The Jackpot of Crankery: Woo Physics, Woo Medicine, Woo Politics, and Woo Math

Feb 26 2007 Published by under Bad Physics

Over in the thread about Engineer Borg and his wacked-out electromagnetic theory
of gravity, a commenter popped up and pointed at the web-site of someone named Tom Bearden, who supposedly has shown how to generate free "vacuum" energy using electronic and/or electromagnetic devices.

I hadn't heard of Dr. Bearden before, and promised to take a look at his website.

So I went and took a look. And wow, I hit the jackpot! This is an absolute masterwork of crackpottery. Dr Bearden's lunacy covers just about every conceivable topic, from conspiracy theories, to HIV denalism, to wacky physics, magical woo healing devices, post-Soviet KGB collaborations with the Japanese government to shoot down American planes and manipulate weather....

To give you a bit of flavor: he's got a bibliography of information that allegedly supports his theories. If you take a look at it, the first thing you see is listed as "National Science Foundation letter favorably reviewing Bearden Paper". 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.

Moving on.. The heart of most of Dr. Bearden's claims is that Maxwell's equations have been deliberately corrupted to eliminate concepts like "negative resistance" which can result in electrical systems generating more power than they consume. Let's take it from the beginning (in so far as I can identify a beginning on his nightmarishly organized website).

"Maxwell's" vector equations taught in university are actually Heaviside's truncated equations, and are only a simplified version of what Maxwell originally wrote.

The Maxwell-Heaviside theory of electrodynamics is now well over a century old, and is actually a serious truncation of Maxwell's 1865 theory of 20 equations in 20 unknowns (those are specifically listed in the original published paper in 1865). Because it was "tainted" with a higher group symmetry algebra (quaternions), even Maxwell himself came under intense pressure to simplify it, after the publication of the first edition of his famous Treatise in 1873. Consequently, Maxwell was rewriting and greatly "watering down" his own Treatise, having finished rewriting and greatly reducing some 80% of it at the time of his death in 1879. The second edition and third edition, therefore, are NOT the original Maxwellian theory, but a very serious truncation.

The further great "simplification" occurred by several scientists after Maxwell's death, in the 1880s, and notably by Heaviside, Hertz, and Gibbs. The equations taught today at university as "Maxwell's theory" are pale shadows, and those equations themselves are actually the equations and notations of Heaviside, further "symmetrically regauged" by Lorentz (which very neatly threw out all COP>1.0 EM systems taking their excess energy from the vacuum in the form of free asymmetrical regauging). At the time these altered Maxwell equations were adopted in general, it occurred in a short "debate" (mostly in the journal Nature) where the vectorists simply discarded the quaternists' work, etc. It was not done by "sweet science", but by sheer dogma and individual preference for "simplicity".

This is a thoroughly mangled version of the history of Maxwell's equations. Here's a brief version of real history:

  • Maxwell published the first form of his equations - 20 equations in 20 unknowns.
  • Maxwell reformulated his 20 equations into a set of 4 quaternion equations.
  • Heaviside translated Maxwell's quaternion equations into vector equations.
  • Special relativity once again reformulated Maxwell's equations using 4-vectors and removing the "universal reference frame assumption".

The claim of Bearden is that in the re-formulations of Maxwell's equation, something was lost. He claims that the original version of Maxwell's equation included the ability to do something that he calls "free asymmetrical regauging", which extracts energy from a vacuum.

That's the most mathematically robust part of Bearden's rambling. From there, it degenerates rapidly into pure babble:

So our present classical theory still implicitly retains the material ether more than 100 years after that ether was falsified by the Michelson-Morley experiments. Not an equation was changed after those experiments! The "Maxwellians" as they are referred to, all originally assumed the material ether, which meant that they assumed there was not a single point in the entire universe that was devoid of mass. Consequently, the EM fields were--to them--obviously very material fields indeed; they ALWAYS occurred in mass (e.g., in the material ether). They were therefore erroneously assumed to be force fields. Mass is actually a component of force (though that is still ignored in classical mechanics as well); there is no separate mass-free force acting upon a separate mass, because the phrase "mass-free force" itself is an oxymoron). Many foundations physicists have discussed this "material origin of force", so it is well-known by leading scientists (though seldom known to engineers).

