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New review: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

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By David Misialowski (2010)

A Myth for Our Time

In his new book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking has generated the most heat and light for his statement, found on the next-to-last page, that “it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

But for some people, a more controversial statement is found on Page One, in the second paragraph: “Philosophy is dead.”

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By David Misialowski (2010)

A Myth for Our Time

In his new book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking has generated the most heat and light for his statement, found on the next-to-last page, that “it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

But for some people, a more controversial statement is found on Page One, in the second paragraph: “Philosophy is dead.”

View the full article

Interesting review.

We live in an age where past truths are wobbling, and people want final answers, conclusions. Hawking says Philosophy is dead. He's an intelligent man. So was Francis Fukuyama who 15 years ago declared history is dead.

Dave

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I try not to be impolite, but I grow weary of scientists opining about religion, actors and singers opining about politics, and other people who think fame in one field qualifies them to spout inanities in other fields. That especially goes for scientists, who routinely say incredibly stupid things even in their own field.

Mr. Hawking is best known for his "theories" about black holes. I put "theories" in quotation marks because according to scientific principles they are not theories at all. A theory is based on a hypothesis and supported by observations. A black hole is a speculation with no observations. Scientists (in general, not only Mr. Hawking) have apparently forgotten what the words mean. A speculation is made up for the purpose of discussion. A test is devised to prove or disprove the speculation. If it passes the test, and many other tests, then a speculation may (or may not) be promoted to a theory and used to test other speculations.

A black hole has several major problems, violating basic laws of the universe and contradicting rules of logic. The first assumption in a black hole is a lot of gravity. In Physics 101 you analyze the gravity inside a sphere. If the sphere is hollow there is no gravity felt anywhere inside it; all attractions balance at all points, and there is no net attraction in any direction. In a solid sphere there is attraction down, but only from the mass that is below your feet. The mass beside you attracts in opposite directions and cancels. So by the time you reach the center there is no net attraction in any direction. But the black hole speculation (not theory) supposes that you can get enough matter together to squeeze an electron up against a proton. That is totally stupid. Gravity does not squeeze, it pulls. And the speculation ignores electrical forces. Electrical attraction and repulsion are 10^39 times as strong as gravitation.

But let's assume you try somehow to push an electron towards a proton. A push increases energy, but an electron coming closer to a proton is a decrease in energy. So your experiment contradicts itself right from the start. Ok, but let's assume you do it anyway. What's going to happen? Well, an increase in energy means vibration at a decreased wavelength. That means that as you push the electron in, it moves around the proton ever faster, and that increase in energy pushes back at you. So no matter how hard you push you get little progress because you are pushing against yourself.

The black hole was made up to explain some observations that surprised people. They needed black holes to balance some equations in the big bang theory. They needed the big bang to explain the receding galaxies. They needed receding galaxies to explain red shifted light. Red shifted light was an actual observation, but they only assumed that it was due to the Doppler effect. A bit of investigation would have turned up several possible causes for red shifting, but those possibilities are ignored now. Nobody wants to accept the embarrassment of admitting that scientists have wasted several lifetimes on a stupid assumption. Mr. Hawking is one of those wasted lives. (Although I suppose making things up is a better way to spend a life than lying in a bed staring at the ceiling.)

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Posted

I'm not sure if your post was intended to be ironic, but it is, wonderfully so. After lecturing others about stepping outside their fields of expertise to comment on matters about which they may know little, you proceed to step outside of your own field of expertise, whatever that might be, and comment on black holes. And the results are ... not good.

Black holes are not speculative. Their existence has been empirically confirmed.

Even before their experience was empirically confirmed, they were not mere speculations. The existence of black holes was first predicted in the 1700s!

Predicted from what? From an understanding of the laws of physics coupled with the mathematics describing those laws.

Black holes are a direct consequence of general relativity, which along with QM is the most repeatedly experimentally confirmed theory ever invented.

Your talk about electromagnetism v. gravity and all the rest is just wrong. The known laws of physics coupled with the descriptive math certainly shows that black holes can and must form. Electromagnetism is stronger than gravity but it is short-range whereas gravity is all pervasive, which is why we notice gravity behaving universally, but not electromagenetism.

There are no assumptions or speculations here; just good science, observation, math, physics and confirmation to the best of our human abilities.

The cheap crack about Hawking lying in bed wasting his life because of his disease is pathetic.

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I'm not sure if your post was intended to be ironic, but it is, wonderfully so. After lecturing others about stepping outside their fields of expertise to comment on matters about which they may know little, you proceed to step outside of your own field of expertise, whatever that might be, and comment on black holes. And the results are ... not good.

Black holes are not speculative. Their existence has been empirically confirmed.

Even before their experience was empirically confirmed, they were not mere speculations. The existence of black holes was first predicted in the 1700s!

Predicted from what? From an understanding of the laws of physics coupled with the mathematics describing those laws.

Black holes are a direct consequence of general relativity, which along with QM is the most repeatedly experimentally confirmed theory ever invented.

Your talk about electromagnetism v. gravity and all the rest is just wrong. The known laws of physics coupled with the descriptive math certainly shows that black holes can and must form. Electromagnetism is stronger than gravity but it is short-range whereas gravity is all pervasive, which is why we notice gravity behaving universally, but not electromagenetism.

There are no assumptions or speculations here; just good science, observation, math, physics and confirmation to the best of our human abilities.

The cheap crack about Hawking lying in bed wasting his life because of his disease is pathetic.

I can't imagine what you mean by "short range". Electromagnetism operates across the entire universe according to the inverse square law. You have heard of radio astronomy, right? And you have seen the pictures from Hubble, right? But I didn't say electromagnetism I said electric charge, which is according to the inverse, not inverse square. If this is your idea of good science then ... Oh let's see, I want to be polite here ... Nope, there is no polite response.

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A clarification to my above post: like gravity, the range of electrogmagnetism (its influence) is infinite, but this is canceled out (and allows gravity to dominate at cosmic scales) because electromagnetic forces can be both attractive and repulsive. It's the strong and weak nuclear forces, also stronger than gravity, that are short-range in actual influence and drop off precipitously beyond such ranges.

Anyway, the point stands: all our best theories allow for -- demand, actually -- the formation of black holes, and the effects of black holes have been empirically observed. Therefore they are not, as someone might have it, some kind of supposition or fantasy, any more than any other entity in our best available current science.

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