Ivan in Michael’s textbook

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Michael showed me page 451 of his science textbook just now, and I had to scan it and post it here.

Ivan in Michael’s text

Yes, indeed, it appears that our friend, Ivan Semeniuk, is now famous enough to appear in high school textbooks!
What’s next? schools named after him? 🙂

See the
full-sized image on flickr.

family, friends, science.

About rae

I'm a long-time Mac and iOS developer. I'm also a big fan of Ruby on Rails and relational databases. I tend to work remotely, in my basement with occasional trips to the office. I'm also a big videophile, both TV and film, and can't wait for a good, inexpensive home 4k solution.

14 comments on “Ivan in Michael’s textbook

  1. Jeff K

    I find the quote on that page about getting to look at more than just one tiny part of science to be quite important philosophically. I too quite enjoyed astronomy through my youth, however I’ve been left a little disillusioned from the fact that the popular books I read rarely mentioned the winding dilemma of spiral galaxy evolution, despite the fact that Bertil Lindblad noted it well before I was born and a wide variety of other issues. Another is the steady state theory. When I was quite young, you could still find serious discussions of it in popular magazines, then from about 1972 to 2004 it was simply sluffed off in magazines and such as “discredited”, however in the late 1990s the discovery of an accelerating universe led to the proposal of quasi-steady-state theories (don’t ask me why…)

    Now you may just feel that this is a feature of science as it corrects itself based on observation, but it is not. It is only recently that a big name in the Big Bang, Stephen Hawking has started to take the problems with that theory seriously, and only *because* *he* published his thoughts do the magazines change their tune (it seems). It’s a typical hierarchical structure, as opposed to the logically based system you are taught in highschool math, for example (well, until you get to integration, I guess 🙂 )

    One more quick dig at media science. The Toronto Star headline today is something like “U.S. Smog batters Ontario” … “a new study says”. I wonder if they search their own databases, as such studies have been around for decades. I wonder also, if their writers have heard of a place called Hamilton.

    Here’s an article from 2000: http://www.cleanair.web.ca/whatsnew/boh7-18.html
    A similar article from the Globe & Mail from 1998: http://www.cleanair.web.ca/media/med98.html
    A government page: http://www.driveclean.com/why/smogprob/gf1_1e.html
    1998 government brief: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/programs/3952e_7.htm
    Mid 80’s (acid rain): http://www.glu.org/english/information/newsletters/14_3-spring-2000/US-Canada-negotiations.html

    Ivan does a great job, of course, but one should be aware of article writers’ philosophies so one can enjoy the broader spectrum of the sciences, as the quote on the page suggests one can do.

  2. aiabx

    Well, after the cosmic background results and the Hubble views of the early universe, I don’t think there is any serious doubt about the validity of the big bang. There is a lot of question about the mechanisms, the precise behaviour of proto galaxies and dark energy, but these are just details in a well established theory.
    Of course science is full of stuff we don’t understand. That’s why we do it. And the paradigms do change. Don’t forget that people sneered at the Big Bang theory (it’s very name was a dismissal by Fred Hoyle) when it first arrived, but the evidence for it now massively outwieghs the evidence against it.

  3. Jeff K

    I have a rather good book explaining why cosmology patterns a religion rather than a science. On http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble%27s_law 3rd word, 2nd paragraph, you see the dreaded word, “assumes”. If the assumption fails, you have to back out *everything* after that, which leaves you with, well, nothing. No dark energy, the super-liminal expansion of space in the first 10 seconds after the Big Bang, the current assumed expansion of space, the cosmological constant… etc. They all go out the window. Well, except for an expanding universe, which is the bare-bones layman understanding of the Big Bang, so you don’t have to throw out the paradigm, at least.

    Be that as it may, the philosphical baggage towed around with these theories in the popular magazines is annoying to me too, such as not being able to discuss cosmogony because if it was a Big Bang, all history/evidence was wiped clean before that point in time (pardon???), or causation doesn’t hold because of Quantum physics… again, pardon?!

