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Has anyone seen and have an opinion on the tv show Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman? Answered

Specifically, when I watch the show, I end up with more questions then are being answered.  Today, he was speaking of the Big Bang, and the many theories involved lately.  He stated that the uniformity of the universe seems odd coming from an explosion that could only produce a random pattern. Then this was illustrated by dropping a balloon full of paint onto a canvas.  

WHAT?  The balloon itself would disturb the distribution of the paint so that was not a very good illustration.  If they could drop a "round bulk drop" of paint with no "containers" around it, into a vacuum onto a canvas; and if the same thing happened, I'd be more convinced that one "needs" inflation to make things uniform (I am not arguing against inflation theory, but rather that it is needed for uniformity). 

This is merely one example of the many questions I came up with in the first 20 minutes of the one hour show. I had to shut it off...at least for now to stop the explosion of things going through my head. 

Any thoughts and ideas and concerns are welcome. 

Here is the show....



Morgan Freeman is a great actor and I think that there is where he should stay. I found some of the shows ambiguous. In one show he even suggested that the idea of God is somewhere in our brains, that only lights up when certain areas of our brains are electrically stimulated.

Well, a good example is the current one I am speaking of:  String theory is pretty well established, but to say it is ONLY a theory is wrong wrong wrong.  It is almost like saying an apple is ONLY apple.

The latter part of the current show gets into multiple universes, and the demonstration of this is going to be mostly "just" postulation. At least, for now.

Um, string theory isn't nearly as supported and accepted as to make it ridiculous to deny or dispute. There's considerable disagreement on the subject.

Well, either it IS a theory or it isn't. Theories are not the same as postulations. Theory is normally pretty well established. But I realize there is quite a bit of disagreement on it, especailly by those that prefer 12 demensional space/time rather then the normal 4 we know of.

Well, yeah, but I think that in combating the "it's only a theory" idea, one can go too far the other way - theory doesn't equal "we know for sure this is absolute truth and that you are wrong if you say anything against the theory." (I don't have the knowledge base to competently argue for or against the validity of string theory, but I'm not aware of any experimental evidence to support it.)

I get the difference between hypothesis and theory...just saying I think it's important not to confer a sense of unquestionable authority to anything that has "theory" in the name. They _can_ become defunct.

The problem is, if someone says "its only a theory" on national TV, then those without any knowledge take up the chant: SEE ! Evolution, is ONLY a theory. Consistancy is needful.

String theory is sometimes called "unified" theory, because it does just that.

So we should be inaccurate in order to prevent people from being inaccurate? Somehow I don't think that is going to work.

It's great that it is unifying, but without proof, it's got no claim to truth.

FIrst, how does "Consistancy is needful" translate into inaccurate in order to prevent people from being inaccurate?   I said we should be consistant with how we use certain terms.  If that means to you that you must be inaccurate, then we might as well just go ahead and paint the door black.

If said theory has "no claim to truth" (and proofs are not what science is really all about anyways as, contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a scientific proof.), then it can't be referred to as a theory, and all of theoretcal science is hokum and maybe we don't know anything about the universe.

BTW:  Proofs DO exist only in mathematics and logic; just not in science.

It doesn't. "We shouldn't say anything to imply there is any doubt about a theory," however, does. Theory does NOT mean "no doubt at all, no sir" so to act like it does is to be inaccurate.

How does "there's no actual evidence to back up string theory" translate into "all science is hokum"?

Sure. But they don't necessarily consistently apply to the physical world. I can calculate all kinds of things with the mathematics of Newtonian physics(ok, _I_ can't, but you know what I mean). But they're not quite right - they're of no use in quantum physics. So string theory has the math (well...as long as you don't have an issue with some seemingly-arbitrary values which make the equations work), but without experimental results to back it up, it is not unreasonable to speak of it with less than absolute certainty, or to imply that it doesn't have all the answers..

Theory, in it's purest form, means ACCEPTED. It doesn't eliminate change, since proofs are not present in any case. BTW: where did I write "science" (knowledge) is hockum?

(Yeah I "know what you mean" because I can to some extent. )

and again, the term "accepted"  (theory) then should not be used....it is then a postulation or hypothesis.

Accuracy really does count,  example:  


Widely accepted doesn't always equal "no reasonable person would dispute this" (unless you want to call Richard Feynman and other Nobel laureates unreasonable, of course). I mean, misogyny is widely accepted in practice.

>BTW: where did I write "science" (knowledge) is hockum?

