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan.

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Old June 1 2013, 11:45 AM   #31
JoeZhang
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
JoeZhang wrote: View Post
I love this completely random comment that has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand.
You must have missed what it pertained to. There are several topics going on at once here.
I missed nothing.
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Old June 1 2013, 11:56 AM   #32
Captain Nebula
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Sure you did.
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Old June 1 2013, 12:38 PM   #33
YellowSubmarine
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
Sorry for the joke, but thinking that only someone who has a Ph.D. is smart enough to understand something
Not really. People with PhDs also tend to be short on the knowledge and understanding. Just far less often than lay people reading pseudoscience.

When you're arguing against mainstream science, you're not arguing against one person with a PhD, you are arguing against the consensus of hundreds of people who have had decades of experience in the field and have published results independently in thousands of publications which were reviewed by other scientists who also have decades of experience in science.

So you need to have a lot more than simple understanding of the subject at hand after reading about it
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Old June 1 2013, 01:30 PM   #34
Pavonis
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Captain Nebula wrote: View Post
It is the height of arrogance to think that no one can learn this. Or that any of the scientists couldn't be wrong.
What's arrogant is thinking that years of experience and understanding in a subject can be matched or exceeded by reading a math-light pop sci book over a weekend.
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Old June 1 2013, 05:56 PM   #35
Vulcan Logician
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Well sorry if I've wasted anyone's time by bringing juvenile ideas into this scholarly setting. Next time I have a half-baked hypothesis, I'll post it in the nether reaches of some science fiction show forum.
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Old June 1 2013, 05:58 PM   #36
FlyingLemons
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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.
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Old June 1 2013, 07:17 PM   #37
Pavonis
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Vulcan Logician wrote: View Post
Well sorry if I've wasted anyone's time by bringing juvenile ideas into this scholarly setting. Next time I have a half-baked hypothesis, I'll post it in the nether reaches of some science fiction show forum.
Honestly, what kind of replies did you expect?
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Old June 1 2013, 09:43 PM   #38
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

FlyingLemons wrote: View Post
any real understanding of a concept requires a solid grasp of highly complex mathematics.
Math is just a language, not "truth." Math must eventually relate to the real world; simply checking that the units on each side of the equation balance out is not enough.

But back to the original topic of dark matter, which was created as an ad hoc patch to a cosmology that could not properly account for the structure and movement of galaxies. Dark energy was added after that to balance out problems created by dark matter. Together, these patches make up 95% of the "stuff" in the universe.

I may not have fancy degrees in math, but the above sounds more like attempts to "save the phenomenon" (Big Bang) than a useful, predictive model. That is, it sounds like junk science. The layman sees one group saying, "The universe is non-intuitive and incomprehensible. You'll just have to trust us." Meanwhile, another group of equally degreed and working researchers says, "It doesn't make sense to us, either. We'd like to suggest an alternative model."

Some laymen are just gullible enough to listen to or even entertain some of the alternatives. I read it all because it's entertaining; I have no stake in any particular model.

A question for the math wizards—your professional, informed opinions—just out of curiosity: What do you think of the suggestion made in the original post? Keep in mind that hypotheses must be testable, and the OP involves substance that has not yet been detected and dimensions we cannot reach.
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Old June 1 2013, 10:02 PM   #39
FlyingLemons
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

You start out by saying:

Metryq wrote: View Post
I may not have fancy degrees in math
and then you start going on about how math must relate to the real world while dismissing one of the basic tools of science.

Metryq wrote: View Post
Math is just a language, not "truth." Math must eventually relate to the real world; simply checking that the units on each side of the equation balance out is not enough.
If the units of your equation are gibberish, then you're not getting anything useful, just gibberish. It's a basic consistency check that most theoretical physicists do to work out if their theories are unphysical - if it turns out they are, then you know what you're working on is nonsense.

Metryq wrote: View Post
Meanwhile, another group of equally degreed and working researchers says, "It doesn't make sense to us, either. We'd like to suggest an alternative model."
If someone suggests an alternative model that actually is mathematically consistent, that's good. If they suggest something that's nonsense, and then get all defensive to the point of physical violence when it's pointed out that their theory makes no sense, not so good.
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Old June 2 2013, 01:06 AM   #40
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

YellowSubmarine wrote: View Post
And to anyone who claims that dark matter is not good science – there is a reason that dark matter is the leading theory in where the missing mass is. If it was bad science or there was a "simpler" explanation to it (like mismeasurement) the scientists would have gone for it.
Actually, a surprising number of them DID, and continue to do so.

The real appeal of the Dark Matter hypothesis is that its unfalsifiable. If you assume a priori the existence of an undefined quantity called "dark matter" -- a substance which BY DEFINITION has no physical properties you can test -- then it is not possible to devise an experiment that could even theoretically demonstrate its absence. Virtually any experimental setup would return either inconclusive or positive results; there is no way to test for its presence and conclude in any coherent way that it isn't there.

Dark matter fits with the observations
As does any fictional construct for which there is no corroborating evidence. Underpants Gnomes fit the observation that I am slowly running out of underwear, but there's no evidence that the gnomes themselves exist.

The logical proof for dark matter depends on a number of rather dubious assumptions, in particular, the assumption that the existing model of gravitational interactions cannot be wrong, and that the existing model of mass distribution and the composition of galaxies, also, cannot be wrong (in the latter case, the assumption that our estimates of the mass of galaxies based on observations are sufficiently accurate as to require an additional "unseen" factor).