    What is true & false, the realm of philosophy, hits a wall in science. I think it has a lot to do with human nature, and more specifically, the out-of-sight out-of-mind problem. Take “absorption spectroscopy”, what allows us to measure the Hubble “constant”. A photon hits an atom and an electron moves to another orbit. That’s what they taught in University and that’s what you’ll find here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_spectroscopy It’s all well and good until you actually think about what they’re talking about. Like okay, I’m looking at some nice white light. Oops, I mean a random distribution of light quanta, er no I mean random photons passing through a thermally excited gas originating as black-body radiation. Er no, it was photons with *exactly* the right energy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectral_line .. oh heck what *did* they teach in University? “Here are some partially functional models, and here are some semi-accurate experiments and observations, and here are some grossly approximate equations that sort of fit the results sometimes.” For fun, check out the list of parameters for the LCDM model of the Big Bang: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model Riddle me this: What’s missing in the list of parameters? I’ll give you a hint: It was postulated in 1895. [it’s also badly covered by one of the assumptions in the Big Bang theory, IMHO, as bad as that yechy steady state theory].

    Okay, back to philosophy. Why do we need to make an assumption about something that has 2 possible values? What is wrong with detailing the consequences of both values? The tired-light theory never appealed to me, but we’re only looking for the assumption about 100% red-shift from doppler effects to be possibly true or possibly false.

    Here’s a page that’s probably on the Big Bang Index Librorum Prohibitorum:

  4. rae Post author

    Here’s the beginnning of that paragraph you mention:

    If one assumes that this redshift is caused by Doppler effect while galaxies move away from us then it leads to a picture of an expanding universe and, by extrapolating back in time, to the Big Bang theory.

    The red-shift assumption is really a theory. The reason it is used is because it’s the best theory we have so far. I’m not sure how much it’s been tested (space probe transmissions perhaps?), but nothing better has been put forward as far as I know. Of course, that could be the rub: “as far as I know”.

    I would hope that in this day of internet journalism, where anyone can publish a blog and make their pinions known, any useful theories (by this I mean theories which can be tested, not God-created-the-world-completely-with-fossils kinds of theories) would become self-evident, as the blogosphere is proving itself to be a hierarchy-busting meritocracy.

    I, for one, would be interested in a blog where alternative theories are put forward, along with links to articles/theories and any results of tested predictions. Without those results, it’s impossible to judge a theory, after all.

  5. aiabx

    Well, the cosmological red shift is consistent with other yardsticks we have for the size of the universe; galactic sizes, supernovae brightness, cepheid variable brightness, etcetera. It’s possible that light is getting tired, but that would imply a lot of bizarre things about galactic evolution; that galaxies are shrinking over time, that supernovae are brightening over time and so on. The simpler solution is that the redshift is caused by the doppler effect. The fact that you can get differential redshifts on either side of a spiral galaxy indicates that the doppler redshift is a real effect; no similar evidence has been presented for “tired light”.

  6. Jeff K

    Well it certainly seems some %age of the red-shift is doppler. If you poke around wikipedia, you can find some of the other ideas which have popped up in the past: “space itself” expands causing the photons to stretch with space, tired-light etc. I think many of the relevent experiments have already been performed, and some genius will one day come up with a slightly more complicated equation that better explains the existing results.

  7. aiabx

    Sorry Jeff, I have to contest your cosmology/religion comparison. Cosmology is not your grade 10 physics class, where you can measure the spring-loaded cart and get an A. This is real cutting edge we-don’t-understand-it-yet science. And the criteria is not “does it make sense”, but “does it fit the observations, and does it predict new ones”. And there is a lot of fringe stuff that gets ignored, but not because they threaten the monolith of science. There are thousands of scientists who would sell their children to be the one to prove the old school wrong. If the fringe gets ignored, it’s because it isn’t good enough science. If it gets picked up (string theory, inflation, anisotropic microwave background), it’s because they explain a gap. The paradigms slowly change, but they are asymptoticially approaching the truth. That’s the great thing about science, is that there is a truth. It may be unlearnable, or incomprehensible, but there is a universe, and it exists whether or not we can satisfactorily explain it.

