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Dec 28 2013

Speaking of libertarians…

Adam Lee has a live one. This guy, fuguewriter, is now claiming that the laws of thermodynamics do not apply to electrical energy, in defense of Ayn Rand’s magic MacGuffin in Atlas Shrugged that produces near-infinite quantities of electrical energy.

Be honest and make an argument. Show how *thermodynamic law* – any one of them, or all – is what infinite *electrical* energy would violate, especially under a new conception of energy, which presumably would get beyond QED (which Rand knew a bit about from interviewing Oppenheimer, knowing about Feynman, etc.).

This is one reason this isn’t a serious discussion: y’all jump to the attitudes without an argument in between. So much easier that way. The fixed, permanent contempt for the other is maintained.Then, when challenged, if an argument’s provided it’s hash.

So, pony up. Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law, particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy. This will be a pretty trick.

Gosh, Ayn Rand met Oppenheimer and knew about Feynman, which makes her physics fantasies plausible. I’ve met Krauss and read some of Hawkings’ books, therefore I guess I’m a physicist now.

That was easy. It doesn’t even require any math!

113 comments

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  1. 1
    raven

    It’s polykookery.

    Routine. Common.

    People who believe one silly thing, usually believe a lot more. When you cast off from reality, it doesn’t matter any more.

    This guy believes in Gibbertarianism and the magical production of electricity, which is a form of a perpetual motion machine. I’m sure he believes lots of other delusions as well.

  2. 2
    remyporter

    If your political philosophy depends on fictional physics to be viable, it really doesn’t matter if you’re violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics or not. You’re still living in a fantasy land.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    Rand knew a bit about from interviewing Oppenheimer, knowing about Feynman

    Holy shit. I know about Feyman, too!! Is that why I suddenly felt a lot smarter?

  4. 4
    OptimalCynic

    Polykookery, I like it. I’ll have to remember that.

  5. 5
    Lynna, OM

    I know a bit about PZ Myers. I’ve been reading his blog for years. I am, therefore, a biologist.

  6. 6
    Rob Grigjanis

    Apparently, the Deep Thinkers who made the Atlas Shrugged movie knew about Casimir. The definitive response;

    Yes. Nothing you wrote is correct. It’s a string of scientific words placed together in a seemingly random order. Thread closed.

  7. 7
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    5@Marcus Ranum:
    Could it be that you stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night?

  8. 8
    timgueguen

    I suspect this guy takes the idea far more seriously than Rand did.

  9. 9
    notsont

    @Rob Grigjanis Thank you for that, I really needed a good laugh today.

  10. 10
    David Gerard

    The term is “crank magnetism”.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Crank_magnetism

    “A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.”

  11. 11
    tuibguy

    So, really, we could have turned off the power generators long ago, right? Of course, that would have foiled John Galt’s plan because the commie cities wouldn’t have gone dark.

    Checkmate, Randians.

  12. 12
    Felix

    Fugue does call it a “carefully constructed fictive universe”. Remind me, why do people think Rand’s sort of philosophy described in Atlas applies to Planet Earth?

  13. 13
    yoav

    I’m impressed, I know quite a few randroids, and I know they tend to confuse economics and magic, but I never thought I would see anyone sink to ken Ham territory.

  14. 14
    twas brillig (stevem)

    Be honest and make an argument. Show how *thermodynamic law* – any one of them, or all – is what infinite *electrical* energy would violate, especially under a new conception of energy, which presumably would get beyond QED [emphasis added -- stevem]

    same old BS! If you conceive of *infinite* energy, thermo doesn’t apply. Especially if you first presume your “energy” can get beyond QED. Rand may have “known about” QED from Feynman and thus was able to *conceive* of a source violating it, but don’t fiction writers do that for everything else?

    Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law, particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy

    Same old argumentum fallacy; “I don’t have to provide evidence that the concept would work, you have to prove that it won’t! Since you can’t, you are dismissed!”

    I doubt he is reading here, but I want to ask him anyway, “Do you not understand what FICTION is? That Atlas Shrugged was fiction (i.e. “utopia v. dystopia”), not a documentary? That Galt’s motor was ‘magic’, and Rand intended it to be so, for illustrative purposes (i.e. a ‘plot device’)”

  15. 15
    rnilsson

    an unsuspected type of energy. This will be a pretty trick.

    To me, it looks like a pretty thick brick.

    “A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.”

    “Hold the nuts. I’s enough.”

  16. 16
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Business as usual, sadly. These days, 75% of the comments on Daylight Atheism seem to come from either the idiot Rand-worshipper of the month; one particular person who can be sensible on some topics but argues obsessively, desperately un-groks privilege, and considers it her birthright to only be read according to her intent (Is Magic!); or this oleaginous, Kant-worshipping, word-twisting Ferrous Cranus jerkoff who seems to feel it’s his personal Mission From God to confirm every negative stereotype about would-be philosophers (or first-year philosophy students) ever conceived.

