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You must be at least this smart to develop new theories of gravitation

By johnboy - 8 May 2009 33

ANU informs us that the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, lead by Dr Helmut Jerjen, has debunked that hack, Sir Isaac Newton:

    “Our studies of satellite galaxies have revealed some astonishing phenomena,” said Dr Jerjen. “First of all, there is something wrong about their distribution. Standard Cold Dark Matter theory tells us the satellites should be uniformly arranged around their mother galaxy, but this is not what we see. In fact, they all lie more or less in the same plane – they are forming some sort of disc in the sky.”

    ….

    “A possible solution to this contradiction would be to reject Newton’s classical theory of gravitation. We might live in a non-Newton universe. And if this is true, then our observations could be explained without dark matter. This conclusion has far-reaching consequences for fundamental physics and for cosmological theories,” he said. “The Stromlo Missing Satellites Survey project at ANU will perform crucial tests to verify this subtle hint nature threw at us.”

I realise I am not a Doctor of Astronomy and Astrophysics. But I’d be having another look at the newer and less tested “Standard Cold Dark Matter theory” before worrying too much about living in a non-Newton universe.

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33 Responses to
You must be at least this smart to develop new theories of gravitation
Bundybear 1:07 pm 08 May 09

@#9 Spectra, Keep it light, just making the point that your definition of science is a tad idealistic. I’m not sure all theories are subjected to this ongoing process of open-minded review, so much as the “Theory of biggest bucks/popular culture/loudest yellers/pushiest media becomes the accepted and if you don’t agree shutup”. Another good example is global warming/climate change.

Jim Jones 12:13 pm 08 May 09

BerraBoy68 said :

who he happily sent here to be nailed to a stick.

That’s two sticks, heretic.

HOLY WAR!!!

LadyBhaal 11:45 am 08 May 09

I often wonder why people think that gravity is unchanging. Just because it works consistently here (ie, our local solar system) doesn’t mean that it works this way elsewhere. We’re only testing in our own local domain.

BerraBoy68 11:24 am 08 May 09

Skidbladnir said :

As every bible-believing humanoid knows, there is no ‘gravitation’, only ‘intelligent falling’.
Skybeard says so.

LOL. But don’t ridicule my omnipotent deity of choice, Skid. The old bloke that lives in the sky loves you too. If you doubt this just ask his son, who he happily sent here to be nailed to a stick so you too can be happy floating in the sky one day.

anatoli 11:15 am 08 May 09

This is no big deal.

We already know that Newton was wrong about classical mechanics – Einstein suggested that with special relativity, which was subsequently proven beyond any reasonable doubt. Newton’s theories still work at everyday speeds though, so his equations of motion are still used.

If he’s “wrong” about gravity too then it will be a similar deal – not wrong so much as innaccurate. The sort of innaccuracy that only matters on cosmic scales (hence not being noticed until now).

frontrow 11:09 am 08 May 09

I think the qualifier “a possible solution” covers your concerns, Johnboy.

The part of the story headlined “astronomers observe unusual activity that may contradict Newton’s theories” is the interesting part of the story for this kind of publication. The alternative explanations, including that they may have just forgotten to clean the lenses that day are much less interesting. (Unless that one turns out to be true, of course.)

Spectra 10:53 am 08 May 09

Indeed. ‘Peer review’ isn’t scientific method.

I have no idea whether you’re being sarcastic or not (or perhaps making a pun with “peer”?), I’m afraid. I was talking in the broadest possible terms – it was a comment on a story, not an essay on scientific method I was writing. Having said that, I’d consider peer review to be essentially covered by “compare observations with theory”.

Really? Classic example being Theory of Evolution I guess?

Yes. I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make.

Clown Killer 10:42 am 08 May 09

Remembering of course that the term ‘theory’ describes an explanation for a suite of observed facts.

p1 10:39 am 08 May 09

Really? Classic example being Theory of Evolution I guess?

I would have thought that they was a classic example. Has someone disproved it recently?

Skidbladnir 10:33 am 08 May 09

As every bible-believing humanoid knows, there is no ‘gravitation’, only ‘intelligent falling’.
Skybeard says so.

Ralph 10:30 am 08 May 09

That’s what science is all about: develop theory, compare observations with theory, modify theory, rinse, repeat.

Indeed. ‘Peer review’ isn’t scientific method.

Bundybear 10:22 am 08 May 09

“No scientific theory should be held up as unquestionable

That’s what science is all about: develop theory, compare observations with theory, modify theory, rinse, repeat.”

Really? Classic example being Theory of Evolution I guess?

housebound 10:14 am 08 May 09

johnboy said :

… peer … great distance away …

Perhaps you would also get your eyes checked, or use better glasses.

johnboy 9:28 am 08 May 09

Agreed spectra,

But when trying to peer at things a great distance away and seeing them behave in unexpected ways my first reaction would be to wonder what I wasn’t seeing.

Spectra 9:23 am 08 May 09

I was lucky enough to have Dr Jerjen as an astrophysics lecturer while I was at ANU – very bright fellow.

The problem with astrophysics at the moment is that there’s a bunch of stuff being observed that isn’t adequately explained by any current theory – this particular case is just one example. The cold dark matter theory has its own pretty significant questions – most notably “what the hell is it and why does it seem to have no observable effect beyond the gravitational one?”. No scientific theory should be held up as unquestionable – indeed, Newton’s fundamental stuff has long been known to not hold when you’re dealing with relativistic speeds. That’s not to say that any heed should be paid to crackpots who start off their arguments with “Einstein was wrong!”, but nor should we ignore the possibility of needing to modify long-held theories just because they were developed by someone really really smart. That’s what science is all about: develop theory, compare observations with theory, modify theory, rinse, repeat.

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