A SIMPLE CONCEPT: It's "a simple concept," he said!

TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2021

Then came his next six grafs:  As we noted last week, several parts of Einstein's universe are easy to report or describe. In that sense, and to that extent, those parts of Einstein's universe are easy to understand.

(Can small amounts of matter be transformed into enormous amounts of energy? We may not understand how such a thing can possibly happen, but it's easy to report and understand that claim, especially since observable events in the real world have shown us that it's true.)

By way of contrast, most parts of Einstein's universe are extremely hard to explain. For that reason, these parts of Einstein's universe are extremely hard for non-specialists to understand. 

Einstein's universe is deeply puzzling—hard! As he worked on Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson was duly warned about this fact, as he noted near the end of his lengthy list of acknowledgements:

Ashton Carter, professor of science and international affairs at Harvard, kindly read and checked an early draft. Columbia University’s Fritz Stern, author of Einstein’s German World, provided encouragement and advice at the outset. Robert Schulmann, one of the original editors at the Einstein Papers Project, did likewise. And Jeremy Bernstein, who has written many fine books on Einstein, warned me how difficult the science would be. He was right, and I am grateful for that as well.

Bernstein delivered a warning to Isaacson—the science would prove to be hard. We'll willing to offer a very safe guess:

Isaacson, being a very smart person, understood that fact coming in. We feel quite sure that Walter Isaacson didn't need to be warned.

Isaacson's 2007 book is a full biography. It covers the events of Einstein's remarkable life as well as the shape of his physics.

Einstein delivered his special theory of relativity in 1905, when he was just 26. His general theory of relativity would emerge ten years later.

Isaacson starts to tackle relativity in his Chapter Six. The bulk of the science is very hard, but, including his chapter title, Isaacson starts with this:

CHAPTER SIX Special Relativity, 1905

Relativity is a simple concept. ...

Relativity is a simple concept? Given the radical nature of Einstein's discoveries, that's an arresting opening statement, one which may capture the reader's attention.

The statement may fly in the face of the reader's preconceptions, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong. That said, is Isaacson able to back his statement up as he proceeds from there? 

In our view, the answer is no. 

For today, we'll look at the first six paragraphs of Isaacson's Chapter Six. (Tomorrow, we'll move on from there.) Those opening paragraphs form a unified discussion. In our view, that discussion is murky, confusing and unclear pretty much all the way down.

We'll also try to establish some criteria for forming a few basic judgments. On what basis can we say that some presentation is unclear? Also, on what basis can we say that a reader hasn't actually "understood" some given passage or presentation?

If a reader feels that he has understood, how can we say that he hasn't? We'll offer one obvious basis for forming such a judgment.

IN FAIRNESS, ISAACSON isn't talking about Einstein's theory of relativity in that surprising first statement, At this point, he's talking about a general principle or concept, a general concept he'll soon trace back to Galileo in 1632.

Isaacson is saying that this general principle is "a simple concept." He isn't saying that Einstein's later theory (or theories) was or were.

That distinction isn't clear as Chapter Six starts, but little else is going to be made especially clear either. As we proceed down this murky road, we'll float a basic question:

How many questions go unanswered as Isaacson discusses this "simple concept" at the start of this important chapter? How many basic questions about this "simple concept" will the general reader still be unable to answer after reading these first six grafs—even after reading the section which follows?

For ourselves, we've struggled with this opening passage—with these initial six paragraphs—ever since we first encountered it back in 2008. We've never been able to puzzle it out. We find it very unclear.

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, Einstein's universe is hard to explain to the general reader. Isaacson takes note of this unavoidable fact right there in his acknowledgments, and then again in the joke he offers on page 3 of his text.

As he starts his Chapter Six, he isn't yet talking about Einstein's special theory. Below, you see his opening paragraph, the first in a group of six:

CHAPTER SIX Special Relativity, 1905

Relativity is a simple concept. It asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion.

We've got our simple concept right there! "Relativity...asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion." 

Stated that way, it may well seem that we're being acquainted with a simple concept. It may seem that this opening statement is easy to understand.

There is no obvious technical language. No formulas or mathematical symbols appear.

The sentences are relatively short, and they're perfectly crafted. In that superficial sense, that passage is easy-to-read—but unless we simply want to recite or repeat the various things we've been told, it leaves many things unexplained.