First: Mass is a component of force? Since when? "mass-free force" is an oxymoron? Where's this stuff coming from? We know that light and other electromagnetic waves can exert a force - in fact, Maxwell's equations describe that. But light is massless.

Second: Maxwell's equations did a remarkable job of describing electromagnetism. the fact that we discovered that the aether assumption was incorrect didn't mean that we would throw them away - they still do their job of predicting electromagetic interactions quite well. Newton's laws of motion assume that mass is a fixed quantity - which we now know is incorrect. But that doesn't mean that we don't use Newton's laws - in non-relativistic settings, they remain an extremely accurate tool. And that's a darned good metaphor, because just like relativity includes a correction to fix Newton's laws of motion, it also includes a correction to Maxwell's equations.

So we have a peculiar situation and one of the great stalemates in human history: In modern physics terms, a "force" is generated in, on, and of a mass (e.g., a charged mass) when the volumetric mass-free fields (as curvatures of spacetime relativistically, or as altered virtual particle flux of the vacuum region in particle physics) in mass-free space interact with and on a charged mass. That ongoing interaction is indeed what a "force" identically is, prior to observation. Note that this also gives a physical mechanism to the notion of "asymmetrical regauging", where the potentials (and potential energy) of the system (in this case, the interacting charged mass) is freely changed.

Gibberish, written up in fancy terminology. Basically, what this is doing is mucking around with the symmetry concept of relativity. Relativity says that you can switch reference frames in ways that alter the apparent energy of a mass. For example, if you consider a body and an observer, and you treat the observer as stationary, then the mass will have some velocity, and thus some kinetic energy relative to that reference frame. You can switch to a frame in which the observer is moving, and the velocity and kinetic energy of the body will appear to be different. Nothing has changed - the translation between reference frames is symmetric. This process is called regauging.

But Quaternions are not symmetric. So if you use the quaternion form of Maxwell's equations, and do the relativistic reference frame shift, you can get a non-symmetric reguage - which, if you work through the equations, means that you can create energy. Or you could, if in fact the quaternion form of Maxwell's equations was compatible with relativity. Which they aren't.

So what Bearden is arguing, ultimately, is that the viewpoint change represented by a shift of a reference-frame has real physical implications: by simply switching reference frames to one in which there is more energy, we can get energy. After all, if you do the relativistic reference-frame translation using quaternions, you get a non-symmetric translation where there is more energy than before the translation. So it's surplus energy, generated from nowhere.

The problem is that he's thoroughly botching the math. He's insisting on using the non-symmetric quaternion form of Maxwell's equations; but he's also insisting on using the symmetric translation of relativity - even though the two are completely incompatible. The "free energy" is coming from the performing a translation that's dependent on a kind of symmetry on a set of values that do not possess the required symmetry. It's a basic math error - roughly like applying a theorem derived for an abelian group to an algebra on a non-abelian group.

From there, it degenerates into pure conspiracy theory, about how many times free
energy devices have been invented and surpressed
; how the KGB in collaboration with
Japan used an electromagnetic free-energy weapon to shoot down TWA flight 800
;
how all of the weather in North America since 1976 has been artificially managed/produced using
electromagnetic free-energy devices; how AIDS is really a weapon in biological warfare, how EMFE devices can cure cancer, AIDS, SARS,
anthrax, and any genetic disorder in one 30 second treatment
, but it's all
being covered up by Big Pharma.

Bearden is, quite possibly, the looniest crackpot I've found so far.

No responses yet

  • Scott B says:

    I'm new around here, but I love what I've read so far. Have you seen this guy's stuff? http://home.jam.rr.com/dicksfiles/flaw/Fatalfla.htm I'm just a dabbler, so I can't really assess it. He's got some curious ideas in there, though.

  • bigTom says:

    The first half is really pretty cool. Much much better than the kind of wacko-science we are used to seeing on Star-Trek and similar fare. Perhaps he could get a job scriptwriting.

