Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Back To The Science

After sifting through the What Is Science thread, this is where I'm at.


Science is about discovery. Not just about facts, but about using the facts to predict.

Whilst you all thought I was just babbling on about other things, I did actually use some of my time (in between sprints to the bathroom) to a little bit of investigation into science. I didn't do a great deal, frankly I didn't feel like it.

I hope all my science teachers here will forgive me for not studying too hard.

I think what we've talked about with Mr. Snuffleupagus in the driveway actually would correspond to The Scientific Method that I've seen described in various places (in the linked page at Zachriel's blog for instance).

To boil it down, we observe, we hypothesize and predict, we test, we compare the test results to the hypothethes and predictions, adjust our hypotheses and predictions and start over.

Is that a fair analysis of it?

What are some of the best and most clear examples in science today? The examples don't have to be in biology, they can be in astronomy or whatever. I want to really make sure I understand this before we move on to Chapter 1, Page 2.

My only request is that we try not to jump ahead to Chapter 42, Page 37 this time. You guys have all been at this biology thing for a while, and you tend to get way ahead of me. It's not that I lose interest so much, but it starts to run together and you lose me fairly quickly.

I'm going to pull the leash a little tighter on this thread, to keep it productive for me. You guys have a bazillion places to fight the culture wars, even some places on this blog that I've given over to the weeds. This thread is strictly for me and my understanding of science. Don't take it personally if your comments get bounced or pieces of them get edited out. I'm not making any judgements on what you have to say, just trying to keep it simple for myself, and "keep the collar on the jub jub bird" as blipey once said.


40 Eloquent Orations:

On 8/09/2006 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

JanieBelle: "What are some of the best and most clear examples in science today?"

In honor of your "The Big Honkin' Universe" thread, let me digress a bit first. Consider how we can use direct observations to verify scientific assertions. Someone claims the world is round. How could we directly verify this?

Watch the North Star over a few hours and nights. You will note it tends to stay in its relative position with the constellations circling around it. Measure the elevation of the North Star above the horizon. Now, get in your car and drive towards it; that is, take the interstate north. After a few hundred miles, check the position of the North Star. You will notice that it is now higher in the sky. Not only does this offer confirmation of the Earth's curvature, but you can even estimate the Earth's size! Just like Eratosthenes of Cyrene did more than two millenium ago (except without the car).

--
Now, to answer your question. We rarely directly repeat Eratosthenes' observation, though it is certainly possible to do so. Science tends to work on the margin of what is known in order to extend, limit or even falsify current theoretical understanding.

Let's consider what has recently been confirmed. In the early twentieth century, an astronomer named Hubble noticed that the light from distant galaxies were red-shifted. Combining this doppler-shift with other scientific data, he concluded that the entire universe was expanding and all the galaxies were moving away from one another; and further, that they were once all congregated together. Hubble established a measurement of the rate of this expansion, and consequently how long since the expansion had begun and how big the universe was.

This calculation has been very difficult and has relied on observations of Cepheid variables, and very rare supernovas. With the new Chandra satellite, which observes in the X-ray spectrum, the original values of the Hubble constant were confirmed and made more accurate. So, Hubble's observations of red-shifted starlight predicted the results of satellite X-ray observations made decades later.

When these sorts of confirmations are made, it gives us confidence in our conclusions. Of course, these new results will be subject to continued testing and refinement.

And yes, the Universe is Honkin' Big.

--

 

On 8/09/2006 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Lifewish waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

What are some of the best and most clear examples in science today?

One good example is gravitational theory. The first person to get the basic idea was of course Newton, who actually bothered to measure stuff and, as a result, produced a formula that worked extremely well if you were standing on the surface of a planet. (He also had to invent calculus to figure out how objects would move, but that's by-the-bye.)

Newton's model could also be used to calculate the motion of the planets themselves. You could plug in the weights for the Sun and the Earth and watch as elliptic orbits just fell out of the equations. This was very important, as it was only comparatively recently that the elliptic shape of planetary orbits had been figured out by Kepler. Newton's formula provided an elegant explanation for Kepler's observations.

However, it had problems. In particular, the orbit of Mercury that it predicted was demonstrably dodgy. Mercury suffers from an effect known as precession of the perihelion, which in terms of Newton's equations can only be considered to be Bad And Wrong. Various attempts were made to reconcile Newtonian theory with fact, but none worked.

