Big Picture Science – Cosmos: It’s Big, It’s Weird: Margaret Wertheim

by Gary Niederhoff on January 9, 2012


Part 4 of Cosmos: It’s Big, It’s Weird, featuring Margaret Wertheim, science writer and author of Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything.
(TRT 10:10)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Steve Agnew January 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Seth,

Very nice. Thanks for a good interview. Must admit that I had never heard of Wertheim nor really was I aware of these fringe theories.

Now I understand better why cosmologists are so jittery about new ideas. Ican see that I will need to be a little more circumspect if I expect to publish in this area.

Steve Agnew.

avatar Steve Bergman February 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I’m not a physicist. So I’m certainly not part of any elite Illuminati group trying to take physics away from the people. I’m a 48 year old programmer with an interest in Physics and in Cosmology, who is spending a lot of time over at ocw.mit.edu trying to revive my 25 year old knowledge of basic Calculus, learn some Diff.E. and wrap my head around Linear Algebra. And it’s not easy. It takes work. But it’s the first steps of the work that must be done before I can understand our current, experimentally successful theories at a more fundamental level than I do now.

And I rather resent people who haven’t done the work, and in many cases didn’t even finish high school, thinking that they not only understand the problems, but actually have the answers. (These people are ubiquitous on YouTube and can’t resist commenting on most every physics documentary.)

One thing that didn’t really come out explicitly in the discussion on the show is that most of these people have no conception of the fact that they don’t even have the math skills, knowledge of the data, or of previous experiments done and their implications, to even begin to understand the problems they purport to have solved. Or even the ability to understand what is being said when others try to explain to them why their “theory” is not even relevant to current physics.

The one good thing I can say about the presence of these annoying folks is that responding to them has improved my depth of understanding. I often find that I have to look up things I’d never bothered to look up, or verify things that I’d taken for granted and not evaluated critically.

Still, I wish these people’s difficulty in understanding modern physics would motivate them to educate themselves rather than to take it upon themselves to “enlighten” the rest of us with their 6th grade educations.

-Steve Bergman

avatar Jamahl Peavey March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am

Seth,

Why are science journalist and communicators always accessible to “Crack Pots”? I have tried many times to contact science journalist and communicators concerning a peer-reviewed article that first appeared in the Indian Journal of Science and Technology, then at Bulgaria’s Sofia Technical University’s 2011 physics conference and whose extended version is to be published in another science and technology journal. The paper is extraordinary because it is highly computational with respect to the motion of binary star systems. A quantum mechanical structure was successfully isolated in the motion of these stars by a high school mathematics and physics teacher. Yes, an outsider meet the terms of the scientific communities best and it was clear during the peer review process how many String Theorist were pulling strings to make sure the paper was not published in the United States.. At the highest levels of science it is all about research grants and this paper clearly ends the era of String Theory. Science journalist and communicators have a responsibility to report discoveries. Instead, they make themselves accessible to “Crack-Pots” so they can get a few laughs. Will the real Science Journal and communicators please stand up.

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