Impossible space engine, that apparently works

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by JensAyton » Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:50 pm

ClymAngus wrote:Well there is clearly something needing to be explained here. As something is occurring that should not be able to happen in relation to our understanding of the universe. We face one of 2 options, one much less horrific than the other.

1) It's a con.
2) a lot of very clever people who rely on being clever to get their research funding missed a fundamental principle of the universe which makes them all look like a bunch of half whits.
3) It’s a methodological error, which will be demonstrated when/if other people put serious effort into attempting to duplicate the result and thinking of ways to get it wrong.

The vast majority of highly-unlikely experimental results fall under 3. (The last really high profile one was the faster-than-light neutrino debacle of 2011.)

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Diziet Sma » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:43 am

Disembodied wrote:That said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Really?

Why?

This is one of the few things I hold against Carl Sagan.. his promotion of the idea that some claims should be held to a higher standard of proof than others. This is patently ridiculous.. either there is sufficient evidence, or there is not. To demand that some claimants must present more or better evidence than is required for "ordinary" claims (whatever that may mean) is simply rigging the game ahead of time.

To save myself from having to type out my reasons for insisting that this is a fallacious argument, I'll quote someone who's already done a good job in this regard. (n.b. my use of this source should not be interpreted as meaning I agree with anything else on that site)
Extraordinary Claim, Extraordinary Evidence?
Do extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence?

Hume offered this challenge in "Of Miracles" in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

This requirement is offered in response to the miracle claims of Christianity as though it’s an obvious, well-established principle. But it’s actually not clear what the criteria of "extraordinary evidence" is, and here are three lines of response. These are rebuttals, calling into question the principle in the requirement, rather than refutations because the challenge itself has to be supported by an argument and clarified for the nature of what is being required.

First, there needs to be a clarification. The nature of the “extraordinary evidence” required can be understood in two ways: extraordinary with respect to quality or extraordinary with respect to quantity.

If the former (quality), then the evidence produced is itself extraordinary, and it will also need to meet the requirement of having extraordinary evidence, and a vicious regress ensues. If the quality of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be also be extraordinary in quality, then it will also have to have extraordinary evidence. But then the condition can never be met, and suffers from the fallacy of “begging the question” against extraordinary events in an unfair manner. The game is rigged by the request.

And perhaps that is the point of the requirement because it presupposes naturalism, precluding the possibility of offering evidence that will justify a supernatural claim.

If the requirement is for an extraordinary quantity of evidence, then the next question is, how much ordinary evidence is necessary for the total quantity to be considered extraordinary? This is perhaps a “problem of heaps” – how much is enough? There is no determinate solution (at least epistemically, if not metaphysically determinate). So once again, it’s begging the question to ask for extraordinary evidence.

An alternative for answering the question of sufficient quantity of evidence would be to allow that there is some amount of evidence sufficient for establishing the probability of an ordinary event. But then, the fact that we find a certain multiple of the ordinary amount of evidence sufficiently extraordinary is either a case of evidential over-determination or is itself an extraordinary event, and once again leads to an infinite regress.

A third response to the demand recognizes that very extraordinary events happen all the time if the co-occurrence of several features in a state of affairs is evaluated probabilistically. (That an American high school kid from Seattle would be at a Halloween party in Tel Aviv and there meet an American high school girl from Pensacola and later marry her is highly improbable; in fact, the people I know who this is true of might be the only two people in all of history who fulfill that concurrence of events.)

So no matter how extraordinary the event, no explanation is needed because extraordinary events happen all the time.
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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Disembodied » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:56 am

Diziet Sma wrote:
Disembodied wrote:That said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Really?

Why?
Well, fair enough - but in the scientific sphere, I would argue that an "extraordinary claim" is one which seems to contradict something which has a vast pile of evidence in its favour, i.e. basic mechanics. There is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that our current understanding of basic mechanics is, basically, correct. So as a rule of thumb, it's best to check anything which falls into this category of "extraordinary" very, very carefully for mistakes before ushering it in to the halls of Accepted Science. Remain Calm, I suppose, would be a shorter way of putting it. These Things Are Very Unlikely To Be True, So Check Very, Very Carefully. :)
So no matter how extraordinary the event, no explanation is needed because extraordinary events happen all the time.
Hmmm ... arguably, though, if they happen all the time, then they're "ordinary", and not "extraordinary". That's just a question of scale. Coincidences which seem remarkable to the individuals who experience them seem extraordinary to them, but - on the scale of the human population - they're not extraordinary at all. Controlled scientific experiments whose results appear to violate well-established physical laws don't happen all the time - I would argue that such events are extraordinary, and should be subjected to a lot more scrutiny before we start unpicking basic science. This itself isn't a fundamental law, it's just common sense. Like building a house: by all means be careful and check for mistakes when applying ornamental plasterwork to the bathroom ceiling, just don't take forever over it; but be very, very sure of what you're doing when you're messing around with the foundations!