A couple centuries later, along came Einstein. Einstein had already turned Newton's laws of motion on their head by formulating the Lorentz contraction in a very cool way. In inventing Special Relativity, he fully explained all the weird observations people had been making - an absolute speed for light, lack of ether, time dilation, etc.

He also threw up a whole new load of problems. It was obvious from the first that Einsteinian motion and Newtonian gravity. were in conflict. For example, in the Einsteinian model, gravitational forces couldn't travel faster than the speed of light, whereas, in the Newtonian model, they were assumed to be instantaneous. How on Earth does one reconcile these two?

The answer turned out to be: you don't. Einstein continued his trend of applying common-sense-defying mathematical models to physical phenomena. He came up with a formulation known as General Relativity. Basically, this said that, rather than attracting other objects, heavy masses were actually changing the definition of distance in such a way that these orbiting objects actually "thought" they were moving in a straight line.

Vitally, this model behaved exactly like Newtonian gravity in the vast majority of situations. However, when Mercury's details were plugged into the equations, a precession of the perihelion emerged as a natural consequence.

General Relativity also made a number of other predictions that have since been confirmed, in particular gravitational lensing and gravitational time dilation.

 

On 8/09/2006 10:12:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Zachriel:

You will notice that it is now higher in the sky.

Funny you should mention that. I've done this exact thing, only backwards and in a much more casual way. Going from Columbus, OH (where I'm from) to Jacksonville, NC, it' very obvious. The North Star is much lower in the sky, but Scorpio and The Teapot are much higher. It's very noticable.

Next time I travel home, I'll take some measurements. Kate and I have been looking for a nice (but not too expensive) telescope. We're trying to get one at least 4", but we want a quality one, not a toy.

It looks like we'll either end up with a Meade or a Celestron. If anyone has any thoughts on these two brands, please share.

Just like Eratosthenes of Cyrene did more than two millenium ago (except without the car).

That's a long walk. Are you absolutely sure he didn't use a car?

:)

So, Hubble's observations of red-shifted starlight predicted the results of satellite X-ray observations made decades later.

Both of these are great examples, thank you Zachriel.

I kinda get redshift pretty well, I think. It's like how the sound of a train whistle changes as the train goes by, right? Sort of like the Doppler Effect, but with light instead of sound?

Thanks again Zachriel.

Very helpful.

Kisses,
JanieBelle

 

On 8/09/2006 10:29:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Lifewish:

Vitally, this model behaved exactly like Newtonian gravity in the vast majority of situations. However, when Mercury's details were plugged into the equations, a precession of the perihelion emerged as a natural consequence.

Another good one. Kate and I have batted this around a bit.

The bottom line is that Newton was right, except in the prescence of something really really massive, like the sun or something. Mercury was an issue for Newton because it is so close to the sun.

Einstein took care of the stuff very close to really big massive things.

So in a way, Newton was right, but Einstein was "righter".

Right?

And if I understand it right, Einstein has issues when super close to something super massive (like a black hole) and scientists are working on that now. When they figure that out, they should have something that's "righterer" than Einstein.

And it seems like Quantum Mechanics might be a clue in that direction? I think I read somewhere that the answer might be in marrying Einstein to Quantum Mechanics.

And yep, Zachriel, the Universe really is Honkin' Big.

It's hard for me to really get the idea that stuff is so far away that even light takes billions of years to cross all that space.

Even the sun. Kate was just saying that the light from the sun takes several minutes to get here. If the sun blew up right now, we wouldn't even know about it for like ten minutes.

That's just hard to imagine. Then you start talking about that 1987 supernova. It "happened" here in 1987, but it was like millions of years ago there. And wasn't that in like the Andromeda galaxy, which I think is our nearest neighbor galaxy?

That whole "we're looking at galaxies so far away that we're seeing them right after the Big Bang 13 BILLION years ago" thing just boggles the mind.

And then they start talking about the universe being like 135 Billion light years across (referring back to the Big Honkin' Universe thread).

How do you even fit concepts like that in your brain?

(That's rhetorical. I'm having issues with those kinds of thoughts, but that's probably just me.)

Kisses to you both.

JanieBelle

 

On 8/09/2006 10:33:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

And then they start talking about the universe being like 135 Billion light years across

Actually, I just checked that thread, and the number in the article is "156 billion light-years wide".

The universe is even more Honkin' Big than I was trying (and failing) to imagine.

Ack.

 

On 8/09/2006 10:59:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Here's a cool on-topic link for you all to enjoy.

StarDate with Sandy Wood.

Very soothing voice, very elegant photo, and oh yeah, some good science stuff.

