Friday, December 01, 2006

Excuse me while I spasm uncontrollably

Well, the campus newspaper has done it again. The highlighted piece of woo this week: Global Orgasm Day. In the Science section of the paper no less. Granted, it was a "Community Editorial" (which is what they call very long letters to the editor), but they still did make the decision to print it, and what section to put it in.

Now, it isn't posted online yet, so I can't give quotes (without typing the whole thing up myself, which I am not looking forward to doing) or link to it just yet. When it is, expect to see that here.

Edit: You can see the entire article here.

The article justifies the possible effects of GOD (no, not God, GOD) by bringing up Princeton's Global Consciousness Project. This was inspired by work done in PEAR (The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research), which is about to be shut down because it's a collosal waste of money and effort. Good thing to appeal to there.

About half of the article is spent just explaining how things work over there, when it could be summed up in one sentence: They watch random numbers and see if they deviate from expected patterns during big events. Yeah, well I've got a newsflash for you: Deviations are to be expected in small time frames. The laws of probability demand it.

When the article finally gets around to an actual claim, it says:

During times such as natural disasters, wars, 9/11 or mass meditation and prayer, the numbers generated deviated from the pattern.

So, around the times of these events, the numbers didn't have a perfectly chance distribution. Maybe that would mean something, if there weren't a few huge problems with how they work:

1. There's no set time-frame for when the deviation has to be found, so it's judged subjectively. For instance, the deviation associated with the World Trade Center attacks occured a couple hours before the attacks. Opening it up like this increases the likelihood of them finding some period where the numbers deviate a little.

2. There's no set criterion for how much the numbers deviate for it to be considered significant. Again, this is all done subjectively, allowing for very weak deviations to be counted as significant.

Using guidelines as loose as these, I betcha I can find a deviation to match any given event. In fact, I'll predict right now that there'll be some slight deviation right at the time I'm typing this post.

The article goes on to claim that this is because "information, or the perception thereof, will exert an effect on the quantum energy and will change the way the numbers are produced." Odd, in my quantum mechanics classes, we never talked about how macroscopic information could effect whatever he means by "quantum energy." And the closest we ever got to talking about the effects of sex on quantum mechanics was the "Bra" in "Bra-Ket."

In fact, you know the thing about Quantum Mechanics that rules stuff like this out? Quantum Mechanics may have very weird results on small scales and with individual particles, but once you blow it up to macroscopic scale, they all get averaged out. It's only very precise experiments on very small numbers of particles that show any quantum effects. Just wait, I'm sure that one of these days "Appeal to Quantum Mechanics" is going to become a recognized logical fallacy or pseudo-fallacy. It's getting more and more popular by the day.

With this in mind, I've currently finished two of my three sample articles for getting my own column (which is apparently desperately needed). If anyone's available to look over them and comment on them, please drop me an e-mail (address in my profile) or comment here.

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