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by JensAyton » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:47 am

Disembodied wrote:either there is sufficient evidence, or there is not.
Well, in those terms, there is not. There is not enough evidence to even vaguely justify speculative articles at this point.

The lab did brief tests on two models, one which was supposed to “work” and one dummy. Both produced apparent thrust in the same, very tiny, range. This isn’t strictly a null result, but it is almost certain to be a measurement error rather than a bug that leaves the dummy fully functional. The people who actually performed the measurement don’t believe they found anything significant.

Measurement errors at this scale are hardly surprising. We’re talking extremely small forces, to the point where it’s necessary to compensate for things like waves lapping the shore 25 miles away. The most scientifically interesting question is how to isolate and calibrate the instrument to correctly measure a device that doesn’t work at the intended precision.

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Diziet Sma » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:02 am

Disembodied wrote:
Diziet Sma wrote:
Disembodied wrote:That said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Really?

Why?
Well, fair enough - but in the scientific sphere, I would argue that an "extraordinary claim" is one which seems to contradict something which has a vast pile of evidence in its favour, i.e. basic mechanics. There is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that our current understanding of basic mechanics is, basically, correct. So as a rule of thumb, it's best to check anything which falls into this category of "extraordinary" very, very carefully for mistakes before ushering it in to the halls of Accepted Science. Remain Calm, I suppose, would be a shorter way of putting it. These Things Are Very Unlikely To Be True, So Check Very, Very Carefully. :)
Agreed.. but 'checking very carefully' (which should always apply) is not the same thing as saying "because we have a vast pile of evidence for A, you must present a vast pile of evidence for B, otherwise what you're claiming can't possibly be so".. The standards of proof required, cannot be applied differently, simply due to the prejudices or biases of those demanding proof.

By way of example, demonstrating the existence of telepathy should not require any higher standard of proof than for that of radio transmission. Just because some may see one as extraordinary, and not the other, is irrelevant.
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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Disembodied » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:37 am

Diziet Sma wrote:Agreed.. but 'checking very carefully' (which should always apply) is not the same thing as saying "because we have a vast pile of evidence for A, you must present a vast pile of evidence for B, otherwise what you're claiming can't possibly be so".. The standards of proof required, cannot be applied differently, simply due to the prejudices or biases of those demanding proof.

By way of example, demonstrating the existence of telepathy should not require any higher standard of proof than for that of radio transmission. Just because some may see one as extraordinary, and not the other, is irrelevant.
No, I disagree. Ultimately there's a difference between "unlikely (but not in violation of established and accepted physical laws)" and "in violation of established and accepted physical laws". That's the fundamental difference between an ordinary claim, and an extraordinary one. Winning the lottery is very unlikely, but does not violate our understanding of physical laws, and it happens all the time. Telepathy violates our understanding of physical laws, and would have to be supported by excellent evidence before we take it out of the "probably just noise" bin. Radio was a remarkable new invention, but the fundamental physics was in place. Telepathy has no such basic support and is very much in the "woo" bucket. Radio would have been in the "woo" bucket too, in the Middle Ages, and I admit that it's possible that one day, telepathy may be part of established science, and understood theoretically - but at the moment, it's got nothing to back it up.

If you're going to mess with the foundations, you better have a compelling case. In quantity (because huge amounts of statistically verifiable results are required, if we're going to rule out occasional experimental error), and definitely in quality, too. That evidence better be solid, all the way through, to be regarded as anything more than, at best, a statistical quirk.

Like "miracle" healings: spontaneous remission from chronic disease is unlikely, but does not violate our understanding of physical laws, and it happens all the time. But show me someone who says they've grown back a severed leg, and I'll want some really good evidence before I consider believing it.

