Metrics in software and physics

A Horrible experiment Every so often, somebody points out how bad of a metric code coverage is. And of course, on its own, it doesn’t tell you much: after all, it’s a single number. How could it possibly reflect all the subtlety (or lack thereof) of your designs and of your testing artillery? Of course, within all the various *DD approaches, some better than others enable you to know whether or not your code conforms to its requirements, but I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the general idea of a software metric and how it relates to the mothers of all metrics: physical ones, cause you know, I used to be a scientist. Proof: the lab coat on the picture.

The theory of measurement is at the center of all experimental physics. This comes from the realization that any observation of the natural world is ultimately indirect.

For example, when you look at a red ball, you don’t directly perceive it. Rather, photons hit it, some of them are absorbed by the surface of the ball (violet, blue, green and yellow ones, but not red ones) and some of them bounce back (the red ones if you’ve been following). Those red photons that bounced back then hit your eyes, where a lens distorts their paths so that all those photons that came from a specific point on the ball converge to roughly the same spot on your retina. Then, the photoreceptor cells on the retina transform the light signal into electric impulses in your optic nerve, which conveys all that information into your brain and then, only then the complex mechanisms of conscience give you the wonderful illusion of seeing a red ball in front of your eyes.

The brain reconstructs a model of the universe, but what it really ever perceives is a pattern of electric impulses. Everything in between is a rather elaborate Rube-Goldberg contraption that can be trusted most of the time but that is actually rather easy to fool. That it can be fooled at all is the simple consequence that what you observe is an indirect and partial measure of reality rather than reality itself.

When we measure anything in physics, we build our own devices that transform objective reality into perceivable quantities. For example, when physicists say they have “seen” a planet around a faraway sun, they don’t (always) mean that they put their eyes on the smaller end of a telescope and perceived the shape of that planet with their own eyes like I saw the red ball of the previous paragraph. No, what they saw is something like this on a computer monitor:What a beautiful planet!This shows the very small (1.5%) variation of the light coming from the star as the planet transits in front of it. All this really tells them is that something dark that takes about 1.5% of the area of the star passed in front of it. By repeating that observation, they can see that it happens every 3.5 days. That’s it. No image, just measures of the amount of light coming out of a powerful telescope aimed at a star against time.

But just from that minimal data and our centuries old knowledge of celestial mechanics, researchers were able to deduce that a planet 1.27 times the size of Jupiter but 0.63 times its mass and a surface gravity about the same as Earth’s was orbiting that star. That’s an impressively precise description of a big ball of gas that is 150 light years away (that’s 1.4 million billion kilometers in case you’re wondering or 880 thousand billion miles if you insist on using an archaic unit system).

The Rube Goldberg device that enables us to see that big ball of gas from so far away is a mix of optics, electronics and knowledge, the latter being the really awesome part. Science is awesome. The bottom line of all this is that although it seems less “direct” than seeing the red ball with our own eyes, it does just as well deserve to be described as “seeing” it. The only difference is that we’re not seeing with our eyes but more with our brains. How awesome is that?

Where was I?

Yes, you might be wondering what this has to do with software. Well, all that long digression was to show that little data is necessary to infer a lot about the object you’re observing. So code coverage? Sure, it’s just a number, but combined with a few other numbers, it can help get a reliable picture of software quality.

Another point I’d like to make is that a lot of resistance to software metrics comes from the illusion that we know a lot more about our own code than any tool can tell us. But as anyone who has ever tried to read code he wrote only five years ago knows, that is delusional. What you know about your code is a combination of what you remember and what you intended to write, neither of which is particularly reliably representative of what your code is doing. Tools give us a much more reliable picture. Sure, it’s a narrow projection of the code and it doesn’t capture its full reality, but that is exactly the point of a measure: to project a complex object along a scale of our choosing. What set of projections you choose to make is what determines their relevance.

The conclusion of all this is that we should assume that our code is an unknown object that needs to be measured, like that big ball of gas 150 light years away, if we want to get an objective idea of its quality without having our judgment clouded by our own assumptions.

And probably the best tool you can use to do exactly this by the way is NDepend by Patrick Smacchia.

Archived comments

  • lkempe said on Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Excellent post Bertrand!
  • WaltB said on Saturday, November 14, 2009

    One heck of an article for an early Saturady morning. You made my brain function way before it usally does on the weekend. I especially relate to the lst few paragraphs, thanks
  • Alessandro said on Sunday, November 15, 2009

    nicely said. I agree that tools can help reduce the overall maintainence costs one will eventually endure in the long run. Unfortunately the illusion you mention about one knowing the code they write better than any tool can is a tough challenge to overcome. Also the learning curve of yet another tool to master is a demotivator and will most certainly hold you back. Thanks for the tip. NDepend indeed looks good. I'll keep a look out for it.
  • Julien said on Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Nice post! It kinda sounds like a bait and switch advertising for NDepend at the end there but that made me check it out...
  • Billy Mays said on Sunday, November 15, 2009

    That's the longest, most scientific, and graph-adorned info-mercial I've read in a long time, leading up to ... a sales pitch for a commercial product. The more I see on the internet, the more it looks like paid programming on TV. At least TV sets have a "brightness" control. The internet just keeps getting dumber and there's no knob to make it brighter. Now, isn't the government taking action against paid bloggers, Bernie????
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Sunday, November 15, 2009

    @Billy, that's a serious accusation you're making here. No, I'm not getting paid to write this. Not by Patrick at least.
  • Matt said on Monday, November 16, 2009

    Excellent article! An exquisite representation of applied physics!
  • Marcel Popescu said on Monday, November 30, 2009

    It is so annoying when I see science taking credit for good old engineering. Our God is awesome, they say. (Well, they say science, but there's really no difference in their minds.) Oh well. This too shall pass. (Oh, and the idea of a planet revolving around its Sun every 3.5 days is... mind-boggling. I'm pretty sure it would have to be within the Sun corona, which leads to all kinds of contradictions.)
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Monday, November 30, 2009

