This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
When you have had your ability to dowse forcibly demonstrated in the face of personal scepticism you tend to believe in the reality of the phenomena.
In my case I was given a pair of bent wire locators and a handful of marker stakes by a friend, taken to his newly purchased field (which I'd never seen before) and left alone to "find the drain". It was one of the biggest surprises of my life when the locators actually did the cross inwards trick as advertised. Being a scientific type I did a proper grid search and in about 30 minutes (small field) was able to mark where I thought the drain went with two branches which I'd certainly not been told about. I retrieved my friend who reckoned I'd got it about right and checked firstly with the locators, which swung out for him, and finally by digging a couple of test holes with a spade. Very hard digging as the turf had obviously not been disturbed for many years. In fact the drain wasn't quite where the map said it was so subconscious assimilation of my friends prior knowledge from the plans cannot be an explanation.
Citing the ideomotor effect sounds good in theory but is practical nonsense as, even with free swinging wire in tube locators, considerable wrist movement is needed to replicate the movement which is very positive. It is possible to shake them off the null but considerable effort is needed and they return quickly.
Ideomotor effect is more plausible for the pendulum technique. Doesn't alter the fact that we were able to reliably demonstrate that there was something going on in proper double blind tests with about 10 or 12 of a pool of about 20 to 30 people scoring well. If I remember rightly the tests were of the choose 1 from 5 type and a good score was 75 % or over. All rather annoying as I set the experiment up primarily to embarrass a project manager who was trying to push paranormal methods over proper instrumentation. Fortunately the range limitations rapidly became apparent and the whole thing got buried in a "worth a try" foot note.
I suspect it makes a difference to the interpretation and understanding if the scientist investigator can actually do the things being investigated.
In case you are wondering yes, I am (or was) a real scientist / R&D Engineer with a 30 year career spent close to the bench in mostly optics based instrumentation, measurement and detection both inside and outside the lab. I actually started out as a statistician, which bored me to tears, but came in handy when much of my last working decade was spent doing esoteric things with single photon counting. My usual job as to build proof of concept and demonstrate the performance predicted by the project manager. Could be difficult when the prediction was unachievable according to standard analysis and something different had to be invented.
As a scientist you know that anecdote and data are very different things. The scientific method has been developed, in part, so that as scientists we do not mislead ourselves. No matter what experiences we have or theories we hold, experiment is the ultimate arbiter. Therefore, your experiment sounds interesting. As the wikipedia page points out there have been a number of studies on this topic. The published results don't sound as good as yours? If you can get your experiment (or a similar experiment) written up in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal, then I'll certainly look at it seriously.
Better still, why not try for Randi's million dollars?
An interesting question is why do some scientifically well-educated people believe that free energy devices might be possible. This reminds me of one of the the British physicist G. Burniston Brown's hobby horses, that the concept of energy was taught in an undesirable manner in schools. He wrote the following letter in 1965 to the Physical Society of London, complaining about the Nuffield Physics "O" level syllabus:
"Energy. In the Nuffield Physics Project we are told 'the topic of energy pervades the whole course'. Let us look briefly at what Spengler (1926) in Decline of the West called the great myth of Western science. In the early struggles to lay the foundations of dynamics, round about the time of Newton, the great argument was whether mv or mv² was a suitable measure of the extra 'force' that a body could exert due to its motion. Newton defined the vague term 'momentum' clearly as 'the measure of it' by the product of the mass of the body and the measure of its velocity. Thomas Young thought the product mv² should have a precise name too, as it is of importance in calculations such as those finding the height to which a body rises when thrown upwards. He suggested energy. The term 'kinetic energy' first appeared in an article in Good Words (a magazine at one time edited by Charles Dickens) by Kelvin and Tait, and the product mv² (having gathered the half) became ½mv². 'Potential' was a mathematical function invented by Lagrange to make gravitational calculations easier. Rankine added the word 'energy' in 1853. It was thus transformed (by word-magic) from a mathematical function into something which a physical body was said to 'have'.
The conservation of energy, in certain conditions, follows from P = mf and some definitions. It is therefore a book-keeping principle, and a very useful one, but it does not justify the use of its terms as causal agents. For example 'a bundle of energy' is meaningless. It is one thing to take something physical (eg matter) and decide on a measure of its amount (mass): quite another, to perform mathematical operations of squaring, multiplying or dividing, on two quite different measures and then assume that there is something physical of which such a product is the measure. This is quite unjustifiable.
An example will illustrate this. Another measure of work (here used in its colloquial sense) is 'man-hours'. This product of measures is very useful in book-keeping because, like energy, it avoids having to know all the detailed forces at work; but wondering where the energy is when it has left the Sun and not yet arrived on Earth is like wondering where the man-hours are at the week-end when the factory is closed.
We are told further, that energy 'is first met in year I, returned to year by year, being treated with a little more sophistication and becoming quantitative in year IV'. How can an expression which is defined quantitatively be introduced in any other way? Is there a new calorific fluid? To say that something is a 'form of energy' is almost medieval in its wooliness: what does it mean?
