PDA

View Full Version : Is woo-woo contageous?



Sticks
2008-Aug-19, 08:00 AM
Do we sometimes still get taken in when woo-woo is plastered all around?

Do we in moments of weakness succumb to superstitions or irrational fears?

What got me wondering is why am I so uneasy about the LHC coming on stream on 10 September.

I know that the energies that will be used will be far below the energies in cosmic particles which hit the Earth and the moon on regular intervals. We are still here. Even if a micro singularity were created, it would evaporate due to Hawkings radiation. Yet why do I feel apprehensive about this? Have I allowed the Woo-woos to get to me?

We do have the church town day on that day as well, so could that be it

Neverfly
2008-Aug-19, 08:03 AM
Do we sometimes still get taken in when woo-woo is plastered all around?

Do we in moments of weakness succumb to superstitions or irrational fears?

What got me wondering is why am I so uneasy about the LHC coming on stream on 10 September.

I know that the energies that will be used will be far below the energies in cosmic particles which hit the Earth and the moon on regular intervals. We are still here. Even if a micro singularity were created, it would evaporate due to Hawkings radiation. Yet why do I feel apprehensive about this? Have I allowed the Woo-woos to get to me?

The answer to both questions: YES.

Now cut it out and employ the critical thinking you demonstrate so well when dealing with HB's.http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/mesg/emoticons7/45.gif

WaxRubiks
2008-Aug-19, 08:06 AM
ahh, But has Hawking radiation been proven?

Comeon, being a scientist is a bit like being a Hell's Angel... :D

Sticks
2008-Aug-19, 08:10 AM
I do try

But things like superstitions can be so ingrained, luckily so far I have been able to root them out, and hopefully touch wood I shall not be plagued by them :whistle: :shifty:

I did wonder if there was a psychological reason why we fall for these things, is it a mere heard instinct. i.e if everyone is heading in one direction it is harder to go against the flow?

Neverfly
2008-Aug-19, 08:19 AM
is it a mere heard instinct. i.e if everyone is heading in one direction it is harder to go against the flow?

I think so. When told of danger, whether it be conspiracy or whatever, the brain tends to err on the side of caution.
Critical thinking and rational thinking seem to not only alleviate the problem, but can cure as well.
It overrides the herd instinct.
I have absolutely no fear nor nervousness about the LHC.

I say, Bring that bad boy on!http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/mesg/emoticons7/70.gif

Sticks
2008-Aug-19, 08:47 AM
I remember that some years back, in certain advertising slogans they would say "X million people can't be wrong" in order to get people to buy in.

I have seen that argument from HB's that so many people are talking about it so there must be something in it, sounds like a fallacy to me.

I remember once arguing a biblical point, (I will spare you the details) and I was asked by someone who was not even a believer asking me if I was saying that a whole load of bishops were wrong. Given the position I was taking on this point the answer was yes, but it was hard to tell them that. Appeal to authority coupled with appeal to the masses, very powerful forces in forcing us to be woo-woo

Neverfly
2008-Aug-19, 08:58 AM
I could make some comments to your last post Sticks, that would get me into a lot of trouble with Mahesh:D

Sticks
2008-Aug-19, 10:30 AM
BTW

Headlines like this one (http://www.wireservice.ca/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=334) don't help on the LHC or this blog (http://www.news24.com/News24/Columnists/Alistair_Fairweather/0,,2-1630-2426_2372163,00.html) :wall:

I did find this safety report (http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html)from CERN which should debunk these theories, but if you look at the comments on the blog entry some people are resolutely not convinced.

Lianachan
2008-Aug-19, 10:34 AM
I don't think woo-woo is contagious - or, if it is, then I'm not susceptible.

As for the LHC....
Scientists have just built the world's biggest supercollider, and they're doing experiments to see what makes up protons. I hope that if the experiment's successful, the whole of our reality will dissolve, and a big sign will up come that says: Level Two.

jokergirl
2008-Aug-19, 10:41 AM
Bruce Schneier has some very good articles (http://www.schneier.com/essay-155.html) on how announced threats make us insecure.

