Seriously Sad State of Science Education

Candice eetimesA recent article in New Scientist argued that the public’s understanding of science isn’t as bad as some commentators allege.  “Wow!” I thought… so much for falsely flattering their readership.  It reminded me of an article in National Geographic that slathered on the same a few years back,

“The public’s lack of scientific literacy is a familiar lament voiced by scientists. But a new Pew Research Center Report finds that while Americans’ knowledge of the sciences is complicated, it’s not as bad as perhaps some have feared.”

Really?  Let’s look at the data.  They refered to the 2015 Pew survey which asked only twelve softball science questions.  OK, I wouldn’t expect that the average high school graduate could calculate the Fermi Energy level of a two dimensional (thin film) metal at absolute zero temperature (which was the first problem of the very first problem set I encountered my first week of graduate school in the Materials Science Dept. at Stanford).  But really, the questions ranged from those that could and should be correctly answered by a fifth grader to just one question that was at the basic high school level.  The percentage that answered the questions correctly ranged from 86% for the easiest to only 34% for the “hardest”.

But let’s look at that hardest question which asked if water boils at a higher, lower, or the same temperature at higher altitudes.  There were only three possible answers, thus purely by guessing one had a 33.3% chance of getting it right.  With only 34% of the survey respondents getting it right, this means that the American public had no clue and was only guessing.

This question is basic!  It should be one of the easy questions for any high school graduate.  I once demonstrated this effect as a teenager in our chem lab by boiling water at room temperature by lowering the air pressure in flask of tepid water.  Every high school graduate should know that air pressure drops with increasing altitude… and should also know that fluids boil when their vapor pressure exceeds the air pressure… and that vapor pressure increases with temperature.  Put together three very basic items of knowledge and we get the final answer.  But the American public is unable to do this.

But the problem of science illiteracy and ignorance is even built into the survey itself.  One of the questions is,

“Which of these terms is defined as the study of how the positions of stars and planets can influence human behavior?”

So, the “correct” answer is “astrology”… but this question, in its very phrasing and positioning in this survey tacitly suggests that astrology is a branch of scientific study.

I’m dismayed but not surprised… Not when one knows that 25% of Americans believe Homeopathy nostrums work.  For the record, homeopathic “medicine” is pure water or sugar pills.  It is no more effective than obicalp (hint: read it backwards).

This level of science illiteracy and ignorance is dangerous in a modern society and especially in a democracy.  We have people voting and even lobbying on issues of which they have no clue.  We have people claiming climate science results are a conspiracy.  That airplanes are releasing nefarious “chemtrails” above our heads.  We have people taking and giving their children expensive and useless nostrums while avoiding known medical treatments that can save their lives.  We have people blaming vaccines for conditions that are completely unrelated.  We have people that honestly believe that cellphone “radiation” is killing honeybee colonies and others calling safe and useful food crops “frankenfood”.

In the doctor’s office, we routinely see patients demanding antibiotics when they have colds and influenza, not understanding that they can’t treat viral illnesses… meanwhile, the overuse of anti-biotics is leading to resistant bacterial illnesses.  (This may be one instance where prescribing obicalp may be ethical?)

People are literally getting sick and even dying because of science illiteracy and ignorance.

This is a call to action.  We need to improve science education in America.  We need to shift resources from sports and P.E. to Science, Technology, Engineeing, and Mathematics (STEM) courses in our high schools.

Further Reading:

Essay on How To Save American Education

Reference:

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150910-data-points-science-knowledge-public-society/

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Pluto: Planet Smanet!

Candice eetimesHere we go again; People are arguing whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet again.

Me?  This has never interested me as much as why we call the four gas giants in our solar system “planets” along with three much smaller rock balls.  I get it in terms of history.  The term “planet” is old.  It meant “wanderer”.  We had Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  These were the “planets”… the wandering stars.  But with modern astronomy, should we still be classifying them all as “planets”, while excluding objects of similar composition and size to call them “moons”?