 

On 8/09/2006 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

JanieBelle: "Next time I travel home, I'll take some measurements."

If I remember, MIT Institute Professor Emeritus Philip Morrison did it as a demonstration by using a large board (the side of a boxtruck, I think) using a plumb-line or level to right the board. He and his students then drew a line showing the elevation of the North Star when viewed from different geographic locations. Add a dash of geometry to calculate the size of the Earth. (In other words, it doesn't take high-tech or even a telescope.)

Just found a reference, but alas, no picture.

Ring of Truth or How science knows what it knows: a Ryder rental van is turned into a mobile star-sighting observatory on a long voyage through Nebraska and Kansas as Morrison remeasures the size of the earth.

 

On 8/09/2006 11:08:00 AM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

JanieBelle: "StarDate with Sandy Wood."

Great site, by Jove. Use it all the time for naked-eye astronomy. Nothing for delightful than watching the Sun set, and then seeing the planets appear.

This week: The giant of the solar system, the planet Jupiter, highlights the southwestern sky this evening. It is fairly low at nightfall. It's easy to pick out, though, because it looks like an intensely bright star. It outshines everything else in the evening sky except the Moon.

 

On 8/09/2006 11:12:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

I was thinking one of those sextant things that sailors use. Can you still buy those things? If not, I suppose we could rig one.

 

On 8/09/2006 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Lifewish waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

So in a way, Newton was right, but Einstein was "righter".

Right?


Precisely. Science doesn't really do Truth; it does accuracy. Newton was more accurate than anyone who came before him, and Einstein was more accurate than Newton.

And if I understand it right, Einstein has issues when super close to something super massive (like a black hole) and scientists are working on that now. When they figure that out, they should have something that's "righterer" than Einstein.

Actually, that's pretty well handled by Einstein's equations - black holes were another of General Relativity's more impressive predictions. Where GR goes screwy is when you have something that's both very massive and very small - GR relies on a "smoothness" to the universe that doesn't exist at those scales.

Which is where Quantum Mechanics comes in. QM is devoted entirely to those small things. However, it in turn has major problems with handling massive objects. Ideally, a unified theory would combine the best parts of QM and GR.

However, that unified theory of everything has turned out to be decidedly elusive. And that makes people think that maybe our models are too simplistic - that, rather than being two parts of a jigsaw puzzle, GR and QM are different aspects of some more complicated underlying model.

On my "is God as real as Gravity" thread, I mentioned the idea that the presence of an omniscient God would destroy Quantum Mechanics. Imagine we lived in a universe where that was the case - where particles were fundamentally quantumey, but where they were collapsed from second to second, giving the appearance that, even at the lowest level, they really were point particles.

Imagine that, despite this, there were situations under which the remnants of quantum phenomena could be coerced into manifesting themselves. Imagine how damn hard it would be to figure out what the heck was going on if you were a scientist in such a universe.

That's roughly the situation we're in at the moment. There's something we're not seeing, some underlying reality to which our models are just an approximation, and we can't figure out what's going on. We've made various attempts to figure out what this underlying reality might look like, of which the most popular is String Theory, but there's still too many holes for it to be considered terribly convincing.

Maybe one day we'll hit on the right approach. Who knows?

 

On 8/09/2006 07:26:00 PM, Blogger DaveScot waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Hey Zach,

Consider how we can use direct observations to verify scientific assertions.

How can we verify that the first cell to appear on the earth wasn't intelligently designed? Or how can we verify that anucleate cells preceded nucleate cells? How can we verify that organisms from the Cambrian used DNA?

Maybe I should ask a simpler question. What CAN be verified regarding the evolution of life billions of years ago?

 

On 8/10/2006 07:14:00 AM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

The longer ago events occurred, the more difficult it is to develop reliable evidence. The amazing thing is that we can detect anything from these ancient epochs at all!

DaveScot: "How can we verify that the first cell to appear on the earth wasn't intelligently designed? Or how can we verify that anucleate cells preceded nucleate cells? "

Intelligent Design as a vague assertion is not falsifiable. In the case of the origin of cellular life there are many unknowns, God of the Gap opportunities. However, there is strong evidence of endosymbiosis. There are even extant cases where cells will ingest chloroplasts and integrate them into their cellular machinery. This sort of intermediate adaptation is exactly what we would expect if cells evolved through such a process. There is genetic evidence linking cellular organelles to bacteria. There is no evidence of manufacture.