(See Charles Krauthammer's claim about modern physics. In 1988, he said modern physics had become so complex that we can only repeat and recite the things we're told about it. We can repeat and recite the things we're told, but we won't understand them.)

Simple though it may seem on its face, the opening paragraph of Chapter Six has struck us as puzzling right from the first time we read it. A basic question lies at the heart of our puzzlement:

Why would "the fundamental laws of physics" change on the basis of on my state of motion? How "fundamental" could such laws be if they suddenly decided to change because I've risen from my chair and walked across the room?

Why would the fundamental laws change on a basis like that? Why would anyone be inclined to think that they would?

The basic laws of physics don't change because I get up from a nap? If that is the heart of "relativity," the concept seems to pass beyond the realm of the simple to the land of the simple-minded. 

Meanwhile, for the general reader, this secondary question might arise at this point in time:

What are the fundamental laws of physics? How many such laws are there? Can the general reader name as many as one? 

At this point, the general reader is something of a stranger in a somewhat strange land. Almost surely, the general reader has no idea what Isaacson's talking about at this point. In theory, that state of affairs can be set right—but here's what we're told next:

CHAPTER SIX Special Relativity, 1905

Relativity is a simple concept. It asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion.

For the special case of observers moving at a constant velocity, this concept is pretty easy to accept. Imagine a man in an armchair at home and a woman in an airplane gliding very smoothly above. Each can pour a cup of coffee, bounce a ball, shine a flashlight, or heat a muffin in a microwave and have the same laws of physics apply.

We're told that this concept is "easy to accept" in a special type of case—in the special case in which observers are moving at a constant velocity. 

In our view, the concept seemed "easy to accept" as a general matter, right from the jump. But we're told it's very easy to accept the concept in this special case—a special case which now seems to involve two different people.

We're now talking about two observers, not just the original one. One is sitting in an armchair. The other is gliding smoothly in an airplane.

We're told that each can pour a cup of coffee and have "the same laws of  physics" apply. It's still hard to know why that should be surprising, but another source of potential confusion has now entered the field.

We're told that these two observers are "moving at a constant velocity"—but in what way is that true of the man in the chair? In common parlance, he isn't moving at any velocity at all. Have we been exposed to some technical language without an attempt to explain it?

Just for the record, we still don't know what laws of physics apply to these people as they pour their cups of coffee. We still don't know why anyone should be surprised to learn that "the [same] fundamental laws of physics" prevail in these two circumstances—and we certainly don't know why anything which seems so mundane should or could actually matter.

To this point, Isaacson's language is gliding along just as smoothly as the woman's ride in that airplane. But now, he suddenly seems to change course and head in a new direction:

CHAPTER SIX Special Relativity, 1905

Relativity is a simple concept. It asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion.

For the special case of observers moving at a constant velocity, this concept is pretty easy to accept. Imagine a man in an armchair at home and a woman in an airplane gliding very smoothly above. Each can pour a cup of coffee, bounce a ball, shine a flashlight, or heat a muffin in a microwave and have the same laws of physics apply.

In fact, there is no way to determine which of them is “in motion” and which is “at rest.” The man in the armchair could consider himself at rest and the plane in motion. And the woman in the plane could consider herself at rest and the earth as gliding past. There is no experiment that can prove who is right.

Indeed, there is no absolute right. All that can be said is that each is moving relative to the other. And of course, both are moving very rapidly relative to other planets, stars, and galaxies.

At this point, Isaacson seems to begin discussing a different, somewhat abstruse point. It isn't that anything he says here is "wrong," but he makes no attempt to explain why he has suddenly seemed to shift his field. 

Meanwhile, consider this sentence:

"Indeed, there is no absolute right."

A supple reader can perhaps imagine what Isaacson must have meant by that oddly constructed statement. We'll guess he meant something like this: 

There's no ultimate way to say that one of these people is moving and the other person isn't.

A great deal more could be said about the principle involved in that statement, but we'll guess he meant something like that. (Spoiler alert: Writers of Einstein-made-easy books, not excluding Brian Greene himself, often seem to reverse themselves on this basic point, as we'll see below.)

We'll guess that Isaacson meant something like that. But already, at the start of paragraph 4, Isaacson's perfectly formed sentences have given way to a construction which seems to have emerged from a land which lies beyond the realm of everyday, easy-to-understand speech.