Consider that we call Mercury a planet yet Ganymede and Titan are both larger… but because they orbit a “planet”… they get downgraded to “moon”.  And what of Luna, our own “moon”?  It is also bigger than Pluto… so if folks are arguing that Pluto is a planet, shouldn’t we also be declaring that Luna is a planet?

Does this all sound like silliness to you?  Well… it does to me…But it is not merely a problem for talking about our solar system… but also for talking about other star systems.  We are calling objects around other star systems “exoplanets”; but most of them are gas giants as they are far easier to detect.  Then what do we call those terrestrial objects that orbits these “exoplanet” gas giants, “moons”?  And when they too are larger than terrestrial exoplanets in the same system?  Seriously?  We need a better handle on our nomenclature.

Oh sure, I could blow this whole thing off and let the International Astronomical Union work it all out.  But as I am currently writing science fiction about terraforming worlds orbiting a gas giant in another star system, I am loath to call these worlds, “moons”.  I’ve been avoiding the term using “world” instead.  But seriously, we need a better system.

Ever since I was a little kid, I thought of Luna as a terrestrial planet.  Terra and Luna, the double planet.  The gas giants aren’t “planets”… they are brown dwarf stars, each with their own ‘solar system’ of planets tucked in tight.  Thus, the Solar System is not a solitary star, but a multistar system with one main sequence and four brown dwarf stars.

Maybe that’s not the right way to think about it… but it works better than what we have now.

References:

https://www.universetoday.com/139956/new-reasons-why-pluto-should-be-considered-a-planet-after-all/

 

Thoughts on Gifted Education

Candice eetimesRecent kerfluffles regarding Gifted Education testing and placement, especially in large school districts which have selective elite schools have motivated me to write this essay.  I’ve been mulling it over for weeks.  One of my problems is that I was uncertain if I should keep it absolutely impersonal or to share my own personal history and observations.  I finally decided to include my own experiences as they do add to understanding and motivation.

The first problem one encounters when one thinks about “gifted” is how to define it, both in scope and scale.  Intuitively, most of us think we ‘know it when we see it’… but do we?  In my elementary school there was a kid everyone thought was super smart… cause he was always talking about numbers.  He must have grown up to be someone special?  No, last we heard, he was homeless.  He wasn’t gifted.  He was mentally ill and had a fixation on numbers.  The kids and even the teachers in school didn’t have the right background to understand this.  So, intuition isn’t always a good guide.  Thus, we turn to experts and testing.

So, we now turn to scope.  Do we test for IQ only?  OR something else?  Perhaps mathematical or scientific understanding or achievement?  Creativity?  Imagination?  Despite experts telling folks that we should look beyond just IQ, most testing is still focussed on it.  This is because decades of research has shown that IQ does correlate and predict later success.   But… is IQ in childhood stable?  Turns out… that IQ of five-year-olds doesn’t always equal IQ at age 10.  But IQ at age 10 does predict IQ as an adult.  This suggests that testing and tracking children starting in kindergarten and expecting that to remain useful is bogus… at least near the margins of a cut-off.

Which brings us to the cut-off… some schools have a cut-off fairly low, at the top 15% or so.  Think on this for a moment… that means that we take the top four or so kids in each classroom and label them “gifted” and track them in the “advanced” group for reading and math… my elementary school had just this sort of tracking.  (I wrote an essay on my experience breaking that system.)  Other schools, if they are larger, have special classes and even entire schools.  They typically have a higher cut-off, say IQ ~130 or so… which is one out of fifty kids.  At a small school district, they wouldn’t have enough such students to fill even one classroom of thirty for each grade!  But a high school might.

