Monthly Archives: June 2009

Bad Astronomer: Seth Shostak interviews Stars of “2001: a Space Odyssey”


Baloney Detection 101 — Scientific Theory


A scientific theory, as opposed to the colloquial use of the word, is more than just a guess, nor is it, as Isaac Asimov once quipped, something you came up with while drunk.

It is a constellation of ideas that weaves facts together into a single overarching description and detailed explanation for a given set of phenomena.

Any scientific theory is provisional, never proven with complete certitude, but it is important to distinguish a theory from the facts it describes.

The scientific use of a theory gives no indication of its actual degree of certainty, though a given set of such ideas may be so well established by repeated testing as to be demonstrated as confirmed beyond all rational doubt, such as the theories of genetic inheritance, general and special relativity, quantum mechanics, number theory in mathematics, music theory in music, and stress theory in engineering, the germ theory of disease, atomic theory, heliocentric theory, round Earth theory, plate tectonics theory, and of course, evolution.

Unfortunately not everyone’s doubt is rational, and various sorts of science deniers are given to labeling any set of scientific ideas they have a bug up their proverbial butts about as ‘just a theory, not a fact,’ playing on the general misunderstanding of both the words ‘theory,’ and ‘fact.’

A theory is not a hypothesis, as the latter is merely a component of a theory, a specific set of predictions within its overall framework, what one should expect to see, and not see, if that part of the theory is to be confirmed or falsified.

A fact in science is never absolute, due to the provisional nature of the scientific enterprise, for it can never be known with complete surety that some data which may disconfirm that fact will never appear at any given point in the future.

Theories are never ‘promoted’ to laws, as they are two different sorts of beasts — A law merely defines things, while a theory describes and explains how they work.

Theories usually start as models, which propose hypotheses for testing by experiment or other observation, such as the comparative method in the mostly historical sciences, such as geology, cliodynamics, cosmology, astronomy, paleontology, and archaeology to name a few.

No, you do not have to do experiments in a lab to do science. Otherwise, no crime that has ever been committed could be solved using evidence left at the scene it occurred at, and detectives would be permanently out of work as a profession. Science is not just for the nerdy guys (and gals…) in labcoats and pocket-protectors.

Most science today is done as a community effort, evolving over time, and all involved in a study contribute something to the overall theory being investigated; the idea of the lone gentleman researcher working in his basement lab, the sole progenitor of his ideas, is a quaint notion, however popular it may be in fiction.

Even broader than a theory is an overarching concept called a paradigm, often composed of many theories. M-theory in cosmology would be a good example of a paradigm, as a candidate for a ‘theory of everything’ composed of many subsets that individually describe and explain some aspect of reality.

The term was coined by philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn and he used it in an early attempt to describe the internal process by which science changes, though it is now more often used in the sciences to refer to a conceptual tool, as a mode of thinking or general working approach to theories and frameworks of theories.

Further, a theory is never supported by only one piece of evidence, but through multiple, often thousands, even millions, or more independent lines of data spread throughout multiple research disciplines, which is why the demand science deniers make of, “show me just one piece of evidence that proves the theory true,” is nothing more than an empty rhetorical stunt, and an unfair shifting of the burden of proof.

Ultimately, any theory can never be proven to be timelessly, absolutely true by a finite data set, though depending on the nature of the theory, it sometimes only takes one reliable observation to falsify one or more attendant hypotheses.

Cool! the Last Pix from the JAXA’s Kaguya Probe…


Modern Mythic Parallels: Fey vs. Grey


My troythuluness just loves folklore, especially the traditional kind involving various sorts of supernatural beings, as well as modern tales of the paranormal. I’ve noticed some interesting parallels between the lore of the Wee Folk and those of modern science-fiction and popular UFO mythology.

No, don’t worry, I’m not gonna go all Sir A.C. Doyle on you and profess to a belief in the literal existence of faeries, as I have certain standards to maintain. Despite the content and tone of my last April Fool’s post, this is still a skeptical blog, so chill.

I’ve noticed a lot of similarity between the various tales told concerning the Fair Folk, and those accounts people have given of UFO abductions and sightings, these things the same in structure and generalities, and differing only in the cultural context, the trappings that they use.

It appears that only the window-dressing differs. Yes, those ‘classic’ and ever-popular Failures of the Human Imagination™, the alien Greys that all too commonly and banally populate the UFO literature are simply the Good Neighbors repackaged and given a new lease on life in today’s world, as are many of the earlier aliens of science-fiction.

What is the essential distinction, for example, between people being taken to the Land of Faerie while alone, and the typical Barney-and-Betty-Hill style abduction scenario, also of physically isolated people, other than the cosmetic details? I would hasten to say none at all. Both, for example, involve the subjects being somehow incapacitated (by faerie magic or alien technology…), taken away to a strange place while in this state, often interacting in some fashion with their captors (whether as interviewees, guests, or test subjects…)and both involve the story element of “missing time.”

