From John Brockman at The Edge, remembering Frank Schirrmacher:

we have a population explosion of ideas,
but not enough brains to cover them.
Schirrmacher quoting Dennett

the quest for a second enlightenment,
one which would be built on the ideas of the third culture.

Researchers such as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, anthropologist Gregory Bateson, mathematician Roger Penrose, biologist Lynn Margulis, geographer Jared Diamond, psychologist Steven Pinker …”come from the ‘exact’ sciences, take care of basic questions of human existence. And they write about their work in thick books in which they—like ‘real’ humanists—take hundreds of pages to present their own thesis.”
Brockman quoting Schirrmacher

(Born in 1959, he was younger than me. I like the scare quotes on ‘exact’ science to make the point about ‘real’ humanism. On a par with Bronowski.)

Whilst searching for a decent reference for my own published writings – this blog is generally at the trashier end of the scale for personal consumption only – I came across a technical article I’d created over 20 years ago before publishing on the web was much of an option. What I found was a PDF version that one of the tool suppliers (ANSYS) had presumably preserved as a reference article as an application of their product.

In all it’s glory is my write-up on one of the more interesting (both challenging and successful) projects I’d done in my time at Foster Wheeler. The Liquid Nitrogen Injection Rakes for the European Transonic WindTunnel Project.

This was a unique project for Foster Wheeler.
Indeed, engineering the LN2 injection rakes for the ETW project
would have been an unusual technical challenge for anyone.
In addition, given the acute budget and schedule constraints,
it was a brave commitment for FW to accept the challenge
and a significant achievement to meet it

For those of you who jet-set around the world in Airbus aircraft beyond the original A300, the design of your transport was tested in this facility. You’re welcome.

[I'll have to see if I can also find the previous article referred to, which described the overall project, not just the components I was responsible for. Quite a few unusual engineering aspects to this project, which I followed right through to completion and commissioning - and an official royal opening. Doesn't show up in any on-line searches - so may have to ferret out and scan a hard copy.]

I’m not an expert cosmologist, nor even a physicist. And as someone already said in a comment in the thread that posed me the above question, few people in such threads are actually experts. Of course as soon as you get into the area of some specialised theory within the domain, the maths becomes even more specialised. And even if interlocutors were sufficiently expert in any objective sense, conducting a sufficiently nuanced dialogue in such an environment within which neither has any history of mutual respect and understanding of the other in the subject matter is pretty risky anyway.

The request was actually for “empirical” evidence. A pretty tall order at the extremes of the known and knowable cosmos, where pretty much all evidence is indirect. But here goes:

The simplest starting point of empirical doubt for me is the apparent CMBR alignment with the ecliptic of our home solar system. Of which Larry Krauss said back in 2006:

[T]here appears to be energy of empty space that isn’t zero! This flies in the face of all conventional wisdom in theoretical particle physics. It is the most profound shift in thinking, perhaps the most profound puzzle … … when we look out at the universe, there doesn’t seem to be enough structure — not as much as inflation would predict … … when you look at CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That’s crazy. We’re looking out at the whole universe. There’s no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic … … telling us that all of science is wrong and we’re the center of the universe, or maybe the data is simply incorrect, or … maybe there’s something wrong with our theories on the larger scales.

Larry has never responded to later questions as what later evidence or interpretation has explained that “crazy” observation, or removed the suggestion of doubt “maybe there’s something wrong with our theories”. (And Larry has of course suffered the slings and arrows of those accusing him of actual “geocentrism” – much amusement and defensive arguments against the spurious accusation of course – but never any sign of Larry actually addressing his own original point.)

I could stop there for now. But it’s important to note that for me the above is simply an observation confirming existing doubt. Doubt arrived at by other non-empirical philosophical, logical and theoretical arguments. And also to note that there are several other reported observations looking for missing “mass” and “echoes” of energetic events in the boundary conditions of the cosmos, and the inflationary processes since in what we can observe now, which cast doubt on the theory.

As I’ve concluded before reasons the doubts are downplayed are political, in a climate where to concede an inch risks headlines proclaiming the opposite. Like the hyped article that initiated the thread which raised the question at the head of this post, itself a response to a hyped original claim.

Probably 120 posts over 14 years on this blog alone highlighting sources of doubt – not all of them empirical, as I say. This previous post includes links to 3 posts before that which themselves include links to many more. Let’s address the one doubt above before we unpick the whole story.

Good to see Laura Mersini-Houghton’s work recognised as important news on Newsnight. The work of a scientist not hidebound by fictions of the standard model, unlike the emperor’s new clothes over at CERN.

Cosmic Continuity
Bang goes Big Bang
Cracks in the Cosmic Egg

Hopefully we’ll see funding diverted to real science in future.


Re-watched this morning (I came across it by accident yesterday, and didn’t catch the whole thing). Jeremy asks the right question – isn’t this really about the limits of what science can know, and how much this kind of science is relevant to human knowledge. (I’ll have to see if I can rip the video.)


Different piece, from Rick commenting on Facebook. Big Bang Blunder Burst Multiverse Bubble. (Hat tip to Dawkins Foundation whose hint of a saving grace is the and between science and reason.) (I think this is the “twisty B-mode CMBR polarisation” evidence against the big bang Penrose referred to in Bang Goes the Big Bang above.)

… should make the scientific community contemplate
the implications for the future of cosmology …

Some interesting points in the comment thread too …

… pure politicking …
… skeptical that science reporting is reliable and helpful to scientific enterprises …
… etc.

The one thing people can agree on is that science is not religion, but sadly most reported science is not science either. Wake-up science.

From the Beeb today, on the start on a new Tungsten mine down in the UK West Country ….

“Tungsten is an extraordinary metal.

“It’s almost as hard as a diamond and has one of the highest melting points of any mineral.

“Adding a small amount to steel makes it far harder, far more resistant to stress and heat. The benefits to industry are obvious.”

Dr John Emsley
Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

If Dr Elmsley really is FRSC, then I’m guessing he didn’t actually say it like that, if he did ….

Anyway, the first and third sentences are true enough. The second would be true if he were talking about Tungsten Carbide as opposed to Tungsten at the time.

One of the threads from the “Bang Goes The Big Bang” and “Out of Darkness” talks, both featuring Laura Mersini-Houghton, is that whatever is wrong with big bang theories, they really seem to describe a succession of universes in time. There are no singularities in the space-time of our universe. Most of the “succession” ideas come from needing to account for boundary conditions or effects that must have pre-existed what we think of as the universe before “our” universe, whilst accounting for mass-energy anomalies in observed consequences of the (obviously flawed) big bang models.

Well, what if that continuity were even more continuous – there wasn’t really any need for big bang inflation. That’s exactly what is predicted by Rick Ryals and Cormac O’Raifeartaigh revisiting Einstein’s work. If Einstein knew what we knew now, he’d have stuck to his guns and we’d have a very different standard model of the universe.

Found myself talking to an attractive German couple in a London bar the other evening. Noticed he was wearing a Eurofighter tie-pin. Yes, he was a pilot, now retired he said, and pulled up a photo on his smart phone. Hang on, that’s a Phantom – my favourite aircraft ever. Yes, I’m flying the Phantom, that’s our son flying the Eurofighter. You didn’t by any chance fly Starfighters before that did you? No she says, but my father did. Father, husband and son.

[As Smiffy said on Facebook, makes you wonder what Granddad flew - if I meet them again, I'll ask.]

Saw the John Lloyd interview on Arena with Melvyn Bragg at the weekend. Pretty sure I’ve seen it before, but I found it fascinating and moved to record the pertinent facts relevant to my agenda.

Very explicit about “scientific management” being the death of innovative comedy and creativity generally, since Spitting Image days. (Shearsmith and Pemberton might disagree.)

Weirdly, never associated him with being the same John Lloyd responsible for The Meaning of Liff with DNA (Douglas Adams) – obvious I guess, when you think of QI.

Responsible for producing much Rowan Atkinson (and Ben Elton and Stephen Fry) material – Not the Nine o’Clock News, Blackadder and the insanely expensive / lucrative Barclaycard ads. Given the entertainment / media  context it was immensely reassuring to hear his commentary on general management decision-making, right up to levels of governance.

The scientistic meme really is ubiquitous. Melvyn, please join up those dots with your In Our Time resources please, please, please.

The meme gets half way around the world, before the truth even gets its boots on. Quoted by Gove (from attrib) in the (so obviously false) story of his aversion to – nay, banning of – US Literature.

Blogging live from the IAI – How The Light Gets In – conference at Hay-on-Wye. (Not to be confused with the contemporary and almost co-located Hay Festival of Arts and Literature.)

Well, I was live when I wrote that – but sadly teeming rain, muddy tented venues and lack of any safe power supplies, meant  I lost the live aspect barely over an hour in.

So after blogging the rough notes on the first debate, the following is mostly edited / reconstructed from my manual notes. Actually five separate talks I wanted to record, though I have notes on a dozen more before I baled out on the Sunday.

Those I want to record are:

Bang Goes the Big Bang
- with Roger Penrose, John Ellis, and Laura Mersini-Houghton.
Philosophy Bites Back
- with Larry Krauss (on-line feed), Mary Midgely and Angie Hobbs.
Out of Darkness (Black Holes Don’t Exist)
- with Laura Mersini-Houghton.
Secrets of the Mind
- with Ian McGilchrist, Roger Penrose and Nick Humphrey.
The Limits of Logic (in association with BHA)
- with Simon Blackburn, Iain McGilchrist and Bea Campbell.

Meta-stuff first, as is my wont. I’m at least as interested in the process of dialogue as I am the content, The truth is rarely stated so much as approached or arrived at, if you’re lucky.

Full marks to facilitators in the last two session in particular, Joanna Kavenna and Shahidha Bari respectively, for demonstrating both the understanding and the skills to pull that off. Much appreciated.

Bottom marks to Larry for not being there in person, and more, see later. Removed any opportunity to join him up with Laura in a real conversation. One of my main justifications for making the effort (and expense) to attend this year.

Talking of which – OK, an early UK summer festival in a field. Can’t hold them responsible for the weather, but “hotel standard accommodation” – gimme a break. Could they not get more shelter up, slicker change-overs of venue seating, and more straw and matting down, once it was obvious we were in for a rainy weekend. (And were they honest about Krauss not actually being there before the final programme on the day – they certainly used his presence to advertise the full 12 days of events, even thought he was there for less than one hour by Skype link on the one day only. Just sayin’.)

Despite not seeing and/or recording specific talks with them, surreal to share the muddy byways with the wellies of George Galloway, Julie Bindel, Chris Huhne, Hillary Lawson, David Aaronovitch and more familiar faces, and many more I didn’t see – Laurie Taylor hosted 4 sessions, but I didn’t get to see him.

So here goes with the first debate,

Bang Goes The Big Bang
with Roger Penrose, John Ellis and Laura Mersini-Houghton – physicists all.

Penrose and Ellis fame precedes them. Mersini-Houghton is a favourite of mine, a multiverse cosmologist with an open-mind, not bound by the standard models and their singularities, gravitational mass & CMBR anomalies with their balancing (explaining away) “hacks”, but with first principles solutions to the wave equations.

David Malone hosts. “What is wrong with the big bang theory?”

John; Not much he says; as a theory it will outlast him. Contingent, like any theory.

Laura; it works well, but comes with a heavy price tag on boundary conditions, and whilst it does agree well with physics on earth scale – the standard model of cosmology is flawed, missing something, on the full range of scales, at higher energies. Initial boundary conditions are the critical hole.

Roger; It has problems with contravening 2nd law. Used to believe it was meaningless to think about “before” – but now believes this is a key thinking point -the initial state of entropy.

Turtles all the way down? asks John.

Roger is using eons for each universe – “inflationary” expansion is not right. Irregularities we see are NOT quantum fluctuations, but part of the boundary conditions from previous “eon”. Electron polarisation – B-mode “twisted light” – anomalies, pre-existing magnetic fields unrelated to matter in our universe – all current examples in recent reports.

Laura. Even time is an uncertain quantity – so before is a problematic concept. Matter and energy oppose – contraction and expansion. Fluctuations in pre-existing universe, may account for, certainly affect the probabilities, of a given universe emerging from its big bang.

My question – Given the anomalies – even “special” anthropic anomalies, hemispherical ecliptic CMB asymmetries – constantly arising in models of inflation to explain the structures in the current universe, is dark matter just a speculative hack, or is it a reality.

Laura’s answer; no such thing as dark matter, just matter not yet explained by the standard model, another feature of its incompleteness – it may not be the matter that’s missing, it may be another hole in the model.

Roger. Back to time, beginning of time, “nothing north of the north pole”. Nature of space time fundamentally. Geometry (conformal physics) says mass is irrelevant at high-energies near the big bang. Sequential, but not parallel universes

Laura – ie Multiple universes in space-time or just in time. This is the question the three of us are really debating. Predictions based on effects of pre-existing universe – classical, not just quantum entanglement – have been observed. Not 5-sigma yet, but you bet.

Roger agrees with Laura. Concentric echo-rings from cluster-collisions in the previous universe – another example predictable indicator of multiverses – will achieve 10-sigma standard.

My conclusion: Not so much “big bang” theory being wrong, but that the current cosmology and standard model physics underlying current big bang theories has many indicators that it is seriously flawed. The hypothetical predictions to be confirmed suggest significant alternatives, not just refinements of the current model.

[And - IAI have already uploaded the video of this talk.]


Philosophy Bites Back
With Angie Hobbs, Mary Midgley and (by feed) Larry Krauss.
Basic question – does philosophy have anything to teach or add to science?

Larry; Yes, sure philosophy adds something to some aspects of science. Particularly formulating questions where science doesn’t yet have clearly understood questions or hypothetical formulations. Physics is not one of those areas (!) – philosophy has nothing to add – the whole gamut from quantum to cosmic levels are already sorted.

Angie; Is cosmology physics?

The question is left hanging, but it’s a point I’ve made before too.

Mary; It’s not a question of adding philosophy to science. Philosophy is about many ways of thinking of which science is one. Arts, social, freedoms, history, and more. Physical science is only a small part of knowledge.

Angie; Aristotle. In science surely it is physics that is closest to need philosophical help with questions at its metaphysical boundaries. Think ontology – being vs beings, existence vs things that exist. Physics very doubtful on these questions at both extremes of scale.

Larry; Snigger – look at Aristotle’s mistakes – ancient lack of wisdom on causation.

