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Old 11th December 2010, 12:17 PM   #1
Perpetual Student
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Why is there so much crackpot physics?

I am curious: What do you suppose drives crackpot physics and cosmology? They do not seem to be very knowledgeable about physics and cosmology, other than having mastered a lot of jargon. They seem to be quite ignorant of mathematics. Yet they seem to be passionate to an extreme about their views -- to the point of behaving like religious zealots. How can they possibly believe tens of thousands of specialists (many quite brilliant) are all wrong, but somehow (although they lack the education) they have stumbled on the truth?
What do they gain out of this avocation? Appearing wise to their friends and relatives and the uninformed at cocktail parties? Are they delusional narcissists? Do they hold myriad other unorthodox opinions about he world (like, say, political conspiracy theories and Internet driven puffery)?
Any opinions?
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:29 PM   #2
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As an addendum:
Before I discovered this forum, I had no idea that so much crackpot physics existed. I had never heard of electric universe, plasma cosmology, etc. Previously, my only familiarity with crackpot science was creationism. I have come to be fascinated by these people and I have been struggling to understand them, what drives them, why and how they can adhere to their patently false ideas.
I have no intention of insulting anyone; so I hope to hear mainly from non-crackpots.
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
I am curious: What do you suppose drives crackpot physics and cosmology? [...] What do they gain out of this avocation? Appearing wise to their friends and relatives and the uninformed at cocktail parties? Are they delusional narcissists?
Well, yes, obviously. But I think that specifically physics draws a specific kind of crackpot. Physics describes the rules by which the universe operates, and there's a certain kind of mind that likes the idea of knowing The Rules; if you don't like the way the universe operates, then obviously that's because other people don't understand The Rules. This obviously ties in to a lot of traditional beliefs like "names have power," which has a lot of psychological traction and is a popular magical theory for that reason.

There's a general feeling among the population at large that scientists are modern magicians, and similarly a feeling that among scientists, physicists are the ones with the most fundamental understanding of The Rules. Hence you see more crackpot physicists with their "Theory of Everything" (now there's a loaded term....) than crackpot, I dunno, geologists or marine biologists.

Quote:
Do they hold myriad other unorthodox opinions about he world (like, say, political conspiracy theories and Internet driven puffery)?
Many of them do -- they also have a set of Rules that describe how economics, law or politics "really" works. Rules like "if the flag in your court has a gold fringe, then it's really an Admiralty court and rules of statue law don't apply."

Last edited by drkitten; 11th December 2010 at 12:35 PM.
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:37 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
As an addendum:
Before I discovered this forum, I had no idea that so much crackpot physics existed.
Professional physicists have to deal with letters from these people all the time. The Randi forum is rare in that it's a forum open to anyone in the world and very VERY lightly moderated (unlike the actual professional physics forums), but still has some professional level scientists who participate on a regular basis. So it's actually got some very high quality science discussion on it.

If you can't hang on arXiv, the JREF isn't a bad second place.
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:44 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
How can they possibly believe tens of thousands of specialists (many quite brilliant) are all wrong, but somehow (although they lack the education) they have stumbled on the truth?
I guess they see themselves as another Ignaz SemmelweisWP or Alfred WegenerWP up against a dogmatic scientific establishment.

Many seem to be fans of the Schopenhaur's quote: "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:45 PM   #6
Michael Mozina
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Comparing atheists to narcissists.

Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
I am curious: What do you suppose drives crackpot physics and cosmology? They do not seem to be very knowledgeable about physics and cosmology, other than having mastered a lot of jargon. They seem to be quite ignorant of mathematics. Yet they seem to be passionate to an extreme about their views -- to the point of behaving like religious zealots. How can they possibly believe tens of thousands of specialists (many quite brilliant) are all wrong, but somehow (although they lack the education) they have stumbled on the truth?
What do they gain out of this avocation? Appearing wise to their friends and relatives and the uninformed at cocktail parties? Are they delusional narcissists? Do they hold myriad other unorthodox opinions about he world (like, say, political conspiracy theories and Internet driven puffery)?
Any opinions?
The analogy that comes to mind is like you comparing atheists to narcissists because they dare to be "non believers" in "non empirical entities". The reason "non believers" seem to be drawn to cosmology specifically is directly related to the mainstream's "faith in the unseen (in the lab)". Atheists tend to 'lack belief' in non physical entities (lab no shows). Likewise "critics" of mainstream theory tend to "lack belief" in the mainstream's "dark" (aka invisible) sky beings. All the math in the world doesn't make up for a complete dud in the lab in terms of tangible empirical physics.