  • Xanthir, FCD says:

    That is some truly nice technobabble. Much more coherent (though just as nonsensical) than most of the stuff one sees.
    Then again, you might just be showing us the good parts. Suppose I should go check out his site. I'll have pack my bullshit meter back in its protective shielding first, though.

  • Babbler says:

    It doesn't compare to this (mute speakers): http://www.cabotia.com/

    The Jesuits were getting DESPERATE because without a rotating earth the theory of evolution falls flat on its face.

    Priceless.

  • Harald K says:

    I've seen my share of sites like this, and it seems to me that people respond to them in two ways: either as jokes, and then they are amused, or attacks upon science, and then they are offended. Sometimes both. But I think laughing may be cruel, and debunkings a waste of time (unless the crank has many believers, which is rarely the case).
    I happened to find out about a guy, possibly a relation or friend of the family or a combination, I don't think I'm going to identify him further. He was a really smart guy, studied mathemathics and physics at graduate level, but he was also a little odd, and you can probably guess the rest... he withdrew further and further from his friends and family, and became obsessed with his rather peculiar thesis. He eventually submitted it to his university, and they (rightly) dismissed it as nonsense, but they failed to see and inform about his rapidly deteriorating schizophrenia. By now, he is on the run, convinced that the government and his family are trying to control his mind and supress his work. Occasionally he puts up a website, where he writes about his theories. They look pretty indistiguishable from 90% of the sites at crank.net (but none of his sites are there - crank.net is probably the top of the iceberg).
    With some cranks you wonder if they are trying to decieve for their own gain. Others turn cranky when they step out of their proper field and take their self-confidence with them, like that russian statistician who believes the middle ages didn't exist, or Linus Pauling. But some are simply mad - quite literally. When responding to one, be careful. Engaging a schizophreniac crank in debate is cruel - it's a pretty horrible thing to suffer from, as their suicide rate shows.

  • Joe says:

    Didn't this guy win a Nobel in 1956? Actually, the names are VERY close. Move just one letter three spaces to the right...

  • Anonymous says:

    My favorite loony of the day is this nutjob: http://bl0odyone.livejournal.com/
    In my quick readings of his blog, I read mentions of alcohol and marijuana, but nothing extraordinary. Which is why his numerological ramblings seem so out of nowhere and...well...insane: http://community.livejournal.com/mathsex/120105.html

  • Chris' Wills says:

    Well there is such a thing as negative resistance, it is just his use of the term that is wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_resistance
    A simple example is the fluorescent tubes used in offices around the world, sad to say they don't draw energy from nothing, if you don't keep on inputting energy they revert to being normal resistors.
    That aside, perhaps Mythbusters can check out his free energy device. They did check on some other similair claims before.

  • Dave S. says:

    Didn't this guy win a Nobel in 1956? Actually, the names are VERY close. Move just one letter three spaces to the right...

    You mean John Bardeen?
    Different first name altogether. Plus John Bardeen died in 1991.

  • Flex says:

    Bearden's been around awhile, and I've seen some of his stuff before. I couldn't make heads or tails of his disjointed ramblings about Maxwell, Heaviside, and the rest, but it read like complete gibberish to me.
    So thanks, Mark, for your effort in understanding his mistake, and being able to clearly point it out so that the rest of us can understand it.
    On 10 May, 2002, James Randi had a short bit about Tom Beardon in the Swift, the newsletter of the JREF. The JREF may be interested in your analysis.
    Cheers.

  • Blake Stacey says:

    Thanks once again, Mark! A while ago, I noticed that some folks at the Thomas Pynchon Wiki had rather uncritically accepted Bearden's ranting in their brief write-up about quaternions. I took it upon myself (the card-carrying physicist bastard with no patience for Alternate Ways of Knowing) to straighten it out a little, and now I've gone back to add a reference to your post.

  • archgoon says:

    One comment about your analogy: Relativity does not apply any corrections to Maxwell's theory at all. Relativity _assumes_ Maxwell's equations are correct in all inertial reference frames.

