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Lord Kelvin’s Core Values Defended

first_imgMyth: Lord Kelvin held back the progress of geology for 100 years by insisting the Earth was younger than geologists and evolutionists believed, but his model was refuted when radioactivity was discovered.  Fact: Radioactivity made no difference to Kelvin’s claims, and he was an exemplary scientist who rectified bad practices among geologists.  That’s the upshot of a claim that was made, criticized, then defended in the GSA Today, a publication of the Geological Society of America.1,2,3William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907). Click for biography.Last January (2007),1 Philip England (Oxford), Peter Molnar (U of Colorado) and Frank Richter (Dept. of Geophysical Sciences, Chicago) wrote an iconoclastic piece defending Lord Kelvin.  William Thomson, later referred to as Lord Kelvin, has had a patchy reputation among modern scientists.  In his day, the physicist of Glasgow was the most eminent scientist in the British Isles (see online book).  Even Mark Twain confessed, “As Lord Kelvin is the highest authority in science now living, I think we must yield to him and accept his view.”  But between his many accomplishments and honors, he also made enemies – especially among geologists.One of his most controversial views was that the Earth’s heat output (and that of the sun) proved it could not be older than 100 million years.4  In the 20th century, Kelvin’s reputation suffered.  According to England et al, a myth arose that his claims about a young earth were overturned by the discovery of radioactivity:We are left with the question as to why the myth persists that the discovery of radioactivity simultaneously proved Kelvin wrong and provided the explanation for his error.  Part of the answer, perhaps, is that it makes a good story.  Rutherford’s biographer (Eve, 1939) reports that he repeated his tale of thinking on his feet in front of the “old bird” Kelvin on many occasions; it is entirely possible that the pleasing form of the anecdote, and the eminence of its author, led to the uncritical acceptance of the myth.  As Stephen Gould (who himself propagated this myth) wrote: “The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best—and therefore never scrutinize or question” (1996).  It is hard to dissuade aging scientists, as they slip into their anecdotage, from repeating stories that they find amusing, but their younger colleagues must not mistake such stories for the history of science.(Let our elderly readers take relief in that they said anecdotage, not dotage.)  Kelvin has also been pictured as somewhat of a bombastic figure inserting his physicist views into geology where they didn’t belong:The story of Kelvin and the age of the Earth is often told as a David-and-Goliath struggle, with the geologists in the role of the underdog armed only with the slender sword of geological reasoning, while Lord Kelvin bludgeoned them with the full force and prestige of mathematical physics.  Kelvin’s come-uppance is often taken as evidence that simple physics ought not to be applied to geological problems, but there have been numerous occasions when simple physical models have had great explanatory power in geology.The authors wrote to set the historical record straight.  It is not that they agree with his age estimate – not at all.  They affirm modern estimates to the tune of billions of years.  Kelvin was wrong, they wrote, not because of radioactivity, and not because his equations and calculations were erroneous, or because he was out of his field, but because his assumptions about the thermal structure of the Earth were questionable.  They described how one of Kelvin’s former assistants, John Perry, showed that the earth could sustain its heat for two billion years by convection if one assumed a firm crust and a liquid interior.  This had nothing to do with the discovery of radioactivity, which they said made no difference to Kelvin’s model.  The heat contribution from radioactivity was negligible; “consequently—even if Kelvin had included radioactive heat in his calculation—his estimate of the age of the Earth would have been unaffected.”While exonerating Kelvin of errors in his physics, mathematics and modeling, the authors also defended his reputation as a great scientist.  Some historians have tended to focus on some blunders Lord Kelvin made and predictions that did not come true.  England et al. give good press to the Scottish physicist.  They defended his use of physical models and equations.  They defended his explicit mention of his assumptions behind his models.  They defended his corroborating one conclusion (the age of the Earth) with another (the age of the sun).  They praised his use of thermodynamics, and they defended his scientific restraint in a milieu of hot air and passionate rhetoric.  