How can we be sure? Well, science is never absolutely sure, but we can increase our confidence in our conclusions by continuing to follow the evidence using the scientific method. Make a hypothesis. Use the hypothesis to make specific empirical predictions. Test those predictions and modify the hypothesis accordingly.

DaveScot: "How can we verify that organisms from the Cambrian used DNA?"

This would be strongly supported by Common Descent of genomes. There is ample evidence to support this hypothesis, including recent genomic discoveries concerning the evolution of fundamental structures including bilateralism (which is now know to precede the Precambrian).

 

On 8/10/2006 08:17:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Alright, you guys are skipping ahead in the book again.

Could we back up to where I am, please?

 

On 8/10/2006 08:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

zachriel says:

Consider how we can use direct observations to verify scientific assertions.

to which DaveScot responds:

How can we verify that the first cell to appear on the earth wasn't intelligently designed?

He has neatly changed the topic from discussing the 260 ton pile of evidence we have supporting evolution. Yes, now we're supposed to discuss how to verify that we don't know something. As has been pointed out to him, that is not how science works. We can never conclusively "prove" that a thing didn't/won't happen.

This is what the supporters of ID count on. When the legitimate researchers and scientists say "A", the IDiots say yeah, but what about "the red brick go the house, flying monkey stick overhaul cabinet"? Yeah! See there? Nanananananana.

the science pixie

 

On 8/10/2006 08:53:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Hi Science Pixie!

Welcome to the blog.

Actually, you're still too far ahead in the science lessons.

The current conversation is much more general.

I'm working on figuring out what science is, and what it does. I can't make informed science decisions until I understand what science is and how it works first.

Since I don't recognize your ISP, I'll assume you're not a regular here.

Here's the cliff note version:

My science teachers sucked. I got straight A's in science class by regurgitating things I didn't understand. I'm attempting to correct my own deficiency.

We're still on chapter 1.

I hope you'll hang around.

 

On 8/10/2006 08:55:00 AM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

JanieBelle: "This thread is strictly for me and my understanding of science."

JanieBelle: "Alright, you guys are skipping ahead in the book again."

Sooorrry, Mizz Belle. [Ducks head and hurriedly flips back to the current lesson.]


;-)

 

On 8/10/2006 09:02:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

'sok, Zachriel.

I understand that it's easy to get excited about teaching your passions.

Just be gentle with me, it's my first time.

;-)

Kisses,
JanieBelle

 

On 8/10/2006 09:10:00 AM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Unfortunately, life beckons me at the moment, and I have some drudge work to take care of.

I'll be back a little after noon.

Feel free to get me moving a little further along whilst I'm gone, and I'll see you when I get back home.

Kisses,
JanieBelle

 

On 8/11/2006 09:10:00 AM, Blogger DaveScot waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

zach

Intelligent Design as a vague assertion is not falsifiable.

Demonstrating that the first cell came about by abiogenesis would serve to falsify the intelligent design hypothesis.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to tell me if the vague assertion of abiogenesis is falsifiable and if so how.

I didn't ask for just-so stories of anucleate cells preceding nucleate. I already know the stories. I asked how the story could be verified. Same goes for whether Cambrian animals used DNA. I already know the just-so stories. I asked how the story could be verified. Please answer the questions another unverifiable narrative lest I come to suspect the so-called mountain of evidence is really just a mountain of stories.

And Janie... this IS to help you understand science. Or rather to help you understand what science isn't. Science isn't unverifiable narratives.

And please tell science pixie that the term "IDiots" isn't in the spirit of this blog. Or is it?

At any rate, Pixie mentioned God of the Gaps. I would counter by asserting that what is taught to naive school children is largely Darwin of the Gaps and it is equally deficient in every regard. Neither are science. Both are dogmatic.

 

On 8/11/2006 11:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

DaveScot says:

Demonstrating that the first cell came about by abiogenesis would serve to falsify the intelligent design hypothesis.

It certainly would not, at least not the "vague assertion" that zach mentioned (and that Dave seems to put forth). Daft ideas like front-loading and supernatural intervention are not falsified by a demonstration of abiogenesis because they cannot be. These are the only arguments that IDC puts forth. THIS is the God of the Gaps that DaveScot mentions: IDC.

DaveScot continues (ad delirium):

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to tell me if the vague assertion of abiogenesis is falsifiable and if so how.

One, I'm not sure how "abiogenesis" is a vague assertion. If it's a little fuzzy in Dave's mind, let's define it:

the generation of life from non-living matter. Most commonly referencing chemical origin of life, etc.