    @Marcel: WHAT??
  • Marcel Popescu said on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    "The Rube Goldberg device that enables us to see that big ball of gas from so far away is a mix of optics, electronics and knowledge, the latter being the really awesome part. Science is awesome." The part that actually works in that Rube Goldberg device is old-fashioned engineering. The part that invents planets revolving in a Sun's corona is science. Science is stupid, usually - it proves that rocks can't fall from the sky, airplanes can't fly and trains going faster than 30 mph will kill their passengers. That doesn't mean I'm not with you on NDepend, btw :P
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    @Marcel: so you are saying that there is no planet there if I'm following you? What are your objections based on and what's your alternative explanation? I'd like to see good references for those claims you're making about what science allegedly proved. Even if those weren't the assertions of people who thought they knew more than they did (and thus were largely out of the strict bounds of science), you seem to be forgetting about one essential quality of science that many other disciplines could learn from: it is self correcting and knows its own limits. Your claim by the way that there is no difference between God and science in the minds of scientists is so outrageous and wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin.
  • Marcel Popescu said on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    So... you want references to something that you've already decided you're going to ignore? Why would I bother, then? I'm not objecting to people clinging to their faith (I do it with mine), just to the reification of science (Firefox proposes "deification" here... funny). As for the last statement... I find it so amusing I myself don't know where to begin. (Honestly? You know of scientists who don't treat science as God? Maybe you haven't tried to publish something that disagrees with current dogma.) I'll try this great quote from Lewontin: --- Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. --- [I really don't want to hijack your blog - I subscribed to it because I generally like the subjects you choose to write on - so, if you prefer to take this offline, just delete this reply. If you want to continue it, email me at mdpopescu at gmail.]
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    @Marcel: not at all, don't assume I'm going to ignore what you have to offer. It would go against who I am. I care a lot about this sort of thing. I think this debate is relevant to this post so it's ok to have it here. Some people may be confused about what science really is, but that only tells you something about these people, not about science itself. I, and all real scientists, treat scientific methods for no more and no less than what they are: methods to find out stuff about the natural world. It is always clear that any knowledge found using these methods is only valid within a margin of error (which can be quantified) and within a set of assumptions. So actually no, I don't know any scientist who treats science as God. Anyone can challenge any assumption and provide a better explanation for any new or existing phenomenon, but there are conditions that proponents of pseudo-science usually forget: the new explanation has to work better than the previous one in that it needs to explain more observations or to explain existing ones with better precision or in a simpler way. It also has to be falsifiable which is oh so important and so often overlooked by enemies of science. So there is no dogma in science, nothing that can't be challenged, as long as you do so within the boundaries of scientific methods. If you want to challenge a scientific idea *outside* of the boundaries of scientific methods by the way, that is perfectly fine. What you can't do is call it science or expect the scientific community to adopt it. Or teach it in science class. The current consensus is challenged all the time with great enthusiasm: Darwin challenged the consensus, as did Gallileo, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, Dirac, de Broglie, Zurek and so many others. In my own time and without the genius of those, I published a few articles in scientific journals that were proposing a different way of understanding quark confinement that was going against the relatively complex current consensus which relies on quantum chromodynamics. It may not have been very successful as far as scientific ideas go, but I can tell you I didn't face any dogmatic opposition from any scientific "establishment" because of it. Getting those paper published in major peer reviewed journals was absolutely easy. Sooo, can you please provide specifics: - "patent absurdity of some of [science's] constructs": what constructs? - "[science's] failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life": what promises? - "the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories": what stories? And for the punchline: "we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated". Well, nobody is forcing you, but what Lewontin is omitting to mention is the predictive power and the unparalleled precision of scientific results. We don't just accept a scientific discovery because it's flattering to whatever view of the world we have (scientists actually have all sorts of those when they don't do science). We accept it because it matches verifiable observations. Also, you haven't answered my previous questions.
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Coincidentally, Ars has an excellent article today on how scientific consensus emerges:
  • Marcel Popescu said on Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Ok, I appreciate your permission, I'll try to take them in order. (Again, deleting my replies is just fine, I realize this is YOUR blog and I really DO appreciate your patience.) 1. No, I don't believe there's a planet, based on the 3.5 days periodicity you mention. As I said, such periodicity would seem to put the planet inside the star's corona, which would melt the alleged planet. 2. --- The idea that stones can fall out of the sky was scornfully denounced by the Académie as an unscientific absurdity. Antoine Lavoisier, for example, the father of modern chemistry, told his fellow Academicians, "Stones cannot fall from the sky, because there are no stones in the sky!" The concept of meteorites was thus condemned as nothing but medieval illusions and old wives' tales. Embarrassed museums all over Europe, wishing to be seen to be part of this enlightened 'Age of Reason', hurriedly threw out their cherished meteorite collections with the garbage as humiliating anachronisms from a superstitious past. Although the last two decades of the eighteenth century saw scientists such as Peter Pallas and Ernst Florens Chladni, risking ridicule by the scientific community through the serious investigation of meteorites, most scientists shared Isaac Newton's view that that no small objects could exist in the interplanetary space. An assumption that left no room for rocks or stones falling from the sky. --- 3. --- Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England made a forceful declaration. "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible," --- 4. I remember reading the stuff about trains when I was little, but unfortunately I cannot find anything related to it on Google, so I'll give up that point. 5. Of course, the pre-emptive response you made to this is "scientists can be wrong, but that's not the fault of science". Besides the fallacy of reification (science is whatever scientists do, no more and no less), that's exactly what I was pointing out: science can never be wrong, it's a god. (Even when it "self-corrects" - again, reification.) In other words: science can be shown to HAVE BEEN wrong, in the past, but the current science is always right. This IS how science is treated by its apologists - including yourself. How could it be otherwise? How could the scientists' ex-cathedra pronouncements have any force if they would preface them with "I could be wrong, but I believe that..."? 6. Ahhh... real scientists, so called because they only exist in books and movies. In this world, as can be seen from too many examples to count, the latest being the climategate fiasco, scientists are only interested in clinging to dogma at the expense of anything else. 7. "... the new explanation has to work better than the previous one in that it needs to explain more observations or to explain existing ones with better precision or in a simpler way." Heh. You do know that Ockham's Razor was used by a monk to prove that God created the Earth and everything on it, that being the simplest explanation - right? Let's take another example dear to me (astronomy is such an easy target): in order to account for problems with their experiments, astronomers invented dark matter AND dark energy, which are allegedly more than the known matter and energy by a factor of 100 (I think), and which - pretty much by definition - can never be experimented upon. You were saying? 8. The consensus CAN be challenged. (Darwin didn't challenge anything, but points for trying.) However, doing that will get you cast out of the scientific community - to use a less politically-charged example, ask the cold fusion guys. In fact, try publishing a paper supporting - or even RECOMMENDING FURTHER STUDY ON - any of the forbidden fields: cold fusion, the electric theory of the universe, intelligent design, problems with the theory of relativity, psi phenomena, Velikovsky's theories... Anything that you're already dismissing as pseudo-science. (Of course it's pseudo-science, because scientists refuse to study it. Once they are forced to do so, it becomes science, which again proves science to be always right. Weird how that works.) Your last questions should be directed to Lewontin (a scientist), not me :) Well, the "verifiable observations" part was absolutely rich (re-read the parts about astronomy above).