Check him out some day, he's good.

;)

Moose
2008-Aug-19, 02:21 PM
I have seen that argument from HB's that so many people are talking about it so there must be something in it, sounds like a fallacy to me.

It is indeed. Argument from popularity.

WaxRubiks
2008-Aug-19, 03:56 PM
it's like the alarm call of various animals; say an individual monkey spots a predator, and gives an alarm call, then it might have benefited that species ancestors to spread that alarm call, even though only one monkey may actually have seen something. Any species that doesn't have a time limit of this sort of behaviour will spend it's time giving perpetual alarms and will die out.
With a conspiracy theory, only one monkey need give the alarm, and he/she may have been mistaken, but it seems like a fairly good system, to me.

Gillianren
2008-Aug-19, 04:05 PM
I noted the other day in a conversation about other things that everyone has at least one or two things they're irrational about. At least if yours is the LHC, your fears will be put to rest soon--one way or the other.

Ivan Viehoff
2008-Aug-19, 04:16 PM
No. Rather it is addictive. And it is put about by people who have similar motivations to the tobacco industry.

From a young age I enjoyed visiting, and reading "alternative theories" about, the megaliths and other ancient monuments that dot our countryside. Later I regularly subscribed to the Fortean Times. I viewed this as all a bit of harmless fun. (The Fortean approach, for those who are unfamiliar, is to take a skeptical approach to fruit-cake theories, but still enjoy learning about them first.) I even had a short article published in FT, and to my amazement (it was unsolicited) they paid me.

Then one day I found myself spending some time in a cheap guesthouse on Tahiti waiting for various bits of transport, and, as the sandflies chewed my legs, became well acquainted with its small library, mostly in French. But it did include about 100 pages of a ripped up copy of Graham Hancock's "Fingerprints of the Gods". It didn't even have the cover or first few pages, and it took me quite sometime to discover what exactly it was that I was reading. It read like an academic work, with footnotes making references to scientific literature. He was making some fruitcake assertions, but at least they seemed to have some plausibility and had a fairly solid basis. Moreover Hancock was a serious journalist who had previously worked for quality publications such as The Economist and most of the serious British broadsheets, and so had some credibility.

When I got home, I discovered what it was I had been reading, tracked down and read the whole book, and then made some investigations. It was when how dishonest the whole thing was that I became rather less forgiving of this kind of thing as "innocent fun". The whole thing about the footnotes was a con, to give the appearance of serious research, when in fact it was cloak and daggers. The most egregious example (although in fact so many are so bad that I can hardly have a basis for that evaluation) referred to some early and limited seismology of Antarctica which was so consistent with part of his fruitcake hypothesis (that early civilisations mapped Antarctica without its ice), that it looked too good for coincidence; in fact the specific partial conclusion he was using from this was even certified by the US Navy. I thought, surely there must be some more recent and detailed studies, why doesn't he refer to them? In fact there are more recent studies, and much more detailed ones, and he doesn't refer to them because they are deeply inconvenient to his absurd hypothesis. As are later understandings of post-glacial isostasy, which he does not take into account. But most people wouldn't know that, they would only see the apparently positive evidence he places there.

At one point in the book he says that he must demonstrate all of 13 separate things to demonstrate his overall hypothesis, and if any one is wrong then his hypothesis fails. In fact, as academic geologist Paul Heinrich points out on this web page, http://members.cox.net/pyrophyllite/wildside.shtml every single one of them is wrong. In fact Hancock can be plainly heard retracting the basic thesis of this book at one stage, filmed on British television, but later claimed he hadn't meant that, it was out of context or something. No doubt his publisher reminded him the book was still selling very well, and he had to carry on publicly believing it.