This doesn't seems to be a vague assertion in any way. And not being such, is certainly falsifiable. If it can be shown that the laws of chemistry do not allow for amino acids or more complex molecules forming from less complex ones, abiogenesis would be falsified.

Instead of being falsified, the problem of abiogenesis continues to generate new research, such as this.

Continuing a relentless death-spiral of obfuscation:

Same goes for whether Cambrian animals used DNA. I already know the just-so stories. I asked how the story could be verified.

After I finish gluing together my time machine this afternoon, I'll bring back a photograph. Exactly what kind of verification would you like? As pointed out above, research in genomics and bilateralism gives very solid evidence of pre-Cambrian DNA. Just because you ignore items you are pointed toward or fail to be able to connect dots, doesn't mean the rest of class has the same failings.

FInishing with a flourish:

At any rate, Pixie mentioned God of the Gaps. I would counter by asserting that what is taught to naive school children is largely Darwin of the Gaps and it is equally deficient in every regard. Neither are science. Both are dogmatic.

So, you're going to counter an argument not by defending your positions but by saying, "Na-na-na-na-boo-boo"?

What is taught in biology is NOT God of the Gaps. A gaps argument would not generate any research, such as the hundreds of papers that are produced daily on ToE. Sure, we don't know everything, but we actually look for the answers we don't know.

I'll use "IDiot" until such time as IDiots start to present a positive case for research, ideas, and education. Since I've not seen any such thing, "IDiots" will do nicely. If you'd like to change my mind, state your positive case; I'll be waiting patiently.

the science pixie

 

On 8/11/2006 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

We could move over to some chemistry if you like. That involves science and is less likely to get bogged down in political ramblings. I expect you already comprehend the periodic table, but can you work with it? And what do you know about analytical chemistry?
guthrie

 

On 8/11/2006 02:41:00 PM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Geez guys,

Can we not do the Culture War in this thread, please?

And please tell science pixie that the term "IDiots" isn't in the spirit of this blog. Or is it?

It absolutely is NOT. I missed it before, I've been rather busy with trying to get everything lined up for London.

SciencePixie,

Your continued contributions to this blog are welcome, but "IDiots" is as out of bounds as "Arab men do their camels".

Knock it off.

I'll use "IDiot" until such time as IDiots start to present a positive case for research, ideas, and education.

Not here you won't.

We could move over to some chemistry if you like. That involves science and is less likely to get bogged down in political ramblings.

I like that idea, guthrie. Let's move in that direction, shall we?

I expect you already comprehend the periodic table

I get the basics of it, but I'm a little iffy on the whole differences between an isotope or whatever of one element, and the regular version of a different one.

Like if an element has X number of protons, is it element #X or is it element #X-1 with an extra proton?

Is that even vaguely clear?

And what do you know about analytical chemistry?

I now know that there's such a thing. Does that count for anything?

:)

 

On 8/11/2006 03:54:00 PM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

anonymous: "I expect you already comprehend the periodic table"

JanieBelle: "I get the basics of it"

Excellent example. A lot of people believe that the scientific method is all logic and test tubes. But in fact, the process of developing a valid scientific hypothesis can come from almost any source. Though they usually come from extensions of existing theory, they can also come from chance, from dreams, from inspiration, or from playing cards.

"Mendeleev had written the properties of elements on pieces of card and tradition has it that after organising the cards while playing Patience he suddenly realised that by arranging the element cards in order of increasing atomic weight that certain types of element regularly occurred."

He arranged his cards in an array, but there were gaps. He *predicted* elements would be found which would fill these gaps.

Guess what. He was right.

 

On 8/11/2006 03:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Can we not do the Culture War in this thread, please?

I fail to see how this is a culrure war issue. Let me explain.

The term "culture war", it seems to me, has become a phrase that rings about as true as "activist judges". They are both used so frequently and by so many people saying so many different things, that the phrases themselves have become essentially meaningless.

If someone disagrees with a scientific or political point, it is automatically a "culture war" issue. That's crap. If I, as a democrat, like the Browns and my neighbor, a republican, is a fan of the Bengals, this is not a culture war issue--even though our political affiliations are different.

Calling every disagreement a culture war flame and heading off the discussion because of that (or giving commenters a pass because of it) does no good. It's just another excuse to continue ignorance.

signed,

#6

 

On 8/11/2006 04:23:00 PM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Thanks for that link Zachriel, very interesting, and a very good example of predictions, as well!