How do paragraphs 3 and 4 connect to paragraphs 1 and 2? To this day, we can't say that point is clear as we read this presentation.

Nor can we say that we understand the "simple concept" with which we began—a simple concept which still seems to be oddly simple-minded.

Isaacson continues as shown below. Einstein's special theory is now specifically mentioned, but along the way, has a certain reversal occurred?

The special theory of relativity that Einstein developed in 1905 applies only to this special case (hence the name): a situation in which the observers are moving at a constant velocity relative to one another—uniformly in a straight line at a steady speed—referred to as an “inertial reference system.”

It’s harder to make the more general case that a person who is accelerating or turning or rotating or slamming on the brakes or moving in an arbitrary manner is not in some form of absolute motion, because coffee sloshes and balls roll away in a different manner than for people on a smoothly gliding train, plane, or planet. It would take Einstein a decade more, as we shall see, to come up with what he called a general theory of relativity, which incorporated accelerated motion into a theory of gravity and attempted to apply the concept of relativity to it.

We're told that Einstein's special theory applies only to this special type of case. We still aren't told what the theory maintains, but we're told told that it only applies to situations involving a pair of "observers."

Meanwhile, notice this: Has Isaacson perhaps reversed himself on the question of what he now calls "absolute motion?" 

In paragraph 4, we were told that "there is no absolute right" concerning the question of which observer, the man or the woman, was in motion. Now we're told that it's harder to say that certain types of people actually aren't "in some form of absolute motion." 

Is a contradiction lurking there? Is it only harder to make the case, even though the previous principle holds? For our money, this is one more element of confusion which appears in this opening in passage—an opening passage which began with a statement about "a simple concept" which seems to be simple-minded.

In fairness to Isaacson, he has only offered six paragraphs in Chapter Six at this point. If some lack of clarity exists in those opening paragraphs, he could proceed to resolve it.

Instead, he shifts his focus to Galileo in 1632. Tomorrow, we'll look at what he says, but his new passage starts like this:

The story of relativity best begins in 1632, when Galileo articulated the principle that the laws of motion and mechanics...were the same in all constant-velocity reference frames. 

The laws of motion and mechanics are the same in all "constant-velocity reference frames," we're now told. Our question for the general reader is this:

Is a "constant-velocity reference frame" the same thing as an “inertial reference system?" (See paragraph 3, where that technical term is introduced.)

Is the reference frame the same thing as the reference system? To this day, some thirteen years later, we still can't say that we're totally sure.

For our money, Isaacson's opening passage is extremely murky. For our money, it may have the feel of a passage which was "written by committee"—imaginably with too many high-ranking physicist cooks throwing pinches of language, and an array of concepts, into the teeming broth.

This opening passage strikes us as very jumbled. At the heart of our puzzlement lies the question with which we started: 

Why would anyone be surprised to learn that the fundamental laws of physics (whatever they may be) apply in a wide array of cases? Why wouldn't that simple statement be something like a tautology? Why wouldn't that statement be obvious pretty much just on its face?

"RELATIVITY IS A SIMPLE CONCEPT." That's what the general reader is told as Isaacson's Chapter Six starts. 

We're even told what the concept asserts. Relativity "asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion." 

We're then exposed to a jumble of concepts, in a progression which doesn't seem to make clear sense. Nor do things get any clearer as Isaacson proceeds to explain what Galileo once said.

The general reader can always recite and repeat Isaacson's words. He can read every word on every page. He can then say, and even believe, that he understands what he's read. 

For ourselves, we've never been able to extract clear sense from this opening passage—and we've been trying for years.

Is anything "wrong" in that opening passage—in those first six paragraphs? We can't say that anything's "wrong." But we also can't say that anything much in that passage has been made especially clear. 

Is relativity a simple concept? Many questions may stump the general reader after this strangely simplistic concept has allegedly been unpacked.

Einstein's universe is very hard. Must it be as opaque as this? Our light-speed journey will continue tomorrow, and in the weeks ahead.

Tomorrow or Thursday: What Galileo said


89 comments:

  1. We hear, dear Bob, that even Einstein (let alone Gödel) couldn't find a usable a 15- or 30-second soundbite out of the full-hour town hall show of Big Guy of Biden, Inc.

