Category Archives: Bad Physics

Grandiose Crackpottery Proves Pi=4

Someone recently sent me a link to a really terrific crank. This guy really takes the cake. Seriously, no joke, this guy is the most grandiose crank that I’ve ever seen, and I doubt that it’s possible to top him. He claims, among other things, to have:

  1. Demonstrated that every mathematician since (and including) Euclid was wrong;
  2. Corrected the problems with relativity;
  3. Turned relativity into a unification theory by proving that magnetism is part of the relativistic gravitational field;
  4. Shown that all of gravitational/orbital dynamics is completely, utterly wrong; and, last but not least:
  5. proved that the one true correct value of pi is exactly 4.

I’m going to focus on the last one – because it’s the simplest illustration of both his own comical insanity, of of the fundamental error underlying all of his rubbish.

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Free Energy by Switching Cameras (Classic Repost)

This is an edited repost of a classic. Back when I first put up the post about the genius theories of Engineer Borg, a commenter pointed me towards the website of a Dr. Tom Bearden. Dr. Bearden is a veritable renaissance man of crackpottery: he hasinvented a perfect free energy system which has been quashed by a conspiracy of governments and corporations; invented a cure for all major diseases (again hidden by the strenuous efforts of corporations and governments); demonstrated the flaw in relativity… You name it, Tom has done it!

Before I get to the details of that, let me give you a sense of the flavor of his site. Dr. Tom clearly believes that he is a genius of epic proportions, and that the entire world actually knows it. For example, he repeatedly talks about how his work was favorably reviewed by the National Science Foundation! Which means it’s brilliant! Only it was quashed by the Evil Government Conspiracy before he could demonstrate it! So I went looking for the supposed favorable review of his free-energy work. And I found it in his list of references, listed as “National Science Foundation letter favorably reviewing Bearden Paper”.

This looks interesting, right? A review from the NSF? So, click the link, and… The contents of that link consist of a scanned letter from the NSF replying to an email sent by Dr. Bearden, which consists of a basic standardized form letter inviting him to submit an actual proposal, and warning that he’d better include some proof that his perpetual motion machine really works, and an explanation of how.

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Return of a Classic: The Electromagnetic Gravity Revolution!

Between work, trying to finish my AppEngine book, and doing all of the technical work getting Scientopia running smoothly on the new hosting service, I haven’t had a lot of time for writing new blog posts. So, once again, I’m recycling some old stuff.

It’s that time again – yes, we have yet another wacko reinvention of physics that pretends to have math on its side. This time, it’s “The Electro-Magnetic Radiation Pressure Gravity Theory”, by “Engineer Xavier Borg”. (Yes, he signs all of his papers that way – it’s always with the title “Engineer”.) This one is as wacky as Neal Adams and his PMPs, except that the author seems to be less clueless.

At first I wondered if this were a hoax – I mean, “Engineer Borg”? It seems like a deliberately goofy name for someone with a crackpot theory of physics… But on reading through his web-pages, the quantity and depth of his writing has me leaning towards believing that this stuff is legit. (And as several commenters pointed out the first time I posted this, in Germany, you need a special license to be an engineer, and as a result, “Engineer” is actually really used as a title. Still seems pompous to me – I mean, technically, I’m entitled to go around calling myself Dr. Mark Chu-Carroll, PhD., but I don’t generally do that.)

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The Return of a Classic: Neal Adams' Bad Physics

Between work, trying to finish my AppEngine book, and doing all of the technical work getting Scientopia running smoothly on the new hosting service, I haven’t had a lot of time for writing new blog posts.

But in the process of doing my technical work around here, I was browsing through some archives, and seeing some of my old posts that I’d forgotten about. And odds are, if I forgot about it, then there are a lot of readers who’ve never seen it. So I’m going to bring back some of the classic old material.

For example, Neal Adams. Comic book fans will know about Neal: he’s a comic book artist who worked on some of the most famous comics in the 1970s: he drew Batman, Superman, Deadman, Green Lantern, the Spectre, the X-men. More recently, he’s done a lot of work in general commercial art – for example, he did the animated nasonex bee commercials a few years ago.

