Archive for the 'Bad Math' category

Everyone stop implementing programming languages, right now! It's been solved!

Feb 04 2014 Published by under Bad Software

Back when I was a student working on my PhD, I specialized in programming languages. Lucky for me I did it a long time ago! According to Wired, if I was working on it now, I'd be out of luck - the problem is already solved!

See, these guys built a new programming language which solves all the problems! I mean, just look how daft all of us programming language implementors are!

Today’s languages were each designed with different goals in mind. Matlab was built for matrix calculations, and it’s great at linear algebra. The R language is meant for statistics. Ruby and Python are good general purpose languages, beloved by web developers because they make coding faster and easier. But they don’t run as quickly as languages like C and Java. What we need, Karpinski realized after struggling to build his network simulation tool, is a single language that does everything well.

See, we've been wasting our time, working on languages that are only good for one thing, when if only we'd had a clue, we would have just been smart, and built one perfect language which was good for everything!

How did they accomplish this miraculous task?

Together they fashioned a general purpose programming language that was also suited to advanced mathematics and statistics and could run at speeds rivaling C, the granddaddy of the programming world.

Programmers often use tools that translate slower languages like Ruby and Python into faster languages like Java or C. But that faster code must also be translated — or compiled, in programmer lingo — into code that the machine can understand. That adds more complexity and room for error.

Julia is different in that it doesn’t need an intermediary step. Using LLVM, a compiler developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and enhanced by the likes of Apple and Google, Karpinski and company built the language so that it compiles straight to machine code on the fly, as it runs.

Ye bloody gods, but it's hard to know just where to start ripping that apart.

Let's start with that last paragraph. Apparently, the guys who designed Julia are geniuses, because they used the LLVM backend for their compiler, eliminating the need for an intermediate language.

That's clearly a revolutionary idea. I mean, no one has ever tried to do that before - no programming languages except C and C++ (the original targets of LLVM). Except for Ada. And D. And fortran. And Pure. And Objective-C. And Haskell. And Java. And plenty of others.

And those are just the languages that specifically use the LLVM backend. There are others that use different code generators to generate true binary code.

But hey, let's ignore that bit, and step back.

Let's look at what they say about how other people implement programming languages, shall we? The problem with other languages, they allege, is that their implementations don't actually generate machine code. They translate from a slower language into a faster language. Let's leave aside the fact that speed is an attribute of an implementation, not a language. (I can show you a CommonLisp interpreter that's slow as a dog, and I can show you a CommonLisp interpreter that'll knock your socks off.)

What do the Julia guys actually do? They write a front-end that generates LLVM intermediate code. That is, they don't generate machine code directly. They translate code written in their programming languages into code written in an abstract virtual machine code. And then they take the virtual machine code, and pass it to the LLVM backend, which translates from virtual code to actual true machine code.

In other words, they're not doing anything different from pretty much any other compiled language. It's incredibly rare to see a compiler that actually doesn't do the intermediate code generation. The only example I can think of at the moment is one of the compilers for Go - and even it uses some intermediates internally.

Even if Julia never displaces the more popular languages — or if something better comes along — the team believes it’s changing the way people think about language design. It’s showing the world that one language can give you everything.

That said, it isn’t for everyone. Bezanson says it’s not exactly ideal for building desktop applications or operating systems, and though you can use it for web programming, it’s better suited to technical computing. But it’s still evolving, and according to Jonah Bloch-Johnson, a climate scientist at the University of Chicago who has been experimenting with Julia, it’s more robust than he expected. He says most of what he needs is already available in the language, and some of the code libraries, he adds, are better than what he can get from a seasoned language like Python.

So, our intrepid reporter tells us, the glorious thing about Julia is that it's one language that can give you everything! This should completely change the whole world of programming language design - because us idiots who've worked on languages weren't smart enough to realize that there should be one language that does everything!

And then, in the very next paragraph, he points out that Julia, the great glorious language that's going to change the world of programming language design by being good at everything, isn't good at everything!

Jeebus. Just shoot me now.

I'll finish with a quote that pretty much sums up the idiocy of these guys.

“People have assumed that we need both fast and slow languages,” Bezanson says. “I happen to believe that we don’t need slow languages.”

This sums up just about everything that I hate about what happens when idiots who don't understand programming languages pontificate about how languages should be designed/implemented.

At the moment, in my day job, I'm doing almost all of my programming in Python. Now, I'm not exactly a huge fan of Python. There's an awful lot of slapdash and magic about it that drive me crazy. But I can't really dispute the decision to use it for my project, because it's a very good choice.

What makes it a good choice? A certain kind of flexibility and dynamicism. It's a great language for splicing together different pieces that come from different places. It's not the fastest language in the world. But for my purposess, that's completely irrelevant. If you took a super-duper brilliant, uber-fast language with a compiler that could generate perfectly optimal code every time, it wouldn't be any faster than my Python program. How can that be?

Because my Python program spends most of its time idle, waiting for something to happen. It's talking to a server out on a datacenter cluster, sending it requests, and then waiting for them to complete. When they're done, it looks at the results, and then generates output on a local console. If I had a fast compiler, the only effect it would have is that my program would spend more time idle. If I were pushing my CPU anywhere close to its limits, using less CPU before going idle might be helpful. But it's not.

The speed of the language doesn't matter. But by making my job easier - making it easier to write the code - it saves something much more valuable than CPU time. It saves human time. And a human programmer is vastly more expensive than another 100 CPUs.

We don't specifically need slow languages. But no one sets out to implement a slow language. People implement useful languages. And they make intelligent decisions about where to spend their time. You could implement a machine code generator for Python. It would be an extremely complicated thing to do - but you could do it. (In fact, someone is working on an LLVM front-end for Python! It's not for Python code like my system, but there's a whole community of people who use Python for implementing numeric processing code with NumPy.) But what's the benefit? For most applications, absolutely nothing.

According the the Julia guys, the perfectly rational decision to not dedicate effort to optimization when optimization won't actually pay off is a bad, stupid idea. And that should tell you all that you need to know about their opinions.

39 responses so far

Bad Math from the Bad Astronomer

Jan 17 2014 Published by under Bad Algebra, Bad Math, Bad Physics, Obfuscatory Math

This morning, my friend Dr24Hours pinged me on twitter about some bad math:

And indeed, he was right. Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, of all people, got taken in by a bit of mathematical stupidity, which he credulously swallowed and chose to stupidly expand on.

Let's start with the argument from his video.


We'll consider three infinite series:

S1 = 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + ... 
S2 = 1 - 2 + 3 - 4 + 5 - 6 + ...
S3 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + ...

S1 is something called Grandi's series. According to the video, taken to infinity, Grandi's series alternates between 0 and 1. So to get a value for the full series, you can just take the average - so we'll say that S1 = 1/2. (Note, I'm not explaining the errors here - just repeating their argument.)

Now, consider S2. We're going to add S2 to itself. When we write it, we'll do a bit of offset:

1 - 2 + 3 - 4 + 5 - 6 + ...
    1 - 2 + 3 - 4 + 5 + ...
==============================
1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + ...

So 2S2 = S1; therefore S2 = S1=2 = 1/4.

Now, let's look at what happens if we take the S3, and subtract S2 from it:

   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + ...
- [1 - 2 + 3 - 4 + 5 - 6 + ...]
================================
   0 + 4 + 0 + 8 + 0 + 12 + ... == 4(1 + 2 + 3 + ...)

So, S3 - S2 = 4S3, and therefore 3S3 = -S2, and S3=-1/12.


So what's wrong here?

To begin with, S1 does not equal 1/2. S1 is a non-converging series. It doesn't converge to 1/2; it doesn't converge to anything. This isn't up for debate: it doesn't converge!

In the 19th century, a mathematician named Ernesto Cesaro came up with a way of assigning a value to this series. The assigned value is called the Cesaro summation or Cesaro sum of the series. The sum is defined as follows:

Let A = {a_1 + a_2 + a_3 + ...}. In this series, s_k = \Sigma_{n=1}^{k} a_n. s_k is called the kth partial sum of A.

The series A is Cesaro summable if the average of its partial sums converges towards a value C(A) = \lim_{n \rightarrow \infty} \frac{1}{n}\Sigma_{k=1}^{n} s_k.

So - if you take the first 2 values of A, and average them; and then the first three and average them, and the first 4 and average them, and so on - and that series converges towards a specific value, then the series is Cesaro summable.

Look at Grandi's series. It produces the partial sum averages of 1, 1/2, 2/3, 2/4, 3/5, 3/6, 4/7, 4/8, 5/9, 5/10, ... That series clearly converges towards 1/2. So Grandi's series is Cesaro summable, and its Cesaro sum value is 1/2.

The important thing to note here is that we are not saying that the Cesaro sum is equal to the series. We're saying that there's a way of assigning a measure to the series.

And there is the first huge, gaping, glaring problem with the video. They assert that the Cesaro sum of a series is equal to the series, which isn't true.

From there, they go on to start playing with the infinite series in sloppy algebraic ways, and using the Cesaro summation value in their infinite series algebra. This is, similarly, not a valid thing to do.

Just pull out that definition of the Cesaro summation from before, and look at the series of natural numbers. The partial sums for the natural numbers are 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, ... Their averages are 1, 4/2, 10/3, 20/4, 35/5, 56/6, = 1, 2, 3 1/3, 5, 7, 9 1/3, ... That's not a converging series, which means that the series of natural numbers does not have a Cesaro sum.