    Do you think it's true, dear Bob?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Mao, so it turns those who thought the orange man was bad were wrong - it turns out that it's elderly man bad. Orange man wasn't mental - instead it's elderly man who is senile. (One possibility is that both diagnoses are true, but amirght that's not what you're selling?) I get it. Keep bringing this up, over and over, ad nauseum, not the least boring.

      Delete
    2. As always, thank you for reading, dear dembot, and for taking time from your busy dembot schedule to respond.

      However, as this was directed to our dear Bob, we are not clear on what exactly your point might be.

      Are you criticizing dear Bob's hobbyhorse of not so distant past? His panicking about THE NUCLEAR CODES? His frustration about 'our elite journalists' failure to discuss this absolutely crucial issue? If so, take it up with dear Bob, please.

      Delete
    3. I realize that you are under no compunction to be in the least objective or self-aware, so that pointing out that you do the same thing (respond to other posters) all the time would serve no purpose. To your point, we survived orange man's tenure being in charge of the nuclear codes, as I was at the time fairly confident would be the case, and I would venture that there is similarly no cause for alarm in that regard with our current, elderly, but I think well within the legal range of mental competency, POTUS. I thought TDH's concern on that score was unwarranted. But good one, with the "Dembot" reference, quite clever.

      Delete
    4. "I thought TDH's concern on that score was unwarranted."

      Which is why we're bringing our observation to dear Bob's attention, not yours. And the point of your objection, assuming you have one, still remains a mystery.

      Delete
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  2. "In that sense, and to that extent, those parts of Einstein's universe are easy to understand."

    Again, this is not Einstein's universe. It is the universe we all inhabit. It belongs to all of us, no matter how it is describe by individuals such as Einstein or Hawking.

    It is surely wrong to think that Einstein's work is not understood by other physicists. It had to be, or Einstein would not have been hired at Princeton, would not have been proclaimed a genius, and physics would not have incorporated his work into its corpus (its literature). Einstein would not have changed theory in physics if his work had not been comprehensible to those with the background to understand it.

    It should not be necessary to defend science from the likes of Somerby, but his contention that all complicated and true ideas must be explainable to simpletons in everyday language is ridiculous. The same goes for many of the political issues that are important to running our country. Such issues include economics and monetary policy, global warming, the impact of human activitty on the environment, food supply, public health, management of public resources, military policy and national security, reducing poverty, rebuilding infrastructure, and so on.

    When idiots believe that things should be reduced to their level of understanding and further believe that the more accessible propaganda on such issues is correct because they feel like they comprehend it, we are in deep trouble. Somerby encourages such a view. It means that Q-believers accept nonsense because they resonate to it, not because it has been tested and verified by those who have the expertise to know such things. By destroying faith in expertise, Somerby makes it possible for anyone to claim their own "truth" in conspiracy theories that have no more grounding that bigotry and facile scapegoating.

    We can and should elect representatives based on their training, experience, education, values and work ethic, not based on whether their statements reflect our prejudices or folk wisdom. We need to go back to the idea of competence and qualifications. And that means that the people who will understand Einstein are not idiots like Somerby but those with education in physics. And that is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck. These simpletons can't even see the connection between the use of fossil fuels and climate change they are living through.

      Delete
  3. "Isaacson's 2007 book is a full biography. It covers the events of Einstein's remarkable life as well as the shape of his physics."

    Of course it covers his life. A book on the "shape of his physics" would not be a biography at all. Does Somerby understand this at all, as he focuses exclusivelty on the physics in the book? It seems not.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bob,
    How has your respecting the feelings of morons who won't get vaccinated project going?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do tell, Bob
      Do they respect you back yet?

      Delete
    2. I respect Right-wingers. That's why I recommend bashing their legs, and not their skulls, with a baseball bat.
      Sure, that might be too respectful, but I'm trying to meet them more than half way.

      Delete
    3. 12:02,
      That's one way to show Right-wingers less contempt than Republican politicians do.

      Delete
    4. Anonymouse 11:19am, it’s going just as well as your campaign to attribute to Bob things he has never said.

      Delete
    5. 11;19,
      Even a Right-winger, like Somerby, doesn't think those morons deserve respect.
      Stopped clock, and all.

      Delete
    6. Anonymouse 11:19pm, the Anonymouse version of a concession and maybe even a compliment.

      Delete
    7. Trust me, it isn't a compliment.

      Delete
    8. It’s an unintentional “compliment”. The most sincere and revealing sort.