    Not that I’m bitter or anything. >.>

  17. 17
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Sorry; I of course mean “The idiot MOST DEFINITELY NOT A RAND-WORSHIPPER of the month”

  18. 18
    Lynna, OM

    http://www.salon.com/2013/12/28/why_i_fled_libertarianism_and_became_a_liberal/

    One libertarian gets wise and flees libertarianism.

    […]Many members of the group were obsessed with the gold standard, the Kennedy assassination and the Fed. Although Libertarians believe government is incompetent, many of them subscribe to the most fringe conspiracy theories imaginable. Airplanes are poisoning America with chemicals (chemtrails) or the moon landings were faked. Nothing was too far out. A great many of them really think that 9-11 was an inside job. Even while basking in the electoral mainstream, the movement was overflowing with obvious hokum.

    During the meeting, a Ron Paul staffer, a smart and charismatic young woman, gave a tip to the group for the upcoming convention.

    “Dress normal,” she said. “Wear suits, and don’t bring signs or flags. Don’t talk about conspiracy theories. Just fit in.” Her advice was the kind you might hear given to an insane uncle at Thanksgiving.[…]

    I learned that libertarians are made for lots of reasons, like reading the bad fiction of Ayn Rand or perhaps the passable writing of Robert Heinlein. In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated. They were contortionists, justifying the excesses of the capitalist elite, despite being victims if libertarian politics succeed.

    If you think that selfishness and cruelty are fantastic personal traits, you might be a libertarian. In the movement no one will ever call you an asshole, but rather, say you believe in radical individualism.[…]

    I don’t think regular Americans have any idea just how crazy libertarians can be. […]

  19. 19
    Al Dente

    The short, simplistic forms of the Laws of Thermodynamics:

    First Law: You can’t win.

    Second Law: You can’t break even.

    Third Law: You can’t quit the game.

  20. 20
    Moggie

    Is there any point arguing with someone who claims Rand had “a new conception of energy”? They’ve effectively grabbed a get out of jail free card from the deck and are waving it in your face. The only sensible response is “show me a working prototype, and then we’ll talk”.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to my flying broomstick, which is possible under the new conception of physics devised by noted philosopher J.K.Rowling.

  21. 21
    Inaji

    Moggie:

    Personally, I’m looking forward to my flying broomstick, which is possible under the new conception of physics devised by noted philosopher J.K.Rowling.

    A broomstick would be intensely uncomfortable, unless one went to the trouble of affixing a comfy saddle. For quick trips, I think I’ll wait on the more comfortable pine boughs delineated by Pullman.

  22. 22
    Moggie

    Caine, true, but I’m assuming a new conception of butt physics in the Rowlingian utopia.

  23. 23
    Inaji

    Moggie:

    Caine, true, but I’m assuming a new conception of butt physics in the Rowlingian utopia.

    Well, that would be worth waiting for.

  24. 24
    ludicrous

    Hey how about a little sympathy? This guy is a victim (how do I know he is a guy? good question) Just imagine how soaked in runny bullshit his childhood was. The big people likely dumped all over whatever reality he began with. I presume infants do some reality testing or they wouldn’t survive but their system seems to be easily impaired.

    A desire for significance appears to be motivating him. I think we usually start out with a sense of competence but that often gets stepped on. Frustration is him.

  25. 25
    Inaji

    ludicrous:

    Hey how about a little sympathy?

    Libertarians specialize in having no sympathy for anyone excepting themselves, and completely ignoring the faculty of empathy. When it comes to a little sympathy, I’ll indulge when they show the slightest sign of doing so themselves.

  26. 26
    Azuma Hazuki

    If he actually thinks he has a new source of energy, we should investigate. Perhaps he believes he’s found a way to pull useful work out of the zero-point field, or make some kind of Casimir-effect generator? In any case, he should run it by engineers and physicists first…

    I find one thing very common in libertarian thinking: the assumption that everything is a zero sum game or worse on the human scale, not on the universe’s scale. Yes, entropy reigns supreme in this world, but there is enough energetic mass from the sun, from thorium, from raging tides and howling winds, that we can meet our needs several times over; it’s a matter of political will, not lack of technology.

  27. 27
    Sastra

    Many years ago I ran into a Randian refutation of Quantum Physics. Some of the scientific theories of QM violated the Law of Identity (A=A.) Therefore, they were wrong. Case closed. Logic trumps all.

    Now, I personally think that the laws of logic –including A=A — hold even in the weirdest and spookiest of quantum discoveries because you can’t say that “A=A” until you can state “A” clearly and without ambiguity — which we apparently cannot do when things get small enough. We’re now outside of our familiar intuitions about the nature of things, and what they are, and them not being what they aren’t.

    But I was appalled by the writer’s blithe assumption that Ayn Rand’s philosophy (warmed-over Aristotle) described reality so well that it could trump the views of expert scientists and put science in its place. I had never run into Objectivism till I began studying up for debates on the existence of God, but I knew what religion smelled like and I caught a strong whiff of it.

  28. 28
    raven

    In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated.

    Sounds like the few Gibbertarians I’ve ran into lately.

