From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Feeling Cranky?

crank |kraNGk|
an eccentric person, esp. one who is obsessed by a particular subject or theory [New Oxford American Dictionary]

I present three people I have come across in my journey through the World Wide Web. I'll let you be the judge as to their eccentricity.

1. John Stojanowski

Back in February, I wrote a post about former Oakland A star Jose Canseco and his musings on the strength of gravity and the size of the dinosaurs. One month later, someone left a comment:
Mr. Canseco apparently has read my theory, 'The Gravity Theory of Mass Extinction', which explains how surface gravity changed. The theory posits that when a supercontinent such as Pangea moves latitudinally, the core elements move off-center to maintain the Earth's conservation of angular momentum.

Therefore, Mr. Canseco cannot claim that this is his theory.

If interested, visit a summary of the theory: http://www.dinoextinct.com/page13.pdf.

While I can't be sure Mr. Stojanowski left the comment, the person does write "my theory."

Let's examine his speculations.
The Gravity Theory of Mass Extinction (GTME) [1] is a theory that explains the causation of mass extinction events throughout the history of the Earth. It also posits the reason for dinosaur gigantism, flood basalt volcanism, rapid changes in marine eustatic sea level, the Earth’s geomagnetic reversals and geomagnetic secular variation. The theory asserts that all of these phenomena are linked together. The foundation of the theory is the assertion that the Earth’s core elements (i.e., inner core, outer core and the densest part of the lower mantle), under certain conditions, can be displaced from their current Earth-centric position. [emphasis in the original]
CREDIT: John Stojanowski
Here's the crux of his thoughts.  As Pangaea split, the core of the core shifted from a off-center position to where it is today - at the center of the Earth.  The initial displacement of the core, he claims, would result in a smaller gravitational field on the supercontinent and allowing the evolution of gigantism among certain reptilian species. He further posits that the motion of the core to the center with the resulting increase in the gravitational field is the major cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

How does Mr. Stojanowski explain the core shift? He thinks that it was produced by the accumulation of the continental crust on one side of the planet. I won't go into all the gory details, but this situation is why your car tires must be balanced.  If the mass of the tire and wheel is not uniformly distributed, the tire will wobble. Your mechanic adds small weights to the rim to prevent this. I'll omit the physical and the mathematical details, and simply state that the largest possible change to the gravitation field is about 1%.  On a side note, the astronauts in the International Space Station orbit 200 miles above the Earth and experience a gravitation field that is only 2.5% smaller.

2. Steven Christ
Oh, where do I begin with Steven Christ. He is a proponent of the Hollow Earth. The Earth is hollow, and we live on the inside. You have to see for yourselves.
The Earth You Live IN...prt 1

If this video is not enough, just go to YouTube and search for his name. Want more after that. Visit his website missteribabylonestar.

3. Louis Savain
I ran across Louis on the creationist website Darwin's God. I commented on Photosynthesis Relies on Quantum Coherence: When Will They Cry Uncle?
Louis replied with typical creationist flair.
So I became intrigued.  A quick Google and I found his blog Rebel Science. Wow!  Louis is some sort of computer guy who has dreams of revolutionizing computer science.  In his ebook How to Solve the Parallel Program Crisis, he claims the the problem with the computer industry is using "the Turing Machine as the de facto computing model in the last century." His answer is "to switch to a non-threaded, non-algorithmic, synchronous (deterministic), reactive and implicitly parallel model."

However, I am not going to take issue with his programming; it's his physics that is… Hmmm, how do I put this politely? Oh, yes. Eccentric.

Louis takes issue with Newton's 1st law of motion, "an object at rest stays at rest and an object traveling in a straight line at a constant speed will continue in that uniform motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced, external force." Newton's 1st law is superstition according to Louis. 

Then he takes on the entire physics community. "I claimed that the physics community’s understanding of motion is fundamentally flawed, on a par with the flat earth hypothesis."