      Delete
  5. Isaacson makes the point that the perception of motion depends on perspective. That isn't a particularly confusing idea at all. He also confuses the subjective experience of motion with the objective measurement of it. But the latter requires an established perspective.

    There are many aspects of human thinking that similarly require this because the phenomenon is only meaningful from a fixed perspective. The ideas of taller, shorter, bigger, faster, smarter, and so on, are all comparatives that need two objects in order to make sense (sometimes it is the same object at two different points in time). These concepts are not murky to people. Neither should the relativity of motion be difficult to grasp.

    There is even some empirical evidence that people form categories on the basis of relative judgments. Rating scales require anchoring of the endpoints or no meaningful judgment can be made (the endpoints create the perspective for the relative judgment).

    These are aspects of normal human cognition that prepare people to understand what Isaacson said about the relativity of motion. Further, people live in the physical world. Our visual system includes sensory feedback that tells us whether we are moving or whether external objects are moving because the two-dimensional image on the retina does not provide that info. So we are used to unconsciously making judgments about relative motion just to function in our environment. We don't think about this much, but we have the capacity to think about it because that notion of relativity is part of how our brain works.

    Somerby has manufactured this complaint against Isaacson without worrying about whether it is valid or not. He knows nothing at all about how the mind works, so it seems plausible to him. But he is entirely wrong about it. And this illustrates the danger of leaving criticism of scientific theory to the amateurs. A smart person, in Somerby's position, would be asking questions, not complaining about the things he doesn't understand. That's because no matter how much you know, there is always more to know. And that makes it foolish to expect Isaacson to create the kinds of deep or thorough explanations that Somerby considers mandatory. How long would the book be with such content? How heavy would it be to carry around? That all depends on what you compare it to, and that makes it relative. Sort of like motion.

    ReplyDelete
  6. When you get off this Einstein garbage on a political website, I'll start reading it again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymouse 11:58am, that’s very logical for an Anonymouse.

      Bloggers own blogs. They can write about hot topics that garner a big audience or they can write about the things that personally pique their inerest and that they find to be significant cultural phenomena.

      Either way, the audience are guests, not paying customers or cruise directors.

      Different day, same endless complaints. Your approach is the reasonable one.

      Delete
    2. Bob writes whatever the Right-wing Grievance of the Day he's been bullshitted about.
      As a guest, I like to remind him that if he believes what he writes, that makes it a grand total of one person who does.

      Delete
    3. Anonymouse 3:27am, anonymices do not the whole world make…let alone being representative of any traditional political faction.

      Delete
    4. Cecelia,
      I was referencing that Right-wingers don't believe a word they say (other than ni**er, of course).
      What was your nonsense reply supposed to reference?

      Delete
    5. Cecelia,
      I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out from cheering along the suppression of black votes, to lie about what you were responding to.

      Thanks for all you don't.

      Delete
    6. Anonymouse4:49pm, now thank yourself for giving the world’s first real-life exhibition of the concept of accusations as bring confessions.

      Delete
    7. "Either way, the audience are guests, not paying customers or cruise directors."

      The "audience" pays with time and attention. They shouldn't be abused just because they don't pay with money.

      Delete
    8. Anonymouse 7:44pm, you shouldn’t be abused by giving your time and attentions to blogs that you don’t like because you should have sense enough not to read them.

      Bloggers aren’t any more accountable to your whims, wishes, and opinions than authors are to Somerby’s.

      The difference is that he fronts his own forum to express himself while you come to his and argue that he’s beholden to you simply because you’re here.

      Delete
    9. I've never argued that "he's beholden to" me simply because I'm here. But there is such a thing as common courtesy. (A foreign concept to you, obviously.)

      Somerby is not making a good faith argument and that requires comment. I think a good decent person conducts himself differently than Somerby (or you). Neither of you has any shame (like most Republicans), so it is whistling into the wind to raise criticisms here, but it is also wrong not to defend science.

      Delete
    10. You put the n-word in my mouth and then reference “common courtesy”?

      Then you essentially argue that “a good faith argument” is an argument that suits you, therefore it’s an affront to your time and attention that you willingly come here only to find yourself not suited.

      What sort narcissist are you?

      Answer: The moronic kind.

      Delete
    11. "You put the n-word in my mouth ..."

      Make up your mind, Cecelia. Are you a Republican or not

      Delete
    12. Yep. Yours is the sort of “common courtesy” that Anonymices possess.