What does that mean? It means that if we substitute the Cesaro sum for a series using equality, we get inconsistent results: we get one line of reasoning in which a the series of natural numbers has a Cesaro sum; a second line of reasoning in which the series of natural numbers does not have a Cesaro sum. If we assert that the Cesaro sum of a series is equal to the series, we've destroyed the consistency of our mathematical system.

Inconsistency is death in mathematics: any time you allow inconsistencies in a mathematical system, you get garbage: any statement becomes mathematically provable. Using the equality of an infinite series with its Cesaro sum, I can prove that 0=1, that the square root of 2 is a natural number, or that the moon is made of green cheese.

What makes this worse is that it's obvious. There is no mechanism in real numbers by which addition of positive numbers can roll over into negative. It doesn't matter that infinity is involved: you can't following a monotonically increasing trend, and wind up with something smaller than your starting point.

Someone as allegedly intelligent and educated as Phil Plait should know that.

174 responses so far

The Latest Update in the Hydrino Saga

Jan 14 2014 Published by under Bad Physics

Lots of people have been emailing me to say that there's a new article out about Blacklight, the company started by Randall Mills to promote his Hydrino stuff, which claims to have an independent validation of his stuff, and announcing the any-day-now unveiling of the latest version of his hydrino-based generator.

First of all, folks, this isn't an article, it's a press release from Blacklight. The Financial Post just printed it in their online press-release section. It's an un-edited release written by Blacklight.

There's nothing new here. I continue to think that this is a scam. But what kind of scam?

To find out, let's look at a couple of select quotes from this press release.

Using a proprietary water-based solid fuel confined by two electrodes of a SF-CIHT cell, and applying a current of 12,000 amps through the fuel, water ignites into an extraordinary flash of power. The fuel can be continuously fed into the electrodes to continuously output power. BlackLight has produced millions of watts of power in a volume that is one ten thousandths of a liter corresponding to a power density of over an astonishing 10 billion watts per liter. As a comparison, a liter of BlackLight power source can output as much power as a central power generation plant exceeding the entire power of the four former reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

One ten-thousandth of a liter of water produces millions of watts of power.

Sounds impressive, doesn't it? Oh, but wait... how do we measure energy density of a substance? Joules per liter, or something equivalent - that is, energy per volume. But Blacklight is quoting energy density as watts per liter.

The joule is a unit of energy. A joule is a shorthand for \frac{\text{kilogram}*\text{meter}^2}{\text{second}^2}. Watts are a different unit, a measure of power, which is a shorthand for \frac{\text{kilogram}*\text{meter}^2}{\text{second}^3}. A watt is, therefore, one joule/second.

They're quoting a rather peculiar unit there. I wonder why?

Our safe, non-polluting power-producing system catalytically converts the hydrogen of the H2O-based solid fuel into a non-polluting product, lower-energy state hydrogen called “Hydrino”, by allowing the electrons to fall to smaller radii around the nucleus. The energy release of H2O fuel, freely available in the humidity in the air, is one hundred times that of an equivalent amount of high-octane gasoline. The power is in the form of plasma, a supersonic expanding gaseous ionized physical state of the fuel comprising essentially positive ions and free electrons that can be converted directly to electricity using highly efficient magnetohydrodynamic converters. Simply replacing the consumed H2O regenerates the fuel. Using readily-available components, BlackLight has developed a system engineering design of an electric generator that is closed except for the addition of H2O fuel and generates ten million watts of electricity, enough to power ten thousand homes. Remarkably, the device is less than a cubic foot in volume. To protect its innovations and inventions, multiple worldwide patent applications have been filed on BlackLight’s proprietary technology.

Water, in the alleged hydrino reaction, produces 100 times the energy of high-octane gasoline.

Gasoline contains, on average, about 11.8 kWh/kg. A milliliter of gasoline weighs about 7/10ths of a gram, compared to the 1 gram weight of a milliter of water; therefore, a kilogram of gasoline should contain around 1400 milliliters. So, let's take 11.8kWh/kg, and convert that to an equivalent measure of energy per milliter: about 8 1/2 kWh/milliliter. How does that compare to hydrinos? Oh, wait... we can't convert those, now can we? Because they're using power density. And the power density of a substance depends not just on how much power you can extract, but how long it takes to extract it. Explosives have fantastic power density! Gasoline - particularly high octane gasoline - is formulated to try to burn as slowly as possible, because internal combustion engines are more efficient on a slower burn.

To bring just a bit of numbers into it, TNT has a much higher power density than gasoline. You can easily knock down buildings with TNT, because of the way that it emits all of its energy in one super short burst. But it's energy density is just 1/4th the energy density of gasoline.

Hmm. I wonder why Mills is using the power density?

Here's my guess. Mills has some bullshit process where he spikes his generator with 12000 amps, and gets a microsecond burst of energy out. If you can produce 100 joules from one milliliter in 1/1000th of a second, that's a power density of 100,000 joules per milliliter.

Suddenly, the amount of power that's being generated isn't so huge - and there, I would guess, is the key to Mills latest scam. If you're hitting your generating apparatus with 12,000 amperes of electric current, and you're producing microsecond burst of energy, it's going to be very easy to produce that energy by consuming something in the apparatus, without that consumption being obvious to an observer who isn't allowed to independently examine the apparatus in detail.


Now, what about the "independent verification"? Again, let's look at the press release.

“We at The ENSER Corporation have performed about thirty tests at our premises using BLP’s CIHT electrochemical cells of the type that were tested and reported by BLP in the Spring of 2012, and achieved the three specified goals,” said Dr. Ethirajulu Dayalan, Engineering Fellow, of The ENSER Corporation. “We independently validated BlackLight’s results offsite by an unrelated highly qualified third party. We confirmed that hydrino was the product of any excess electricity observed by three analytical tests on the cell products, and determined that BlackLight Power had achieved fifty times higher power density with stabilization of the electrodes from corrosion.” Dr. Terry Copeland, who managed product development for several electrochemical and energy companies including DuPont Company and Duracell added, “Dr. James Pugh (then Director of Technology at ENSER) and Dr. Ethirajulu Dayalan participated with me in the independent tests of CIHT cells at The ENSER Corporation’s Pinellas Park facility in Florida starting on November 28, 2012. We fabricated and tested CIHT cells capable of continuously producing net electrical output that confirmed the fifty-fold stable power density increase and hydrino as the product.”

Who is the ENSER corporation? They're an engineering consulting/staffing firm that's located in the same town as Blacklight's offices. So, pretty much, what we're seeing is that Mills hired his next door neighbor to provide a data-free testimonial promising that the hydrino generator really did work.

Real scientists, doing real work, don't pull nonsense like this. Mills has been promising a commercial product within a year for almost 25 years. In that time, he's filed multiple patents, some of which have already expired! And yet, he's never actually allowed an independent team to do a public, open test of his system. He's never provided any actual data about the system!

He and his team have claimed things like "We can't let people see it, it's secret". But they're filing patents. You don't get to keep a patent secret. A patent application, under US law, must contain: "a description of how to make and use the invention that must provide sufficient detail for a person skilled in the art (i.e., the relevant area of technology) to make and use the invention.". In other words, if the patents that Mills and friends filed are legally valid, they must contain enough information for an interested independent party to build a hydrino generator. But Mills won't let anyone examine his supposedly working generators. Why? It's not to keep a secret!


Finally, the question that a couple of people, including one reporter for WiredUK asked: If it's all a scam, why would Mills and company keep on making claims?

The answer is the oldest in the book: money.

In my email this morning, I got a new version of a 419 scam letter. It's from a guy who claims to be the nephew of Ariel Sharon. He claims that his uncle owned some farmland, including an extremely valuable grove of olive trees, in the occupied west bank. Now, he claims, the family wants to sell that land - but as Sharon's, they can't let their names get in to the news. So, he says, he wants to "sell" the land to me for a pittance, and then I can sell it for what it's really worth, and we'll split the profits.

When you read about people who've fallen for 419 scams, you find that the scammers don't ask for all of the money up front. They start off small: "There is a $500 fee for the transfer". When they get that, they show you some "evidence" in the form of an official-looking transfer-clearance recepit. But then they say that there's a new problem, and they need money to get around it. "We were preparing to transfer, but the clerk became suspicious; we need to bribe him!", "There's a new financial rule that you can't transfer sums greater that $10000 to someone without a Nigerian bank account containing at least $100,000". It's a continual process. They always show some kind of fake document at each step of the way. The fakes aren't particularly convincing unless you really want to be convinced, but they're enough to keep the money coming.

Mills appears to be operating in very much the same vein. He's getting investors to give him money, promising that whatever they invest, they'll get back manifold when he starts selling hydrino power generators! He promises they'll be on market within a year or two - five at most!

Then he comes up with either a demonstration, or the testimonial from his neighbor, or the self-publication of his book, or another press release talking about the newest version of his technology. It's much better than the old one! This time it's for real - just look at these amazing numbers! It's 10 billion watts per liter, a machine that fits on your desk can generate as much power as a nuclear power plant!! We just need some more money to fix that pesky problem with corrosion on the electrodes, and then we'll go to market, and you'll be rich, rich, rich!

