Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

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Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby davesmith_au » Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:02 am

'08 Aug 28 ~ Michael Gmirkin

There’s nothing like a good controversy! And this is nothing like a good controversy… Phil Plait opens his mouth and spews polemic nonsense. Furthermore, he exposes astronomers’ biased ignorance about the source of magnetic fields: electric currents. ... [More...]
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby mojodog » Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:38 am

<ad hominem removed> I guess that since you're not getting any rattention for your Electric Universe theory, now you've just gone to trashing anyone who doesn't agree with you. Pretty pathetic. And usually the path for those that don't have a real platform to stand on.
Phil Plait is more than just a "self proclaimed" astronomer, but, after reading the articles and "research" the Electric Universe crowd has tossed out, it doesn't appear they care much for the facts.
And you wonder why you're not getting any respect?
Last edited by davesmith_au on Fri Aug 29, 2008 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Removed direct ad hominem attack as per forum rules and guidelines - DS.
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby MGmirkin » Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:51 am

mojodog wrote:No one knew you were an idiot until you opened your mouth and left no doubt. I guess that since you're not getting any rattention for your Electric Universe theory, now you've just gone to trashing anyone who doesn't agree with you. Pretty pathetic. And usually the path for those that don't have a real platform to stand on.
Phil Plait is more than just a "self proclaimed" astronomer, but, after reading the articles and "research" the Electric Universe crowd has tossed out, it doesn't appear they care much for the facts.
And you wonder why you're not getting any respect?


Disagreement noted. Facts or figures to back it up, not so much?

Is there a specific part of the assessment of Plait's ramble that you disagree with? Or are you simply disagreeing for the sake of disagreement. Just wondering.

First of all, it's not "my" theory. Second of all, my assessment of Phil's nonsense is based upon actual known definitions of electric currents and magnetism. Further more, pointing out the error of one person does not amount to "trashing everyone who disagrees with you." Let's not engage in overstated melodrama.

If you take issue with the definitions or the assessment, please note why. Always interested to hear the perspective of the other side assuming it's offered in good faith and holds some merit. Polemics and personal attacks, however, don't fly.

Thanks for your time...
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby mojodog » Fri Aug 29, 2008 1:42 pm

"Polemics and personal attacks don't fly.." ? Hey, the pot called, it wants it's color back. What do you think your article started off doing? And as far as "facts and figures", I would imagine I have the same set you do, but I'm not choosing to ignore them, and I'm certainly not going to present them to you as if new -
Besides, it's not the point. Phil Plait has done more to salvage good science from the wreckage of those that want to relate it to religious dogma or political gain. The "self proclaimed astronomer", (that's not a dig?), has much more creds than you, and doesn't massage data to fit funny holes. He calls it as it is seen.
That being said, the Electric Universe theory is intriguing, but shouldn't rely on trashing the work of others for legitimacy.

cory
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby Michael Goodspeed » Fri Aug 29, 2008 2:12 pm

"Hey, the pot called, it wants it's [sic] color back...."


It's not my position to defend another contributor to this site, but Cory, your above two posts -- particularly your use of the word "idiot" -- are not only in violation of this site's extremely lenient TOS, they are clear mis-characterizations of the articles in question.

Gmirkin's piece was written in response to a highly disingenuous assertion made by Plait. Plait commented that certain "lying pseudoscientists" (his words) take the position that astrophysicists ignore magnetism. That comment was linked to a forum thread about the Electric Universe. As Gmirkin explained (in a manner that I felt was quite reasonable and not excessively derisive), it is NOT the position of EU proponents that astrophysicists ignore magnetism, but rather that astrophysicists and astronomers seemingly willfully ignore the relationship between electric currents and magnetism. Plait erected a straw man, then shot it down -- a very common practice on his "bad astronomy" site. (Don't even get me started on Plait's attempt to debunk the electric comet hypothesis by focusing exclusively on the claims of, of all people, Jim McCanney -- a man who still insists that Comet Holmes is turning into a PLANET).

Do you think it is acceptable for Mr Plait to call the members of this group "lying pseudoscientists," then support his pejorative with a straw man argument? (This is not an open question, by the way) And if not, what do you think our response should be? Should we ignore it, lest we might offend the sensibilities of Phil's admirers? Or should we correct the misstatements in a manner that is reasonable, adamant, and yes, entertaining and engaging to our readers, all without sinking to Phil's level of name-calling and personal derision? (And unlike Phil, Michael G. did not call any names...)