      Delete
    13. You triggered, Sis?

      Delete
    14. I love that Cecelia thinks she can gaslight people into believing she's not a bigot.

      Say what you will, but even with her awful sense of humor, she's way funnier than she is smart.

      Delete
    15. No one is triggered by being called a racist anymore. Not a soul.

      That’s the point with what you’ve accomplished in that, let alone with references to common courtesy.


      Delete
    16. Why be a Republican, if you disagree with their only real ideology?

      Delete
    17. No one would be anything if intelligent society allowed anonymices to define it.

      Delete
    18. Says the bullshitter who thinks their kindergartner is being taught CRT.

      Delete
    19. Says the Anonymouse who talks out of both sides of his mouth.

      Delete
    20. If you could accept Cecelia s bad faith arguments, you might imagine she's one of those non-existent Republican voters who isn't a bigot you hear about on the internet.

      Delete
    21. Oh, I am one of the non-existent Republican voters who isn’t a bigot.

      Or whatever.

      Delete
    22. More "whatever", and less someone "who isn't a bigot".

      Delete
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  7. "Meanwhile, notice this: Has Isaacson perhaps reversed himself on the question of what he now calls "absolute motion?" "

    No, he has not reversed himself. He has limited the situation in which relative motion applies and suggested that there is a different situation in which absolute motion might (note, he is not saying anything definite) be applicable.

    In order for Isaacson to reverse his statement, the absolute motion would have to obtain even for the objects maintaining a constant velocity in a straight line.

    If you say that a peach is a fruit and then say that it is a type of fruit that has a stone, you haven't reversed your position that it is a fruit. You have limited it to a certain kind of fruit, allowing the possibility that there may be other kinds of fruit with different properties.

    Why would Somerby suggest that Isaacson has reversed himself? Is this a failure of logic by Somerby or is he again manufacturing a specious objection to what is fine the way Isaacson wrote it?

    ReplyDelete
  8. "For ourselves, we've never been able to extract clear sense from this opening passage—and we've been trying for years."

    How does one gain insight about a passage that doesn't seem to make sense? Somerby's approach seems to be to reread it over the years, each time complaining about the lack of sense. A person actually interested in learning would do better to ask someone to explain it to them. Or perhaps read multiple sources on the same topic to see if the other books shed light on the misunderstanding (Somerby seems to find them all equally murky). But the best way to understand something is to ask questions about it until the meaning becomes clearer. Who do you address such questions to? Someone with a better understanding than your own. Persistence is at the heart of learning -- you keep asking until you are satisfied that you now understand the info.

    Did Somerby never learn to do that? I find myself wondering how he was able to model learning to his students without knowing how to accomplish it himself.

    Today, and every day, he models whining in the face of greater knowledge, as if it is his right to comprehend everything (even complex physics) without serious effort. His passivity is appalling.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Gevalt. Readers of this (once pretty good) blog can now look forward over the next several weeks (months? years?) to following TDH is his peculiar obsession - about how popularizers of modern physics fail meaningfully to explain to lay persons (or at least TDH) what the physicists' theories mean. Why should anyone care? If people want to understand physics, maybe they should spend years in college and grad school studying it. Perhaps TDH has some type of category of a psychological condition that would account for this odd fetish of his. He has hinted that somehow this failure on the part of the popularizers (and the reviewers of the popularizers who claim that the popularizers have succeeded in the quest to make physics understandable) has some relevance to his previous blog topic as to how the media, including the' liberal' media engage in group think narrative story lines. To the extent this is the case, I don't believe his current approach is the way to serve any such purpose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AC/MA -- this blog may have been better before Somerby turned it into an apologia/defense of Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes and Matt Gaetz.

      SR only requires HS physics. If Somerby had spent the last 4 years learning it instead of trying to be a useful (but really useless) idiot for Trump. The average person could probably figure it out in 1 year, but I give SOmerby 4 to learn SR since his intellect (such as it is) is far below those of mortal men.

      Delete
    2. Centrist you keep repeating this over and over ad nauseum. It's bad enough if your point had any validity - but it doesn't. Prove me wrong. Please provide evidence that TDH apologized or defended Trump, Jordan, Nunes or Gaetz. Identify the date of his post where he did that. And do it without taking things out of context.

      Delete
    3. TDH is THE place to learn what the Right-wing Grievance of the Day is.