What truly lifts Louis above the rest is his insistence that motion is impossible, and he proves it.
Why is motion in spacetime impossible? It has to do with the definitions of space and time and the equation of velocity v = dx/dt. What the equation is saying is that, if an object moves over any distance d x, there is an elapsed time d t. Since time is defined in physics as a parameter for denoting change (evolution), the equation for velocity along the time axis must be given as v = dt/dt which is self-referential. The self-reference comes from having to divide dt by itself. dt/dt always equals 1 because the units cancel out. This is of course meaningless as far as velocity is concerned.
It is not only not right, it is not even wrong.*

The velocity is defined to be the rate of change of an object's position, but Louis makes a mistake here that I have never seen a student make in my 24 years as a professional physicist. He is seriously confused about what a variable is and what an axis on a graph represents. The equation for velocity along the time axis? Louis doesn't seem to realize that motion along the time axis is simply an object at rest at the origin, that is dx = 0.  0/dt = 0. 

I bet if Louis runs across this blog, he'll call me stupid. Or worse.
Reply to stereox112.
CREDIT: Louis Savain

*For an interesting physics anecdote, see the Wikipedia entry.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Eating Dynamite

David Taylor, a former student of mine and current materials science student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, did this wonderful calculation and posted it on FaceBook.
I have only a couple of notes to add. 
1. Units 2 and 3 of the San Onofre Generating Station north of San Diego each generated 1 Gigawatts when they were running.
CREDIT: Jelson25
2. This is what 1/2 and 1 pound blocks of TNT look like.  Now imagine 120,000 one-pound blocks of TNT.
CREDIT: Soldier of Fortune 
3. E=mc^2. Three milligrams of matter is about a drop of water.
CREDIT: José Manuel Suárez
4. NPR reported that Americans are now eating nearly 2700 calories a day totaling one ton of food a year.
 5. By the way, I know that TNT is not a component of dynamite.  Nitroglycerine is, but Eating Dynamite is a better title.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows

No more sunshine and rainbows for Naveena Shine. Lollipops,maybe. Naveena is the Washington woman who for 47 days attempted to subsist only on sunshine. As I wrote earlier this month, she tried to see if a person could subsist on the "nutritional source already embedded within our body/mind/Spiritual systems that can give us exactly what we need to be healthy and well." 

CREDIT: Ellen M. Banner/Seattle Times
After losing 33 lbs, The Seattle Times reports she's quitting, not because she slowly killing herself, but because "she’s run out of money, and in part because of the public reaction."  On her site Living on Light, she writes that the rest of us are "by no means ready to receive the information I am attempting to produce." She fears that if she were to continue and was successful, we would all rush away from steaks, salads, asparagus, chicken, and all that delicious food we consume and try to live on air and sunshine.  She likens this to "giving a loaded shotgun to a baby."

The funniest paragraph in the Time article begins
Doctors have warned that it is not possible for humans to photosynthesize...
Is civilization really at the point where it takes a physician to warn people that humans aren't plants?

p.s. If you haven't clicked on either of the first two links, then you must click here.  I have a soft spot for Leslie Gore.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cowboy Bob Sorensen Strikes Again

UPDATE: 3:29 p.m. PDT: Cowboy Bob leaves two comments and I respond.
UPDATE 2:01 p.m. PDT: Cowboy Bob responds. See below.
Cowboy Bob
CREDIT: Vann Priest;
original photo obtained from
Gods that don't exist and people who talk to themselves
Back on September 30, 2012, I created this graphic and posted to the FaceBook community, Question the 'Question Evolution Project'.  Just this past Friday, June 14, 2013, I received an email from the FaceBook authorities that it was removed because Cowboy Bob Sorensen (AKA Stormbringer, Piltdown Superman, Uncle Pilty, and numerous other aliases) filed a complaint claiming that I violated his copyright under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Following FaceBook's advice to resolve this directly, I emailed Bob this morning.
Dear Cowboy Bob,
I recently received notice from FaceBook that they "received a notice from a third party that the content infringes their copyright(s)."  That content was removed under the procedures of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The content was a meme I generated using a photo that presumably is one of you and posted to the community Question the 'Question Evolution Project'. The photo I used came from a blog entitled Gods that don't exist and people who talk to themselves.
I contend that the use of your photo is fair use as defined in Section 105 of the copyright law (title 17, U.S. Code).  As such, I do not require your permission to use it, but I am contacting you in the hope that we can resolve this directly.  If you would quickly email FaceBook with your consent to my use of said photo and reference Notice # 394967200609674, I would greatly appreciate it.
As I mentioned above, the use of that photo is fair use; I will be filing a DMCA counter-notification with FaceBook. In support of my contention, I note that you filed a similar claim against Gods that don't exist sometime around February 2013.  The author of that blog filed a successful DCMA counter claim and your photo is once again prominently displayed.
With regards,
Cowboy Bob threatened me with a law suit once before, because… Well, let's use his words.
That was 11 months ago.

