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Double Twit Experiment – What Brian Cox Gets Wrong

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  • Double Twit Experiment – What Brian Cox Gets Wrong

    James Sheils makes some good points about public interest in Science, and Brian Cox, in this article:

    I think the appreciation he receives is indicative of most what is wrong with physics education. A faulty presentation of scientific ideas that has greatly diminished and distorted the pubic perception of science.

  • #2
    Brian Cox is one of the top physicists of our time. I don't think we can easily find flaws in his work Gabe.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Sniffy the Atheist View Post
      Brian Cox is one of the top physicists of our time. I don't think we can easily find flaws in his work Gabe.
      Sniffy, you are completely hilarious.

      Comment


      • #4
        That was an interesting article Gabe, the author makes some good points (the most obvious being; he's not a fan of Cox!)

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi,

          I'm the author of that article about Brian Cox.

          As you'll see from the rest of the writings on my blog, I would be described as a skeptic when its comes to the discussion topics on of this forum.

          However, you are quite right to point out that Cox does very little to explain what he thinks is wrong with claims about ESP, and so on.

          Someone not on national television might use Christopher Hitchen's dictum 'what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence', but i'd have hoped for Cox to at least attempt an explanation of, as he calls it, 'woo-woo'.

          With that in mind, i'd be interested to know what believers of ESP (and other topics on this forum) think of Cox. What questions do you think he needs to answer in a dismissal of such things?

          Thanks,

          James Sheils

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by OC68
            LOL! Are you saying this because I mentioned you remind me of him? Will he now be added to your pantheon of great minds- alongside Pinker, Koch, et al?
            He really slipped on that one... His true colors are showing...

            Comment


            • #7
              ‘I understand why quantum theory can seem a little odd… but that isn’t a license to talk utter drivel. … it describes the world with higher precision than the laws physics laid down Newton… It doesn’t therefore allow mystical healing, or ESP, or any other manifestation of New-Age woo-woo into the pantheon of the possible. Always remember quantum theory is physics. And physics is usually done by people without star-signs tattooed on their bottom.’- Brian Cox

              From the article:

              To compare, here are some of the the ideas Cox mentions during his 1 hour lecture:

              * Particles can occupy many locations (an infinite number) at once.
              * Atoms in our bodies shift position due to occurrences 1 billion light years away.
              * Diamonds are 3 billions years old.
              * A golf ball sized object has around ’3 million billion billion atoms’.
              * Atoms are mostly empty space.
              * Electrons can travel an infinite number of paths when moving from one place to another.
              * Diamonds can spontaneously jump out of boxes.
              * There are objects the size of planets, as massive as stars, ‘a million times more dense than water’ and made of pure diamond.

              Now, if all this is true, you might ask: well, what is so strange about ESP and mystical healing now? How are we to tell whether a ‘bizarre prediction’ is a consequence of the latest physics, or ‘wishy-washy-drively-nonsense’?

              If Cox was speaking about a some physics derived from our intuitive physical world (say, Newtonian gravitation) he might well appeal to our common-sense. However, when his own lecture is aimed at challenging our expectations, while introducing some very esoteric phenomena, intuition holds no currency.

              In other words, Cox is appealing to an argument from authority.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sniffy the Atheist View Post
                Brian Cox is one of the top physicists of our time. I don't think we can easily find flaws in his work Gabe.
                That's what we think of Einstein, He was pretty wrong about a few things.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sniffy the Atheist View Post
                  Brian Cox is one of the top physicists of our time. I don't think we can easily find flaws in his work Gabe.
                  Dont forget that scientist are all about "disproving" each other. in other words falsification

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sniffy the Atheist View Post
                    Brian Cox is one of the top physicists of our time. I don't think we can easily find flaws in his work Gabe.
                    Aside from being an arguement from authority, the article is more complaining about his teaching style than his scientific work.

                    I've only read through half of it so far, but the primary complaint seems to be that he's not as good as Carl Sagan or Feynman as a science educator.
                    Last edited by Arouet; February 1st, 2012, 01:44 PM. Reason: typo

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I've only read through half of it so far, but the primarly complaint seems to be that he's not as good as Carl Sagan or Feynman as a science educator.
                      To which I'd agree. But he also makes a good point about the public perception of science (A la the quote I provided from the article.)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes the QM world is very 'different' to what we are used to.