It's been going on for almost 25 years, this constant cycle of press release/demo/testimonial every couple of years. (Seriously; in this post, I showed links to claims from 2009 claiming commercialization within 12 to 18 months; from 2005 claiming commercialization within months; and claims from 1999 claiming commercialization within a year.) But he always comes up with an excuse why those deadlines needed to be missed. And he always manages to find more investors, willing to hand over millions of dollars. As long as suckers are still willing to give him money, why wouldn't he keep on making claims?

31 responses so far

This one's for you, Larry! The Quadrature BLINK Kickstarter

Nov 14 2013 Published by under Bad Physics

After yesterday's post about the return of vortex math, one of my coworkers tweeted the following at me:

Larry's a nice guy, even if he did give me grief at my new-hire orientation. So I decided to take a look. At oh my, what a treasure he found! It's a self-proclaimed genius with a wonderful theory of everything. And he's running a kickstarter campaign to raise money to publish it. So it's a lovely example of profound crackpottery, with a new variant of the buy my book gambit!

To be honest, I'm a bit uncertain about this. At times, it seems like the guy is dead serious; at other times, it seems like it's an elaborate prank. I'm going to pretend that it's completely serious, because that will make this post more fun.

So, what exactly is this theory of everything? I don't know for sure. He's dropping hints, but he's not going to tell us the details of the theory until enough people buy his book! But he's happy to give us some hints, starting with an explanation of what's wrong with physics, and why a guy with absolutely no background in physics or math is the right person to revolutionize physics! He'll explain it to us in nine brief points!

First: Let me ask you a question. Since the inclusion of Relativity and Dirac’s Statistical Model, why has Physics been at loose ends to unify the field? Everyone has tried and failed, and for this reason so many have pointed out: what we don’t need, is another TOE, Theory of Everything. So if I was a Physicist, my theory would probably just be one of these… a failed TOE based on the previous literature.

But why do these theories fail? One thing for sure is that in academia every new ideas stems from previously accepted ideas, with a little tweak here or there. In the main, TOEs in Physics have this in common, and they all have failed. What does this tell you?

See, those physicists, they're all just trying the same stuff, and they all failed, therefore they'll never succeed.

When I look at modern physics, I see some truly amazing things. To pull out one particularly prominent example from this year, we've got the higgs boson. He'll sneer at the higgs boson a bit later, but that was truly astonishing: decades ago, based on a deep understanding of the standard model of particle physics, a group of physicists worked out a theory of what mass was and how it worked. They used that to make a concrete prediction about how their theory could tested. It was untestable at the time, because the kind of equipment needed to perform the experiment didn't exist, and couldn't exist with current technology. 50 years later, after technology advanced, their prediction was confirmed.

That's pretty god-damnned amazing if you ask me.

Based on the arguments from our little friend, a decade ago, you could have waved your hands around, and said that physicists had tried to create theories about why things had mass, and they'd failed. Therefore, obviously, no theory of mass was going to come from physics, and if you wanted to understand the universe, you'd have to turn to non-physicists.

On to point two!

Second: the underlying assumptions in Physics must be wrong, or somehow grossly mis-specified.

That's it. That's the entire point. No attempt to actually support that argument. How do we know that the underlying assumptions in physics must be wrong? Because he says so. Period.

Third: Who can challenge the old paradigm of Physics, only Copernicus? Physicists these days cannot because they are too inured of their own system of beliefs and methodologies. Once a PhD is set in place, Lateral Thinking, or “thinking outside the box,” becomes almost impossible due to departmental “silo thinking.” Not that physicists aren’t smart – some are genius, but like everyone in the academic world they are focused on publishing, getting research grants, teaching and other administrative duties. This leaves little time for creative thinking, most of that went into the PhD. And a PhD will not be accepted unless a candidate is ready and willing to fall down the “departmental silo.” This has a name: Catch 22.

It's the "good old boys" argument. See, all those physicists are just doing what their advisors tell them to; once they've got their PhD, they're just producing more PhDs, enforcing the same bogus rules that their advisors inflicted on them. Not a single physicist in the entire world is willing to buck this! Not one single physicist in the world is willing to take the chance of going down as one of the greatest scientific minds in history by bucking the conventional wisdom.

Except, of course, there are plenty of people doing that. For an example, right off the top of my head, we've got the string theorists. Sure, they get lots of justifiable criticism. But they've worked out a theory that does seem to describe many things about the universe. It's not testable with present technology, and it's not clear that it will ever be testable with any kind of technology. But according to Bretholt's argument, the string theorists shouldn't exist. They're bucking the conventional model, and they're getting absolutely hammered for it by many of their colleagues - but they're still going ahead and working on it, because they believe that they're on to something important.

Fourth: There is not much new theory-making going on in Physics since its practitioners believe their Standard Model is almost complete: just a few more billion dollars in research and all the colors of the Higgs God Particle may be sorted, and possibly we may even glimpse the Higgs Field itself. But this is sort of like hunting down terrorists: if you are in control of defining what a terrorist is, then you will never be out of a job or be without a budget. This has a name too: Self-Fulfilling Prophesy. The brutal truth…

Right, there's not much new theory-making going on in physics. No one is working on string theory. There's no one coming up with theories about dark matter or dark energy. There's no one trying to develop a theory of quantum gravity. No one ever does any of this stuff, because there's no new theory-making going on.

Of course, he hand-waves one of the most fantastic theory-confirmations from physics. The higgs got lots of press, and lots of people like to hand-wave about it and overstate what it means. ("It's the god particle!") But even stripped down to its bare minimum, it's an incredible discovery, and for a jackass like this to wave his hands and pretend that it's meaningless and we need to stop wasting time on stuff like the LHC and listen to him: I just don't even know the right words to describe the kind of disgust it inspires in me.

Fifth: Who then can mount such a paradigm-breaking project? Someone like me, prey tell! But birds like me just don’t sit around the cage and get fat, we fly to the highest vantage point, and see things for what they are! We have a name as well: Free Thinkers. We are exactly what your mother warned you of… There’s a long list of us include Socrates, Christ, Buddha, Taoist Masters, Tibetan Masters, Mohammed, Copernicus, Newton, Maxwell, Gödel, Hesse, Jung, Tesla, Planck… All are Free Thinkers, confident enough in their own knowledge and wisdom that they are willing to risk upsetting the applecart! We soar so humanity can peer beyond its petty day to day and discover itself.

There's two things that really annoy me about this paragraph. First of all, there's the arrogance. This schmuck hasn't done anything yet, but he sees fit to announce that he's up there with Newton, Maxwell, etc.

Second, there's the mushing together of scientists and religious figures. Look, I'm a religious jew. I don't have anything against respecting theology, theologians, or religious authorities. But science is different. Religion is about subjective experience. Even if you believe profoundly in, say, Buddhism, you can't just go through the motions of what Buddha supposedly did and get exactly the same result. There's no objective, repeatable way of testing it. Science is all about the hard work of repeatable, objective experimentation.

He continues point 5:

This chain might have included Einstein and Dirac had they not made three fatal mistakes in Free Thinking: They let their mathematical machine dictate what was true rather than using mathematics only to confirm their observations, they got fooled by their own anthropomorphic assumptions, and then they rooted these assumptions into their mathematical methods. This derailed the last two generations of scientific thinking.

Here's where he strays into the real territory of this blog.

Crackpots love to rag on mathematics. They can't understand it, and they want to believe that they're the real geniuses, so the math must be there to confuse things!

Scientists don't use math to be obscure. Learning math to do science isn't some sort of hazing ritual. The use of math isn't about making science impenetrable to people who aren't part of the club. Math is there because it's essential. Math gives precision to science.

Back to the Higgs boson for a second. The people who proposed the Higgs didn't just say "There's a field that gives things mass". They described what the field was, how they thought it worked, how it interacted with the rest of physics. The only way to do that is with math. Natural language is both too imprecise, and too verbose to be useful for the critical details of scientific theories.

Let me give one example from my own field. When I was in grad school, there was a new system of computer network communication protocols under design, called OSI. OSI was complex, but it had a beauty to its complexity. It carefully divided the way that computer networks and the applications that run on them work into seven layers. Each layer only needed to depend on the details of the layer beneath it. When you contrast it against TCP/IP, it was remarkable. TCP/IP, the protocol that we still use today, is remarkably ad-hoc, and downright sloppy at times.

But we're still using TCP/IP today. Why?

Because OSI was specified in english. After years of specification, several companies and universities implemented OSI network stacks. When they connected them together, what happened? It didn't work. No two of the reference implementations could talk to each other. Each of them was perfectly conformant with the specification. But the specification was imprecise. To a human reader, it seemed precise. Hell, I read some of those specifications (I worked on a specification system, and read all of specs for layers 3 and 4), and I was absolutely convinced that they were precise. But english isn't a good language for precision. It turned out that what we all believed was perfectly precise specification actually had numerous gaps.

There's still a lot of debate about why the OSI effort failed so badly. My take, having been in the thick of it is that this was the root cause: after all the work of building the reference implementations, they realized that their specifications needed to go back to the drawing board, and get the ambiguities fixed - and the world outside of the OSI community wasn't willing to wait. TCP/IP, for all of its flaws, had a perfectly precise specification: the one, single, official reference implementation. It might have been ugly code, it might have been painful to try to figure out what it meant - but it was absolutely precise: whatever that code did was right.

That's the point of math in science: it gives you that kind of unambiguous precision. Without precision, there's no point to science.