You're essentially ignoring the *EMPIRICAL* flaws in mainstream theory, *CLAIMING* your math geniuses are beyond reproach and yet their trio of mythical friends produce *NOTHING* tangible in the lab of any use whatsoever to the real world here on Earth.

You're created a nice 'pseudo-math-religion' that professes that empirical laboratory physics is irrelevant and all that matters are mathematical expressions (that they happen to agree with). Note that little clause at the end since the mainstream *BLATANTLY IGNORES* any maths not to their *PHYSICAL* liking.

Your insults aside, what tangible goods have come of some kind of "faith" in invisible sky entities?

Last edited by Michael Mozina; 11th December 2010 at 12:46 PM.
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:54 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
What do you suppose drives crackpot physics and cosmology?
There are many things that drive crackpot physics, here's a short list:
  • "unobservable" stuff like "black hole" or "dark matter" or "dark energy"
  • unfalsifiable hypotheses like "big bang", which is a myth taken from the book of Genesis in the bible
  • government grant funding, encouraged when confirming bias and common error, withdrawn when this bias and error is eliminated with science
  • peer review process, it can not combat fraud or deliberate error, and has a dismal success rate catching accidental error and delusion put on paper, yet it convinces people that group consensus is an adequate substitute for scientific rigor
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but this should get you started.

I don't agree with your characterization of all crackpots, though. Some of them are well-meaning idiots, they don't intend to be misled, it's others that mislead them with their prior bias and common error-prone methods.
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Old 11th December 2010, 12:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
I hope to hear mainly from non-crackpots.
Well, so much for that hope.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:00 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
As an addendum:
Before I discovered this forum, I had no idea that so much crackpot physics existed. I had never heard of electric universe, plasma cosmology, etc. Previously, my only familiarity with crackpot science was creationism. I have come to be fascinated by these people and I have been struggling to understand them, what drives them, why and how they can adhere to their patently false ideas.
I have no intention of insulting anyone; so I hope to hear mainly from non-crackpots.
What kind of "addendum" is that? You have no intention of insulting anyone, *INCLUDING* those narcissistic PC crackpots that you compared to "creationists"? Oy.

This sounds a lot like someone comparing an 'non believer' to the devil, calling them evil and then claiming they "didn't mean offend anyone". Sheeesh.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:01 PM   #10
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Understanding actual physics and the mathematics behind it is too difficult for most people to do. It's easier for some people to just make something up or believe something that's made up and is easier to comprehend (even if it is wrong). There's a reason why these people don't understand actual physics.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Well, yes, obviously. But I think that specifically physics draws a specific kind of crackpot.
If by "crackpot" you main "non believers" in "non physical entities", then yes, I suppose you're right, non believers are certainly drawn to invisible sky entity theories.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:03 PM   #12
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It's easier than real physics.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:04 PM   #13
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"What it really looks like..."
Much of real physics is counter-intuitive, and requires more than a cursory glance.
for example:
"Heavy objects fall faster than light objects..." can be demonstrated easily, using a piece of paper and a packaged ream of paper.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:05 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
Understanding actual physics and the mathematics behind it is too difficult for most people to do. It's easier for some people to just make something up or believe something that's made up and is easier to comprehend (even if it is wrong). There's a reason why these people don't understand actual physics.
"Physics" falls into two categories, USEFUL TANGIBLE PHYSICS and "point and the sky, make up invisible sky entities that have no effect on Earth, and add math physics". Which kind of "physics" are we talking about because I *LOVE* the first kind that produced my computer.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:06 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by LibraryLady View Post
It's easier than real physics.
We might actually agree on that topic, but only because I think mainstream theory is a "crackpot" theory, and I believe what makes it attractive is the fact it's "easier' and "simpler" than "real world physics" in the lab. As long as it works in sim-world, it's a "go" for publication, regardless of whether or not it actually works in the lab.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:07 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
How can they possibly believe tens of thousands of specialists (many quite brilliant) are all wrong, but somehow (although they lack the education) they have stumbled on the truth?
I think you answered your own question. That's a very appealing thing to some people. Combine that with a simple understanding that makes sense to them, and there's your recipe.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:07 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
Understanding actual physics and the mathematics behind it is too difficult for most people to do. It's easier for some people to just make something up or believe something that's made up and is easier to comprehend (even if it is wrong). There's a reason why these people don't understand actual physics.
This. That attitude also reflects a gross misunderstanding of what science is and isn't and the role that mathematics must play in physics. In addition, a number of crackpots buy into what I call the "Einstein fallacy", in that they think it's a David vs. Goliath sort of thing: they have "the truth" and they're going up against the big, bad, close-minded, dogmatic physics establishment. Such a worldview has little, if anything, to do with actual science & its methods and much more to do with the psychology of the crackpot.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:08 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
I had never heard of electric universe, plasma cosmology, etc.
Now you have.

Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
Previously, my only familiarity with crackpot science was creationism.
ah you mean like "big bang"

Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
why and how they can adhere to their patently false ideas.
Mainly it's about conformity. If 98% of the population believes in deities, there is pressure on the 2% to conform. If 98% believe in "black hole" or "big bang", there is pressure on the 2% to conform. We can't even really say for sure that 98% does believe in these ridiculous fables, but if it isn't the full 98%, it's just more evidence for the power of conformity.

Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
I have no intention of insulting anyone; so I hope to hear mainly from non-crackpots.
It's good that you carefully chose your words to avoid a direct conflict with the rules of the forum, while still using inflammatory language directed at users of the forum. What sort of person is it that uses those tactics, I forget.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:09 PM   #19
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A similar question was posed on a physics forum:

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=300150



Last edited by Emet; 11th December 2010 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:09 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
"Physics" falls into two categories, USEFUL TANGIBLE PHYSICS and "point and the sky, make up invisible sky entities that have no effect on Earth, and add math physics". Which kind of "physics" are we talking about because I *LOVE* the first kind that produced my computer.
You're kidding yourself if you think there's a big difference between the two in terms of science -- I assume you're making some ridiculous jab at astrophysics.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:15 PM   #21
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Martin Gardner's "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science" has plenty to say on the subject and is a good read.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:16 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Arthur Mann View Post
ah you mean like "big bang"
That's the part the actually fascinates me from the standpoint of psychology. Mainstream theory *IS* a "creation" theory where all matter is "created" at a specific date that they cannot actually physical justify without invisible friends. Oy Vey.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:16 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by LibraryLady View Post
It's easier than real physics.
This. Also, because most people don't have any grasp of physics past high school, it's easy to mislead them with nonsense about quantum physics, etc. (*coughWhatTheBleepDoWeKnow!?cough*
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:18 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
That's the part the actually fascinates me from the standpoint of psychology. Mainstream theory *IS* a "creation" theory where all matter is "created" at a specific date that they cannot actually physical justify without invisible friends. Oy Vey.
You don't need to insert God into the Big Bang equation. Also, the Big Bang and the universe are not living things. And they are certainly not our friends.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:18 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
That's the part the actually fascinates me from the standpoint of psychology. Mainstream theory *IS* a "creation" theory where all matter is "created" at a specific date that they cannot actually physical justify without invisible friends. Oy Vey.
Its another narrative but its the one that best explains our observations of the cosmos and was supported by at least one novel prediction along the way.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:19 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
That's the part the actually fascinates me from the standpoint of psychology. Mainstream theory *IS* a "creation" theory where all matter is "created" at a specific date that they cannot actually physical justify without invisible friends. Oy Vey.
You could make similar ridiculous statements about the implications of evolution and biology, btw, but that doesn't invalidate the science one bit.

Denying a well-supported theory because you don't like how it looks or what it states is actually what is at issue here.