Kelvin himself in 1899 “cites many examples of rhetoric from his opponents and, while Kelvin himself was generally quite measured in his replies,” they said.  His view on the age of the Earth fell into disfavor not due to any failings as a scientist, but because “all simple models are bound to fail, and we may learn as much by their failure as by their successes.”The ones who don’t come out smelling like a rose in this paper are the geologists of Kelvin’s day.  England, Molnarb and Richter described how they were under the spell of Lyell and Hutton:The early nineteenth-century formulation of Uniformitarianism was commonly expressed through Hutton’s aphorism, “No vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.”  The doctrine that the Earth was of unlimited age allowed geologists to explain any phenomenon not by the laws of physics, but by “reckless drafts on the bank of time” (Chamberlin, 1899).  For Kelvin, this game without rules was simply not scientific; indeed, it was forbidden by the laws of thermodynamics, which he had played such a large part in developing.Kelvin was good for geology, they explained, because he forced them to deal with the realities of physics.  Thermodynamics proved the Earth had a finite age.  Lazy geologists, accustomed to infinite resources in the bank of time, needed to get real.  Kelvin forced them to realize that “quantitative reasoning was a crucial part of geological endeavor.”4  But have the lessons been learned?  They quipped that today’s geologists, by recklessly assuming inexhaustible heat from radioactivity, have merely changed banks: “In other words, Chamberlin’s ‘reckless drafts’ were now on the bank of heat, rather than on the bank of time.”Criticizing geologists in a geological journal may not have been the better part of discretion.  This month, two geologists seemed to take umbrage at this rehabilitation of Kelvin.2  Hofmeister and Criss from Washington University of Missouri said, “In touting John Perry, England et al. (2007) misrepresent modern and historical efforts to understand Earth’s cooling.”  They took issue with numbers England et al. gave for thermal conductivity and convection, and also pointed to “Kelvin’s fundamental error of using equations inappropriate” for cooling of the Earth.  They disagreed with the insufficiency of radioactivity as a heat source.  Then, they ended with this stinger: “Kelvin’s famous calculations, coupled with denial of observational data, impeded geoscience for ~100 yr.  It is a shame to see data ignored and Perry lionized given his statement ‘I dislike very much to consider any quantitative problem set by a geologist.’”England et al struck right back.3  “In touting their views, Hofmeister and Criss (2007) misrepresent what we wrote, what Perry wrote, and some simple aspects of heat transfer.”  After defending the technical points, they got to the personal matters of character and reputation:Their final paragraph is purely rhetorical.  Kelvin did not ignore observations; indeed, his attempts to use observations to constrain the age of the Earth forced geologists to abandon their reckless drafts on the bank of time.  Hofmeister and Criss’s dismissal of this history as Kelvin’s “impeding geoscience for ~100 years” is not supported by serious work on the matter.  Furthermore, their attack on Perry shows a complete misunderstanding of a modest and conciliatory person.  Perry’s reluctance “to consider any quantitative problem set by a geologist” should be taken as an expression of qualms about his ability to combine geology and physics, not as hubris.1Philip England, Peter Molnar, Frank Richter, “John Perry’s neglected critique of Kelvin’s age for the Earth: A missed opportunity in geodynamics,” GSA Today, Volume 17, Issue 1 (January 2007), pp. 4-9, DOI: 10.1130/GSAT01701A.1.2Anne M. Hofmeister, Robert E. Criss, Comment on England et al, GSA Today, Volume 17, Issue 7 (July 2007), p. 10, DOI: 10.1130/GSAT01707C.1.3Philip England, Peter Molnar, Frank Richter, REPLY to Hofmeister and Criss, GSA Today, Volume 17, Issue 7 (July 2007), p. 11, DOI: 10.1130/GSAT01707R.1.4They recounted a conversation Kelvin had with an old-earth geologist, who said, “I am as incapable of estimating and understanding the reasons which you physicists have for limiting geological time as you are incapable of understanding the geological reasons for our unlimited estimates.”  Kelvin gave him the memorable retort, “You can understand the physicists’ reasoning perfectly if you give your mind to it.”5Working through Kelvin’s equations, they said, “…this gradient yields an age of 96 Ma; Kelvin (1863a) gave bounds of 24 Ma and 400 Ma on the age to take account of uncertainties in thermal gradient and thermal conductivity.”  Kelvin used his calculations as an upper limit for the age of the Earth.  This should not imply that he believed it was actually that old.  