  • Torbjörn Larsson says:

    Very well done, considering the can of worms this area is.
    Not the negative resistance part of course. Transistors are another great example apart from the mentioned one which can exhibit negative dynamical (relative) resistance. A too hot transistor in a badly constructed amplifier conducts more current, that will lead to more heat, that will conduct more ... You get the idea. (One way to avoid this is to use other materials than silicon to get a positive temperature coefficient.)
    But the EM force and energy part is harder. If we continue the history list, the relativity + EM 4-vector shows that the M field is a (low-velocity, for once) relativistic effect of the E field, so we can understand the force a little already here. And AFAIK the quantized field theoretic version QED explains forces and the classically ill-behaved selfenergy of charged particles even more.
    Which of course raises the question to Bearden - if he doesn't include the effects from electroweak theory (the next history step), isn't he the one who uses "simplified" theories? Not that we usually need to complicate things, but he seems to be eager.
    He is after all willing to claim that Yang & Lee Noble prize for parity symmetry breaking shows the "asymmetry [ ] used by charges and dipoles for extracting and pouring out Electromagnetic energy from the vacuum". (Apparently dipoles aren't composed by charges for Bearden.)
    But the real joy for me is his alleged perpetuum mobile class 1, the 'energy extracting' MEG. It consists of a feedback dual transformer package which is pulsefed to resonance and then cut loose, except for two switch transistors to sustain the resonance by choosing alternating feedback coils.
    In Bearden's mind it is the switch transistors who feed the MEG when it delivers power, the pulsefeed is just a preparation, so by plotting output power vs input switch power he demonstrates a positive extraction. Apparently that was patentable.
    I especially love the picture from the shorting on the MEG. The text "Note unusual green color of the flash" is apparently a claim of proof that this is vacuum energy.
    Most of us have of course seen the typical green light from shorting copper wires. It comes from copper ions ( http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem00/chem00269.htm ) which gives the typical azure copper flame color ( http://webmineral.com/help/FlameTest.shtml ). So this is rather an easy proof of crankhood, prominently displayed on the front page.

  • Blake Stacey says:

    Torbjörn Larsson:
    Thanks for pointing out the real science behind the crank claim! I think I'll bring that up the next time I get to write about flame testing.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    I tend to agree with Harald K -- a lot of these sites are put up by people who genuinely believe what they are saying, due to messed-up thinking on a physiological level. It's more tragic than not. Which unfortunately doesn't dim their fascination -- sort of like a trip through Bedlam without leaving the comfort of your desk.
    I'm neither a physicist nor a mathematician, so I'm not sure I've interpreted this correctly -- but if I understand your analysis at all, what you seem to be saying is that Bearden is using two mutually incompatible sets of assumptions behind parts of his equations, one based on the constraints of relativity, and the other based on assumptions that Maxwell made about frames of reference, without regard to relativity? Or have I got that wrong?
    And, you said "Bearden is, quite possibly, the looniest crackpot I've found so far."
    --That can't be right. Haven't you seen Timecube?

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Luna:
    You're close, but not quite right.
    The problem with what he's doing isn't really a problem with Maxwell's equations - it's a problem with using the quaternion form of Maxwell's equations - and then stuffing the quaternions into one of relativities symmetric translations. It's specifically the mis-use of quaternions that makes the symmetric translation of relativity into an assymetric translation.
    It really makes no sense at all if you think about it in simple terms. What he's claiming is that if I first stand next to a fire hydrant and observe that it isn't moving; and then I get in my car and drive past it, and observe that it looks like it's moving relative to me, that I can extract energy from the fire hydrant's transition from non-moving to moving.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Luna:
    WRT the time cube guy... I should have said that Bearden was the looniest crackpot I've seen who retains a semblance of rationality or sanity. I actually feel sorry for the timecube guy - he's clearly seriously mentally ill, and from appearances, isn't getting any treatment.

  • Luna_the_cat says:

    Thank you. Yes, I had pretty much figured out what it meant in terms of physical reality -- and I reckon in anyone sane, this would have indicated that there is a problem with your calculations somewhere. But I was having difficulty figuring out exactly how one would define the problem in the equations. I never got past first-year calculus, you see (yes, I admit it -- maths is a weak area for me); quaternions are somewhat alien to my experience, and when people start talking about vectors I'm more likely to think of YAC and BAC cloning vectors. Somehow I don't think that's the same thing.
    WRT Timecube, yes -- if you can actually bring yourself to read deep enough, Gene Ray himself mentions a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It *is* a bit tragic, as I gather he was actually an ok engineer before he started deteriorating.