Sixth: What happens to Relativity when the assumptions of Lorentz’ space-time is removed? Under these assumptions, the speed of light limits the speed of moving bodies. The Lorentz Transformation was designed specifically to set this speed limit, but there is no factual evidence to back it up. At first, the transformation assumed that there would be length and time dilations and a weight increase when travelling at sub-light speeds. But after the First Misguided Generation ended in the mid 70’s, the weight change idea was discarded as untenable. It was quietly removed because it implied that a body propagating at or near the speed of light would become infinitely massive and turn into a black hole. Thus, the body would swallow itself up and disappear!

Whoops… bad assumption!

The space contraction idea was left intact because it was imperative to Hilbert’s rendition of the space-time geodesic that he devised for Einstein in 1915. Hilbert was the best mathematician of his day, if not ever! He concocted the mathematical behemoth called General Relativity to encapsulate Einstein's famous insight that gravitation was equivalent to an accelerating frame. Now, not only was length assumed to contract, but space was assumed to warp and gravitation was assumed to be an accelerating frame, though no factual evidence exists to back up these assumptions!

Whoops… 3 bad assumptions in a row!

This is an interestingly bizarre argument.

Relativity predicts a change in mass (not weight!) as velocity increases. That prediction has not changed. It has been confirmed, repeatedly, by numerous experiments. The entire reasoning here is based on the unsupported assertion that relativistic changes in mass have been discarded as incorrect. But that couldn't be farther from the truth!

Similarly, he's asserting that the space-warping effects of gravity - one of the fundamental parts of general relativity - is incorrect, again without the slightest support.

This is going to seem like a side-track, but bear with me:

When I came in to my office this morning, I took out my phone and used foursquare to check in. How did that work? Well, my phone received signals from a collection of satellites, and based on the tiny differences in data contained in those signals, it was able to pinpoint my location to precisely the corner of 43 street and Madison avenue, outside of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

To be able to pinpoint my location that precisely, it ultimately relies on clocks in the satellites. Those clocks are in orbit, moving very rapidly, and in a different position in earths gravity well. Space-time is less warped at their elevation than it is here on earth. Relativity predicts that based on that fact, the clocks in those satellites must move at a different rate than clocks here on earth. In order to get precise positions, those clocks need to be adjusted to keep time with the receivers on the surface of the earth.

If relativity - with its interconnected predictions of changes in mass, time, and the warp of space-time - didn't work, then the corrections made by the GPS satellites wouldn't be needed. And yet, they are.

There are numerous other examples of this. We've observed relativistic effects in many different ways, in many different experiments. Despite what Mr. Bretholt asserts, none of this has been disproven or discarded.

Seventh: Many, many, many scientists disagree with Relativity for these reasons and others, but Physics keeps it as a mainstream idea. It has been violated over and over again in various space programs, and is rarely used in the aerospace industry when serious results are expected. Physics would like to correct Relativity because it doesn’t jive with the Quantum Standard Model, but they can’t conceive how to fix it.

In Quadrature Theory the problem with Relativity is obvious and easily solved. The problem is that the origin and nature of space is not known, nor is the origin and nature of time or gravitation. Einstein did not prove anything about gravitation, norhas anyone since. The “accelerating frame” conjecture is for the convenience of mathematics and sheds no light on the nature of gravitation itself. Quantum Chromo Dynamics, QCD, hypothesizes the “graviton” on the basis of similarly convenient mathematics. Many scientists disagree with such “force carrier” propositions: they are all but silenced by the trends in Physics publishing, however. The “graviton” is, nevertheless, a mathematical fiction similar to Higgs Boson.

Whoops… a couple more bad assumptions, but where did they come from?

Are there any serious scientists who disagree with relativity? Mr. Bretholt doesn't actually name any. I can't think of any credible ones. Certainly pretty much all physicists agree that there's a problem because both relativity and quantum physics both appear to be correct, but they're not really compatible. It's a major area of research. But that's a different thing from saying that scientists "disagree" with or reject relativity. Relativity has passed every experimental test that anyone has been able to devise.

Of course, it's completely true that Einstein didn't prove anything about gravity. Science doesn't deal with proof. Science devises models based on observations. It tries to find the best predictive model of the universe that it can, based on repeated observation. Science can disprove things, by showing that they don't match our observations of reality, but it can't prove that a theory is correct. So we can never be sure that our model is correct - just that it does a good job of making predictions that match further observations. Relativity could be completely, entirely, 100% wrong. But given everything we know now, it's the best predictive theory we have, and nothing we've been able to do can disprove it.

Ok, I've gone on long enough. If you want to see his last couple of points, go ahead and follow the link to his "article". After all of this, we still haven't gotten to anything about what his supposed new theory actually says, and I want to get to just a little bit of that. He's not telling us much - he wants money to print his book! - but what little he says is on his kickstarter page.

So let me introduce that modification: it’s called Quadrature, or Q. Quadrature arose from Awareness as the original separation of Awareness from itself. This may sound strangely familiar; I elaborate at length about it in BLINK. The Theory of Quadrature develops Q as the Central Generating Principle that creates the Universe step by step. After a total of 12 applications of Quadrature, it folds back on itself like a snake biting its tail. Due to this inevitable closure, the Universe is complete, replete with life, energy and matter, both dark and light. As a necessary consequence of this single Generating Principle, everything in the Universe is ultimately connected through ascending levels of Awareness.

The majesty and mystery of Awareness and its manifestation remains, but this vision puts us inside as co-creative participants. I think you will agree that this is highly desirable from a metaphysical point of view. Quadrature is the mechanism that science has been looking for to unify these two points of view. Q has been foreshadowed in many ways in both physics and metaphysics. As developed in BLINK, Quadrature Theory can serve as a Theory of Everything.

Pretty typical grandiose crackpottery. This looks an awful lot like a variation of Langan's CTMU. It's all about awareness! And there's a simple "mathematical" construct called "quadrature" that makes it all work. Of course, I can't tell you what quadrature is. No, you need to pay me! Give me money! And then I'll deign to explain it to you.

To make a long story short, Quadrature Theory supports four essential claims that undermine Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Cosmology while placing these disciplines back on a more secure foundation once their erroneous assumptions have been removed. These are:

  1. The origin of space and its nature arise from Quadrature. Space is shown to be strictly rectilinear; space cannot warp under any conditions.
  2. The origin of the Tempic Field and its nature arise from Quadrature. This field facilitates all types of energetic interaction and varies throughout space. The idea of time arises solely from transactions underwritten by the Tempic Field. Therefore, time as we know it here on Earth is a local anomaly, which uniquely affects all interactions including the speed of light. “C,” in fact, is a velocity, and is variable in both speed and direction depending on the gradient of the Tempic Field. Thus, “C” varies drastically off-planet!
  3. Spin is a fundamental operation in space that constitutes the only absolute measurement. Its density throughout space is non-linear and it generates a variable Tempic Field within spinning systems such as atoms, or galaxies. This built-in “time” serves to hold the atom together eternally, and has many other consequences for Quantum Mechanics and Cosmology.
  4. Gravity is also a ringer in physics. Nothing of the fundamental origin of gravity is known, though we know how to use it quite well. Given the consequence of Spin, gravity can be traced to forms that have closed Tempic Fields. The skew electric component of spinning systems will align to create an aggregated, polarized, directional field: gravity.

Pop science, of course, loves to talk about black holes, worm holes, time warps and all manner of the ridiculous in physics. There is much more fascinating stuff than this in my book, and it is completely consistent with what is observable in the Universe. For example, I propose the actual purpose of the black hole and why every galaxy has one. At any rate, perhaps you now have an inkling of why Quadrature Theory is a Revolution Waiting to Happen!

Pure babble, stringing together words in nonsensical ways. As my mantra goes: the worst math is no math. Here he's arguing that rigorous, well-tested mathematical models are incorrect - because vague reasons.

14 responses so far

Vortex Math Returns!

Nov 12 2013 Published by under Bad Physics

Cranks never give up. That's something that I've learned in my time writing this blog. It doesn't matter how stupid an idea is. It doesn't matter how obviously wrong, how profoundly ridiculous. No matter what, cranks will continue to push their ridiculous ideas.

One way that this manifests is the comments on old posts never quite die. Years after I initially write a post, I still have people coming back and trying to share "new evidence" for their crankery. George Shollenberger, the hydrino cranks, the Brown's gas cranks, the CTMU cranks, they've all come back years after a post with more of the same-old, same-old. Most of the time, I just ignore it. There's nothing to be gained in just rehashing the same old nonsense. It's certainly not going to convince the cranks, and it's not going to be interesting to my less insane readers. But every once in a while, something comes along in those comments, something that's actually new and amusing comes along. Today I've got an example of that for you: one of the proponents of Markus Rodin's "Vortex Math" has returned to tell us the great news!

I have linked Vortex Based Mathematics with Physics and can prove most physics using vortex based mathematics. I am writing an article call "Temporal Physics of Vortex Based Mathematics" here: http://www.vortexspace.org

This is a lovely thing, even without needing to actually look at his article. Just start at the very first line! He claims that he can "prove most of physics".

Science doesn't do proof.

What science does is make observations, and then based on those observations produce models of the universe. Then, using that model, it makes predictions, and compares those predictions with further observations. By doing that over and over again, we get better and better models of how the universe works. Science is never sure about anything - because all it can do is check how well the model works. It's always possible that any model doesn't describe how things actually work. But it gives us a good approximation, in a way that allows us to understand how things work. Or, not quite how things work, but how we can affect the world by our actions. Our model might not capture what's really happening - but it's got predictive power.

