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June 15, 2010

Claim: Data in Error; No Evidence For Dark Matter or Dark Energy

That's the claim: that the evidence for dark matter/dark energy is largely the result of artifacts of data collection -- specifically, "smoothing" of maps of the universe's observed background radiation -- and that an accurate mapping, minus these distortions, would offer no evidence of the "Dark Side."

As the man said, There is no dark side of the universe. Matter fact, it's all dark.

Obviously, I have no idea if this is true, and we haven't yet seen this claim itself subject to testing and rebuttal.

And just as obviously one can see some parallels with the theory of global warming.

Thanks to Dave @ Garfield Ridge.

String Theory: Waste of Time. String theory isn't really related at all to the "dark side" stuff, but it's interesting to note that most physicists regard it as rubbish.

The only success string theory has had, one physicist complains, is in public relations and pop-science magazines.

I can't find his article now, but one physicist noted that physicists are scientists, not mathematicians, and that traditionally physicists could be sloppy as hell with math because the math didn't matter to them, tests did.

If your equation was off, you'd find that out soon enough with a test, or seeing if the equation explained previous observations. You didn't have to be rigorous or disciplined about deductions and proofs in math. The tests/data would guide you to better equations.

But string theory is mostly untestable (and, where it has been tested, it has pretty much failed). That means that physicists pursuing this model are departing more and more from their field of training -- science -- and more and more into a somewhat-related field they're not particularly well-suited for, mathematics. So they wind up lacking any sort of rigor -- they don't have the mathematical training (or inclination) to be truly rigorous about their mathematical theorems, and they also don't have the rigor of test results to guide and correct them.

Physicists complain, then, that string theorists are basically elaborating further and further upon a basic theory for which there is no evidence at all and makes few, if any, useful predictions.

In a lot of ways, that's a lot like "paleoclimatology." Data is extremely hard to come by, and no tests are possible, but more and more elaborate "computer simulations" of 100,000-year-old climates are performed, and we know these are accurate because they agree with... other computer models, making all the same key assumptions.

And, as you see all the time in ClimateGate, scientists get into all sorts of trouble, and often wind up looking like dolts, when they move out of science into pure mathematics.

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posted by Ace at 01:14 PM

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