    One guy is a long term unemployed and has the lifestyle that comes with being broke. He says it’s because the conditions that he has to work under are intolerable. Meaning that his employer tells him to do stuff and then gets upset when he doesn’t do it. It restricts his liberty to be directed by someone else.

    Well it does. That is why you get paid for it.

  29. 29
    playonwords

    @Caine # 20 Depends what you mean by comfort or should I say pleasurable

    Mattels Nimbus 2000 seem to have been satisfactory
    http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1927306_1927313_1927329,00.html

  30. 30
    ludicrous

    Cain @ 24,

    Yes, sympathy wasn’t precise. What interests me is what happens to these people? How did they get that way? Nature/Nurture? If it’s nurture what are the causes? I don’t think it’s merely religion. Many who have found atheism retain a good deal of magical thinking, the libertarians among us attest to that.

  31. 31
    Inaji

    playonwords @ 28, I know all about the vibrating broomsticks, that’s old news. Having a very large vibrator isn’t quite the same as being expected to travel by stick. Very uncomfortable, I would think. Handy, but uncomfortable.

  32. 32
    Becca Stareyes

    I’ve read Contact. Carl Sagan noted that he picked the brains of a few theoretical physicists (including Kip Thorne) to get an interstellar superluminal transit system that sounded plausible enough. Note the difference between ‘sounds plausible to a scientist reading about fictional aliens’ and ‘Carl Sagan had a wormhole generator in his backyard that he used to chat with aliens at the center of the Milky Way’. (I’m not even sure Rand’s literary device meets the first*, but even in a case when an author did his homework, there’s still a big difference.)

    * I’m also reminded of an essay on the Federation from Star Trek, noting that the cheap and abundant power, quick transport and matter replication throw a lot of conventional economic wisdom out the window. The same is probably true for Galt’s Gulch.

  33. 33
    Paul

    @#5:
    We can see Canada out of our kitchen window. Therefore, like Sarah Palin, I’m an expert at international relations.

  34. 34
    gworroll

    particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy

    He wants proof that thermodynamics will apply when an “unsuspected type of energy” is involved?

    If it isn’t even suspected, we certainly don’t know anything about its properties, so determining conclusively if thermodynamics as currently understood will or will not break down with this sort of energy involved can’t go further than “well, it hasn’t been wrong yet”.

    Somehow I doubt he’d consider that sufficient proof.

  35. 35
    ludicrous

    I dunno about others, but when I enjoy a redicule of impaired thinking I have a little gnawing sense of ‘there but for the grace of the gods….’ The fear lurks, I haven’t got it all cleaned out, I know that, but I want so much to believe I’m almost there, all the while knowing I will never be.

  36. 36
    ludicrous

    So the sympathy I looked for was for me too.

  37. 37
    atheist

    I’m sorry but I am contractually obligated to post this cartoon every time Libertarians are discussed.

  38. 38
    David Marjanović

    Many years ago I ran into a Randian refutation of Quantum Physics. Some of the scientific theories of QM violated the Law of Identity (A=A.) Therefore, they were wrong. Case closed. Logic trumps all.

    In reality, logic is an abstraction and generalization of the way mathematics behaves, and mathematics is an abstraction and generalization of the way reality behaves. Empiric reality is primary.

  39. 39
    atheist

    @ludicrous – 28 December 2013 at 1:19 pm (UTC -6)

    I dunno about others, but when I enjoy a redicule of impaired thinking I have a little gnawing sense of ‘there but for the grace of the gods….’ The fear lurks

    I understand your point. I guess I’m not as worried about mocking people because I figure that eventually we will all dissolve in an ocean of mockery and nothing will be left.

  40. 40
    Randomfactor

    Rand probably met dozens of believable characters every day; that doesn’t necessarily mean she could write them.

  41. 41
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Personally, I’m looking forward to my flying broomstick, which is possible under the new conception of physics devised by noted philosopher J.K.Rowling.

    Paul Feyerabend was once told that by his logic he could as easily have come to a conference by broomstick as by airliner.
    “Certainly” he said, “The only difference is that I know how to travel by Boeing. I don’t know how to travel by broomstick.”

    However, it may not be logically justifiable, but the fact that millions of people know how to travel by ‘plane and- as far as we know- no-one knows how to travel by broomstick is surely an important difference.

  42. 42
    Inaji

    scmess:

    However, it may not be logically justifiable, but the fact that millions of people know how to travel by ‘plane and- as far as we know- no-one knows how to travel by broomstick is surely an important difference.

    Well, if one wishes to apply all things Discworldian to this problem, a planet with a magical field helps, and when it comes to traveling by stick, one must either be a dwarf, a witch or a wizard.

  43. 43
    atheist

    @ludicrous – 28 December 2013 at 1:04 pm (UTC -6)

    What interests me is what happens to these people? How did they get that way? Nature/Nurture? If it’s nurture what are the causes? I don’t think it’s merely religion.

    For a while I tried to figure out why my father is a libertarian. As far as I can tell, it was because liberalism talked about social problems too much and was too depressing, whereas Reaganomics was fun and exciting, and libertarianism retained enough of a rebellious attitude to be preferable to the GOP. And now he’s just used to it.

  44. 44
    george gonzalez

    Conservation of Energy is pretty well tied down to basic symmetries related to time. The “laws” of thermodynamics are just basic statistical principles. No amount of word-smithing can get around those, unless you really believe in immovable objects and irresistible forces.

    Refer those wankers to Wikipedia.

  45. 45
    Amphiox

    So he wants to know why infinite electrical energy under a new conception of energy would violate thermodynamic law?

    Thermodynamics IS the current conception of energy. ANY new conception of energy would violate thermodynamic law. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be new! It’s definitional!

    So Rand stuck a science fiction idea into her novel. The mistake is in this poor fanatical worshiper trying to insist his diety’s intended fiction can apply to the real world. It’s like some Trekkie trying to insist that warp drive doesn’t violate relativity (a NEW conception of space time, no less!)

  46. 46
    enki23

    The dork talks about QED, but doesn’t know what electricity is. That is fucking hilarious.

  47. 47
    Snoof

    Be honest and make an argument. Show how *thermodynamic law* – any one of them, or all – is what infinite *electrical* energy would violate,

    Sure thing. Classical electromagnetism is invariant under time reversal. Therefore, by Noether’s theorem, energy is conserved in any system described by classical electromagnetism. Since we don’t have infinite energy now, we can’t have it at any other time either. Therefore, you can’t have infinite electrical energy.

    (Disclaimer: I’m probably talking nonsense. Then again, so is this guy.)

  48. 48
    Lofty

    Many ordinary people have no concept of the cost of producing electrical power. As a demonstration I plug a scanner into their motor car and show them the injection time of their engine when idling. Then I turn on their headlights and their a/c and show them how much the numbers go up. Most are genuinely surprised.
    They also think an electric bicycle can recharge its battery while gently coasting downhill.
    I blame poor education.

  49. 49
    Hank_Says

    So, pony up. Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law, particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy.

    …whatever that would mean exactly… Erm, no. This is your argument. You tell me what you mean.
    …particularly under a new conception of energy… Erm, no! See previous point. You’re changing the rules, you tell me what the new ones are.
    …which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy. Erm, dude. Come on. You pony up.

    Shorter:

    “Just grant my paradigm (in which I’m correct and you have to prove me wrong despite my not even bothering to clarify my vague notions) and then we can have the discussion that shows I’m correct and that I can’t be proven wrong! Simple!”

    Paging Sye Ten Bruggencate. Some atheist is totally stealing your presuppositionalism.

  50. 50
    Rob Grigjanis

    Snoof @46:

    Classical electromagnetism is invariant under time reversal. Therefore, by Noether’s theorem…

    Noether’s theorem applies to continuous symmetries (e.g. time translation -> conservation of energy, gauge invariance -> charge conservation). Time reversal is a discrete (non-continuous) transformation.

    Conservation of energy in classical em was expressed in Poynting’s theorem 130 years ago.

  51. 51
  52. 52
    viggen111

    Gosh, Ayn Rand met Oppenheimer and knew about Feynman, which makes her physics fantasies plausible.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but Ayn Rand _knew_ she was writing fiction. Not saying anything in defense of wingnuts arguing about all the wrong things here, clearly left and right-wing both, but attacking and arguing about an esoteric element of fiction that was meant as an analogy (which the author unquestionably understood to be analogy) is not suddenly a counterargument against the fundamental point of that story. This is a bait and switch if I ever saw one. Your target here should be the kook, not the author, who is definitely being mischaracterized by both you and the kook. Never mind that you don’t like the author, fact of the matter here is that your argument ought to be about a kook raising an author onto a pedestal for all the wrong reasons.

    Or, are you suddenly going to start arguing that Isaac Asimov was a crazy kook since he wrote “The Foundation” just because psychohistory is not thermodynamically plausible –Oh right, that book was about something beyond the McGuffin too. I would argue that Ayn Rand is one of the best Sci Fi authors of all time since her work has still got people up in arms sixty years later, whether you like her political stance or not. She’s right up there with L. Ron Hubbard for the degree of her impact.

  53. 53
    cnocspeireag

    A Spanish speaking colleague taught me the phrase ‘basua atrae basura’ which sums up this polykookery nicely. I hope I have the correct spelling.

  54. 54
    ekwhite

    Ummm… what is QED?

    I thought it stood for Quod erat desideratum.

  55. 55
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Ummm… what is QED?
    I thought it stood for Quod erat desideratum.

    Quantum electrodynamics

  56. 56
    ekwhite

    Oops..

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum…

    Should I mention that it has been over 40 years since my last Latin class?

  57. 57
    Arren ›‹ neverbound

    She’s right up there with L. Ron Hubbard for the degree of her impact.

    The great thing about this is that it’s even more amusing if viggen111 was serious.

  58. 58
    David Marjanović

    It’s like some Trekkie trying to insist that warp drive doesn’t violate relativity

    Wwwwelllllll, if we’re talking about an Alcubierre drive and you happen to have half a tonne of “exotic matter” (with negative mass, IIRC) at your disposal, it doesn’t violate relativity at all.