There’s also a lot of similarity between the relatively diminutive size of (not always, but over the last couple of decades, most commonly in the popular consciousness…)the aliens and that of some of the more ‘elfin’ Fay, such as the Bogans and the ever popular (and not evil, but dangerously indifferent to the human condition…)Dark Grey Man, the Bodach Glas of the British Isles, or the more malignant Duergar, or Grey Dwarves.

Many of these beings are depicted in both tradition and modern fantasy fiction as being psychologically alien to humans, displaying at times behavior that seems bizarre by most mundane standards, as do the seemingly dispassionate Greys when they are claimed to eviscerate random livestock, press intricate designs in grain fields in oddly futile attempts to ‘communicate’ with us, or subject humans to embarrasing medical experiments, none of these for any apparent logical reason.

I could go on with further points of similarity, but I think you get the idea. It seems apparent to me that this is just one piece in a larger picture showing that the UFO phenomenon is much more likely to be a psycho-cultural one than it would be truly extraterrestrial in nature. It seems to be a phenomenon that has been with us for a very long time in one form or another, and the devil is in the details. Very cool, and very interesting indeed.

In Memoriam: My Grandmom…


On this date, early June the 9th, 2009, my family lost Dorothy Emma Darick, my real-world persona’s maternal grandmother, at the august age of 84 after a month in the hospital following a period of recovery from an illness. Our family lost a cornerstone of tradition and wisdom on the one hand, but on the other, she is finally at peace and will be reunited with her husband, my late grandfather, Warren Darick, at long last. This is as it should be. She leaves as her legacy her children, her grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, and all the love she showed us over the years with her guidance and insight. What awaits her now? Many believe they know, but this I do not, and cannot, as I neither have nor can claim any special powers or abilities, no supernormal perceptions with which to know. She has embarked on the ultimate mystery, as one day I myself will, as will we all. The wheel turns, the seasons change, and so ends an era with perhaps the bravest woman I know. She fought long and hard with the Reaper, never giving up as a lesser person would, and relented only after what can only be called an epic struggle for life despite her suffering. If only my vile troythuluness had such strength! At her funeral, I finally had a chance to say my goodbyes, and I’ll say them again here, before the yawning electrons of cyberspace, one more time: Farewell, Grandmom, and whatever awaits you, whether eternal sleep, or eternal life, take care…

Ethereal Heights

its a beautiful world

"Tell me a story" ebook in amazon

new home for ethereal heights

Earth in black and white

A slice of real world

Petals of Fire Lotus

books of poetry and painting

daintypetals

a bouquet of wild flowers

"Black Mist and other stories"

I dreamt for stars, gathered stardust in my soul, sprinkling some to earth now, waiting for them to grow up in dream wood.

HotDog on ACID

Comics and Doodles

Rare Horror

We provide reviews and recommendations for all things horror. We are particularly fond of 80s, foreign, independent, cult and B horror movies. Please use the menu on the top left of the screen to view our archives or to learn more about us.

Michelle M. Welch

author of speculative fiction

Poetgeneral

In the world of Literature, Anything Is possible. Poetry/ literature is the express expression of the heart and soul.

Write With Warnimont

Write for fun. Write to inspire. Write to change the world.

Echo LaVeaux

...mystical musings from a magical mind...

dpapa

Living a flip flop life!

randommusings

"Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo Picasso.

DARK MATTER SPACE

Seeing Future in Space

BOOKS (UN)LIMITED

(im)personal book store for you

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

jhgoodglass

80's Revivalists UNITE!

Storiform.com

Writing Popular Fiction

Sharmishtha Basu

paintings, poems and thoughts

Realm of Empress Musie

Sharmishtha Basu's poetries

"songbird sings to sun" ebook in amazon

Colours and words two muses dancing together

Thoughts

Realm of Musie (my muse)

Marianne Talbot Philosophy

Marianne is Director Of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education

La Audacia de Aquiles

El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto

Optimal Human Modulation

Your Space to Defrag

Words on a blackboard

In a world of poems, words steal love and put it on a blackboard

Math Outlet

Math Resources For Elementary Teachers

Kurt Brindley

RELATING TO HUMANS

Author -Carole Parkes

Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art

Some Bad Plankton

creative outlet plugged in

kvm88

I don't want believe I want to know. - Carl Sagan

Physics and Art

The strange case of Dr. August and Mr. von Orth.

Charlotte Cuevas, Author

Current writing projects: 52 Flashes of Fiction & The 365 Poetry Project: Year 2

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Deidra Alexander's Blog

I have people to kill, lives to ruin, plagues to bring, and worlds to destroy. I am not the Angel of Death. I'm a fiction writer.

lalocabrujita

Zingendewoorden

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands.

Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf

My ramblings about books and other random things.

Radhika Mukherjee

Writer. Editor. Dreamer. Eco-Feminist.

The Nerd Nebula

The Nucleus of the Universe for all Nerd Hacks!

The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Sucheta the Scribbler

Random. Purely Random. And then some more...

Eric Ian Huffman

I've come to Write.

Markovich Universe

The Bliss of Reality

Woodland Rambles

A writer, a dog, and miles of trails

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,173 other followers

%d bloggers like this: