The fundamentals of physics are just magic

September 1, 2015

Physicists would like to think that they deal in reality and are cold, rational, objective observers of the physical universe we live in. But deep, deep down, they just rely on magic. The Universe is nothing but a place of pervasive magic. Gravity is just a magical attraction. Spacetime is just an attractiferous aether. Physicists are thus practitioners of magic and may even be able to use the forces of magic, but they have no inkling as to why the magical forces exist.


  1. “gravity” or “gravitation” by “magical attraction”
  2. “spacetime” by “the attractiferous aether”
  3. “electromagnetic” by “electromagical”
  4. the “strong force” by the “strong magic force”
  5. the “weak force” by the “weak magic force”

and the Wikipedia entry for Gravity then reads as follows:

Magical attraction is a natural phenomenon by which all things are brought towards one another – irrespective of size, i.e. stars, planets, galaxies and even light and sub-atomic particles. Magical attraction has an infinite range, and it cannot be absorbed, transformed, or shielded against. Magical attraction is responsible for the formation of structures within the universe (namely by creating spheres of hydrogen, igniting them with enough pressure to form stars and then grouping them together into galaxies), as without magical attraction, the universe would be composed only of equally spaced particles. On Earth, magical attraction is commonly recognized in the form of weight where physical objects are harder to pick-up and carry the ‘heavier’ they are.

Magical attraction is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity (proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915) which describes the force of magical attraction, not as a force, but as a consequence of the curvature of the attractiferous aether caused by the uneven distribution of mass/energy; and resulting in time dilation, where time lapses more slowly under strong magical attraction. However, for most applications, magical attraction is well approximated by Newton’s law of Universal Magical Attraction, which postulates that magical attraction is a force where two bodies of mass are directly drawn to each other according to a mathematical relationship, where the attractive magical force is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is considered to occur over an infinite range, such that all bodies (with mass) in the universe are drawn to each other no matter how far they are apart.

Magical attraction is the weakest of the four fundamental magical interactions of nature. The force of magical attraction is approximately 10−38 times the strength of the strong magic force (i.e. gravity is 38 orders of magnitude weaker), 10−36 times the strength of the electromagical force, and 10−29 times the strength of the weak magic force. As a consequence, magical attraction has a negligible influence on the behavior of sub-atomic particles, and plays no role in determining the internal properties of everyday matter (but see quantum magical attraction). On the other hand, magical attraction is the dominant force at the macroscopic scale, that is the cause of the formation, shape, and trajectory (orbit) of astronomical bodies, including those of asteroids,comets, planets, stars, and galaxies. It is responsible for causing the Earth and the other planets to orbit the Sun; for causing the Moon to orbit the Earth; for the formation of tides; for natural convection, by which fluid flow occurs under the influence of a density gradient and magical attraction; for heating the interiors of forming stars and planets to very high temperatures; for solar system, galaxy, stellar formation and evolution; and for various other phenomena observed on Earth and throughout the universe.

In pursuit of a theory of everything magical, the merging of general relativity and quantum mechanics (or quantum field theory) into a more general theory of quantum magical attraction has become an area of research.

Of course it is still not clear if magic is a continuous thing or composed of discrete magical quanta. One theory has it that all things are connected by invisible, undetectable magical strings and it is the elastic nature of these strings which gives rise to the forces of magical attraction.

The reality is that the Universe came into being by magic and the fundamental forces which have governed, and still govern, are all magical. If there ever was a Big Bang it was a magical event. And every sunrise and sunset which occurs is just due to the magical forces of attraction which apply. We live in a world of magic. Magic is normal.

Dark energy and dark matter are just fudge factors for cosmic models that don’t work

September 1, 2015

A mathematical model of the physical world, which doesn’t work, can always be made to work by introducing a “fudge factor” which just compensates for the “error” displayed by the model results. The “error” is of course just the difference between real observations and the model results. The “fudge factors” thus introduced are then often used to project the model results into the future – but such forecasts are meaningless. The only valid conclusion is that the model is incorrect and needs to be changed,

These “fudge factors” can be given fancy names and imaginary properties such that they just remove all that cannot be explained. It does not make them real. And so it is with cosmic models and the invention of imaginary parameters with just those properties necessary to correct the error exhibited by the models.