Last edited by Drachasor; 11th December 2010 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:20 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
You're kidding yourself if you think there's a big difference between the two in terms of science -- I assume you're making some ridiculous jab at astrophysics.
You're kidding yourself if you think there *ISN'T* a big difference between the two. TANGIBLE physics produces *TANGIBLE* goods. Physics like electrical engineering physics brought me this computer I'm working on today. It created a cell phone I use on a daily basis. It created the washing machine in my house, the dryer, the electrical lighting, etc, etc, etc. These have a TANGIBLE and REAL effect on my life.

The "invisible sky entity physics" produces *NO* tangible goods here on Earth, no useful products based on inflation, dark energy, dark matter, etc. They have created a nice "creation mythos' that is entirely dependent on invisible sky entities that are *IMPOTENT* on Earth and produce nothing TANGIBLE in the real world.

Big difference.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:21 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
Denying a well-supported theory because you don't like how it looks or what it states is actually what is at issue here.
What is actually at "issue" here is the same "issue" that applies to "atheism". A lack of a belief in "invisible sky entities" does not make one a "narcissist".
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:22 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
That's the part the actually fascinates me from the standpoint of psychology. Mainstream theory *IS* a "creation" theory where all matter is "created" at a specific date that they cannot actually physical justify without invisible friends. Oy Vey.
EU crackpots don't seem to have a problem talking about intergalactic electric currents strong enough to power stars even though such things have never been observed. Why the double standard?
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:23 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Arthur Mann View Post
ah you mean like "big bang"
Creationism is the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being. The Big Bang is not creationism because it is not a supernatural entity, and physicists don't worship it as such. Also, to my understanding, the Big Bang only caused the beginning of the universe. It did not create the world as we know it all at once.


Originally Posted by Arthur Mann View Post
Mainly it's about conformity. If 98% of the population believes in deities, there is pressure on the 2% to conform. If 98% believe in "black hole" or "big bang", there is pressure on the 2% to conform. We can't even really say for sure that 98% does believe in these ridiculous fables, but if it isn't the full 98%, it's just more evidence for the power of conformity.
You're not making any sense. Black holes and the Big Bang have much more evidence than the existence of deities.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:23 PM   #31
Michael Mozina
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Originally Posted by AnnoyingPony View Post
You don't need to insert God into the Big Bang equation.
No, you need three *OTHER* invisible sky entities to do your mythical dirty work instead. You have your own trilogy of invisible sky entities, all of which are impotent on Earth.

Quote:
Also, the Big Bang and the universe are not living things. And they are certainly not our friends.
Well, you certainly rely on them for everything, now don't you?
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:23 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
You're kidding yourself if you think there *ISN'T* a big difference between the two. TANGIBLE physics produces *TANGIBLE* goods. Physics like electrical engineering physics brought me this computer I'm working on today. It created a cell phone I use on a daily basis. It created the washing machine in my house, the dryer, the electrical lighting, etc, etc, etc. These have a TANGIBLE and REAL effect on my life.

The "invisible sky entity physics" produces *NO* tangible goods here on Earth, no useful products based on inflation, dark energy, dark matter, etc. They have created a nice "creation mythos' that is entirely dependent on invisible sky entities that are *IMPOTENT* on Earth and produce nothing TANGIBLE in the real world.

Big difference.
Astrophysics will come in very handy when we have the means to move around planets. Just because we aren't there yet, doesn't mean the science isn't sound.

You might as well complain about most of the science that led to those "tangible" goods. Frankly, a lot of this stuff starts out as "useless" without any applications. It is only by continuing the exploration of nature that we eventually reach a point where we can apply what we know to make stuff.

Btw, Dark Matter is perfectly potent on Earth. If it wasn't, then we'd fly off into the void since our galaxy wouldn't hold itself together.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:24 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
What is actually at "issue" here is the same "issue" that applies to "atheism". A lack of a belief in "invisible sky entities" does not make one a "narcissist".
Eh? I don't really see how what you said there makes any sense.

And all you are doing is denying sound science because it doesn't give you a cool toy. That's childish.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:25 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
What is actually at "issue" here is the same "issue" that applies to "atheism". A lack of a belief in "invisible sky entities" does not make one a "narcissist".
What about those scientists who are both atheists and accept the science behind the big bang cosmology, like me? You seem to be playing with false dichotomies here.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:27 PM   #35
Michael Mozina
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Originally Posted by AnnoyingPony View Post
Creationism is the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being.
The only difference is that the mainstream has "supernatural dead entities', and some currently existing yet physically impotent on Earth entities. So what?