Gmirkin described Plait as "something of a self-proclaimed expert on astronomy." This was an exceedingly GENTLE dig at Phil's self-chosen moniker, "The Bad Astronomer" (anything pretentious about that title?) I think you are severely overreacting to Gmirkin's mildly acerbic tone -- all I see in your comments is ad hominem and broad (mis)characterizations. You have not addressed any of the specific points in Gmirkin's piece, the vast majority of which were not intended to "personally trash" anyone, but rather dealt with the critical question of magnetic fields' origins in space.

Unlike Phil Plait, the Thunderbolts group has NOT "built its reputation by trashing others." We do NOT rely on absurd straw men and personal pejoratives. Please refrain from calling our members "idiots," and please keep the discussion centered on the facts, regardless of your personal feelings about another member.
Last edited by Michael Goodspeed on Fri Aug 29, 2008 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby Michael Goodspeed » Fri Aug 29, 2008 2:18 pm

The "self proclaimed astronomer", (that's not a dig?), has much more creds than you, and doesn't massage data to fit funny holes. He calls it as it is seen.
That being said, the Electric Universe theory is intriguing, but shouldn't rely on trashing the work of others for legitimacy.

cory



I'm sorry, but your last statement is quite a glaring instance of "damning someone with faint praise." I think you've revealed your bias here. If you are asserting that the Thunderbolts group has "massaged data to fit funny holes," you are going to have to engage in debate of specific claims that the group has made. Lightweight dismissals and broad (mis)characterizations do not fly.
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby mojodog » Fri Aug 29, 2008 2:53 pm

Well, , I'm going to fall back on another one of my favorite quotes, which I often fail to follow -
"Never argue with fools - those watching may not know the difference."

Electric Universe? Funny stuff.
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby Michael Goodspeed » Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:19 pm

mojodog wrote:Well, , I'm going to fall back on another one of my favorite quotes, which I often fail to follow -
"Never argue with fools - those watching may not know the difference."

Electric Universe? Funny stuff.



And the darkness reaches deeper and deeper.

BTW, mojodog, you just proved yourself a dishonest provocateur. Your patronizing remark that "the electric universe is intriguing" served precisely the purpose that I suggested.

I certainly hope that any other Plait supporters who wish to slam both feet down and attack our members can surpass your sorrowful 'performance.'

You will be banned as soon as our moderator logs on -- if you wish to impugn yourself further with more juvenile ad hominem, you've one last chance to swing away! Hurry!
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby MGmirkin » Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:32 pm

mojodog wrote:[Plait] has much more creds than you, and doesn't massage data to fit funny holes.


Are you implying that I have massaged data? If so, what data specifically do you claim I have massaged? I am open to being corrected and my knowledge expanded, if you feel I've made an error of fact.

I have done little more than point out that, according to definition, magnetic fields arise from electric currents. That's simply a piece of accepted physics, as noted in the 4-5 rather non-controversial references I gave in the article.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary support. Please provide support for your claims.

It is my opinion that recognition of this fact will lead to a better understanding of what is going on in the cosmos. Magnetic fields are seen ubiquitously in the cosmos, yet astronomers such as Phil appear not to understand how they are generated. You'll have to excuse me for attempting to provide an explanation.

As stated, I'd prefer not to get into polemics. As to your question about using the term "self-proclaimed" toward Plait, I think Michael Goodspeed has already summarized relatively well. Plait claims to be expert, to supposedly "know better" than people he feels are inferior and feels the need to "correct" those he feels are wrong.

However, even "experts" can be wrong or not have all the answers. I'm just trying to provide one more "answer" than apparently previously existed in astronomy.

Magnetic fields, by definition, imply electric currents.
Electric currents may also thusly imply charge separation.

There is a certain chain of logic that I feel needs to be followed to its right and proper conclusions, preferably without too much ego involved. If that means pointing out an oversight by an "expert" and chiding them for it, in a teachable moment, c'est la vie!

Regards,
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby MGmirkin » Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:45 pm

mojodog wrote:As far as "facts and figures", I would imagine I have the same set you do, but I'm not choosing to ignore them, and I'm certainly not going to present them to you ... Besides, it's not the point.


So, essentially you're saying you have no actual argument against the facts as presented in the article.

That is precisely the point I was making. You've made wild claims and accusations, and refused to support them with any credible facts or corrections. That's all I needed to know, I guess.