To give an example of this: our model of the universe says that the earth orbits the sun, which is orbits the galactic core, which is moving through the universe. It's possible that this is wrong. You can propose an alternative model in which the earth is the stationary center of the universe, and everything moves around it. As a model, it's not very attractive, because to make it fit our observations, it requires a huge amount of complexity - it's a far, far more complex model than our standard one, and it's much harder to use to make accurate predictions. But it can be made to work, just as well as our standard one. It's possible that that's how the universe actually works. I don't think any reasonable person actually believes that the universe works that way, but it's possible that our entire model is wrong. Science can't prove that our model is correct. It can just show that it's the simplest model that matches our observations.

But Mr. Calhoun claims that he can prove physics. That claim shows that he has no idea of what science is, or what science means. And if he doesn't understand something that simple, why should we trust him to understand any more?

Ah, but when we take a look at some of his writings... it's a lovely pile of rubbish. Remember the mantra of this blog? The worst math is no math. Mr. Calhoun's writing is a splendid example of this. He claims to be doing science, math, and mathematical proofs - but when you actually look at his writing, there's not a spec of genuine math to be found!

Let's start with a really quick reminder of what vortex math is. Take the sequence of doubling in natural numbers in base-10. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, .... If, for each of those numbers, you sum the digits until you get a single digit result, you get: 1, 2, 4, 8, 7, 5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 7, 5, ... It turns into a repeated sequence, 1, 2, 4, 8, 7, 5, over and over again. You can do the same thing in the reverse direction, by halving: 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.125, 0.0625, 0.03125, 0.015625, 0.0078125, where the digits sum to 1, 5, 7, 8, 4, 2, 1, 5, ...

According to Rodin, this demonstrates something profound. This is the heart of Vortex mathematics: this cycle in the numbers shows that there's some kind of energy flow that is fundamental to the universe, based on this kind of repeating sequence.

So, how does Mr. Calhoun use this? He thinks that he can connect it to black holes and white holes:

Do not forget that we already learned that black holes suck in matter while "compressing" it; and, on the other side of the black hole is a white hole that then takes the same matter and spits it back out while "de-compressing" the matter. The "magnetic warp" video on Youtube shows the same torus shape Marko had illustrated in his "vortex based mathematics" video [see below]:

You can clearly see the vortex in the center of the torus magnets. This is made possible using two Ferrofluid Hele-Shaw Cells [Hele-Shaw effect]. Here are a few links about using ferrofluid hele-shaw cell to view magnetic fields:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hele-Shaw_flow

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/ejournal/issues/volume2issue1/snyder/

Here is a quote from a Youtube user about the magnets:

"Walter Rawls, a? scientist who did a great deal of research with Albert Roy Davis, said that he believes at the center of every magnet there is a miniature black hole."

I have not verified the above statement about Walter Rawls as of yet. However, the above images prove beyond doubt Marko's torus universe mathematical geometry. Now lets take a look at Marko's designs:

The pictures look kind-of-like this silly torus thing that Rodin likes to draw: therefore they prove beyond doubt that Rodin's rubbish is correct! Wow, now that's a mathematical proof!

It gets worse from there.

The next section is "The Physics of Time".

If you looked at the Youtube videos of the true motion of the Earth through space you now know that we are literally falling into a black hole that is at the center of the galaxy. The motion of the Earth; all of the rotation and revolution, all of that together is caused by space-time. Time is acually the rate and pattern of the motion of matter as it moves through space. It is the fourth dimension. you have probably heard this if you have studied Einstien theories: "As an object moves faster the rate of its motion [or time] slows down". Sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it? Well it not so strange once you understand how the fabric of space-time relates to Vortex Based Mathematics.

Motion of the Earth

The planet Earth rotates approx every twenty-four hours. It makes a complete 360o rotation every twenty-four hours. That amount of time is the frequency of the rate of rotation.

Looking down from the north pole of the Earth, you will see that if we divide the sphere into 36 equal parts the sunrise would have to pass through all of the degrees of the sphere in order to make a complete cycle:

Remember the Earth is a "giant magnet" that is spinning. The electromagnetic field of this "giant magnet" is moving out of the north pole [which is really at the geographic south pole] and going to the south pole [which again is really at the geographic north pole]. This electromagnetic field is moving or spinning [see youtube video at top] according to a frequency or cycle.

I don't know if you realize this, but matter can be compressed or expanded without it being destroyed. A black hole does not de-molecularize matter then in passing to the white hole reassemble it again. Nothing that is demolecularized can naturally be put back together again. If an object is destroyed then is it destroyed; there is no reassembly. Matter can be however, compressed and decompressed. As you probably know and have heard this before there is an huge amount of distance between the atoms in your body. Like the giant void of space and much like the distances between planets in our solar system; the atomic matter in our bodies is just as similar in the amount of space between each atom.

What fills the spaces between each atom? Well, Its space-time. It is the fabric of the inertia ether that all matter in space moves through. Spacetime or what I call "etherspace" is what I have come to realize as "the space in between the spaces". This "etherspace" can be compressed and then decompressed. Etherspace can enable all of the matter in your body to be greatly compressed without your body being destroyed; and at the same time functioning as it normally should. The ether space then allows your body to be decompressed again; all the while functioning as it should.

It is the movement of spacetime or "ether space" that is causing the rotation and revolving of the planet we live on. It is also responsible for the motions of all of the bodies in space.

Magnets will, whether great or small, act as engines for etherspace. They pull in etherspace at the south pole and also pump out etherspace at the north pole of the magnet. All magnets do this; the great planet earth all the way to the little magnet that sticks to your refridgerator door. Vortex based mathematics prove all of this. I will show you.

As I stated earlier the Earth is a giant magnet and if we apply the Vortex Based Mathematics to the 10o degree spacings of this "giant magnet" lets see what happens. Now we are going to see the de-compression of space-time eminatiing from the true north pole of the giant magnet of the Earth. Let's deploy a doubling circuit to the spacings of the planet. We will start at 0o and go all the way to 360o .

Calhoun certainly shows that he's a worthy inheritor of the mantle of Rodin. Rodin's entire rubbish is really based on taking a fun property of our particular base-10 numerical notation, and without any good reason, believing that it must be a profound fundamental property of the universe. Calhoun takes two arbitrary things: the 360 degree conventional angle measurement, and the 24 hour day, and likewise, without any good reason, without even any argument, believes that they are fundamental properties of the universe.

Where does the 24 hour day come from? I did a bit of research, and there are a couple of possible arguments. It appears to date back to the old empire of Egypt. The argument that I found most convincing is based on how the Egyptians counted on their hands. They did a lot of things in base-12, because using your thumb to point out the joints of the fingers on your hand, you can count to 12. The origin of our base-10 is based on using fingers to count; base-12 is similar, but based on a slightly different way of counting on your fingers. Using base-12, they decided to describe time in terms of counting periods of light and darkness: 12 bright periods, 12 dark ones. There's nothing scientific or fundamental about it: it's an arbitrary way of measuring time. The Greeks adopted it from the Egyptians; the Romans adopted it from the Greeks; and we adopted it from the Romans. There is no fundamental reason why it is the one true correct way of measuring time.

Similarly, the 360 degree system of angular measure is not the least bit fundamental. It dates back to the Babylonians. In writing, the Babylonions used a base-60 system, instead of our base-10. In their explorations of geometry, they observed that if you inscribed a hexagon inside of a circle, each of the segments of the hexagon was the same length as the radius of the circle. So they measured an angle in terms of which segment of the inscribed hexagon it crossed. Within those sig segments, they divided them into sixty sections, because what else would people who use base-60 use? And then to subdivide those, they used 60 again. The 360 degree system is a random historical accident, not a profound truth.

I don't want to get too far off track (or too farther off track), but: In fact, when you're talking about angles, there is a fundamental measurement, called a radian. Whenever you do math using angles, you end up needing to introduce a conversion factor which converts your angle into radians.

Anyway - this rubbish about the 24 hour day and 360 degree circle are what passes for math in Calhoun's world. This is as close to math or to correctness that Calhoun gets.

What's even worse is his babble about black holes and white holes.

Both black and white holes are theoretical predictions of relativity. The math involved is not simple: it's based on Einstein's field equations from general relativity:

 R_{\mu\nu} - \frac{1}{2}g_{\mu\nu}R + g_{\mu\eta}\Lambda = \frac{8\pi G}{c^4}T_{\mu\nu}

In this equation, the subscripted variables are all symmetric 4x4 tensors. Black and white holes are "solutions" to particular configurations of those tensors. This is not elementary math, not by a long-shot. But if you want to really talk about black and white holes, this is how you do it.

Translating from the math into prose is always a problem, because the prose is far less precise, and it's inevitably misleading. No matter how well you think you understand based on the prose, you don't understand the concept, because you haven't been told enough, in a precise enough way, to actually understand it.

That said, the closest I can come is the following.

We'll start with black holes. Black holes are much easier to understand: put enough mass into a small enough area of space, and you wind up with a boundary line, called the event horizon, where anything that crosses that boundary, no matter what - even massless stuff like light - can never escape. We believe, based on careful analysis, that we've observed black holes in our universe. (Or rather, we've seen evidence that they exist; you can't actually see a black hole; but you can see its effects.) We call a black hole a singularity, because nothing beyond the event horizon is visible - it looks like a hole in space. But it isn't: it's got a mass, which we can measure. Matter goes in to a black hole, and crosses the event horizon. We can no longer see the matter. We can't observe what happens to it once it crosses the horizon. But we know it's still there, because we can observe the mass of the hole, and it increases as matter enters.