The next question is who gets tested and how.  Much of the recent debate is caused by the documented fact that certain socio-economic and ethnic groups are more likely to be tested and thus more likely to be identified and tracked as gifted.  In some locales people are trying to address this by establishing quotas while others are providing universal testing.  Personally, I would support universal testing.  It bothers me that certain socioeconomic groups have better access to gifted programs, both because they live in better school districts and because they push for their children to be tested… after gaming the system with special test prep classes and home tutoring.

Then we come to what should the school offer such high IQ and talented students… and here I come to what motivated me to write, because most schools do their truly gifted students a serious disservice.

First up… “enrichment”.  This is perhaps the most popular… and also the least useful… of all of the “gifted” program offerings.  It is based on the seriously messed up idea that all the schools have to do is take the basic mainstream curricula and add on top of that.  No… for two reasons.  First, that enrichment would be great for “bright” kids… those that are learning well at grade level who could absorb just a bit more than average.  That “enrichment” should be available for every student.  But to the gifted student… you are offering a booby prize, as in we will keep you bored to tears in your regular slow-paced and shallow curricula, which we won’t let you out of… and add yet more… but only slightly more “enriched”… see… aren’t we so nice to give you a treat?

Why do they do this?  Because of the very nature of giftedness and how rare it is… truly gifted adults rarely teach K-12 students.  Consider the nature of IQ and it’s distribution.  A five-year-old with an IQ of 150 has the intellectual capacity of an eight year old.  We can “accelerate” her by allowing her early entry to kindergarten and perhaps allow her to “skip” a grade or two.  However, a ten-year old with an IQ of 150 has the same intellectual capacity of the average adult.  (Mental capacity tends to flatten at age 15… at least for most adults… I strongly suspect that it not true for gifted youth who continue to increase in capacity for several more years.)  How far and how fast do you “accelerate” a truly gifted ten to thirteen year old when in fact, they are intellectually ready for high school and maybe college… but NOT socially or emotionally.  Place them into a regular high school where they can be singled out for being ‘different’?  Now… take a fifteen year old with an IQ of 150.  Send the student off to a university with inadequate support systems for such teens?  Oh… and please… as wonderful as community colleges are… they are NOT that useful for gifted students in high school… as most community college classes are at the same level as most good high schools.  The optimum would be true high school experiences but with classes and teachers ready to meet the needs of such gifted students.  But there are fewer than one in five hundred adults who equal that student… in both IQ and educational interest and attainment… and most of them will NOT be in K-12 education unless there is a special program to recruit and retain them.  It’s nearly impossible to offer a cohesive advanced individualized high school curriculum, instruction, and tutoring to gifted students unless one is even more gifted.  But with present rules that demand that one have years of  “education credentialing” on top of that wonder Ph.D. in physics or mathematics and then still get paid the same as a P.E. teacher?  Yeah… that.

Thus, the K-12 schools only pretend to offer gifted education.

When I was in highschool, at my second school, we had a “Mentally Gifted Minor” (MGM) program.  Interestingly, the truly gifted kids avoided getting labeled and placed into that program!  Why?  Because it was structured as “enrichment”… as in they added more homework assignments on top of those we already did in our regular classes.  Some of us even avoided the AP classes for the same reason.  The truly gifted students wanted LESS homework so that we could pursue our own interests in our own (very much deeper) manner.

OK, time for some personal anecdotes.

During 8th grade science class, a teacher offers a challenge question for the advanced students to solve:  A ship travels from the equator in the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.  Does it ride higher or lower?  I reasoned (correctly) that the Med has higher salinity and thus is denser water… and the ship will ride higher, as it will displace a lower volume of water.  Our teacher said I was wrong.  It would ride lower in the water.  I was disappointed and wondered if I was wrong about the higher salinity… no… the teacher explained that since the Earth is an oblate spheroid, the further north one went, the higher the gravity because one is closer to the center of the earth.  The higher gravity would pull the ship down harder… and thus with more weight to displace, would ride lower in the water.  The science book says so… that a ship displaces it weight in water.  I was totally flummoxed!  My GOD!  Was my teacher that clueless?  Yes he was.  He failed to understand that even if we magically dialed up the gravity to hundreds of times normal, the water would also be getting heavier at the same rate as the ship and nothing would change.  The ship would still displace the same MASS of water.  I tried to explain his error… but what does a 13-year-old know?

