Mar 11 2019

Another Theory of Everything – Oh My!

These are always amusing, but I do admit to a little bit of guilt. My concern is that the individuals involved may be diagnosable, and is it really fair to publicly criticize their “work.” But then I realize I cannot diagnose people from afar, and they placed their work in the public arena, so it’s fair game.

What I am talking about are extreme cranks, and a particular flavor of cranks that believe they have developed what is derogatorily called a “theory of everything.” These are theories that attempt to explain the ultimate nature of reality – of space, time, fundamental forces, and even the meaning of life – but are not truly scientific. Such individuals have always existed in some form, and the internet has given them a new venue to rapidly spread their bizarre claims.

The now iconic example of the extreme theory-of-everything internet crank is “the time cube guy.” He became famous (as an internet meme) for his endlessly scrolling webpage filled with incoherent technobabble, peculiar fonts and formatting, and boasts about how much smarter he was than famous scientists. For many this was their introduction into the world of crankery. Many scientists were already very familiar, however, being on the receiving end of occasional massive tomes of self-published nonsense, eager for their attention.

A new crank theory of everything is making the rounds, at least within skeptical corners of the internet – Dan Winter, who is pushing his theory – Phase Conjugate Fractality: HOW Gravity is CAUSED. (formatting in the original)

His website is time cube redux. The superficial features themselves are not that important but do present an easily recognizable signature of the crank website (and perhaps a glimpse into the process that cranks tend to use) and so are worthy pointing out. These features include: bizarre formatting, creative and seemingly random use of fonts, bold, italics, and all capitalization, one long scrolling webpage, and a very busy style that strains your brain.

There is an interesting side question here – how much does outward style reflect inner mental processes? The same question can be asked about patterns of speech. I tend to think (and certainly there is evidence for this with mental pathology) that a disorganized mental landscape results in a disorganized pattern of speech, and a disorganized website. If you are imprecise, sloppy, haphazard, inattentive, and loose with your thoughts that is all likely to be reflected in the way you speak (not that I’m talking about any particular person, who happens to be the leader of a major country or something).

Likewise – the rambling, boastful, self-referential, and incoherent style of the crank webpage seems to be a perfect reflection of their scientific process. Dan Winter is no exception.

What is his actual theory? It doesn’t really matter, to be honest. It’s disconnected from any meaningful science. It’s like scientific poetry or performance art. There is a certain fascination, and even beauty, to all the equations and charts, the technobabble is as wonderful at times as the “turbo encabulator.”

You can read (if you dare) his website to get the details. He seems obsessed with the golden ratio, its relationship to hydrogen nuclei, and from this he feels he can derive things like gravity. But he goes beyond explaining the basic nature of reality, to its purpose:

To highlight and resolve the bankrupt ideology and total incapacity of modern physics to provide the human condition with a sense of meaning-
The first new FractalU.com lecture (Sun Jan 3, 2pm NY time) series is entitled: The STEPHEN HAWKINGS MISTAKE.
Inability to conceive of the charge implosive/radiance of human bliss – leads directly to the clueless – blind ideology of modern physics
– where Stephen Hawking declares the only purpose of life is the model you make in your mind.
When in fact – phase conjugate/ fractal/centripetal charge embedding (bliss process) can be a direct plasma coherence path to immune health, biologic sustainability- AND memory thru death.

Picking on a celebrity scientist is another common feature of the crank. This reflects the apparent psychology of the crank – they are desperate for attention, they want to be counted among the great intellectuals of history (in fact – the greatest), they pit themselves against and compare themselves to famous scientists (regardless of whether or not they are actually relevant), they tend to be very smug in their pronouncements and condemnation of the ignorance of actual scientists, and they completely lack any humility.

Think about what it must take to truly believe that you, working alone, have solved many of the greatest mysteries of existence that have eluded so far the greatest human minds ever produced, that these accomplished scientists are all “blind” and ignorant while you alone can see the truth. The hubris is epic.

This is also one feature that by itself is capable of dooming the crank to failure and ultimate anonymity (except perhaps as a famous internet crank). Humility is a critical feature of real science. A scientist must be able to ask – how do I know that I am not wrong? They take the criticisms of others seriously. They are humble before actual evidence. They know they have to convince their colleagues with compelling evidence, and they have to to their due diligence. This is obviously an ideal and often scientists fall short (which is partly why I bother writing about cranks – because it is one end of a continuum).

The crank doesn’t question themselves, does not build a careful structure one brick at a time, and they do not engage meaningfully with the community. Science is a self-correcting process, and that process is ultimately humble – it must be. The crank’s lack of humility is a crippling flaw, that dooms their project. Unmoored by the self-correction process of science, ideas about how the world works will drift off into fantasy land. This is basically what happened in all pre-scientific cultures, resulting in myths and superstitions.

Another feature of the crank, however, is that they must have some level of intelligence. The time cube or the phase conjugate fractality of Winter takes some familiarity with scientific and mathematical terms and concepts. It’s sad, in a way, that what intellectual ability they do possess is so crippled by their flaws.

I think one of the primary features, and something I always look for, is the lack of meaningful engagement with the scientific community. Science is a community process – you have to have your ideas reviewed by your peers, picked over, criticized, and put through the meat grinder. Some will take your ideas and iterate them, or tweak them, and you will take their ideas and incorporate them into your own. You will debate about the best interpretation of the data, and agree upon what experiments or observations will resolve differences. Then you will do those experiments.

You cannot replicate the results of this process by toiling alone without any feedback except your own self-approval.

Finally, you can see in the rambling claims of the crank that at no point do they put forward a testable hypothesis that they then test. They are not doing scientific research. They are explaining, as if explaining is science. This is astrology – weaving tales to explain things, and then confusing the explanation with reality. But people can be very creative (and cranks are creative if nothing else) and inventing creative explanations is easy. What is difficult and challenging is figuring out what is testable and how to test it.

The testable hypothesis is how science gets moored to reality. Without it what you are doing is not science – it is mythology. You may have the technobabble chops to give it a sheen of science, in which case your mythology is pseudoscience – but it is still not science.

 

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