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316 comments

What? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448635)

New results overturn a long held and overwhelmingly supported consensus?

That's impossible...oh, wait...it's not about global warming.

Poor choice of words (4, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448663)

Dogma?

If it was dogma the priests of chemistry would be denying the evidence and punishing its discoverers.

That's the difference between science and religion. For science, new information enlarges our understanding of the world. For religion, new information only threatens sanctified prejudices.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448715)

Yeah, those Catholics are SURE in an uproar about the whole "Genesis didn't happen that way" thing -_-

Re:Poor choice of words (-1, Redundant)

bagboy (630125) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448729)

Really? For science I rather find the more we understand, the more we realize we don't understand. Science is full of unexplained holes that theories postulate answers for. 500+ years ago scientists thought the earth was flat. Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding. My 2 cents.

Re:Poor choice of words (5, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448809)

Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding

Right. That's called the scientific method.

It's kinda the whole point. Do what you can with what you have where you are, and when you find out how you're wrong you adapt.

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449319)

It's kinda the whole point. Do what you can with what you have where you are, and when you find out how you're wrong you adapt.

Unless you're dealing with cosmology. Then, whenever your theory proves to be wrong or you observe phenomenon that it did not and could not have accounted for, you just patch up your existing theory without questioning any of the underlying assumptions and without examining alternative explanations. Or worse, you just ignore contradictory evidence.

Gravity alone can't account for the energetic events we see? Well obviously there must be mysterious dark matter that we can assume to exist anywhere needed to save the existing theory, nevermind that this majority-of-the-universe dark matter has never been observed in a laboratory (never been observed at all actually, just assumed) or verified by experiment at all, anywhere.

The solar wind is a moving flow of charged particles? That's the definition of an electric current, but obviously it's a strictly mechanical phenomenon!

The inventor of magnetohydrodynamics, Hannes Alfven, admitted that he was wrong about magnetic field lines being "frozen" in plasma and proved it? Nah, let's keep using that model to describe stars anyway!

Schwartzchild and Einstein are completely misrepresented, their results don't actually predict black holes at all, but that's okay, it sounds good so let's keep asserting that they did.

The tiny Comet Holmes suddenly flares up to become the only object in the solar system larger than the sun? You'd think that'd be newsworthy. Well, our theories don't predict it and can't explain it, so let's make sure this extremely unusual and novel event is almost completely unreported and certainly not debated, since the "dirty snowball" model might be threatened by it. Speaking of the "dirty snowball" model, the Deep Impact mission found nothing of the sort. The comet it struck with a 300-pound copper projectile was a solid rock just like an asteroid. Nah, we don't need to question our assumptions or start trying to throw out what we thought we knew at all. How scientific.

Cosmology right now is like Ptolomy and his epicycles, which were needed to save the geocentric theory of the solar system. Contradictory evidence was found, so he just kept patching up the old theory to foce it to get the answers needed instead of questioning whether the old explanation might be completely wrong. We think we're so sophisticated that such a thing could only happen "back then" but with this amount of hubris it can happen and is happening now.

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449453)

Well, i'm not sure where you were going with all of that.

In any field where we cannot be reasonably certain of the tests we're doing let alone the results, it's going to involve a lot of conjecture. The scientists who refuse to say "We just don't know" are on the path to dogmatic thought not scientific thought. I would expect any field on the fringe of our knowledge to involve a lot of uncertainty and a lot of people being shown wrong....constantly. If they weren't being shown to be wrong constantly, that'd be about as likely as coding a huge project on the fly once with no debugging and have it work the first compile.

I don't see how that aspect of human nature has any bearing on the scientific method though.

Re:Poor choice of words (2, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449463)

Great, another electrical universe nut.

1. Find some part of cosmology that is not yet fully explained (there are a lot of these, so this part is easy!)
2. Claim the explanation is ELECTRICITY!
3. Never provide any proof ever, only claim that the prevailing, incomplete theory is wrong.

Re:Poor choice of words (4, Insightful)

ericferris (1087061) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449495)

Good points. You don't really have "dogmas" in science, just hypotheses and results that you better not question because then you might piss off someone, lose you grants and be blackballed in peer reviews.

Sadly, the peer review system does not shield scientists from flaring egos and grant sucking. It's a great system where it works, and surely beats the old ways of taunting competitors with results they couldn't reproduce as was the case during the Renaissance. But it still breaks sometimes when seniority, ego and money are involved.

And of course, politics now play a role. Take something that should be as neutral as cosmology, namely, climate study. Now it's tainted with politics. That's rather disquieting.

The motto of the Royal Society -- the 500-year old British academy of sciences -- is "Nullius in Verba", meaning you are not compelled by the word of someone else, only by truth. I wish it were the case.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

Missing_dc (1074809) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449515)

Right. That's called the scientific method.

It's kinda the whole point. Do what you can with what you have where you are, and when you find out how you're wrong you adapt.

WOW, That sounds like existance in general.

"Life will find a way"

Re:Poor choice of words (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448857)

500+ years ago scientists thought the earth was flat.