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The Big Bang is not creationism because it is not a supernatural entity,
Sure it is. Inflation is certainly just as "supernatural" of an energy source as any "living being" ever proposed.

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and physicists don't worship it as such.
Sure they do. They depend on it for their daily bread. If you rock the boat too much you lose your job.

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Also, to my understanding, the Big Bang only caused the beginning of the universe. It did not create the world as we know it all at once.
They claim that all observable matter was "created" in a singular event. That's a "creation myth". Were they there and saw it, or is like Genesis where we go "in the beginning the invisible sky entity inflation say "let their be light"?
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:29 PM   #36
Michael Mozina
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
What about those scientists who are both atheists and accept the science behind the big bang cosmology, like me? You seem to be playing with false dichotomies here.
No, I'm making HONEST comparisons that they should be able to relate to. If they reject an "invisible creator" on empirical grounds, they should understand my rejection of inflation, dark energy and dark matter mythologies.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:31 PM   #37
Arthur Mann
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
In addition, a number of crackpots buy into what I call the "Einstein fallacy", in that they think it's a David vs. Goliath sort of thing: they have "the truth" and they're going up against the big, bad, close-minded, dogmatic physics establishment.
I think you're a little confused, the crackpots are the ones with the consensus view, as is typical. Theism is a good example, the consensus view is that deities exist. Which group is the crackpots? The popular myth is that bumblebees have been "proven" unable to fly for aerodynamic reasons. This is not the case. It's not even what scientists have suggested, which is that bumblebees don't appear to intake enough calories to keep their bodies in the air. Subsequently it was discovered these animals have a springy muscle between their wings that captures and re-uses energy from wing flaps. We have good science that shows their flight is possible, and not only do most people still perpetuate the myth that it's "proven" they can not, they also get the reason why they "can not" wrong. So which group there is the crackpots, the consensus view or the scientists? I could give endless examples, but I'm sure you can think of many others where "the majority is always wrong". Is the majority typically on the cutting edge of physics and cosmology, or is it always a tiny minority of people? Suffice it to say, most of what most people think they know is wrong. A full demonstration of this lies outside the scope of this thread, but perhaps that tangent can proceed in another thread. I'd love to see it.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:32 PM   #38
Drachasor
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Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
Sure it is. Inflation is certainly just as "supernatural" of an energy source as any "living being" ever proposed.
Inflation isn't an energy source.

Originally Posted by Michael Mozina View Post
They claim that all observable matter was "created" in a singular event. That's a "creation myth". Were they there and saw it, or is like Genesis where we go "in the beginning the invisible sky entity inflation say "let their be light"?
Big Bang Theory doesn't state where matter/energy came from anymore than Evolution states where life came from.


Honestly, it doesn't seem like you understand what your are criticizing (big surprise).
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:33 PM   #39
Arthur Mann
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
But I think that specifically physics draws a specific kind of crackpot.
Yeah, the kind of crackpots that believe in "big bang", "black hole", "dark matter", "dark energy", pulsars that rotate as fast as a dentist's drill, unproven physics like "neutron star", and so on.
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Old 11th December 2010, 01:33 PM   #40
Michael Mozina
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Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
Astrophysics will come in very handy when we have the means to move around planets. Just because we aren't there yet, doesn't mean the science isn't sound.
"Tangible Physics" already comes in handy to GET US to planets. Mythical sky being physics will NEVER produce a tangible good, let alone anything useful to move planets around with.

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You might as well complain about most of the science that led to those "tangible" goods. Frankly, a lot of this stuff starts out as "useless" without any applications. It is only by continuing the exploration of nature that we eventually reach a point where we can apply what we know to make stuff.
So how do I make stuff from "dark matter"? Where does it come from? Where do I get a measured quantity of the stuff?

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Btw, Dark Matter is perfectly potent on Earth. If it wasn't, then we'd fly off into the void since our galaxy wouldn't hold itself together.
But of course you cannot demonstrate that claim in a lab, or demonstrate than any of the 'dark matter' you describe is composed of mythical forms of matter that are not on the periodic table or come from inside elements on that periodic table.
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