Author Archives: EmpiricalWarrior

More on LIGO

The latest from the New York Times:

I have to admit that I find this type of pseudo-scientific puff piece conducive to depression. Nothing discussed here involves anything remotely to do with an actual observation. What is described instead, is a mathematical fiction, with such a slender and tenuous connection, to a dubious, claimed detection, it boggles the scientific imagination.

What we have here is a display, not of science, but of mathematicism, a disease of modern culture more reductive than reductionism. A large piece of 19th century machinery, polished and constructed, to spit out reams of data, destined to be massaged by elegant algorithms of deep complexity, in silent computers running ceaselessly, and laboring mightily to bring forth a shred of a signal, so flimsily beneath any possible sensitivity of the employed machinery, as to be laughable.

From this shredded evidentiary bean of dubious provenance, is spun a mighty mathematical beanstalk, a tale of fantastical proportions, with beasts of impossible construction, swirling about in a dance of destruction and laboring mightily to bring forth a shred of a signal, so flimsily beneath any possible sensitivity of the detecting machinery, as to be laughable.

This piece is nothing but a rewrite of a vapid press release, as substance free as a DJT tweet touting his magnificent intelligence. Science weeps, bound in a dungeon of mathematical formalisms.

[Comment submitted to NYT on 10/16/17. It may or may not get published.]

The LIGO Fiasco Rolls On

It has become clear now, after three so-called gravitational wave detections, that the LIGO enterprise is a wheezing exercise in mathematical fantasizing. It’s claims of a GW detection are without any real physical basis. LIGO is all math all the time with some updated 19th century technology appended to provide source data. That source date is then mathematically sculpted such that a quantum level signal detection is claimed which just happens to more or less agree with one out of a set of 250,000 precalculated ‘signal templates’.

Leave aside the question of whether it is physically possible for a large, classical scale, mechanical device to detect a quantum scale (10^{-20} m) displacement on an interferometer with two 4 km long arms. For now it is enough to point out that the more-or-less agreement between ‘signal’ and template is hardly sufficient scientific basis for the subsequent elaborate and exquisitely precise description of a binary black hole merger that supposedly took place in a distant, unobservable past.

Even allowing for the possibility of such a dubious physical detection there is no scientific justification for then running an inferential chain of logic back up a baroque mathematical model, filigreed as it is with numerous unsubstantiated assumptions about the nature of physical reality, as if there  no other possible source for such a quantum level ‘signal’. The claim is, of course, that all other possibilities have been excluded. On top of everything else we are thereby treated to a ludicrous mathematicist claim of quantum omniscience.

It is interesting to note that the problematic claim in the first GW detection paper (discussed here), of having received an intact signal from the entire black hole merger event, has been downplayed somewhat in the third paper. It is alluded to in a fashion that suggests a desire for the claim to be plausibly deniable as a mere misunderstanding at some future time when the issue is pressed.