During the first week or so of my freshman year in high school, we were given a statewide science assessment exam.  We were given a little less than an hour to take it.  There were one hundred questions/problems.  We were told to do the best we could but recognize that the test was literally impossible to complete in the time allowed.  Of course I finished.  But I did feel the time pressure and was disappointed when we were given back the exam with our scores.  In my rush, I had missed one of the questions.  Interestingly, I still clearly remember that one question and why I missed it.  The question was “Two drops of mercury that are the same temperature are allowed to come together to form one drop.  Does the temperature A) Go up  B) Go Down  C) Stay the same.  I reasoned that there was no chemical reaction, either endothermic nor exothermic (yes, I knew and understood those terms at age 14)… so it must be C)… wrong… It is A)… it goes up, by a very small amount to be sure… but up because of the conversion of a small amount of surface tension energy of the two smaller drops into the lower surface area of the single larger drop.  Oh… and I was told that I was in the very top 99th percentile of students in the State of California… one could literally not be given a higher score.  I had been identified as ‘gifted’.

So what would the school do to offer the gifted future scientist / technologist I clearly was an appropriate learning environment?  I was to be accelerated, allowed to skip “Freshman Science” and take Biology… Being the only freshmen in a class normally only offered to seniors… I was clearly labeled “the brain”… and thus hated and shunned… except for exam days when other students wanted to cheat off of my answers.  When we got back our exams with our marks… they all hoped that they had the same answers wrong that I had on mine… because I always challenged the marks, referring to the assigned text or even other, better, textbooks on the subject to prove that the instructor’s answer key was wrong.  I nearly always proved that I had the correct answers.  I would also have to explain the more intricate details of the science to the instructor… yes, at age 14, I often understood it better than my teacher.  Example: the teacher had no idea how we knew the detailed structure of DNA.  I had to explain how Rosalind Franklin had collected DNA, “stretched” / drew it out so that the strands aligned, and then used X-ray crystallography to determine the molecular structure.  (Watson and Crick had illicitely been allowed to see her data by one of her male colleages… the three of them won the Nobel Prize, but not Franklin.  There is no justice in science.)  Being gifted meant that I could skip lower level classes… but it didn’t get me a better learning environment… remember, all of those classes are still tailored for non-gifted students.

Getting top grades was clearly over rated and I simply stopped trying to earn them.  I started studying for myself alone.

One day, during my Senior year, one of my instructors who taught English and Chemistry approached me in the hallway.  He wanted to ball me out.  He had noticed my gaming the system, playing the grade game in which I would note the grading system each class used, the percentages that homework, term assignment, and testing scores contributed to the final grade.  I noted that tests scores usually were the most heavily weighted and that acing them all will guarantee a passing grade.  Thus, I could blow off the homework and term papers and still pass the class.  My teacher demanded to know why I never did any of the work as it was clear from my test scores that I could do it easily.  I answered very honestly, “Because it interferes with my studies.”  He thought I was being a typical “smart-ass” teenager.  No, I defended myself, I was serious… and proceeded to tell him of the college level text books and other works I was studying on my own at home.

For instance, I took an English class entitled, “The Novel”.  Other students groaned that we had to read four novels, all assigned, for the semester long class.  I laughed!  During the school year I was reading a novel or two a week, for fun!  During the summers, I typically read two or three!  I was done reading for the class in only three weeks and could then go back to reading the novels I wanted for the rest of the time.  Or how about the flash back to my freshman year English, we were assigned to read “West Side Story” for the whole semester… which is a novelization of a wonderful musical… but was written by a total hack.  I blew off the assignment to read better books.  The instructor misunderstood my motivation and I got bumped over to “bonehead” english… It took only one day for my new instructor to realize the mistake… but I convinced her to let me stay and allow me to read and write what I wanted.

