DailyDirt: Scientific Measurements

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Accurate scientific measurements are pretty important. It's actually hard to overstate how critical it is to science that measurements can be repeated. (Hello, Cold Fusion...) But it's not quite an easy task to get everyone to agree to the same metrics -- especially when different approaches might have different results. Still, we make do with what we've got -- and looking at the fine details of measuring stuff has lead to discoveries like buckyballs, the heliocentric model of our neck of the universe, and all sorts of cool stuff. So here are a few quick links on measuring things.


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  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:09pm

    Hello, Cold Fusion...

     

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    Heretical Monkey, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:52pm

    buckeyballs?

    try learning some real science
    http://thunderbolts.info/home.htm

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Heretical Monkey, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:52pm

    buckeyballs?

    try learning some real science
    http://thunderbolts.info/home.htm

     

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    xenomancer (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    Damn you Heisenberg!

    Don't forget dP*dx = dE*dt >= hbar/2 ... DOH!

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 6:55pm

    Re: buckeyballs?

    try learning some real science

    Um. WTF?

     

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    Pixelation, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 7:13pm

    Problem solved

    "Either way, being able to maintain a mass standard that doesn't drift by 50 micrograms is probably something we should figure out"

    It's obvious that the expansion of the universe is at play. I think the best answer is to put ...ish at the end of a mass measurement. Problem solved.

     

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    scarr (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 7:17pm

    I'm really not a fan of something with two protons being called "hydrogen", even with quotes. Why not call it "reactive helium" or something like that?

     

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    TheBigH (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 8:41pm

    Re:

    I think once you start doing things like replacing electrons with muons or other particles, it's going to rapidly become hard to think of new names for these things. Better just to describe what it is.

     

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    Pixelation, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 8:47pm

    Re: Re:

    "it's going to rapidly become hard to think of new names for these things. Better just to describe what it is."

    But we could use your moniker and call it "TheBigH"ydrogen.

     

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    TheBigH (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 8:50pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ha! :)

     

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    scarr (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 9:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's not hydrogen!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 9:44pm

    Great someone just patented an atom

     

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    Ilfar, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 11:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I can't believe it's not Hydrogen"?

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 1:36am

    Re: I'm really not a fan of something with two protons being called "hydrogen", ...

    I guess itís on the basis of its chemical behaviour, which is controlled by the electron(s), not the protons. They found a way to show you a side of helium you didnít know existedóthey turned its Dr Jekyll into Mr Hydrogen.

    Thank you, thank you, Iíll be here all week.

     

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    scarr (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re: I'm really not a fan of something with two protons being called "hydrogen", ...

    A different number of electrons makes it an ion, not a different element. (A different number of neutrons would make something it an isotope.) The atom's elemental name is always determined by the atomic number.

    This is neither a isotope, nor a normal ion. It's something new, and should be given a new name accordingly. The fundamental Chemistry 101 rules of nomenclature shouldn't be violated though.

     

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    Michael Ho (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re: Re: I'm really not a fan of something with two protons being called "hydrogen", ...

    I completely agree with you, scarr. This helium atom shouldn't be called "hydrogen" at all.... But we'll see what IUPAC has to say someday, I suppose?

     

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    KD, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 4:00am

    Re: Re: Re: I'm really not a fan of something with two protons being called "hydrogen", ...

    The attribute of an atom that determines its chemical properties is the number and condition of the electrons that are available for chemical reactions. The protons take only an indirect role in that they establish some of the conditions that govern the energies of the electrons. Since it is chemical properties under study, naming according to the element with the most similar chemical properties is not a surprising approach.

    You are correct that this "super heavy hydrogen" is something new, and if this sort of substitution of electrons by muons ever becomes more than a lab curiosity, inventing a new name for it would be appropriate. However, as long as all the descriptions qualify the name with some suggestive adjectives and use scare quotes to further alert the reader that this isn't your father's hydrogen under discussion, I think there is very little danger of confusion, and even some benefit in that we won't have to learn the correspondence between the current element names and the newly-invented names for their analogs.

     

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    KD, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 4:29am

    Cheap shot at cold fusion ...

    I take exception to the cheap shot at cold fusion.