If that's the case, I see no need to engage in further discussion if you refuse to stand behind your statements and back them up with more than empty rhetoric devoid of merit. I've already made my points in the article and backed them up with references. Unless you have actual useful points to make, or corrections to give, I see no point in continuing this futile rhetorical discussion. How unfortunate. Sometimes making mistakes can serve as a useful lesson. I really do like learning new things, even from errors. Not today, though, it seems.

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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby MGmirkin » Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:56 pm

mojodog wrote:Well, I'm going to fall back on another one of my favorite quotes, which I often fail to follow -
"Never argue with fools - those watching may not know the difference."


So, are you saying (to paraphrase) that when you have no actual argument you "fall back" on insubstantial derision as your last resort?

Unfortunate... :?

Wish you all the best in your future endeavors,
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby Michael Goodspeed » Fri Aug 29, 2008 7:14 pm

I spoke a tad too soon when I asserted that Mr. "mojodog" was going to be banned for resorting to derision not once, but TWICE, in his introductory posts. If he can remain here and abide by our very lenient terms of service and cease with the name calling, and if he can respond to direct challenges and engage in substantive debate, he can remain here -- and as always, we will WELCOME the dissent! :)
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby davesmith_au » Fri Aug 29, 2008 7:44 pm

Michael Goodspeed wrote:I spoke a tad too soon when I asserted that Mr. "mojodog" was going to be banned for resorting to derision not once, but TWICE, in his introductory posts. If he can remain here and abide by our very lenient terms of service and cease with the name calling, and if he can respond to direct challenges and engage in substantive debate, he can remain here -- and as always, we will WELCOME the dissent! :)


Yep Michael, you're quite correct, I've sent mojodog a private warning message about ad hominem attacks. I have a policy of always giving people at least one chance to redeem themselves (except in the absolute worst of cases), in case they have not read or have misunderstood our rules and guidelines. Rest assured if there are any further ad hominem attacks he WILL be banned.

If this person is a supporter of Phil Plait, he has done him no favors. I believe even if Plait entered our forum himself he would conduct himself in a proper manner by addressing the issues raised, rather than engage in personal attacks, at least I would hope so.

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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby StandingWave » Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:50 am

Hi all, first off I just want to say how exciting I am finding the ideas discussed in these forums. Thank you to all the EU folk for the information, knowledge and wisdom(!) Ive encountered in here. Im glad to say that a lot of books/articles/announcements in astronoy/cosmology that Ive read since discovering EU seem embarrasingly silly!

This particular Thunderbog article left me with one or two niggling questions which I'd like to see dispelled. Michael Gmirkin often uses the term 'byproduct' when referring to magnetic fields arising as a result of electric current flowing. I was under the impression that magnetic fields and electric currents are in fact one indivisible 'entity'. (Which underscores the point of the original article I suppose.) Is this usage a semantic convention or does EU maintain that electricity and magnetism are two separate and distinct yet causally related components?

Furthermore I was under the impression that Universe is filled with magnetic fields and that any that arise due to current flow merely distort or integrate into existing ones. Am I incorrect in this view?

Finally, do magnetic fields propogate at a finite speed outward from their source current-flow? I presume the speed of light to be the limit since light is EM? I know that the intensity increases with increased current flow (this seems to be a bit of a 'chicken and egg' affair...) but does the area in which the magnetic field is measurable increase too? I assume it would.

Excuse what may be hopelessly naive questions! :)

Regards

P.s. I thought Id posted this earlier but I never saw it appear in the thread so Im posting again, apologies if it becomes a double post... (first timer :oops: )
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Re: Phil Plait - Bad Astronomer vs. Good Science

Unread postby MGmirkin » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:16 pm

StandingWave wrote:Hi all, first off I just want to say how exciting I am finding the ideas discussed in these forums. Thank you to all the EU folk for the information, knowledge and wisdom(!) Ive encountered in here. I'm glad to say that a lot of books/articles/announcements in astronomy/cosmology that I've read since discovering EU seem embarrassingly silly!


Well, happy to hear you've been enjoying yourself and finding things useful. :D

StandingWave wrote:This particular Thunderbog article left me with one or two niggling questions which I'd like to see dispelled. Michael Gmirkin often uses the term 'byproduct' when referring to magnetic fields arising as a result of electric current flowing. I was under the impression that magnetic fields and electric currents are in fact one indivisible 'entity'. (Which underscores the point of the original article I suppose.) Is this usage a semantic convention or does EU maintain that electricity and magnetism are two separate and distinct yet causally related components?


