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News Briefs 07-06-2007

Lots of great stories about today, so dive right in…

Thanks Kat and Baldrick.

Quote of the Day:

Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

Frank Zappa

  1. Seeing an electron?
    Good morning, everyone,
    I love the idea that we are seeing an electron here. I don’t know who’s worse, scientists for allowing it, or the media for hinting at it, but no one ever has, or ever will, see a subatomic particle. What is seen is an effect of an effect of an effect, which is assumed to be a particle.
    This is not to say I’m sceptical of particle physics – it may well be on the right track – but like much of fringe science, it is a human means of understanding rather than a reality.

    Humour without knowledge is lame, knowledge without humour is blind.

    Anthony North (with a little help from Albert)

    1. movement
      The article says “movement of a single electron”, which isn’t the same as seeing the electron itself. I grant you that some journalist reading this don’t have an attention span of 5 words, so this is going to be misquoted eventually. If it hasn’t been misquoted already in the popular press.

      There are 3 kinds of people. Those who can count, and those who cannot.

      1. And includes this.
        “We were astonished when we first saw an electron moving across the screen,” said Humphrey Maris, a professor of physics at Brown University.
        Naughty physicist …

        Reality, like time, is relative to the observer

        Anthony North

        1. if you read the article
          if you read the article, which you have done, and understand the article, which you also have, you know that what has been the movement of “bubbles” induced by single electrons.

          If however you pick out 3 words that you like, you will see the claim that someone saw an electron directly.

          Then you can ascribe this too all scientists, which someone in the popular press will do eventually.

          There are 3 kinds of people. Those who can count, and those who cannot.

          1. Did he say it?
            He may have said it, it may have been a mis-quote, but it appears in the article. Your attempt to uphold scientific credibility is no doubt honourable. But to try to insinuate the ‘popular press’ tag …
            We’re better than that.

            Nite, nite.

            Anthony North

          2. point of view
            Let’s go back a few days. You wrote, on another topic, that scientists as human being hava a bias, or prejudice, I forget the exact wording. Of course a scientist will often prefer his or her favourite theory, and look for evidence supporting it. Or for evidence disproving competing theories.

            I’m just saying you have a similar human prejudice to look for scientists making extreme clains that they cannot support.

            Of course seeing an electron is not possible under the currently prevalent theory, or I think under any reasonable theory. But only in the sense that “see” means to see what it looks like. There is nothing all that unreasonable to see what an electron is doing, or where it is goind.

            The main reason we can’t see what it looks like is that it doesn’t look like anything. It is not there as a chunk of matter.

            There are 3 kinds of people. Those who can count, and those who cannot.

          3. Prejudice
            Good morning, everyone
            Of course I have prejudices. Everyone has. Mine is for moderation – in science, and also in religion, politics, everything.
            My prejudices say that science is absolutely wonderful. In everything I do I take science with me. In every theory I offer I never stray too far from what science says. It is the bedrock of my thinking mind.
            But I also know the world is more than science. There is so much it cannot explain, there is so much it cannot do. But we have forgotten this, and given science a position above everything else, which affronts my desire for moderation.
            And that is why we simply have to pull scientists up when they become unscientific. The above statement, for whatever reason, qualifies. It was my inner prejudices that made the statement jump out. This is quite true. And it was your inner prejudices – no better or worse than mine – that maybe didn’t see it at all.
            This is interesting in itself, because it shows how fundamentally a difference in prejudice can affect the observations we make of the world.

            Reality, like time, is relative to the observer.

            Anthony North

          4. I’ll wait …
            I’ll wait for the Johnny Depp re-make.

            Sin is what you’ve done once you’ve been caught.

            Anthony North

          5. Perhaps …
            …this is why simply observing something is supposed to cause a change in what is being observed. Maybe it doesn’t, but the prejudiced perception of the observer of the ‘whatever’ causes it to appear to have changed.

            Regards, Kathrinn

          6. I’d agree with that
            This about fits in with my own ideas, Kathrinn. I put it like this:
            ‘Is objective reality simply a bare canvas to be filled by our subjective thoughts?’
            The idea can be seen to be expressed in everything from eastern philosophies, and the delusional nature of reality, to quantum theory, and the probabilistic nature of reality, made definite upon observation.
            If you’re interested, I write about it in more depth here:


            Reality, like time, is relative to the observer

            Anthony North

          7. even more
            If you want to go on the philosophical side – an observation changes the observer. Human memory being unreliable, the state of mind of the observer before the event is not what the observer remembers.

            A day for firm decisions. Or is it?

          8. Absolutely …
            I’ve used something similar in an explanation of conspiracy theory. If I remember my argument enough (pun intended), an event becomes the event plus the recollections of the event.
            In this way, a mundane car crash can culturally change into a plot to assassinate a princess. And eventually even the historic record takes it as fact, with ideas that it was a mundane crash forgotten.

            The balanced adult retains an inner child

            Anthony North

          9. crashes
            Indeed. My sometimes mechanistic approach to things tells me something else, of an equally prophetic quality (in retrospect), about that car crash.

            I have been drunk. I have driven through tunnels. I have driven without a seat belt. I have driven at 200 kilometers an hour, and faster.

            But please, not all at the same time. Probability closes in on you sometimes.

            There was one person in that car wearing a seat belt. He is alive.

            A day for firm decisions. Or is it?

          10. To go further
            We’re on a philosophical roll here guys.
            Maybe risk taking channels the mind to beat probability closing in on you. The guy who survived was the only one paid to take risks.

            It’s a crazy world.

            Anthony North

          11. probability
            probability multiplies, and doesn’t care about celebrity status.

            Improve your chances in one of the factors, and it is a much safer bet.

            Also I give you the accident-prone Kennedy family, as close to royalty as it gets in the US.

            Immune from the laws of the state? Expensive, but it can be done. Immune from the laws of nature? Much more difficult.

            A day for firm decisions. Or is it?

          12. Jinxed?
            I’ve looked closely at supposedly jinxed families such as the Kennedy clan. I’ve come to the conclusion that living on the edge can be unhealthy, multiplied with a feeling of invulnerability.
            There’s risk taking and risk taking.
            It’s that old moderation problem again.

            ‘Daddy, when I grow up I want to be a celebrity.’
            ‘No son, it’s got to be one or the other.’

            Anthony North

          13. jinxed or
            Well, “jinxed” is one way of looking at it. “Stupid” is another view.

            A day for firm decisions. Or is it?

          14. Yes
            I did say ‘supposedly jinxed.’ Stupid fits nicely.

            Morality takes two. One to do and one to judge.

            Anthony North

  2. Debunking the pirate myths
    If Johnny Depp was inspired by Keith Richards, then Robert Newton is the man who seems to have inspired Keith.

    Anyway, what the heck is that over-sized squawking budgie doing on Long John’s shoulder ?

  3. The ‘hole’ Truth…
    Forgive the pun but I am curious why no one commented on what is now Holy Mars?

    Richard Hoagland must be going beserk!

    “There, there, didja see that? I was right…all along…I was right…they said I was crazy…but look at that…caves…caves…caves…





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