Sunday, February 14, 2016

LIGO and Normal Science

The detection of gravity waves by LIGO is the big science news this week.  Eli is old enough to remember the long series of explorations that failed.  When he was a student, Joseph Weber at the University of Maryland lead the charge, and though that he had caught the boojum, but alas, it was a chimera.

Now some, not Eli to be sure, would argue that by the rules of junior high school science as taught by Karl Popper, each of the failures, and there were many, completely falsified Einstein's general theory of relativity, and indeed there were many who did so the link being only the first that popped up on the search engine. 

LIGO was a triumph of normal science. Normal science is characterized by coherence, consilience and consensus agreement.  Over time Einstein's general theory has met all of these tests as a coherent theory which describes our observations of the universe and which is accepted by a strong consensus of experts.




Kevin O'Neill said...

Eli - it's hardly representative of sane people to provide a link to some weirdo Libertarian site. Might as well have linked to Danvers, or Waverly, Topeka State or Bellevue :)

EliRabett said...

Kevin, you prefer Tallbloke? Lo mismo.

Pinko Punko said...

Eli, I'm not convinced negative results falsify gravitational waves- I feel like Popper would not claim that- would it not simply refute waves of certain characteristics, defined by the limit of whatever would detect them?

Harry Twinotter said...

That "many who did so" link did not start well - the first reference on the webpage is to Electric Universe theory.

I agree with Pinko Punko, the failure to observe anything just puts a limit on the number and frequency of gravitational wave-producing events occurring - it did not rule them out. Reading between the lines I got the impression they were lucky the event was a very energetic one. I am looking forward to more observations.

The Karl Popper thing makes my head hurt. I get the feeling he is misinterpreted all the time. And climate change deniers love to channel Karl Popper along with Richard Feynman.

Dan Riley said...

Blaming Popper is lame.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Gravitational waves are a part of Einstein's field equations that can't be broken. The theory can't be broken except with black holes. Space time literally can't be broken. But until the controversy over the relationship with QFT and the standard model to GR, and the mission axionic dark matter, the mechanism of the big roll down and now mildly accelerated expansion (dark energy) and the relationship between the hypothetical nearly massless gravitons, the much heavier axions and the Higgs boson can be resolved, the scientific world is still presented with the ultimate normal science experiment. My published hypothesis is that the crushing destruction of spacetime topology (the creation of uniformly flat spacetime with irreversible macroscopic thermodynamics, an arrow of time and a lot of energy in a low entropy universe) and the creation of spacetime geometry basically demands axion Higgs coupling to gravitons and pushes string and M-theory up to a black hole scale quantum critical point. And I have further posited that we are already simulating this scenario on a large scale with condensed matter physics, and that a new revolution of topology and topological superconductors will allow us to simulate these concepts in exquisite detail. One side effect of this hypothesis is that once beyond TeV electoweak physics is explored, black holes will be easy to create. Therein lies some danger because once that quantum critical point is reached, many energy order of magnitudes are quickly traversed directly to Planck scale. So be careful with those particle accelerators. There be dragons.

We need to thoroughly simulate this in condensed matter experiments and theory before we plunge into this, because the geometry of spacetime can be controlled. I am in the middle of writing this up in a short essay.

Aaron said...

OK, Does the constant flexing of time-space explain why the ratio of the ratio of the diameter a circle to its circumference is a transcendental number that cannot be resolved to a single point? Can the existence of transcendental numbers point to vibration in the curvature of space? Then, why do other geometric ratios seem to resolve to a single precise value?

If space is not only curved, but vibrating, how much of our math needs to be reconsidered - not so much at a practical level, but at the theoretical level, and the statement of definitions?

mubahir ali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
andthentheresphysics said...