No, they really didn't. Hell, over 2000 years ago the Greeks already knew the Earth was a sphere. They even knew its diameter! The idea that everyone ever thought the world was flat is entirely false - go ready a history book and stop perpetuating such garbage.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

alx5000 (896642) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449341)

I was just about to reply that. Thanks for saving me the trouble.

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Informative)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448909)

also "scientists" have known the earth to be spherical since at least the 4th century bc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth [wikipedia.org]

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Interesting)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449219)

Not only they knew, they had even measured the circumference of the Earth! It just drives me crazy that all this knowledge was somehow forgotten for over 1000 years... For example, even Colombus who knew the earth was round, should have also known the distance to India going the other way around, so it should be obvious to him that he found a new continent...

Re:Poor choice of words (4, Funny)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449263)

The knowledge wasn't forgotten. Columbus was the exception, not the rule. Everyone was telling him "Columbus, you're a dumbass. India's at least twice as far away as you think it is". You can't blame an entire time period for Columbus' fortuitous stupidity.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449323)

If Columbus was the only stupid one, and everyone else was telling him he was wrong, home come to this day, Native Americans are still referred to as "Indians". If it wasn't what people commonly called them, the name would have never caught on.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

PacoSuarez (530275) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449473)

For more on why Columbus thought he could make the trip, take a look here [millersville.edu] .

Re:Poor choice of words (2, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449403)

Indeed. Columbus took the smallest available estimate of the size of the earth, and the largest available estimate of the size of Asia, and decided he could just barely sail there. It's the same kind of cherrypicking of favorable data that got us into Iraq.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448913)

Really? For science I rather find the more we understand, the more we realize we don't understand.

yes: contrary to religion, where the less we realize the more we will be willing to not understand.

Science is full of unexplained holes that theories postulate answers for.

with the caveat of those postulates being testable, this is science

500+ years ago scientists thought the earth was flat.

you may want to say "2500" years ago...

Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding. My 2 cents.

yeah: while religions fight stronger and stronger more and more facts change THEIR ""understanding""

Re:Poor choice of words (5, Informative)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448915)

500+ years ago scientists thought the earth was flat.

No, they didn't. It's called the flat earth myth [wikipedia.org] .

Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding.

Uh, yeah? That's the whole point of Science. Scientists try to create theories that best fit the available data. More importantly, they are always looking for new evidence which will either corroborate or contradict their theories.

Re:Poor choice of words (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449339)

Sometimes a bit harder for evidence that would support their theories...

Re:Poor choice of words (2)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449601)

More importantly, they are always looking for new evidence which will either corroborate or contradict their theories.

Really? How many are working on counter-theories to evolution? Yeah, sit down Skippy. SOME scientists are just as religious about their theories as religions themselves.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448919)

Exactly. In science what is true today is often false tomorrow. There's nothing wrong with that, unless you believe everything in science today is true. On the grand scale of things, we don't know anything. let's stop pretending we do.

while we're at it, let's stop lumping all people who believe in God together as if all our opinions are the same. That goes for any group of people.

Re:Poor choice of words (4, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448993)


Really? For science I rather find the more we understand, the more we realize we don't understand.

This is true. But this also increases our understanding, not decreases it. known unknowns > unknown unknowns.

Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding.

To a degree, yes. But a new theory doesn't usually completely obviate the old one. Newtons F=MA still works for the vast majority of the time for things us humans are likely to come into contact with, it just begins to break down as you approach the speed of light. Special relativity only becomes relevant in special cases.

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Insightful)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449103)

Really? For science I rather find the more we understand, the more we realize we don't understand. Science is full of unexplained holes that theories postulate answers for. 500+ years ago scientists thought the earth was flat. Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding. My 2 cents.

There was a brief period after the loss of Greek natural philosophy from ~500 to ~1000 CE that some (but not all) Western natural philosophers thought the Earth was flat. Other than that, the only time that some prominent Western natural philosophers thought the Earth was flat was prior to Socrates. On the other hand, Chinese philosophers believed the Earth was flat until the 17th century.

It is important to note that Platonic and Aristotelian natural philosophy had a significant effect on people believing that the Earth was a sphere. It is not an understatement to say that Aristotelian cosmology and its derivatives were the dominant cosmologies over the last 2,500 years of human history. And those forms of cosmology cannot work without a spherical Earth.

This entire flat-Earth argument was invented in the 19th century to try to make it look like our ancestors were idiots during the "Dark Ages." It has been discredited many times. I strongly suggest you read this entry [wikipedia.org] as well as studying Aristotelian cosmology (and how medieval scholars and clergy interpreted it) to understand how many of ancestors thought about the universe.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449135)

Nobody thought the Earth was flat 500 years ago. It's a myth...

http://www.bede.org.uk/flatearth.htm

The BBC need to export QI.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449235)

I don't think QI would work without british humor. I dislike that American guy they sometimes invite because he simply isn't funny. He is, however, very loud.

Either case is still better... (1)

rmdyer (267137) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449167)

...than religion, which is a sort of self induced sensory deprivation (a horse with blinders on).

Science generates "wakes" of truth in the waters of knowledge in its path, while religion only leaves "still" water and goes nowhere.

