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Tony Grist

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Dark [Feb. 10th, 2006|08:52 am]
Tony Grist
OK- so most of the universe is made up of "dark matter"- which doesn't show up on any of our scientific instruments- and "dark energy"- which is even more elusive. As one of the sceptical participants in last night's Horizon grumbled, "this isn't physics, it's fairies at the bottom of the garden."


Am I being naiive, or does this mean that scientific materialism is finished? Or, to put it another way, who's to say that ghosts and fairies (and angels and demons and djinns and gods and goddesses and Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster) can't exist when it's scientific orthodoxy that most of the stuff in the universe is something other than matter as we know it?

[User Picture]From: qatsi
2006-02-10 03:23 am (UTC)
It was an interesting programme, with a popular narration style but without being dumbed down.

I found the Israeli scientist Milgrom particularly interesting. Conceptually it's more convincing to say that if you can't make empirical observations about "stuff" then it doesn't exist, and therefore the laws of physics must be wrong. That's exactly what Einstein did with the theory of relativity - the Michelson-Morley experiments demonstrated the lack of an aether and the constancy of the speed of light, though most physicists at the time presumed that meant the experiment was flawed or just not sensitive enough.

As for scientific materialism, well at least the programme didn't discuss string theory ... another thing which many physicists "believe" to be right but for which there it little, if any, compelling evidence. I wonder what Richard Dawkins has to say about that?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-02-10 03:28 am (UTC)
It was fun wasn't it? I particularly liked the bit where they were playing tennis with invisible rackets.

Yes, Milgrom was interesting. I guess the whole thing rather nicely illustrated Newton's line about wandering along the edge of an unknown ocean, picking up sea shells.

I find it both comforting and exhilarating (if that's not a total contradiction) to have it confirmed that there's still so much we don't know.

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