    The transporter and quantum physics is another story.

  59. 59
    Francisco Bacopa

    A Spanish speaking colleague taught me the phrase ‘basua atrae basura’ which sums up this polykookery nicely.

    The first word should also be “basura”. Your verb is conjugated correctly. I have never heard this proverb as I am one of those Anglos with partial Mexican-German roots and know only high school Spanish and common phrases to get by in certain Texas barrios.

    I love this phrase. It expresses the idea of “crank magnetism” so succinctly.

  60. 60
    Amphiox

    re David M, @57;

    The Heisenberg Compensators work quite well, apparently.

  61. 61
    Rob Grigjanis

    DM @57:

    if we’re talking about an Alcubierre drive…

    This explains Superman’s flying, invulnerability, strength, and possibly catching falling people without breaking every bone in their bodies!

  62. 62
    vaiyt

    If your political philosophy depends on fictional physics to be viable

    And fictional history, and fictional economics, and fictional psychology…

  63. 63
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    In any case, he should run it by engineers and physicists first…

    *raises hand*

    He’s full of shit. :)

  64. 64
    samihawkins

    I was gonna make some snarky comment, but then somebody had to go and mention Asimov and the Foundation series in the same breath as Rand and her poorly written drivel.

    Now all my focus is on restraining my fist from smashing through my monitor.

  65. 65
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Sastra #26

    Many years ago I ran into a Randian refutation of Quantum Physics. Some of the scientific theories of QM violated the Law of Identity (A=A.) Therefore, they were wrong. Case closed. Logic trumps all.

    Moreover, they insist that Aristotelian logic is the only kind, completely ignoring Boolean, quantum, fuzzy, and several other systems of logic, all of which are useful for certain things.
    Lofty #47

    They also think an electric bicycle can recharge its battery while gently coasting downhill.

    Some can, although a gentle coast won’t help much; you want a steep slope for preference.

  66. 66
    Snoof

    Rob Grigjanis #49, Sili #50:

    Ah, wonderful. I knew someone better at physics than me would come along. Now I’ve got some reading to do. Thanks!

  67. 67
    barbyau

    Well of course they are poorer, white, and undereducated. It’s Republicans who want to smoke pot and have sex. They might even be kind of nice to gay people.

    The GOP base = the Libertarian base = white dudes all who identify very closely to those with power and thus desperately look for excuses to support the current unfair system, because they think (often incorrectly) that they are winning.

  68. 68
    brianpansky

    well, “a new conception of energy” is a bit of a conversation stopper (if i’m interpreting it as a “black swan event”), but i’ll look at some other stuff here…

    Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law

    by “infinite amount of energy” i’m pretty sure what is meant is free energy. at least i think.

    access to an unsuspected type of energy.

    i’m guessing this means a source of energy we just aren’t aware of yet or something (from “unsuspecting”). indeed this is the usual dodge to make free energy seem plausible.

    to give readers here an idea of what this dodge is, think of solar energy. that energy has a source, the sun, and we can harvest it all quite freely (we don’t have to burn fuel here on earth).

    but what if there was a similar source that was not as visible as the sun, something else. this isn’t an immediately ridiculous idea. for example, just imagine a non-visible spectrum of light. what if we detected that there was way more of this non visible light available than the visible light, and maybe a brand of “solar panels” could be made which access is.

    this hypothetical scenario wouldn’t violate thermodynamics, and it would supply us with more electrical energy than we would know what to do with.

    so there is a difference between:

    1) the traditional idea of a free energy machine, an “over unity” machine (CREATES more energy than previously existed. these ones violate the laws of thermodynamics. i’d even just say they magically conjure stuff like a magic wand, rabbits coming out of hats, etc.) it’s a silly idea.

    2) finding a new SOURCE of stored energy (an example is finding radioactive materials which could be used to generate electricity).

  69. 69
    imthegenieicandoanything

    Big-L Libertarians are simply always insane in their disconnect from reality, or even a pleasant insanity, but “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothing to lose…”

    Hopefully, this one will move on to the next lines of the song and answer the chorus’ question for himself.

  70. 70
    Al Dente

    In Brian Stableford’s Hooded Swan science fiction series, there are several forms of faster than light (FTL) spaceship propulsion:

    * Mass Relaxation: Through the use of a mass relaxation web, the ship neutralises the relativistic mass-gain as it approaches the lightspeed barrier and then makes a “tachyonic transfer” to accelerate beyond it. This is the method employed by the Hooded Swan and Sister Swan.
    * P-Shifting: The details of this method aren’t specified, but it is said that when it goes wrong, it goes wrong discreetly—they do not explode, they simply stop working. P-shifters are also unable to cope well with less than ideal conditions. The words “probability” and “phase” have both been used to expand the first letter.
    * Dimensional Hopping: The details of this method aren’t specified, but from the name it is possibly some variety of hyperspace.

    [from wikipedia]

    If Stableford can invent three forms of FTL propulsion, surely at least one of them will work. Checkmate, physicists!