Well, you didn't draw a distinction between science and knowledge, but when you said:

>If said theory has "no claim to truth" (and proofs are not what science is really all about anyways as, contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a scientific proof.), then it can't be referred to as a theory, and all of theoretcal science is hokum and maybe we don't know anything about the universe.

Where are you getting these words? I never said no reasonable person would dispute certain things, but then we are back to it seems that you are claiming theories such as gravitation, electromagnetic, and evolutionary theory is up for questioning ?

Yes, I did mention that if you question what we do know, then theoretical physics must be in a lesser state. But I did say, IF. No claim is a pretty strong position. You'd have to demonstrate your understanding of the CMB situation is better then I've been led to believe :-) for me to lay any stock in such a statement.

Nope. YOU are the one who is saying that if we question this theory, all the rest are up for questioning, by virtue of the fact that they all have the world "theory" in their name, so we shouldn't say "it's just a theory."

I have no idea where you've been led to believe that my understanding of the subject is inferior to yours, nor whether that is an accurate assessment or not (why is cosmic microwave background radiation relevant to the discussion of whether one can support the questioning of string theory?). I do know it's irrelevant to the point at hand.

You said that you said IF, that your statement was a qualified one. So is my statement about string theory's claim to truth.

Please show me where I'm wrong and string theory is backed up by actual (not indirect "this could support it if we do the math this way") experimental evidence, and I'll gladly examine it and revise my statement. I never said I don't believe it. I never said it has no claim to truth, full stop. What I said was that _if you don't have evidence to back it (as opposed to calculations) - and I can't find any such direct evidence - then without that, it can't have a claim to truth. I don't think it's a particularly controversial statement that without actual evidence, any scientific claim is wide open to doubt and/or criticism.

(Oh, I see why you're mentioning CMB. I don't think it's a particularly helpful argument for you to make that I am ignorant of the situation it provides exactly no more evidence for string theory than you have provided. The only "situation" involving CMB that I am aware of is "yeah this could maybe someday provide a test for string theory" but I am unable to find anything that actually says "we tried it and it works.")

BTW: I am not "insinuating anything" with this, just a mutual look see at this. . .

:-\ What are you talking about, me being non-verbal?

Anyway...there's no "non-verbal" communication to be had over the internet (smilies and skype excepted of course). So I'm still not sure what you meant.

Since you don't see my "non-verbal" communication (gestures, facial expressions, etc.) and since I am so poor at reading that from others, we have to communicate by static word alone, and the "booklet" I reference demonstrates that is it possible. But we can assume anything, unless it is explicitly implied (and I don't normally imply anything, unless I am being jocular). :-) Just thought you might glean some insight from that ible; I have.

RATS, that should say: ...But we can't assume anything....

You wrote: So we should be inaccurate in order to prevent people from being inaccurate?

You can't control another but if one knows better they  have the moral obligation to BE accurate regardless of whether another will or will not be...  Or else, someone repeating an inaccuracy falls back on the originator.  

So then why do we have to act like the fact that it's called a theory means we can't question it?

o_0 Where in the last post did I say one can not question things? You may of course ask any scientist how much they question scientific theory (evolution for instance)? I am just looking for a little symmetry here (and I feel like I'm chasing a super ball in a concrete room). What I said one post above your last one is that: since you stated we'd be doing "something" in order to make another do something; I added that you can't technically make anyone do anything. Such belief in control is a fantasy. BUT if one spreads an untruth, one can not expect it to become truth by virtue of being propagated.

I leave you with this page, which does a better job of explaining it then I would...

You said we shouldn't say "it's *just* a theory." But that's completely accurate! Especially in theoretical physics, it's not in any way unreasonable to question a theory or say that phrase.

EVERY scientist I know will disagree with anyone that says it's JUST a theory in science as evidence that said "theory" has no foundation.

Now you're introducing new things - namely, "as evidence that said "theory" has no foundation. I'm talking about saying "it's just a theory" to say that there's still a level of uncertainty about what the theory attempts to explain.

In common parlance, and especially in "under the radar" social-engineering political parlance, the phrase "its just a theory" or "its only a theory" is extremely loaded. It is used extenstively by non-scientific political groups with a solid and demonstrated anti-science agenda (look up "Discovery Institute" and "Heartland Institute" for two examples).

It carries the obvious implication that whatever is being discussed is not "scientifically valid" but is nothing more than a tentative hypothesis which could be discarded tomorrow. In particular, it is used to justify the presentation of non-science ideas as having equal weight to extraordinarily well-established science.

