Quacks Like a Duck | by Brian Koberlein



17 December 2014

Neurons and galaxy clusters have similar structures.
Mark Miller/Virgo Consortium
Neurons and galaxy clusters have comparable constructions.

The picture above contains a neuron on the left, and a simulation of huge scale galaxy clusters on the fitting. They give the impression of being considerably comparable in construction, and if the web is to be believed, this implies one thing. And it does. Not that the universe is alive, or the cosmos is sort of a big mind, however merely that typically two radically various things can have similarities in construction.

I’ve been getting quite a lot of feedback and emails recently from followers of different science fashions corresponding to the electrical universe. They usually hyperlink to a video asking for my ideas, or just stating that it proves “us scientists” are clearly unsuitable. I’ve been watching just a few of them, because it’s a great way to keep away from grading closing exams, and I’ve observed a typical development. I’ll name it the “if it seems to be like a duck” argument.

A Tesla ball and the Sun have some similarities.
Paul E. Anderson, et al
A Tesla ball and the Solar have some similarities.

A Tesla ball and the Solar have some similarities. Credit score: Paul E. Anderson, et al.

For instance, there’s a current experiment by electrical universe supporters often called the SAFIRE mission. The fundamental setup is a plasma globe (or Tesla ball) the place issues like voltage, present, and gasoline stress could be various. What the mission reveals is that there are some broad similarities between a plasma ball and the Solar. There are present sizzling spots, an total floor glow, and the encompassing plasma will get hotter than the floor of the ball. The similarities are form of attention-grabbing to see, however from them many EU supporters declare that this demonstrates the Solar is truly electrically charged. That’s, the similarities present that the underlying physics should be the identical.

Water waves are similar to light waves.
Water waves are much like mild waves.

It is a frequent false impression, notably inside “different” science. It’s why you typically hear arguments that one doesn’t have to get slowed down within the particulars (or arithmetic) as a result of the answer is so clearly clear. However physics is crammed with issues which are structurally comparable however brought on by very completely different underlying processes. A well-liked instance in introductory physics is using water waves to display the interference of sunshine. Water can be utilized to assist clarify the double slit experiment for mild, as a result of each water and lightweight exhibit wave habits. Nevertheless it’s utterly unfounded to conclude from this that mild is actually manufactured from water.

The facility of such bodily analogies is that they make complicated phenomena appear easy and apparent. It’s why most of different science of us concentrate on movies and visible slides fairly than precise analysis papers, and why so many individuals ship me hyperlinks to those movies as “proof” that my years of coaching and expertise are clearly unsuitable.

However simply as mild just isn’t manufactured from water and galactic superclusters should not neurons, the Solar just isn’t electrical. Bodily similarities are helpful to discover, they usually are typically proper, however they are sometimes unsuitable.

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