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by ClymAngus » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:58 am

JensAyton wrote:
ClymAngus wrote:Well there is clearly something needing to be explained here. As something is occurring that should not be able to happen in relation to our understanding of the universe. We face one of 2 options, one much less horrific than the other.

1) It's a con.
2) a lot of very clever people who rely on being clever to get their research funding missed a fundamental principle of the universe which makes them all look like a bunch of half whits.
3) It’s a methodological error, which will be demonstrated when/if other people put serious effort into attempting to duplicate the result and thinking of ways to get it wrong.

The vast majority of highly-unlikely experimental results fall under 3. (The last really high profile one was the faster-than-light neutrino debacle of 2011.)
I'd kind of rolled that into option 1. You don't need a con man to make something wrong dressed up as right. Just enough people to really really want it to be so.

If anything this shows the renting gap between science and the reporting of science in the popular press.

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Neelix » Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:22 am

http://xkcd.com/1404/

ClymAngus wrote: I'd kind of rolled that into option 1. You don't need a con man to make something wrong dressed up as right. Just enough people to really really want it to be so.
Calling something a con implies an intention to deceive.
Are you saying it's not possible to get excited over a false positive without such an intention?


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Talaxian Enterprises: [wiki]Vacuum Pump[/wiki] [wiki]Waypoint Here[/wiki]

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by ClymAngus » Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:57 pm

Neelix wrote:http://xkcd.com/1404/

ClymAngus wrote: I'd kind of rolled that into option 1. You don't need a con man to make something wrong dressed up as right. Just enough people to really really want it to be so.
Calling something a con implies an intention to deceive.
Are you saying it's not possible to get excited over a false positive without such an intention?


- Neelix
What I'm saying is, people con themselves all the time, "I'll be alright", "It doesn't matter", "That didn't hurt", "he/she still loves me" Etc etc etc.

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Redspear » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:41 pm

Diziet Sma wrote:
Disembodied wrote:That said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Really?

Why?

This is one of the few things I hold against Carl Sagan.. his promotion of the idea that some claims should be held to a higher standard of proof than others. This is patently ridiculous.. either there is sufficient evidence, or there is not. To demand that some claimants must present more or better evidence than is required for "ordinary" claims (whatever that may mean) is simply rigging the game ahead of time...
Or (slightly mischeviously :wink: )...

Given that the argument both deals with the extraordinary and asks the extraordinary of it, is it not in itself an extraordinary claim?
As such, should it not require extraordinary evidence?

(I don't know, I'm just someone who's been let loose with a keyboard :P ...)
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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Diziet Sma » Thu Aug 07, 2014 6:47 am

Redspear wrote:Given that the argument both deals with the extraordinary and asks the extraordinary of it, is it not in itself an extraordinary claim?
As such, should it not require extraordinary evidence?
Well said.. very good point.. :mrgreen:
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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Disembodied » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:00 am

Hmmm ... imagine a court case, where I'm accused of piracy. In my defence, I produce two witnesses, of impeccable character, who say I was with them at the time of the offence, in their home, watching TV. Pretty good defence, no?

Now imagine instead that my two witnesses, of impeccable character, said that I was with them at the time of the offence, on the aethereal plane, battling demons. "Er ... was this some sort of game?" you might ask. "No, we mean this literally," they reply. "On the aethereal plane, battling demons. He's very good at it. And we all know you can't be in two dimensional planes at the same time." This defence might seem slightly shaky, to say the least. They insist that they're not lying, their stories are mutually consistent - but such an extraordinary claim would require rather more supporting evidence, not least of the basic existence of other planes of existence, demons, the ability of the witnesses and myself to travel to them, etc. etc.

There are chains of evidence on which all claims depend. Radio has such a chain. It's possible for anybody with sufficient education to build a rudimentary radio receiver, and explain how it works, and to understand the concept from the ground up. There is no such chain for e.g. telepathy: it's wholly a unsupported, free-floating notion. Any evidence which points to telepathy as being a real thing needs also to at least attempt to fill in the theoretical background, otherwise people will regard it with a huge, and necessary, dose of skepticism. Without this, the best that can be hoped for is, "Well, there's something odd going on, but we don't know what". If that "something odd" can be reliably demonstrated and repeated, then you've got the beginnings of a new area of science; if it can't, then you've got "something odd", on odd occasions.

