Uncommon Sense

March 31, 2023

Scientific Suppositions

Filed under: Education,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:04 am
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I am puzzled at how many questions pop up on the Quora question and answer site about electron orbits in atoms. According to basic physics such orbits cannot exit, but apparently we are still teaching students that they do, in fact we are indoctrinating them with this sacred knowledge. I remember seeing a grade school “science” project in which students dyed some cotton balls various colors and then glued them to a piece of paper with concentric circles drawn upon them. Nothing, absolutely nothing, about this exercise is correct. But it does inculcate the idea in little minds that electrons (whatever they are) orbit around a nucleus, whatever it is.

There are so many mistakes, bad assumptions, etc. made in the development of early atom models it is no wonder that the quantum theory of the atom, what the quantum theory in general is based upon, is completely not understandable.

Allow me to step you though the development of these theories. Here are the years of discovery of the main characters:

The electron was discovered through a intense investigation of radioactivity. Radioactive substances were shown to emit three types of radiation (things that radiate outward from a point): alpha, beta, and gamma radiations. Obviously they knew little of what these things were because they labeled them a, b, and c (in Greek, of course). Alpha radiation turned out to be streams of positively charged helium atoms, gamma radiation tuned out to be a form of electromagnetic radiation, and beta rays turned out to be streams of electrons. The masses of the beta particles was so small that they had to be smaller than the smallest atom (at least lighter). This created an attention storm because the electron was the first “subatomic” particle ever characterized. By subatomic it was meant, less than the size/mass of an atom. Prior to that point it was assumed that atoms were “uncuttable” (what the word atom means in Greek) and that nothing smaller could exist. Very quickly, with no evidence provided, it was conjectured that the electrons were component particles of atoms. When we finally deduced the mechanism of the emission of beta radiation we found out that the electrons were created in the process and not part of the atom prior to that point. So, electrons were not a part of the atom, at least when it came to beta decay radioactivity. But. atom models containing electrons were immediately floated. Just like today’s news organizations, everyone wanted to be first rather than correct. When the proton was discovered, in 1919 (its charge-to-mass ratio was measured in 1898 indicting it had a very high mass) once again it was “discovered” based upon a radioactive process in which protons were emitted. Again, there was no reason to assume the protons existed prior to the radioactive event, but what the heck.

In 1911 Rutherford and his assistants did the now famous gold foil experiments in which alpha particles were “fired” against super thin foils of metals (not just gold) and most went through but a tiny, tiny fraction were deflected. And even more rarely some alpha particles bounced backward. From this Rutherford concluded that all of the mass of the atoms was concentrated in a very small central core, which he called a nucleus, and that core had to be positive because the positive alpha particles bounced off rather than stuck to the gold “nuclei.” Apparently the 197 to 4 weight difference between gold atoms and alpha particles was not enough explanation for why the alpha particles bounced off. And why did anyone assume the alpha particles would stick? And if the nuclei were positive, a negative component was also needed and voilà, the electrons were given a meaning for their little lives. This was also based upon the supposition, again not proven, that the atoms were touching. If the atoms were not touching, the nuclear idea was a nonstarter.

Immediately upon the “nucleus” being discovered (not) the planetary model of the atom was promoted. (Actually this model was invented years prior (in 1903) by Hantaro Nagaoka of Japan.) But the model met immediate opposition because electrons are significantly negatively charged for such a small particle and orbiting a positively charged nucleus would cause the electrons to lose energy (all charged particles undergoing acceleration in a charge field lose energy by emitting EMR—orbits involve a particle continuously changing direction and that requires a force and an acceleration because F = ma).

Bohr worked on this problem extensively and then announced a fix. His model has electrons in circular orbits, those orbits required electrons to have fixed energies, and therefore fixed orbit diameters which were said to be “quantized.”

Now the concept of the quantum of energy had been introduced in 1900 but that merely extended the idea that matter came in bits to electromagnetic energy coming in bits, too. Bohr’s model has the electrons being somehow fixed in certain “allowed” orbits. No reason for this “quantization” of atomic electron energies was ever offered. It just worked!