Very nifty.

#6,

Well I'm out of descriptions for it then. If I call it the Evolution v. ID debate, I get crap for it. If I call it the culture war, I get crap for it.

My request is that we set the discussion of ID and evolution and materialism or whatever else is involved aside for a moment.

I'll get to that, but I really want to be more general here first. There are plenty of places, some even on this blog, for discussing the merits or lack thereof of ID.

The problem here is that the continual struggle between ID supporters and evolution supporters is distracting from the current conversation.

Yes, I'm aware that the discussion at hand bears directly on that discussion, but it's like you're asking a kindergartener to subtract 1,000,000 from 1, before you've even explained the concept of negative numbers.

I'm the kindergartener, you are all the teachers here. I'm still trying to multiply 2 and 2 and you're doing square roots.

Does that help you understand what I'm trying to accomplish here?

Feel free to go nuts with the calculus in one of the threads that's been taken over by the calculus, but I'm still working on the basics here.

Thanks,
JanieBelle

 

On 8/11/2006 05:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

I see very well what you want to accomplish. My point is that the calculus never gets talked about on the "calculus threads".

People who are only interested in the political and social ramifications of a thing, rather than the thing itself, will never "talk calculus". Why?

It sets a precedent.

You see, whether or not a particular point about a topic supports their desired end, it's bad form to bring up the particular point. This is because there may be other particular points that don't confirm their desired ends. So, what to do if you're not a stone-stupid dogmatist? Well, you never address the specifics or the basics. Or rather, you flip-flop between hinting at either when it suits you.

Your goal of learning science is noble, but I think the real means to accomplishing it will not be found on this blog...or really many (if any) others. Real learning will take place when you go out and study, hands on, the material for yourself. I'm not saying you have to enroll in grad school somewhere, taking survey courses and the like can do nicely for the basics...get your hands dirty.

Here, the ID supporters will continue to never talk about the details of their "theory". Go back over your blog...see anything supporting ID there? They will continue to take discussions of the basics into long dead and refuted areas. Go back over your blog...see any creationist arguments from AiG and the like? When you start a thread to talk about the specific details they bring up in those threads, those same ID supporters will be amazingly absent. Go back over your blog...see any arguments for positive research by IDers in any of those "positive evidence threads"?

I will stand by my statement that "culture war" is largely a meaningless term--especially as it concerns the "science debates". You're looking for evidence. When it is not presented by IDers and they cry foul, you give them an out by declaring a culture war. If it were truly about evidence, you should make them provide a positive argument every time they post.

signed,

#6

 

On 8/11/2006 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

JanieBelle: "Does that help you understand what I'm trying to accomplish here?"

JanieBelle: "What are some of the best and most clear examples in science today?"

The problem with pointing to current scientific investigation is that we don't know what is going to pan out. Most science is additive, and modern science can be very arcane. Hence, you will notice that I have pointed to previous discoveries.

Consider again Mendeleev. He made a prediction. He not only predicted the existence of yet to be discovered elements, but also their properties, and predicted adjustments to the atomic weights of a few that were known. Quite amazing for just playing cards. But. BUT, it was just a conjecture. However, when the predicted elements were discovered and found to have the predicted properties, it added confidence to the underlying symmetry that Mendeleev had discovered.

But we're not done yet. The symmetry was largely confirmed, but why the symmetry? Where did it come from? We could put God in there, if you want and call it quits. God apparently likes symmetry. But this is not a suitable scientific reason. And further research discovered that the symmetry inherent in the Periodic Table was due to the underlying Quantum structure of atoms.

--

So to pay my dues with some more recent research.

The Theory of Common Descent strongly suggests that whales and land mammals share a common ancestor. The discovery of ancestral populations eluded scientists for generations (even as other evolutionary relationships were being confirmed). But then in the 1970's, fossils of cetaceans with legs were discovered.

Genomic data predicted that whales and hippos would be the most closely related extant organisms. Researchers spent years in the Pakistani wastelands and discovered the predicted fossil evidence.

--

Scientist had long predicted that the energy of the Sun came from thermonuclear reactions. The formulas used to predict these reactions resulted in the prediction in 1930 by Pauli of a mysterious particle, the neutrino. From 1970 to 1994, the Davis Experiment attempted to capture and count neutrinos emitted by the Sun. The experiment only turned up a third of the expected number and Davis' experiment was for decades considered to be suspect. (Only a few dozen atoms in tons of cleaning fluid were captured per month. He would travel to deliver the precious cargo in a small vial which he jokingly told his wife was full of "nothing".) Of course, as with any good scientist, he checked and rechecked his results. The clue was that his results were always a proper fraction of the expect number. It turns out that neutrinos have three flavors and other methods of detection confirmed Davis' result, confirmed the chemistry of Solar fusion, and confirmed the existence of the neutrino. Davis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2002. Ray Davis died this year at the age of 91.