In ancient times, new gods with new properties were invented to “explain” eclipses and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Before oxygen was discovered, alchemists – on their way to becoming chemists – invented “phlogiston”. That was superseded by the “caloric theory” which soon became obsolete. “Aether” was invented as pervading space to provide a medium for the transmission of light and through which “action at a distance” could be explained (gravity, magnetism). “Space-time” is analogous to aether and was invented to match observations with the theory of relativity. In fact Einstein refers to “space-time” as a kind of aether.

The Steady State theory of cosmology considered an expanding universe but which was in a steady state, and had no beginning. That became obsolete when the Big Bang theory came along which put the Big Bang singularity 13.8 billion years ago and which provided the energy for the expanding universe. (Imagining 15 billion years ago is just as valid as imagining a time 13.8 billion years ago but the Big Bang theory is silent about what came before). But the expansion – since the energy all came at the time of the Big Bang – was expected to gradually slow down and come to a stop after which either a steady state would prevail or a compression (implosion) would occur. But recent observations indicate that the expansion of the universe is (apparently) accelerating. Clearly that is not possible if the energy is fixed. A new source of energy needed to be invented. It couldn’t be detected so better call it “dark energy”. The apparent mass of the Universe was much less than calculations indicated it should be. The solution was simple. Along came “dark matter”.

Wikipedia: …. dark energy is an unknown form of energy which is hypothesized to permeate all of space, tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe. ………. the best current measurements indicate that dark energy contributes 68.3% of the total energy in the observable universe; the mass-energy of dark matter and ordinary matter contribute 26.8% and 4.9%, respectively; and other components such as neutrinos and photons contribute a very small amount.

Dark matter is a hypothetical kind of matter that cannot be seen. ……. Dark matter neither emits nor absorbs light or any other electromagnetic radiation at any significant level.

Needless to say, “among cosmologists, dark matter is composed primarily of a not yet characterized type of subatomic particle”. Naturally.  The magnitude of the four fundamental forces of the universe (gravity, magnetism, weak force, strong force) are known but we still have no idea why or how they exist. We can just as well call them the four fundamental forces of Magic.

Dark energy and dark matter are not real. We might as well call them “magic energy” and “magic matter”. They are merely parameters invented and given just the right properties to fit the errors between observations and theory. Fudge factors. Nothing wrong with that of course. Theories, observed errors, fudge factors capable of removing errors and then the search to remove the necessity of the fudge factors is a powerful way of doing science. But making forecasts based on existing fudge factors without any idea of how the fudges need to change is invalid and – worse – is self-delusional.

(I observe that it is the “fudge factor” phenomenon which permeates what is called climate science. The real problem is that the “scientists” and their politicians believe the forecasts made with the “fudge factor” theories even though the error between model results and reality continues to increase.)

How Swedish beer turned Norwegian into Danish

August 31, 2015

Thirty years ago when I first learned Swedish we had a couple of Danish/Swedish projects ongoing. I observed that at meetings between Danes and Swedes each spoke their own language. I thought they were all being very considerate and polite when they switched to English whenever I joined a meeting. But then I realised that I was being invited to meetings where I had no part to play and had nothing to say. Just so that the Danes and Swedes could switch to English and have some little chance of understanding each other.

But I had not realised that Norwegian became Danish because of all that Swedish beer!!!!

( from a slightly biased Norsk perspective)

Norwegian + Swedish beer = Danish

Indian GDP growth figures at 7.5% flatter somewhat – but are not wrong

August 31, 2015

India since the start of this year has been using a new method of calculating GDP and GDP growth. Basically 3 changes have been made.

  1. the base year has been changed from 2004-05 to now be 2011-12
  2. a “cost of production” based method has been changed to be a “market value” based method, and
  3. a database of just 5,000 corporate entities has been expanded to include over 500,000 entities

It is the use of “market value” rather than cost based data which is the biggest change and actually brings India more into line with the methods used by most other countries. Cost based (bottom up) analyses are always historical in nature, somewhat out-of-date by the time the data are used, and under-estimate real value. “Market value” based data should be more current but have a subjective element and can overestimate “value” especially in times of high inflation. The subjective element can work in both directions but brings in an element of “expectation” into what should be a look backwards. For example a calculation of GDP growth for a quarter consists of “value now” minus “value 3 months ago”. A “value now” estimation in times of high growth will overestimate and in hard times will underestimate. On the other hand a cost-based, bottom-up estimation of value will always lag and underestimate real value.

There is no “correct” method. The real question is what the “value now” is to be compared with. To compare with the growth in China or some other country it is better that the methodologies used be the same. Of course, differences of value (growth) will be different using the different methodologies. The “new” method at least uses a large enough database to be more representative of the constituent parts of the Indian economy as it actually is now.

Hindustan TimesAll of this means the new method for computing GDP, which takes 2011-12 (when GDP grew 6.7%) as the base year, has bumped up India’s estimates of growth. In 2012-13, the new formula estimates growth at 5.1% (under the old one, it was 4.5%); in 2013-14, it is 6.9% (the old estimate was 4.7%); and, as we all know by the high-decibel crowing that came in its wake, in 2014-15, it was 7.3%.

There’s obviously no ‘old data’ for 2014-15 but estimates suggest that the old method may have pegged growth at 6.3-6.8%. All of this may mean something else too.

Last week, FM Arun Jaitley told US investors that India could attain double-digit growth soon. He wasn’t kidding. Because what’s 10% now could’ve been just 8% before!

For the April-June quarter Indian GDP growth is estimated to have been 7.4% compared to the 7.5% in the preceding quarter (calculated by the new method). With the old method the number would probably have been about 5.8 – 6.2 %. A growth of 7.5% is somewhat flattering of the real mood in Indian industry that I can discern.

I have a suspicion that at 7.5% the growth figures are a little too high and contain an overly optimistic “market value”. It could be that there is an in-built “optimism” of the politicians and bureaucrats, rather than of industry, which is skewing the “value now”. “Reality”, if such a thing exists, lies somewhere in-between the values calculated by the two methodologies.


A real correlation from a real causal relationship

August 31, 2015

A green fantasy rather than just a mirage. And I am afraid that the fantasy is intentionally malicious and not just the delusions of sanctimonious do-gooders. Just following the money reveals those who have gained the greatest benefit.

No doubt the Danes and the Germans have ensured a mild and benevolent climate for themselves?

Note that this is just the direct price paid by the consumer and does not include the cost of subsidies which are sourced from general taxation.

Chart by Euan Mearns.

The Y-axis shows residential electricity prices for the second half of 2014 from Eurostat. The X-axis is the installed wind + solar capacity for 2014 as reported in the 2015 BP statistical review normalised to W per capita using population data for 2014 as reported by the UN.

Renewable energy does have a niche where it makes very good sense – but it is not common sense which rules in Europe today.


2015 BP statistical review 

UN population data.

S & W gun sales have boomed since Obama became President

August 28, 2015

From Business Insider:

S&W says business boomed after Obama became president


Obama blames Congress of course. But the reality is that he has not shown much initiative on any gun control policy which he could even try to carry through Congress.

And just gun control would not address behaviour.


Over half of psychology papers are just “psychobabble”

August 28, 2015

A new research report has been published in Science and only confirms the perception that much of what passes for the science of psychology is still mainly the views and prejudices of the publishing psychologists. Their studies cannot be reproduced in over half of the 100 papers investigated. Even among those found to be reproducible, the significance of the results were exaggerated.

……. he researchers found that some of the attempted replications even produced the opposite effect to the one originally reported.

This discipline is surely a valid field of study but is still a long way from being a science.

Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science, Science 28 August 2015, Vol. 349 no. 6251 , DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4716

AbstractReproducibility is a defining feature of science, but the extent to which it characterizes current research is unknown. We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available. Replication effects were half the magnitude of original effects, representing a substantial decline. Ninety-seven percent of original studies had statistically significant results. Thirty-six percent of replications had statistically significant results; 47% of original effect sizes were in the 95% confidence interval of the replication effect size; 39% of effects were subjectively rated to have replicated the original result; and if no bias in original results is assumed, combining original and replication results left 68% with statistically significant effects. Correlational tests suggest that replication success was better predicted by the strength of original evidence than by characteristics of the original and replication teams.

The Independent comments:

More than half of the findings from 100 different studies published in leading, peer-reviewed psychology journals cannot be reproduced by other researchers who followed the same methodological protocol.

A study by more than 270 researchers from around the world has found that just 39 per cent of the claims made in psychology papers published in three prominent journals could be reproduced unambiguously – and even then they were found to be less significant statistically than the original findings. ……. 

……… Professor Nosek said that there is often a contradiction between the incentives and motives of researchers – whether in psychology or other fields of science – and the need to ensure that their research findings can be reproduced by other scientists.

“Scientists aim to contribute reliable knowledge, but also need to produce results that help them keep their job as a researcher. To thrive in science, researchers need to earn publications, and some kind of results are easier to publish than others, particularly ones that are novel and show unexpected or exciting new directions,” he said.