      Delete
    4. AC/MA, we were all here and heard Somerby defend these Republicans. Centrist left off Roy Moore and Brett Kavanaugh. Centrist doesn't have to do your remedial reading for you.

      And not only does Somerby defend conservatives but he also attacks Democrats, such as Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, all of the Democratic nominees for the presidency in 2020, and of course, Hillary Clinton.

      And, as I have been regularly pointing out here daily, as these instances occur, Somerby repeats the conservative talking point of the day.

      This current attack on expertise is right in line with the claims that Fauci doesn't know what he is talking about, because who believes experts on anything? Einstein and Hawking cannot even be believed when they talk about physics and their own discoveries.

      Now you want Centrist to do your homework for you? I don't think so!

      Delete
    5. Not Centrist - Centrist, and now you, are making these stupid, conclusory claims. You 2 are making the conclusory assertions, it's up to you to prove them, not up to me to prove a negative. The assertions are dishonest, and your response is lazy, stupid and dishonest. You and he won't come up with proof of these claims because you can't.

      Delete
    6. Name-calling?

      Somerby provides the proof. Go back and read some of his columns.

      I went to a lot of work pointing out how Somerby promotes conservative talking points around here. I'm not going to do your work for you.

      If you don't like my assertion about why Somerby is on this kick about how confusing Einstein is, then you tell me why Somerby is fixated on this.

      Delete
  10. Simplicity is not necessarily a virtue.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have to admit to sometimes saying things that I read in books from scientific sources (because I like science, both in its conceptual and actual form), and only thinking I understood them, because the sentences made sense. But I realized on further examination that I had a whole lot of background to learn for the hard stuff.

    Like the red-shift, which purports to explain why everything is moving away from us (to where is speculative) in the Universe, based on the red shift in their light signatures relative to Earth. You have to get into spectral analyzers and shit like that, and then try to understand how _those_ work.

    It’s a rarefied field, and we have no reason not to trust scientific results in physics, or science in general, because the nature of the scientific endeavor is towards self-correction. And what’s the use of lying about physics?

    What I think Somerby is doing is to point out legitimate complaints, but especially from the other tribe. If you can’t really understand it, and explain it, then science is bullshit – though of course, it’s not. Should we trust medical science? I do, but plenty of people, who really have no way of understanding it, duck to the right every time.

    Leroy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "plenty of people, who really have no way of understanding it, duck to the right every time."

      It seems to me that Somerby is giving them permission to do that.

      Delete
  12. 'For ourselves, we've never been able to extract clear sense from this opening passage—and we've been trying for years.'

    Naturally not. I wouldn't expect someone who doesn't understand %ages and stats and is a Trumptard like Somerby to understand it either.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Somerby thinks that racism is over, but incidents like this one suggest it is not (from The Root):

    "An aspect of racial profiling that probably doesn’t get talked about enough is banking while Black. It happens when a bank employee sees a Black customer looking to cash, deposit or withdraw a relatively large sum of money and believes, due to their implicit bias, that something isn’t right, so they refuse service to the customer and, in some instances, even go as far as to call or threaten to call the police.

    San Diego, Calif., attorney John Pittman III said he experienced banking while Black at Bank of America in Pacific Beach last year when he tried to cash a $12,000 insurance settlement check only to have the bank’s assistant manager refuse him service, accuse him of trying to steal and at least pretend to call the authorities to get him to leave the bank.

    “I’m thinking this would not have happened if I wasn’t a Black person,” Pittman told KPBS in a recent interview.

    Pittman said when he tried to cash a check from Geico following a car accident, he was told he couldn’t cash it because the name on his driver’s license didn’t match the name on the check, which didn’t include the “III” suffix after his last name. Pittman figured it would be an easy fix and all he would need to do is have the bank verify his information with his insurance company. According to Pittman, that didn’t work out well because his Blackness was too loud for common sense to be heard."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Big Guy from Biden, Inc. and the governor of California should be held responsible for this outrage. And Nancy Pelosi.

      But of course they're all racists and will do nothing.

      So, Africa. Mr John Pittman III needs to move to Africa toot sweet. This outrage could never happen there. In Africa, as soon they see Blackness they cash any check with any name on it. It's paradise, we tell ya.

      Delete
  14. That’s been the standard everyone until late last year.

    His bank didn’t tell him about a money market account?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would your bank call the police on you?