Having a purportedly science-based presentation to the public use the same dismissive phrasing is unfortunate at best, and of concern for the agenda of the presenters at worst.

I think Goodhart was right to call it out.

Can I step in here?

In science, when a model is first proposed, it is a hypothesis.

That hypothesis is questioned and tested, modified if need be, until the model is as close to reality as conceivably possible.

When the hypothesis is tested, and cannot be found wanting, then the hypothesis is "promoted" to the level of "theory".

A model, in everyday parlance, may be casually dismissed as "only a theory", but in science, a theory is as close to The Truth as is humanly possible, and to dismiss it as "only a theory" is both inaccurate and, to be honest, somewhat disrespectful of the many work-years that went into formulating and formalising the theory.

"Only a theory" is how creationists attempt to present evolution as an easily-changed hypothesis.

However, that does not mean that a theory cannot or should not be tested and challenged. That is the meat and drink of formal science.

If something is to be dismissed as "only ...", then it should be "only an hypothesis", or "only an idea".

By the time a model becomes a theory, the only thing that can replace it is a better, more accurate theory (Newton to Einstein, plate tectonics etc).


Sorry to interject, but sometimes things need to be said clearly to prevent further confusion.

No problem interjecting; I do it all the time. :)

:\ I know the difference between a theory and a hypothesis full well. I've had it drilled into me. I know what both are.

But I hate this idea that a "theory" can never become defunct. Please, don't get me wrong - I am not saying "oh, we don't know anything and no theory is valid." I'm not making the YEC argument. What I am saying is that I am extremely uncomfortable with the dogmatism that is surrounding this one word here. Because "theories" CAN and *are* discarded. I imagine you'll say they weren't real theories, but note that some (many iterations of atomic theory, for example) fit all the criteria (have evidence, are falsifiable, etc). If a theory is falsifiable, then it's mere tautology to say it can be wrong, and proven to be so. If it isn't, it isn't really a matter for science to investigate.

And many of theories on that list were ones for which there was/seemed to be evidence. When scientists start calling things theories when there's NOT that large body of evidence for them, I don't see why I need to give as much respect to the word, or their work, as if that title were proven to be legitimate. I think the issue is well summed up by wikipedia: "While most scientists reserve the term for verifiable principles, others use it to refer to hypothetical frameworks." So not all scientists are using the term properly in the sense of something verified. And almost nobody on the street is. Unfortunately, essentially the entire public (and some scientists) use the term in a very loosey-goosy way...and usage defines meaning. You can call me gay, and mean it as "happy," (and be academically correct) but that's not what anyone would think you were saying if you did it on TV.

Again, I'm not using this as a basis to start science-bashing or something like that. I'm not here with an agenda of denying any scientific theory (string theory included). But it's very strange to me to be told "we shouldn't question that! It's a _theory_!" That is exactly the opposite of what my education has taught and (continues to teach) me.

TL;DR I just find it a silly argument that because they call it string "theory" anyone who implies there is doubt about it is ignorant and anti-scientific. I would welcome evidence for string theory, but I'm unable to find it. Maybe they shouldn't call it a theory, then. I very much dislike being told I (or a TV show) can't question the latest cosmological ideas because we happen to call them theories, regardless of the presence or absence of evidence to back them up.

Like I said, it's a theory when it's the best model humanly possible.

As techniques for making direct & indirect observations get better, then "what is humanly possible" gets closer to reality.

Discarded theories were as good as we were able to get at the time, and, indeed, still retain some usefulness (we know now that electrons do not orbit in tight circular shells, for instance, but the concept is still immensely useful in modern chemistry. Likewise, Newtonian physics were replaced by Einsteinian, but on a day-to-day basis Newtonian is all we need).

(Oh, and, yes, I do not accept the validity of "String Theory", but what should be discarded there is the word "theory".)

Thank you for your clarification Kiteman, as I wasn't being effective at communicating: If something is to be dismissed as "only ...", then it should be "only an hypothesis", or "only an idea".

Well, if I am not mistaken I remember on the third part of The Elegant Universe that string theory was compared to a philosophy about the cosmos because no tangible results from experimentation has prove or disprove the theory. We have mathematical equations that have given different results and that they suggest the possibility of other dimensions.