Should Cowboy Bob succeed in keeping that graphic off of Facebook, I've found another picture I'll use from here on out.
Cowboy Bob
CREDIT: Quick Draw McGraw/
Hanna-Barbera Productions
Cowboy Bob replies:
No, it has never been legally used. Botten used it without permission. "Fair Use" is an American law, and I was unwilling to undertake the expense of international legislative action. This is in no wise "Fair Use", as it is my property, used without my permission, for the sake of libeling and defaming me; it is not "parody", it was used strictly for juvenile and petty humiliation. So you DO require me permission to use it, and I deny your claim.

Does your college approve of your vindictive, childish behavior? This, plus your previously documented stalking of me, will not help your "case", and you are also embarrassing your employer.

Cowboy Bob

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wingnut Nuclear Physics

Before there was any experimental evidence - in fact, before experimental evidence was even possible, the Greek philosophers Democritus, Leucippus, and Epicurus believed that matter consisted of atoms. It wasn't until the 19th century however that atomic theory had experimental validation. Albert Einstein provided in 1905 a crucial explanation of Brownian motion* that gave atomic theory a firm basis.

In 1909, Ernest Rutherford, Hans Geiger, and Ernest Marsden showed that the atom had a nucleus which we now understand to consist of protons and neutrons.  This presented a puzzle for scientists though.  A proton has a positive electrical charge while a neutron has none.  Given that the nucleus is extremely tiny, the repulsion of the protons must be huge. What is keeping the nucleus together?

Bryan Fischer:
CREDIT: American Family Radio
It wasn't until the late '60s that physicists began to understand that protons and neutron were themselves made up up of even smaller things called quarks.  The attractive force between the quarks is what was keeping the nucleus from flying apart.

Courtesy of Right Wing Watch, I came across Bryan Fischer's recent video in which he enlightens his listeners on his version of nuclear theory and the force that binds the nucleus, but before we watch the video, let's understand who Bryan Fischer is.

Fischer is the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association (AFA) and the host of the radio program Focal Point on American Family Radio. AFA is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and Bryan Fischer's comments on homosexuality were specifically cited.

At the beginning of this clip, Fischer states
One of the age-old questions of science is what keeps the nucleus together.
Later, he says
How does that thing stay together? What hold its together? They've been looking for what scientists call the nuclear glue that keeps them from flying apart.  
Now we know. Now we know what the glue is that holds together the entire universe and keeps it from flying apart.
The answer according to Bryan Fischer?
It is Jesus Christ. In him, all things hold together.
The first question that pops into my head is what happened in 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

CREDIT: U.S. Department of Energy
*Brownian motion is the random motion of small particles, like dust grains, suspended in a fluid.  Robert Brown first observed this in 1827.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Diet Guaranteed to Work

This is Naveena Shine on May 30, the first day of her diet.  Her diet is the simplest one I have ever read.  Don't eat.

Yes, do not eat. To be fair, Ms. Shine is not attempting to lose weight, but to see if humans can thrive without "carbon-based food." She thinks that "we have a nutritional source already embedded within our body/mind/Spiritual systems that can give us exactly what we need to be healthy and well." This is Living on Light. She cites people called Breatharians and Sungazers. One leading Breatharian Jasmuheen asserts
when we are well tuned and four body fit, we can access an inner power which has the ability to love us, guide us, heal us and also nourish our cells. As vast multi-dimensional beings, we have limitless access to a source of internal nourishment (prana-chi) that constantly bubbles champagne-like throughout the matrix of life.
Is she thriving?  Here is a picture from June 8. 

You can follow her on Facebook and YouTube.