  • Marcel Popescu said on Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    "Coincidentally, Ars has an excellent article today on how scientific consensus emerges:" Yep, "lies for children" really sums it up :)
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    @Marcel: you did understand that "lies for children" is only used in the article about "how we use simplifications to gently approach underlying scientific principles", not about the much more complex underlying scientific principles in question, right? 1. If you had followed the link on the graph (, which I admit wasn't discoverable enough, you'd have seen that this is addressed by the authors: "[...] the effective temperature of the planet is Tp 1400(1 - A)1/4 K. This implies a thermal velocity for hydrogen of vt 6.0 km s-1. This is roughly a factor of 7 less than the calculated escape velocity of ve 42 km s-1, confirming that these planets should not be losing significant amounts of mass due to the effects of stellar insolation." Not sure what you mean by "melt" anyways, seeing this planet is made of gas. So you haven't provided a good reason to doubt the conclusions of the article nor have you provided a better explanation for the observed data. 2. Ah, a truly remarkable story of science actually that led Lavoisier to do the first chemical analysis of a meteor even though he was refusing its heavenly origins. While he was a brilliant chemist, this shows that even the most brilliant minds can be mistaken and make wrong assumptions. It took about ten years to the scientific community from the first publication of the idea that meteorites were rocks from space to the acceptance of the theory by most of the scientific community under the influence of Biot, also a member of the Académie. Ten years is not very long for such a revolutionary idea at a time when most still believed that the skies were just the site of heaven and the permanent residence of God. It took longer for Einstein's relativity and for quantum mechanics to reach acceptance... 3. Yes, that is one more example of lack of imagination from a brilliant scientist. But his assertion although undeniably short-sighted, was more understandable when one knows the limits of the steam engines of his time and how you'd have to scale it to power a flying machine big enough to lift a man into the air. The internal combustion engine (ironically invented around the same time Kelvin uttered that sentence) is one of the innovations that enabled the Wright brothers to prove him wrong shortly thereafter. Still, he was wrong, sure. 4. You don't need to concede that one. It is true that there was fear that the speed of trains would cause blindness or madness, but this had nothing to do with science whatsoever. Quite the reverse, it was superstition and fear of progress. 5. I did not write that exact quote but you are right that these anecdotes don't prove anything beyond that scientists can be wrong. You got how science and scientists relate to each other backwards though: a scientist is anyone who does science, but science is not whatever scientists do. For example, when a scientist brushes his teeth, that's not science. Then you do a wonderful syllogism: "science can never be wrong, it's a god". Allow me to paraphrase: "science can never be wrong" (by the way, your words, not mine, I actually forcefully disagree with such an absurd assertion), "God is never wrong" therefore "science is a god". Science is actually often wrong, and it is always incomplete. It has therefore little in common with a god. Actually, it's the first time I hear about a "self correcting god": if God is never wrong, why would He need to correct himself? So if I follow your drift, I accept to be proven wrong and to correct myself, therefore I'm a god? Then you say "the current science is always right". Again, your words, not mine. This is of course very wrong and a gross carricature. No, this is not how I treat science. I have no idea what could have led you to think such a thing. It's actually quite stunning how you constantly use religious vocabulary to paint a deformed picture of science. "Ex cathedra" originally applies to the teachings of the Roman Catholic pope, who was until recently declared infallible and of absolute authority, whereas one of the basic principles of science is *not* to rely on arguments of authority. You'll also be hard pressed to find any scientist who declares himself infallible. They do declare that they could be wrong all the time: again that's one basic principle of science that an idea can only be declared scientific if it's falsifiable. 6. Climategate? Enlighten me. There is an immense variety of motivations that push people to do science. I'd be interested in having the name of even one who does it to "cling to dogma at the expense of anything else". Not that there aren't horrible people in science, I really want to know. 7. Ah, but you seem to assume that Occam's razor is the only principle used in science. As if using it and nothing else ensured a scientific result. It is actually debatable (and debated to this day) that God creating everything can be described as simple. And of course that seemed to be the simplest of the explanations available at the time because there wasn't much competition for it... Let me borrow an example from Feynman: to explain the movement of planets, you can hypothesize that they have a natural tendency to motility, a tendency that you could call "oomph". It would be difficult to find a simpler "explanation", except that it's not an explanation at all. The real explanation (at least the one that is the most accepted today) is that all forms of energy curve spacetime in such a way that what is the closest analogue to a straight line becomes the elliptical trajectory that we observe. That's hardly simple, but as far as we know it's the simplest explanation *that works*. The difference is quite subtle, and you could easily argue that there is some oomph-ness in there (why do objects naturally follow straight trajectories for example?). What makes the huge difference is that it works, by which we mean that it matches the observations to a great precision and that it can be used to make predictions that can be confronted against new observations. Oomph? Not so much. About dark matter, this is an example of a place holder in science. It's one case where what scientists are really saying is that they have some observations that don't match the current theories and they don't know what's causing it but it's *as if* some unknown form of energy was causing it. But there is lots and lots of debate, and there is no consensus today on the true nature of the phenomenon. So there you have it: an example of the scientific community accepting data above the currently accepted knowledge and freely debating all ideas to explain it. The consequence of this is not that everything we knew until now becomes false. What we knew still works and is still predictive at the scales and under the conditions where it was tested before. It's just that we now know for sure that our knowledge was incomplete (not that we didn't know it was, but that's evidence now) and doesn't apply on the scales where we observe "dark energy" or what looks like it. But "dark energy", like "black holes" and "big bang" are actually good examples of "lies for children" that we use as oversimplifications of what we know is a lot more complicated and subtle. To close on dark matter, why do you think this can never be experimented upon? I think you're showing the kind of lack of vision that Kelvin showed in his time... 8. What do you mean Darwin didn't challenge anything? Didn't he challenge the consensus of his times that all species had been created as they are today? You are right that evolution has become politically charged but the creationist and intelligent design communities are largely responsible for that. It doesn't prevent almost all of modern biology to be based on evolution theory and to make amazingly useful discoveries every day while ID proponents are still looking for a compelling challenge against the mountain of evidence in favor of it. I'm guessing that you are referring to Ben Stein's Expelled movie, which is well analyzed on this site: The example of cold fusion is also quite good: the scientific community has actually very enthusiastically embraced the idea at first. That is, until nobody succeeded in reliably replicating the claimed results. Nothing to build a conspiracy theory on really. Your claim that it can't be investigated and that you can't publish on it doesn't resist scrutiny: see for some references. Can you please cite names of people who have been thrown out of academia for investigating something like that? The electric universe hypothesis has been examined and it just doesn't match observations. See for example Intelligent design? What exactly is there to debate? Seriously, because I'm pretty sure that for any ID