Angie; No not a matter of being wrong, there is more to causation than efficient cause or a before / after view.

Mary; What bout questions that science cannot answer? Talking about the questions IS philosophy. Physics arose out of 17th century natural philosophy. Much current science is “Promissory Materialism” –  ie yes there are gaps but we will have solutions tomorrow.

Larry; Even saying there are questions science cannot answer is a religious statement.

Angie; But there is more than questions of knowledge at stake. Getting from facts to values, from is to ought, does not come from science. And even with knowledge, the epistemic conditions for what constitutes knowledge is a philosophical question.

Larry; These are still empirical questions. Scientists can be “nice” people, religion has nothing to do with morality.

For a scientist Larry is rather obsessed with religion – he’s the only one talking about it and he’s mentioned it twice so far !

Mary; History is another kind of knowledge. Social facts too.

No, all still empirical says Larry.

Mary disagrees. Evolution is historical as well as scientific.

Larry; It’s creationist to say that. More than history, also predictive, testable hypotheses. It’s sound science, like economics – some tries to be scientific, which is often hard for it to be.

Angie; Episteme (again).

Larry; In science repeatable experiments lead to accepted facts. So for example, String Theory is not even a theory yet – it’s untestable hypothetical conjecture. Evolution and economics are sound theory.

Mary; What about Einstein’s ideas? They came from philosophical thinking, and they remain consequential and influential.

Angie; Physics and philosophy remain entangled – the language of facts and the science of stuff.

Mary; Issues like tolerance and freedom (eg Locke) nothing to do with science.

….. degenerates to repeat gain-saying, talking past each other.

My take on this debate. It was doomed to failure – failure to achieve any new agreement. Mary is the “doyen” of British philosophy, but being very elderly her ability to engage in the rhetorical cut and thrust is limited, especially in the mixed live and internet mediated (delayed) Skype context. Angie, still relies heavily on 17th C and earlier Greek sources, her specialist subject. Sure, I’m the first to agree there is nothing new under the sun, and all philosophy since has been footnotes to Plato, but that’s never going to impress the cock-sure Larry, who has all the skills of rhetorical come-backs with a side-order of flirtation. Yes even Angie couldn’t resist flirting back. Doomed I say, doomed.

My tactic with Larry is to (attempt to) draw his attention to actual physics that turns him on, and point out where some of the specific gaps have worthwhile epistemic questions, rather than get him interested in learning about epistemology per se. Being an influential “public scientist” Larry is worth the effort even if it gives him a breathtaking arrogance when it comes to listening.

Next, a surprise one-person event:

Out of Darkness
with Laura Mersini-Houghton

Laura; What I’m here to tell you today is news. The first time the findings I’m about to describe from my team have been aired in public.

First a little history of black holes – the stellar-massive and super-massive kinds. Oppenheimer and Schneider 1959. Singularities where physicists lose track of their models. Quantum gravity, Event horizons. Penrose & Hawking 1971. All evidence indirect. Hawking Radiation as particle-pair fluctuations are stripped of their partners near the event horizon. The Information Paradox – information about the prior structure of the universe is lost as the mass is consumed. Black holes have already been back in the news.

Today’s news is this; Black holes as defined by event horizons and singularities don’t exist. As sufficiently massive objects collapse under gravity and dynamic equilibrium is reached where the Collapsing gravity bounces back on the Hawking radiation. There are no singularities, no information losses, Einstein and classical physics are preserved.

The hypothesis already has several predictable observable elements to do with the frequency and dynamics of the bounce-back shock-wave. Watch this space.

The real lesson ? Dynamics. Evolution is ALWAYS part of the story. Paradoxes invariably mean something taken for granted as a static fact in the existing standard model is not statically true. What is observed is always “becoming” as well as “being”. All is dynamic. In this specific case the idea of a black hole as a thing, is really the process of gravitational collapse. The thing doesn’t exist.

My conclusion; Wow. As I suspected Laura is a proper scientist that talks sense. Compare Larry above. Such a pity my plan to get them in the same room failed to materialise.

Question – what about particle scale black holes? This new theory says nothing about these “primordial” black holes, but they are after all only hypothetical conjecture, not even indirectly observable. They probably don’t exist either, but this theory is silent on that.

Secrets of the Mind
with Roger Penrose, Nic Humphrey and Iain McGilchrist.

Joanna Kavenna; Are we about to crack the problem of consciousness?

Iain; What problem, there is no problem. We know and inhabit it, there is nothing we know more intimately, unlike the material world, which is an erection, a construct.

Joanna; But there are many who deny its existence or call it illusory, some who say it’s part of the universe rather than an emergent property, others who even say it’s the other way around, that matter is  “phase” of consciousness.

Nic; Yes, there are many conflicting ideas, we are not close to agreeing the solution. The problem remains sentience, the so-called hard problem. The explanatory gap between neural correlates and the subjective experience of qualia.

Roger; No, there are plenty of clues where the solution lies. In understanding of numbers and computation. Turing was bugged by QM self-inconsistencies between the wave equations and the observer /measurement problem.  But these are not so much unexplained inconsistencies as clues that we have the model wrong. Consciousness must in some way come about from QM … Penrose-Hameroff theory basically …. consciousness arises from QM-coherence in micro-tubules at the neuronal level. There are now empirical indicators.

Left hanging …. many attempts at expressions that attempt to define what consciousness is before we can agree an explanation.

Long story short … Nic sticking to his “Cartesian theatre” or evolved, emergent stage-show view. Iain and Roger seeing some more fundamental widely distributed connection between consciousness and matter – in that order.

Iain and Roger seem to be agreeing something like – the elements of consciousness exist in physics. The brain – and wider neuro-physiological system - is simply the most evolved “transducer” of consciousness so far.

Apart from that putative agreement, worth hanging onto, I didn’t hear a lot new there, certainly nothng more than restatement of differing views. I don’t yet buy QM-coherent micro-tubules (too convenient, and too classically scaled) it’s more fundamental than that. Even emergent, in a layered rather than historical timescale sense. I have my own models, closer to McGilchrist.

Finally, for this report:

The Limits of Logic
with Simon Blackburn, Bea Campbell and Iain McGilchrist

However important and valuable it is, yes, there are limits to logic – who could disagree.

I have yards of notes – too many to record here. I really got a lot out of this one for meta-reasons. [IAI have posted the video of this talk - and hey - that's the back of my head with the glasses perched on top. ]

Iain I already know and like – as you can probably tell from above – and I have many links to him in the blog.

Simon has been one of those “mainstream academic” philosophers I’ve never previously gotten into or found a distinctive voice or message – so it was good to see the common sense and humanity in his interactions at close quarters. Obviously as the philosopher on the panel, he wants to sell us the value of logic, as a tool for testing arguments, but he’s as sympathetic to the psychologist and the political activist views as the next human. I must find something of his to read.

Bea I’ve heard, but never listened or read. Her contributions were refreshingly different to me in this context. She spoke from experience – scars – of many different viewpoints to every issue – and we (all) listened. No-one needed to disagree.

Iain said applying logic can be part of the tick-box mentality, that misses the real point, which may be less than 100% logical but nevertheless meaningful. The obsession with 100% logic can be autistic. Simon said the same thing a different way. It is always useful to test any argument with logic, test it for logical consistency. But failing the test, doesn’t mean the sense is wrong. Obviously there is something wrong with the argument, but the conclusion, the action, may still be right. The error may just as likely be be in the model underlying the argument.

Science media reporting is one target of my agenda. The tag “science” gives stories some sort of credibility they do not deserve as news (except as deliberately ironic closing good news meme). The general meme is “Today a team of US scientists announced ….” yeah, right.

The Beeb is as bad as any channel for this. This week. Pinocchio the Dinosaur and Universe Created in the Lab take the biscuit. Being science (even good science) doesn’t make it right or newsworthy, just more people seeking funding, with plenty of computer generated sexy images to sell. Get a grip BBC, this is neither news nor science – file under virtual reality computer games.

Interesting post from Elizaphanian (Rev Sam Norton) …. in which after using “Rev” (Smallbone) as a parable for the church times and generally confirming the line that we are a Christian country, Sam is also moved to suggest:

… it has long been part of the self-identity of the Church of England that we are the ‘official’ church in this country. This is legally true – that is what establishment means – yet I am more and more persuaded that this part of our self-identity is ultimately idolatrous, and gets in the way of our proper discipleship and growth in faith.

Which is interestingly what I quoted Clive James saying here.

… the Anglican Church would have done better to seize the first opportunity of disestablishing itself. However tenuous, its official connection to the state has been enough to saddle it with the doomed ambition of maximising its popular audience, like a television channel in desperate search of more viewers who eat crisps.

… no religion we know about is capable of allying itself to the state without working to the destruction of liberty. Less commonly noted is that it will also work to the destruction of itself, by trivialising its own teachings, or rendering them obnoxious in the attempt to impose them legally, instead of by exhortation, example and witness.

Interesting to hear Roger McGough and Pat Kane discussing the Bob Dylan Like  a Rolling Stone manuscript on Radio 4 Today this morning. Seeing the process of composition in discards of rhymes and couplets in the handwritten edits. Obviously I’m sensitive to the topic, still reading Clive James Cultural Amnesia, of poetry in writing good prose.

In this case it appears to be the whole process on 4 pages of hotel stationery, from ideas to end result. Noted before – in this blogging context – how capturing notes and then organising, linking, appending, ordering is common to so many writing projects, even meta-notes about the editing process (like this one). Pirsig’s ZMM and Lila index cards spring to mind, but I’ve mentioned other parallels …. so and so was a blogger.

