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Yes a handful of people have worked on alternatives - and GR has been found lacking and wrong. You clearly were not aware of that superior alternatives have existed since late 2010. You didn't know about it because the dominant science media and educational institutions continue to take the view that Einstein can do no wrong - if not openly then by their silence. Dennis

Dennis,

That has a lot more to do with me and the general public not being on the cutting edge of physics than some kind of conspiracy against the truth.

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Yes a handful of people have worked on alternatives - and GR has been found lacking and wrong. You clearly were not aware of that superior alternatives have existed since late 2010. You didn't know about it because the dominant science media and educational institutions continue to take the view that Einstein can do no wrong - if not openly then by their silence. Dennis

Dennis,

That has a lot more to do with me and the general public not being on the cutting edge of physics than some kind of conspiracy against the truth.

Rand mentioned the obvious more than a few times that there are leaders within intellectual movements - a small number

of people with influence. The loaded word conspiracy requires context and is often a throw away line for ad hominem attacks

intended to both make the other person seem unreasonable and attempt to cut at the root of their line of argumentation that

more than one person may be involved in a plan or movement of some sort [imagine two or more people working cooperatively - social

animals can't do that]. When like-minded people in positions of power take the same position that can be done independently

or cooperatively with a continuum in between. When can something be called a conspiracy? - that is seldom clear cut.

In our like-minded educational and media world sticking your nose out to say something different can result in unemployment

or if you have an editor or professor controlling your work - that work simply won't be seen. Most like-minded people are not

movers and shakers but follow the crowd. People in the media are almost never subject matter experts, they rely on the movers

and shakers who tend to know each other and work cooperatively for the most part.

Moffat is a mover and shaker who works along the approved path of GR research. McGaugh is a rebel not working the approved

path. We are fortunate that a tiny amount of independence still exists at some educational institutions or there would only be one

approved path of research.

Dennis

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Dennis,

The theories you're talking about are only 4 years old! Maxwell was not taken seriously until long after his death. No one in their right mind would proclaim that standard GR was wrong until these theories have been tested backwards and forwards at least a hundred times. That's not because of Einstein worship, that's just what academic rigor calls for.

That there are leaders and followers in physics and that sometimes this leads to problems is obviously true, welcome to human society. But you're making it sound like there's a cult of Einstein worship that suppresses any and all disagreement, which is definitely not the case.

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Dennis,

I don't know enough about science to opine correctly on icons like Einstein, and I tend to be a hell of a lot more optimistic than you, but I do know human nature. Like you, I learned that at Screw U.

I agree with you in that I don't trust scientists to be rational when they get in group or around money, especially government money or crony capitalism big corporation money. Hell, even tenure at a university will do as temptation.

Scientists will certainly kill innocents just as quickly as a lynch mob if they get lathered up right. Intimidation of those who disagree? Hey, no problemo.

It only took a Nazi Germany for the shameful science of eugenics to tank.

I wonder if all that is due to academic rigor.

Michael

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This is not about the Cosmos away from earth, but from my inbox.

Rasmussen: 31 percent agree Global Warming, “Is perhaps most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

February 19, 2014

Why Mann vs. Steyn Needs Curry vs. Mann

by Robert Tracinski

Every side in the political debate has a natural tendency to appeal to freedom of speech when they feel threatened—but to ignore (or initiate) threats to the free speech of the other side. My favorite example is from the early 1990s, when the Yeltsin government dispossessed Russia's Communist Party of the vast holdings it had amassed in the decades when it controlled the state. The Communist Party screamed in protest, denouncing the supposed attack on its "property rights and freedom of speech." Which was pretty rich, considering that the Communists had just spent 70 years ruthlessly stamping out everyone else's property rights and freedom of speech.

This tendency is captured in an old expression popularized by Nat Hentoff: free speech for me, but not for thee.

I was reminded of this in coming across a little sidelight to Mann vs. Steyn, the defamation lawsuit filed by scientist-turned-activist Michael Mann in an attempt to suppress the speech of global warming skeptics, starting with conservative writer Mark Steyn.

As I have explained elsewhere Mann is attempting to legally punish any attempt to "question his intellect and reasoning"—that's from the DC Superior Court, which preposterously backed his argument—on the grounds that Mann's scientific claims have been investigated by multiple government panels, which have exonerated him.

This claim, by the way, is already falling apart. As Steven McIntyre explains, one of the examples Mann cites is a British panel that did not actually investigate Mann—its focus was on the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, the epicenter of "Climategate"—and in its announcement of its results criticized Mann's methods as "inappropriate" and his results as "exaggerated." At the time, Mann felt so exonerated that he sent harassing e-mails to the scientist who made that remark, demanding a retraction and an apology. Mann then went on to tell the BBC that such a retraction was forthcoming. It wasn't. All of which tells you a great deal about Professor Mann's credibility.

But that's not the main issue. The main issue in the suit is Mann's appeal to authority in the first place. He cites the various government investigations as reasons why, as the DC Superior Court put it, "to question [Mann's] intellect and reasoning is tantamount to a [libelous] accusation of fraud." Mann's goal is to make it a legally punishable offense to question a scientist's honesty or even his thinking method.