I've seen the data astronomers have been using to support dark matter hypothesis. Been through it several times, each time scratching my head with a "what am I missing?" feeling. The most "conclusive" arguments in favor of it all have the same problem: if you don't start from a series of very specific and far-reaching assumptions, the entire theory stands on very shaky ground.

What's more weird is that there is nothing special about dark matter, and all the talk against it is some irrational dislike that has no grounds. Its existence would be no more weird than the existence of normal matter, which is already there.
Except that we have no primary evidence for the existence of dark matter; it is ASSUMED to be present based on distant observations of galaxies whose rotational velocity is higher than models predict it should be.

That is a bit like theorizing the existence of God based existence of the Bible, based purely on the assumption that only God could have written it (because the Bible says so).
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Old June 2 2013, 01:31 AM   #41
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

YellowSubmarine wrote: View Post
When you're arguing against mainstream science, you're not arguing against one person with a PhD, you are arguing against the consensus of hundreds of people who have had decades of experience in the field...
That, unfortunately, is not always the case. Although the example is thought to be unique to economics (it isn't, but still...) we've recently had this whole dustup over austerity policies and the theory that a specific debt-to-income ratio results in stagnant growth. That basic assumption went unchallenged for years and was so widely accepted that whole countries began to make sweeping policy decisions based on it; imagine their collective embarrassment when that theory was exposed as bullshit by a graduate student.

Here's the thing: the mathematical proofs in cosmological physics have come so convoluted that no "conventional" explanation for those theories is even attempted; the model itself is exclusively expressed as a number salad that makes no sense to anyone outside of academia. This has troubling implications for intellectual honesty: researchers can and do fudge their calculations to get results they prefer, even in fields where laypeople CAN check their equations and potentially expose them as bullshit. If a highly respected physicist hacks together a bullshit mathematical equation that no one understands, who exactly is going to call him on it? Not his peers, who don't understand the equation and can't explain why it's bullshit. Not a layperson, who isn't expected to understand it and whose opinion can be dismissed. Not a graduate student, who can be shouted down as a crackpot or marginalized in grant searches.

Theoretical physics and cosmology both have this inherent problem: they operate at a very high level of sophistication in which it is fantastically difficult to independently verify their data, far more so than literally every other scientific field. What would really change about, for example, fundamental particle physics if it turned out that 90% of the experimental results over the last ten years were entirely made up?
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Old June 2 2013, 01:45 AM   #42
YellowSubmarine
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Crazy Eddie wrote: View Post
That is a bit like theorizing the existence of God based existence of the Bible, based purely on the assumption that only God could have written it (because the Bible says so).
Dark matter being a sentient omnipotent being and all.
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Old June 2 2013, 02:21 AM   #43
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

YellowSubmarine wrote: View Post
Crazy Eddie wrote: View Post
That is a bit like theorizing the existence of God based existence of the Bible, based purely on the assumption that only God could have written it (because the Bible says so).
Dark matter being a sentient omnipotent being and all.
To paraphrase someone smarter than myself:

What's weird is that there is nothing special about God, and all the talk against him is some irrational dislike that has no grounds. His existence would be no more weird than the existence of normal people, which are already here. There is no reason for all God to interact through the rest of the forces. And whatever is causing the mass discrepancy is not evenly distributed across space, so it's clearly omnipresent and very powerful, and we call omnipresent/powerful things "god" for some reason. If you like you can believe that God is, say, an invisible particle that doesn't interact through any of the fundamental forces except gravity, go for it, but it is theologically the same thing.

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Old June 2 2013, 02:58 AM   #44
Vulcan Logician
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Vulcan Logician wrote: View Post
Well sorry if I've wasted anyone's time by bringing juvenile ideas into this scholarly setting. Next time I have a half-baked hypothesis, I'll post it in the nether reaches of some science fiction show forum.
Honestly, what kind of replies did you expect?
Hmmm... I guess I didn't know what to expect. "Strange idea, dude." "Unlikely." Certainly not "You are an arrogant A-Hole", but whatever. I have very little ego to bruise truth be known. Admittedly, I have no degrees in physics, and could not work the necessary equations out to save my life. I guess I wasn't taking myself/my idea so seriously. Anyway, I seemed to have created a lively discussion among some other users. For what it's worth.
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Old June 2 2013, 10:23 AM   #45
YellowSubmarine
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Re: Strange Dark Matter Theory

Crazy Eddie wrote: View Post
YellowSubmarine wrote: View Post
Crazy Eddie wrote: View Post
That is a bit like theorizing the existence of God based existence of the Bible, based purely on the assumption that only God could have written it (because the Bible says so).
Dark matter being a sentient omnipotent being and all.
To paraphrase someone smarter than myself:
And you don't see the problem with your statement?

In this context, comparing a bunch of particles that pretty much stand there doing nothing to something that's got a brain complex enough to more or less imagine and process the entire universe, that is probably the second most disproportional comparison that you can ever make. On the scale of thing, particles are the second most trivial and meaningless after fundamental forces, while deities are more complex and momentous than anything there is. To make a taste analogy, it is like wondering why a teenager would find it unsavoury to lick the inside of an exhaust pipe when she has no problem eating ice cream.
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