  71. 71
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    @viggen111 #51: There have been plenty of citations over at Daylight Atheism indicating that Rand considered Atlas Shrugged to be far more than a mere story. She presented it as a model for ideal people founding the ideal society. Interestingly, nobody has tried refuting Rand’s fans over there by citing her saying she didn’t mean for the book to be taken so seriously.

    @Amphiox #44:

    It’s like some Trekkie trying to insist that warp drive doesn’t violate relativity

    More like, it’s a Trekkie saying that, because he’s heard of the Alcubierre drive, that makes Star Trek a plausible description of a possible future society.

  72. 72
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    viggen111:

    It looks to me as though the post is aimed at the crank who seems to be arguing “my favorite novel uses this macguffin, therefore the macguffin could be built in the real world.” The Asimov analogy would be to a fan of his work arguing that any robot that has been or could be built in the real world would necessarily obey the Three Laws of Robotics. That claim would also be nonsense, but it wouldn’t be a criticism of Asimov, who as far as I know never said any such thing.

    Iff Rand believed that the macguffin in Atlas Shrugged was possible, then we could criticize her for that. In the meantime, it’s reasonable to point out that you and I and PZ know, and Rand probably knew, that the book is fiction and none of us, unlike fuguewriter, are going from “this object exists in a science fiction novel” to “therefore, it must be possible in the real world.”

  73. 73
    woozy

    Why do we need to disprove Rand’s physics? Can’t we simply look up birth, college, and newspaper records to determine whether the events Rand claimed to have occurred actually happened?

  74. 74
    woozy

    The Asimov analogy would be to a fan of his work arguing that any robot that has been or could be built in the real world would necessarily obey the Three Laws of Robotics.

    It’s more like like a fan of Asimov’s social theories (whatever they might be) deciding that if he argued that life could exist on Jupiter, as it did in one of his stories, that somehow that would validate Asimov’s social commentary. amd that there are opponents of Asimov’s social theory that are claiming that lack of life on Jupiter proves Asimov wrong.

    The weird misapplied logic is one of the strangest bits of stupidity I’ve heard in a long, long time.

  75. 75
    Alex

    @David M,

    Wwwwelllllll, if we’re talking about an Alcubierre drive and you happen to have half a tonne of “exotic matter” (with negative mass, IIRC) at your disposal, it doesn’t violate relativity at all.

    That’s right, it probably only violates causality :D

  76. 76
    Alex

    (in the sense of also being a time machine)

  77. 77
    Ichthyic

    I would argue that Ayn Rand is one of the best Sci Fi authors of all time since her work has still got people up in arms sixty years later

    The bible is crap. 99% of it is extremely poorly written and often contradicts itself.

    yet… people still talk about it.

    your argument is a logical fallacy.

  78. 78
    Ichthyic

    There have been plenty of citations over at Daylight Atheism indicating that Rand considered Atlas Shrugged to be far more than a mere story. She presented it as a model for ideal people founding the ideal society.

    I always thought Atlas was similar in construction and purpose to CS Lewis’ books myself.

    with similar fictional plot devices.

  79. 79
    Amphiox

    I would argue that Ayn Rand is one of the best Sci Fi authors of all time since her work has still got people up in arms sixty years later

    That is not a metric by which the quality of sci fi literature is generally judged….

  80. 80
    Ichthyic

    seems like a form of argumentum ad populum to me.

    .

  81. 81
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    seems like a form of argumentum ad populum to me.

    Specifically, its convolution with petulance.

  82. 82
    nomadiq

    So, pony up. Show how (allegedly) infinite electrical production (whatever that would mean exactly) is specifically a violation of thermodynamic law, particularly under a new conception of energy – which presumably gave access to an unsuspected type of energy. This will be a pretty trick.

    Ummm, you don’t really know how this works, do you? You make the assertion (of infinite electrical production????) – so you have to pony up with how this works. Even better, produce this magical power for me to see. Otherwise, I’ll just go on thinking you are another quack.

  83. 83
    Moggie

    Al Dente:

    If Stableford can invent three forms of FTL propulsion, surely at least one of them will work. Checkmate, physicists!

    Well, in M John Harrison’s Light, everything works:

    Every race they met on their way through the Core had a star drive based on a different theory. All those theories worked, even when they ruled out one another’s basic assumptions. You could travel between the stars, it began to seem, by assuming anything.

  84. 84
    Lofty

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy @64

    Some can, although a gentle coast won’t help much; you want a steep slope for preference.

    Today I spent 5 hours on my e-bike and I covered 60 miles/100km. I reckon I would have used the brakes for 1-2 minutes maximum as I like downhill speed. According to the ignoranti I should have arrived home with a nearly full battery because of the number of downhills I coasted down! BTW I have looked at regen but decided the benefits were too low.

  85. 85
    blf

    On the “knowing about Feymann makes me a physics genius” thing, I and a friend had a conversation with the Professor, in the High Energy Physics building at Caltech. And learned physics from Feymann’s books. What does that make me and my friend, joint winners of a Nobel Prize or something?