Now, as to “worked,” Bohr’s model “explained” why atomic emission spectra were how they were. Atomic emission spectra are the mix of various EMR “lights” given off when an element’s atoms are heated up enough to glow, or give off light. (The example you know of is “neon lighting.”) Those spectra, when spread out, showed that only a few colors of light were emitted. Bohr explain those colors as the energies of electrons as they transitioned from one orbit to another. So, no explanation was offered why the orbits energies were so constrained or how it was that electrons could “jump” from one orbit to another. But it worked they said. Closer inspection showed that the energies of the electron orbits in hydrogen were determined from those self-same lights of hydrogen’s emission spectrum so they damn well should have matched.

Bohr’s theory should have raised all kinds of alarms, but maybe there was so much going on that nobody bit. No explanation for the orbits being allowed at all. No explanation for the energies of the atomic electrons being restricted to certain quantities. And none of it was done to preserve some semblance of normal theory. It was all just pulled out of a hat.

While Bohr’s theory has been discredited, it is still taught in schools. It is taught for reasons I approve of and that is using intellectual history as a framework. Basically, this idea led to that one and that one lead to this new one and . . . which exposes people’s thinking as new data are made available. (It also exposes our propensity to get ahead of ourselves and make mistakes.) But it seems that many student’s educations didn’t involve getting to the point of the failure of Bohr’s atom model and the things that replaced it. Parts of Bohr’s atom model are included in today’s models, even though the thing proved to be wrong. So, Bohr’s quantized orbits are gone, only to be replaced by quantized orbitals (very poor terminology) with still no reason why there should be any restriction of what an electron’s energy might be. Taken out of atoms, electrons can be made to have any energy and even to sing and dance (well, maybe not the latter, but there is no restrictions upon what energies they might have).

And people still whine about how quantum theory math works but conceptually it is incoherent. Maybe if someone could come up with a physical mechanism by which atomic electron energies could be restricted, we might make some progress, but nobody s working on that. That is old hat! There is dark matter and dark energy to pursue!

There is an old saw about not confusing the edge of the rut you are in for the horizon. In this case we are not in a rut, but have gone down a rabbit hole.

The Mistake of Objective Reality

Filed under: Education,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:53 am
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Over at The Conversation, revelations about quantum mechanics are being made . . . not. Here is how the Science Editor introduced the topic:

Few theories are weirder than quantum mechanics, which governs the microcosmos of atoms and particles. It allows particles to be in “superpositions” of many possible states, such as being in several different places at once. But this is only when nobody’s looking. The second you observe it, the particle randomly picks a location – breaking the superposition.

Then came the article itself, which I didn’t read. I have had enough of people explaining things they clearly do not understand—“‘QBism’: quantum mechanics is not a description of objective reality – it reveals a world of genuine free will.

Too many false suppositions are made from what physical theory states in general, but it is rife in quantum mechanics. Consider the statement “It allows particles to be in ‘superpositions’ of many possible states, such as being in several different places at once.” Quantum mechanical wave functions are mathematical predictions, they aren’t real. Those superpositions are merely predictions of locations for particles which are not all that specific, they are not real positions of objects. and “The second you observe it, the particle randomly picks a location” is just plain woo woo silliness. It has nothing to do with the observer or an observation. It has to do with an interaction. Think of an action-adventure movie. The good guys are pinned down by the bad guys who are firing bullets at them. “Where are they coming from?” asks one of the good guys. “I don’t know they seem to be everywhere,” answers another of the good guys. The real hero, being very quiet up and fires his gun which is followed by the thud of a dead body hitting the floor. Now, would you presume that that bad guy was in many positions until he was shot? And then he was just in that one? This is about as silly as the so-called editorial writing QM experts providing this bilge.

It is our ability to predict which is compromised, not some mystical power of particles to be in multiple positions at the same time. And the so-called “looking” or “observing” by a human being has to involve an interaction of the quantum system with some particle. For example, we “see” by receiving light that has bounced off of the objects being seen. But particles so tiny to have QM consequences will be slammed off of their current position when hit by something like a photon. The rule of thumb is that for a ricocheting photon to be useful to observe anything, the wavelength of the photon has to be smaller, substantially so, than the diameter of the particle. But when you make photons, the smaller the wavelength the higher their energy. So, we end up trying to locate ping pong balls by firing AR-15 bullets at them and then seeing if the bullets are deflected.

So, we thought the bad guys could be anywhere but when I fired my gun I hit one, so it was right there, not any of dozens of different locations. This is closer to the reality of the situation than the idiocy above.

What was spot on was the article author’s first sentence: “It is hard to shake the intuition that there’s a real and objective physical world out there.” Don’t bother trying to “shake the intuition” of Objective Reality. It is an illusion, total imagination, human imagination.