However, the researchers found that some of the attempted replications even produced the opposite effect to the one originally reported. Many psychological associations and journals are not trying to improve reproducibility and openness, the researchers said.

“This very well done study shows that psychology has nothing to be proud of when it comes to replication,” Charles Gallistel, president of the Association for Psychological Science, told Science.

We have professional psychologists who get paid for their theories and we have professional, amateur psychologists (Agony Aunts in the newspapers, TV and Radio psychologists, talk show pundits and the like) who also get paid for providing entertainment. And then we have all the rest of us who each believe we have insights into the human mind and human behaviour, but don’t get paid for it.

We haven’t come so far from witch-doctors and Shamans.


Trump’s real appeal is that he is beholden to no one

August 26, 2015

The more people he upsets, the stronger becomes Donald Trump’s showing in the polls. He probably would not even deny that he is playing the role of “clown” in the political circus of the US Presidential election. Trying to analyse his appeal is confounding most of the pundits and the main-stream media are torn between wanting to ridicule him but knowing that his appeal feeds on being ridiculed by the “establishment”.

But I was struck by this analysis in Politico of liberals who see some good in Trump. The idea of Trump being influenced by campaign contributions is patently laughable. No one even thinks about criticising Trump for being beholden to anyone. Perhaps that is the real secret of his inexplicable appeal. He may be a clown but …… He says it like he sees it. He pays no attention to political correctness. He does not apologise. He cannot be bought. And, above all, he is beholden to no one.

Politico: Meet the Liberals who love Trump

It’s become fashionable on the left to sneer at the very sound of Donald Trump’s name; Bernie Sanders more or less captured the mood when he dismissed Trump as “an embarrassment” in a recent interview. But there is one contingent of liberals who take a very different view. They believe, cheerfully, that Trump is nothing less than the second coming—of campaign finance reform. …..

…. As pundits search for the source of Trump’s resilient appeal, reformers say they’ve long known the answer: the constant emphasis on how his staggering wealth immunizes him from insider influence. It has arguably now become the campaign’s most salient theme. “I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money,”  ………. Then came the debates, where Trump cleverly positioned satellite candidates around Planet Donald by recounting how he had purchased their fealty. “You know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given … a lot of money,” Trump said, adding, “I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”

……… “That explains why there’s so much amazing support for Trump,” added Lessig (Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig). “Americans are willing to put up with his outrageous views because they look at this guy and say, Holy crap. Here it is. A politician not beholden to these crony funders. That’s the gift.”

The Republican nomination battle is already providing much more entertainment than I would have expected. And it is entirely due to Trump. Part of the appeal is that Trump is not even beholden to the Republican establishment. It is not inconceivable that he could dump them. I also see the Democrats regretting that they are stuck with the old, staid and boring figures of Clinton, Sanders and possibly Biden and Gore. They have nobody who compares in terms of outrageous charisma. Almost as if they are looking backwards while Trump charges towards some unknown, possibly dangerous, but brand new, playing field.

The science of Poohsticks (and the language of Poohlish)

August 26, 2015

I have known all along that “Poohsticks” is no mere game of chance. The choice of stick, the manner of dropping it, the strength of the current, the strength and direction of the wind, the position of the sun, the amount of honey consumed at breakfast,  and even the phase of the moon on the night before are all critical factors that affect the outcome. Of course, all these factors cannot even be described without knowledge of “Poohlish” which still remains a mystery. Just as physics becomes almost indescribable without the language of mathematics, knowledge of Poohlish is necessary to completely discern the science of Poohsticks. For a practitioner just knowing Poohlish needs to be augmented with practical training in Poohmatics and the art of thinking things through:

“Think it over, think it under.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Nevertheless some aspects of the game are beginning to be be quantified and some of the more superficial matters – such as the selection of a winning Poohstick – are beginning to be unravelled.

Cambridge News:

The game, in which competitors drop sticks into a river upstream off a bridge and see which comes out downstream first, is first mentioned in The House At Pooh Corner by AA Milne published in 1928.

The research, commissioned to celebrate the release of The Poohsticks Handbook: A Poohstickopedia – a new book featuring Winnie the Pooh and friends, written by comedy writer Mark Evans and illustrated by Mark Burgess – reveals the secrets to finding the perfect Poohstick according to a top scientist, and names the best places in the country to play. ……

….. The formula disproves the views of more than half of Britons (57%) who believe Poohsticks is a game of sheer luck.