      Money market account has nothing to do with this.

      Delete
    2. They would If I made a scene while trying to cash a check in the bank.

      Delete
    3. The Capitol Police should have offered the snowflakes who tried to overthrow the government because black people's votes counted in an election, a Money Market Account.

      Delete
    4. And a metal fork to stick in the toaster when it's plugged in.

      Delete
  15. Ken Dilanian on Twitter:
    “New data suggests that fully vaccinated individuals are not just contracting COVID, but could be carrying higher levels of virus than previously understood, facilitating spread, my NBC News colleagues are reporting. New indoor masking guidance expected today. “

    So can we humans now have any questions or discussion about the vaccines without being ipso facto murderers?

    Anonymices, please inform of us of the consensus of our national overlords?

    ReplyDelete
  16. If you had to choose between asking about the vaccine, or suppressing the votes of black people, which one would you choose?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Asking about the vaccine. You?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Cecelia, your attitude shouldn't be about how to nitpick the rules, but how to keep people safe.

    ReplyDelete
  19. No, it’s not about anyone’s “rules”. It’s about informed consent.

    ReplyDelete
  20. BTW- as a healthy person, very likely to survive Covid-19, who has been vaccinated, my now being MORE of a risk to the vulnerable population is something that, if true, needs “nitpicking”.

    ReplyDelete
  21. If what Dilanian said is true, what kind of conversation does that suggest to you, Cecelia? That people shouldn’t get the vaccine? Or maybe that the vaccine is safe and useful and that vaccinated people should continue wearing masks to help prevent the spread?

    Or should we make the MAGA crowd part of the conversation, who declare that masks=slavery, and that Bill Gates is using the vaccine to control the population?

    ReplyDelete
  22. It would depend upon the environment that I live in at work and at home.

    If I have a spouse or parents in my home with co-morbidities, my being more contagious to them would certainly matter. It would require discussion and information.

    Telling me to shut-up or else be a pariah, which is your eternal default mode, will not fly.

    ReplyDelete
  23. 'as a healthy person, very likely to survive Covid-19, who has been vaccinated, my now being MORE of a risk to the vulnerable population is something that, if true, needs “nitpicking”.'

    Uh, no. First, vaccinated people are still far less likely to get infected (especially non delta) than non vaxed people. Secondly, the infected carrying more levels of virus than 'previously understood' doesn't mean carrying more virus than unvaccinated people (again, especially for non delta)

    So your comment that you are more of a risk to the general population reveals a pretty low level of understanding.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 'as a healthy person, very likely to survive Covid-19, who has been vaccinated, my now being MORE of a risk to the vulnerable population is something that, if true, needs “nitpicking”.'

    Uh, no. First, vaccinated people are still far less likely to get infected (especially non delta) than non vaxed people. Secondly, the infected carrying more levels of virus than 'previously understood' doesn't mean carrying more virus than unvaccinated people (again, especially for non delta)

    So your comment that you are more of a risk to the general population reveals a pretty low level of understanding.

    ReplyDelete
  25. who declare masks = slavery.

    No wonder they don't want slavery taught in schools.

    ReplyDelete
  26. 'If I have a spouse or parents in my home with co-morbidities, my being more contagious to them would certainly matter.'


    Except that you're not because you're far less likely to get infected in the first place. And even if so, you're not more likely to shed than infected non vaxed people.

    And if you'd bother to go beyond twitter, this data is prelim, based mostly on studies from India, which uses different vaccines and is only for the delta variant.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymouse 2:11pm, that generally is the case for Dilanian. However, if he’s right, then new indoor mask mandates belie your statement.

    ReplyDelete
  28. We hear vaccinated people are guaranteed to win the lottery, at least $100,000. Every couple of weeks.

    And they immediately become incredibly attractive to the opposite sex. Or the same sex, depending on the side it's injected.

    These are the side effects. Scientifically proven.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And they won't try to overthrow the government because a black person's vote counted in an election.
      IOW, the vaccine protects you from being a snowflake.

      Delete
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  30. Red staters probably weighed all the pros and cons before deciding not to get vaccines, instead of just being gullible suckers who blindly listen to a vaccinated Tucker Carlson tell them not to get it.
    Just kidding, obviously.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Has Carlson explained why he "jumped the line" to get the vaccine before more vulnerable senior citizens?

    ReplyDelete
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