Pat Kane was pointing out how powerful smartphone technology is to the writer / composer – to capture thoughts, notes, sounds and images on the go, and not worry about losing the notes stored on the device and saved in the cloud, even if you lose the device. I use notes on my smartphone in advance of drafting blog posts, but many posts are themselves only holding notes for future composition. I recall in my early engineering days, my mentor Jeff exhorting; Anything interesting, whatever you do write it down, you’ll need it one day. If you don’t you’ll remember remembering, but you wont remember what it is you forgot.

[And a meta-meta-point, I notice I've lost some important linking in the current blog theme - it no longer picks up pingbacks & trackbacks from new posts linking to existing .... rats!]

Still reading my way through Clive James Cultural Amnesia one essay at a time. Half-wayish in the M’s, the chapter notionally about Lithuanian poet and writer Czeslaw Milosz has an excellent and timely passage on Christian culture. I may just make this a long quote.

You can be a non-believer [...], and still be amazed how even the believers are ready to let the Bible go. In England, the most lethal attack on the scriptures has been mounted by the established church itself. The King James Bible is a prose masterpiece compiled at a time when even a committee could write English. The modern versions done in the name of comprehension, add up to an assault on readability. Eliot said that the Revised Standard Version was the work of men who did not realise they were atheists. The New English Bible was worse than that: Dwight MacDonald had to give up looking for traces of majesty and start looking for traces of literacy [...] For those of us unable to accept that the Bible is God’s living word, but who believe that the living word is God, the successful reduction of once-vital language to a compendium of banalities was bound to look like blasphemy, and the perpetrators like vandals. [...] It was my book too. [...] For me, the scriptures provided a standard of authenticity against the pervasive falsehoods of advertising, social engineering, moral uplift, demagogic politics – all the verbal corruptions of democracy, the language of illusion. [...] We are talking about our love for a book, and what we love is the way it is written. Rewriting it is not in the realm of the possible, and any attempt to do so should be seen for what it is: the threat of destruction.

Sooner than become the enemy of its own classical texts, the Anglican Church would have done better to seize the first opportunity of disestablishing itself. However tenuous, its official connection to the state has been enough to saddle it with the doomed ambition of maximising its popular audience, like a television channel in desperate search of more viewers who eat crisps. Separated from a full secularised state, it might have fully enjoyed the only civilised condition for a religion, which is to provide a spiritual structure for private life. Only a secular state can be democratic; although the democracy will soon be in trouble if the private citizen is deprived of a spiritual code, to be acknowledged for its moral example even if he does not believe in its divine provenance.

With the possible exception of Buddhism, no religion we know about is capable of allying itself to the state without working to the destruction of liberty. Less commonly noted is that it will also work to the destruction of itself, by trivialising its own teachings, or rendering them obnoxious in the attempt to impose them legally, instead of by exhortation, example and witness.

Evelyn Waugh’s correspondence teems with bitter complaints at the time when the church adopted vernacular liturgy. He hadn’t, he said, become a catholic in order to applaud the church’s clumsy adaptation to the modern world. He wanted it not to adapt. He wanted, that is, a refuge. Those of us brought up as Protestants, but who later lapsed, found out, when the doors closed behind us that we hadn’t lapsed quite as far as we thought. We had lapsed into unbelief, but not into stupidity [...] If I no longer know that my redeemer liveth, I know that he speaketh not like Tony Blair. [...] without the scriptures we poor wretches would be lost indeed, because without them, conscience itself would become just another disturbance of the personality, to be cured by counselling. We are surrounded by voices telling us that everything will come right if we learn to love ourselves. Imagine the torments of Jesus in his passion, if on top of the sponge of vinegar and the spear, they had offered him counselling as well.

We may be getting somewhere, slowly.

One of my agenda threads is that the naturally tendency of science and many scientists to defend themselves against (so-called blind, unreasonable) “faith” is to treat all accepted scientific models as objective fact (despite formally qualifying themselves with concepts like evidence, contingency and empirical falsifiability) – something, after Maxwell, I refer to as “scientistic neurosis”. A denial of doubt where it matters most, at the boundaries of “known” science, as if to give an inch is to concede the whole nine yards. It does real science – and knowledge, and wisdom, and understanding – a major disservice.

Well, fundamental foundations and origins of the cosmos are precisely the areas where such major contingency in the accepted “standard model” exist – by definition. There is such an edifice of cards built on these (contingent) fundaments, that the ratio of the inch to nine yards understates the odds. More butterfly to rain-forest. Chaos is not to be permitted.

Fellow science-worrier Rick unearthed this physics conversation on Space Daily over the weekend. Attempts to probe remaining evidence of the big bang (according to the standard model) yet again, throw up inexplicable anomalies. Surprising evidence, where either adding a fudge to the standard model (no longer massless neutrinos, say), or the possibility that the standard model is fundamentally flawed as a “cosmological principle” are equally valid hypotheses.