What is so clever about his presentation is illustrated from one passage in the book, where he goes to Peru and Bolivia to make various local investigations. He first tells you that he has never heard of the Tiahuanaco civilisation. What, the most important historic Andean civilisation (the Incas barely lasted 100 years, these people were around for over 1000) and he has never heard of it, and he reckons he can change the standard interpretations of Andean civilisation? Then he gathers an impressive collection of things to read about Machu Picchu, still hasn't managed to read them before he gets to Cusco, and finally falls asleep on the train to Machu Picchu and arrives without reading it.

Why is this so clever? Well, most of his readers haven't heard of Tiahuanaco, and most of them haven't read a pile of books on Machu Picchu either. They want to be reassured that it is all right to have this ignorance, you can still understand this without it. Since Hancock can prove all the experts on Andean civilisations wrong even though I know next to nothing about it, they, the readers, can trust their instincts despite having a similar level of ignorance. In any case, those cleverclogs just have their heads full of detail and can't see the woods for the trees, and have a vested interest in keeping their jobs by keeping out new theories. (And in fact that was true in Mayan studies at one time - the established Mayan theorists erroneously believed Mayan writing was pictographic, and thus for a while managed to sabotage the studies of those who were trying to decipher it.)

Most people find scientific study utterly daunting. The idea that all those scientists have got something totally wrong, (probably through some self-supporting cabal that ensures they all keep their jobs and exclude new ideas that could threaten them - where have you heard that before, er string theory?) and in fact some totally cool idea is right, and they can understand it even though they aren't educated, is just very appealing.

Hancock used his impressive credentials and clever diversionary tactics to get a multi-part TV series on undersea archaeological sites (which in fact are mostly natural artefacts) called Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age: it was on one of the respectable UK channels, and gave the impression of being one of those impressive British documentary series on real science. In fact, as one of the world's leading marine archaeologists, Nic Flemming, writes, it is all cleverly presented rubbish, designed to mislead. http://www.thehallofmaat.com/modules.php?name=Articles&file=article&sid=36 Flemming originally agreed to take part in these programs, but realised he was just being used to give an aura of respectability and he wouldn't be allowed to put forward any of the massively inconvenient facts that Hancock was deflecting attention from. So withdrew participation.

Curiously, in addition to giving him the money to make this sumptuous series, British TV also published a documentary exposing him as a charlatan (find the details on the wikipedia page on GH). Unfortunately, as journalists do, they went a bit over the top, and over-simplified the arguments for the audience. So when he made an official complaint, some of it was upheld. Although this didn't really actually change any of the devastating arguments against his theories, it was enough to enable him to claim that his reputation has survived.

Anything about this remind you of creationists and intelligent designers, anyone?

Lianachan
2008-Aug-19, 05:53 PM
Ivan Viehoff - You should see what he says about the Ark of the Covenant.

mugaliens
2008-Aug-19, 06:33 PM
Appeal to authority coupled with appeal to the masses, very powerful forces in forcing us to be woo-woo

I think you hit the nail on the head, Sticks.

Think on this: Our minds have an immune system against being infected by the contagious woo-woo mirus (mental virus). It's called "rationality," which is nothing more than a propensity for weighing all the evidence against one's experience and clear, logical thinking, shucking the expectations of others, particularly the masses, but also the gubbament and the status quo, and simple licking one's thumb, holding it up at arm's length with one eye closed, and concluding, "that looks about right" before heading off in "that" direction.

Salty
2008-Aug-20, 04:05 AM
BTW

Headlines like this one (http://www.wireservice.ca/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=334) don't help on the LHC or this blog (http://www.news24.com/News24/Columnists/Alistair_Fairweather/0,,2-1630-2426_2372163,00.html) :wall:

I did find this safety report (http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html)from CERN which should debunk these theories, but if you look at the comments on the blog entry some people are resolutely not convinced.

Howdy.

Yes, woo woo is contagious and we can be influenced.

I have made up two sayings, about the above:
1. Twenty million lemmings can't be wrong.
2. The old lemming does not go over the cliff.