  • Quaternions are used in GN&C (Guidance Navigation and Control) of spacecraft and some aircraft for 3-D rotations of spacecraft attitudes. This uses less space and time in old fashioned computers than Euler angles or other representations. I wrote software at NASA/JPL for the Galileo Jupiter orbiter.
    That is, the Galileo itself used quaternions in the flight software, so my simulations used quaternions for Validation and Verification (V&V) of command sequences before uplinking them to the spacecraft. I used matrices and angles to avoid making any of the same mistakes that the flight software might have. So I alone inerconverted the two representations.
    But one older guy at JPL who had not even a college degree could do calculations with quaternions in his head. He could look at my scores of pages of matrix equations and say: "Yup. That's right."
    The complication was that the Galileo was a dual-spinner spacecraft, which had never before been used interplanetary. One part (rotor) could be fixed to the other (stator), or rotate at fixed speed, or by command, or be inertial. The articulated scan platform with telescopes of various frequencies was hinged to the rotor. So when you moved the platform to scan, say, the Great Red Spot, the whole system wobbled and nutated in absurdly complicated ways, which I had to simulate to ensure that nothing drastic happened (point telesope at sun and burn it out, throw spacecraft into chaotic oscillation).
    Galileo worked.
    There are several papers on quaternionic General Relativity. There's no a priori reason to belived that, say, Mass must be a real number, and not quaternions o0r something stranger.
    That thread we had about imaginary numbers -- are they imaginary, or just as real as the reals? That goes for quaternions, too.
    But you have to use them correctly...

  • Anonymous says:

    MarkCC:
    Have you ever taken a look at CreationWiki? Over at PZ's place, CalGeorge just posted a chunk of their "Earth" article, and it's priceless:

    Creationists infer that the Earth and solar system were designed, due to their beautiful, harmonic, and aesthetic motion, based on the golden ratio, ancient histories which affirm the creation of the Earth by God, and the absence of any functional alternative;

    I hadn't heard creationist jabber about the golden ratio before, but now that I think about it, finding it is not too surprising! CreationWiki has a whole article about it, which cites (I'm not joking) Spira Solaris Archytas-Mirabilis to support the claim about φ and the planets. From SSAM, I quote the following:

    Additional data, i.e., physical composition, orientation of planetary axes and planes of revolution, densities and gravities, etc., could also have been included in Table 1, but they remain difficult to separate from the early formation of the planetary structure itself, with or without subsequent modifications. More in keeping with the present approach and the need to enlarge the available database we may begin on the other hand by adding to the nine attested planets an Inter-Mercurial Object (called hereafter IMO) that owes its origins to orbital parameters determined by Leverrier. Reported in the journal Nature in 1876, the object in question (mean period: 33.0225 days, corresponding mean distance 0.201438 A.U.) lies between Mercury and the Sun as the title implies. Thus for present purposes the object serves to extend the range of planetary mean distances at the innermost extremity, which is not to suggest that the object is/was necessarily a planet per se, but rather (subject to reservations already stated above) an object that may or may not be occupying a planetary location.

    Woo hoo!

  • Anonymous says:

    MarkCC:
    Have you ever taken a look at CreationWiki? Over at PZ's place, CalGeorge just posted a chunk of their "Earth" article, and it's priceless:

    Creationists infer that the Earth and solar system were designed, due to their beautiful, harmonic, and aesthetic motion, based on the golden ratio, ancient histories which affirm the creation of the Earth by God, and the absence of any functional alternative;

    I hadn't heard creationist jabber about the golden ratio before, but now that I think about it, finding it is not too surprising! CreationWiki has a whole article about it, which cites (I'm not joking) Spira Solaris Archytas-Mirabilis to support the claim about φ and the planets. From SSAM, I quote the following:

    Additional data, i.e., physical composition, orientation of planetary axes and planes of revolution, densities and gravities, etc., could also have been included in Table 1, but they remain difficult to separate from the early formation of the planetary structure itself, with or without subsequent modifications. More in keeping with the present approach and the need to enlarge the available database we may begin on the other hand by adding to the nine attested planets an Inter-Mercurial Object (called hereafter IMO) that owes its origins to orbital parameters determined by Leverrier. Reported in the journal Nature in 1876, the object in question (mean period: 33.0225 days, corresponding mean distance 0.201438 A.U.) lies between Mercury and the Sun as the title implies. Thus for present purposes the object serves to extend the range of planetary mean distances at the innermost extremity, which is not to suggest that the object is/was necessarily a planet per se, but rather (subject to reservations already stated above) an object that may or may not be occupying a planetary location.