[Disclaimer: I'm a layman, and still learning, thus with imperfect knowledge. I claim no expertise in these matters. That said, I do a fair bit of reading and "know" some things, while making educated guesses about others.]

Well, for my part, I tend to use the term "byproduct" in the sense that magnetic fields do not exist in the absence of electric currents (even in permanent magnets, the atomic-scale currents are thought to be little more than the net flow of electrons around the nucleus which creates a magnetic domain for that atom; overall magnetic field comes from the alignment of the various magnetic domains of the atoms composing permanent magnets).

In experiments, in order to get a magnetic field out of a coil of wire (or any conductor, really), you have to run a current through it. Stop the current, and you stop the magnetic field (except in the case of permanent ferromagnets mentioned in passing a moment ago).

The point is that magnetic fields don't stand on their own in absence of electric currents. They are a force between electric currents.

(NASA - Magnetic Fields; slightly ironic :D)
http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/wmfield.html

People not familiar with magnetism often view it as a somewhat mysterious property of specially treated iron or steel.

[...]

It is all related to electricity.

[...]

Close to 1800 it was found that when the ends of a chemical "battery" were connected by a metal wire, a steady stream of electric charges flowed in that wire and heated it. That flow became known as an electric current. In a simplified view, what happens is that electrons hop from atom to atom in the metal.

In 1821 Hans Christian Oersted in Denmark found, unexpectedly, that such an electric current caused a compass needle to move. An electric current produced a magnetic force!

Andre-Marie Ampere in France soon unraveled the meaning. The fundamental nature of magnetism was not associated with magnetic poles or iron magnets, but with electric currents. The magnetic force was basically a force between electric currents.

--Two parallel currents in the same direction attract each other.
--Two parallel currents in opposite directions repel each other.

Here is how this can lead to the notion of magnetic poles. Bend the wires into circles with constant separation:

--Two circular currents in the same direction attract each other.
--Two circular currents in opposite directions repel each other.


What they're saying here is that electric currents are the source of the "magnetic field." It's a force between currents.

If you run currents in a loop in the same direction, stacked one on top of the next, they'll all mutually attract each other. Why is this?

Each loop of wire will create a magnetic field. Each of the magnetic fields will have the same dipoles poles, oriented in the same direction:

N
S

N
S

N
S

And what happens with magnets? Opposite poles attract. Like poles repel. So, if your wire loops have currents moving the same directions, and the same dipolar fields are set up in each loop, then opposite poles will be lined up adjacent from one loop to the next and will attract each other.

N
S
N
S
N
S

On the other hands, running current the opposite direction will create alternating dipole configurations.

N
S

S
N

Since like poles repel in the world of magnetic forces, the loops of wire will be repelled from each other:

N
S



S
N

As opposed to the attraction in the prior example.

So, that's your basic electricity-equates-to-magnetism spiel.

Getting back to the question of "indivisibility" or "separation of powers," while I don't claim expertise in physics, the latter explanation(s) would indicate to me that as Maxwellian / Ampèrian theory goes, the forces are more-or-less indivisible. You have to have a current to have magnetic field. They go hand in hand. Also, changing one can in turn change the other. IE, if you have a set current strength and an according magnetic field strength, with a set circuit path leading to a particular magnetic field configuration, then changing one aspect of the system will result in a change to the other.

IE, if you change the current path, the magnetic field configuration will change with it. If You externally change the magnetic field configuration (by introducing other magnets), it may reconfigure the geometry of the current path (as in the bending / repelling wires experiment mentioned earlier; the repelled / bent wires are a literal change in the path of the current caused by the magnetic fields). If you change the current strength, the magnetic field strength will change as well. Likewise, if you change the magnetic field strength somehow (can't think of specific examples as I'm still learning some of this as I go), it may well change the flow of current for the better or worse...

So, in my estimation, they are, as Maxwell, Ampère et al say, flip sides of the same coin. Change one, the other changes with it.

Furthermore I was under the impression that Universe is filled with magnetic fields and that any that arise due to current flow merely distort or integrate into existing ones. Am I incorrect in this view?


might quibble with the word any there. If magnetic fields arise solely from electric currents (or rotating charged bodies, if I recall correctly, which can in some measure be considered to be or have a current of sorts), then the word "any" seems a bit ambiguous as to the genesis of the magnetic fields. If all magnetic fields arise from the motion of charged particles in currents / circuits then it would be more like "all magnetic fields that arise from currents."