Oh for a cadre of working scientists to investigate rather than defend. Trouble is the defenders have multi-$billion budgets to protect, the real scientists don’t.

It is so unwise to have scientific academe justify itself by objective inputs and outcomes. Honesty has more real value.


Facebook thread captured for posterity:

[If the subject matter interests you, see the key reference links below too.]

Rick Ryals commented on this.

Rick Ryals shared a link.
17 hrs · 
Oxnard CA (SPX) Apr 24, 2014 – The world was stunned by the recent announcement that a telescope at the South Pole had detected a cosmic…
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  • Rick Ryals “We got the signal we were looking for-that’s good-but we shouldn’t have gotten one according to the highbrow theorists because they said it should be too small. So we also got a surprise. And often in science, that’s the case. We like to the experimenters to find what we predict, but we also like surprises.”

    This surprise is still so new that additional implications keep coming to light each week. It’s already clear that the result rules out many theoretical models of inflation-most of them, in fact-because they predict a signal much weaker than the one detected. In addition, the discovery also seems to disprove a theory that says that the universe expands, collapses and expands again in an ongoing cycle.

    More than that, the result could very well be what Turner calls a “crack in the cosmic egg,” offering clues that even the most accepted theoretical assumptions contain inaccuracies.

    “There have been hints for a while now that maybe something else is going on,” says KICP Deputy Director John Carlstrom, who leads two other experiments that study the universe’s first light. “Maybe we need to… allow some new physics in there. Maybe there are more neutrinos. Maybe they’re more massive than we thought. Or maybe it’s something none of us have thought of yet.”
  • Ian Glendinning And you didn’t even have to make any of that up. Excellent, all quotes. Your work is done (maybe).
  • Ian Glendinning Forgot to mention – going to conference next month, at which Krauss and Mersini-Houghton both present. Can’t decide whether to take rotten tomatoes or pointed questions.
    13 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Rick Ryals Nah, they are only talking about the distribution of large scale structures, which they plan to adjust by giving neutrino’s mass. If we are right, then it won’t work as it is a cosmological principle that they are missing…
  • Ian Glendinning Live in hope – that is only one of three possibilities suggested. “Something none of us has thought of (yet)” is another. (BTW you give me an opportunity to clarify – I don’t wish to tar Mersini-Houghton with the Krauss brush – she seems to be a true scientist with views outside the accepted mainstream).
  • Rick Ryals “Her theory of the origins of the universe from the landscape multiverse is not phenomenological. The theory and its predictions are derived from fundamental physics and first principles by using quantum cosmology for the wavefunction of the universe on the landscape and calculating decoherence and quantum entanglement among various surviving branches.”

    NOT phenomenological?!?!… how dare she!!!?
  • Rick Ryals Ian, check out my conversation with this astronomer:…/the-multiverse…

    Although we may not be able to directly observe any other universes, their existSee More
  • Rick Ryals Better yet, I’ll copy/paste it here because he has got it buried under other replies:

    Talking about the cosmological problem, I said:
    It’s only a “dilemma” because cutting edge theory doesn’t allow for the obvious classical solution to the problem.

    Flat barely expanding universe maximizes work since energy has the maximum amount of time to do work before it goes inert. It is an energy conservation law, duh.

    Simple stupid and obvious to all who cannot see the forest for the trees…
  • Rick Ryals Dr. Odenwald replied:
    Rick, there can be no ‘classical’ solution to this problem because the geometry of space/spacetime is not flat near the Big Bang but highly curved, and so no ideas from ‘classical physics’ apply. For example, there is no such thing as the Conservation of Energy, because that principle only applies to flat spacetimes. What you call ‘simple, stupid and obvious’ is none of these.
  • Rick Ryals But I replied:
    It is a would-be cosmological principle, like the anthropic principle is “the” alleged” selection principle, possibly even related via the entropic efficiency.

    I do not believe that it matters what space time looks like near the big bang, it is the configuration that is produced, which counts… a near perfectly balanced structure that is perched precariously between diametrically opposing runaway tendencies in order to maintain said entropic efficiency in an accelerating universe.

    The Classical Hierarchy Solution
  • Rick Ryals Then he shut up…
  • Ian Glendinning Yep, like I said the pointed questions seem to evoke the tumbleweed response. The advantage of throwing physical objects is that security and press may get drawn in – riskier, but harder to ignore. (I take it the “she” upfront is Laura ? I’ll read that thread.)
    11 hrs · Like · 1
  • Ian Glendinning OK. So Odenwald does eventually concede “I wonder whether we can ever consider our universe a closed system”. Rang bells with your point about big bang boundary conditions (of our universe) dependent on physical constants in the existing “universe” in which it arises, even though our universe can never communicate with it thereafter. Makes “classical” sense of the multi-verse hack. But agreed – interesting that (any) “anthropic cosmological principle” is discounted before the argument. Pure prejudice.
    11 hrs · Like · 1


  • Ian Glendinning And I see the “she” quote is from Laura’s Wikipedia page. Her star seems to be in the ascendant. Hope I can get her and Larry in the same conversation – I may not need the tomatoes after all. QUOTE “the only theory on the origins of our universe ever to offer predictions and have them successfully tested” UNQUOTE I knew this would take a woman to solve  [And - sorry couldn't resist - Larry is known to enjoy a flirt.]
    11 hrs · Edited · Like
  • Rick Ryals “I wonder whether we can ever consider our universe a closed system”

    I did not see this, and still do not, but you have to have the right cosmological model, which, to me, the unexpected strength of the ***alleged*** inflationary confirmation says THAT A UNIVERSE WITH PRE-EXISTING FINITE VOLUME had a big bang.