    Woo hoo!

  • There were some emails offline about Quaternions and Mass.
    (1)
    "There's no a priori reason to belived that, say, Mass must be a real number, and not quaternions or something stranger."--JVP
    Er, there's no reason to believe that mass must be any sort of number. Numbers are numbers. Mass is mass. Numbers are one convenient way of accounting for various, disparate pieces of mass, which are found distributed to various places and moving around at various velocities. This does not imply any sort of identity between the two, anymore than "actuarial tables are identically people".
    Imaginary numbers are exactly as imaginary as real numbers.
    Forrest Bishop
    Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering
    http://www.iase.cc/
    (2)
    Dear Jonathan and Forrest:
    Let's do a slight rephrasing (my particular speciality, which I suppose I learned via Woody Kelley when he was at Cornell, who got it from Willard Quine and Gustav Bergman):
    "There's no a priori reason to believe that the MEASURE of mass must be a real number and not a complex number, a quaternion or something stranger."
    Will that make everybody happy?
    Prof. Philip V. Fellman
    http://www.snhu.edu/2835.asp
    (3)
    Yes.
    -- JVP

  • Torbjörn Larsson says:

    This uses less space and time in old fashioned computers than Euler angles or other representations.

    I have also heard that it is safer since it in principle avoids the singularities of angle coordinates going around a sphere.
    Perhaps I will now find out (in the lazy way) if that was true. 😉

  • (1) Torbjörn Larsson: It's been a long time (1982?) so my memory is fuzzy. But I think that you're right. You know about the fleet of F22s whose GN&C software just went nuts last week when they crossed the international dateline, flying Hawaii to Japan? Or, maybe 10 to 20 years ago, the autopilot software that, on crossing the equator for the first time, spontaneously rolled jet lanes upside-down?
    (2)
    Dear Sir,
    No. Thank you for trying, but I'm just not satisfied. I'm still an unhappy, malcontented, misfit. See, the measure of the mass depends on using some other mass to make the measure of the first mass, and so on. Then, some system of drawing boundaries between the measured and the measurer has to be concocted, before one can even think about setting numbers to paper. How about- "the quantification of the measure of a real thing in terms of imaginary, mathematical entities that don't even exist in this Universe depends on a SUBJECTIVE restricting of what is claimed and perceived to be measured..( etc.)..." Later, we might ask which of these imaginary math-beings most resembles reality, but that only occurs after the sifting and sorting process described above- which introduces its own artifacts and simultaneously dessicates objectivity.
    Forrest the Unhappy
    "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." --George Bernard Shaw

  • Chris Noble says:

    Mark wrote: ....I should have said that Bearden was the looniest crackpot I've seen who retains a semblance of rationality or sanity
    It's a fairly thin shell.
    Have you read the stuff about using scalar EM for mind control.
    Apparently the soviets had the technology during the cold war. They used it to control the weathe rin the US. I wonder what happened to the technology after the collaps of the USSR.

  • Torbjörn Larsson says:

    You know about the fleet of F22s whose GN&C software just went nuts last week when they crossed the international dateline, flying Hawaii to Japan?