If you are criticizing Professor Mann, that is. But if he is criticizing you—well, then, that's a different story.

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Winston Churchill quote from WWII about Adolph Hitler, as he began bombing England:

“This wicked man . . . . This monstrous product of former wrongs and shame has now resolved to break our famous island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction.”

The “Popular Science” web interview with Tyson is different from the print interview. Dennis may be right, about Tyson’s left wing bias, or it may have been edited to highlight a left wing bias on the Pop Sci editor’s part. I notice that the print addition, merely 7 questions long, does contain several “possible” left wing ideas, so you be the judge. Is Tyson a wicked man?

Popular Science: When we find life on other planets, is it going to come and eat us?

Neil Degrasse Tyson: No. People’s first thought every time scientists discover something new is, “Oh, my gosh, you created a virus, so there’s gonna be a killer virus.” I’m not more afraid of something I might find on Mars than I am of a polar bear who’s pissed off because his ice floe is melting.

About China sending a probe to Mars, “. . . I do not know that we will go back into space in a big way, it will not happen unless we are militaristically motivated. Or, unless we feel we can make scads of money at it.

PS: What would a space program with only scientific goals look like?

Tyson: If I put on my pure scientist hat, you would not send humans into space. You have to feed them and keep them warm. A robot couldn’t care less. We can design robots to do what humans can do and better.

“On the web” Pop Sci interview with Tyson:

When astronomer Carl Sagan hosted the 13-part TV Series Cosmos: A Personal Journey," in 1980, it soon become most widely watched PBS show in the world, and still holds a legendary place in the hearts of many. Now, more than three decades later, the series is being brought back, with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as cosmic guide. Tyson, who also spoke with Popular Science for our March issue, chatted with us about the show.

Popular Science: What was it like picking up where Carl Sagan left off?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: It would be weird to try and be Carl, but I'm just trying to be myself, and luckily I already have a following and a comfort level reaching the public and bringing the universe down to Earth. I think that's what Cosmos is about. Some people think it's a remake, but it's not--it's a continuation.

PS: Did you have any interaction with Sagan during his life?

NDT: I think we were in the same company four times. But one story I re-tell in the first episode of the show: When I was 17, he invited me to the campus of Cornell after I applied, and he showed me his lab. He was already famous at the time and I was struck by how kind and tender and interested he was in my ambitions to become a scientist--he didn't have to be. I realized he had a powerful commitment to promoting science and to keep this epic adventure moving forward. I vowed I would give the same attention to people [upon becoming a scientist].

"You'll never have astrophysicists leading nations into war."

The last time I interacted with him was at his 60th birthday party. People came from around the world speaking his praises. No man can deserve this much praise, I thought. Then he gave a public talk, the greatest talk I've ever heard by any person ever, and I realized he did deserve all the praise.

PS: What new material do you cover on the show?

NDT: In the original there's a "cosmic calendar," which we revisit, but upgrade. The calendar is the size of a football field. I walk on the calendar and it lights up. January 1st is the Big Bang. And modern day is just before midnight on December 31st. You realize that cavemen were walking around 15 seconds before midnight, and Jesus was 7 seconds ago. You realize how late we are to the party, and how small we are in time. Knowing that can really effect you.

PS: How so?

NDT: It effects you because it's humbling. You can't come away with this cosmic perspective thinking that you are better than others and want to fight. That's why you'll never have astrophysicists leading nations into war.

PS: Does this "cosmic perspective" effect you?

NDT: It affects me continuously, in every thought I have. It also helps to put life's challenges in perspective. We live on this speck called Earth--think about what you might do, today or tomorrow--and make the most of it.

PS: What was it like working with [co-executive producer] Seth MacFarlane?

NDT: It was great to work with Seth and [sagan's original collaborators] Steven Soter and Ann Druyan. [MacFarlane] is actually interested in science, and there's a certain science literacy in Family Guy, as shown for example by Stewie’s time machine. The director of photography, Bill Pope, also did The Matrix.

PS: What do you want people to get out of the show?

NDT: I want to share this cosmic perspective, and help people learn to be better shepherds--to learn to be good rather than evil. Ideally I'd want people to be intellectually, psychology, spiritually moved, and realize the role of science in their lives.

PS: What do you mean by spiritual?

NDT: If you think of feelings you have when you are awed by something--for example, knowing that elements in your body trace to exploded stars--I call that a spiritual reaction, speaking of awe and majesty, where words fail you.

PS: How might we make it to another star?

NDT: We need to learn to live for 1,000 years. And even that's not long enough. That fastest space ship we've launched carrying people will get to the nearest star in 70,000 years. Either we need a community of fertile people, or to extend human life.

PS: You're an astrophysicist. What unsolved problem in astrophysics most interests you?

NDT: If I stick to pure physics--the mystery of dark space and dark energy remains powerful and potent. Most gravity has no known origin. Is it some exotic particle? Nobody knows. Is dark energy responsible for expansion of the universe? Nobody knows.

["Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" will premiere on Sunday, March 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and again on March 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel. Check out the March 2014 issue of Popular Science for an interview with Tyson about whether he'd prefer a jetpack or a flying car, amongst other topics.]

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