As a physicist, I would like to point out that what we are observing here is a good example of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  In attempting to be a closed system, Ms. Shine's entropy is increasing, much more rapidly that nature intends. She should stop snacking on Light immediately and scarf some proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Don't Drink Soy Sauce

Imagine that you're a young man dared to drink a quart of soy sauce.  Would you do it? A first-year student at the University of Virginia was pledging Zeta Psi fraternity and was goaded into doing it.  He was later found having a seizure upstairs at the frat house.

He was taken to the university's medical center where he was diagnosed with hypernatremia, too much salt in the blood.  According to Medscape, an online resource, this is usually found in the elderly who are mentally and physically impaired. It is most often brought on by "impaired thirst and/or restricted access to water, often exacerbated by pathologic conditions with increased fluid loss."

Eating enough salt to induce hypernatremia is rather rare and usually results in death. The doctors who teated him say that "the patient's peak serum sodium … is the highest documented level in an adult patient to survive an acute sodium ingestion without neurologic deficits."(1) The brain damage can occur because of the brain cells shrink due to the diffusion of water out of the cells.  

Chinese food, anyone?

(1) Survival of Acute Hypernatremia Due to Massive Soy Sauce Ingestion, David J. Carlberg, MD, Heather A. Borek, MD, Scott A. Syverud, MD, Christopher P. Holstege, MD, The Journal of Emergency Medicine, June 2013.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Can Water Cure Cancer?


But here's a fellow who seems to think he can cure cancer with water.  A. U. Ramakrishnans is a homeopath.  

Homeopathy was based on the belief that "like cures like," that a substance that causes symptoms similar to a disease can cure that disease.  Many homeopathic remedies are diluted, and herein lies the problem I am addressing.

CREDIT: Welsh Conference of Homeopathy
In this sample of Ramakrishnans' book, A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer, he provides three case studies.  One thing these cases have in common is that they were treated with the remedy carsinosin diluted to 200C. Carsinosin was supposedly derived from the discharge from cancerous breast tumor.  I spent about an hour trying to find a source that told me what this stuff was, but not one homeopathic web site has a description as to its chemical makeup or its biological or chemical source.

For the mathematically inclined, the dilution scale is logarithmic.  For those not so inclined, an increase of 1C is hundred times more diluted.  Let's examine this in more detail.

A 1C dilution means that for every molecule of active ingredient there is 100 molecules of dilutant, usually water or alcohol, but sometimes it's sugar.  A shorthand way of writing this is 1 part per 100, 1/100, or 10^-2. So let's say we have 100 milliliters (3.4 oz) of remedy.  I picked this size since this is the size of a typical travel size liquid container.  The mass of water in this container is 100 grams.  The molecular mass of H2O is 18 grams/ml, so there will be 3.3 X 10^24 molecules of water.  At 1C, there are then 3.3 X 10^22 molecules of remedy.  Now if carcinosin happens to be a fairly typical protein, then there's probably about 2 grams of it in the mixture.

If we now make a 2C dilution there will be 1/100/100 = 10^-4 = 1 part in 10,000.  Now there's 3.3 X 10^22 molecules of remedy. How about 10C?  

Then 1/100/100/100/100/100/100/100/100/100/100 = 10^-20.  In this dilution, there is about 30,000 molecules of remedy, or an amount too small to bother to tell you the mass, but if you have to know, it's 2 billionth billionths of a gram.  Another way to look at this is if we took the original 2 grams of remedy and added water until the same concentration was reached, we would have to add 100,000 trillion liters of water.  That's approximately 1% of all the water in the world's lakes.

If we continue the dilution process to the 12C level, we would only expect just a couple of molecules to be present in the 100 ml of water. Dilute to 13C, and there will be on average no molecules in the remedy.

Now examine Ramakrishnans' book.  In each case study, he prescribes carsinosin diluted to 200C. For there to be a single molecule in a 200C remedy, it would take… Well it's just ridiculous.  We would need a spherical container of water with a radius 10^124 meter.  The observable universe is only 10^27 meters.

Homeopaths contend that water has a memory. I know of no known laws of physics or chemistry that would allow for such an effect.  Besides if water has a memory, then every glass of water you drink has the memory of nearly every human that has ever pissed.

One final note: in 2007, noted magician and skeptic, James Randi attempted suicide by swallowing thirty-two pills, a bottle, of Calm Forte, a homeopathic sleeping aid. Read The Amazing Randi's account of this event and the challenge that grew from it.