Showing posts with label Brian Clegg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brian Clegg. Show all posts

Friday, April 23, 2021

Too good to be true?

Extra Sensory: The Science and Pseudoscience of Telepathy and Other Powers of the Mind

Brian Clegg
Non-fiction, 321 pages

If you’re looking for proof of psi phenomena you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll read a history of poorly designed research and questionable results. This is interesting in itself as an explanation of what constitutes good experimental design and what doesn’t. Although the author describes several theoretical mechanisms that could explain psi phenomena, he also notes that only minimal evidence supports its existence.

 In his conclusion, Brian Clegg notes, “… coming at this with an open mind while frankly wishing that ESP did exist, I have to conclude that the existing experiments have demonstrated nothing more than coincidence, artifacts of the experimental design, misunderstanding, and fraud.”

 Another physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, became a good friend of psychiatrist, C. G. Jung. The two collaborated together on a book with each contributing a section. In Jung’s section, the psychiatrist describes what he calls synchronicity, a phenomena consisting of meaningful coincidences, and considered to be an acausal connecting principal. Pauli himself experienced a type of synchronicity as the jocularly known Pauli Effect. Reputedly equipment malfunctioned whenever Pauli entered a laboratory in response to the Pauli effect. Jung’s synchronicity as well as Pauli’s Effect is largely based on anecdotal evidence and not achievable in a laboratory as a significant percent of correct guesses regarding the next cards in a deck.

Clegg feels that current methods of testing psi phenomena will never produce significant results. “What the researchers seem to have totally forgotten is that they are attempting to verify the validity of hundreds of years of anecdotal evidence. … Real-world ESP is not about small statistical variations; it is about clear, specific communication.”

Friday, April 16, 2021

Gravity. Bet you fall for it too

Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives

Brian Clegg
Non-fiction, 335 pages

Books like this don’t have happy endings. In fact, they don’t have proper endings at all. They begin with questions and end with even more questions. I like to read them anyway.

Clegg begins with history: What were the earliest notions of gravity and how did they evolve? When people think of gravity they often think of Isaac Newton, but the idea of gravity had precedents in ancient Greek thought. Later, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and others elaborated on the ideas that later influenced Newton. Then in the twentieth century, Albert Einstein introduced an entirely new framework for understanding gravity.

 About the time Einstein was tackling gravity, other scientists were developing quantum physics. Now a new problem arose. Einstein’s gravity is very good at explaining the behavior of large objects like stars and planets, while quantum physics can account for the behavior of small objects like atoms and particles. However, the two theories don’t play well with each other.

 In the latter half of the twentieth century string theory was developed as a means of unifying the two theories. String theory, however, introduces a number of unanswerable questions.  Clegg discusses several newer theories that may help resolve the problems of string theory. One of these was inspired by graphene, a one atom thick layer of graphite. When graphene is cooled to an extreme temperature, it appears to violate the rules of special relativity. Peter Horava wondered about the implications of this finding. Einstein gave us the concept of space-time. Horava’s theory breaks space and time apart again. By doing so, he is able to make general relativity and quantum physics work together.

 All of the recently emerging theories will require further research. Gravity, the weakest of the four forces, has remained elusive. Gravitons have been hypothesized, yet never found.