Adams' PMP image But he’s not just an artist. No, he’s so much more than that! He’s also a brilliant scientist. He’s much smarter than all of those eggheads with college degrees. They’re struggling to build giant particle accelerators to help understand things like mass. But Neal – he’s got them beat. He’s figured out exactly how things work!

According to Neal, there is no such thing as gravity – it’s all just pressure. People trying to figure out stuff about how gravity works are just wasting time. The earth (and all other planets) is actually a matter factory – matter is constantly created in the hollow center of the earth, and the pressure of all the new matter forces the earth to constantly expand. The constant expansion creates pressure on the surface as things expand – and that constant expansion is what creates gravity! You’re standing on a point on the surface of the earth. And the earth is expanding – the ground is pushing up on you because of that expansion. You’re not being pulled down towards the earth: the earth is pushing up on you.

And according to Neal, the best part is the math works!. In the original version of this post, I had a link to Neal’s page with his explanation of how the math works – but he has, since then, moved most of his science stuff behind a paywall – you now need to pay Neal $20 to get to see his material, so I can’t provide a direct link. But it’s in a video here, and you can see the original using the Wayback Machine.

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The Unfalsifiable Theory Of Everything from viXra

Today is another bit of rubbish from viXra! In the comment thread from the last post, someone (I presume the author of this paper) challenged me to address this. And it’s such a perfect example of one of my mantras that I can’t resist.

What’s the first rule of GM/BM? The worst math is no math.

And what a whopping example of that we have here. It’s titled “Spacetime Deformation Theory”, by one Jacek Safuta. I’ll quote the abstract in its entirety, to give you the flavor.

The spacetime deformations theory unifies general relativity with quantum mechanics i.e. unifies all interactions, answers the questions: why particles have mass and what they are, answers the question: what is energy, unifies force fields and matter, implies new theories like spacetime deformations evolution.

This is a theory of principle (universal theory delivering description of nature) and not constructive theory (describing particular phenomenon using specific equations).

The theory is falsifiable, background independent (space has no fixed geometry), not generating singularities or boundaries.

This is hard to believe but a belief has nothing to with it. The real intellectual challenge is to falsify the theory.

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Gravity, Shmavity. It's the heat, dammit!

Sorry for the ridiculously slow pace around here lately; I’ve been ridiculously busy. I’m changing projects at work; it’s the end of the school year for my kids; and I’m getting close to the end-game for my book. Between all of those, I just haven’t had much time for blogging lately.

Anyway… I came across this lovely gem, and I couldn’t resist commenting on it. (Before I get to it, I have to point out that it’s on “”. viXra is “ is an e-print archive set up as an alternative to the popular service owned by Cornell University. It has been founded by scientists who find they are unable to submit their articles to because of Cornell University’s policy of endorsements and moderation designed to filter out e-prints that they consider inappropriate.”. In other words, it’s a site for cranks who can’t even post their stuff on arXiv. Considering some of the dreck that’s been posted an arXiv, that’s pretty damned sad.)

In my experience, when crackpots look at physics, they go after one of two things. Either they pick some piece of modern physics that makes them uncomfortable – like relativity or quantum mechanics – and they try to force some argument that their discomfort with it must mean that it’s wrong. The other big one is free energy – whether it’s perpetual motion, or vacuum energy, or browns gas – the crackpots claim that they’ve found some wonderful magical process that defies the laws of thermodynamics in order to make limitless free energy. The cranks rarely (not never, but rarely) go after the kinds of physics that we experience every day.

Well, this is something different. This guy basically wants to claim that gravity doesn’t really exist. And along the way, he claims to have solved the problems of dark matter and dark energy. See, we’ve all got it totally wrong about gravity! Gravity isn’t a force where matter attracts other matter. It’s a force where warm things attract other warm things! Gravity is actually a force created when things radiate heat.