    There is no doubt that Pons and Fleischmann screwed up by adopting their "publish via press release" approach, but people like, apparently, you, who tar anyone wanting to investigate that phenomenon with the same brush, possibly have held back progress in a potentially fruitful area.

    P&F found something unusual. And, contrary to popular knowledge, other labs HAVE seen results similar to what P&F reported. Nobody understands what is going on in those experiments, which is probably the biggest reason why reliably reproducing the phenomenon is so hard. If you don't know what the reaction is, you are likely not to know what conditions it requires, and so only stumble onto creating them haphazardly. Blocking most funding for research into understanding what P&F reported by pointing, laughing, and saying "cold fusion" is grossly irresponsible.

    Fortunately, there are a few funding sources with a properly open scientific attitude who have been funding a low level of research into the phenomenon over the past 25 years, but progress has been far slower than it should have been.

    If it turns out that the phenomenon is something that, when thoroughly understood, can be exploited to provide a clean, inexpensive source of power, those who have blocked the studies by their ridicule ought to be tracked down and punished. If the phenomenon turns out to be an interesting curiosity, but not commercially useful, then there still has been harm done to accumulation of scientific knowledge. It is just as important to understand ways that won't work so they can be recognized easily and quickly when they crop up again.

     

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    Michael Ho (profile), Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 10:25am

    Re: Cheap shot at cold fusion ...

    Not only did Pons&Fleischmann publish via press release, but their original paper was ridiculously bad....

    I think the true progress of Science benefits from a healthy dose of skepticism and verification.... if you can't verify your results, you're not doing Science. And in many of the cases involving "cold fusion" or "Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction" -- there don't seem to be repeatable experiments going on. If there were, then I think these "tabletop fusion" projects would actually get somewhere.

    So it's not my ridicule that is holding back this line of research -- it's the lack of being able to verify that anything real is happening by an independent lab.

    If these cheap energy experiments were really repeatable, I'm pretty sure my ridicule wouldn't stop people from building fusion generators in their basements......

     

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  20.  
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    KD, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Cheap shot at cold fusion ...

    I believe you are looking at this wrong, or maybe haven't thought about it carefully enough. After all, it wasn't the point of the original article you posted.

    You, personally, probably have not blocked funding for good research into the phenomenon that P&F brought to our attention, but you seem to have accepted that it is okay to point and laugh rather than support diligent research to see what actually is happening with it. That is very closed-minded and not how science should be done.

    Certainly P&F screwed up, both in their poor technique and in premature publication by press release. But screw-ups by poor researchers should not shut off legitimate research in an area. Citing the inability to get repeatable results as justification for not investigating further is really off-base. The fact that the experiments are not repeatable is a strong signal that we, as yet, do not appreciate all the factors that influence what is going on there, and so we should investigate until we do understand. Remember the quote from Asimov about the most exciting thing to hear in science is not "Eureka!", but "That's funny."?

    Maybe the uncontrolled factor(s) in the cold fusion experiments is something we know about and just are not realizing is relevant. Maybe the uncontrolled factor is something really new. Either case is a good reason for continuing research until we understand what is going on. In the end, it might turn out to be the case that when we finally do understand what is going on, it won't be useful for power generation, but until we understand the phenomenon, dismissing it as pointless is very closed-minded. And even if it isn't useful for power generation, it might turn out to be useful for something else.

    Your profile says you are the head of research at Floor64. I don't know what research Floor64 does, but at a lot of tech companies, what they call the research group actually does development, or, at best, applied research. That is not bad. In fact, it probably is just what those companies should be doing, but it is not basic research. If that is what you understand as research, I imagine that would color your view a bit, and your apparent attitude on the question of supporting research into cold fusion would be a bit easier to understand. However, that would be applying criteria appropriate for one type of effort to a rather different type of effort, and so still does not justify ridiculing and blocking attempts to understand whatever P&F brought to light.

     

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    Michael Ho (profile), Feb 3rd, 2011 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Cheap shot at cold fusion ...

    Okay... I think we can agree that fundamental research is often pushing the boundaries of what we currently understand about the universe around us. I'm all for funding basic research!

    Cold Fusion research may well prove to lead to some very interesting discoveries about how calorimetry should be done properly, how electrochemical cells might be improved -- even perhaps how nuclear reactions might take place at ambient conditions.