I was very pleased on reading recently a lesser-known work of Mach's (1911) - History and Root of the Principle of Conservation of Energy, to find that Mach agreed with me although he was rather less polite, calling the principle a 'commercial or house-keeping expression'. He agrees that it is 'very convenient, easily seized...', but 'on looking at the matter quietly and accurately....there is nothing essentially more in such a law than any other law of nature'. He points out that Boyle's Law could be written log p + log v = constant: in certain conditions, therefore, we have a conservation. He concludes: 'However beutiful, simple, and perspicuous much in the form of the theorem of the conservation of work looks, I cannot feel any enthusiasm for the mysticism which some people love to push forward by means of this theorem."
Brown's point of contention was that energy was being taught in schools as though it was some kind of physical entity rather than the original conception of being a book-keeping quantity. If somebody thinks energy is 'real', and that the conservation principle is just an experimental observation, they may start thinking that an exception to the conservation principle could be observed in the future and they could get energy for nothing.
The idea that energy is some physically real thing is now even more prevalent than it was in the 1960s. In the last few decades the word energy has almost become a substitute for the word fuel in everyday language - so we have departments of energy, ministers of energy, and energy reviews.
This isn't really related to this thread but I've always been a bit bothered by the lack of interest by the media in momentum. I mean Jeremy Clarkson yells things like 600 brake horse power and all that wonderful torque. And the anti car brigade yip on about the energy of a car being related to the square of its speed, therefore yada yada. Yet poor old momentum hardly gets a look in but as I understand it momentum change is to do with impulsive forces which of course are best avoided in all sorts of worldly experience such as driving cars or walking along dark alleyways. So how about a name for a unit of impulse to put it back on the everyones lips? What about a Eubank?
On the subject of the media taking an interest in certain scientific terms like energy and having a lack of interest in others like momentum, I've always been puzzled by their lack of interest in energy's conceptual companion, entropy. Energy and entropy go together like fish and chips.
Entropy, rather than energy, underpins the whole idea of heating up a room if it's too cold, as explained in this link:
The link is a letter written in 1938 to Nature called "Why do we have winter heating?". The letter is reproduced in a quite a few physics textbooks, for example it was included in a textbook I used myself at 'A' level called "Higher Physics" by Nightingale.
So it might be more accurate to call the 'minister of energy' (who I believe is currently Malcolm Wicks) the 'minister of energy and entropy'. Better still, changing the term to the more old-fashioned sounding 'minister for fuel and electricity' would be a lot more meaningful.
A belief in the existence of energy seems to me, if anything, to enforce one's belief in its conservation. i.e. if one thought of the conservation law as merely a book keeping principle then one might think it had exceptions or was limited in its scope and there was thus wiggle room for perpetual motion machines to exist.
It is curious that he cites Mach pointing out that "Boyle's Law could be written log p + log v = constant: in certain conditions, therefore, we have a conservation." Is it not obvoius that Boyle's law is a statement of energy conservation? That is how it has always occured to me and so I am puzzled at the claimed significance of this remark. Boyle's law is that, for a fixed mass of gas at constant temperature, the quantity (pressure) x (volume) is constant. But for a fixed mass of gas at constant temperature the quantity PV *is* the energy, which the law says is a constant under those conditions of applicability. So an appeal to logarithms does not add much in the way of meaning.
I think it may be instructive to see a definition of 'free energy', and we might as well get one straight from the horse's mouth, namely the people who advocate free energy. Here's the definition from the "Free Energy News" website:
"Free energy does not mean perpetual motion. By 'free energy,' we refer to energy systems that tap into inexhaustible, ubiquitous, and clean sources of energy generation, such as solar, wind, tide, and geothermal, but also non-conventional avenues such as zero point energy, radiant energy, cold fusion, and magnet motors. Extracting power from the vast sea of energy that surrounds us is no more perpetual motion than a photovoltaic cell. It does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. It is a conversion of energy from one form into another form that is usable -- not the creation of energy out of nothing."
I'd say that people who believe in things like zero point energy or Dirac's 'negative energy sea' tend to think energy is real, rather than seeing it in the old-fashioned style of being a book keeping quantity.
The above deinition also illustrates how the free energy brigade are using renewable energy as a sort of trojan horse, absorbing it into the definition of free energy. The motive for this is presumably that the kind of people who would invest in renewable energy are more likely to be susceptible to free energy mumbo-jumbo.
I agree that mentioning Boyles Law isn't a very good idea for someone attempting to play down a perceived 'hype' associated with conservation of energy. I think in hydraulic analysis, people are taught to think of pressure as being the energy of the fluid per unit volume.
