Firstly, i'm going to slap myself on the back, because tomorrow (the 27th of May) marks the 1st anniversary of Tapejara blog!
I've managed to do 232 posts (including this one) and received more than 4,500 pageviews. It's only a humble blog, but i hope you've appreciated it :-)
There's been a minor shitstorm in the world of Physics, this week, regarding a man called Weinstein, who claims to have found a Theory of Life, The Universe, and Everything. The Theory.
It's completely bonkers - as Science advances, theories specialise, not generalise - a theory of everything would be horrendously complicated or too vague to be useful... like a prophecy.
But people claiming to have done batty things is not odd. The aforementioned 'minor shitstorm' has come from the fact that Marcus du Sautoy, the University of Oxford’s professor of the public understanding of science, no less, endorsed and publicised the man's claim with an article in the Guardian.
At least two people made mistakes, here, who should not have done - du Sautoy, for endorsing a man on the basis of a neat idea but no evidence (they're both mathematician's - not physicists - cue snide remark about mathematicians not bothering with real-world evidence) and the Grauniad employee(s) for thinking that a hedge-fund manager who left maths behind 20 years ago, who claims to have the answer to life, the universe, and everything, might possibly have something to offer!!
Thank you, Tony Padilla, for tweeting the article from which this quote came:
"Admittedly, it’s a very seductive narrative. Who doesn’t thrill to the idea of an obscure unknown genius toiling away in the shadows, snubbed by the stuffy, closed-minded academic establishment, who defies the odds and manages to achieve what all those brilliant scholars failed to do, thereby ensuring his or her scientific immortality? I love a good story! But this is science, not Good Will Hunting, and that narrative just isn’t true — or rather, it’s too simplistic."
If Weinstein were a 21st century Ramanujan - an unknown who found the limelight and made massive metaphorical waves, he wouldn't have worked in economics for 20 years (the 20s are widely considered massively important for the development of a mathematician's mind) and he wouldn't have made the mistake of giving his talk to a bunch of non-physicists, while all of the physicists who could have understood him were in the room next door, talking about a new source of CP violation in charm physics and its implication for the unitarity triangle!
This is not even the story of an obscure genius - it is the story of a man who is trying to make a buck (probably from a book he's about to release - that's a ploy played by many) while bucking attention from serious scientists who are experts in the claim's field.
The Gaurnaid should feel embarrassed for picking the story to run with. (maybe the 'w' in 'weinstein' was all it took to trick them)
Du Sautoy should feel embarrassed for the same reason; but also for apparently abandoning the scientific method, and lowering himself to the standard of a crank - a move encapsulated in the statement "I'm trying to promote, perhaps, a new way of doing science. Let's start with really big ideas, let's be brave and let's have a discussion".
Um... discussion's what scientists do. Just because it doesn't get in 'papers, doesn't mean it's not happening. But check this, Marcus:
Science stands on evidence. And you've been publicising claims from 'research' that hasn't been published yet, and thereby might as well not exist.
Anyone can write a cheque for "the universe", but unless the drawer has a bloody good account, it's a cheque that's going to bounce.
I leave you Andrew Ponson's closing remarks from his New Scientist piece:
"Grand claims like Weinstein's would – in the normal course of science – be accompanied by a technical paper explaining their foundations. We could then take a deep breath and puzzle over whether they're consistent with the vast knowledge of nature arising from centuries of experiment and observation.
At what point during this long and difficult process does it become legitimate to proclaim a breakthrough? It's a line in shifting sands, but that line has certainly been crossed. Du Sautoy – the University of Oxford's professor of the public understanding of science, no less – has short-circuited science's basic checks and balances. Yesterday's shenanigans were anything but scientific."
Happy Birthday to the imaginatively-named VLT, though - the Very Large Telescope - 15 years old, this month :-)
It's given us some wonderful pictures of the universe we're a part of:
And so has the Kepler Space Telescope which, unfortunately, might be facing an early retirement.
For the want of a wheel, 3 years of data might have been lost. NASA hasn't given up hope though - they think they might be able to nudge it back into action.
We have another trailer for 'The World's End' - the new Wright/Pegg film to complete the Shaun/Fuzz/End trilogy... that was probably the wrong three words to pull out of the film titles!