Said another way... "The difference between those who truely believe and those who doubt is that those who doubt leave a wake of truths in their path." - Anonymous

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449173)

I'll bite.

Science is full of unexplained holes that theories postulate answers for.

I find it strange that religionists would embrace this line of reasoning, for it shoves god into the gaps of science's understanding. As science fills in the gaps, less and less is left for god to do, until one day we are studying Christianity the same way we study Greek mythology. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait for that day, I just find it odd that the more intelligent amongst the religious can't see where this line of reasoning leads.

Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding.

The facts that come along rarely change our understanding, more like they refine our understanding. Think of how General Relativity refines our understanding of Newton's Laws of Motion. We understood how things move but not perfectly, presently we are much closer to perfect but maybe not quite all the way there.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

powermacx (887715) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449631)

The facts that come along rarely change our understanding, more like they refine our understanding. Think of how General Relativity refines our understanding of Newton's Laws of Motion. We understood how things move but not perfectly, presently we are much closer to perfect but maybe not quite all the way there.

I think this letter from Isaac Asimov sums it up pretty well:
http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm [tufts.edu]

[...] The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that "right" and "wrong" are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.

However, I don't think that's so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so. ...When my friend the English literature expert tells me that in every century scientists think they have worked out the universe and are always wrong, what I want to know is how wrong are they? Are they always wrong to the same degree? Let's take an example.

In the early days of civilization, the general feeling was that the earth was flat. This was not because people were stupid, or because they were intent on believing silly things. They felt it was flat on the basis of sound evidence. It was not just a matter of "That's how it looks," because the earth does not look flat. It looks chaotically bumpy, with hills, valleys, ravines, cliffs, and so on.

Of course there are plains where, over limited areas, the earth's surface does look fairly flat. One of those plains is in the Tigris-Euphrates area, where the first historical civilization (one with writing) developed, that of the Sumerians.

Perhaps it was the appearance of the plain that persuaded the clever Sumerians to accept the generalization that the earth was flat; that if you somehow evened out all the elevations and depressions, you would be left with flatness. Contributing to the notion may have been the fact that stretches of water (ponds and lakes) looked pretty flat on quiet days.

Another way of looking at it is to ask what is the "curvature" of the earth's surface Over a considerable length, how much does the surface deviate (on the average) from perfect flatness. The flat-earth theory would make it seem that the surface doesn't deviate from flatness at all, that its curvature is 0 to the mile.

Nowadays, of course, we are taught that the flat-earth theory is wrong; that it is all wrong, terribly wrong, absolutely. But it isn't. The curvature of the earth is nearly 0 per mile, so that although the flat-earth theory is wrong, it happens to be nearly right. That's why the theory lasted so long.

There were reasons, to be sure, to find the flat-earth theory unsatisfactory and, about 350 B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle summarized them. First, certain stars disappeared beyond the Southern Hemisphere as one traveled north, and beyond the Northern Hemisphere as one traveled south. Second, the earth's shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse was always the arc of a circle. Third, here on the earth itself, ships disappeared beyond the horizon hull-first in whatever direction they were traveling.

All three observations could not be reasonably explained if the earth's surface were flat, but could be explained by assuming the earth to be a sphere.

What's more, Aristotle believed that all solid matter tended to move toward a common center, and if solid matter did this, it would end up as a sphere. A given volume of matter is, on the average, closer to a common center if it is a sphere than if it is any other shape whatever.

About a century after Aristotle, the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes noted that the sun cast a shadow of different lengths at different latitudes (all the shadows would be the same length if the earth's surface were flat). From the difference in shadow length, he calculated the size of the earthly sphere and it turned out to be 25,000 miles in circumference.

The curvature of such a sphere is about 0.000126 per mile, a quantity very close to 0 per mile, as you can see, and one not easily measured by the techniques at the disposal of the ancients. The tiny difference between 0 and 0.000126 accounts for the fact that it took so long to pass from the flat earth to the spherical earth.
[...]
So, although the flat-earth theory is only slightly wrong and is a credit to its inventors, all things considered, it is wrong enough to be discarded in favor of the spherical-earth theory.

And yet is the earth a sphere?
[...]
The earth has an equatorial bulge, in other words. It is flattened at the poles. It is an "oblate spheroid" rather than a sphere. This means that the various diameters of the earth differ in length. The longest diameters are any of those that stretch from one point on the equator to an opposite point on the equator. This "equatorial diameter" is 12,755 kilometers (7,927 miles). The shortest diameter is from the North Pole to the South Pole and this "polar diameter" is 12,711 kilometers (7,900 miles).

The difference between the longest and shortest diameters is 44 kilometers (27 miles), and that means that the "oblateness" of the earth (its departure from true sphericity) is 44/12755, or 0.0034. This amounts to l/3 of 1 percent.

To put it another way, on a flat surface, curvature is 0 per mile everywhere. On the earth's spherical surface, curvature is 0.000126 per mile everywhere (or 8 inches per mile). On the earth's oblate spheroidal surface, the curvature varies from 7.973 inches to the mile to 8.027 inches to the mile.