(It was pointed out to me on twitter that my explanation of the singularity is wrong. See what happens when you try to explain mathematical stuff non-mathematically?)

White holes are a much harder idea. We've never seen one. In fact, we don't really think that they can exist in our universe. In concept, they're the opposite of a black hole: they are a region with a boundary than nothing can ever cross. In a black hole, you can't cross the boundary an escape; in a white hole, once something crosses the boundary, it can't ever re-enter. White holes only exist in a strange conceptual case, called an eternal black hole - that is, a black hole that has been there forever, which was never formed by gravitational collapse.

There are some folks who've written speculative work based on the solutions to the white hole field equations that suggest that our universe is the result of a white hole, inside of the event horizon of a black hole in an enclosing universe. But in this solution, the white hole exists for an infinitely small period of time: all of the matter in it ejects into a new space-time realm in an instant. There's no actual evidence for this, beyond the fact that it's an interesting way of interpreting a solution to the field equations.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that when it comes to black holes, Calhoun is talking out his ass. A black hole is not one end of a tunnel that leads to a white hole. If you actually do the math, that doesn't work. A black hole does not "compress" matter and pass it to a white hole which decompresses it. A black hole is just a huge clump of very dense matter; when something crosses the event horizon of a black hole, it just becomes part of that clump of matter.

His babble about magnetism is similar: we've got some very elegant field equations, called Maxwell's equations, which describe how magnetism and electric fields work. It's beautiful, if complex, mathematics. And they most definitely do not describe a magnet as something that "pumps eitherspace from the south pole to the north pole".

There's no proof here. And there's no math here. There's nothing here but the midnight pot-fueled ramblings of a not particularly bright sci-fi fan, who took some wonderful stories, and believed that they were based on something true.

18 responses so far

Infinite Cantor Crankery

Jul 29 2013 Published by under Bad Math, Cantor Crankery

I recently got yet another email from a Cantor crank.

Sadly, it's not a particularly interesting letter. It contains an argument that I've seen more times than I can count. But I realized that I don't think I've ever written about this particular boneheaded nonsense!

I'm going to paraphrase the argument: the original is written in broken english and is hard to follow.

  • Cantor's diagonalization creates a magical number ("Cantor's number") based on an infinitely long table.
  • Each digit of Cantor's number is taken from one row of the table: the Nth digit is produced by the Nth row of the table.
  • This means that the Nth digit only exists after processing N rows of the table.
  • Suppose it takes time t to get the value of a digit from a row of the table.
  • Therefore, for any natural number N, it takes N*t time to get the first N digits of Cantor's number.
  • Any finite prefix of Cantor's number is a rational number, which is clearly in the table.
  • The full Cantor's number doesn't exist until an infinite number of steps has been completed, at time &infinity;*t.
  • Therefore Cantor's number never exists. Only finite prefixes of it exist, and they are all rational numbers.

The problem with this is quite simple: Cantor's proof doesn't create a number; it identifies a number.

It might take an infinite amount of time to figure out which number we're talking about - but that doesn't matter. The number, like all numbers, exists, independent of
our ability to compute it. Once you accept the rules of real numbers as a mathematical framework, then all of the numbers, every possible one, whether we can identify it, or describe it, or write it down - they all exist. What a mechanism like Cantor's diagonalization does is just give us a way of identifying a particular number that we're interested in. But that number exists, whether we describe it or identify it.

The easiest way to show the problem here is to think of other irrational numbers. No irrational number can ever be written down completely. We know that there's got to be some number which, multiplied by itself, equals 2. But we can't actually write down all of the digits of that number. We can write down progressively better approximations, but we'll never actually write the square root of two. By the argument above against Cantor's number, we can show that the square root of two doesn't exist. If we need to create the number by writing down all af its digits,s then the square root of two will never get created! Nor will any other irrational number. If you insist on writing numbers down in decimal form, then neither will many fractions. But in math, we don't create numbers: we describe numbers that already exist.

But we could weasel around that, and create an alternative formulation of mathematics in which all numbers must be writeable in some finite form. We wouldn't need to say that we can create numbers, but we could constrain our definitions to get rid of the nasty numbers that make things confusing. We could make a reasonable argument that those problematic real numbers don't really exist - that they're an artifact of a flaw in our logical definition of real numbers. (In fact, some mathematicians like Greg Chaitin have actually made that argument semi-seriously.)

By doing that, irrational numbers could be defined out of existence, because they
can't be written down. In essence, that's what my correspondant is proposing: that the definition of real numbers is broken, and that the problem with Cantor's proof is that it's based on that faulty definition. (I don't think that he'd agree that that's what he's arguing - but either numbers exist that can't be written in a finite amount of time, or they don't. If they do, then his argument is worthless.)

You certainly can argue that the only numbers that should exist are numbers that can be written down. If you do that, there are two main paths. There's the theory of computable numbers (which allows you to keep π and the square roots), and there's the theory of rational numbers (which discards everything that can't be written as a finite fraction). There are interesting theories that build on either of those two approaches. In both, Cantor's argument doesn't apply, because in both, you've restricted the set of numbers to be a countable set.

But that doesn't say anything about the theory of real numbers, which is what Cantor's proof is talking about. In the real numbers, numbers that can't be written down in any form do exist. Numbers like the number produced by Cantor's diagonalization definitely do. The infinite time argument is a load of rubbish because it's based on the faulty concept that Cantor's number doesn't exist until we create it.

The interesting thing about this argument to be, is its selectivity. To my correspondant, the existence of an infinitely long table isn't a problem. He doesn't think that there's anything wrong with the idea of an infinite process creating an infinite table containing a mapping between the natural numbers and the real numbers. He just has a problem with the infinite process of traversing that table. Which is really pretty silly when you think about it.

39 responses so far

Speed-Crankery

May 05 2013 Published by under Bad Math, Cantor Crankery

A fun game to play with cranks is: how long does it take for the crank to contradict themselves?

When you're looking at a good example of crankery, it's full of errors. But for this game, it's not enough to just find an error. What we want is for them to say something so wrong that one sentence just totally tears them down and demonstrates that what they're doing makes no sense.

"The color of a clear sky is green" is, most of the time, wrong. If a crank makes some kind of argument based on the alleged fact that the color of a clear daytime sky is green, the argument is wrong. But as a statement, it's not nonsensical. It' just wrong.

On th other hand, "The color of a clear sky is steak frite with bernaise sauce and a nice side of roasted asparagus", well... it's not even wrong. It's just nonsense.

Today's crank is a great example of this. If, that is, it's legit. I'm not sure that this guy is serious. I think this might be someone playing games, pretending to be a crank. But even if it is, it's still fun.

About a week ago, I got en mail titled "I am a Cantor crank" from a guy named Chris Cuellar. The contents were:

...AND I CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUEL!! En garde!

Haha, ok, not exactly. But you really seem to be interested in this stuff. And so am I. But I think I've nailed Cantor for good this time. Not only have I come up with algorithms to count some of these "uncountable" things, but I have also addressed the proofs directly. The diagonalization argument ends up failing spectacularly, and I believe I have a good explanation for why the whole thing ends up being invalid in the first place.

And then I also get to the power set of natural numbers... I really hope my arguments can be followed. The thing I have to emphasize is that I am working on a different system that does NOT roll up cardinality and countability into one thing! As it will turn out, rational numbers are bigger than integers, integers are bigger than natural numbers... but they are ALL countable, nonetheless!

Anyway, I had started a little blog of my own a while ago on these subjects. The first post is here:

http://laymanmath.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-purpose-and-my-introduction.html

Have fun... BWAHAHAHA

So. We've got one paragraph of intro. And then everything crashes and burns in an instant.

"Rational numbers are bigger than integers, integers are bigger than natural numbers, but they are all countable". This is self-evident rubbish. The definition of "countable" say that an infinite set I is countable if, and only if, you can create a one-to-one mapping between the members of I and the natural numbers. The definition of cardinality says that if you can create a one-to-one mapping between two sets, the sets are the same size.

When Mr. Cuellar says that the set of rational numbers is bigger that the set of natural numbers, but that they are still countable... he's saying that there is not a one-to-one mapping between the two sets, but that there is a one-to-one mapping between the two sets.

Look - you don't get to redefine terms, and then pretend that your redefined terms mean the same thing as the original terms.

If you claim to be refuting Cantor's proof that the cardinality of the real numbers is bigger than the cardinality of the natural numbers, then you have to use Cantor's definition of cardinality.

You can change the definition of the size of a set - or, more precisely, you can propose an alternative metric for how to compare the sizes of sets. But any conclusions that you draw about your new metric are conclusions about your new metric - they're not conclusions about Cantor's cardinality. You can define a new notion of set size in which all infinite sets are the same size. It's entirely possible to do that, and to do that in a consistent way. But it will say nothing about Cantor's cardinality. Cantor's proof will still work.