Now, I've read your links, up to this point. All I ask, is what kind of energy will we have in the LHC, when billions of protons collide:
1. A 50 ton truck?
2. a matchhead?
3. a flying mosquito?
4. none of the above?

Thank you, for this update. Now I know for sure when to be in church.

WaxRubiks
2008-Aug-20, 06:57 AM
Howdy.

Yes, woo woo is contagious and we can be influenced.

I have made up two sayings, about the above:
1. Twenty million lemmings can't be wrong.
2. The old lemming does not go over the cliff.




it's true; some people can't get over Cliff;;; "the young ones, shouldn't be afraid"... :D

Salty
2008-Aug-20, 07:10 AM
it's true; some people can't get over Cliff;;; "the young ones, shouldn't be afraid"... :D

"...some people..." That's the ones with foresight, they peeked.
Young ones seldom know when to fear, and when not to.

So much for appeal to popular consensus.

Jens
2008-Aug-20, 07:14 AM
What got me wondering is why am I so uneasy about the LHC coming on stream on 10 September.


I am not nervous at all about it. Which isn't to say I don't have irrational fears. I dislike flying. But there are two things: one is that I imagine what will happen to the people I leave behind if I get in a crash, and the second thing is, I imagine what the death process might be like, i.e. getting impaled on a piece of flying metal or something like that. But on the other hand, suppose the LHC does something really, really bad. First, nobody will be left behind, so who cares? And secondly, wouldn't being sucked into a black hole be a pretty painless way to go? I would think you'd just get ripped to shreds.

Sticks
2008-Aug-20, 09:43 AM
Flying is another area, I know what the statistics say about it being safer than going in a car, but yet some still get anxiety about flying.

Is there therefore a connection to phobias here, which are known psychological problems?

Ivan Viehoff
2008-Aug-20, 09:46 AM
Ivan Viehoff - You should see what he says about the Ark of the Covenant.
I visited Ethiopia a few years ago, and at the time Hancock's book is just about the only readily available book on Ethiopian history, albeit that it has the nonsense about AoC thrown in. Moreover he had, again, good credentials - Hancock actually lived in Ethiopia for several years acting as Chief International Apologist for Mengistu Haile Mariam, one of the more unusually tyrannical rulers this planet has seen. And this gave Hancock access to the country in a way that was not possible for others, academics or journalists, at the time, not just because the place was closed, it was also in a state of civil war and very dangerous.

At the time I read the book I hadn't actually worked out quite how devious Hancock could be in presenting apparently convincing arguments when actually the evidence pointed elsewhere. I was in fact sufficiently impressed with most of the book (excluding the obvious nonsense about AoC) that I gave it a very positive review on Amazon, which I ought to get around to removing as it was still there when I last checked. Moreover some of Hancock's peculiarly convincing, but wrong, theories in that book, in particular the stuff about the evidence for a Jewish community at the Egyptian site of Elephantine (which is true), and its possible relevance to Ethiopia (which is unlikely speculation) has unfortunately been started to be quoted by genuine Ethiopian academics, who presumably did not expect such dishonesty, and for whom his theories would have been rather convenient in backing up various Ethiopian myths.

(There is this old book of Ethiopian "history" called Kebre Negast, meaning History of the Kings or something, in which many of Ethiopia's founding myths are written. The most notable is the story of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, where she got herself inseminated by King David, thus founding the Ethiopian dynasty of kings, and stole the AoC to take back to Ethiopia. But it is in fact even less reliable than Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. The names and dates of many real Ethiopian Kings are known, not least from coinage, pottery and other sources. The intersection between those found in genuine historical sources and those mentioned in Kebre Negast is an empty set. A translation of the Kebre Negast is published by Penguin Books.)

A much more sober popularisation of genunine scholarship on the Ark of the Covenant is that of Grierson and Munro-Hay. Also I did eventually track down a serious (but rather dry) modern book on Ethiopian history.