    I didn't think about an external sphere but the angles of for example spherical coordinates - I just posed the comment sloppy, luckily. But I guess it works both ways, especially for probes, satellites, and long distance aircrafts.
    Now I will never be able to sleep on a transpacific. 😉

  • [from Prof. Philip V. Fellman to Forrest Bishop]
    Hi Forrest:
    This is a familiar philosophical argument and can be
    found in both the blue and black notebooks as well as
    Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations" (also in
    all those dull Stanley Cavell papers from Harvard
    about the availability of the later philosophy of
    Wittgenstein).
    The position which I attempted to state is
    essentially the early position of Wittgenstein as
    articulated in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. If
    you reject that view (which Wittgenstein himself did
    in his later years), then indeed the only possible
    alternative view which makes any sense is basically
    the one you are advocating.
    As I see it, this isn't a disagreement, but a
    difference of viewpoints.
    Cheers,
    Phil

  • Flex says:

    Heh,
    Torbjörn Larsson's little side comment reminded my of the steering angle swtich we've been working on.
    It has to measure angular rate of change over three revolutions from the middle of the range, Or, +/- 1080 degrees around zero.
    To me the easiest way to view this problem is just like I indicated above. To some of the engineers, they were apparently uncomfortable in going beyond 360 degrees, so they referred to the changes in a two-dimensional number. The first being the +/- number of turns, the second as the number of degrees within the turn. E.g. {-2,30) would be two full turns plus 30 degrees counter-clockwise.
    I thought it was awkward because the sign determined the CW or CCW direction for both numbers, but it seemed to work out and no one was too confused. In some cases I think using this notation helped non-technical people visualize what was happening in the car.
    I can't say that one model really works better than the other. Although I think that having different groups use different models can lead to poor communication between the groups.

  • Blake Stacey says:

    Oops. That "Anonymous" comment (March 1, 2007 02:37 PM) is actually mine. I signed in with TypeKey so I could put in a few extra URLs, but it lodged in the moderation queue anyway and erased my name.

  • "... the vector analysis/quaternion wars ..."
    Of which I am some sort of survivor...
    For more on quaternions and how they relate to other sytems and structures see:
    Abstract linear spaces
    http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Abstract_linear_spaces.html
    "... In 1814 Argand had represented the complex numbers as points on the plane, that is as ordered pairs of real numbers. Hamilton represented the complex numbers as a two dimensional vector space over the reals although of course he did not use these general abstract terms. He presented these results in a paper to the Irish Academy in 1833. He spent the next 10 years of his life trying to define a multiplication on the 3-dimensional vector space over the reals. Hamilton's quaternions, published in 1843, was an important example of a 4-dimensional vector space but, particularly with Tait's work on quaternions published in 1873, there was to be some competition between vector and quaternion methods...."
    http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Hamilton.html
    "... On 4 November 1833 Hamilton read a paper to the Royal Irish Academy expressing complex numbers as algebraic couples, or ordered pairs of real numbers. He used algebra in treating dynamics in On a General Method in Dynamics in 1834. In this paper Hamilton gave his first statement of the characteristic function applied to dynamics and wrote a second paper on the topic the following year. Hankins writes in [1]:-
    'These papers are difficult to read. Hamilton presented his arguments with great economy, as usual, and his approach was entirely different from that now commonly presented in textbooks describing the method. In the two essays on dynamics Hamilton first applied the characteristic function V to dynamics just as he had in optics, the characteristic function being the action of the system in moving from its initial to its final point in configuration space. By his law of varying action he made the initial and final coordinates the independent variables of the characteristic function. For conservative systems, the total energy H was constant along any real path but varied if the initial and final points were varied, and so the characteristic function in dynamics became a function of the 6n coordinates of initial and final position (for n particles) and the Hamiltonian H....'"
    The Quaternion Debate-From Hamilton to Computer Graphics. Paul R. Bouthellier from University of Pittsburgh-Titusville
    http://math.bd.psu.edu/HistoryConference/schedule.htm
    In this talk we shall consider the history of quaternions from their creation by Hamilton in 1843 to their use in modern computer graphics. In particular, the mathematical atmosphere which existed at the time of their creation, the vector analysis/quaternion wars of the 1880s and 1890s, and the current debate over the use of quaternions in computer graphics will be discussed.
    Of particular interest is how the arguments in the computer graphics community over the use of quaternions mirror the vector/quaternion debate of over a century ago-with participants invoking the arguments of Gibbs, Heaviside, and Tait to justify their views.
    As a double Math/English Literature major at Caltech, I'll mention:
    "... Before beginning his duties in this prestigious position, Hamilton toured England and Scotland (from where the Hamilton family originated). He met the poet Wordsworth and they became friends. One of Hamilton's sisters Eliza wrote poetry too and when Wordsworth came to Dunsink to visit, it was her poems that he liked rather than Hamilton's. The two men had long debates over science versus poetry. Hamilton liked to compare the two, suggesting that mathematical language was as artistic as poetry. However, Wordsworth disagreed saying that [4]:-
    'Science applied only to material uses of life waged war with and wished to extinguish imagination.'
    Wordsworth had to tell Hamilton quite forcibly that his talents were in science rather than poetry:-
    'You send me showers of verses which I receive with much pleasure ... yet have we fears that this employment may seduce you from the path of science. ... Again I do venture to submit to your consideration, whether the poetical parts of your nature would not find a field more favourable to their nature in the regions of prose, not because those regions are humbler, but because they may be gracefully and profitably trod, with footsteps less careful and in measures less elaborate.'"