Aaron, this paper might be relevant. The date it appeared might also be relevant.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The problem Aaron is that the basis of both general relativity and quantum field theory (and indeed, classical mechanics and dynamics) is continuum mathematics, where infinitesimals must be invoked. Only by multiple quantization procedures that also involves continuum mathematics can anything like a singular unit countable quantum particle (either massless or with mass) may be obtained, and those particles exist and reside in a differentiable manifold whose origin we do not understand, completely separate from the quantum fields, energy and particles derived thereof. There is no synthesis of quantum field theory and general relativity like there is with number theory and continuum mathematics, and infinities must be invoked to make it work. This alone is a deeply rigorous philosophical debate which is more or less rendered mute until new physical phenomenon or mathematical problems arise through observation or mathematical theory. This is all fair game to either pursue or dismiss in science. The theory of general relativity is an unbreakable theory until gravity conspires with the strong force to create a density and temperature appropriate for gravitational collapse, much like Bose-Einstein condensation or an ordinary BCS superconductor, and in the case of superconductivity derived from strongly coupled bosons, that quantum singularity immediately gets surrounded by a dome like feature which effectively hides its direct probing, via U1 symmetry breaking. Gravitational waves give us an indirect way to probe topological transformations of spacetime in our flat, sparse, dust like universe. With condensed matter systems, we can break discrete pointlike symmetries as well as continuous symmetries with impunity. So between these two new approaches to quantum physics and general relativity astrophysics and cosmology through gravitational wave astronomy, we should be able to sort out string theory and Planck scale physics using axion - Higgs simulation in Dirac, Weyl and Majorana fermion environments using a large number of possible composite or emergent bosons. What this is - normal science approaching a catastrophe. This should come in real handy in solving ordinary energy problems.

David B. Benson said...

Karl Popper is usually misunderstood, even by retiring chemists.

jrkrideau said...

Karl Popper and the New York Times

EliRabett said...

Pinko, wrt Popper remember the faster than light claim. It turned out to be an experimental artifact. For many things on the edge of detection it is not clear what, if anything, went wrong. This was also the case with Weber;s experiments.

So then you are left with complete Popperism or the three Cs of normal science which reject the rejection.

Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think that the Bunny has an agenda here. And if he did, not saying that he does, it would be to oppose the junior high school pooperism that infects discussions of science. Rejection on the grounds of a single observation as opposed to a large body of consilient theory and experiments is both unjustified and illogical.

John Farley said...

Here's what I remember about the early days of attempts to detect gravitational waves.
I remember discussing the (then unnamed) LIGO project by pioneer Ronald Drever (Cal Tech) in the late 1970's - about 40 years ago.

Weber's experiments involved monitoring signals from aluminum cylinders (antennas) for oscillations. Weber started reporting coincidences between signals from two cylinders. Weber reported an increase in the coincidence rate when the antennas were pointed at the center of the Milky Way.

Lots of people disagreed with Weber. In his early experiments, he made mistakes in handling the data.
Weber became bitter about criticism of his experiments. This led to poor relationship between Weber and his critics.

Some "Weber watchers" became convinced that there might be a real signal in there somewhere. So they built their own version of Weber's experiments, with higher sensitivity. They saw nothing.

So if Weber's experiments were not really detecting gravity waves, what were they detecting?

It turned out that Weber's signal was an artifact, due to "dead time". When an antenna reported a signal (for whatever reason), the antenna then goes dead for a brief tine interval. This contaminated efforts to seek out correlations between two antennas. Dead time is well known to antenna experts.

Weber's original experiments were not sensitive enough, by orders of magnitude, to detect gravity waves. It took an enormous project with a budget to match to make it work.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Via ex urbe
"In the last month we have discovered that there are coral reefs near Greenland, that dung facilitates a symbiotic relationship between moths and treesloths, that one of King Arthur’s knights was black, that protons have a different diameter depending on how we measure them, and that the newly-discovered poems by Sappho may undermine what we thought we knew about Greek theories of the soul. ....

"It is easy for us to forget how the Scientific Method, at work behind all this research, is a uniquely flexible and dynamic belief system, one which enables our uniquely flexible and dyamic world....

"...the most important part of what I just described is that the belief or disbelief we extend to the politician (or to our teapot) is provisional. We decide that a thing is plausible or implausible, and extend to it a kind of belief which is prepared for the possibility that we will be proven wrong. ...