Egmont Publishing joined Dr Rhys Morgan, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, to equip the 39% of people who already take time sourcing the perfect Poohstick with the formula to ensure they pick the speediest stick to sail to victory. …….

…… It turns out that just 11% of Britons naturally pick the right sort of stick, with a third of people (30%) heading straight for a long and thin stick, which according to Dr Morgan is only half right.

The scientist, a father of two and avid Poohsticks player himself, said the main variables that need to be considered when designing the optimum Poohstick include cross sectional area, density/buoyancy, and the drag coefficient.

The perfect Poohstick = tubby and long, fairly heavy (but not so heavy it will sink to the bottom of the river), with quite a lot of bark to catch the flow of the river like paddles – or

PP (Perfect Poohstick) = A x Ï? x Cd.

Cross Sectional Area (= A) is important and the greater the area of an object, the more drag it creates. Normally, a large cross-sectional area decreases speed, but when it comes to Poohsticks, drag is key. If more water is able to influence the trajectory of the stick, it will accelerate more quickly. So when it comes to Poohsticks the tubbier, the better.

The density (= Ï?) of the stick affects its position in the water. The fastest part of the stream is below the surface, so theoretically, a waterlogged stick which sinks into the water a little will go faster than a stick which is floating right on the surface (where it could be slowed down by wind or other external variables).

The drag coefficient (= Cd) describes the shape of stick and roughness of its surface. Generally, a rough stick will create more drag than a smooth stick, so in general, bark is good. However, according to Dr Morgan, a certain roughness can make the stick apparently smoother, similar to the effect created by dimples in golf balls.

Meanwhile, VisitEngland has compiled a list of the best Poohsticks bridges alongside the original Poohsticks Bridge in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.

The list includes bridges from Cumbria to Cornwall, including Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford in the Water in Derbyshire, Morden Hall Park in London, Heale Gardens in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Packhorse Bridge in Watendlath, Cumbria, and Mottisfont in Romsey, Hampshire.

Merely picking a potentially winning Poohstick is not enough of course. To truly understand the nuances of the game and become a Poohstick Master requires a sound grounding in Poohlish and some practical training in Poohmatics.

India to more than double coal production in next 5 years

August 26, 2015

Coal production in India is not keeping up with consumption. One of the bottlenecks has been the private production of coal which was expected to grow much faster but has been hampered by scams and bureaucratic regulation. Now the Coal Mines Special Provision Bill was passed in March and is meant to encourage the private sector and allows foreign investment through an Indian subsidiary.

The government is very ambitious and targets a domestic annual production of 1.5 billion metric tons by 2020 which is 2.5 times larger than the current 600 million metric tons.

India coal production target

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports:

Coal consumption in India, particularly in the electric power sector, is outpacing India’s domestic production. From 2005 to 2012, India’s coal production grew by only 4.7% per year to about 600 million metric tons while the country’s coal-fired electric power capacity grew by a much faster rate (about 9.4% per year), reaching 150 gigawatts. To help resolve the shortfall in coal supply and to support expanded coal-fired generation, India has set a coal production target of 1.5 billion metric tons by 2020. Recent shifts in government policies and practices may play a key role in India’s ability to meet this coal production goal.

Increasing coal production from its national coal producer. Coal India Limited (CIL), the national coal producer responsible for more than 80% of India’s current production, initially planned to produce 1 billion metric tons of coal by FY2020, almost double its FY2015 production. Although CIL revised its current expectations downward to about 900 million metric tons, its annual production must still rise faster than the current rate of increase to achieve its new goal. Since 2012, CIL has increased coal production by outsourcing production operations to private and foreign companies in an effort to improve mechanization and mining expertise and by working to adhere to detailed mine plans for achieving its 2020 production target.

Encouraging greater private and foreign participation. In August 2014, allegations of impropriety, hoarding of coal resources, lost government revenue, and a lack of transparency led India’s Supreme Court to cancel 214 coal licenses allocated to the private and public sector, representing 9% of FY2013’s production. The Ministry of Coal quickly reauctioned many of these properties to help minimize the disruption from the cancellation, but the impact of this redistribution of coal properties on production is uncertain.

Private mining may be expanded further as a result of the Coal Mines Special Provision Bill passed in March. This law opens the door to commercial coal mining by both private companies and foreign companies having an Indian subsidiary. The government is now evaluating the effect of a coal block auction to allocate properties for commercial development—a significant change for a coal industry that has been nationalized for 40 years.

The simple reality is that coal is essential – and irreplaceable – for Indian development and growth.


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