    Einstein would die… again.
    11 hrs · Edited · Like
  • Ian Glendinning I was quoting from his post in the HuffPo thread timed at 25 APR 11:16 AM
    10 hrs · Like · 1
  • Rick Ryals Huffpo is the best place to have your conversations with scientists get lost to the annals of hidden threads in five seconds… and they revamped it!!!
    10 hrs · Edited · Like
    The unexpected strength of the signal at this point in the plot is NOT the unexpected and unexplained *pleasant* surprise that they are hoping for:

    If you reverse project General Relativity (backwards), then you also come to this conclusion naturally, because there is no reason to give up “classical” causality, *unless* you PRE-ASSUME a singularity.

    GR backwards arrives at a big bang in a causally connected universe with volume as the natural solution to the flatness and horizon problems… there was no reason to rationalize faster than light motion of any damned thing.

    It was only, and still is, the pre-assumed singularity that causes all of the problems… 
    [END] > [REFS]

    Before the Big Bang – where I first join up the dots between Mersini-Houghton, Krauss and Ryals. If you have an aversion to the very idea of anthropic principles, take a powder before you read, and leave your prejudices at the door. More links there if you make the effort.

    Uncomfortable Geocentric Problem
    – a series of twitter and facebook exchanges regarding Krauss’ reaction to the suggestion he believed in geocentism - titter ye not.
    [And some additional follow-up resources to that exchange.]

    Calling Larry’s Bluff - many other posts and links where I’ve suggested Krauss doth protest too much. When Krista Met Larry is one such, where in one of his more reasonable moments he does concede there is much wisdom in mythology – his scientism is a defensive front all along.

Firstly an apology. When I first posted my summary of the “Muscle Shoals” music connection back here, I kinda damned with faint praise the FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) connection, mentioned Rick Hall as just a name, and overplayed the split between FAME and MSSS (Muscle Shoals Sound Studios) from the MSSS side, set up by The Swampers after they decided to go it alone. My one-sided perceptions maybe arose from arriving at the connections via Noel Webster then the current owner of the 3614 Jackson Highway (MSSS) Studio and a fellow Huntsville resident.
(I acknowledged the developing situation several times since.)

Since then the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation has involved the actual participants and interests from all sides of the Muscle Shoals story. Their achievement in making Muscle Shoals The Movie, makes it clear that the common success under the drive of Rick (it was war at the time) Hall far outweigh any differences.

In fact seeing the movie on DVD, the differences already presumed to involve some hitch over the Aretha Franklin sessions, turn out to be non-existent musically, and on the scale of what actually did get created, a trivial misunderstanding or lovers’ tiff. Real life stories are made of such stuff.

The movie itself is excellent by any standard.

The musical content should come as no surprise given the name-droppers heavenly list of voices and musicians involved, but the story told in the mix of a surprising amount of old footage, many old stills (uncredited Cher, Paul Simon), and the ubiquitous talking-head rock-doc interview cliches amidst the retrospective on-location monologues, tells the whole story very effectively at length. The real surprise is the cinematic production values are first-class. You get a tremendous sense of the Tennessee River location amid the north Alabama swamps and cotton-fields – even The Walls of Jericho? – enough to make me sweet-home-sick.

I loved the irony, given that The Swampers feature throughout, that you don’t get even a hint of the Sweet Home Alabama riff until the closing credits, and quite rightly since it really did happen pretty late in the story. With so much excellent material to work with, everything can be given proper balance.

Apart from learning the real Aretha Franklin story, and getting a dose of the wonderful Keith Richards “The Beatles beat us to Muscle Shoals by about 4 days!”, there are so many untold surprises that needed a documentary to tell. The Jerry Wexler / Atlantic Records / Rick Hall tie-up was central to the whole story – success that drew in the Stax and Sun artists and more from East and West for a little of that swamp magic. A bunch of nerdier-looking-white-guys-working-the-local-supermarket you could hardly expect to be doing the business, colour-blind in 60′s/70′s Alabama. You couldn’t make it up.

Worth it for the Wilson Pickett interview alone, that and Spooner Oldham’s “unblocking” keyboard riff , but packed with good stuff throughout, all orchestrated by Rick Hall – one of a kind.