What my correspondant is doing is, basically, what I did above in saying that the color of the sky is steak frites. I'm using terms in a completely inconsistent meaningless way. Steak frites with bernaise sauce isn't a color. And what Mr. Cuellar does is similar: he's using the word "cardinality", but whatever he means by it, it's not what Cantor meant, and it's not what Cantor's proof meant. You can draw whatever conclusions you want from your new definition, but it has no bearing on whether or not Cantor is correct. I don't even need to visit his site: he's demonstrated, in record time, that he has no idea what he's doing.

6 responses so far

The Gravitational Force of Rubbish

May 01 2013 Published by under Bad Math, Bad Physics

Imagine, for just a moment, that you were one a group of scientists that had proven the most important, the most profound, the most utterly amazing scientific discovery of all time. Where would you publish it?

Maybe Nature? Science? Or maybe you'd prefer to go open-access, and go with PLOS ONE? Or more mainstream, and send a press release to the NYT?

Well, in the case of today's crackpots, they bypassed all of those boring journals. They couldn't be bothered with a pompous rag like the Times. No, they went for the really serious press: America Now with Leeza Gibbons.

What did they go to this amazing media outlet to announce? The most amazing scientific discovery of all time: gravity is an illusion! There's no gravity. In fact, not just is there no gravity, but all of that quantum physics stuff? It's utter rubbish. You don't need any of that complicated stuff! No - you need only one thing: the solar wind.

A new theory on the forces that control planetary orbit refutes the 400-year old assumptions currently held by the scientific community. Scientific and engineering experts Gerhard and Kevin Neumaier have established a relationship between solar winds and a quantized order in both the position and velocity of the solar system's planets, and movement at an atomic level, with both governed by the same set of physics.

The observations made bring into question the Big Bang Theory, the concept of black holes, gravitational waves and gravitons. The Neumaiers' paper, More Than Gravity, is available for review at MoreThanGravity.com

Pretty damned impressive, huh? So let's follow their instructions, and go over to their website.

Ever since humankind discovered that the Earth and the planets revolved around the Sun, there was a question about what force was responsible for this. Since the days of Newton, science has held onto the notion that an invisible force, which we have never been able to detect, controls planetary motion. There are complicated theories about black holes that have never been seen, densities of planets that have never been measured, and subatomic particles that have never been detected.

However, it is simpler than all of that and right in front of us. The Sun and the solar wind are the most powerful forces in our solar system. They are physically moving the planets. In fact, the solar wind spins outward in a spiral at over a million miles per hour that controls the velocity and distances that planets revolve around the Sun. The Sun via the solar wind quantizes the orbits of the planets – their position and speed.

The solar wind also leads to the natural log and other phenomenon from the very large scale down to the atomic level. This is clearly a different idea than the current view that has been held for over 400 years. We have been working on this for close 50 years and thanks to satellite explorations of space have data that just was not available when theories long ago were developed. We think that we have many of the pieces but there are certainly many more to be found. We set this up as a web site, rather as some authoritative book so that there would be plenty of opportunity for dialog. The name for this web site, www.MorethanGravity.com was chosen because we believe there is far more to this subject than is commonly understood. Whether you are a scientific expert in your field or just have a general interest in how our solar system works, we appreciate your comments.

See, it's all about the solar wind. There's no such thing as gravity - that's just nonsense. The sun produces the solar wind, which does absolutely everything. The wind comes out of the sun, and spirals out from the sun. That spiral motion has eddies in it an quantized intervals, and that's where the planets are. Amazing, huh?

Remember my mantra: the worst math is no math. This is a beautiful demonstration
of that.

Of course... why does the solar wind move in a spiral? Everything we know says that in the absence of a force, things move in a straight line. It can't be spiraling because of gravity, because there is no gravity. So why does it spiral? Our brilliant authors don't bother to say. What makes it spiral, instead of just move straight? Mathematically, spiral motion is very complicated. It requires a centripetal force which is smaller than the force that would produce an orbit. Where's that force in this framework? There isn't any. They just say that that's how the solar wind works, period. There are many possible spirals, with different radial velocities - which one does the solar wind follow according to this, and why? Again, no answer from the authors.

Or... why is the sun producing the solar wind at all? According to those old, stupid theories that this work of brilliance supercedes, the sun produces a solar wind because it's fusing hydrogen atoms into helium. That's happening because gravity is causing the atoms of the sun to be compressed together until they fuse. Without gravity, why is fusion happening at all? And given that it's happening, why does the sun not just explode into a supernova? We know, from direct observation, that the energy produced by fusion creates an outward force. But gravity can't be holding the sun together - so why is the sun there at all? Still, no answers.

They do, eventually, do some math. One of the big "results" of this hypothesis is about the "quantization" of the orbits of planets around the sun. They were able to develop a simple equation which predicts the locations where planets could exist in their "solar wind" system.

Let’s start with the distance between the planets and the Sun. We guessed that if the solar system was like an atom, that planetary distance would be quantized. This is to say that we thought that the planets would have definite positions and that they would be either in the position or it would be empty. In a mathematical sense, this would be represented by a numerical integer ordering (0,1,2,3,…). If the first planet, Mercury was in the 0 orbital, how would the rest of the planets line up? Amazingly well we found.

If we predict the distance from the surface of the Sun to each planet in this quantized approach, the results are astounding. If D equals the mean distance to the surface of the Sun, and d0 as the distance to Mercury, we can describe the relationship that orders the planets mathematically as:

 D=d_0 S^n

Each planetary position can be predicted from this equation in a simple calculation as we increase the integer (or planet number) n. S is the solar factor, which equals 1.387. The solar factor is found in the differential rotation of the Sun and the profile of the solar wind which we will discuss later.

Similar to the quantized orbits that exist within an atom, the planetary bodies are either there or not. Mercury is in the zero orbital. The next orbital is missing a planet. The second, third, and fourth orbitals are occupied by Venus, Earth, and Mars respectively. The fifth orbital is missing. The sixth orbital is filled with Ceres. Ceres is described as either the largest of all asteroids or a minor planet (with a diameter a little less than half that of Pluto), depending on who describes it. Ceres was discovered in 1801 as astronomers searched for the missing planets that the Titius-Bode Law predicted would exist.

So. What they found was an exponential equation which products very approximate versions of the size of first 8 planets' orbits, as well as a couple of missing ones.

This is, in its way, interesting. Not because they found anything, but rather because they think that this is somehow profound.

We've got 8 data points (or 9, counting the asteroid belt). More precisely, we have 9 ranges, because all of the orbits are elliptical,but the authors of this junk are producing a single number for the size of the orbits, and they can declare success if their number falls anywherewithin the range from perihelion to aphelion in each of the orbits.

It would be shocking if there weren't any number of simple equations that described exactly the 9 data points of the planet's orbits.

But they couldn't even make that work directly. They only manage to get a partial hit - getting an equation that hits the right points, but which also generates a bunch of misses. There's nothing remotely impressive about that.

From there, they move on to the strawmen. For example, they claim that their "solar wind" hypothesis explains why the planets all orbit in the same direction on the same plane. According to them, if orbits were really gravitational, then planets would orbit in random directions on random planes around the sun. But their theory is better than gravity, because it says why the planets are in the same plane, and why they're all orbiting in the same direction.

The thing is, this is a really stupid argument. Why are the planets in the same plane, orbiting in the same direction? Because the solar system was formed out of a rotating gas cloud. There's a really good, solid, well-supported explanation of why the planets exist, and why they orbit the sun the way they do. Gravity doesn't explain all of it, but gravity is a key piece of it.

What they don't seem to understand is how amazingly powerful the theory of gravity is as a predictive tool. We've sent probes to the outer edges of the solar system. To do that, we didn't just aim a rocket towards Jupiter and fire it off. We've done things like the Cassini probe, where we launched a rocket towards Venus. It used the gravitational field of Venus twice to accelerate it with a double-slingshot maneuver, and send it back towards earth, using the earth's gravity to slingshot it again, to give it the speed it needed to get to Jupiter.

This wasn't a simple thing to do. It required an extremely deep understanding of gravity, with extremely accurate predictions of exactly how gravity behaves.

How do our brilliant authors answer this? By handwaving. The extend of their response is:

Gravitational theory works for things like space travel because it empirically measures the force of a planet, rather than predicting it.

That's a pathetic handwave, and it's not even close to true. The gravitational slingshot is a perfect answer to it. A slingshot doesn't just use some "empirically measured" force of a planet. It's a very precise prediction of what the forces will be at different distances, how that force will vary, and what effects that force will have.

They do a whole lot more handwaving of very much the same order. Pure rubbish.

19 responses so far

Genius Continuum Crackpottery

Mar 21 2013 Published by under Bad Algebra, Bad Logic, Bad Math, Cantor Crankery

There's a lot of mathematical crackpottery out there. Most of it is just pointless and dull. People making the same stupid mistakes over and over again, like the endless repetitions of the same-old supposed refutations of Cantor's diagonalization.

After you eliminate that, you get reams of insanity - stuff which
is simply so incoherent that it doesn't make any sense. This kind of thing is usually word salad - words strung together in ways that don't make sense.

After you eliminate that, sometimes, if you're really lucky, you'll come accross something truly special. Crackpottery as utter genius. Not genius in a good way, like they're an outsider genius who discovered something amazing, but genius in the worst possible way, where someone has created something so bizarre, so overwrought, so utterly ridiculous that it's a masterpiece of insane, delusional foolishness.

Today, we have an example of that: Existics!. This is a body of work by a high school dropout named Gavin Wince with truly immense delusions of grandeur. Pomposity on a truly epic scale!