"What we knew about teapots, coral reefs, moths and treesloths, Arthuriana, protons, and the Greek concept daimon, can all be overturned and yet we remain comfortable with the Scientific Method which produced our old false information, and we are still prepared to let it provide us with new information, then overturn and replace the new information in its turn. We do this without thinking, but it is in no way a universal or natural part of the human psyche. When chatting with my father about the proton research he summed it up nicely, that two possible responses to hearing that how we measure something seems to change its nature, throwing the reliability of empirical testing into question, are: “Science has been disproved!” or “Great! Another thing to figure out using the Scientific Method!” The latter reaction is everyday to those who are versed in and comfortable with the fact that science is not a set of doctrines but a process of discovery, hypothesis, disproof and replacement. Yet the former reaction, “X is wrong therefore the system which yielded X is wrong!” is, in fact, the historical norm...."

Aunt Sally said...

A null result is not the same as a negative result. Nor is a single negative result (or relatively small number of such results) a sufficient falsification for a theory that has broad and deep experimental support. The results you refer to as "negative" were operating at the edge of detection limits ― and with ample room for techno-gremlins. I don't think you're reading Popper right. (Willfully, perhaps? I'm sensing some personal history here... : ))

Popper merely posits that scientific questions are falsifiable through observation. He himself (to my knowledge) never settled on a detailed assertion of what constitutes definitive falsification.

Harry Twinotter said...

My only question is: who is the fool with the handle that looks like a GUId?

Can't you talk about existential teapots instead? I like teapots. A bit like Leunig's Mr Curly.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Wow, Harry, I love fake nyms myself too, and of course your comment here is great. On topic. Discussing the issues. You hit all those Republican and conservative libertarian nutjob talking points too.

Brave! Prepare for greatness. I eagerly await your essay on this subject in the Journal of 'I have nothing of substance to contribute'.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Looking over Harry Twinotter's internet comment trail, I notice that Harry is OBSESSED with scientific credentials. Not coherence. Not consilience. And not consensus (of which there is none in quantum cosmology). But scientific credentials. Yet Harry is so confident of his (or her) knowledge of the topic here (quantum cosmology) that Harry seems to think that making a content free comment is acceptable.

Harry Twinotter's scientific credentials are impeccable. For a fool.

Everett F Sargent said...

Just another NASA cons piracy. Everyone knows the Earth is flat, that gravity doesn't exist and that Einstein was wrong.

"Did you forget the post where I showed you how gravity wasn't real?"

Mal Adapted said...

I think long-string-of-random-characters is sensitive about being called a fool, Harry.

Long-string-of-random-characters, did you know RR will let you enter a temporary ID with each post if you don't want to commit to a more permanent one? Now, unlike 'anonymous', there's little chance your long-string-of-random-characters 'nym will collide with another person's. OTOH, a shorter, more mnemonic and perhaps even pronounceable 'nym would facilitate discourse with you.

"Just sayin'".

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The characters are the same every time. It's my unchosen fixed nym here. Deal with it.

Now what were you saying again about normal science and quantum cosmology?

EliRabett said...

Eli has been struggling against junior high school blog Pooperism Aunt Sally. As to things being falsifiable or not, go read Peter Woit on string theory and the multiverse. It is not at all clear

Jeffrey Davis said...

Surely negative results of an experiment don't falsify a premise. Inductive reasoning and all that. Experiments have limits.

Fernando Leanme said...

If you are trying to mix the ligo experiment with the proposed climate control experiment you should remember the cost is way orders of magnitude higher in the climate control case. Just the compensation to the Chuckchis for cooling their regional climate could run to tens of billion rubles.

andthentheresphysics said...

I guess another example is General Relativity and Newtonian gravity. Technically GR, which has been verified in a number of different ways, supercedes Newtonian gravity. You could also argue that Newtonian gravity has been falsified; it can't explain the precession of Mercury, the bending of light around masses, the propagation of gravitational waves. However, we still us it extensively. Why? Because in most circumstances the GR corrections are so small as to have essentially no effect.

Harry Twinotter said...

Mal Adapted.

Foolish is a foolish does, I guess.

Mr GUId's physics word salad did not impress me.

Harry Twinotter said...

Mr GUid.

"Yet Harry is so confident of his (or her) knowledge of the topic here (quantum cosmology) that Harry seems to think that making a content free comment is acceptable."

