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Thread: What was that ATM theory?

  1. #1
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    What was that ATM theory?

    Note: I am posting this in here, rather than ATM, because I am not defending it, I just want to know who came up with it.
    IIRC, this theory states that, when a new compound is first synthesized, it is hard to crystalize because the universe doesn't "know" what system to crystalize it in. Once the universe "decides" the form the crystals should take, it is much easier.
    The mainstream theory was that chemists get microscopic crystals of the compound on their persons, and carry them to laboratories all over the world, and these microcrystals act as nuclei for crystal growth.
    If I haven't messed the description up too much, does anyone recognize it?
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

  2. #2
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    Reminds me of Rupert Sheldrake.

  3. #3
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    Familiar name, that might be it.
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

  4. #4
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    Yes, it's Sheldrake. Morphic Resonance.

    Grant Hutchison

  5. #5
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    I'd have to say neither of those explanations make any sense to me at all. Are we sure this phenomenon exists at all? It sounds to me more like the fact that it's easier to balance an egg on the equinox because it always seems easier to do something when you expect success. In short, the "phenomenon" is psychology.

  6. #6
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    I'd suggest the crystallization story arises from what Ioannidis calls the "Proteus phenomenon" in the medical literature - that later published findings frequently overturn previously reported findings. It's caused by publication bias in the journals, with editors always seeking "new findings" from the pool of publishable papers.
    The whole story seems to have its origin in a Letter to the Editor dating from 1975. It's essentially an anecdote, and I'm not sure it requires either Sheldrake's "formative causation from morphogenetic fields" or a squad of chemists in unlaundered lab coats roaming the world.

    Grant Hutchison

  7. #7
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    Yes, that seems most likely-- people struggling to explain something that requires no explanation, beyond why people are so quick to believe what they have not been shown any evidence of!

  8. #8
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    Maybe there is another "phenomenon" here that works a bit like the fallacy of the straw man argument. Someone promoting a woo-woo explanation starts by stating what the alternative explanation is, and then they only have to make their explanation seem more plausible than that one. So they choose a clearly wrong, or badly described, explanation in the first place, and it's easy to beat that one, so the logic proceeds that if the first explanation is wrong, anything they suggest as an alternative must be right. This technique is a close cousin to the fallacy of starting off by dismissing the most obvious explanation, such that any other explanation seems highly contrived because they are indeed highly contrived, and then the woo explanation only has to seem somewhat less contrived than the others.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Note: I am posting this in here, rather than ATM, because I am not defending it, I just want to know who came up with it.
    IIRC, this theory states that, when a new compound is first synthesized, it is hard to crystalize because the universe doesn't "know" what system to crystalize it in. Once the universe "decides" the form the crystals should take, it is much easier.
    The mainstream theory was that chemists get microscopic crystals of the compound on their persons, and carry them to laboratories all over the world, and these microcrystals act as nuclei for crystal growth.
    If I haven't messed the description up too much, does anyone recognize it?
    I dispute that as a mainstream theory (the dirty lab coat theory).

    First, nuclei for crystal growth do not have to be the substance that is being crystallized. I suspect that the only reason a newly synthesized compound might be hard to crystalize the first time is that people haven't figured out the conditions necessary to do so. Things like solubility and how that changes with temperature will not be known at first. What solvents even to use (if crystallizing from solution) is often art and guesswork.

    Though I'm not even convinced that a newly synthesized compound is always hard to crystallize. I suspect it only gets particularly noted when it is hard.

    Just because I dismiss that as the so-called mainstream theory doesn't mean that I agree with the ATM idea - that is utter and complete nonsense. The universe does "know" any such thing and doesn't "decide" any such thing.
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