8000: Pseudoscience Postravaganza

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AuthorTopic: 8000: Pseudoscience Postravaganza
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Remember how at 5000 posts I celebrated with MMMMM, in which I changed my name every day for a month to commemmorate wacky incidents of medical malpractice from throughout history? Well, this is going to be like that, only with pseudoscience.

Today's name, N-Rays, are a kind of radiation that doesn't exist. A physicist at the hilariously-named University of Nancy saw an electric spark in one of his experiments that looked a little brighter than normal, and immediately decided that it must be because he'd discovered a new form of radiation. Several other researchers then claimed to see the same thing, to the point that they started arguing over who discovered it.

The whole house of cards fell down when a visting researcher secretly dismantled the apparatus supposedly producing the radiation and the Nancy boys still claimed to be observing its effects. It goes to show that it's easy to find the result you want if you don't worry about little details like objective measurements.

[ Friday, December 08, 2006 15:01: Message edited by: N-Rays ]

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Originally by Thuryl:

quote:
Remember how at 5000 posts I celebrated with MMMMM, in which I changed my name every day for a month to commemmorate wacky incidents of medical malpractice from throughout history? Well, this is going to be like that, only with pseudoscience.
Hooray!

Dikiyoba.
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Ooh! Ooh! Do Biological Radiation!

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I like old-school pseudoscience.
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Are your humours in balance?

[ Friday, December 08, 2006 16:42: Message edited by: Emperor Tullegolar ]

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Congratulations, your almost 2/3 of the way to Alorael's posting level.

Pseudo science is making a comeback since the Bush administration started funding faith based research. Pray for the right result to occur.
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quote:
ET: Are your humours in balance?
Wow. In those times they were tough on people without humour.

Today we just shake our heads and secretly laugh at them. :P

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quote:
Originally written by N-Rays:

the Nancy boys
You're terrible. :P

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quote:
Originally written by Arancaytar:

Wow. In those times they were tough on people without humour.
*slits Aran's wrists*

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quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

quote:
Originally written by N-Rays:

the Nancy boys
You're terrible. :P

Contempt for idiots is what this topic is all about. :P

Today's name, Dowsing, is a technique for finding water or minerals underground. Essentially, you walk around with a forked stick and when you suddenly feel a downward pull on the stick, that's where you start digging. In reality, it's likely that dowsers knew enough about geology to have a fair idea of where the best places to dig were without the assistance of a magic stick.

Some dowsers may have hidden their knowledge behind a veil of mysticism to avoid giving away their trade secrets. Others, however, may have sincerely believed that dowsing was effective, and unconsciously provided evidence to support their own beliefs through an interesting psychological process called ideomotor action.

Ideomotor action is a process by which people unconsciously alter their muscle movements to produce results consistent with their expectations. Ideomotor action isn't something that only happens to dowsers; for example, it's almost certainly the reason why people can spell out words on Ouija boards -- they're not really moving their hands around randomly, because it's very hard for a human being to produce genuine randomness or even a reasonable facsimile.

Another example of the ideomotor effect is an educational technique called facilitated communication, which involves therapists "assisting" children with severe neurological defects to type words on a keyboard by holding their hands and moving them toward the keys that the children seemed to be gesturing toward. At first, this produced impressive results. When the experimental setup was altered so that the children could see the word that they needed to type but the assistants couldn't, the results went away.

[ Saturday, December 09, 2006 05:16: Message edited by: Dowsing ]

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IMAGE(http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a181/Alexsticks/nrays.gif)

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The second is the better of the two, Brody :P

And I love these threads! Education and funny pictures!!

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Yay! Alex's sticks are back!

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Might I suggest phrenology for the next one. You can't go wrong predicting people's actions from the shape of their skull. That's solid science, baby!

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He already did that for MMMMM.

Dikiyoba.
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I also believe he did humors. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I even think phrenology was the first one from before.

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quote:
Originally written by Garrison:

I also believe he did humors. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I even think phrenology was the first one from before.
The first one last time was actually gastric freezing.

