Saturday, October 8, 2011

We Mock What We Do Not Understand

Charles Krauthammer never fails to disappoint me when it comes to spouting nonsense. But today's column in the Review is especially puzzling.

Writing about the news that neutrinos may travel faster than light, he notes:

The implications of such a discovery are so mind-boggling, however, that these same scientists immediately requested that other labs around the world try to replicate the experiment. Something must have been wrong to account for a result that, if we know anything about the universe, is impossible.

Actually, scientists making new discoveries always have their work double checked. Being able to find any errors and/or reproduce the results is a hugely important part of science.

He blathers on as to the implications of this discovery.

It means that the “standard model” of subatomic particles that stands at the center of all modern physics is wrong.

Nor does it stop there. This will not just overthrow physics. Astronomy and cosmology measure time and distance in the universe on the assumption of light speed as the cosmic limit. Their foundations will shake as well.

It cannot be. Yet, this is not a couple of guys in a garage peddling cold fusion. This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies.


I'm not getting this. Does he have a point?

3 comments:

Not said...

So, people will need new religions why? Because religions are based on science?
- Ventura

John Speare said...

My take reading that this morning is that we are supposed to generally doubt scientific conclusions -- that if the core underpinning theory of modern physics is "wrong," then what does that say about other scientific theories -- like evolution? He's teeing up here... and for his intended audience, which seems to purposefully remain ignorant of science when it's convenient to do so (no so convenient, when say, you need by-pass surgery), he doesn't really need a "point."

andrew said...

Cool thing about science: When we observe a new phenomenon, and it doesn't fit the prevailing theory, we get to come up with better theories.

This way, we don't have to deny that the new phenomenon exists.