    If I may draw a specious metaphor, imagine the big bang theory represented by a car in a parking lot. I look over and say “Hey look, it’s a car”. Naysayer1 says “I can only see 2 wheels. It’s not a car, it’s a motorcycle”. Naysayer2 says “I can’t see the steering wheel. Cars have steering wheels. It is not a car”. Now, the overwhelming evidence available to me tells me it’s a car. These guys might be right, but the odds are good that there’s an explanation for their observations simpler than refuting the existence of a car. That’s why paradigm busting is so hard. There is so much evidence for the big bang that it would take a really killer falsification to break the paradigm.

    (btw I apologize to the buzzword police, but this is the correct usage of the word “paradigm”)

  8. Jeff K

    Re: religion: You’re welcome to discuss the book I have with me … at my place.
    There’s a philosophical pitfall in using the analogy of an asymptote. Ever seen the show “The Day the World Changed?”. Now there’s an analogy I like.
    As for killer falsifications, I believe we’re on the cusp of just such a thing. New Scientist had an interesting article last month. It wasn’t just one of their 2 paragraph ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ cranky things that pop up there so often.

    Now if I may work on your metaphor, only I’m going to switch to UFOs. Back in highschool in French class we had a project to produce fake pictures of Les OVNI (UFOs). G. got a salad bowl and dressed it up so it looked a bit like Gazoo’s deal, and worked in the dark room to make a technically perfect, well-lit photo of a Gazoo-like object in the sky. Not one to stick to cliches I picked a spaceship that had the general shape of an airplane. Thus quoth the French teacher:

    “G. you obviously worked hard on this photo!”
    “Jeff, that’s obviously just a jet aircraft passing by, you should have worked harder on it.”

    ..and you know what the truth is? G. already had a dark room and it was a simple double exposure that wouldn’t fool anyone. *my* picture truly made the teacher believe she saw a *real* airborne object *and* put me down for my laziness in simply photographing it! [That was very satisfying].

    So the next time you see a car and form a theory about what’s under the hood, ask yourself is that like G’s car or Jeff’s car? And if you hear the scream of super-charger belts, the rough-idle of a full-race cam, the hiss of air being sucked into a manifold, the ringing of headers and the sub-sonic rumblings of a free-flow muffler, maybe there’s a bit more to the car than the photons bouncing off it it are telling you.

  9. Jeff K

    Ugh, that’s “The Day the Universe Changed : How Galileo’s Telescope Changed The Truth and Other Events in History That Dramatically Altered Our Understanding of the World” by James Burke (1985) I went to see his oral presentation at Massey Hall in the 80’s.

  10. aiabx

    I have the book, and it is excellent. And it is true that the paradigms change as our perceptions of the universe do. But scientific questions do get solved. The age-old question of where the sun gets its energy from has been pretty much nailed down, even if there are still some lingering questions. A few years ago, everyone wondered where the neutrinos were. As it turned out, we didn’t need to scrap the idea of nuclear fusion, just our ideas about the mutability of neutrinos. Now of course cosmology isn’t nearly as complete, and if I were to read in New Scientist tomorrow that Inflation had been disproved, I wouldn’t blink, but I think there’s enough evidence for the Big Bang, in one form or another, that that part of the question has been essentially solved.

    As for the car, I made no claims whether it was electric, steam powered or even whether it goes. If I can flog the metaphor until it stops squirming, there’s lots of room to speculate about the mechanism of the big bang. I can make assumptions based on the tail pipe and the absence or presence of a big chrome 8 on the hood, but until I get up close and look inside, I won’t know.
    But it’s still a car. Unless God made a cardboard cutout of a car 6000 years ago to test my faith.
    Though that’s a differnt can of worms…

  11. Jeff K

    Well I don’t know if this is metaphorical, but it was a bit cosmic. We took the Hybrid up to Wasaga Beach to try out the electric 4WDi in the sand in the parking lot. Much like the manual says, when the vehicle is in electric-only mode, it sneaks up on pedestrians in silence. Cool, maybe I’ll have to relearn how to like heavy-metal. Anyway, I was sitting on the beach reading “Basic Teachings of the Great Philosphers” and I was in section 1, “The Nature of the Universe” 4-page subsection “The Views of the Later German Philosophers” (Kant, Hegel, etc.) when a seagull landed a crap right smack in the open book as I was reading it. I had to cut the 4 sides (2 pages) forming almost that entire section right out of the book. All that’s left of that section are a few sentences saying science represents crass materialism and idealists deny common sense.

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