claim you can find, I'll be able to find a peer-reviewed paper dispelling it honestly and scientifically. Notice that I'm saying pretty sure, not absolutely certain, just because that it happened flawlessly in the past doesn't prove it will continue to happen. And of course there is the "god of the gaps" problem with ID... Problems with the theory of relativity? Again, I'll ask you to be more specific, because there are many such problems, some of which are real, and some of which are imaginary, but all of which to my knowledge have been addressed or are currently being studied. Its incompatibility with quantum field theory for example is very real, very much studied. Vibrant field. Guaranteed Nobel prize for whoever solves the problem in fact. Psy phenomena: extraordinary claim, so first prove there are such phenomena. You can make a million dollars if you do by the way. This has been studied ad nauseam actually and continues to be studied, if only because it would be so exciting if it worked. So far it just doesn't under controlled conditions. It could mean two things unless I'm missing something: that there is nothing to study, or that controlling the conditions somehow kills it. If there is an objective phenomenon going on, there has to be a way of objectively observing it and distinguish it from any other known natural explanation (that's what we mean by objective). The guy who finds that way is guaranteed instant glory within and without the scientific community. He will not only have made an extraordinary discovery, he will also have advanced the set of scientific methods, which is sure to lead to other extraordinary discoveries. And I can tell you, there is nothing that could excite a scientist more: you seem to think scientists are extremely conservative people whereas in reality what most commonly drives them is the excitement of finding something new. Velikovsky: I had to look that one up, to great shame. It looks interesting (cataclismic events that have evidence in the geological record, sure, that sounds reasonable) exept that the claim of planetary collisions within humanity's time on Earth doesn't match what we know of celestial mechanics to my knowledge even taking into acount chaotic effects and the known margins of error. But I could totally be wrong on that. Then again, where is the extraordinary evidence for those extraordinary claims? How does it work better and how is it simpler than other explanations for the origin of myths? It does look very much like a bunch of crazy ideas and desperate attempts to make cherry-picked factoids confirm them. Again, I know nearly nothing about Velikovsky but it seems like illustrious scientists have spent the time to examine the claims, while Velikovsky himself doesn't seem to have made the effort of submitting his work to normal scrutiny by his peers, so what exactly is the problem? Actually, I will concede gladly that ad hominem attacks, even against the author of questionable theories, are just plain wrong. Can we agree that some hypotheses are just not worth pursuing after careful examination and confrontation with observation, before we start examining whether it's fairy dust that makes birds fly? But mmmh, what exactly did I call pseudo-science in my previous comments? What exactly are scientists "refusing to study"? I think the community is actually spending disproportionate amounts of time examining outrageous claims despite the usual rule that the burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim. About your quote and the questions I had on them, why did you make that quote if you don't know what he meant by that or don't stand behind what you think it means? I absolutely stand behind the thing about "verifiable observations". Including in astrophysics. I can explain if necessary but this comment is already way too long. Would you mind my extracting my comments and yours into a post once we are done arguing? Cheers and thanks for the honest debate, I really appreciate it even though I realize I may sound harsh at times.
  • Marcel Popescu said on Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    No, I absolutely would not mind if you write another post on the subject :) Let's see if I can answer again... 1. By "melt" I mean that a planet within a Sun's corona, at 10 million kelvin or more, will melt even if it's not a gas giant. 2 - 5. So, scientists can be wrong. Let's see what happens then - next point is perfect here. 6. Really? You haven't heard of climategate? Weird that. So - what happens when scientists are wrong? Well, as common sense tells us, they falsify data. (I'll add another example later.) 7. The curvature of spacetime does NOT work as an explanation. Why so many people accept something so obviously wrong beats me. As an obvious counter-example, take two ships in the same orbit, one a few kilometers ahead of the other. Pull a rope between them and tension it - is it straight or curved? If the "straight" line is supposed to be curved, you shouldn't be able to get a straight rope. Dark matter / energy - this is exactly what Kuhn explained: science does not falsify theories, as Popper claimed; instead, scientists keep adding ad-hoc explanations to support obviously false theories (false = they don't match observations) until the old generation of scientists dies out and the new one can replace the incorrect theories. (This doesn't always happen, of course - sometimes it takes more than a generation.) 8. There are half a dozen theories of evolution, some of them thousand of years old. Darwin did not challenge the consensus of *scientists* that species were pretty much unchanged, that was the layman's opinion. The current scientific consensus tended towards metamorphosis - a theory from ancient Greece. I've been a creationist for about 20 years... let's not go there, I've studied this subject too extensively and it would be boring for me to recap it all. Cold fusion: so, experiments cannot reproduce the initial claims. Ignoring the fact that the theories in astronomy don't work, so they had to be propped up by dark matter / energy - a very similar situation as far as I can tell - US Navy researchers seem to disagree: Electric universe - if you think that pitiful page addresses the wealth of articles on and the books they published... well, as I said, to each his own (faith) :) ID - nothing to debate, as far as I'm concerned. The idea of something from nothing, and of complex from simple, is so extraordinary that extraordinary evidence is required. Weirdly enough, we don't even have *ordinary* evidence - there is absolutely nothing in that column. No abiogenesis, no real speciation, no solution to Haldane's dilemma, no solution to the No Free Lunch theorem... nothing. However, ex cathedra, as I said, rules the day. Theory of relativity: gravity has a speed calculated to be at least 10^10 times higher than c (see van Flandern). Black holes make no sense. (Infinite density is something that can be expressed mathematically, but physically it makes no sense.) GR says that you can't synchronize watches moving in different non-inertial frameworks... yet GPS does that all the time. The space-time curvature is used to explain gravity by positing an infinite rubber sheet on which you place a planet... and as a result the sheet curves down. (Why? Because gravity pulls things down, of course! Some things are so ridiculous I can't stop but wonder if I'm the victim of a hoax.) I won't even go into the QM contradictions. Psi phenomena: yep, I know about Randi's one million dollar prize. How weird that he's the sole judge of the claims, then. How weird that he's a known liar according to one of his former colleagues - (this is the second example of scientists falsifying data) Velikovsky - I strongly recommend that you read for more on this and other subjects. If you're not willing to pay $5 for it, let me know and I will, if you want to read it. Some hypotheses not worth pursuing - you must be unfamiliar with the Ig Nobel prizes, then. - yea, those scientists do a lot of important research, can't bother them with trivial stuff. "About your quote and the questions I had on them, why did you make that quote if you don't know what he meant by that or don't stand behind what you think it means?" Because it was a scientist candidly explaining scientists' position - they will accept anything, no matter how absurd, just to cling to dogma. (He said "to refuse to accept the supernatural", but that's not the only case, as can be seen from Climategate for example.) Oh, and I just remembered something about the electric universe. If you read through the archive at, you will discover that scientists are surprised EVERY FREAKING TIME by the results of their experiments. In other words, they have no clue on what's going to happen, or why. So much for verifiable observations in astrophysics.
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Just found some fun ammo for you, @Marcel ;)
  • Marcel Popescu said on Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Heh, cool, thanks :)
  • Marcel Popescu said on Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Just to check... you did receive my *previous* post - the huge one :) right? I ask 'cause I posted it before you wrote the "some ammo" post above, and it hasn't shown up. (If you decided to stop the discussion and delete it, that's fine, I just want to make sure it wasn't stopped by some spam filter or something.)
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Thursday, December 3, 2009