That more like it, finally you are talking about teapots. As in the pot calling the kettle black, close enough.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The subject of this post isn't GUIds, if you haven't noticed that yet.

Since your comment contains no substance on the subject under under discussion, I dismiss it as not credible. It's worse than that. It's
'not even wrong'.

Hank Roberts said...


That anti-Einstein 'ibertarian site has long been one of the Internet's hidden treasures, right up there with the Time Cube.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Since the subject under discussion here happens to include concepts of scientific credibility, I am including this, since Harry Twinotter seems terribly confused about how science works, even blog science.

Since when does ANYBODY, let alone somebody who claims to be a scientist, need 'qualifications' to make any claim in science. You claimed I am a 'fool' because of my pseudonym. What a 'claim' requires to be accepted or rejected is 'credibility', not qualifications or credentials. That's argument from authority. The claim itself is independent of the claimant. As far as I can tell, at this point in spacetime, there is no credible authority on quantum cosmology. There are only claims and hypotheses.

So you tell me, since you claim to be an authority on the subject, is string theory pinned forever to the Planck scale, or was it rolled down with the rest of physics as we know it to the TeV electroweak scale with cosmic inflation? And what sort or topological transformations or quantum phase transitions produced our flat differentiiable four manifold (spacetime) out of a quantum singularity hidden by an event horizon? I will patiently await your keen insights into this matter.

Your claims are easily dismissed, because they are not credible. When you make a claim that seems credible to me, then I just might take the time to consider it.

You aren't even claiming argument from authority here, you are spewing bullshit.

Harry Twinotter said...

Mr GUid.

"You claimed I am a 'fool' because of my pseudonym"

No, I called you a fool because of the techno-babble you posted.

Someone posted this same text under a comment I posted on another blog, it could be the same person. They appear to be trying to waste people's time so I will not respond anymore.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Technobabble. Sure. That stupid Full of technobabble.

So a scientific and technical subject that you absolutely do not understand and aren't even familiar with, you dismiss as technobabble, yet you feel that you can make credible contributions to the discussioon. You are full of contradictions. And full of yourself, apparently. Good luck on finding a substantial mass and energy of the universe and understanding it. I suggest you stay as far away from commenting on scientific subjects because any idiot that comes along that is at least superficially familiar with the simplest details of the subject can and will almost immediately call you on your bullshit.

Fernando is your man.

EliRabett said...

Ankh, Eli never saw Time Cube. Thank you?

Bernard J. said...

What, Eli never saw Time Cube?! Professor Rabbet, it was the source of much mirth and snickering at Deltoid a number of years ago - you musta bin hibernating in your burrow!

For those who may be distressed at the news that the Time Cube web site has disappeared, never fear - The Web Cite has reappeared it:

Susan Anderson said...

(h/t Tenney Naumer:)

"CSIRO hailed contribution to gravitation waves find – for work done by axed unit"

Seems our CSIRO guys were hot stuff!

winston said...

What I can't understand is why the nice people at Climate Audit have yet to produce an in-depth article explaining exactly why the LIGO data doesn't support the discovery of gravitational waves, and complaining that not all of the LIGO data and code is publicly available.

Russell Seitz said...

Has trump retained TimeCube Guy Dr. Gene Ray as his science advisoer yet?

"Nature's Time is Cubic and perpetual.
Linear Time is wrong and suicidal.
I have requested that the UCS, or
Union of Concerned Scientists, act
to evaluate Nature's Harmonic Time
Cube Principle of Creation - for the
welfare of children, nature and the
future of all humanity. The dumb,
stupid and evil bastards have ignored
their obligation to their humanity
fellowship to research Time Cube,
and deserve to be spit upon publicly.
It is their moral duty to test Time
Cube, and a curse of evil if they ignore
the greatest discovery of humanity.

I have offered $10,000.00 to the evil
bastards if they disprove Time Cube.
They can't disprove it, so they hide
like yellow-belly bastards they are.
There is no human entity, just human
Cubics - as in 4 different people in a
4 corner stage metamorphic rotation -
never more than 1 corner at same time.
Cubeless education - is a deadly evil. "