I must confess that I have difficulty with the concept that something that is intangible is therefore not real. The conservation laws are the basis of all physics. I have referred in the two Number Watch books to what I call the Universal Law of Stuff. In relation to a closed volume, stuff can only do six things (enter, leave, be created, be destroyed, be stored or be unstored). That is just common sense. The algebraic sum of those quantities with appropriate signs is a constant (the initial amount of stuff) while the rates of change sum to zero. Stuff can be almost anything: liquid, gas, electric flux, heat, information, light, electrons, people and, of course, energy. In any given application some of the terms will be zero and in each case we have a fundamental law (such as Coulomb). Breach of the law of conservation of energy is therefore a breach of common sense.
Thanks John, I was having difficulty working out what Burniston Brown was saying,but you have cleared it up.
He also did a very interesting critique of Special Relativity (brave man!) but I have n't got the brain power to comment on this.
As a Physics graduate (many years ago}, I sometimes
got the distinct impression that some of the lecturers
did n't always fully understand what they were trying to teach. In Quantum Theory the attitude was,learn this to pass your exams.It must be very difficult these days as most contemporary Physics is incomprehensible (to me anyway}
The writings of this man have piqued my interest so I did some searching for this critique of relativity and I found one. A critique of special and general relativity authored by G. Burniston Brown is here:
Within he cites earlier critiques of his own as well. This is from 1967 and someone more knowledgable than myself may be able to rebut it, although I will say that he should have made a greater effort to treat an attack on Einstein as seperate to an attack on the theory of relativity.
Did Einstein seriously try to explain the Twin Paradox away as an acceleration effect? If that remark is true then that upsets my confidence in the man's genius. I am surprised to see that he references Max Born for a lot of support of his critcism. I shall have to read Born's book cited in the paper. I understand that the Twin Paradox caused some consternation, but have seen it explained as merely a fallacy and not a true paradox or inconsistency in the theory of relativity. That it arrives from only considering two frames of reference (those of the earthbound twin and the one who departs on the journey) when there should be considered three (that of the earthbound twin, that of the journeying twin on his outward trip, and that of the journeying twin on his return trip).
Common to both pieces (the relativity piece and the letter on energy above) and common to a third article I have found of his on the concept of mass I detect is a curious insistance that the views of those who first suggest concepts in physics must be adhered to and are central to an understanding of the subject. If there are other ways of looking at such things and they turn out to be by common consent of greater use then that is surely valid. So what does it matter what Lagrange intended with his use of the potential function if others have found wider use for the concept?
On the Twin Paradox, I believe the explanation Brown is attributing to Einstein, that the accelerated twin ages more slowly. is the "official explanation". In "The Feynmann Lectures on Physics" Vol 1 page 16-3, Feynmann concurs with that explanation: "So the way to state the rule is to say that the man who felt the accelerations, who has seen things fall against walls, and so on, is the one who would be the younger; that is the difference between them in an 'absolute' sense, and it is certainly correct." So the physics establishment believes that forward time-travel is possible, if you can travel at a significantly high enough fraction of the speed of light for it to be noticeable.
There was quite a bit of consternation over the Twin paradox, and it's close relation the Clock paradox, a few decades ago. When I was a schoolboy in the early 1970s it was probably the most controversial topic in science, but not in the same league of controversy as global warming is today. The consternation died down by shutting the relativity sceptic academics out of the mainstream scientific literature around 1972. When that happened, the news media lost interest in the subject. Relativity scepticism is still around today, but it's limited to the internet. The main British relativity sceptic, Herbert Dingle, wrote a book called "Science at the Crossroads" in 1972 which is available (for free) on this link:
Amongst other things Dingle's book describes his attempts to draw the attention of the Royal Society to the clock paradox, and get them to give a ruling on it. I'm rather amused that the Royal Society didn't want to be involved at all and argued is wasn't the sort of thing they did. Contrast that with today with the pronouncements they like to make on global warming.
There's a lot of experimental evidence for special relativity being valid, but it all tends to come from the only part of physics that really uses it, namely high energy physics. My view is that special relativity is intended to be a correction theory for 'Maxwell-Lorentz electrodynamics" which enables ML electrodynamics to be utilised in all reference frames. On a physics degree course, the electrodynamics origin of special relativity tends to be ignored to keep things simple, and it's taught as being the mechanics of high speed particles. Now ML electrodynamics basically consists of Maxwell's equations plus the Lorentz force equation, equations which are very difficult to test in themselves. The Lorentz force equation is assumed to be valid to work out things like the mass and charge of sub-atomic particles in high energy physics. So the validation of special relativity provided by high energy physics isn't as good as it looks, it presupposes that the thing the correction theory is correcting is valid in the first place.
I should like to comment that in our enclosed but real world environment conversions are never 100% efficient.
Thus If we start with one form of energy and convert it a few times, at each stage we lose some usable energy somewhere. It may well be still "conserved" in the system somewhere but we will never get to use it.
"Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possible avoid it, 'But how can it be like that?' because you will get 'down the drain,' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that."
- Richard Feynman on the contradictions of quantum mechanics. And that was after he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for developing a way to address some of the failings (infinities) of the original theories of quantum physics.