    @Marcel: mmh, no I did not. That sucks. The spam filter has done that in the past, so I'll try to find it... You wouldn't have a copy by any chance?Found it. It was marked as spam.
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Friday, December 4, 2009

    Sorry for the spam filter incident. Believe me, if I was to unilaterally stop this discussion, I would leave you the last word, and I would certainly not silently delete a message you obviously took considerable time to write. 1. My question was more how do you melt a gas? Isn't melting the change of state from solid to liquid? But I think I get what you were trying to say. The corona extends for more than 10 million kilometers, which certainly includes that planet, seeing that according to the data in the article and Kepler's third law it should be less than 7 million kilometers away from the center of the star. Now the thing is that "in spite of its high temperature, the corona yields relatively little heat because of its low density" ( What really counts here is the energy flow from the star onto the planet, and as the authors of the article show, it's not enough to counter the escape velocity from the surface, ensuring relative stability. It should also be pointed out that many objects in the universe exist in unstable states. 6. This is not a subject I know especially well so I avoid talking about it until I have time to look at the science and make an informed opinion, but from what I've seen it seems to have morphed into an arms race of exaggeration and blatant lies from both sides. It looks very difficult to dig out all the dirt and find where the real science is if you're not a specialist on the topic so I won't comment because I just don't know. Ars has an interesting view on the topic: From that it seems like fraud is not proven on closer analysis. Even if it was there are other piles of evidence from other sources that reach similar conclusions. But sure as a general rule, data falsification and cherripicking, manipulation & suppression of evidence, ad hominem attacks: bad, bad and unscientific behavior. The nice thing is that they do get caught and discredited eventually. Again, I see only scientists having unscientific behavior. When there is proof of that, there should be consequences (their careers should be ended). Now jumping from that case (which implies how many people by the way?) to the conclusion that there is a global conspiracy and that science doesn't work, isn't that a little excessive? Time will tell, but that should be an interesting case of observing how the scientific community can or cannot work under considerable political pressure. 7. I'm sorry to say that, but you do not understand what a four dimensional geodesic is. The geodesic is not the three dimensional trajectory in space, and the 3D trajectory is not a 3D geodesic. You're also neglecting something very important here: except if the ships were spending fuel on keeping the tension on the rope, the rope would pull at them (just by virtue of what tension is) and change their orbits. I can recommend some general relativity books if you want to really understand it. On dark matter, you're mixing two things. The claim that it takes a new generation of scientists to adopt a new theory is true to an extent and it maybe it should be taken into account more in the scientific process, I don't know. But there are young new scientists entering all fields all the time, and they do publish, which is what really counts. The second thing is the claim that we're piling up ad-hoc explanations until they crumble under their own weight. When you look for a new theory, you try many things. How far you should push exploration in any given direction before abandoning it is tricky to figure out, but for all we know, the explanation might actually be complicated and messy. So you explore until you find. The science on this subject is just not done. You can't on the one hand blame scientists for refusing to explore any crackpot theory out there and on the other hand blame them for exploring in all directions. Oh, and actually there was a third claim in there, which was that scientists were trying to support theories that obviously don't match observations. I've addressed that before. First they don't match observation but only at the galactic and bigger scales, but they do match with great precision at the solar system and smaller scales, so there is no need to drop them at those scales: they work and have predictive power. Second, scientists *do* try to replace the "incorrect" (as if there was a final correct theory) theories with new ones that would scale better to the galactic scale. 8. I stand corrected, this actually reminds me of how Einstein built Relativity on top of the works of Lorentz, Poincaré, Michelson and many others. But it still seems like even though the idea of transformation of species was relatively accepted in the scientific community at the end of the nineteenth century, explaining it by natural selection wasn't the consensus before Darwin and Wallace, was it? On cold fusion, I don't understand what you're saying but that link is very interesting. That's actually great news: if they are right that instrumentation was to blame for the lack of reliable reproduction of the experiment's results so far, it should now be easy to reproduce those new results and great science will come out of it (see for another report from the ACS). It's also proof that you can reasearch the topic and publish on it. Thanks a lot. Electric universe: pitiful how? (other than the background color, which I will concede is pitiful) What specific argument does it not address? To save me hours going through, can you point me to one of those experiment results that are sure to surprise me? I love surprises. ID: Who is talking about "something from nothing"? The theory of evolution does not deal with the appearance of the first form of life (and even that was not "from nothing"). The science on that is still very far from done (which is fine), but it is being very actively investigated. It might actually remain relatively out of reach forever: even if you propose a credible mechanism, proving that's what really happened will be very hard. This being said, jumping from that to concluding that God did it seems a little premature. Can't we say that we don't know (yet)? I certainly don't. Speciation: Haldane: NFL: van Flandern: "Black holes make no sense": I'd be more open minded than you are here, but again any theory has a range of validity beyond which we just don't know or where another one may start to work better. As you approach Planck scales, we just know that we need something better, if only because there are fundamental incompatibilities with quantum field theories. What happens at the center of a black hole (or whatever name you choose to give to large stars when they have burned all their fuel and collapse) is simply not known. We have ideas, but we don't know. My opinion is that the singularity is never effectively formed and that yet unknown quantum gravity effects are what prevents it. But if it is one day proven that there is a singularity (which might happen because even GR allows for naked singularities under some conditions), it's fine by me. What defines a black hole by the way is not the singularity, it's the event horizon. Do horizons make sense to you? The sync thing is a little ridiculous, sorry: GPS actually work reliably *because* they integrate calculations based on GR (precisely, the dilatation of time because of the Earth's gravitational field). See for details. GR does not exactly say that you can't synchronize clocks, it actually explains how observers in different frames can reach an agreement and translate their perception of time to each other's frame, and it predicts when any given event will be perceived from each frame. It is actually meaningless to define two events as *exactly* simultaneous but you can say for each event exactly when it happens in each frame. The rubber sheet stuff is one of those lies for children. It's hard to visualize 4-dimensional space but the math is not that hard. Try it. What QM contradictions? Randi: what proof do you have that he falsified data? Plus, there's a lot more to win than Randi's million in showing paranormal activity under controlled conditions, as I've said. Velikowski: can you give me a hint on why I should read this book? From the sample chapters it looks like some kind of SciFi novel. How is it relevant? Yes, I know about Ig Nobel prizes. They're lots of fun. I'm not justifying funding those programs. But by what stretch of logic does the fact that people got funded to do ridiculous research on creating diamond film from tequila justify funding ridiculous research on recent collisions of Earth with Jupiter? Your quote: So that was actually an argument from authority. If that guy is a scientist, his opinion on science must be the Truth? I'll say it again. If there was objectively verifiable observation of a "supernatural" phenomenon, it would immediately stop being supernatural, it would become natural and an object of scientific investigation. Now if a phenomenon cannot be objectively verified, either it doesn't exist or it is not an object of scientific investigation. Which is fine: science doesn't need to have an answer to everything.
  • Marcel Popescu said on Friday, December 4, 2009