That Chemistry teacher then cajoled me into taking his new, never before offered, 3rd semester AP Chemistry class.  I at first refused… but then he told me that there would be no homework, no tests, only one term project of our own chosing.  I would have full access to the Chem lab to build one Chemistry related experiment and demonstrate to the other students… all five of them!  Can you guess who the other five students were?  Yep, they were among the REALLY gifted students at the school… none of which were in the official “MGM” program.

So who were the kids in the “MGM” program?  The “bright” kids whose parents pushed and prodded into getting straight A’s in every class… who just had to be elected to the class government, be the officers of campus clubs, etc.  And of course, they just HAD to be in the MGM program.  All so that they could get into an elite university.  We used to joke that MGM meant “More homework Given, Moron!”  I had some conversations with them…  Can I say it?  They had very little imagination or self-motivation save to please or mollify their parents.  One example, one of these straight A, MGM kids approached me asking for a recommendation for a SciFi novel to read, knowing I was an avid reader.  I was pleased… wow… what to recommend to a new reader?  I lent him my copy of Heinlein’s “Revolt in 2100”.  He took the book and said, “Thanks.” as he turned away.  I stopped him, as I was curious as to what motivated him to ask for a novel to read, never before having shown any real interest before.  He answered, “Gotta an assignment in English class to read a SciFi novel.”  He literally had no interest in reading anything that wasn’t assigned to him.  Not one of those kids became “eminent” in any adult domain.  Oh…. they all were ‘successful’… but nothing special.  How could they be, when they couldn’t imagine stepping foot outside the box provided for them?

One of things I noted about those that I personally ranked as “gifted” in high school was they were very likely to be rebels in some way.  Not enough to get arrested… but never quite happy to follow a school or social rule if they thought it was a stupid one.  I went to two different high schools, not very far apart from one another… at my first one, when I was a freshman one of my classmates was a girl named Patti… Patti Jobs… she had an older brother named Steve… yes THAT Steve.  He was gifted and a rebel.  You know of him because of his extreme eminence.

Thus we come back to the issue of testing for entry into the gifted programs today and how parents of privileged backgrounds are pushing their kids with special prep classes and tutoring so that they can get into those “better” schools and “better” classes.  I laugh… not only is it “unfair”… it undermines and distorts the very value of identifying gifted students that society is supposed to gain from… because these kids aren’t the ones that should be getting it.  If you have to be pushed by parents, or motivated by empty rewards like grades, you will never be more than successful middle-management.

Education for eminence is what gifted education should be for according to Rene Subotnik.  Just as we identify elite athletic talent and nurture it, she espouses that we should identify and nurture intellectually gifted youth.  But the truth is, in my own opinion, we don’t.  We usually find those kids who have been pushed to get better grades and be better at taking the “gifted test”…  We totally miss the truly gifted, self-motivated, creative rebels, future scientists, inventors, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, etc. that will change the world for the better.  They have to find their own way… often under difficult circumstances.  And how many, due to those poor circumstances and substandard education fail to reach their true potential?  What a waste.

So what would be a proper better learning environment for gifted students?  As well as that 3rd Semester AP Chemistry “class” that was just an open access to the lab… I had one real class designed for gifted students: “Cosmology, Stellar, and Galactic Evolution”.

In my Junior year, there was a quiet announcement that an off campus class was being offered to interested high school students from the entire Silicon Valley area.  The classes would be after school, held at the local community college.  The really interesting thing about it was that it would be taught by an actual NASA Ames Research Center astronomer!  An actual working NASA astronomer!  A truly gifted adult teaching gifted high school students.  Perhaps a bit over thirty students signed up.  Only eight of us finished, three from my high school… none of them MGMs.  The class was conducted as though the instructor was an observatory as well as the leader of the class.  Although using actual math was forbidden, we were guided through the thinking of historical cosmologists, gathering data (all verbally), testing ideas, getting confirmation or not from the instructor as though it was from observations.  At the end of the term, the instructor gave me a draft copy of a university textbook on cosmology he was writing, asking me to read and comment on it.  He had taught the class hoping to find out how best to present the material to advanced students who had never been exposed to cosmology before.