The correction in going from spherical to oblate spheroidal is much smaller than going from flat to spherical. Therefore, although the notion of the earth as a sphere is wrong, strictly speaking, it is not as wrong as the notion of the earth as flat.

Even the oblate-spheroidal notion of the earth is wrong, strictly speaking.[...]

In short, my English Lit friend, living in a mental world of absolute rights and wrongs, may be imagining that because all theories are wrong, the earth may be thought spherical now, but cubical next century, and a hollow icosahedron the next, and a doughnut shape the one after.

What actually happens is that once scientists get hold of a good concept they gradually refine and extend it with greater and greater subtlety as their instruments of measurement improve. Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.
[...]

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449213)

Scientific theories only hold out until something else comes along with more facts that change our understanding.

Yeah, well, duh. Science is mainly there to explain and predict observations, as long as our predictions and observations match, science is quite happy. It doesn't mean that science is giving you truth, it simply means that it gets it "close enough". If we can make new observations that can't be explained, then the theories get extended and fixed up, but they don't go just 'poof' and are proven all wrong, they are simply replaced by theories that work better at those new edge cases. For the non-edge cases the old theories an the other side continue to work perfectly fine.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449279)

The Parent post is nonsense. ANYBODY with even the slightest education in Quantum Mechanics knows that the electromagnetic field resulting from all the electrons (and protons) contributes to the wave equation. It is blatantly OBVIOUS.
If one were to claim that scientists have learned that the APPROXIMATION using an inner core potential breaks down at high pressure/temperatures with low atomic number atoms and it is necessary to include inner electron interactions in their calculations, then O.K.
Dogma? hardly. hyperbole and distortion? What slashdot is known for. BTW, my education of 40 years ago included this teaching for the higher At. No. atoms at STP. The news seems to be that the simpler atoms also must have this taken into account under extreme conditions. What a surprize, that extrapolation can break down...

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449381)

Yes. Whereas with dogma you keep believing it no matter what happens. If things get a bit too hot you burn anyone who disagrees.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449577)

Scientists didn't think the world was flat 500+ years ago, the general public did. Scientists were measuring the circumference over 2,200 years ago to an error of http://www.greekembassy.org/embassy/Content/en/Article.aspx?office=3&folder=218&article=23823

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448747)

For religion, new information only threatens sanctified prejudices.

Unless it doesn't.

Dogma is Am God Backwards (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448777)

Coincidence? Sure. Just like it says in the lethal text, google it.

Simply Supular ! http://supular.com/ [supular.com]

Re:Poor choice of words (5, Informative)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448799)

If it was dogma the priests of chemistry would be denying the evidence and punishing its discoverers.

Evidence you are not a scientist. The word "dogma" just has a different meaning from what you are used to when talking about science. To wit: "The Central Dogma" [wikipedia.org] . You should call up Francis Crick and tell him he was using that word wrong. Maybe they will posthumously take back his Nobel Prize.

Re:Poor choice of words (5, Informative)

rangek (16645) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448871)

You should call up Francis Crick and tell him he was using that word wrong. Maybe they will posthumously take back his Nobel Prize.

No need. Crick has already acknowledged that he really didn't understand the meaning of the word "dogma" when he used it. However, his ideas were so grond breaking that the word itself has changed/added meaning to accommodate him.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449551)

I am a scientist. Francis Crick was using the wrong word (he would not disagree with that statement). "Dogma" does not belong in science. When eminent scientists name something in a stupid way, we tend to revise the wording a generation or two later. That's why we have top and bottom quarks instead of truth and beauty. They didn't have to take any Nobel prizes away to do that. We use "momentum" instead of "quantity of motion," but no one suggests Newton was a bad scientist because of it. In chemistry, we use "oxygen" instead of "dephlogisticated air," and even the English eventually thought Priestly's original name wasn't any good. Eventually, biology will stop being dogmatic. As biology mixes more with the physical sciences, biologists will start to get as embarrassed about the word as physical scientists think they should be. Read the bottom of the wikipedia article you linked to, it's already happening in the more quantitative areas of biology.

For the avoidance of doubt (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448835)

So just to get this straight: science always lives up to the ideals of the best of scientists, while religions all conform to the practices of the worst practitioners?

Re:For the avoidance of doubt (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448975)

Pretty much.

Re:For the avoidance of doubt (2, Interesting)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449063)

This is slashdot. It leans far left and toward science and aways away from Microsoft, MPAA/RIAA, and SCO.

For supposedly trying to be neutral, a lot more posts negative of religion or the right get modded up. The GP could be -1 troll as easily as +5 insightful. Unfortunately the modding doesn't work and you have to post AC if your not following the official prejudices.

"It leans far left and toward science" (4, Insightful)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449197)

For supposedly trying to be neutral, a lot more posts negative of religion or the right get modded up.

Who promised you "neutrality"? Good posts that are negative of religion or the right are just easier to write. You see more of them modded up because more of them are posted.

Instead of whining that everyone is biased, why don't you just mod up posts you agree with if you don't like it, or start writing posts "positive of religion or the right" that are actually insightful or interesting?