    Hmm... something weird is happening when I try to post an answer (I get redirected to the home page). I can email it to you, or we can call it a draw :)
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Friday, December 4, 2009

    @Marcel: feel free to send me your comment in e-mail (bleroy you know where). I have no idea what happened here: redirection to home is a new one.
  • Marcel Popescu said on Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Ok, I just *had* to give you this link... I haven't laughed so hard in a while. Sorry about the off-topic (or is it? :P)
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Sunday, December 6, 2009

    @Marcel: that is truly epic! Thank you so much for that link.
  • Bertrand Le Roy said on Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    For some reason, Marcel's latest comment won't get accepted by Community Server. It's not that it's marked as spam, it's just that it disappears. Proof of the existence of black holes? So I'll include his comment myself, and I'll answer inline... I'd like to make a number of meta-points before I begin going through the details though... 0.1 Intuition and common sense, on which you rely a lot to counter scientific results, are very poor guides. They are very easy to fool consistently (many people actually make good living out of it), and are systematically wrong on plenty of very real, very reproducible effects that scientific theories explain in a much more reliable way. Not to say that intuition is not useful of course: I doubt any scientific breakthrough could be done without it, but it just can't be the final judge of what's true or false. 0.2 You seem to imply that when something works, it's engineering, not science. That is so convenient. Yes, when a scientific theory is successful, of course it's likely to be picked up and applied by engineers. That doesn't magically make it non-science. Science is knowledge that was found using a scientific method. It may or may not be used in enginering, that doesn't change anything. 0.3 Showing that this or that scientist -even famous and respected- committed fraud or the sin of not being omniscient doesn't invalidate scientific methods or scientific results and theories. It's just a form of ad hominem attack: attack the man instead of the ideas. It's also implying that if they've been wrong sometimes in the past, they are always wrong now and forever. This is an argument that is both insidious and wrong. 0.4 It's a well-known technique to introduce controversy where there's none, and to repeat arguments even after they've been discredited, in the hope that some uninformed listeners might be confused and believe arguments on both sides of an issue are equally relevant. It's just plain FUD. 0.5 Your insistence that science is a form of faith is another attempt to establish a form of relativism where all ideas are equivalent so you can just choose any system of thought and not be wrong in any absolute way. But unless you don't believe in an objective reality, this can't be right, by the very definition of science. 0.6 Strange how gods of the gaps work: if some phenomenon has not yet been explained by [pick the theory you love to hate], then your own favorite attempt at an explanation must be true. Marcel: 1. I'm not writing a scientific treatise :) Melt = sublimates, evaporates, whatever. I don't care how slow the transfer is - something immersed in a 10 million K thermostat gets to 10 million K eventually. The *speed* of the energy transfer can be low, but it's happening, and there's nowhere to lose that energy to (you cannot radiate heat into a hotter environment). Bertrand: Well, you might not care how slow the transfer is but it's important. And you *can* radiate heat into a hotter environment. I think you're trying to say that the balance will be positive and that the planet will have to heat up sooner or later. Temperature is an expression of the microscopic kinetic energy of matter. It represents that energy and nothing else. With extremely low densities comes extremely low conductivity. In other words, the corona can't transmit significant heat to an object as dense as even a gas planet over any reasonable period of time to bring it to its temperature. Consider this: to find one particle in the densest parts of the corona, you'd need on average to explore 1E16 cubic meters. On the surface of a gas giant, the density is about 5E25m^-3, in other words the planet is about 5E41 times denser than the corona. Take two gases, one 1E41 times denser than the other. The densest one is, say, at room temperature, and the least dense is kept at a few million degrees. And let's assume that the system is closed (which it isn't in our stellar case). How long do you think it will take for the dense gas to be heated by even a few degrees? You can also view it in terms of kinetic energy being transferred (because that's what it boils down to in the end). There is energy (radiation and matter's kinetic energy) being radiated by the sun, and a part of that flux hits the planet. Whether the planet is within the arbitrarily defined limits of the corona or not, if it radiates less than it receives (for example by trapping infrared because of too much greenhouse gases), it will heat up until it reaches a new equilibrium. At this new equilibrium, the thermal kinetic energy can be lower or higher than the escape velocity. It it is higher, the planet starts losing significant matter to its environment. To get back to the corona, the energy amount it represents is about 1/40000 of the total amount of energy the Sun radiates. In other words, it just won't affect the temperature of the planet significantly. It's the total flux of energy that will count and that will determine, together with the albedo of the planet, what the temperature at the surface will be. Of course, you also need to take into account that the energy flux for a planet of a given size decreases with the square of the distance. So if you receive X watts where the corona is hottest (about 500km above the photosphere if I'm not mistaken, which puts it about 1.4 million kilometers from the center), the flux of energy you'll receive at 7 million kilometers is going to be about 25 times smaller. Our intuition of temperature is a very poor guide to understand what happens both with extremely high temperatures and with very low densities. So when you have both, it's better to rely on scientific models. Looking at the energetic exchanges is the right way to look at the problem. Marcel: 2-6. So, as I said: when experiments disagree with the theory, scientists lie. I do not know of a case where this did NOT happen. Do you have an example where a long-accepted theory was disproved by experiments and the scientists said "oh, ok, we were wrong, let's cancel all the papers we've already published and start from scratch"? I do know of many cases where they lied - I pointed out two. Bertrand: Maxwell cancelled all we knew about electricity, magnetism and light. Relativity cancelled all the work that had been done on aether. Quantum theory cancelled all we knew about the atom. More recently, Zurek's theory of decoherence may well cancel the Copenhagen standard interpretation of quantum mechanics. Just to take a few examples, but I'm not the one making the broad claim here, you're the one claiming that scientists always lie. That's claiming that millions of people always lie, based on a few cherry-picked examples. Marcel: "Now jumping from that case (which implies how many people by the way?) to the conclusion that there is a global conspiracy and that science doesn't work, isn't that a little excessive?" Given that, in the cases we DO have information about, scientists will lie when experiments contradict accepted dogma, why exactly am I supposed to believe scientists about stuff I don't have information on? (Of course, this will generally happen on politically-charged subjects. I expect it to happen when it comes to vaccines and diseases, for example, but not when it comes to the melting speed of gold.) Bertrand: As I said, you are generalizing from a handful of cherry-picked debatable examples to millions of people. Marcel: 7. Your argument was: planets have the orbits they do because "all forms of energy curve spacetime in such a way that what is the closest analogue to a straight line becomes the elliptical trajectory that we observe". In other words, planets follow a straight line, but from the outside it can be seen that the line is curved (because spacetime itself is curved). As I have shown, that cannot work, because in the same spacetime conditions we can obtain a *real* straight line (that can be seen as straight both locally and from afar). Bertrand: No, as I said in the previous comment, what's a geodesic is the four-dimensional trajectory, not its 3-dimensional projection. The math is not very complicated and unambiguous. You should check it out. I've addressed your real straight line objection before as well. You have not shown anything except that you did not understand general relativity (which is fine, not that many people took the time to