    Geeesh!!…

  86. 86
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    OK, a little late to the party, but this is transparently the stupidest thing I’ve read on the Internet this year–and I deal with climate denialists on a daily basis.

    I can think of two very simple refutations of this moron’s thesis:

    1)The Universe is finite. If infinite energy were possible, it would have been realized and the ambient temperature of the Universe would be a whole helluva lot higher than 3 Kelvins. So the fact that this guy is spouting his glibertarian bullshit and not dissociated elementary particles flying apart at near the speed of light argues pretty strongly that he is wrong.

    2)Energy is convertible. If you could create energy from nothing for any type of energy, you could convert it into any type of energy you wanted at a cost of increased entropy. A corollary of this is that the energy of the Universe would be infinite and therefore could not increase further.

    While this guy is an example of extreme stupidity even for a glibertarian, I’ve never known an example of the species that didn’t chafe at the constraints physical law posed on his absolute freedom to be as big an asshole as he could conceive.

  87. 87
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    A related anecdote: At one point Heisenberg and Bohr actually did consider giving up strict conservation of momentum and energy at the quantum level to explain the energy spectrum of electrons/positrons coming out of beta decays. Then Pauli posited the neutrino. Interestingly, it is not clear that even Pauli took the idea seriously. He said, “I have done a terrible thing, I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected.” Interestingly, it was discovered a bit over 20 years later.

    As to Rand’s influence. Her metaphysics was absolute trash–I don’t see how it was different from naïve realism. Her prose was turgid and dry, and her stories weren’t compelling. The sole reason for her continued popularity is that she fulfills the fantasies of the U. of Chicago economics crowd for economics-based prosperity unconstrained by the laws of physics.

    Unofficial U. of Chicago Economics Department motto: “Well, that’s fine in practice, but how does it work in theory.”

  88. 88
    Brian O

    The closest ideology to Randian Libertarianism is Scientology. This sounds like L. Ron Hubbard and his alien biology junk.

  89. 89
    vaiyt

    I would argue that Ayn Rand is one of the best Sci Fi authors of all time since her work has still got people up in arms sixty years later

    So does The Protocols of The Elders of Zion.

  90. 90
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    I was in a garden once. Now I’m a tomato!
    Wow this Randian magic is fun.

  91. 91
    David Marjanović

    (in the sense of also being a time machine)

    How is an Alcubierre drive a time machine?

    I was in a garden once. Now I’m a tomato!

    Thread won.

  92. 92
    ekwhite

    Vigen111

    How exactly is Asimov’s idea of psychohistory thermodynamically unfeasible? It is simply the use of statistics to make predictions about large groups of people.

  93. 93
    Alex

    @David,

    In a strictly flat spacetime a la Minkowski, you know that having signals travelling faster than c (like a tachyon) allows the operator to send information back in time, in particular if this faster-than-c travel is not tied to any particular frame of reference.

    Now, the alcubierre drive is not a simple tachyon, but one thing does not change -
    the large scale geometry of space (for processes shorter than cosmological timescales) is still well-approximated by a flat minkowski space for all intents and purposes. If you can move between points in this space with faster than light in arbitrary frames of reference, you can in principle achieve the same “my worldline goes into my own past” construction as a tachyon would.

    The disturbance in the metric due to the alcubierre apparatus is a local deviation, so the global causal relationships between events in this space look exactly the same as in flat minkowski space.

    Cheers

  94. 94
    Rob Grigjanis

    DM @90: In this explanation, starring the ubiquitous Alice and Bob*, just replace the tachyonic signal with an Alcubierre spaceship, and the allowance of time travel is apparent.

    *What happened to Carol and Ted?

  95. 95
    Rob Grigjanis

    I mean DM @91

  96. 96
    Alex

    Thanks Rob, I didnt find a nice link

  97. 97
    Rob Grigjanis

    Alex, it wasn’t easy, and Wikipedia was the last place I expected to find one.

  98. 98
    Amphiox

    A believe a few of Stephen Baxter’s novels in his Xeelee sequence explore the implications of using FTL travel to send information back in time, and how that might impact things like military strategy.

  99. 99
    David Marjanović

    Thanks for the explanations. Right now I’m – if nothing else – too tired to understand them, or at least to understand why they apply to Alcubierre drives, where no particles/signals move through space faster than light.

    But I’ve long wondered about a possibly related problem: once your Alcubierre bubble arrives at your destination, how do you get out of the bubble? As far as I understand, you haven’t traversed the space between your starship and the destination, you’ve only compressed it; it’s still in front of you, and moving through it would take as long as it would if you had never had the bubble, right? You can’t exit sideways either, because the side walls of the bubble are sheared space, so going through would bring you back home again, right?

  100. 100
    Alex

    @David,

    I’ll re-read his paper and try to say something intelligent concering your question…
    I think once the exiting problem is solved, the time travel paradox follows automatically, but I’ll have to check what the detailed situation is…

  101. 101
    Nick Gotts

    Amphiox@98,

    Charles Stross in Singularity Sky recounts an event in the mid-21st century (150 years or so before the action of the novel) in which the following message appears on computer networks:

    I am the Eschaton; I am not your God.
    I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
    Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else.