                        Originally posted by DysonSpheres View Post
                        ‘I understand why quantum theory can seem a little odd… but that isn’t a license to talk utter drivel. … it describes the world with higher precision than the laws physics laid down Newton… It doesn’t therefore allow mystical healing, or ESP, or any other manifestation of New-Age woo-woo into the pantheon of the possible. Always remember quantum theory is physics. And physics is usually done by people without star-signs tattooed on their bottom.’- Brian Cox

                        From the article:

                        To compare, here are some of the the ideas Cox mentions during his 1 hour lecture:

                        * Particles can occupy many locations (an infinite number) at once.
                        * Atoms in our bodies shift position due to occurrences 1 billion light years away.
                        * Diamonds are 3 billions years old.
                        * A golf ball sized object has around ’3 million billion billion atoms’.
                        * Atoms are mostly empty space.
                        * Electrons can travel an infinite number of paths when moving from one place to another.
                        * Diamonds can spontaneously jump out of boxes.
                        * There are objects the size of planets, as massive as stars, ‘a million times more dense than water’ and made of pure diamond.

                        Now, if all this is true, you might ask: well, what is so strange about ESP and mystical healing now? How are we to tell whether a ‘bizarre prediction’ is a consequence of the latest physics, or ‘wishy-washy-drively-nonsense’?

                        If Cox was speaking about a some physics derived from our intuitive physical world (say, Newtonian gravitation) he might well appeal to our common-sense. However, when his own lecture is aimed at challenging our expectations, while introducing some very esoteric phenomena, intuition holds no currency.

                        In other words, Cox is appealing to an argument from authority.
                        The difference is that there are specific predictions that can be made and tested - that have held up to the tests. Some of these comments are results of those, some are predictions the same model predicts.

                        Atoms are mostly empty -- Rutherford's gold foil experiment.
                        If we just looked at the intuitive world - would we include microscopic world? What about relativity issues (GPS system, calculations used to get particles to aim in accelerators), synthetic diamonds, ...
                        What is 'your' limit on the tools we get to use?
                        If you challenge the authority then you can go to school and learn the background required to be able to have the conversation at the level of why or why can't the diamond jump out of the box.

                        A difference between the paranormal claims and this -- What is the back ground information needed to have a conversation about ESP, mystic healing, ghosts? People claim they are real. There is evidence that supports that something might be taking place/measured. They jump to the XYZ is real. Ah, there's the problem.
                        According to our model of QM it is possible (though improbable) that the diamond can jump out of the box. Now, if he tried that excuse when they came to take the diamond back ... it would not fly.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Scott View Post
                          If you challenge the authority then you can go to school and learn the background required to be able to have the conversation at the level of why or why can't the diamond jump out of the box.
                          Hello,

                          I wrote the article that was quoted above.

                          Also, let me say that I am what you might call a 'skeptic' regarding these issues.

                          My critique was of Cox as an educator - he seems to be an accomplished physicist. But this does not mean we should take him on authority.

                          I too happen to think there's nothing in ESP, but just saying 'ESP is wrong because people who believe in it have tattoos on their bottoms' is a conversation stopper. It's sloppy education.

                          I happen to think there's much more value in science education for teaching how to think, rather than simply what to think.

                          Non-believers would be outraged if a believer of ESP got a slot on national television and simply asserted it was true, on their authority alone.

                          Yet, many non-believers seems satisfied when someone provides the same inadequate level of explanation, yet happens to agree with them.

                          That's what's wrong with Cox's dismissal.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jamesthenabignumber View Post
                            Hi,

                            I'm the author of that article about Brian Cox.

                            As you'll see from the rest of the writings on my blog, I would be described as a skeptic when its comes to the discussion topics on of this forum.

                            However, you are quite right to point out that Cox does very little to explain what he thinks is wrong with claims about ESP, and so on.

                            Someone not on national television might use Christopher Hitchen's dictum 'what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence', but i'd have hoped for Cox to at least attempt an explanation of, as he calls it, 'woo-woo'.

                            With that in mind, i'd be interested to know what believers of ESP (and other topics on this forum) think of Cox. What questions do you think he needs to answer in a dismissal of such things?

                            Thanks,

                            James Sheils
                            Thanks for dropping by James; it seems as if Cox is simply buying into the oft-repeated idea that all paranormal is bunk, pseudoscience, etc. I really see nothing of substance in his comment, just his personal and unsubstantiated belief that "ESP is woo". People on this forum (including all the skeptics) both agree that this stance is non-productive, and we don't indulge in it here. As a tentative attempt to speak for the proponents here, I've offered a response to your question. With respect to his claims of ESP, we would like it if Cox explained:

                            1.) Why quantum theory does not allow for, as he calls it, "mystical healing, ESP, etc."