  • Mark CC,
    I want to thank you for so clearly zeroing in on Beardon's main fatal theoretical flaw/sleight of hand (or sleight of mind?), since I don't possess the ability to do so, and, as you write, he's got the expertise to make his woo appear rational to most (although that absurd fascination with the green flash shorting on the MEG was a giveaway even to me.)
    Can we assume that Bearden is intentionally lying in his theorizing in order to sell his books and derive a post-nuclear physicist-retirement income? Surely he's smart enough to see thorough his own woo?

  • Hours ago I submitted a long summary of the history of quaternions and the "quaternion-vector algebra wars" of the 1880s and 1890s.
    I'm guessing that it's stuck in some filter somewhere because it had maybe 5 hotlinks in it...
    Unfortunately, I didn't have time to email myself a copy, and it would take some time to reconstruct...

  • jon D. Sanford says:

    As an electronic hobbyist I have found Tom Beardens web site very useful & amusing. Amateur scientists also have dreams of stumbling on a lucky discovery. The leading edge of current professional Physics is so far behind the decimal point my VOM won't find it.
    The cornucopia of conspicuous waste provides me with a wealth of electronic parts. Dr. Bearden stimulates wild ideas. I have no reputation to protect.
    I think he is having a lot of fun!

  • buzz says:

    shouldn't you guys be in your cubicle writing grants? instead of posting stuff on the internet pretending you actually know something about something other than that one of your teacher's told you how and what to think about .... frankly, i don't know... once you get a look outside one dimension you'll never pretend you understand the infinite again.
    I'm not sure his MEG is a 'perpetual motion' thingy, as it hasn't any moving parts. Frankly, you ought to read his ENERGY FROM THE VACUUM book, and I think you see that his claim is that coils, like in transformer power supplies actually bend time-space to get energy flow.
    Don't know, I've been using some equipment in my lab, based upon his ideas to measure ... i'm not sure what, and in the two years nobody else seems to know either.
    Also, you forgot to mention Fitgerald and Lamour as sources of SRT. Btw, i'm not sure that 3 space quaternions have much use in 4 space theory. But then, this is america, they still teach euclid's fifth postulate, so who am I too criticize.....
    "Wordsworth had to tell Hamilton quite forcibly that his talents were in science rather than poetry:-" well, Wordsworth hadn't any talent at all much less in poetry, perhaps his daddy was a Lord or owned the publishing company. I'll be more polite about Hamilton because I don't know...
    so kiddies, don't forget to read Albert's 1920 paper, ETHER AND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY... and there is a tape recorded interview of Albert, in 1950, denying he ever said that "the speed of light is constant".... everything you have been taught is a lie.

  • I just sent some Facebook people to this blog, as they posted a Neil Adams video of the putatively Expanding Earth.

  • Katie Specks says:

    Can I suggest the following guy as an even loonier crackpot than Bearden ..... Nassim Haramein.
    You did such a great job of debunking Beardens bullshit, I'd love to see you do the same for Haramein. The guy is becoming annoyingly popular of late among the un-intelligentsia.

  • Bob D says:

    Katie: I've taken on Haramein over here if you're interested...
    http://bit.ly/haramein

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