    The Eschaton forbids FTL travel in order to protect its own existence.

  102. 102
    Alex

    Here’s the reference

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0009013

    He mentions that his simple solution does not produce closed timelike curves,
    but that constructing a more elaborate round trip that does so should be possible.

    Indeed as he says, his solution is a local perturbation of space-time which
    leaves the asymptotic space Minkowski-like. The solution (8) looks to me like
    a soliton-like thing which does not really build up more and more deformation
    behind it and in front of it of which one would have to escape. From the perspective
    of the traveller, the space-time solution looks completely stationary unless I miss something. Maybe someone else can have a look at it :)

    The hard part seems to be creating and destroying the “warp bubble”, which according
    to the Wikipedia article seems feasible,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive

    but may have to require preparations by
    outside observers which begin long before arrival (in order to collapse the spacetime
    deformation upon arrival from the outside). Maybe this has implications concerning time travel, but I would suspect that planning time travel beforehand is a possibility. I could for example now make preparations for my arrival from the future which I plan to happen tomorrow.

  103. 103
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Alex,
    It’s horsecrap. I’ll believe in faster than light travel when someone tells me yesterday that they’ve done it.

  104. 104
    David Marjanović

    I should have read the Wikipedia article long ago.

    Using the Casimir effect instead of of exotic matter – for which, AFAIK, there’s no reason to suppose it exists – is a very interesting idea. The problem I mention is hardly alluded to, though.

  105. 105
    Moggie

    I’ve met Krauss and read some of Hawkings’ books, therefore I guess I’m a physicist now.

    NNNG! MUST… CONTROL… APOSTROPHE RAGE!

  106. 106
    David Marjanović

    ALL THE HAWKINGS

  107. 107
    birgerjohansson

    I helped a professor at the institution of forestry production with some admin work once.
    Now I am a pine tree.
    — — — — —

    ” I am the Eschaton; I am not your God.
    I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
    Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else.”

    Dibs for having this inscribed on a big, black monolith and leave it on the moon.

  108. 108
    Rob Grigjanis

    Alex @102: Yes, it’s a nice little localized distortion moving through space with no time dilation relative to the starting frame. Creating or destroying the bubble might be a problem (I just assume an on-off switch), but there may be another one.

    These results suggest that any ship using an Alcubierre warp drive carrying people would need shielding to protect them from potential dangerously blueshifted particles during the journey, and any people at the destination would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for P+ region particles.

    http://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/MatterOfMatter-revised-final.pdf

    Bloody Aussies. Always spoiling the fun.

  109. 109
    Alex

    @David M
    Yes I found that surprising as well…
    Something tells me that a Universe in which one can use casimir energy to travel FTL has something deeply wrong with it :D
    It seems…dangerous and very weird. In any case it sounds like an important intellectual endeavour to think this through, so I disagree with

    @a_ray that this is pure horsemanure, even if there are valid reasons to think that it cannot ever will have been realized technologically. If casimir energy seems to be able to cause ftl and maybe closed timelike curves in theory, the fact that we observe a world with consistent histories and apparent causality may just teach us something deep about e.g. dark energy.

  110. 110
    Alex

    @Rob

    Even if its the cart of the flying apocalyps drawn by goats on fire, if its ftl, we can send the lottery numbers back. We just have to stand clear and try not to incinerate earth…

  111. 111
    eric123

    Conservatives and Christian fundamentalists have Conservapedia to correct the alleged liberal bias of wikipedia: http://www.conservapedia.com/Main_Page

    Maybe libertarians need to take a cue from this and set up Liberpedia, a site where they can find protection from the cognitive dissonance of…reality.

    Please repeat after me, dear faithful:

    Our mother, who art in capitalism, hallowed by thy name. Thy libertopia come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Atlas Shrugged. Give us this day our daily profit, and exalt our gains as we revile those who stand in our way. Lead us not into liberalism, but deliver us from socialism. Amen.

  112. 112
    militantagnostic

    Lofty

    I blame poor education.

    That and constant idle.

    I once had someone suggest to me that a cordless drill should be able to recharge itself as it was running.

    I don’t know if the electric motorcycle that won the Pikes Peak hillclimb had regenerative braking but I know the electric cars did. I suspect it is of much more benefit in that application than in your daily commute since the portion of total energy lost to braking is much larger when all deceleration is at the limit of adhesion.

  113. 113
    Four Sided

    1. Our most fundamental conception of energy is as the quantity conserved because of time translation invariance in the action. “The ability to do work.” is overly simplistic, and it tends to fail when kinetic energy is not a quadratic form or when the potental contains velocity-dependent terms. The thermodynamic definition breaks down. The other one does not.

    2. Time reversal is a different symmetry. It’s discrete, so the traditional Noether’s theorem doewn’t apply. It does have a conserved quantity associated with it, but that conserved quantity is multiplicative rather than additive. In addition, it’s only a partial symmetry. The weak force violates CP symmetry, so it must also violate time reversal symmetry by CPT = Lorentz invariance.

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