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Free Energy From Air? Sorry, no.

After the
that was my flame against the downwind faster than the wind
vehicle, you might think that I’d be afraid of touching on more air-powered
perpetual motion. You’d be wrong :-). I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself
if I stand a chance of learning something in the process – and in this case,
it’s so obviously bogus that even if I was afraid, the sheer stupidity here
would be more than enough to paper over my anxieties. Take a look at this –
the good part comes towards the end.

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Sloppy Dualism on Bad Astronomy

In the history of this blog, I’ve gone after lots of religious folks. I’ve mocked
lots and lots of christians, a few muslims, some Jews, some newagers, and even one
stupid Hindu.

Today, I’m doing something that’s probably going to get me into trouble
with a lot of readers. I’m going to mock a very well-known atheist. No, not PZ.
As much as I disagree with PZ, as far as I can tell, he’s consistent about his

Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait has been a major voice for skepticism and
a vocal proponent of atheism. He has, quite rightly, gone after people of all stripes
for foolishness and silly supernaturalism. He’s frequently talked about how silly he
thinks religion is. All well and good.

But Phil just really
screwed up
. And I’ve got to call him on it.

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Moronic Probability and Stupid Physics

Via the Bad Astronomer comes one of the most pathetic abuses of
probability that I’ve ever seen. I’m simply amazed that this idiot was willing
to go on television and say this.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Large Hadron Collider
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis First 100 Days

The crank in question is Walter Wagner, the moron who tried to use a lawsuit
to stop the LHC from being activated. (Just that much, already, is amazingly silly;
he sued in Hawaii, but the LHC is in Geneva, Switzerland. How does a Hawaiian court
have any jurisdiction?)

Anyway… Wagner claims that the LHC could destroy the earth. See, there’s a tiny theoretical chance that the right collision in the LHC could create a microscopic black hole. According to Wagner, if that happens, the black hole will swallow the entire earth.

That claim is, itself, based on some pretty bad math. The only theory that predicts
that it’s possible to create a microscopic black hole also predicts that such a black
hole would evaporate – that is, would completely disappear in a burst of energy – immediately. The
exact same math that predicts that you could create a black hole in a high-energy collision also
predicts that the hole would be destroyed before it had time to do any damage. If you tweak it so that the black hole lasts longer, the energy requirements change so that it’s no longer possible to create it in the LHC. To make the black hole last a microsecond is absolutely beyond the
energy of any collider that we could ever build on the earth.

But let’s skip that – demonstrating that is pretty complicated. To get an idea of
the level of understanding of the guy who claims that there’s a real danger, let’s just
take a look at what he says.

When asked what the probability of the LHC destroying the earth is, he says 50%. Why?
Because either it could happen, or it couldn’t – therefore, there’s a 50% chance of it happening.

You could argue that that’s naive Bayesian reasoning – but if you did, you’d be an idiot. Classic Bayesian arguments about stuff like this would say that you use 50/50 as an initial prior in the absence of any other information; then you adjust that based on whatever
other information you have available. For Mr. Wagner’s stupid argument, it’s based on
a complex physical theory – a complex physical theory which provides lots of information
which you can use to update your probability estimate.

Mr. Wagner’s 50/50 claim is based on the fact that he’s absolutely clueless about how any of
this stuff works. He clearly doesn’t understand probability, and he clearly doesn’t understand

But he’s awfully funny.

Can 20 People Stand on a Wing? Can a Conspiracy Theorist Be Stupid?

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the airplane that ditched in the Hudson last week. (Just 30 blocks from my office!) When it happened, after we found out more about what caused the plane to ditch, I wondered how long it would take before the 911 Truthers came up with a conspiracy theory about it.

Not long. Via SkepticBlog comes news of a conspiracy theorist claiming that the ditching doesn’t make any sense. Brian Dunning at SkepticBlog does a good
job explaining what’s so stupid about this, but there were two things about
it that I thought were particularly interesting from the point of view of a math and computer science geek.

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