Oh No, Not Again

Dammit, Warren, we don’t need you spreading pseudoscience along with everybody else. The Heim theory “spacedrive” is a total crock. Remember, this is the nonsense which John Baez called “a run-of-the-mill crackpot theory” and of which Sean Carroll said,

Just so nobody gets too excited — this paper is complete nonsense, not worth spending a minute’s time on. If I find the energy I might post on it, but this is no better than the other hundred crackpot preprints I get in the mail every year.

For details, you can start here and here. It looks like I might have to dig that post out of my “drafts” pile after all. . . .

New Scientist has a lot to answer for.

5 thoughts on “Oh No, Not Again”

  1. It’s… It’s fodder. He’s a writer, and posts research material.

    Aside from that, many seemingly unsound theories have given the us conceptual apparatus for viable theories, down the line (see Sir Isaac Newton; Alchemist), so why not explore the potential, rather than tear it down because someone else said it was crap?

  2. I’ve dabbled in fiction, too, so I get the principle behind fodder. The problem is that people are eager to label, say, the actions of a politician as completely bugfuck but are not consistent enough to extend the same courtesy to pseudoscientific trash.

    Isaac Newton’s work in alchemy grew into precisely nothing. If he had not developed calculus and classical mechanics, but instead had spent his life just sniffing mercury fumes and speculating on the Jerusalem Temple’s floorplan, he would not be remembered today, and the honor we accord his name would be distributed across other individuals: Leibniz, Robert Hooke, perhaps even Christopher Wren.

    The alchemists of the medieval Arab nations did advance the state of knowledge, by discovering things like the distillation of spirits to produce reasonably pure alcohol. Alchemists in centuries past built up a cookbook of techniques, but their mysticism and passion for secrecy prevented them from developing the real science of chemistry. One of the key moments in the history of science was when investigators like Robert Boyle abandoned the “conceptual apparatus” of the old alchemists in favor of quantitative experiments and open publishing to invite mutual cross-criticism.

    I have explored the potential of “Heim theory,” and found it wanting.

  3. Here’s an analogy.

    Suppose that a person like James Holsinger writes an article which says that homosexual people are naturally more prone to disease. Anybody with a functioning baloney detection unit can tell the story is fishy, and in fact, upon closer investigation the whole thing falls apart. Now, imagine that reporters for serious newspapers pick up the story, and those serious newspapers then run articles about it which never mention the devastating criticisms leveled against it. Wouldn’t that be an insult to the people and, even, an insult to the Truth?

    The case for Heim theory is about as bad as that for James Holsinger’s “Psychopathology of Male Homosexuality.” Other than the fact that the Heimophiliacs aren’t out to denigrate an entire population — except, maybe, for all the professional astronomers, physicists and mathematicians — why should anyone give their ideas a jot more respect?

  4. I read through the entire list of comments at the Bad Astronomy Blog after reading the ones you linked to and found some of the more interesting comments were actually those who thought there may be something there or at least that the jury was still out.

    With this ‘hyperdrive’ paper there is a very obvious way to see whether there is something there or not… build it and see if it works.

    If thats not to your liking, go read the 1600 pages of dense maths and German text this idea is based on (start with http://www.heim-theory.com/) and figure out where its wrong :-)

    As for me, I’ll sit back, being cautiously optimistic, and leave it to the experts to and wait and see.

    Obviously, I think it would be really cool if inter-planetary (not to mention inter-stellar) travel were made a practical reality in my lifetime but I’m not holding my breath.

    Weird ideas have proven to be solid theories in the past and weird ideas have proven to be just weird ideas. I don’t know which this is but I know which I want it to be :-)

  5. 1600 pages of dense, equation-laden German text are of little use when the theory’s predictions are one hundred standard deviations off the mark, when the fundamental ideas are vague, and when the people making the claims plainly don’t understand basic thermodynamics.

    Should I wade through 1600 pages of German astrology papers written to justify the newspaper horoscopes when I can verify that horoscopes don’t work? Can 1600 pages of Dutch with a hundred thousand equations make homeopathy a respectable medicine?

    Do you have to eat an entire egg to know that the egg is rotten?

    What matters in all areas of rational inquiry is not what we would like to be true, not what flatters our aspirations, not what brings honor to our country or makes it sound easy to explore the stars, but what is verifiably, factually true.

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