                            Why do we want this? - Because from our understanding, which is understandably limited, quantum theory provides the best possible explanation for these phenomena. Entanglement, for example, allows for space-time independent correlations between two particles that have at one time interacted, as demonstrated by the Aspect and Delayed Quantum Eraser experiments. Extending this idea to the biological and social realms is not as far fetched as it might seem, for there is already tentative experimental evidence that EPR effects may exist between isolated neural networks (http://faculty.nps.edu/baer/CompMod-...Page/pizzi.pdf) and that these effects can persist in closely bonded people (Entangled Minds: Brain Correlation Experiments). Granted, the EEG studies are not direct evidence for entanglement between people, but the do (to take Dean Radin's words) "point in the right direction."

                            Additionally, we know of two experiments testing the role of psi in a double slit optical system, and both turned out extremely positive results. (http://media.wisdompractices.org/upl...g_nonlocal.pdf and Entangled Minds).

                            Given that the collective results of the experiments we do have seem to support a link between psi and the quantum world, we feel justified in our assertion that there is probably a connection. Remember, this assertion is now based on evidence, not just speculation.

                            2.) We would like it if Cox had bothered to look at the research (and yes it is research) that he is criticizing, before expounding his obviously professional opinion, and biasing another generation of scientists against psi research.

                            Why do we think this? - It is not uncommon for journals to reject the work of parapsychologists (however good their credentials or their experiments may be) on the grounds that any evidence for the paranormal must be flawed, and the reason is brilliantly expressed in Cox's attitude: uninformed dismissal. People like Ray Hyman, whom have retained a skeptical attitude in spite of the evidence, but have at least LOOKED at the evidence, will never be seen to make this kind of comment, because they know this is not pseudo-science; parapsychology has existed for more than 100 years, and its experiments have evolved to the point where some of today's most committed skeptics have been forced to make surprising admissions.

                            3.) We would (of course) appreciate it if Cox didn't lump ESP with "hippies" and guys with tattoos.

                            Why? - Well, that should be obvious.

                            In summary, we do not expect scientists everywhere to say that ESP is a proven fact, but we would sure appreciate it if they began to admit that the evidence for it is at least interesting. We would like it if, when mainstream scientists talked about psi, they would inform the public that there is *some* evidence for it, including:
                            • the billions of personal experiences reported annually by people around the globe
                            • the more than 10,000 experiments lying out there by parapsychologists with "intriguing results"
                            • the parallels between the results of those experiments and quantum mechanics
                            • and their implications, if confirmed, for our understanding of the physical world.


                            Thanks for dropping by, and I apologize if I seemed a bit rash. As a last favor, perhaps you could shed light (as you appear to understand the physics somewhat better than us) on this quote by Schrodinger

                            If two separated bodies, each by itself known maximally, enter a situation in which they influence each other, and separate again, then there occurs regularly that with I have just called entanglement of our knowledge of the two bodies ... I would not call that "one" but rather "the" characteristic trait of quantum mechanics.
                            and this quote by Dean Radin, answering a question he posed in his book Entangled Minds:

                            Maybe the universe was entangled for the first few nanoseconds after the Big Bang, but how could it have remained entangled for billions of years after wards?

                            Einstein's special theory of relativity proposed that matter and energy are two different aspects of the same substance, and the atomic bomb confirmed that proposal. Thus entanglement is a property of both matter (as in atoms) and energy (as in photons). This means that the bio-electromagnetic fields around our bodies are entangled with electromagnetic fields in the local environment and with photons arriving from distant stars. The brain's electromagnetic fields are entangled with the rest of the universe not because of direct contact, in the sense of billiard balls colliding, but because it's it's fields interpenetrate with the energetic fields of everything else [this is from the theoretical perspective that all fields extend infinitely into space]. This is also how the universe remains entangled.
                            Is the second a "logical" derivative of the first, and if not, why? I anticipate an interesting discussion.

                            - Johann
                            Last edited by Johann; February 2nd, 2012, 01:16 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              When Cox first appeared, I looked forward to some more interesting science programs. I like watching and reading about science - I've learned a lot of stuff that was left out of the inadequate schooling throughout my childhood.

                              I stopped watching Cox when he started calling me stupid. Same reason I don't take what Dawkins says seriously. I am aware of the bias with which they present their worldview so I know I'm seeing a dogmatic presentation. I wouldn't watch religious promotions or attend church sermons for the same reason.

                              If science educators really want to gain audience, then they should stop sneering and welcome discussion. Nobody enjoys being talked-down to, patronised and dismissed.
                              Last edited by Kamarling; February 2nd, 2012, 02:32 AM.

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