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Today's name, Alchemy, is like chemistry only weird. The early, pre-scientific days of chemistry relied as much on metaphysics and philosophy as experiment, and the goals of turning base metals into gold and of creating an elixir of life were linked to each other on a philosophical level; the transmutation of base metals into gold was seen as a metaphor for perfecting oneself.

Occasionally the alchemists got things right, and by dropping the philosophical baggage and repeating the stuff that worked to find out why it worked, alchemy was itself transmuted gradually into chemistry. Believe it or not, though, there are still people who practise alchemy.

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I still find it harder to believe that Newton was an alchemist...

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quote:
Originally written by Alchemy:

Believe it or not, though, there are still people who practise alchemy.
Myself, for instance. Soon, the elixir of life will be mine! Then all I'll have left to worry about will be... assassins from the future!

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Historically, alchemy doesn't seem too weird. The scientific method is relatively recent, after all, and people had to start somewhere. People who still practice it today fall into the weird category, though. (And Emperor Tullegolar only proves my point.)

Dikiyoba loves the fact that the spray paint and foil are just sitting on the counter in that cartoon.

Edit: Typo.

[ Sunday, December 10, 2006 15:31: Message edited by: Dikiyoba ]
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Today's name, Immanuel Velikovsky, is the wackiest pseudoastronomer ever. He calls for a radical revision of cosmology and history based on a comparison of the mythologies of different cultures. Reading his works, one gets the impression that the history of the solar system resembles nothing more than a cosmic game of billiards, with planets colliding all over the place.

Among other things, he claims that the planet Venus flew out of the middle of Jupiter a few thousand years ago, and caused some or all of the Biblical ten plagues of Egypt when it passed close to Earth -- he suggests that the heat and gases from Venus caused frogs to breed at an unusually high rate, and massive numbers of locust larvae were carried to Earth in Venus's atmosphere. Also, people living in those days somehow failed to record the fact that a planet almost crashed into Earth because every culture in the world collectively repressed all memory of it. When someone makes claims like these, editorialising on them seems redundant.

[ Tuesday, December 12, 2006 01:25: Message edited by: Immanuel Velikovsky ]

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Apart from his dubious ideas of what constitutes adequate evidence for a startling theory, the problem with Velikovsky is that he replaced all we know and have thoroughly tested about gravity, with his own arbitrary ideas of how planets could move and affect each other. He made no effort to think this through, and consider what other enduring evidence there would have to be for the events and the mechanisms he described, apart from his beloved myths and legends. Perhaps most to the point, the revision of gravity he implicitly assumed was so drastic, that his planetary pinball game becomes irrelevant as an explanation even for his legends: if we're going to consider such drastic revisions of physics, then there are tons more parsimonious explanations than Velikovsky's for every legend you could want.

Insofar as I am correctly remembering what I learned in a course taught by a Newton biographer, the sense in which Newton was an alchemist is not that he played with chemicals. Perhaps he did a bit, but this was not his main point.

A big part of the alchemical world view was the idea that the ancients knew everything, but recorded their secrets in secret ways. So alchemists would pore over ancient texts of all kinds, looking for codes or allegories for deep principles of natural philosophy. Newton did a lot of this 'Bible code' kind of stuff.

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I was never here.

[ Wednesday, December 13, 2006 20:20: Message edited by: Synergy67 ]

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Uh, sorry Synergy, but 'concrete matter and particles' versus 'everything is energy' is not at all accurate as a summary of the difference between classical and quantum physics. There simply is no accurate brief summary of this difference in ordinary human language. That's why quantum physics is so hard to understand: there are no familiar terms in which to state even what is unfamiliar about it.

Insofar as biology and medicine deal with things on scales much larger than the molecular, they are quite right to use classical physics. Quantum physics would, in these cases, simply be a much harder way of computing the same results. Insofar as they deal with biochemistry, and get their biochemical facts right, they are fully quantum mechanical, whether they know it or not.

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