If you think that reality is hiding out there and we just have to dig deeper to find it, you will just be disappointed. Yes, we do have discard mistaken observations/suppositions/conclusions but that just means were wrong before and we need to look again. What we will see is not a reflection of some core truth or core reality, it is just a measure of our reality.

Take for example dogs. Dogs can see only two colors and so see in duotones. So, our ability to see three colors is the real reality and dogs see only part of it, right? Wrong. Dragonflies see 16 million colors. So is their sensory information correct and our ability to see reality compromised? Only if you really, really want to believe there is a reality just outside the reach of our senses, which means you are mystic, probably a religionist, and deluded as well.

Simon and Garfield said it best: “We see what we want to see and disregard the rest.” We create our own reality, which is shared by shared experiences and through teachings.

There are no absolutes in nature, no objective morals, no objects which are perfect off in some Platonic realm. We interact with nature and whatever we learn, we use to our benefit or not.

Since that is all there is, then just keep dancing.

Postscript I just learned that about 1% of all human beings have a fourth color cone in their retinas that allow them to see 100 million colors. Do you think with that superpower they can see objective reality?

March 30, 2023

The Red State-Blue State Divorce Settlement

Ever since Marge Green (R-Georgia) said it was time for a divorce between the red states and the blues states we haven’t heard much from her about that topic. Maybe the divorce settlement talks weren’t going her way.

One of the key facts (Yes, Repubs, there are these things called facts; look up the term.) was that by and large the red states pay more in taxes than they get back from the Federal government in subsidies, services, etc.

A case in point: On a 7-4 party-line vote, a Florida Republican-dominated State Senate panel Monday rejected outright expansion of Medicaid under so-called Obamacare. So, instead of Floridians getting some of their federal taxes back, they get a dose of Republican ideology instead.

Of course, the Repubs offered an alternative, consisting of federal subsidies for private health insurance, so some of the Republican party donors can make a buck off of them. And, also of course, only 500,000 Floridians would get this deal instead of the 1,100,000 Floridians getting healthcare through a Medicare expansion. But then, all of this is to support poor people and we know what Republicans think of poor people, so I guess their attitude is “Fuck’em, they’re just the poor and they usually don’t vote anyway.”

March 28, 2023

Another Mass Shooting . . .

Three adults and three children died as the result of a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. The school was a private Christian school and the shooter, unusually, was a woman.

So as ye sew, so shall ye reap. The woman was armed with two assault-style rifles, probably AR-15s, the preferred assault weapon of Christian fundamentalists. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the woman was a member of the church sponsoring the school.

Maybe support for unfettered gun ownership will begin to sag in these circles, now that problems with such guns have come home to roost.

Wuhan, Wuhan, the Story Continues

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 am
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The question is: was the Corona Virus responsible for the pandemic a natural thing or was it a virus being studied by Chinese scientists and then accidentally released from a lab?

The second supposition is linked to the conjecture “the Chinese did it on purpose.” To me this latter conjecture is idiocy and only to be expected from people who absolutely, positively need someone to blame for anything that goes wrong.

An article in The Guardian describes one bizarre aspect of this investigation. A French scientist found DNA evidence that had been posted online by a team of Chinese scientists. These came from swabs taken from the now notorious market that peddled exotic meats. These were taken after the outbreak. The French scientist contacted the Chinese scientists and asked for permission to analyze the raw data and receive permission. Then they published preliminary findings . . . and all Hell broke loose. From the same The Guardian article:

“Since the publication, Débarre has been set upon by online mobs and received threats to her safety. ‘Last night, I was crying over the horrible things I’m reading about myself on social media,’ she says.

“Most concerning has been a threat by a stranger who claims to know where Débarre lives. But she is also stung by the accusations that she, as a scientist, might be disloyal to the truth. ‘It’s horrible to have people discuss the fact you may be lying, when you’re not lying,’ she says. ‘When you have a profession in which being truthful is essential.’”

I have little to say about the brouhaha but something to say about scientific sensibilities. Why would a serious scientist get hurt feelings, to the point of tears, about mean things said about her on social media? Why would she be consulting social media at all? Obviously a death threat should be reported to the authorities, but she wouldn’t know whether that was serious or some 11-year old goofing around.

Also, why would people “discussing the fact you may be lying” upset you when these are people who do not know you, nor are they fully acquainted with your field. I could understand if it were colleagues making these claims, or worse, supervisors, but strangers? What do they know and why should she care?

The Internet has become a cesspool of negativity in which people say mean things for sport. It is a wonder people take things stated here seriously.

March 27, 2023

The Tower of Babylon and Biblical Sucking Up

I watched a documentary (from 2019 I believe) about the Tower of Babylon last night. The Bible was mentioned on and on, even though other records, records more reliable, exist. As it turns out the tower in question seems to have been built by King Nebuchadnezzar, a ziggurat to be specific. As the narrator droned on addressing various archeologists trying to “research” the topic, the Bible was mentioned quite often. I put research in quotes because the research mentioned had already been done, the on screen archeologists were just pretend researching for TV.

So, the tower was built. The documentary went into how it was constructed, that they had to use fired mud bricks because sun-dried mud bricks were not up to the task. An engineer calculated that a tower constructed as described (in the Bible!) could be as tall as 300 ft. There is no evidence that it was 300 feet tall, but it was referred to as the 300-ft tower from that point onward. (This is an ongoing problem with this entire series of documentaries—assumptions become facts in the mouth of the narrator.) Details of the building process were provided from the Bible! Look, there was an entire group of Israelites in Babylon at the time, due to the conquest of Babylon over Israel, and they were writing the books of the Torah down at that point (including the Book of Genesis, which contains the story of the Tower), having only oral knowledge to rely upon. Details of the construction were hardly secrets. The Babylonians were very proud of their constructions and all of the innovations involved.

So, the construction was addressed in the documentary, including how it could be thought of as being tall enough to “reach the heavens” (river mists made it appear as if it reached the clouds and, as we all know, the clouds are in the Heavens).

The Bible clearly points out that the heavens are much farther up than 300 feet, because every mountain worthy of the name was taller than that and so people could walk or hike up to the Heavens were they that low. But Yahweh gets pissed and instead of moving the Heavens up higher he confounds the workers languages and then blows the tower down with a giant wind. (However, the Tower was finished, so confounding the languages of the workers didn’t prevent that, and no wind knocked it down. I know, details, details.)

Then the documentary pointed out that local historians told how when Babylon was conquered by the Persians, the Persians knocked a hole in the tower! The Babylonian god’s temple was not the Persian’s god, so defaced the tower must be. (Another example of toxic religious thinking: Step 1 Kill or Destroy, Step 2. . . . The Persians could have reconsecrated the temple on top of the tower and then had a magnificent temple for their god, but no.)

Later Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and Alexander dismantled most of the Tower, intending to reconstruct it, but Alexander didn’t live long enough to direct that task and, well, things got complicated. The Iraqi people, being nothing if not pragmatic, saw a huge store of building materials just sitting there so up the wheelbarrows came and away went the Tower’s bricks went with them, to be incorporated into roads and buildings nearby.

So, at this point, one would think that the Bible’s story of Yahweh screwing with the workers and creating a big wind to destroy the tower would be debunked, yes? Of course, no. No mention of the rest of the Bible story being complete fiction was uttered. In fact once they got to the facts of the destruction of the tower, the Bible was not mentioned again.

Now, I can imagine in their production meetings that someone stated that mentioning the Bible over and over would boost ratings and pointing out that the Bible story was wrong could result in a backlash. But the blatant sucking up to religionists leaves one thinking, “So, the Bible was right.” Yes, it was right about the construction of the tower, the facts were clearly available, but dead wrong about the theological parts. Bible thumpers often gloat about all of the truths of the Bible, which validate it. But those truths are not theological truths. They are historical truths available to any witness alive at the time and their veracity does not reflect at all on the veracity of the Bible as a source of theological truths.

Postscript If you are wondering why not “The Tower of Babel,” the word Babel is Hebrew for Babylon.

March 26, 2023

Those Anti-Woke People Aren’t Just Banning Drag Queens, Now They are Banning the Bible!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:39 am

A principal of a Florida school has been forced to resign after a parent complained that sixth-grade students were exposed to pornography. A better example of grooming one couldn’t come up with! So what pornography was being put on display? Stormy Daniels? Debbie Does Dallas? The complaint arose from a Renaissance art lesson where students were shown Michelangelo’s statue of David.

Now we all  know that King David was a hero depicted in the Bible, a king with an especially close relationship with God.

Now, under the guise of the bogus parent’s rights movement, they are attacking Biblical history right here in River City!