Science isn't universally applicable: it is only capable of dealing with the quantifiable and the falsifiable. The universe doubtless contains many unquantifiable and unverifiable things, and no system of formal logic can prove all true statements and disprove all false ones. But if something isn't quantifiable and falsifiable, then it's not science, and there's little point in expecting scientists to work on it.

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by NigelJK » Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:38 am

:)

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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by spud42 » Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:06 am

Disembodied wrote: There are chains of evidence on which all claims depend. Radio has such a chain. It's possible for anybody with sufficient education to build a rudimentary radio receiver, and explain how it works, and to understand the concept from the ground up. There is no such chain for e.g. telepathy: it's wholly a unsupported, free-floating notion. Any evidence which points to telepathy as being a real thing needs also to at least attempt to fill in the theoretical background, otherwise people will regard it with a huge, and necessary, dose of skepticism. Without this, the best that can be hoped for is, "Well, there's something odd going on, but we don't know what". If that "something odd" can be reliably demonstrated and repeated, then you've got the beginnings of a new area of science; if it can't, then you've got "something odd", on odd occasions.

Science isn't universally applicable: it is only capable of dealing with the quantifiable and the falsifiable. The universe doubtless contains many unquantifiable and unverifiable things, and no system of formal logic can prove all true statements and disprove all false ones. But if something isn't quantifiable and falsifiable, then it's not science, and there's little point in expecting scientists to work on it.

But there is also a time factor involved, things may well have that chain of evidence with our CURRENT understanding. Not saying weather telepathy is real or not , it could simply be that at our CURRENT level of understanding we cant prove or disprove it. now we in this TIME understand radio but if you tried to explain radio to someone form Shakespeare's time they would also say that it was an Extraordinary claim. voices and music coming out of a little box? Demons, heretic, call the Spanish Inquisition!!!

Hilarity aside we do not know everything about our universe, to say we do is conceited and delusional.
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Re: Impossible space engine, that apparently works

Post by Disembodied » Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:43 am

spud42 wrote:But there is also a time factor involved, things may well have that chain of evidence with our CURRENT understanding. Not saying weather telepathy is real or not , it could simply be that at our CURRENT level of understanding we cant prove or disprove it. now we in this TIME understand radio but if you tried to explain radio to someone form Shakespeare's time they would also say that it was an Extraordinary claim. voices and music coming out of a little box? Demons, heretic, call the Spanish Inquisition!!!
Yes, we may indeed one day be able to add the "telepathy" link to a pre-existing chain of well-understood and theoretically grounded psychic phenomena. But at the moment, it's just an unsubstantiated claim, hanging there, not connected to anything. If anyone wants to add "telepathy" to the party, I think they should be expected to at least suggest where it might hang, and why, and what's holding it up and connecting it to everything else.
spud42 wrote:Hilarity aside we do not know everything about our universe, to say we do is conceited and delusional.
I don't think any scientist (and I should stress, IANAS) would make that claim - apart from anything else, they'd be doing themselves out of a job. ;) Science, insofar as I understand it, is an approach which produces a certain type of answer to a certain type of question. "If we postulate X, then Y should happen when we do Z. Let's do Z. Look, Y happened, just as we said it would! The X theory holds up! OK, but if we postulate X, then A should happen if we do B. Let's do B. Bugger, that's not A happening, that's Q ... OK, theory X is wrong. We now need a theory X+1 to explain why Z produces Y *and* B produces Q."

It is incredibly good at answering those types of questions, and at working out how to apply those answers to do neat stuff. But it has rules - and it's those rules which make it so incredibly effective. If you don't follow those rules, or if you try to ask questions which can't be expressed using those rules, it doesn't work.

In Shakespeare's time, they'd have assumed a talking box was the work of spirits or demons: that was how such ideas were connected to their own system of understanding. If you'd tried to tell them about electrons, they'd have demanded that you connect your outlandish fantasies to their established chain of knowledge. This is not to go all PoMo and claim that science is "just another belief system" - the overwhelming difference between science and every other belief system is that, with regard to the physical, perceivable, quantifiable world, science works. You can get a radio to carry a message, effectively instantly, across huge distances, regularly, reliably, and understandably. Although they are often credited with the same ability, it's a lot trickier to do this with spirits and demons. :)

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