At least one person alive other than its chained guardian has seen the Axum AoC: Mengistu himself. He's still alive and living in Zimbabwe. I'm not sure he does interviews though, especially with having been sentenced to death by the Ethiopian court.

mugaliens
2008-Aug-20, 09:20 PM
Do we sometimes still get taken in when woo-woo is plastered all around?

It could simply be that we get taken in by woo-woo-isms when we're plastered...


Flying is another area, I know what the statistics say about it being safer than going in a car, but yet some still get anxiety about flying.

Is there therefore a connection to phobias here, which are known psychological problems?

I've got a few thousand hours in the air (at the controls, even). As a passenger in the car, about the only driver I feel comfortable with at the wheel while I'm trying to sleep is my dad. Anyone else and I just don't sleep.

Flying, on the other hand, it's easy for me to sleep. I'm probably safer in the air that I am in my bed at home.

Jens
2008-Aug-21, 08:30 AM
Flying, on the other hand, it's easy for me to sleep. I'm probably safer in the air that I am in my bed at home.

That's why I said the fear was irrational. I know that logically, but it doesn't matter.

Going back to the LHC, does anybody have any reaction to my idea that dying in a runaway black hole would be fairly painless? I assume that would be true, but don't really know, and AFAIK nobody has ever experienced it, so it might be a bit difficult to say with certainty.

Ivan Viehoff
2008-Aug-21, 08:33 AM
Flying, on the other hand, it's easy for me to sleep. I'm probably safer in the air that I am in my bed at home.
Er, flying is not quite that safe. Whilst you might techincally be correct that you are safer "in the air", in the sense that the great majority of flight accidents it is the hitting the ground that is dangerous, and accidents are rare in the cruise phase, every flight also has its rather more dangerous take-off and landing. Even taxi-ing on the tarmac has its dangers, as that crash in Italy a couple of years back showed, and you can't avoid that either. Nor the journeys to and from the airport by less safe modes.

There are accidents that happen to people while they are in their bed at home - fires, vehicles crashing into the house, flooding, tornadoes, suffocating gas leaks, intrusions by violent criminals, etc, but rates of death from these things are low. Also should you have a medical emergency, I expect you will get faster attention at home. But unless your house is unusually at risk, I would think you are safer in bed at home than on a flight.

What is really dangerous, on the other hand, is gardening and DIY.

Sticks
2008-Aug-21, 12:44 PM
Flying, on the other hand, it's easy for me to sleep. I'm probably safer in the air that I am in my bed at home.

I am reminded of the old joke

"I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in his sleep, not screaming like his passengers" :whistle:

We now return to the topic of the thread...

Gillianren
2008-Aug-21, 03:56 PM
Going back to the LHC, does anybody have any reaction to my idea that dying in a runaway black hole would be fairly painless?

Honestly, I have no idea. Then again, no one does.

jokergirl
2008-Aug-21, 04:42 PM
You could be in eternal pain, on the point where time stretches on the event horizon...
...or something.

;)

WaxRubiks
2008-Aug-21, 06:28 PM
wouldn't the center be eaten first, thus deforming the Earth's crust, spewing forth lava.

HenrikOlsen
2008-Aug-21, 08:10 PM
Going back to the LHC, does anybody have any reaction to my idea that dying in a runaway black hole would be fairly painless?
Niven I think it was had someone killed by having a micro black hole dropped through him.
Not painless at all as it was the right size to gravitationally liquefy a quarter inch wide cylinder straight through his body.

As for one that's big enough that it eats faster than it evaporates and moves slower that escape velocity, you'd basically have matter "disappearing" from the inside of the earth, slow at first but then faster and faster, so first signs would be an increase in earthquakes, then as it would grow, a runaway increase in volcanism either of which would likely kill you before your crispy flattened corpse gets spaghettified.

jokergirl
2008-Aug-21, 08:13 PM
Right. Totally forgot about that story. That was a really neat one. :)