A blog about science, medicine, media and the ramblings of Irish hack....

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quantum of nonsense Part I - A Crash course in quantum theory

 This is the first part of a two parter, discussing the use of the world 'quantum' by quacks. And rather than just jump into why they're quacks, I thought I'd split the post into two and give a brief history of quantum theory. Believe me, it's far stranger and more enjoyable than anything a purveyor of woo could spin. And I put some cute kittens in for good measure.

Quantum mechanics is weird - Discoveries in this field have been wonderfully counter-intuitive, prompting the legendary Niels Bohr to state "..those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.". In fact, so profound are some of the questions it raises about reality that the ineffable Richard Feynman once said "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.". Because the subject is so incredibly jaw-droppingly at odds with what we're used to in our macroscopic world, the fact that the microscopic behaves quite differently dazzles people.

But it is this very dazzling property that has made purveyors of nonsense grasp it, and use it as a stamp to justify their outlandish claims. The field of quantum mysticism and quantum healing is the use of modern physics terms to lend weight to a loose connection of new age and spiritual jargon, totally mangling the beautiful science in the process - Works by Deepak Chopra, Robert Anton Wilson, Gary Zukev et al have offered quantum mechanics as some kind of magical deus ex machina to explain away any gaping holes in their new ages drivel.  Only here's the kicker - invoking quantum mechanics to 'explain' these, or indeed any human experiences is so stupid, it's not even wrong. So I decided to write a post condemning these utter quacks, when I came to the realisation that starting off that way might deny my readers an insight into the utterly crazy world of quantum mechanics. So I decided to split the post into two, with the first part a quick crash course into the brain shaking world of the very small and some other time I shall do a follow up on why new-agers and quacks love the word quantum and how they get it wrong everytime....

Einstein reacts to Deepak Chopra's latest take on Quantum healing...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it - and I feel fine!

 A rant about John Cusak grimmacing, why the world isn't ending in 2012 and some adventures in base 12. Yes, it's the requisite 2012 post! Also I've just found out I've been shortlisted for a blog award from The Skeptic magazine which is a great honour - thanks so much for your nominations and support! 

To say the Mayans were an odd lot may be a tiny bit of an understatement. One minute happily making major advances in mathematics and astronomy, the next casually ripping the still beating heart out a living child's chest to celebrate the new year, which is what I imagine a party in Rick Santorum's house might be like. But the Mayans will be all over the news this year, despite the fact the society collapsed sometime between around the 8th century. Why is this ? Because, the popular press will tell you, the super accurate ultra astronomer Mayans predicted the end of the world in December 2012! And you know, it was in that awful 2012 movie so there must be something to it! Exclamation mark!

An entire movie based on John Cusak looking mildly annoyed about some CGI. I've ranted on it before..

Monday, February 6, 2012

20 years since the X case - Ireland's eternal shame

Today makes 20 years since the X case. 20 long years of hand waving, moralising, procrastinating, faffing about and delaying. 20 long years since a 14 year old girl was raped repeatedly by a man who impregnated her - and 20 years since the Irish state made a mockery out of justice and put religious considerations before the victims rights, before eventually doing the decent thing under massive social pressure.

International readers of my blog might wonder what the X case is, and indeed so might some of the younger Irish readers, so allow me to recap. In December 1991, a young girl is raped by a family 'friend' who impregnates her. The pregnancy and rape are reported to the Irish police in January 1992. The family decide to travel to the UK to procure an abortion, and ask the Irish police if they require DNA evidence from the foetus.

So far, the family have done everything right - their daughter has been the victim of a depraved act by a evil sadist. Remember, rape is not a crime of passion, it is a crime of power - In fact, the court judgements call the perpetrator "an evil and depraved man". They are doing everything in their power to protect their daughter, and bring the heinous individual to justice. Surely one would think the Irish state did all in their power to assist ?

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