I'll walk you through just a tiny sample of Mr. Wince's genius. You can go look at his site to get more, and develop a true appreciation for this. He doesn't limit himself to mere mathematics: math, physics, biology, cosmology - you name it, Mr. Wince has mastered it and written about it!

The best of his mathematical crackpottery is something called C3: the Canonized Cardinal Continuum. Mr. Wince has created an algebraic solution to the continuum hypothesis, and along the way, has revolutionized number theory, algebra, calculus, real analysis, and god only knows what else!

Since Mr. Wince believes that he has solved the continuum hypothesis. Let me remind you of what that is:

  1. If you use Cantor's set theory to explore numbers, you get to the uncomfortable result that there are different sizes of infinity.
  2. The smallest infinite cardinal number is called ℵ0,
    and it's the size of the set of natural numbers.
  3. There are cardinal numbers larger than ℵ0. The first
    one larger than ℵ0 is ℵ1.
  4. We know that the set of real numbers is the size of the powerset
    of the natural numbers - 20 - is larger than the set of the naturals.
  5. The question that the continuum hypothesis tries to answer is: is the size
    of the set of real numbers equal to ℵ1? That is, is there
    a cardinal number between ℵ0 and |20|?

The continuum hypothesis was "solved" in 1963. In 1940, Gödel showed that you couldn't disprove the continuum hypothesis using ZFC. In 1963,
another mathematician named Paul Cohen, showed that it couldn't be proven using ZFC. So - a hypothesis which is about set theory can be neither proven nor disproven using set theory. It's independent of the axioms of set theory. You can choose to take the continuum hypothesis as an axiom, or you can choose to take the negation of the continuum hypothesis as an axiom: either choice is consistent and valid!

It's not a happy solution. But it's solved in the sense that we've got a solid proof that you can't prove it's true, and another solid proof that you can't prove it's false. That means that given ZFC set theory as a basis, there is no proof either way that doesn't set it as an axiom.

But... Mr. Wince knows better.

The set of errors that Wince makes is really astonishing. This is really seriously epic crackpottery.

He makes it through one page without saying anything egregious. But then he makes up for it on page 2, by making multiple errors.

First, he pulls an Escultura:

x1 = 1/21 = 1/2 = 0.5

x2 = 1/21 + 1/22 = 1/2 + 1/4 = 0.75

x3 = 1/21 + 1/22 + 1/23 = 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 = 0.875

...

At the end or limit of the infinite sequence, the final term of the sequence is 1.0

...

In this example we can see that as the number of finite sums of the sequence approaches the limit infinity, the last term of the sequence equals one.

xn = 1.0

If we are going to assume that the last term of the sequence equals one, it can be deduced that, prior to the last term in the sequence, some finite sum in the series occurs where:

xn-1 = 0.999…

xn-1 = 1/21 + 1/22 + 1/23 + 1/24 + … + 1/2n-1 = 0.999…

Therefore, at the limit, the last term of the series of the last term of the sequence would be the term, which, when added to the sum 0.999… equals 1.0.

There is no such thing as the last term of an infinite sequence. Even if there were, the number 0.999.... is exactly the same as 1. It's a notational artifact, not a distinct number.

But this is the least of his errors. For example, the first paragraph on the next page:

The set of all countable numbers, or natural numbers, is a subset of the continuum. Since the set of all natural numbers is a subset of the continuum, it is reasonable to assume that the set of all natural numbers is less in degree of infinity than the set containing the continuum.

We didn't need to go through the difficult of Cantor's diagonalization! We could have just blindly asserted that it's obvious!

or actually... The fact that there are multiple degrees of infinity is anything but obvious. I don't know anyone who wasn't surprised the first time they saw Cantor's proof. It's a really strange idea that there's something bigger than infinity.

Moving on... the real heart of his stuff is built around some extremely strange notions about infinite and infinitessimal values.

Before we even look at what he says, there's an important error here
which is worth mentioning. What Mr. Wince is trying to do is talk about the
continuum hypothesis. The continuum hypothesis is a question about the cardinality of the set of real numbers and the set of natural numbers.
Neither infinites nor infinitessimals are part of either set.

Infinite values come into play in Cantor's work: the cardinality of the natural numbers and the cardinality of the reals are clearly infinite cardinal numbers. But ℵ0, the smallest infinite cardinal, is not a member of either set.

Infinitessimals are fascinating. You can reconstruct differential and integral calculus without using limits by building in terms of infinitessimals. There's some great stuff in surreal numbers playing with infinitessimals. But infinitessimals are not real numbers. You can't reason about them as if they were members of the set of real numbers, because they aren't.

Many of his mistakes are based on this idea.

For example, he's got a very strange idea that infinites and infinitessimals don't have fixed values, but that their values cover a range. The way that he gets to that idea is by asserting the existence
of infinity as a specific, numeric value, and then using it in algebraic manipulations, like taking the "infinityth root" of a real number.

For example, on his way to "proving" that infinitessimals have this range property that he calls "perambulation", he defines a value that he calls κ:

 \sqrt[\infty]{\infty} = 1 + \kappa

In terms of the theory of numbers, this is nonsense. There is no such thing as an infinityth root. You can define an Nth root, where N is a real number, just like you can define an Nth power - exponents and roots are mirror images of the same concept. But roots and exponents aren't defined for infinity, because infinity isn't a number. There is no infinityth root.

You could, if you really wanted to, come up with a definition of exponents that that allowed you to define an infinityth root. But it wouldn't be very interesting. If you followed the usual pattern for these things, it would be a limit: \sqrt[\infty]{x}  \lim_{n\rightarrow\infty} \sqrt[n]{x}. That's clearly 1. Not 1 plus something: just exactly 1.

But Mr. Cringe doesn't let himself be limited by silly notions of consistency. No, he defines things his own way, and runs with it. As a result, he gets a notion that he calls perambulation. How?

Take the definition of κ:

 \sqrt[\infty]{\infty} = 1 + \kappa

Now, you can, obviously, raise both sides to the power of infinity:

\infty = (1 + \kappa)^{\infty}

Now, you can substitute ℵ0 for \infty. (Why? Don't ask why. You just can.) Then you can factor it. His factoring makes no rational sense, so I won't even try to explain it. But he concludes that:

  • Factored and simplified one way, you end up with (κ+1) = 1 + x, where x is some infinitessimal number larger than κ. (Why? Why the heck not?)
  • Factored and simplified another way, you end up with (κ+1) = ℵ
  • If you take the mean of of all of the possible factorings and reductions, you get a third result, that (κ+1) = 2.

He goes on, and on, and on like this. From perambulation to perambulating reciprocals, to subambulation, to ambulation. Then un-ordinals, un-sets... this is really an absolute masterwork of utter insane crackpottery.

Do download it and take a look. It's a masterpiece.

65 responses so far

Pi-day randomness

Mar 14 2013 Published by under Bad Math

One of my twitter friends was complaining about something that's apparently making the rounds of Facebook for π-day. It annoyed me sufficiently to be worth ranting about a little bit.

Why isn't π rational if π=circumference/diameter, and both measurements are plainly finite?

There's a couple of different ways of interpreting this question.

The stupidest way of interpreting it is that the author didn't have any clue of what an irrational number is. An irrational number is a number which cannot be written as a ratio of two integers. Another way of saying essentially the same thing is that there's no way to create a finite representation of an irrational number. I've seen people get this wrong before, where they confuse not having a finite representation with not being finite.

π doesn't have a finite representation. But it's very clearly finite - it's less that 3 1/4, which is obviously not infinite. Anyone who can look at π, and be confused about whether or not it's finite is... well... there's no nice way to say this. If you think that π isn't finite, you're an idiot.

The other way of interpreting this statement is less stupid: it's a question of measurement. If you have a circular object in real life, then you can measure the circumference and the diameter, and do the division on the measurements. The measurements have finite precision. So how can the ratio of two measurements with finite precision be irrational?

The answer is, they can't. But perfect circles don't exist in the real world. Many mathematical concepts don't exist in the real world. In the real world, there's no such thing as a mathematical point, no such thing as a perfect line, no such thing as perfectly parallel lines.

π isn't a measured quantity. It's a theoretical quantity, which can be computed analytically from the theoretical properties derived from the abstract properties of an ideal, perfect circle.

No "circle" in the real world has a perfect ratio of π between its circumference and its diameter. But the theoretical circle does.

The facebook comments on this get much worse than the original question. One in particular really depressed me.

Just because the measurements are finite doesn't mean they're rational.
Pi is possibly rational, we just haven't figured out where it ends.

Gah, no!

We know an awful lot about π. And we know, with absolute, 100% perfect certainty that π never ends.

We can define π precisely as a series, and that series makes it abundantly clear that it never ends.

\pi = \frac{4}{1} - \frac{4}{3} + \frac{4}{5} - \frac{4}{7} + \frac{4}{9} ...

That series goes on forever. π can't ever end, because that series never ends.

Just for fun, here's a little snippet of Python code that you can play with. You can see how, up to the limits of your computer's floating point representation, that a series computation of π keeps on going, changing with each additional iteration.

def pi(numiter):
  val = 3.0
  sign = 1
  for i in range(numiter):
    term = ((i+1)*2) * ((i+1)*2 + 1) * ((i+1) *2 + 2)
    val = val + sign*4.0/term
    sign = sign * -1
  return val

18 responses so far

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