    However, there also seems to be a significant amount of "snake oil science" going on under the guise of "cold fusion/low energy nuclear reaction" research. The practitioners of such awful experiments are not to be applauded for their stubbornness in keeping their experimental procedures secret or for hyping their results before they've been repeated by independent labs. Such "researchers" should be scolded appropriately and guided towards proper methods that would lead to reproducible results and improved understanding of any observed phenomena.

    In any case... I'll keep an eye out for cold fusion research that is actually notable -- if you have any suggestions for finding cool LENR, I'd appreciate it greatly.

     

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    KD, Feb 3rd, 2011 @ 7:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Cheap shot at cold fusion ...

    Thanks for following up again.

    You are right that a lot of people are taking advantage of the dearth of proper support for investigating the cold fusion (or whatever it is) phenomenon to push their odd physics theories, conspiracy theories, fake devices, etc. Looking back at what I posted, I see that I wasn't clear that I was not defending them. Perhaps I don't have to make the point, but the black balling of cold fusion in the official channels gives those people a lot more opportunities to get publicity and marginal credibility than they would otherwise. Unfortunately, the black balling of cold fusion has pushed some legitimate researchers in that direction.

    I don't have many URLs to hand at the moment, but I will try to remember to alert you as I come across reports of proper research in the field. You may remember that there was some work done by the Navy in the first few years following the P&F announcement. They were able to reproduce some of the effects. In 2002, they published a report which includes a couple of the papers they produced as well as a bibliography showing where more of their work appeared in journals and conference proceedings. That report is at:

    http://www.spawar.navy.mil/sti/publications/pubs/tr/1862/tr1862-vol1.pdf

    I think it is fair to summarize the work as "something unusual is going on here, but we don't know what it is and we ought to figure it out".

    You may have heard of the announcements and demonstration in the middle of January by some Italians who claim production of about 10 kilowatts of thermal power via a device they say fuses nickel and hydrogen. They haven't published anything, claiming they want to secure patents first. That's far more power production than I have seen reported by anyone else. Very interesting, if true.

     

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    Michael Ho (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Cheap shot at cold fusion ...

    KD,

    Thanks for the pdf link... It'd be great if the "cold fusion crackpots" could be completely separated from the legitimate researchers who are trying to track down anomalous energy generation. I'll admit I haven't followed the legitimate literature -- mainly because "crackpots" seem to have created their own "legitimate-sounding" research journals.

    I think the Italian group you mention may fall into that "crackpot" category. They published in a journal that they themselves created -- and by claiming that they want to secure patents before releasing their full findings, they've lost a lot of credibility in my mind. Perhaps they've actually stumbled onto something, but if they have... I think they're killing off their own research by keeping it secret and not sharing their work with others.

     

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    KD, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 7:38am

    I agree that it is quite a red flag that those Italians who put on their demonstration a few weeks ago are publishing in a "journal" they control, and are not showing enough to tell how their device actually works. Quite likely it will turn out to be yet another scam, but maybe this time it will be different. Time will tell.

    The way to separate the crackpots from the legitimate researchers is to end the ridicule and black balling of the legitimate researchers, but I'm afraid that will happen only slowly. Most scientists are as subject to social pressures as any people are and quite rightly fear losing professional respect, and even their jobs, if they try to do proper research in a field that has such prejudice against it. Once you let the crackpots take over by stupidly blocking legitimate research, as the science establishment quickly did back around 1990, it is very hard to undo the mistake.

     

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  25.  
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    KD, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 7:38am

    I agree that it is quite a red flag that those Italians who put on their demonstration a few weeks ago are publishing in a "journal" they control, and are not showing enough to tell how their device actually works. Quite likely it will turn out to be yet another scam, but maybe this time it will be different. Time will tell.

    The way to separate the crackpots from the legitimate researchers is to end the ridicule and black balling of the legitimate researchers, but I'm afraid that will happen only slowly. Most scientists are as subject to social pressures as any people are and quite rightly fear losing professional respect, and even their jobs, if they try to do proper research in a field that has such prejudice against it. Once you let the crackpots take over by stupidly blocking legitimate research, as the science establishment quickly did back around 1990, it is very hard to undo the mistake.

     

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