This upper limit wreaked havoc among the Darwinians who needed much more time to evolve their tree of life, because at best, it is less than 1/10 the geologists’ assumed age of the Earth; at worst, 1/200.  This “odious spectre” caused Charles Darwin and his disciples extreme stress (02/02/2004 commentary).  In desperation, they tried to find workarounds to the clear scientific constraint Kelvin had imposed.  It forced Darwin to try to speed up the evolutionary process with Lamarckian mechanisms.  Darwin died before radioactivity was discovered, but the evolutionists jumped on it as the answer to Kelvin.  That was undoubtedly part of the reason it became a myth that few questioned with the kind of mathematical and physical rigor that marked Kelvin’s reputation (for a recent example, see Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun assuming radioactivity answered Kelvin, and the Bible).  It is notable, therefore, that England et al. here dismiss radioactivity as a cure-all for the heat problem.What a colorful phrase—“reckless drafts on the bank of time.”  Doesn’t that describe the banking habits of evolutionary biologists and geologists still today?  They think long ages provide a blank check for any miracles they need.  It was good for these three men to set the record straight.  Kelvin was not perfect, but he was a heck of a lot better scientist than many geologists of his day and thereafter who speculate with utter disregard for the realities of thermodynamics.  Unless someone holds them accountable, these reckless check writers will continue to commit fraud via time laundering and heat laundering.Pay attention to footnote 4 above: “You can understand the physicists’ reasoning perfectly if you give your mind to it.”  Kelvin was a Christian with a high regard for the Bible (see footnote 5 above), but notice how he appealed to his colleagues’ scientific integrity, not to religious arguments, to challenge the Darwinian revolution that was in full gear at the time.  That’s still an effective strategy in today’s debates against materialistic pseudoscience.  We need more Lord Kelvins.(Visited 112 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Design Language Works in Biology

first_imgThere are many ways to explain design in nature without having to get religious about it.If “evolutionary” is a useless word in science (5 Dec 2019), then what should biologists replace it with? How about design language?Actually, that is already happening frequently in science reporting. The whole field of biomimetics uses the language of engineering, and speaks of “design principles” in biological traits. Cell biologists speak of “molecular machines” freely. Many writers don’t even use the e-word evolution at all. So if scientists are hesitant about infusing theology into science, no worries. Just take the useless Darwinism out of it, and let the facts speak for themselves.It’s even possible to wax eloquent about design in science writing. When biologists are accustomed to speaking in specialized jargon among themselves, appropriate metaphors about esoteric processes can aid understanding for lay readers. A prime example showed up in a press release from North Carolina State University about the stem cells in roots. Mick Kulikowski titled his article, “‘Conductor’ Gene Found in Plant Root Stem Cell ‘Orchestra’.” The question before researchers was, how do stem cells in the roots know when to differentiate, and what to become? They found a highly choreographed process.Like an orchestra with its various component instruments working together to create beautiful music, plant root stem cells work within various networks to perform various functions. TCX2 ensures that these local networks communicate with each other, similar to an orchestra conductor making sure that horns, for example, don’t drown out the violins.The interdisciplinary research included molecular biology experiments in Arabadopsis thaliana, or mustard weed, as well as mathematical modeling and machine learning approaches to narrow down some 3,000 candidate genes to learn about the causal relationships between different root stem cell networks.Science should deal in causal relationships. Causation implies law-like behavior, as opposed to the Stuff Happens Law. It is perfectly appropriate when conveying esoteric processes, therefore, to describe them in terms of other relationships readers understand. Analogies are useful teaching tools, the Baloney Detector explains:Analogies, humor, visualization, quotations by authorities, and statistics, for instance, are valid parts of rhetoric (persuasive speech), and can be legitimate and helpful teaching aids. These only err as fallacies or become propagandistic to the extent they dodge the issue, obscure the truth, mislead or take the lazy way out of a debate.What would be propagandistic in the press release above would be to mislead readers into thinking that this highly coordinated system evolved by