Thursday, 26 January 2012

On Elsevier, El-Naschie, and FFCP10

Michael Nielsen's post On Elsevier is very interesting. The link from "publication of what are most kindly described as extraordinarily shoddy journals" takes one to a blog post on El-Naschie's past editorial role in “Chaos, Solitons & Fractals”. Related to this, I am quoted in the El Naschie Watch blog on the Frontiers of Fundamental Physics Symposia as follows:
I have been following El Naschie Watch since the story about CSF first appeared. Independently I'd noticed some "interesting" articles by Iovane in CSF. I was on the program and organising committees for the 10th FFCP Symposium. I became aware of the crackpots involved with previous FFCP conferences and tried to eliminate them from this conference series. In particular, El Naschie was removed from the international panel. The AIP proceedings of FFCP10 are, I think, quite respectable. Also, the 2011 conference looks ok. I see that Journeau is no longer organizing the conference and the listed names seem reputable.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Lure of cold fusion backfires

Today's Australian ran this amusing item: Lure of cold fusion backfires. Particularly the bit about suing Dick Smith for $100,000,000! The Age's article Mullumbimby, helping to save world gives some more background:
If Mr Bryce, who as a member of the Australian Skeptics has experience testing the scientific veracity of all sorts of weird and wacky things, gives the technology the thumbs-up, Dick Smith will give the group $200,000. 
Dr Rossi, who works for the US based Leonardo Corporation, claims his E-cat machine can take a small amount of energy and drive a reaction between atoms of hydrogen and nickel which can, through an unknown process, produce a large amount of energy, far exceeding the initial energy input.
So far, Mr Rossi's invention has been greeted with much cynicism by the scientific community. Mr Bryce is sceptical too, but says the machine has the support of six physicists, including two Swedish professors. ''I'll need to see some more evidence before committing the money,'' he said.
Not sure who the "six physicists" are, but I'm certainly glad to hear that Bryce is skeptical.

Rossi is working with Focardi, a physicist at the University of Bologna. The preliminary report on the Rossi and Focardi patent application notes that
As the invention seems, at least at first, to offend against the generally accepted laws of physics and established theories, the disclosure should be detailed enough to prove to a skilled person conversant with mainstream science and technology that the invention is indeed feasible. … In the present case, the invention does not provide experimental evidence (nor any firm theoretical basis) which would enable the skilled person to assess the viability of the invention. The description is essentially based on general statement and speculations which are not apt to provide a clear and exhaustive technical teaching.
which, to me, seems like a pretty intelligent assessment. This appears to contradict an earlier comment that patent offices do not care for the truth of the claims made by the applicants; it would be interesting to know the real postion on "truth" in patent applications.

Related to this topic—and to related issues like climate change and global warming—there is a very interesting quote from Ugo Bardi, a professor of chemistry at the University of Florence, in the The E-Cat Tribe blog post by Steven B. Krivit:
There is a phenomenon of ‘tribalization’ that is now taking over the whole internet. People tend to form virtual tribes in which they repeat to each other always the same thing, until it becomes self-evident that the ‘thing’ is true. People who deny the ‘thing’ are enemies, the tribes assert, because of their internal evilness or because they are paid by the dark forces of Sauron.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Eye from the Sky

Some beautiful autumnal photos by Kacper Kowalski in the Eye from the Sky (Weekend Australian Magazine, December 3, 2011). His website is worth a visit, as is winter photos, an article on him in the photography blog of The New York Times.

The big whimper

I usually enjoy Phillip Adam's columns, and The big whimper is no exception, especially as I'm currently reading Sean Carroll's From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time (not to be confused with From Eternity to Here, which is Frank Viola's "magnum opus", presenting three remarkable stories spanning from Genesis to Revelation), and Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe.

To quote from Adams, "Where's God in all this? Absolutely nowhere. The facts are in—more than ever He, She or It is a redundant notion. So it's time to dump your shares in religion and to accept these exhilarating facts:
  1. We are not at the centre of the universe.
  2. Our human lives are brief and ultimately inconsequential.
  3. We're free to live our lives without risk of damnation or some religious variation of Frequent Flyer Points.
  4. The only meaning our existence has—or the existence of the entire cosmos—is the meaning(s) we choose to give it. Might I suggest love? And the joys of curiosity?"

Cherry-picking contrarians

Nice to see sensible comments on "Award-winning author" Ian Plimer's claims in Cherry-picking contrarian geologists tend to obscure scientific truth by Mike Sandiford. Checking the reaction on Contrarian websites is interesting; it would be amusing, but unfortunately, it is not. Plimer does not even bother to address the issues that Sandiford raises:
  1. There was not a peak of 6 per cent atmospheric CO2 100 million years ago when the dinosaurs roamed the planet.
  2. Antarctic ice core (Siple) air of age about 1900 has a CO2 content of 295ppm.
To quote from an earlier review of Heaven and Earth by Michael Ashley from UNSW, No science in Plimer's primer:
Plimer has done an enormous disservice to science, and the dedicated scientists who are trying to understand climate and the influence of humans, by publishing this book. It is not "merely" atmospheric scientists that would have to be wrong for Plimer to be right. It would require a rewriting of biology, geology, physics, oceanography, astronomy and statistics. Plimer's book deserves to languish on the shelves along with similar pseudo-science such as the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Daniken.

Refining the art of teaching science

Refining the art of teaching science mentions the Australian Academy of Science's report on The Status and Quality of Year 11 and 12 Science in Australian Schools, which I need to read and digest. It also talks about the University of Adelaide's trial of iPads in 2011—which is something that would work very well with Computable Documents (CDFs)—and the couching of its first-year science curriculum in terms of "10 big questions".