And if you're a Dead/Hot/World geek, and want to hear some people whitter on with slow-mo analysis of what the trailer might suggest about the film, then you can watch the second video on here:
Wright/Pegg films are always full of references to things. And i think i might have spotted one - at one point three shops are seen, all with the name 'Martin's'. My imagination easily stretches to a Hobbit trilogy reference for Martin Freeman... whad'ya think, huh? :o)
------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff
'I Deleted YouTube // Bad Teeth'
This is the funniest thing i've seen all week! And is that Antony Head as the trololo man? Yes - it is! :-D
'GOLDEN SHOW - On dit que tu t'enc...'
Many attempts to learn new languages must have been stifled by fear of this... :-D
'The Kissing Me Song - Brian May and Kerry Ellis'
The official video - we've been waiting 5 months for this, since the live preview at the 'Make A Wish Ball' in December!
'The Ball' - Richard Wiseman
A brilliant trick. I <3 Richard Wiseman :-D
'The Tea Chronicles' - charlieissocoollike
A psychological comic horror by Charlie McDonnell and Khyan Mansley. It's quali-tea!
'Pubs - A Geezer's Guide // Bad Teeth'
"Always order the Guinness last. They love that!" :-D
'Base Number Jokes Explained - Numberphile'
These are going to get me so many drinks, down at the pub! ...all over my head :-/
'Why 381,654,729 is awesome - Numberphile'
'Suricate - Se loger à Paris'
Beware: macabre humour
'Googol Song - Numberphile'
Helen Arney tries to sing a googol, and then a googolplex...
'When The Uncertainty Principle Goes Up To 11...'
Who deosn't want this guy to teach them Physics?! :)
'What kind of Asian are you?'
"Mind the gap!" Hahahahaha... i think my people's fish and chips are alright, too. One omission, though - she didn't say "bollocks" once :-D
------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks
News Headline Of The Week: "Big rig carrying fruit crashes on 210 Freeway, creates jam"
Word Of The Week: phosphene -- the flashes you see from sonic and physical stimulation of the retina (not caused by light)
Etymology Of The Week: carnage -- through Old italian's 'carnaggio' meaning 'murder/slaughter', from latin 'carnem' meaning 'flesh', hence carnivorous meaning 'meat-eating'
Quote Of The Week: "I was bullied at school, called all kinds of different names. But one day i turned on my bullies and said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". And it worked! From then on, it was sticks and stones all the way." - Harry Hill
Fact Of The Week: The terms 'Eau de Parfum', 'Eau de Toilette', and 'Eau de Cologne' are rule-of-thumb descriptors of the pungency of perfume, although differences between manufacturers will result in some overlap. Parfum is the strongest, and Cologne the weakest
Acronym Of The Week: PDQ -- Pretty Damn Quick
------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff
'27 Things Posh People Like'
How do scientists move baby pandas without domesticating them to humans? They wear a panda suit, of course:
'The world’s most powerful artificial tornado'
Follow the link to see a video of it in action.
Beware, internet fakes!
This picture is actually from this art gallery:
An innumerate quack? Who saw that coming?
"age is just a number... Weight is not"
Also available, by the same author....
"UNCONDITIONAL LOVE... i prefer avg, slim, petite, lil extra... If you [use my profile pictures in any form] it will be considered a violation of my privacy and will be subject to legal ramifications"
Woah, dude - tone down the unconditional love!!!
"That's right - turn your back on me when i'm talking to you - do you have any idea how long i spent raising those chicks? Well do you? Why don't you just go back inside and play with a string? Go on, and stop sulking - the cat-flap's that way..."
"did this broccoli just flip me off?" :-D
Awwww... hahahaha :-D
'Why Science teachers should not be given playground duty'
This is pretty-much how all Science v. Superstition conversations go :-D
Photographic-quality paintings by Anne Middleton
Diego Koi does some pretty-awesome photographic-quality drawings, in pencil this time, too
'Pocket Blu-ray laser kills 100 black balloons in a row!'
Aha - the LASER is absorbed by each of the dark balloons quickly, in turn, causing them to pop, revealing the next balloon, which absorbs all the light, causing them to pop, revealing the next balloon...
'Baby's First Baby' - the doll kit :-D
I suppose this goes down as 'pseudoscience', LOL:
'What your coffee says about you'
'Reporter terrified of rooster'
Best comment: "To be fair most white guys are terrified of big black cocks all up in their faces" - darthalba