Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Unsettled Science

Global warming isn't "settled" science, but how about Einstein's theories?
Nothing goes faster than the speed of light. At least, we didn't think so.

New results from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland seem to break this cardinal rule of physics, calling into question one of the most trusted laws discovered by Albert Einstein.

Physicists have found that tiny particles called neutrinos are making a 454-mile (730-kilometer) underground trip faster than they should — more quickly, in fact, than light could do. If the results are confirmed, they could throw much of modern physics into upheaval.


Dean Baird said...

Where else but Fox do you get such a phrase as "cardinal rule of physics"? That made me laugh out loud! As fortune would have it, there are no cardinal rules in physics. Not even at Catholic universities.

More to the point, who is it working hard to up-end a well-established theory of physics? Is it those pesky chemists? Economists? Theologians? No, it's physicists. Always physicists; only physicists.

Who up-ended Piltdown Man? Creationists? No. Evolutionists!

And who is it working hard to up-end Climate Change? Not climate scientists. Economists, politicians, journalists, TV weather announcers. But not climate scientists.

As my friend, Neil deGrasse Tyson, says, “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”

In any case, scientists don't tremble with fear at the prospect of an established theory getting eviscerated. They delight in it!

allen (in Michigan) said...

Actually, tests of general and special relativity have been a staple of science.

Makes all sorts of sense if what you're trying to do is understand how the universe works.

But if your goal is to impose your views on your fellow humans then it's best not to look too closely, re-examine, question or doubt.

Darren said...

Sorry, Dean, but while I *link* to the article at Fox, it's actually from non-Fox LiveScience, which appears to have no affiliation to Fox at all. I've linked to their stories before via Yahoo.

And there are plenty of actual scientists, NOT of the Al Gore type, working to show that AGW theory is, uh, not quite there.

Try a different political angle.

MikeAT said...

Wrong Dean but there are "cardinal rule of physics". They're better know as laws of science.

I think we need to go over basic terms here (From

Hypothesis A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.

Sounds like Global Cooling, err Global Warming, or Climate Change to me.


A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. Therefore, theories can be disproven. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it's an accepted hypothesis.

Sounds like Theory of Relativity.


A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain 'why'.

Example: Newton's Law of Gravity. Newton could use this law to predict the behavior of a dropped object, but he couldn't explain why it happened.

As you can see, there is no 'proof' or absolute 'truth' in science. The closest we get are facts, which are indisputable observations....

The only people pushing something indisputable in science are the global warming people. They are the ones (the distinguished scientist ALGORE, the genius Prince of Wales, Ted Dansing, etc) who always, when challenged, go to the canard "it's settled science...."

Darren said...

Ohmigawd, Dean, look at the first 5 words of this AP report on MSNBC!

I hope AP and MSNBC meet with your political approval, unlike FoxNews. If not, perhaps you'll like NPR--I know you listen to them: .

Dean Baird said...

Take a breath, Darren. You got so excited when a local art news item appeared in, among other places, a local NPR site. You characterized it as "where else but NPR" but refused to publish a comment showing many other media outlets that ran the story.

The term "cardinal" brought "Cardinal" to my mind. Since there are no Cardinals in science, we cannot have cardinal rules. But more importantly, there are no cardinal rules in science. The ballyhoo in media stories is nothing more than ballyhoo typical of media stories.

MikeAT, you know what isn't an accepted model of gravity? Newton's Law of Gravity. Einstein's General Relativity long ago replaced it. Actual rocket scientists use General Relativity rather than Newton's Law of Gravity. Your source is not one used by scientists and is woefully out of date.

Nothing in science is safe from attack and replacement. The fact that something that some writer thought was a "law" is not the currently accepted model should tell you that.

Naming something a law does not make it permanent or immutable. Science is not religion. Scientists celebrate new and better models once the evidence bears it out.

And I'm sure there are folks out there with advanced degrees in something who aren't on board with climate change. But climate scientists and every major professional science organization of every stripe acknowledges the reality of it. Sorry if it disappoints your politics, but the science of climate change is settled as far as scientists are concerned.

They would be delighted if anyone could show otherwise, but it simply hasn't happened. The evidence piles up in support; the scales are so imbalanced that a reversal's probability appears negligible.

Last year's conference on geocentrism ("Galileo was Wrong!"), rife with advanced degree-holders, completely failed to move professional astronomers off their strong stance on heliocentrism.

Darren said...

So Dean, *you* do the same thing you criticize *me* for? The horror!

What got you so worked up about this post? Is it that I tossed in a barb about global warming, that I linked to Fox, or that I posted something at all? I ask because I cannot understand what I posted that got you in such a huff.

Dean Baird said...

What huff? Nothing to huff about, after all.

XKCD had the best take on such pan flashes: bet $200 it doesn't hold up. If the startling finding holds up, it's worth losing $200 over. More likely it won't hold up, so there's an easy $200 to be made.

Darren said...

You still got worked up--was it because I had the audacity to mention the mistake? And one way or another, there *is* a mistake afoot.

Instapundit has this to say on the subject:
"SCIENCE: Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Results May Be Due to Bad Cables. See, when you build an expensive accelerator, you want to go with the Monster Cables. Sure, they cost more, but they save you a lot of embarrassment in the long run. . . ."

Dean Baird said...

It was fiber optic cable, apparently not screwed down tight. Sensitive experiments, these.

Whatever knicker-twisting you might perceive on my part is due to your jumping on the media bandwagon, speculating that the "settled science" pillars of physics were shattered right there in late September.

It appears the Shattering won't live to see its first birthday.

And you added nothing to your gravitas by hooking the sudden demise of General Relativity with the unreliability of climate science. (The "These scientists: how can you believe anything they say?" populism is unattractive anywhere outside Appalachia. To be honest, it doesn't look all that good in Appalachia. )

Darren said...

Read what I wrote again--my opening sentence was an entertaining "hook" to spark interest, after that I offered no commentary at all. Anything you see in addition to that is all in your own mind. I assert that you let your political leanings get the best of you here, exemplified by the very first sentence you wrote in your very first comment.