Epilog… of a sorts.  The next year, my high school offered an Astronomy course.  I tutored it.  I also gave a lecture to the class.  On the day of the Final Test, I was giving last-minute tutoring even as the class door for the test began… then walked away.  A boy called out, “Aren’t you going to take the final?”  “Why?  I already have the “A” in the class.”  The instructor had, like my Chemistry instructor, given me leave to ignore homework and even tests in exchange for my work tutoring and lecturing.

I also tutored astronomy, paid by the schools, at two different community colleges the following year… with full unescorted access, my own set of keys, to a state of the art planetarium.

Further Reading:

Essay on how to ensure higher education opportunities for all

External Further Reading:

http://newyorkschooltalk.org/2017/10/5-secrets-nyc-department-ed-doesnt-want-parents-know-gifted-talented-programs/

https://lauragraceweldon.com/2018/07/03/how-we-shortchange-gifted-kids/

Homo Familiaris, Sapiens, Neanderthalis, & Denisovans are the same species

Candice eetimesKissing Cousins

Recent news of a “hybrid” between Neanderthal and Denisovan parents has brought to light the problem of how do we define “human”, or more particularly, how do we define the biological concept of “species”.

For decades now, we have considered “modern humans” and “neanderthals” as two separate species and that one of them went extinct.  But then came genetic sequencing of old bones and we learned that non-African populations of modern humans include a rather high percentage of Neanderthal genes.  That was recently joined by news that another population that was believed to be separate from Neanderthal, the Denisovans, also contributed to East Asian modern human population.

This means that most of the “modern humans” are “hybrids”?  No.  It’s time to stop thinking of the Neanderthals and Denisovans as separate species.  Why?  Because the concept of species includes the concept of non-inter-breeding populations.  Clearly, this is not the case.  These three populations were clearly capable of interbreeding and based upon the demonstrated fact that we oh so modern humans clearly have Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestors means that we are one species!

I propose we rename ourselves to recongnize this fact, Homo Familiaris “The Family Man”.

 

Yes, We Can and Will Terraform Mars…

Candice eetimes… And Maybe The Moon

A recent paper in Nature has declared that there isn’t enough carbon dioxide to terraform Mars.  Well… DUH !!!  We’ve known that for decades.  But the internet and blogosphere has been beating the drum, some of it rather insulting to those of us who have been contemplating such an endeavor for decades.  But this is a strawman.  Locally available CO2 was never thought to be the primary source of an atmosphere.  Instead, those who have been thinking deeply about the real means of creating a second home for earth life has been to use volatiles from further out in the Solar System.

Back in the early ’90s, my good friend Dr. Joy D. Shaffer, did her own “study” of the problem.  She realized that we could move enough volatiles from Saturn’s rings or from comets.  She did the energy calculations of what it would take to move them in sufficient quantities to provide atmospheric pressure suitable for earthlike conditions on both Mars and Luna.  She envisioned embedding boosters that would mine the chunks of ice and frozen nitrogen as reaction mass to move the material into Mars or Luna low velocity intercepting orbits.  She then made a projection of energy mobilization history since the Industrial Revolution into the future and assumed that we could afford to use 2% of that future energy expenditure to terraform Mars and/or Luna.  She calculated that we would reach that point in only 200 years.

