The Truth is out there? Conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific ideas abound. If there is life on other planets or the Universe popped into existence only a few thousand years ago we need to know!
What if everything you thought you knew was wrong? We at Armagh Planetarium occasionally receive astonishing e-mails and letters detailing amazing theories about the Universe or sometimes you’ll meet face to face apparently sensible people who will explain how reality really works. Here are some startling alternatives to consider (I have genuinely encountered all of these theories, to avoid embarrassment I will not identify sources).
- The Earth is only thousands of years old; supposed extinct prehistoric animals such as dinosaurs never existed. Naive scientists who “aren’t as wise as country folk” (sic) dig up piles of jumbled bones from unrelated skeletons of everyday animals, for example horses and elephants, and through ignorance assemble them into ‘dinosaurs’. In addition, some fossils are actually deliberate fakes carved by unscrupulous museum staff both to perpetuate the myth of evolution and to create money-making attractions for their facilities.
- Further to the hypotheses above, scientists claim to understand the principles of nuclear physics; yet dating techniques based on theories about radioactive decay can give ages for rocks and fossils in the millions or billions of years, which is clearly absurd. Also if the Earth was genuinely billions of years old, radioactive isotopes should not exist at all as they would have all “decayed to nothing” in this timescale. These anomalies and inconsistencies show that scientists simply do not understand nuclear physics and any scientific pronouncement about radiation, radiotherapy or nuclear power is unreliable. Hence these technologies are unsafe and should not be trusted.
- The Sun is at the centre of the Universe, which is only thousands of years old; hence no astronomical object can be millions or billions of light years from the Sun. Objects may appear to be huge distances away but this is because light does not travel large distances in straight lines. Beams of light spiral towards the Sun in paths which wrap around the Universe many times as they travel. As a result, an object can be located on the edge of the Universe (about ten thousand light years from the Sun measured directly), but the light from it can still travel through billions of light years to reach us.
- Young, heliocentric Universe again, but totally different explanation. Objects may appear to be huge distances away from the Sun but this is because space itself and all the matter within gets physically smaller as you travel outwards from the Sun. This ‘scaling down’ effect is not linear and is not measurable on Earth. Hence an object on the edge of the Universe may be, say, ten thousand light years from the Sun measured directly, but the light from it can still travel billions of light years to reach us because a light year at its distance may be equivalent to say only fractions of a millimetre on Earth. This means that distant astronomical bodies are much, much smaller than astronomers claim. It also means that the Voyager spacecraft are physically shrinking as they travel away from the Sun.
- Newton’s laws of motion are incorrect. Rocket thrust cannot be used to manoeuvre a space vehicle or to make a controlled descent onto a planet’s surface. Governments are aware of this but want the masses to believe in Newtonian physics as they know that that acceptance of absolute laws of nature encourages obedience to authority. Hence governments worldwide have created elaborate fake space programs. All “space travel” is a hoax. Satellites, space probes, guided missiles and jumpjet aircraft do not exist, all evidence of their existence is faked with elaborate props, computer graphics and illusions.
- The Earth does not orbit the Sun, instead describing an orbit shaped like a figure eight above the Sun (which is a globe of molten silicon). There is no evidence whatsoever proving that the Earth orbits the Sun as Copernicus claimed.
- The planets exert subtle gravitational influence on matter on a sub-atomic scale. Nuclear reactions can only occur when the planets are in particular configurations. Nuclear bombs can be built but can only be detonated when the planets and Moon are in the correct positions. Governments know that a nuclear war is impossible but maintain the pretence that it could happen to control the public (the ‘planes which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to circle their targets for several hours, waiting for exactly the right instant when the planets moved into position before releasing their bombs).
- Mars, Venus and the Moon have Earth-like environments and are inhabited by civilisations of beings physically similar to ourselves who live in utopian societies without poverty or conflict. Governments worldwide know about the inhabitants of the Solar System but have been actively concealing their existence from the public since the early 1900s. As part of this deception, all telescopes sold to the public are fitted with carefully hidden devices to limit their resolution, otherwise amateur astronomers could observe clouds, oceans and cities on the Moon and Mars. To further this cover-up, even the most basic laws of optics in textbooks and photography manuals are false. Pre-twentieth century astronomers did not work under these restrictions, and had access to telescopes much superior to today’s models, hence the observations by Hershel, Lowell and others of lunar life and canals on Mars and so on. Most astronomers are ignorant of the true nature of our neighbouring worlds, the few who see through this conspiracy are bribed or threatened into going along with it.
- The claim that scientists and engineers must understand and use mathematics in their work is a myth. In fact, most mathematics beyond arithmetic is meaningless. Calculus in particular has no predictive power. Engineers who claim to use mathematics in their work are lying, they simply use “gut feelings” and past experience to design vehicles, machines and structures, rehashing designs they know will work, afterwards justifying their decisions with spurious and meaningless equations. Insistence on mathematical literacy is based on intellectual snobbery, ensuring progress is controlled by a small elite and meant to exclude gifted amateurs from contributing to science.
Amazing stuff, but why am I telling you this? Many of you will see these hypotheses as odd, and indeed laughable. I am not here to make fun of them (they are quite capable of doing that by themselves) but I think that it is important to know that they are out there. Here are some reasons why.
Despite investment in schools, universities and every other source of education there are still people who misunderstand science on every level. Not only don’t they understand what science has discovered, they don’t see how science works, or its evidence-based, self-scrutinising, self-correcting nature. Instead they assume sciences operates by decree when an elite pronounces how things are and everyone else lower down just follows their lead. Interestingly, the people who put forward these alternatives seem to want science to work the way they think. They want us to accept their theory based on nothing but their say so (none of the promoters of the alternatives seemed to be able to suggest experiments or observations to confirm or falsify their idea).
Not only do these people mistrust mainstream science, they see it as a conspiracy with everyone else being dupes or part of the conspiracy.
Some of these people pushing these theories have positions in society where they have some degree of influence (they sit on boards of school governors, they are leaders of youth organisations, churches, active in political parties and so on). Are you comfortable with that?
Dissenting or wildly alternative theories should not be censored, but if you care about truth you should be ready to challenge them when it counts. Now I’m off to make a fake Triceratops skull…
admin · December 9, 2010 at 10:47
Hi Thorsten, “Mr Maths” certainly had a chip on his shoulder about mathematicians- I assume he’d failed a mathematics course! As to amending the maths to fit the observation, I have absolute confidence that this is a widespread practise in science and technology, but I suspect in most cases there is no real intent to deceive. You’re right to say that nature is too complex usually to be fully described by the maths we mere humans have devised. We are pretty good though, the precision of the Comet Hartley 2 flyby shows what we are capable of (he said, turning a blind eye to Akatsuki missing Venus!)
Thorsten Brabetz · December 5, 2010 at 23:40
Don’t know Colin, personally I can sympathise with the guy who thinks that calculus has no predictive power… :oD
I am a firm believer that most scientific discoveries were not accompanied by the words “Eureka!” (“I found it!”), but “that’s funny….” As such, there is a certain mileage in the idea that most equations are fiddled with hindsight to fit the observation… :o)
Of course, that’s not because of any elitarian snobbery trying to bully and exclude the amateurs, but more because most natural processes are so complex that the equations needed to describe them cannot be solved except for a few ‘special cases’ which are so special that they do not have any practical application…