 

On 8/11/2006 06:13:00 PM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Zachriel, you're doing just fine. I'm following you well, I think. I was really just trying to articulate in my last comment how I really didn't want this thread to degenerate into what some of the other threads have become.

As for positive evidence of ID, Number Six, I thought you in particular would have enjoyed THIS THREAD.

Did you not follow the link to LiveScience?

 

On 8/11/2006 06:28:00 PM, Blogger JanieBelle waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

...Hence, you will notice that I have pointed to previous discoveries.

That's fine, Zachriel. In fact, it's probably better that you do exactly that, for the reasons you stated.

If we start off into string theory, I think I'm going to have some problems. It's probably better if we stick with atoms.

We could put God in there, if you want and call it quits. God apparently likes symmetry. But this is not a suitable scientific reason.

I agree, it's rather unsatisfying to just say "Oh, it's God's will, that's why." What kind of answer is that to anything?

It's a lot like parents who say "Because I said so, that's why."

My folks never said that, that I can ever recall. Now, we were always expected to go do what we were told FIRST (and immediately), but if we came back afterwards and asked "why" we got a decent answer.

I often hear evolution supporters describe ID as "Goddidit". If that is indeed all there is to ID, then it is surely the lazy man's answer. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs at ID's foremost website would seem to indicate that this is exactly the case. That's all those people seem to be able to say over there. "Goddidit, evolution is for Hellbound Atheists".

That's about as useless as it gets.

 

On 8/12/2006 10:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

My patience is never-ending. Don't feel you need to have a response this week. Anyone? Anyone?

This must be were old threads ID(ers) abandon go to die.

the science pixie

 

On 8/13/2006 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Lifewish waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

I get the basics of it, but I'm a little iffy on the whole differences between an isotope or whatever of one element, and the regular version of a different one.

The basic principle is as follows:

Atoms consist of a nucleus and a bunch of electron "shells" (for quantumey reasons, electrons can only exist in certain fuzzed-out patterns round the nucleus). Electrons have a negative charge and don't weigh a lot in comparison to other stuff.

The nucleus consists of protons and neutrons. Protons have a positive charge; neutrons are chargeless. They weigh about the same, and are both much heavier than electrons.

The chemical properties of an atom are determined by how the big clouds of electrons shape themselves between atoms. This is dependent entirely on the behaviour of the electron shells, which in turn is dependent entirely on the charge that the nucleus carries. So the chemical properties of an atom are determined by the number of protons in the nucleus.

The radioactivity-related properties of the atom, by contrast, are affected only by the composition of the nucleus. Now, this next bit is something that I don't fully understand, but it seems that there are certain ratios of protons and neutrons that can live happily together.

Too many protons and the repulsive electromagnetic force (which acts between protons) overwhelms the nuclear force (which acts between protons AND neutrons). Too many neutrons is also bad, although I'm having trouble recalling exactly why. The basic result is that, in most cases, having the wrong number of neutrons in an element will lead to something being spat out.

However, in some cases, different numbers of neutrons can be just stable enough to hang around - they don't spit stuff out too quickly. So, for example, Carbon-14 (6 protons, 8 neutrons) has a half-life of about 5730 years before it decays into nitrogen (7 protons, 7 neutrons) by turning a neutron into a proton+electron and emitting the electron.

 

On 8/14/2006 12:38:00 AM, Blogger blipey waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Adios Dave-a-roonie. Have fun at the old homestead. Thanks for clearing things up.

 

On 8/14/2006 11:05:00 AM, Blogger blipey waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Sorry about the non sequiter, there...a little drinking and a little Dave fare-the-welling. I thought it was fun last night.

I think the chemistry discussion could be fascinating, that's for the starter Lifewish. I was just reading an overview in the current New Scientist about work that Lee Smolin is doing with some others; it's on the properties of the basic particles as developed by a new look at loop quantum gravity. Very cool, very preliminary, but looks like it has the possibility of making the basic properties like particle mass, why too many nuetrons are bad, etc. flow right from first principles.