study it, and it's never too late). Marcel: I have encountered the "4 dimension" pseudo-explanation before. I'm fine with it. The problem is, that "the spacetime is curved in 4 dimensions, not 3" idea is now unable to explain why planets have an elliptic orbit *in 3 dimensions*. If the curvature is in 4D, and 3D is either unaffected or has a different shape, then why is the 3D orbit curved? Bertrand: It's not a pseudo-explanation, it's a model that works remarkably and verifiably well. Check out the math and you'll understand it. I did not say that spacetime is not curved in 3 dimensions: it is, just not the naive way you extrapolated. Just do the math. And check out the orbit of Mercury: it works where Newtonian mechanics fail. Marcel: Personally, I find the idea of different densities of aether (aka spacetime) being much more acceptable, and I can easily find out through experiment that light will bend when going through a material that has variable density. Bertrand: I can see how that may seem seducing and variations of density can indeed bend light, but aether just doesn't work. Different "densities of spacetime" is actually not very far from what general relativity is expressing, but if what you mean is variations of density of matter of any kind in an absolute background spacetime, there's plenty of evidence that it's wrong. And what kind of matter are we talking about that it works away from quasars an stars? Dark matter? Marcel: In fact, I have read an article claiming that all the "bending" effects that have actually been observed can be very easily verified / predicted by such a theory (variable density of the spacetime continuum). I'm not a scientist (yuck), so I cannot verify the theory, but I find it plausible. When choosing between plausible and magic (energy somehow warps something that doesn't really exist), I always go with plausible. Bertrand: Reference please? Plausible is not enough. Magic? Somehow? Space doesn't exist? Again, WHAT? Your assertion that you "always go with plausible" against "magic" is contradicted by your adherence to creationism and to the belief in recent collisions of the Earth with Jupiter. Marcel: "You can't on the one hand blame scientists for refusing to explore any crackpot theory out there and on the other hand blame them for exploring in all directions." I'm not blaming them for exploring, exactly for the opposite. Most scientists do not explore anything; they, in the words of Kelvin if I'm not mistaken, look for the next decimal. It doesn't rock the boat, so it's safe. Bertrand: I've consistently given you examples of scientists "rocking the boat" and you've systematically dismissed those with your selection of crackpot theories that you choose to believe against all evidence. But true or false, the theories I've cited *have* effectively overturned the previous consensus. When was the last time a Nobel prize was awarded for "following dogma"? I see quite a lot on the other hand rewarding scientists who revolutionized their field. I think you misunderstood Kelvin on this one. First, he might have been a genius, but that doesn't make everyting he said true. Second, what was true at his time isn't anymore: computers have been invented since then and have freed an army of scientists from pushing numbers and finding the "next decimal," allowing them to turn their attention to more profund things. Finally, for all we know, the next decimal might actually be the one that disproves the current version of quantum field theory, or general relativity, or whatever. So it might actually seriously rock the boat. Marcel: Finally, I don't have a problem with theories where they can be verified (solar system scales), but where they are obviously contradicted by facts (galactic scales). We didn't receive GR from God, so I can't figure out this insistence that GR applies everywhere in the Universe, at all scales. Say "GR applies locally, in our system, we don't yet have a theory for galaxies". Bertrand: GR applies locally, in our system, we don't yet have certainty on what is the right theory on a galactic scale. Not sure where I ever insisted "that GR applies everywhere in the Universe, at all scales". I certainly never thought that was the case. Marcel: 8. "But it still seems like even though the idea of transformation of species was relatively accepted in the scientific community at the end of the nineteenth century, explaining it by natural selection wasn't the consensus before Darwin and Wallace, was it?" If you call that explaining then you're correct :) Bertrand: I do. Marcel: Cold fusion: you still can't publish anything on the subject. The fact that the US Navy says it works is one thing; try publishing a paper saying you verified the experiment in your basement, see how far that gets you. (Apparently the US Navy doesn't care about getting funding from the NAS, I guess.) Bertrand: I gave you a link to an article on that on the web site of the freaking American Chemical Society, which is just the largest scientific society in the world. And there's not a trace of antagonism to the findings. To cite the first sentence of the article: "researchers are reporting compelling new scientific evidence for the existence of low-energy nuclear reactions." How much more do you need to stop denying that you can publish on the subject? Here are a few for 2009 alone (took me about five minutes to find those): More here: There's also apparently an international conference on the subject with an advisory board composed of scientists working in renowned institutes: So if there is a conspiracy to suppress research in that field, it's being extremely inefficient... Marcel: Or, are you saying that only approved scientists should be allowed to challenge dogma? I think the saying was, there's nobody as blind as those who just won't see. Bertrand: Err no, never said anything of the sort. A scientific dogma is an oxymoron by the way. But you are right on your quote. Back at you. Marcel: Electric universe: here are some articles about scientists having no clue: Bertrand: More vague assertions, hand-waving, outright lies and quotations without references. All these links contain that is specific are phenomenons that were unpredicted, some of which remain unexplained. There is a difference between surprising, unexplained or unexpected and impossible to explain. There is also a difference between an unexplained phenomenon and one that is incompatible with the currently favored theory. The articles cites plenty of the former, none of the latter. "We have to come up with some new scenarios" is not the same thing as "we have to come up with a new theory". Not that it wouldn't be perfectly fine to do so. It happens frequently. To paraphrase the falsifiability article: there are phenomenons in the universe that are yet unexplained, therefore the universe is not electrically neutral. Uh? I did not deny that the current theories have problems: they do have problems (of which dark matter is just one manifstation), but you have to know that astrophysical plasma theories have been studied and not only did they fail to make useful predictions that the currently standard model do, they had their own fudge in the form of cosmic-scale plasma currents that were never observed. So it's a good thing these hypotheses were formulated, it's a good thing they were considered and studied and it's a good thing they were abandoned because they didn't work. See Astronomy and Astrophysics, Volume 495, Issue 3, 2009, pp.975-978 for more plausible explanations of the Holmes comet thing. See for PSR J1903+0327. And of course, see the reference above about the claims of an electrically charged sun in general (you'll find references in this one). All this is too bad because there is plenty of electromagnetism and plasma physics to be made on an astronomical scale (and it's beig done) but this stuff is deliberately misleading the public with pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Deliberately because they ignore the legitimate objections being made to their hypotheses. The goal of this site is not to create new science but to discredit science. And it fails. Marcel: This is quite interesting too: Bertrand: Well, the giant plasma flame hypothesis is quite grandiose. The whole thing is just wild speculation based on vague misunderstood observations. And of course not even an attempt to provide an actual model, just finger-pointing at real or imagined gaps. To paraphrase again, we don't know exactly how Phobos ended up there, so there must have been a huge plasma flame from wherever. Uh? Marcel: ID: I'm not jumping to "God did it", I start from there :) Hence the reason for requiring extraordinary evidence (not stories) for the contrary. Bertrand: Well, at least you admit that you start from unfalsifiable principles. I'm all for evidence and there's plenty. It's just that you choose to ignore anything that challenges your central dogma, whereas it is the duty of a scientist (and, dare I say, to a gentleman) to consider all reasonable challenges to the currently best accepted theory and to leave it without looking back if a new one accounts for observations better than it. Contrast that with some creationists publicly taking oaths that no evidence could ever change their dogma: 4.6 Marcel: The link for the Haldane's dillema is quite ridiculous. (Again, only someone with an apriori allegiance to the theory would not laugh reading it.) Here's how they "solve" the problem: "would probably" "would have" "many mutations affect more than one codon" ("more than one" would have to be "a few thousands" to account for the discrepancy) "let's double the difference" (yea, 'cause that's the problem, the difference between 3k and 1.5k, not between 1.5k and 10 million) "the computer simulations contradicting us are bad, ours are good" Bertrand: Skipping the fake quotes that you just made up. I know how unsettling it must be for you to find scientists who don't speak "ex-cathedra" and express, like they should, that no thoery is final and absolutely certain. For good memory, who said "How could it be otherwise? How could the scientists' ex-cathedra pronouncements have any force if they would preface them with 'I could be wrong, but I believe that...'