chance, or just “happened” without foresight or plan: for instance, drawing an analogy between root stem cell behavior and a dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop. People can visualize a conductor shushing the horns and encouraging the violins. If stem cells are managing expression of parts in a complex performance, the orchestra analogy fits. Other analogies can help as well:To validate the network prediction and mathematical modeling, the researchers took an experimental approach. They both overexpressed and knocked out the TCX2 gene and found that the timing of plant root stem cell division suffered. Sozzani and Natalie Clark, the paper’s first author and a former NC State biomathematics graduate student, likened this to the principle behind the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – the porridge was acceptable only when its temperature was “just right.”The word “design” itself should not be avoided in scientific writing over worries about religion, creationism, or the Intelligent Design Movement. Scientists design experiments; they know all about planned investigations that require foresight and planning. If they see animals or plants or cells acting in ways that look designed, so be it. Say so.Readers are free to make philosophical or theological inferences on their own, without scientists having to nudge them away from common sense to suppose that orchestras could have emerged by chance.(Visited 96 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

South Africa’s Van Niekerk makes sprint history

first_imgSouth African athlete Wayde van Niekerk has become the first runner in history to break records for the 100m, 200m and 400m events, the International Association of Athletics Federations confirmed on Saturday, 12 March 2016.Sprinter Wayde van Niekerk made South Africans proud when he was the first runner in history to break records for 100m, 200m and 400m events. His 100m win in Bloemfontein on 12 March 2016 puts him on track for success at the Rio Olympics in August. (Image: All Athletics)Brand South Africa reporterWATCH: SA #sprinter Wayde van Niekerk makes history https://t.co/wcTY2rQIsS #WaydeVanNiekerk pic.twitter.com/NX61uDIDSm— The Daily Dispatch (@Dispatch_DD) March 14, 2016Almost a week after South African runner Akani Simbine broke the South African 100m record in Pretoria on 8 March 2016, fellow South African Wayde van Niekerk, the current world 400m champion, became the first runner to break records for 100m, 200m and 400m events.The last of these three achievements was at an athletics event in Bloemfontein on 12 March. He broke the 10-second barrier for the 100m race, posting 9.98 seconds to win.Previous records broken were his 19.94-second run in the 200m at an event in Luzern, Switzerland in July 2015, and his 400m champion win in Beijing in August 2015 with a time of 43.48 seconds. Bloemfontein, with its legal 1.5m/sec tailwinds and 1 300m altitude as advantages, enabled Van Niekerk to complete his trifecta. Before Saturday, he had not run the 100m since his junior athletics days.His record this weekend puts Van Niekerk in a very exclusive 100-metres-in- under-10-seconds club that features not only current 100m world champion Usain Bolt, but also previous race winners Tyson Gay and Yohan Blake.Wayde van Niekerk 100-200-400 Combo – Where does he Stack up? https://t.co/gV9NS6GuDI pic.twitter.com/hgzfd5W7wJ— SpeedEndurance (@speedendurance) March 13, 2016While these times look encouraging for his success at the forthcoming Rio Olympic Games, starting in August 2016, Van Niekerk has chosen to contest only the 400m race at the Games, as he considers it his strongest event and his chances of winning a medal for it look promising.He was the silver medallist in the 400m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and took bronze in the 4×400m relay at the 2013 Summer Universiade. He also represented South Africa at the 2013 and 2015 Athletics World Championships‚ winning a gold medal in the 400m in the latter event.He took to Instagram to thank his fans for their support and post a video of the Bloemfontein race.Fans, particularly Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, congratulated Van Niekerk on Twitter for his win, and wished him luck for Rio.Proud moment for our SA Sportstar of the year 2015 pic.twitter.com/aDE4pnzIsj— RSA Min of Sport (@MbalulaFikile) March 12, 2016Shame, poor Telkom. They do an entire marketing campaign about how fast Usain Bolt is and then Wayde van Niekerk breaks the 10 second/100m.— Mr. Missing (@chestermissing) March 13, 2016Thousand pounds of respect for Wayde van Niekerk on his recent achievement. Big ups !— Oleboheng Rasenyalo (@drnkmorewater) March 14, 2016Source: News24Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.last_img read more

South Africa takes note of ratings outlook