David by Michelangelo Florence Galleria dell’Accademia

Big Bad Dragon

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:17 am
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Republicans are all up in arms over . . . mass killings? Inflation? Climate Change? The Banking System? No, it is TikTok. As I understand it TikTok is a very popular  (with the younger set) social media site which publishes videos of young people dancing, puppies and kittens playing, you know the stuff.

The Republicans have their knickers in a twist because the Chinese are data mining TikTok! Imagine, data mining a social media site! Who do they think they are, Facebook?

Well, the Repubs are seeing this site as a dagger aimed at American Democracy! The Chinese could institute an insidious campaign to turn our young against their elders, against . . .gasp . . . democracy! (As if Donald Trump weren’t doing a good enough job of that!)

I am assuming this is just another round in the Republicans distraction campaign. If they were serious, they would look at how China controls TikTok in China.

China is actually loosening its restrictions on young people TikToking (is that a word?). On March 1, TikTok announced that it’s setting a 60-minute default time limit per day for users under 18. Those under 13 would need a code entered by their parents to have an additional 30 minutes, while those between 13 and 18 can make that decision for themselves. This is less stringent than they had before. The Chinese aren’t worried that the site will undermine Chinese ideology, they are concerned that it is a GWOT (giant waste of time) keeping their youths away from tasks more important: household chores, homework, you know, important things.

The Republicans aren’t interested in TikTok wasting youth’s time excessively. They don’t mind that kids don’t study. The less well educated the youth of this country are, the better they like it. (And going to college is the Highway to Atheism!) Ignorant people are easier to manipulate and make more passive employees.

No, the Republicans need something to do . . . instead of work on the real problems facing this country. When do the Hunter Biden hearings start? And I want to see what the Repubs will do about TikTok before the Chinese find out our youth likes videos of puppies playing more than of kittens playing. Think of the leverage they will have then.

Postscript There was an episode of The Twilight Zone (original series) in which aliens created a family game that was very, very popular and their intent was that the game would affect human psyches. You see, the game was designed so that if you lost you won. They were teaching humans to lose! They were softening us up for their invasion. Maybe the Republicans saw this episode when they were young.

March 23, 2023

The Danger of Religious Knowledge

Filed under: Religion,Social Commentary — Steve Ruis @ 7:58 pm
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Netflix just dropped a documentary “Waco: American Apocalypse” which I will not be commenting upon because it was a massive clusterfuck by all of the parties involved resulting in a great many people being killed.

What I will be commenting upon is a comment made by one of the survivor Branch Davidians. When interviewed she was asked whether her personal safety were of concern and she responded “I’m not a person; I am a tool of God.”

She apparently was told, and she accepted as a fact, that she was a “tool of God.” This factoid of knowledge was not something people were to examine, they were merely to accept it, like all other “religious truths.”

Now I do not know whether she felt proud to be so named or what her motivation was for accepting that status, but if one does apply reason one might ask why an all-powerful god needs “tools.” What can a lowly human do that couldn’t be accomplished more quickly and more easily by said god? How much arrogance do you need to believe that you are a tool that fits in God’s hand? And of course, no god was involved. A spiritual huckster claiming “son of god” status, was however.

This person claimed to be “the messiah,” a “prophet,” and a “son of God.” Messiahship is easy. All you need do is poor a little oil on your head and voila. (Use the right oil and it makes your hair shiny.) Messiah means “anointed one,” the anointing accompanying being chosen for a special task. (High Priests and Kings of the Hebrews were anointed ones. Their job titles tell of their special tasks.)

Prophets either announced themselves as such or were recognized as people making prophecies. Since prophecies are predictions, they cannot be fact checked, so you are good to go there. And to be a “son or daughter of God” was easy because everyone created by god was consider to be such and they considered everyone and everything to have been created by their god, so again, you are good to go.

Now to convince someone they are “tool of God,” you will need a little razzle-dazzle but not a great deal and you need some really gullible people, which, shall we say, are not in short supply. So how were these “tools” to be used? According to the documentary, their uses were manifold: they were to be used as soldiers, as human sacrifices (through suicide), and to do the dishes if asked.

People who think too little of themselves can be made into people who think way too much of themselves and can be made to do despicable things. Targeting them in a con is more than despicable.

It was/is sad.

March 20, 2023

Follow-up to “War Criminals to the Left of Me . . .”

The Architects of the Iraq War: Where are They Now?

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