Re:For the avoidance of doubt (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449433)

Reality has a liberal bias.

Re:For the avoidance of doubt (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449449)

This is slashdot. It leans far left and toward science

For the uniformed there is a banner at the top that says "SLASHDOT News for Nerds. Stuff That Matters." I know, it's "shocking" that it would lean toward science.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448955)

I would also argue that it wasn't ever really a dogma of chemistry. It was more of a useful approximation.

Chemists have long known that all the electrons contribute in some way to interactions. However it is a very useful approximation to say that only the outer electrons contribute significantly to bonding interactions. The fact is that they greatly dominate all such interactions, making the approximation useful both conceptually and computationally.

But, we all know that strictly when two atoms interact it should be modeled by taking into account the many-body problem formed by all the electrons and nucleons in both atoms. This new result is interesting in that they demonstrate a case where the contribution from the inner electrons to the final bonding and physical properties is much higher than for other systems. But I don't see how this violates any previously-held scientific principle.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448957)

Wow! Your ignorance is incredible.

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Informative)

Vornzog (409419) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448973)

'Dogma' is common in the sciences, but it implies something different than the formal definition you are thinking of. It is usually used to describe a highly simplified model of how a system works. It's just a useful way to think about something.

The most well known example is the central dogma of molecular biology [wikipedia.org] . By the time you finish freshman molecular biology in college, you know that it is a gross simplification of how a cell works, but that it is a very good first approximation.

Chemistry is no different. The vast majority of chemical interactions involve the valence electrons. So how do you introduce the topic? You say 'all chemistry deals with valence electrons (cough, cough)'. If the students learn that, you're actually doing pretty well.

Once you get past the basics, you admit to the students that you might have fibbed, and that under unusually high energy conditions, the inner shell electrons actually can interact. Upper level chem courses have been teaching this for years - there are no surprises here.

All the article says is that a research group is predicting a previously unknown inner shell electron interaction under high energy conditions. While it is news, it is not shocking, and while it violates the 'dogma' that only valence electrons interact, it changes nothing about how the dogma will be taught.

Progress in science is made at the edges. What happens to this at high energies? How will these atoms behave at extremely low temperatures? The easy cases have been understood for years, if not centuries. This discovery doesn't change any of that. So this is cool, but not a fundamental break-though.

Now, if someone replicates this experimentally, and then figures out how to use it to make dilithium crystals to power their prototype warp drive, that'd be revolutionary.

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Interesting)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449105)

Indeed, there are several dogmas of science, and they are each found to be violated after a few years.

On the central dogma of molecular biology for example, the dogma holds that DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then translated into protein.

With retrovirus though, it goes RNA--> DNA --> RNA --> protein, which is the most blatant violation. Regulatory RNA mollecules also violate the dogma, showing that whole protein step is non-essential.

Given the traditional definition of dogma as something that is inflexible to the point of causing violence, I think it's good that science has started to co-opt it and prove concretely that dogmas can be violated without the general veracity of them falling apart.

Maybe religions will take note. "Hey, the central dogma of mobio has some exceptions but still DNA gets turned into RNA and then gets turned into protein. Maybe if we admit the bread doesn't ACTUALLY become flesh, we won't all go to hell?"

Yeah, crazy thoughts that will probably get me burned at the stake.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449411)

I really don't understand the modern penchant for changing the meaning of a word to affect change in society. Perhaps, rather than changing the meaning of dogma and having to invent another word to mean inflexible belief, we should encourage people to honesty give up tightly held dogmas.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

Toffins (1069136) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448981)

I don't think it's necessarily an altogether inaccurate characterization of the way some scientists can behave towards colleagues. Highly surprising new discoveries are often treated with enormous skepticism by scientists until they are independently confirmed (theory) or reproduced (experiments). The researchers behind highly surprising new results will meet all sorts of reactions that can vary from keen interest, respect, healthy skepticism, disbelief, rejection, ridicule, pillorying, to withholding of funding! The more negative reactions, though fortunately rare, can certainly hurt people just as if they were intended as a "punishment" - especially where the new results take a long time to be independently verified. Of course, if the new results are revolutionary, confirmed, and widely accepted, the researchers will eventually be well rewarded in term of professional reputation and career prospects. But sometimes the interim can be painful. Having said all that, science needs to be skeptical, otherwise it would be overwhelmed with junk; You've heard the phrase, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". The flipside of that is that for a less well known researcher, it's generally very much more difficult to get research funding to work on an area that involves extraordinary or controversial claims.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449207)

No, it's the difference between science and human nature. Like or or not, we evolved [or were designed, whatever] to be dogmatic. It's a very important survival mechanism. Human beings hate change, hate it with a passion. One of the big ideas in science is the idea that knowledge can change. But even in science, the general attitude is that there is a static unchanging set of truths that the scientific method is slowly approaching.

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449321)

Dogma?

If it was dogma the priests of chemistry would be denying the evidence and punishing its discoverers.

That's the difference between science and religion. For science, new information enlarges our understanding of the world. For religion, new information only threatens sanctified prejudices.

wow...must be hard enlarging anything so narrow

Re:Poor choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449331)

No, it's not really. This is a nice caricature of both science and religion, but it is not borne out by reality.