String theory certainly solves a whole lot of problems :-)

I read a great interview with Mr. Freeman recently. Apparently he's the one who pitched and supported production of this show, because of his own interest in science and the "big questions." The show does have some flaws (as does just about any popularization of cosmology, because the real details are extremely boring :-), but at least it's science-based, rather than all about aliens.

There is some very good evidence (from functional MRI studies, primarily) for the idea that "religious feeling" has a neurological basis. See, for example, this recent ScienceNews article, and the research cited therein.

Such research doesn't, and can't address the existence or otherwise of any particular deity, but it can address where in our brains such perceptions reside, in the same way that we can identify where in our brains our perceptions of our left leg reside.

Thank you, this was the kind of post I was originally looking for; an assessment of the quality of what was being presented as opposed to what you see in, say the newpapers. I appreciate your input.

I haven't watched it, I was put off by the pretentious trailer, which implied they would be taking the afterlife seriously. In a science show?

Tis there to draw in a wider audience me thinks. They do consult "real" cosmologists etc.

For the widest possible audience, they should be consulting "real" cosmetologists. When the dust settles, everything falls into place. Out of chaos is order. The universe has not stopped exploding or imploding.

Well, it is still expanding (inflation theory) :-)

and my wallet is shrinking (inflation theory)

pov, pov.....deflation (value of money) or inflation (value of goods)

Um...it's not "point of view" whether an economy is experiencing deflation or inflation. Or that deflation measures the value of money while inflation measures the value of goods. They are movements of the same value (1/P, the value of money measured in terms of goods), and cannot occur simultaneously.

If they are movements of the same value, they must occur simultaneously, yes/no?


No - they're movements in the opposite direction! Money can't get more valuable and less valuable at the exact same time. Of course, you can look at it in terms of having negative deflation when you have inflation, and vice versa. But all that really means is that the opposite of the term which is negative is occurring. "Inflation and deflation" can't occur at the same time unless one of them is negative, at which point is isn't "inflation" or "deflation" as generally used anymore.

Things can move in opposite directions simultaneously (like Newtonian-physics).
The original phrase was deflation (value of money) or inflation (value of goods) which as you said are movements of the same value.


I'm not really sure what you're talking about. :\ The samething can't move in two directions at once (leaving aside quantum mechanics, in which for all I know they can).

Walmart cannot simultaneously increase and decrease the price of a bag of cookies. Thus, neither can the price level simultaneously increase and decrease. So the value of a dollar can't be rising and falling at the same time.

>The original phrase was deflation (value of money) or inflation (value of goods) which as you said are movements of the same value.

Wait. Deflation and inflation are movements of the same value (in different directions), but those quoted definitions are not correct, since they have them measuring two different things (which was my original point).

Deflation and inflation are movements of the same value, 1/P. Inflation is positive movement (1/P decreasing) and deflation is negative movement (1/P increasing). By definition, 1/P *cannot* be moving in both a positive and a negative direction at the same time. It can go up or down, but not both at once. The overall price level (as opposed to its different individual components), can't be rising and falling at the exact same time. So neither can the value of money.

You said of deflation (value of money) and inflation (value of goods) that they are movements of the same value - I read that a person's view is either "money seems to be worth less" or "things cost more"; these are the same. It's a difference between money and material-wealth, I may be be a bit confused...
No, the definitions Goodhart gave aren't quite right.


Ah, I see where the confusion lies (I think). It comes back to the original definitions, if I'm not mistaken.

I _think_ what you are getting at is that as the price level goes up, the value of money goes down, and vice versa. (Is that right? I have a hard time speaking Brit sometimes. :) ) No argument on that here!

But just because they are two ways of saying the same thing doesn't mean that it's ambiguous (or can change on your point of view) whether there's deflation or inflation going on.

Changes in the value of money and the value of goods aren't movements of the same value because they measure different things (in terms of each other).  Inflation and deflation, however, are measures of the same value. Since the value of money and the value of goods aren't the same value, you can't use one for inflation and the other for deflation.

Yes, money being worth less and things costing more are two sides of the same coin (ha. ha.). But either way, you have to be consistent with the definitions you use - you either use the value of money as measured in goods, or the value of goods as measured in money, but you have to use the same one for both inflation and deflation; you have to measure them both in terms of either the value of money or the value of goods. And when you use the same one, they can't happen at the same time. 

..."value" doesn't look like a real word anymore. :D

I wish you could be at the pub when I'm talking with my friends about this sort of stuff....
Anyway what do you think about chocolate Easter-eggs?