Philip Sutton's WeBlog
Casimir cell Dr. G. Jordan Maclay received funding from NASA to investigate the idea of extracting Zero Point Energy from the vacuum of space using these devices to exploit the Casimir effect. According to Quantum Field Theory, space is not empty but is a field of energy where virtual particles wink in and out of existence. This Venn Diagram helps us to see the relationship between truth, knowledge and belief. Knowledge lies somewhere between truth and belief. Knowledge could involve ideas generally thought to be true and even common sense, such as for example, that the Sun moves around the Earth. Truth may be concealed or blindingly obvious. Venn Diagram
 The search for Truth in Science and Religion
Moses taken from the Nile                It has never been easier to communicate with people around the World. This blog is coming from a micro computer called Raspberry Pi, which is running a web server in my house called Lighttpd. It is using Linux open source software which is also found in Android phones. The Lighttpd server has powered Wikipedia and other well known websites.
             I plan to use this blog to look at ideas concerning Science, Cosmology, Philosophy and Religion. Please pass the link to your friends, as I hope to create a discussion. The basic theme will be: Seek validation for for every important idea.
               There are 9 pages: click on the book animation to go from page to page. I very much welcome comments. Use the email facility at the bottom only if you have a mailer such as Outlook Express, (click on an animation). If you are using Webmail, copy and paste my email address into your webmail address field.
               In Science, I suppose, we are familiar with the idea that scientists deal only with objective fact, in other words, Truth. The empirical method is the preferred way of learning from Nature by way of observation and experiment. The last three hundred years have been called, the Age of Empiricism and during this time scientists have preferred observation and experiment to pure reason, or simply accepting ideas on trust from the great philosophers of the past. Nature is the teacher and scientists must study natural events to gain scientific understanding. The scientist observes what nature is already doing and may even try to imitate it in some way; this is called technology. In the past it might have been more usual to say that the scientist studies what God is already doing in Nature and tries to reproduce it, insofar as God gives him dominion. Lightning is a demonstration of electrical power, but millennia passed during which humans simply thought of thunder and lightning as weapons of the gods. Later, experiments with frogs put electrical technology within our reach. Previously, fortune tellers had poked bits of living flesh with various metals to see how they twitched. The Galvanic Cell became just one route from this observation to a future technology. (Note Galvani's experiment to galvanize frog legs and Voltaic Pile below) Galvanised frog legs
Voltaic pile                Facts drawn from Nature can often seem trivial at first, for example the fact that water runs down hill (not always in a pipe). Even Newtons Laws of Motion can seem trivial; if something is stationary, it requires a force to set it in motion, and once in motion, it requires a force to bring it to a halt or make it change direction. Of course Newton also connected in a mathematical way all these accelerations, forces and masses and then extended the equations to gravity. However, not all is self evident and it took an experiment on the moon to demonstrate clearly that hammers and feathers do indeed accelerate at the same rate. This illustrates the analitical method of Science, which is to isolate the phenomenon under investigation from confounding effects, such as air resistance in this case.
               When we observe common events we are, without doubt operating in the realms of truth. Birds really do fly, and who can deny that the wind is a powerful force that can destroy? However, when we try to explain what the wind is we may struggle to find the truth. Jesus said, "The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound of it, but you don't know where it came from or where it is going." Few would have disagreed with him at that time, especially as he was using the metaphor of the wind to make a spiritual point. However today we do know where the wind comes from; put simply, it comes from an area of high pressure air and it goes towards an area of low pressure air. When we ask, "what causes those areas of pressure," we embark on a search for the first cause.
             Of course, some things are much harder to understand, for example, Life, Mind, Consciousness, Will, Genetic inheritance, Cosmology and Quantum fields. The bulk properties of matter are generally well understood from common experience, for example, we know that we cannot walk through walls. However, once Science explains that solid matter is mostly empty space, the next question is, "so how does the ground support my weight?" Although the planetary model of the Atom has been useful in helping Science to understand what Nature is doing in the realms of Chemistry and Physics, it only goes some way in revealing atomic reality.
               At some point we may encounter the scientific hazard of 'reductionism' which is the tendency to reduce complex phenomena to absurdly simple analogies and thus do away with their essential mystery. The word, 'just' often creeps into reductionist statements. For example, the statement that atoms are 'just like' tiny billiard balls moving around at high speed. If the word 'like' is left out, the absurd simplification is complete and we may come to believe biologist Richard Dawkins, and think that life has no purpose and is simply the blind operation of the 'Selfish' gene. The Universe may indeed have no will or purpose of its own,
other than to provide a 'stage' for life, where the 'actors' must simply respect the physical limits. The 'will of the flesh' is a somewhat different matter.
Richard Dawkins
Pilate questions Jesus "What is truth?" Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor asked this question, after Jesus told him, "I came into the World, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my words." The question then; is there such a thing as absolute truth? In many ways we recognise that there is. If the doctor mis-diagnoses my illness, his treatment may even do me harm since he failed to find the 'true' cause. Some people claimed that the MMR vaccine caused Autism. Is this objectively true? A belief like this has consequences for young children. If a scientific theory is flawed, much time, effort and money may be wasted down a research blind alley.
               "And whose truth is it anyway," one hears people say? "Don't try to push your version of the truth down my throat, I know what I believe." This is a common refrain in an age of moral relativism. If ideas inform and shape our lives then the consequences of a poor mindset must appear in the objective data of Social Science, for example, self destructive hedonism, deep unhappines and a sense of existential pointlessnes. It is said that 'knowledge is power,' but could the truth be even more powerful? Jesus said, " You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." The response could be one of anger if we cannot see the difference between common knowledge (or consensus) and Truth.
               Strict fundamentalist believers of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe that the story of Adam and Eve is literally true and their societies are tainted to a greater or lesser extent with misogyny because of the role played by Eve in the supposed Fall. They take the view that their sacred books are divinely inspired or even dictated by God and are to be trusted and believed as evidence over and above anything that Science may have to say on matters such as evolution, the age of the Earth and the Universe. Fundamentalists can be naive or frankly dishonest in the way they deploy evidence to support their views.  Moses at the burning bush
               A touch of healthy scepticism helps to maintain the 'Firewall' that protects the human mind from contamination by dangerous 'viruses'. Richard Dawkins proposed the idea of 'memes' as the software analogues of genes that are passed down culturally from generation to generation. The concept of spiritual possession implies that non-material entities have somehow crossed the firewall of the self, but the German collective ego proved only too pervious to the rantings of a very material Adolph Hitler. Every individual has a unique outlook on reality based on upbringing, culture and experience.
Raspberry Pi BBC computer Protective box
Click to email me The Raspberry Pi micro computer, (left) not much larger than a credit card, is in fact a very powerful machine with 500 Mb of memory and access to up to 128 Gb on the largest SD cards. Its designers hope to re-create the creative ferment caused by the arrival of the BBC computer, Centre) into British schools, where young children learned to program in BBC basic. The BBC computer had only 32 Kb of active memory (RAM), with another 32 Kb of system memory residing in Read Only Memory (ROM). Many professionals got their early experience on that machine. Many of these are now coming to the end of their careers. You can compare my encased Raspberry Pi on the right with a penny. (It is running as you read) Click to email me
Next page Footnote: The Casimir device at the top of the page is a nano micro machine designed to be fabricated using microchip technology. Huge quantities would be needed.  Several years ago I exchanged a couple of emails with Dr. Maclay and he was prepared to acknowledge disturbing consequences, for example, a spacecraft would appear to accelerate mysteriously without the application of a force. Only gravity appears to work this way and there is no control. I have not heard of recent success from the Zero Point Energy team.