first_img8 June 2015Responding to Fitch Ratings’ latest rating assessment of South Africa, the government said it recognised that the country’s economic growth needed to be accelerated, and that it was addressing the issues raised by the international ratings agency at the highest level.Fitch affirmed South Africa’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings at “BBB” and “BBB+” respectively, and also affirmed the negative outlook.It said key drivers for the rating decision included weak economic growth potential on the back of electricity supply constraints and external financing vulnerabilities. The country’s deep local markets enhanced fiscal financing flexibility, it added.The structure of government debt, 91% of which was denominated in local currency, limited exchange rate and refinancing risks. An improvement in the growth outlook and reduction in the current account and budget deficits would assist in stabilising the rating, Fitch said.In a statement issued by the National Treasury at the weekend, the government admitted that the country’s economic growth performance needed to be higher in order to address South Africa’s challenges. Resolving the energy challenge was a priority, it said.It pointed out that the government’s package to support Eskom was progressing, and that plans announced last week to allocate R23-billion into the company and convert a R60-billion loan into equity were firmly on track.“The implementation of priority reforms of the National Development Plan remains a key objective of [the] government. Growth enhancing initiatives and programmes, targeting key sectors of the economy such as the energy sector, are being implemented to support the country’s economic competitiveness,” said the National Treasury.It added that the government would broadly stick to its expenditure with regards to the fiscal position.Source: News24Wirelast_img read more

Are smart city startups the 2.0 version of cleantech firms?

first_imgRelated Posts Donal Power Tags:#cleantech#IoT#Smart Cities#solar#Solyndra#techstars#Venture capital Surveillance at the Heart of Smart Cities The smart city space is basking in interest from global governments and companies looking to invest where environment and technology intersect. This intersection was formerly considered the domain of cleantech, and under the smart city mantle it may be so again.A recent Bloomberg article raised the notion that many cleantech startups are rebranding as smart city companies to ride the wave of investor interest in the sector.After years of cleantech being seen as a venture capital pariah, these companies are finding opportunity in attracting fresh capital under the guise of smart city startups.Jenny Fielding of incubator Techstars says her group is busy pitching their latest cohort of startups to venture capitalists (VCs) as smart city companies.“We’re not packaging this as cleantech; we’re saying these are smart cities,” says Fielding. “That’s a very popular term right now, and people are throwing a lot of money toward that proposition. I’ve seen that what’s old becomes new again, and it just has a different name and a different business model.”And indeed, smart cities are where the smart money is at… at least for the near future. According to report by research firm Frost & Sullivan the smart city market is anticipated to grow to $1.57 trillion by 2020.Companies branded as cleantech suffered serious reputational damage a few years ago after several major hardware investments tanked and VCs began to sour on the segment.Sun hasn’t always shone on solarNotable black eyes to the cleantech sector included Nanosolar Inc. which ended up having to auction off its assets in 2013 after drawing in hundreds of millions of dollars from venture investors.Another lemon was solar firm Solyndra which collapsed in 2011 after attracting over $1.5 billion in funding.Amid rampant smart city enthusiasm, local governments are propelling the rehabilitation of companies working in fields formerly considered cleantech. Cities are working with venture capitalists to fund innovations where clean infrastructure, Internet of Things technology and big data intersect.And this funding renaissance is translating into a flood of financial incentives from cities including tax benefits, subsidized offices and funds for incubators.Fielding says that cities are an ideal launch pad for newly renamed cleantech startups, because of the huge fonts of data that can be collected on energy, air quality and infrastructure.“Cleantech, in a way, was the 1.0 version, and now if you wrap connectivity, internet and artificial intelligence and all those things that can make cleantech smart, I think there’s a value proposition that investors and the market can get their head around,” said Fieldingcenter_img How IoT Will Play an Important Role in Traffic … How Connected Communities Can Bolster Your Busi… For Self-Driving Systems, Infrastructure and In…last_img read more