Interestingly, she also calculated the economic cost and energy expenditure needed to launch interstellar ships that would travel at low percentages of C (the speed of light) fast enough to reach the stars in the timeframe suitable for human civilization endurance.  She assumed that humans wouldn’t need to reach high percentages of C to reach the stars and colonize them given that human civilizations, indeed individual organizations, have lifetimes on the order of thousands of years (e.g. 1,600 years since the founding of the present Roman Catholic Church / 2,400 years since the founding of Japan’s Yamato dynasty).  Making these assumptions she calculated that a solar system wide economy could afford to launch star colonizing journeys when our economy had grown sufficient such that the same percentage of gross system product as the United States used to reach the moon during the NASA peak in the 1960s.  Interestingly, that time frame was essentially identical to that needed before we could begin terraforming Mars, about 200 years from now.

This formed the basis for my own thinking in developing the economic and political backdrop to my science fiction novels starting with my first All The Stars Are Suns published last fall.

The Moon Only Comes Out At Night

Candice eetimesWhen I was in my early 20s, I worked at a small electronics company on the factory floor.  Most of the employees were hispanic women on the assembly line.  These were good hearted women for the most part of whom I got along well.

One morning, on my way to work, standing in the parking lot, I marvelled at the absolutely cloudless deep blue sky which formed the back drop for a gibbous waning moon.  It was so lovely that I mentioned it to my coworkers.

“You are mistaken.  The moon only comes out at night,” one of the middle-aged women corrected me.

I was taken aback.  I knew what I saw.  Further, I had seen the moon during the day many times in my life (and often have since).  While the moon at night commands attention, being then the brightest object in the sky, it is clearly visible during the day if viewing conditions (clear of clouds in that part of the sky) permit.  If one knows the current phase of the moon and understands that its orbit is along the ecliptic, one can even predict what part of the sky it will be in at a given time of day, even without an ephemeris, with just a moderate amount of mental visualization.  It astounded me that this woman had never simply observed the sky.

“I can show it to you.  It will only take a minute to go out to the parking lot and I can show it to you.”

“The moon only comes out at night!” was her emphatic reply.  Several other women sagely nodded their heads as they all agreed with her and commented upon my lack of knowledge in spanish, as though I couldn’t understand what they were saying.  (No, I can’t converse in spanish.  But one can catch just enough to know what people are talking about.)

It wasn’t just that she was wrong.  It was her and her coworkers’ unwillingness to test their understanding against objective observable reality.  She didn’t need to test her understanding.  She already knew the truth.

“The moon only comes out at night.”  has become my catch phrase for willful ignorance and arrogant self-assurance.  The actual words may be different, but I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.

“The moon only comes out at night.”

Dark Energy Isn’t

Professor Imous Crank was giving a talk on his latest unpublished paper.  It was of course fully available on his Universe City website but no reputable journal would publish it.  Even the Journal of Irreproducable Results wouldn’t.  But that didn’t stop him from giving his talk.  The lecture hall was nearly empty and those that were there were non-human visitors in with amazing good bioengineered avatars.  The aliens were amazed that Prof. Crank hadn’t actually been able to convince some of his colleagues.  They needn’t have been.  The man had lived up to his name in his dotage.  He had too many ideas that had been proven to be so far-fetched that even his own former students had given up on him.

“So, from this equation we can see that space-time will expand due to the prior expansion of the non-gravitationally bound non-local super-groups exhibiting linear frame dragging from the original vector bosons, gluons, created in the first quintillionth of a second of the Big Bang.  One can think of it as simply following Newton’s second law, this created the inflation of the early universe but that doesn’t explain the acceleration of the expansion we have labeled “Dark Energy” for want of a better or more accurate name.  That comes about due to frame dragging from the later luminous vector bosons.  In other words, as this equation shows, the expansion of the universe is being accelerated by photons and gravitons in the form of intergalactic light and gravitational waves and the universe simply has to make more room so that they can go on forever on their massless journey in the vain hope of reaching the end of the universe… and edge that like Tantalus’s grapes, forever receed.”

It was so simple… yet… physicists would never accept it… knowing it was just another Crank idea.