A little heady for the current discussion, I know, but neat-o.

 

On 8/14/2006 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Hey Blipey,

What is interesting is that one of Einstein's private wishes(dreams?) was that he could reduce all of the physical world down to spacetime warps (or vortices?). I'll try to dig up the ref. I'm quite certain I'm remembering this distortedly but that is close.

vino

 

On 8/14/2006 05:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Since electrons and protons have now been covered, the next step is to move onto the elements and what the differences are.

But I shall digress into an area I know something about.
It has already been explained how each element has a distinctive number of protons and electrons. Therefore you can use this fact to tell how much there is of each element present in a sample of material.

However, to do this requires careful sample preparation. In analytical chemistry, you have to be careful to avoid contaminating your sample with something else, whether your own sweat, or metal from the surface you put it down on. SAy you want to perform ICP or AA analysis on it (I shall explain later what they are). THen you have to get the sample in solution, by dissolving a measured amount of material in, usually, acid of some kind. Then the liquid, with dissolved sample in it, is made up to a known volume, so that the concentration is something like, say, 10grams of sample per litre.

If your sample is completely 100% aluminium, the concentration is 10grams/ litre of Al. However, it will not be such purity, unless you've spent a lot of money on the sample.

For analysis by AA, which means Atomic Absorption, or ICP, meaning Inductively Coupled Plasma, you usually have to measure out some of this solution into a small plastic container, in order to feed it to the machine.

In an AA, the sample is vaporised in a flame. The atoms that we are interested in absorb energy from a light. The light in question is a single element source, producing a spectrum of light that corresponds to the element that we are looking for. So it is absorbed only by atoms of the element in question. At the other side of the flame from the light source is a detector that can tell ho the light fades.

Thus, the machine set up is such that when the sample is vapourised in the flame, the light from the lamp shines through it, and some of that light is absorbed. This absorption then corresponds to the concentration of the element in the sample liquid.

However, you have to use calibration solutions to get an idea of the exact concentration of the element, usually the calibration solutions are chosen so as to bracket the expected concentration of the element you are looking for.

AN ICP works a bit like the AA, except that instead of allowing the atoms in the flame to absorb energy, you put the solution into a plasma, usually argon based. This imparts massive amounts of energy into the atoms, meaning their electrons bounce up and down orbital levels, giving off characteristic spectra as they do so. These spectra are then observed and recorded by a computer and the intensity of the light given off is then calculated into a concentration of wach specific element that is present.

HHmmm, its surprisngly hard to explain this.
guthrie

 

On 8/14/2006 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

guthrie: "HHmmm, its surprisngly hard to explain this."

What is the Sun made of? How could we ever possibly find out?

Newton showed that white light is composed of all the colors of the rainbow. He could use one prism to separate the colors and another to recombine them.

When various elements are put into a flame they have a characteristic color. So, put various substances in a flame, direct the light into a prism, and magnify the spectrum.

It turns out that each element has a very distinct spectra, much like a barcode. And this method allows us to determine the composition of even the most distant stars.

The element Helium was actually discovered on the Sun before it was found on Earth. Spectral lines are also clues to quantum symmetries within the atom.

 

On 8/15/2006 03:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Yes, thank you, thats the other bits of background science i was wanting to add to it.

Whats really tricky is trying to explain this to people who do not have the background knowledge.
guthrie

 

On 8/15/2006 07:09:00 AM, Blogger Zachriel waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

guthrie: "Whats really tricky is trying to explain this to people who do not have the background knowledge."

I always enjoy science which can be easily replicated or demonstrated. There is nothing magical about spectra. A bunsen burner, a prism and a magnifying glass.

 

On 8/15/2006 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Just demonstrating it is easy enough. GEtting across the deeper connections and from them, how the physics is used in real life, is a bit harder. Did you know what an ICP was about before today? They certainly didnt mention them when I was doing my chemistry degree. But once I was exposed to one, it was obvious how they worked.
guthrie

 

On 8/15/2006 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous waxed damned near poetic whilst opining...

Also, think of it this way- the same physical observations can be used to work out the composition of distant stars, as well as the pollution that has turned up on your doorstep. From there you could consider the effects of said pollution on plant life, and how too much of, say, metals harms them. Yet how important some elements are in photosynthesis, which kind of takes us back to the sun again.
Thats one of the things that makes "science" so interesting, how you can take one small thing and link it to everything else. I like to think it drives the ID'ers and YEC's crazy, since they have nothing like it.
guthrie

 

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