Sunday, September 14, 2014

Accepting, rejecting, or ignoring ideas. (Part 2)

Part 2, How do we know what we know?

In a recent video making the rounds on social media, we see a "non-conventional" view of how the solar system and the universe work.  Despite the many errors in word choice (vortex rather than helix, universe rather than solar system) the quality of the animation looks very professional.  In this video, the planets are seen being dragged behind the sun as it races, corkscrews, and bobs around the universe.  This video is now approaching 2 million views, and climbing.  Nevermind that the information presented is false, it is very compelling.The second video by the same author doubles down and builds upon these misconceptions.  This is a great example of all the concepts I want to talk about in this blog.

It's Wrong?  Says you!


If you've read previous entries, it should go without saying that I'm not going to ask you to take my word for it when I say this video is inaccurate.  If I did that, I would be presenting even weaker evidence than the video in question.  At least he has a very pretty 3d animated demonstration. 

But wait, the model he is trying to dispute has gorgeous 3d models too!  It also has a long history of accurate predictions.  It also has consistently observable effects, like the positions of space probes, placement of stars outside the milky way, and events like planetary transits across the sun.  To convey this, let us consult an expert.  What would an astronomer say about this video?
It’s wrong. And not just superficially; it’s deeply wrong, based on a very wrong premise. While there are some useful visualizations in it, I caution people to take it with a galaxy-sized grain of salt.

 What was that saying about extraordinary claims again?


How much evidence would be required to unseat the sun as the center of our solar syst...err... group of planets?  At the very least, you would need a model that functionally explains all the observations we can make with the naked-eye.  This one fails that very first test.

But, because the internet levels the credibility playing field to a certain extent, it is important to look at new information from a critical thinking standpoint too.  I'm not an astrophysicist and you probably aren't either.  Assuming that you didn't know anything about the universe or gravity, you could still debunk the video by simple questioning. 

  1. Who backs the new point of view? (A small group with religious fervor about spirals, shamans, and energy that is actively looking to recruit new followers)
  2. Who has the opposing point of view? (NASA, Astrophysicists, Astronomers, Academic types: people who use knowledge of the subject to make predictions. and gain nothing from you believing them or not.)
  3. Which side presents a more complete case? (Hundreds of years of increasingly accurate predictions starting with Galileo. Everyone from Newton and continuing through Einstein all the way to the modern era of space telescopes and manned space stations vs. two videos based on a theoretical model posited by an herbalist/botanist)
  4. Which side has reliable experiments behind them?  (This is getting pretty obvious, isn't it?)

Sidenote: I will continue to add thoughts as time allows.  I've taken on a full-time load of classes, so I've let this blog go to the backburner.

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