Scientists suffer from plenty of prejudice. One time in my department I saw some visiting professor give a seminar in which he challenged a theory in polymer physics that has held sway for two or three decades. He was openly mocked and dismissed for no good reason that I could see. It was hardly world-view shattering stuff, just professional elitism and chest thumping. And over a theory that perhaps a few hundred or a few thousand people would ever see or care about.

On the other side, you along with most /.ers have probably never read a single page of academic theology, so you are in no position to know what role scientific, grammatical, archaeological, and other types of evidences plays in shaping scholarship in that area.

In short, you have a simplistic and stereotyped understanding of both science and religion.

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449373)

I wonder how the priests of chemistry would punish heretics? A sodium hydroxide bath at the stake?

Re:Poor choice of words (1)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449539)

Yes, these were chemists. Chemists aren't exactly dogmatic. They are real scientists. It's not like they're biologists...ick

Re:Poor choice of words (3, Interesting)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449571)

Injecting some snide comment about religion into every science story on /. is getting about as bad as injecting "Bush" into...well, every other story on here. Dude, if you wanna beat-off guilt free just do it!

arXiv link (5, Informative)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448671)

For anyone who wants to read the actual paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/0805.2781 [arxiv.org]

Re:arXiv link (2, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448687)

So where are the Dilithium Crystals? Huh.

Valence != Outer Core (5, Informative)

FST (766202) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448679)

Just because an electron is in the outer "core" doesn't mean it's a valence electron. Similarly, the converse is also true. As IUPAC put it, the number of valence electrons is equal to "the maximum number of univalent atoms (originally hydrogen or chlorine atoms) that may combine with an atom of the element under consideration, or with a fragment, or for which an atom of this element can be substituted." This still holds true for the interactions in question in TFA.

Thats why (3, Funny)

eille-la (600064) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448701)

Aahhh, that's why all the experiments I made while standing in the center of the earth sometime failed!

Re:Thats why (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448765)

Exactly!

More accurate headline would be "New Results Show Law of Chemistry May Not Apply At Very High Pressures, Temperatures"

Re:Thats why (5, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448929)

No, they failed because, as everyone knows, the center of the Earth is actually hollow, contains a breathable atmosphere, and is full of prehistoric creatures.

Many Beliefs turning out to be fictions (-1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448733)

We are finding that much of what we have been told to believe is not true in fact we are finding our basic perception of reality is flawed.

The daily new discovery is fascinating.

Perhaps they were perceptions (fictions) that benefited the status quo.

Apparently a major revelation is coming that is disturbing yet liberating as spoken of here. http://godparticle.net/ [godparticle.net]

Re:Many Beliefs turning out to be fictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448945)

While I'm glad you can warp the news to wank off your weird beliefs, you should invest more time in reading comprehension. This article is simply saying that *computer simulations* show that in *extreme conditions* a standard assumption used in chemistry no longer holds. Such a discovery does not invalidate the concept of valence electrons (did you even bother to look up what that means?), because standard chemistry explains the vast majority of things we have already observed. If this work is confirmed, it means you have to work harder to understand chemistry at extremely high pressures.

Re:Many Beliefs turning out to be fictions (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448947)

-1, Irrelevant truism

Very theoretical research (1)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448749)

This is fascinating. I know it is all very theoretical, and based on computer models of how a material behaves under extreme pressure.

But frankly, I fail to see any practical applications for this. We are talking about 1,5 million atmospheres and 3000 Kelvin - hence not a typical lab environment.

But I will with no doubt be proven wrong in the following years. That is why following science is so fun at times :-)

Re:Very theoretical research (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448853)

But frankly, I fail to see any practical applications for this.

Like you, I can't see any practical applications. But the science itself is fascinating.

It does make a certain measure of sense (to my no-more-pure-sciences-since-high-school mind): the additional energy provided by the heat and pressure would excite all of the shell layers.

But I confess I'm over my depth: I go more towards computer sciences than physics.

Re:Very theoretical research (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449289)

Doesn't seem surprising to me in the least. Given enough pressure and heat, not only do the inner electrons start to interact, but so do the nuclei. This is called fusion. I'm not a particle physicist, but it seems to be mostly related. As you increase the amount of heat and pressure, and therefore increase the energy acting on the particles, the particles that under normal lab conditions usually wouldn't interact, because of insufficient energy to be moved, are now completely able to participate in a reaction.

Re:Very theoretical research (1)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449409)

Doesn't seem surprising to me in the least. Given enough pressure and heat, not only do the inner electrons start to interact, but so do the nuclei. This is called fusion.

Not quite the same. Fusion is when the atom core (protons/neutrons) melts together with another atom core. Here we are talking about the electrons in the inner shell interacting.

But in a way you are right, TFA describes the atoms being in a state that the electron in the outer shell is stripped from all atoms so all atoms are ions, and the stripped electrons are paired up somewhere between the ions, basically leaving the inner shell electrons free to interact.

