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Known Unknowns

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein3 Comments

The image above is a planetary nebula known as M2-9. It’s also known as the Butterfly nebula, but there are lots of other nebulae by that name. Planetary nebulae occur when red giant stars cast off their outer layers as they begin a transition toward becoming a white dwarf. The cast off material is caused to glow when the exposed interior of …

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Tilting at Windmills

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein29 Comments

Over time my effort has focused on writing an original post everyday, which I’ve been doing for more than two years. By the end of this week I’ll have written 800 posts. Despite that, there are many days where it feels like I’m tilting at windmills.

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Quacks Like a Duck

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein4 Comments

The image above features a neuron on the left, and a simulation of large scale galaxy clusters on the right. They look somewhat similar in structure, and if the internet is to be believe, this means something. And it does. Not that the universe is alive, or the cosmos is like a giant brain, but simply that sometimes two radically different things can have similarities in structure.

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And That Student Was Albert Einstein

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein5 Comments

One of the big advantages of the internet is that anyone can participate. We are no longer limited to big publishers or exclusive media channels. That means as a scientist I can communicate directly with people interested in science all over the world, and I’m not beholden to advertisers or managing editors. Of course this freedom of communication comes at a price. …

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Not Even Wrong

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein7 Comments

In science there are models that are right. If they are right often enough or strongly enough, they become scientific theories. There are also models that are wrong. Some, such as the caloric model, seem correct for a time, and then get refuted by experiment or observation. Others are shown to be wrong from the get go. Then there are models that are “not even wrong.”

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Hype Drive

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about a new device that can provide thrust to an object without a corresponding counter-thrust. If true, this would violate a fundamental tenet of physics known as conservation of momentum. Claims of this kind of thing show up all the time “because of the tremendous possibilities if they succeed.” They never work, but in this case there are experiments that claim measurable results. Experiments that have been repeated by multiple teams. Does that mean this effect is real? No.

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Not a Crackpot

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein8 Comments

There’s a new article at Nautilus that asks “Do We Have the Big Bang Theory All Wrong?” It outlines a “radical” new idea that the cosmic microwave background isn’t due to cosmic inflation, but rather to virtual particles in vast emptiness of space. There’s an old saying that if the title of your article is a question, and the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t write the article. In the article the author chose to portray Hans-Jörg Fahr, the proponent of the idea, as a lone genius who questions the established model of cosmology, and who is definitely not a crackpot. Fahr is compared to Halton Arp, Sir Fred Hoyle, and even Hannes Alfvén (who won a Nobel prize for his work on magnetohydrodynamics, which is central to modern astrophysics). These scientists were all clearly brilliant, and they were definitely not crackpots. They were just wrong.