As to the main question. I'd say, again, in all honesty, I'm still learning... But from what I understand thus far, yes and no.

How to put this? Umm... The typical "magnetic field" diagram shows "magnetic field lines," which appear to be discrete entities on paper. However, they're just a mental / visual tool, as they aren't "real" entities. Actual magnetic fields form a continuum (from what I understand) in 3 dimensions. Each point is more or less considered to be a "vector" (essentially a pointer denoting the direction of the field) that gets redrawn from moment to moment. So, while we like to break down problems into manageable chunks (like a line in circuit diagram with certain magnetic field lines circling it in a prescribed way), reality is actually not so discrete (indivisible) in its operation.

While the wire is there, and the magnetic field around the wire is there and ostensibly does as predicted, other things and factors come into play. Say, the fluorescent lights over head, and the wiring in the wall may add additional negligible magnetic fields that alter the scenario from the "ideal" world of pen and paper to the "real" world, where one magnetic field may bump up against another magnetic field, and they will interact in some prescribed way that's a little bit messier than on paper.

So, I'd say it's a little bit of both. The galaxy may have a weak current that gives it a weak magnetic field, which is pervasive throughout, including here at Earth. However, there may be a stronger current in our solar system centered on our sun that produces a magnetic field that "outweighs" the galactic field, thus taking precedent. Things will behave largely as though the local stronger current and field were the only one, but that system will undoubtedly "feel" the effect of the larger galactic current / magnetic field. In that case, we might expect some minor variation in local phenomena that can be tracked back to our motions relative to galactic or universal motions. Likewise, energetic processes on Earth (such as lightning) may overwhelm the smaller currents and fields of the solar system, galaxy and universe. So, they would display much the same behavior as that expected in a circuit diagram with the appropriate values put in. But, again, there may be behaviors or periodicities found in the workings of real-world equipment that vary from the expected and are traceable to solar system motions or those of celestial objects "out there."

Objects very far away and with very low "power" / "force" / "what have you" will tend to have a negligible effect on local objects. It will still be "felt," but will have extremely infinitesimally small effect.

The short answer is both are correct to some degree. Local currents will have a mainly local magnetic effect. However, since it is a continuum, the effect will still be felt by objects very far away very weakly. So, yes, the fields do all interact and merge, and interplay. But the majority of the immediate and tangible effect is local. Consider a pond. Drop a pebble into the water on one side, and a pebble into the water on the other side. Locally, you'll see a pretty fair ripple spreading outward at each spot you dropped a stone in. Eventually, those ripples get incorporated into the collective motions of the whole continuum of water in the pond. Eventually both pebbles could be said to "feel" each other, albeit very weakly. It's a continuum, but the major action is felt locally.

Don't know if that answers the question. Kind of off-the-cuff...

Finally, do magnetic fields propagate at a finite speed outward from their source current-flow? I presume the speed of light to be the limit since light is EM? I know that the intensity increases with increased current flow (this seems to be a bit of a 'chicken and egg' affair...) but does the area in which the magnetic field is measurable increase too? I assume it would.


A good question. I honestly don't know the answer to the the question on propagation speed. I would assume, however, much like yourself, that there is a specific speed of propagation (IE, how quickly things "feel" a change in the electric currents / "magnetic fields"). But, I don't know how fast that propagation is. I assume it's extremely fast, though. Probably C? but, again, I don't hae a specific answer for that one. ;)

As to intensity, yes, my understanding is that as current increases, magnetic fields increase in the appropriate proportion. That would mean that the magnetic field (or force between currents) is felt to be stronger further away from the source current. On a diagram of the individual magnetic field lines (keeping in mind they're not real, just a visualization tool), I believe, would be drawn closer together, indicating a more powerful field and a higher proportion of field lines passing through a given area you're measuring (magnetic "flux density"). Basically, that just means that the more lines of magnetic flux passing through a given area, the stronger whatever's in that area feels the pull of the magnetic field.

Excuse what may be hopelessly naive questions! :)

Regards


Happy to hear good questions. Sometimes they make me think more critically about things I've not yet considered, or re-consider things I've already said. Hope the above was helpful.

After the last few days discussing magnetic fields and electric currents, I'm starting to feel like I should be teaching a class on the subject, or something. Though, I know I'm nowhere near qualified enough for that yet. ;) Just having fun with the discussions and debates that go on hereabouts!

Regards,
~Michael Gmirkin
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