Re:Very theoretical research (1)

rde (17364) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449485)

This is fascinating. I know it is all very theoretical, and based on computer models of how a material behaves under extreme pressure.

But frankly, I fail to see any practical applications for this. We are talking about 1,5 million atmospheres and 3000 Kelvin - hence not a typical lab environment.

The point isn't that they act differently under high pressure; it's that they act differently. Whenever we've got a model that's proved wrong - and it happens all the time - then new theories come forward to explain the new behaviour. It's those new theories that lead to breakthroughs (or breaks through).
And even if it doesn't, it doesn't matter. We still know more than we did before.

Re:Very theoretical research (1)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449505)

Good point.

Re:Very theoretical research (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449499)

There's lots of interest in exploiting unusual states of matter on small scales. You could cage a bit of this lithium compound in a buckyball or other matrix, for example.

Obligatory Stargate SG1 Reference (1)

strelitsa (724743) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448751)

Some true "meaning-of-life stuff" in this story.

Sensationalist Bullshit. (4, Informative)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448761)

Standard for "Science Journalism." The result is actually far less earth-shattering than the author is trying to portray. Researchers think they have found a set of conditions in which the usual models used in chemistry don't apply anymore.

Now that's a fucking shocker. Most Chemistry today focuses on conditions either similar to STP or than can be created within STP. STP is "Standard Temperature and Pressure" Usually defined for the purpose of convenience of communication as 298K and 760 Torr. They define this as "standard" because everybody in Chemistry knows that chemistry changes as you change conditions, and it's useful to have a standard to compare to, even an arbitrary one (298K, 760 Torr is "average" sea level temperature and air pressure). The standard is also very useful for Chemical Engineering.

The article is poorly written garbage.

Researchers do need to invent things to research (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448811)

Researchers do need to invent things to research, how else will they put bread on the table?

What if nature is not flawed and only mans's perception is? Perhaps earth was a paradise till we messed it up?

Re:Researchers do need to invent things to researc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449327)

What if all the retard 'what if'-posts on slashdot are just a figment of my imagination? Perhaps slashdot was paradise till my brain messed it up?

Re:Sensationalist Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449075)

mod this shit up. TFA makes it sound like they discovered CPT violation [wikipedia.org] or Brendan Fraser [wikipedia.org] in the earth's c0re. For fuck's sake, the paper was only accepted two days ago. Here's the preprint [arxiv.org] .

Goes against chemistry dogma? (5, Insightful)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448819)

High-pressure reactions are an almost completely unexplored aspect of chemistry; and the research that has been done shows that atoms and molecules behave much differently under high pressures. For example, a lot of research is being done now utilizing ultra-high pressure water as a replacement for organic solvents, for greener chemistry. If there's one thing we've learned from these high-pressure experiments, it's that everything acts different, so it really doesn't go against our "dogma" at all; it just goes against the "dogma" of STP reactions, which makes sense, as this was not an STP reaction. It's an incredibly cool finding; just not something that's going to turn all of our current chemical understanding upside down by violating "dogma."

Re:Goes against chemistry dogma? (5, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449011)

For example, a lot of research is being done now utilizing ultra-high pressure water as a replacement for organic solvents, for greener chemistry.

I think you mean ultra-high pressure carbon dioxide, not water. Supercritical CO2 [wikipedia.org] is indeed an interesting area of research, as it can be used to replace dangerous organic solvents, making industrial chemistry safer and greener.

And I agree that there is likely a rich unexplored landscape of interesting chemistry beyond standard temperatures and pressures.

Re:Goes against chemistry dogma? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449229)

Does anyone check anything before posting?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercritical_water_oxidation

Of course! (1)

whitespiral (941984) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448841)

Computer simulations? You mean like the computer simulations that say the earth is warming? Hahahaha...

Re:Of course! (4, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449001)

Computer simulations?

You mean like the computer simulations that say the earth is warming? Hahahaha...

Indeed. Between your intuition and computer simulations running on super-computers based on decades of research on predictive models designed by the most competent and dedicated researchers in the domain, always trust your intuition.

This is why I never watch the weather channel, I just look at how leaves move in the wind, how menacing clouds look, then I wet my pointer finger, put it in the air and I can tell you how the weather will be tomorrow. Well I can tell what it will be, doesn't mean I turn out to be right, but hey, the Weather Channel is wrong sometimes too!

core correlation (5, Informative)

rangek (16645) | more than 5 years ago | (#24448911)

Chemists already know that core electrons do influence bonding and such. It is simply a short cut to ignore them. Hence, when one wants to get the last few digits on your answer you turn on "core correlation" which treats the core and valance regions the same.

Furthermore, the conditions in question here are so extreme as to border on being a plasma or some such. So I am not really surprised to see some effect that are negligible under "normal" conditions to grow and become important.

Tera Patrick (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24448925)

I'd eat her ass and cunt until my balls turned to gummy bear juice.

Interesting results, but (4, Informative)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449093)

was any 'dogma' really overturned? My understanding was always that the basic chemical rules were first order approximations, not a comprehensive description of how everything must behave. For example, xenon is an 'inert' element, with the outer shell full, but xenon tetra-fluoride (XeF4) is a stable compound. I learned that in high-school in the 1980's.

very intersesting unless you consider... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449099)

hey bitches, still sucking that linux faggot dicks? still taking it up the ass from jobs? why don't you all just get aids and die?