?"? To get to specifics, you're not addressing Haldane's numerous invalid assumptions: when correcting those, you don't need "a few thousand" (oh, by the way, did the claim just shrink from 4E7 to a few thousand all of a sudden?). Just read to see in just how many ways Haldane was wrong (as he was well aware he might be). Marcel: Honestly? This is the best they can do? I mean, this is not even making an effort. Bertrand: Oh no, there's a lot more where this came from. Marcel: NFL: "Evolutionary algorithms work. They find solutions to many problems that are intractable with other methods." To anyone with ANY knowledge on the subject, the above is a blatant lie. For one thing, the issue was never about *working* - brute force will always work; the issue was about finding a "good enough" solution in a short enough time. For another thing, there are MANY heuristic algorithms, evolutionary ones are just a small part. (One I recently read about simulates an ant colony leaving "traces" behind as they search the space.) Bertrand: Sure there are other heuristic algorithms. Who claimed otherwise? The claim from creationists is that because evolutionary algorithms don't work better than brute force without injection of information, they can't explain complex information seen in life. See point #6: the environment is providing that information. That's natural selection. Marcel: Hmm. People lie. News at 11. Bertrand: True, especially to themselves. Marcel: (The whole page is as bad as the one about Haldane's dilemma. Honestly -if you just don't want to accept something, wouldn't it be more sincere to just say so, instead of making up these ridiculous excuses?) Bertrand: I'm perfectly willing to accept any real (as in not Oomph-like) theory that accounts for observations better than the current theory or what I currently think is the most plausible explanation to any phenomenon. I've done so numerous times. Are you? Marcel: van Flandern: I know about similar claims from Carlip; as far as I know, Flandern answers them here - . Anyway, no biggie, I was just enumerating subjects :) Bertrand: Nice, I happen to have known the second author of this paper, Vigier, in my previous life. I won't talk about the very weird things van Flandern used to believe, that would be ad hominem, but let's just say it doesn't inspire the greatest confidence in this one a priori. That the paper has been cited zero times, for good or bad, is also not a good sign. But let's ignore that as well for the sake of argument. I'm not married myself to a geometric interpretation of gravity and would accept anything that works better. Something that is compatible with quantum field theory for example. The problem with this article is that it contradicts what little measurements we have of the speed of gravitation, which so far indicate that it's close to the speed of light. We'll probably have to wait a few more years to have better data. There are indirect confirmations of gravitation propagating at the speed of light, for example the evolution of the orbits of binary pulsars: But to be fair this doesn't seem to be absolutely incompatible with van Flandern's theories. Interesting thread on this here: And here: Still, even if the conclusions of this article were correct (which they don't seem to be to me, but then again my GR is a little rusty), how does that make black holes impossibilities (that was your initial argument)? Marcel: Black holes: "My opinion is that the singularity is never effectively formed and that yet unknown quantum gravity effects are what prevents it." I'd go with common sense, myself. As I said, since infinite density doesn't make sense - it is self-contradictory - it means it doesn't exist. No need for unknown quantum gravity effects :) Bertrand: Infinite density is not self-contradictory: GR on its own would do quite well with them without losing consistency. My opinion is that it never happens but that's just an opinion. Marcel: "Do horizons make sense to you?" Absolutely none. Time is supposed to slow down the closer you get to the horizon, and stop once you touch it. (Or, from the other point of view, if you fall towards a horizon you see the universe moving faster, until it moves at infinite speed when you touch the horizon.) The conclusion is that nothing can EVER go past a horizon, so the black hole cannot actually ever gain mass. Since black holes are supposed to *lose* mass (Hawking evaporation), it follows that even a horizon would form, it would disappear pretty quickly. Bertrand: Well, horizons exist in other branches of physics and can be observed so I guess you're just lacking imagination here. No, time doesn't stop when you touch the horizon, and there is no infinite speed anywhere. From a stationary external reference frame, it seems to take infinite time to reach the horizon, but from a frame of reference that falls into the horizon, it takes finite time. I know it hurts your intuition but there are no contradictions here as doing the math would show you. But all this will soon be resolved as we are just about to resolve the surface of a couple of black hole candidates in the millimeter wavelengths. If horizons exist, you'll be able to see images of the dark disk, surrounded with characteristic mirages of the accretion disk. Marcel: Weirdly enough, I found an article saying that GPS and relativity are totally unrelated: . If he's right, that would be a wash :) Bertrand: Yeah, well, he's wrong: Marcel: Randi: I linked an article showing not that he falsified data (others did that), but that he lied about it (as I said). Bertrand: According to hearsay from one guy. Marcel: Velikovsky: sorry about that, my bad. The correct link would be Bertrand: A Holocaust denier? Really? Not sure I want to spend time researching what this guy has to say or to give him money. I did find this exceprt: Is that what you're referring to? Which of the assertions in there show something that is only explained by Velikovsky's ideas? Marcel: I especially like the first phrase, since it duplicates my position: "Science really doesn't exist. Scientific beliefs are either proved wrong, or else they quickly become engineering. Everything else is untested speculation." Bertrand: That some scientific knowledge becomes engineering is undeniable but what does it prove exactly, if not the success of those ideas? Marcel: "But by what stretch of logic does the fact that people got funded to do ridiculous research on creating diamond film from tequila justify funding ridiculous research on recent collisions of Earth with Jupiter?" I was just pointing out that the excuse that "scientists don't have the resources to research ridiculous ideas" doesn't actually work. Scientists research ridiculous crap all the time. It would be more useful, in my opinion, to research potentially *useful* ridiculous crap. Bertrand: Mmh, again you totally made up that quote. What I said was: "I think the community is actually spending disproportionate amounts of time examining outrageous claims despite the usual rule that the burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim." So I said quite the opposite of that quote you attribute to me. I won't even elaborate on the splendid strawman you built there. Marcel: "If that guy is a scientist, his opinion on science must be the Truth?" I don't know. If a banker tells me that bankers are thieves, should I believe him? If a shrink tells me all shrinks are nuts, should I believe him? In general, my answer tends to be yes :) If someone tells me something that puts him / his group in a bad light, I tend to believe him (because it appears he has less reasons to lie). Bertrand: Well, you're wrong. In any large group of people, you'll find people who loathe the group they belong to. Or at least parts of it. There are many reasons for that. Marcel: Of course, if you have any evidence that Lewontin was incorrect, by all means, let it out :) Bertrand: What is there to prove or disprove exactly in that quote? There is no reference to anything specific.