Im surprised no one has mentioned.. (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449111)

I read that headline and did the ping-pong in my head.. IANC or any scientist, but it would seem that theoretically, if you could change the base of an atom you could effectively create a new matter type. If capable to control this, perhaps even create specific matter on request.. Star Trek anyone?

It may be a different phase of matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449215)

Plasma, gas, liquid, solid, ????

Proof that a bad summary warps the conversation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449165)

The amount of argument in the comments about "scientific dogma" demonstrates how much power the article summary has in shaping the way posters will approach the topic. Instead of talking about high-pressure chemistry, we're off rehashing arguments about suppression of scientific ideas, and "faith vs. reason" bullshit.

This is the under-appreciated power the editors have over us. By accepting articles on interesting topics with stupid summaries, they lower the quality of discussion.

Fancy Physics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449169)

Chemistry is just fancy physics. Biology is just fancy chemistry.

All science is either Physics or stamp collecting. Chemists and biologists need to stop collecting stamps and start doing physics.

Re:Fancy Physics (2, Funny)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449299)

Yes [xkcd.com]

repeating poor behaviours & expecting differen (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449191)

results, opposing our 'chemistry' at every step of the way. just never happens. see you on the other side of it. the lights are coming up all over now. conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

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http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/05/senate.iraq/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/washington/17contractor.html?hp
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/middleeast/03kurdistan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
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the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

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(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
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ever hear of plasma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449217)

it's always been accepted that matter in conditions like these did not follow "normal" rules

Not news. (3, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449285)

Chemistry's rules exist because they functionally explain chemistry in an accessible manner. Physicists have known that there are more accurate models for a while. Unfortunately, these models are too complex to be useful to someone trying to synthesize a chemical. If this has any significant applications, we will still be seeing classical chemistry for at least a century to come (barring the singularity.)

I mean, it's been almost a century since relativity and quantum mechanics came on the scene, but for the majority of engineering tasks, they remain useless. Between processors hitting the atomic scale and more probes hitting the atmosphere, that may change. However, I don't see chemistry getting to the point where we even begin to see practical chemistry that doesn't rely on classical models. The new ones are simply to complex to use.

Lithium... (2, Informative)

parachutepenguin (1154713) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449333)

Let's not forget that Lithium only has 3 electrons, 2s1 and 1s2. With this is mind it's not all that surprising.

Electron-Nucleus Interactions (5, Informative)

Graff (532189) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449369)

IAAC (I am a chemist)

Honestly this result is not unexpected. The interactions of electrons and nuclei depend on several factors: distance, energy, and charge. There is also the factor of election-electron interaction, which is where the idea of valence electrons comes about.

Normally the outermost electrons of an atom are far enough from the nucleus that the distance from the nucleus and the repulsion from the other electrons on the atom allows them to more easily interact with other atoms. This is how bonding works, an electron gets "shared" between two atoms or the electron completely jumps off the atom and turns the atom into an ion which is attracted to other, oppositely charged, ions. Yes, I'm oversimplifying quite a bit for the layman.

Every electron in an atom can interact with another atom, it's just MUCH less likely to happen for the inner electrons of an atom and the interactions of the inner electrons to other atoms are much weaker than those of the outer electrons. Increasing the pressure allows the inner electrons to interact more strongly with other atoms.

Under higher pressures and energies two things happen. First of all atoms are pressed closer to each other. This means that all of the electrons are closer to other atoms. This increases the likelihood that an electron will interact with another atom, forming a bond. The second effect is that the increased energy tends to cause the electrons in atoms to jump to higher energy states which are further out from that atom's nucleus. This means less crowding which means less repulsion from other electrons which means that each atom's nucleus is more exposed to interaction with other atom's electrons. Again, I'm oversimplifying for the layman.

The extreme of this is when the pressure is great enough that each nucleus gets close enough for the nuclear force to overcome the electrostatic repelling force between the two positively charged nuclei. When this happens you get neutronium, the core of a neutron star. Obviously you don't normally see these levels of pressure on Earth!

What is really in question is the exact numbers of the interactions. At what pressure does a certain phase of atom to atom interaction appear? How does the increased pressure affect rates of reactions between atoms? Scientists are trying to measure hard numbers of the effects of pressure on chemistry. There already is a good deal of theoretical work but the experimental work is a bit tough to do given the conditions needed.

Re:Electron-Nucleus Interactions (0, Offtopic)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#24449635)

Mods, remove that post! It is not only informative, but on topic! :p
Thanks for that post, Graff.

Dogma... in like high school. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24449547)

"Researchers have found that the long-held belief that only the outer, valence, electrons of an atom interact may be false.

Take Chemistry 101 and 102 in a college today. They no longer believe this. Though I guess it is unusual for lithium. However the center of the Earth is as hot as surface of the sun, and is essentially a ball of plasma, which is so hot nucleons congregate together and all the electrons dance around it.

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