Conservapedia Debunks Relativity: Part 1

My head hurts and I think I might have a nose bleed, all thanks to Austin. No, he didn’t punch me. He sent me a link, and as a punishment I’ll be withholding the next disk of Battlestar Galactica until he apologizes.

The link was to an article on the Conservapedia titled “Counterexamples to Relativity.” They offer 30 counterexamples disproving relativity. It is DC Skeptics job to provide 30 counter-counter examples proving that whoever wrote that is a complete idiot. Let’s start with number one:

1) The Pioneer anomaly.

What about it? From Wikipedia the Pioneer anomaly “is the observed deviation from predicted trajectories and velocities of various unmanned spacecraft visiting the outer solar system…” There are a few proposed explanations for why this anomaly exists, and there is even one proven explanation that accounts for some of the anomaly. Next.

2) Anomalies in the locations of spacecraft that have flown by Earth (“flybys”).

This one might be related to the first, but there are other explanations too. Like this one:

Considering the acceleration of the craft relative to every particle of the rotating Earth, the theory predicts that there is a slight reduction in inertial mass with increasing latitude for an unbound craft, since near the pole it sees a lower average relative acceleration. Applying this theory to the in- and out-bound flyby paths, with conservation of momentum, the predicted anomalies were 2.9, -0.9, 20.1, 0.9, 3.2 and -1.3 mm/s. Three of the flyby anomalies were reproduced within error bars, and the theory explains their recently-observed dependence on the latitude difference between their incident and exit trajectories. The errors for the other three flybys were between 1 and 3 mm/s.

Yay physics! O.K., next!

3) Increasingly precise measurements of the advance of the perihelion of Mercury show a shift greater than predicted by relativity, well beyond the margin of error. (From the note: In a complicated or contrived series of calculations that most physics majors cannot duplicate even after learning them, the theory of general relativity was conformed to match Mercury’s then-observed precession of 5600.0 arc-seconds per century. Subsequently, however, more sophisticated technology has measured a different value of this precession (5599.7 arc-seconds per century, with a margin of error of only 0.01), and leading promoters of relativity (such as Professor Clifford Will) have omitted this in listing tests confirming relativity.)

This is correct; don’t see how it disproves relativity though. Wikipedia (once again) has a nice little chart with the sources of precession of perihelion for Mercury. Relativity is factored in, and without it the difference in predicted vs. observed would be much larger. That’s why we have science looking into this fascinating problem. I really enjoyed the beginning of the note where the author says “Waaaa! Math is hard!”


4) The discontinuity in momentum as velocity approaches “c” for infinitesimal mass, compared to the momentum of light.

Ok. Have you ever heard of Maxwell’s equations? Understanding them are an important step to understanding relativity. What I think this is getting at (and honestly I have know idea what this one is tryiong to prove) is explained with quantum mechanics; like how light acts like both a wave and a particle. You can derive the wave equation from Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism (a.k.a. light). Once again this leads to the “math is hard” gambit, but not understanding sonething because you refuse to learn how it works is very different from saying its wrong. Onward!

5) The logical problem of a force which is applied at a right angle to the velocity of a relativistic mass – does this act on the rest mass or the relativistic mass?

The question is not specific enough to make sense. Let’s assume that the force is moving at the same velocity as the object. Then they have the same internal reference frame, so the answer would be rest mass. However, if you mean like a car accident at a four-way intersection, then it would be the relativistic mass of  the object. It’s not really a logical problem, if you actually think about it for a few seconds.

EXAMPLE: The LHC. When we accelerate the particles, we need lots and lots of energy, because as the particles approach the speed of light their mass increases, thus, more force is required to accelerate the particle. Do I really have to keep going? Yes? Fine.

6) The observed lack of curvature in overall space.

O.K. Douglas Adams, let’s hear it:

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingiy big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. Listen. ..” And so on.

To be fair though, when confronted by the sheer enormity of the distances between the stars, better minds than the one responsible for the Guide’s introduction have faltered. Some invite you to consider for a moment a peanut in Reading and a small walnut in Johannesburg, and other such dizzying concepts.

The simple truth is that interstellar distances will not fit into the human imagination.

Even light, which travels so fast that it takes most races thousands of years to realize that it travels at all, takes time to journey between the stars. It takes eight minutes to journey from the star Sol to the place where the Earth used to be, and four years more to arrive at Sol’s nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Proxima.

For light to reach the other side of the Galaxy, for it to reach Damogran, for instance, takes rather longer: five hundred thousand years.

More or less, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sums it up nicely. Current estimates of the size of the visible universe is about 47 billion light years, looking out in any direction from earth. That’s over 90 billion light years across. Our own galaxy, the Mikey Way, is only 100,000 light years across. That’s 900,000 times longer. I would tell you what the volume of the universe is, but it’s so big it’s pointless. The point is, this is just the observable universe. It’s a big place, and we can’t see or measure how big it actually is. It might be curved, but the curve is so subtle that it is almost non-existent at the scales we can measure. The “where is the curve?” argument is nonsense.

7) The universe shortly after its creation, when quantum effects dominated and contradicted Relativity.

I know, isn’t that cool!

I’m going to tackle these next two together:

8) The action-at-a-distance of quantum entanglement.

9) The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.

This argument comes from people not knowing what quantum entanglement is. They think they know, but they usually get it wrong. The information does not move faster than the speed of light. It’s kind of complicated, but honestly, do some research. Read some books. The answers you seek can be found with little work. And entanglement does not mean that if two particles are entangled, whatever you do to one it will affect the other particle. If you do something to one of them, the are no longer entangled. Oh yeah, and Jesus.

10) The failure to discover gravitons, despite wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer money in searching.



So there is that. These discoveries don’t happen overnight. It’s all about baby steps. This “Counterexample” doesn’t disprove relativity either. They seem to be taking science terms they heard on in the news, doing about 30 seconds worth of Googling, and write some nonsense about how the liberals are evil because this is what they believe.

It doesn’t get better. They have 20 more of these “counterexamples.” We plan on covering them all. And believe me,  they get really mind-numbingly dumb by the end.

Part 2

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5 Responses to Conservapedia Debunks Relativity: Part 1

  1. Nathan says:

    Those 10 points that you address don’t prove that relativity is invalid, but they do prove that debating with idiots is a pointless exercise. Come to think of it, the existence of Conservapedia (as does the Creation Wiki) proves this all by itself.

  2. I look forward to part 2. I had a go at the same task this evening:

    @Nathan: I think the point in debunking things like this isn’t to convince the folks at Conservapedia, but to have some information that rational folks can link to when their friends are talking about something they read on Conservapedia and need a nudge in the right direction.

    • George says:

      You are correct rwuncertainty.

      The goal of these posts (and the goal of this blog) is to provide information to people, not to convince them they are wrong. It’s really tough to engage people about things the strongly believe in. Most of the time they become more entrenched in their beliefs.

  3. Pingback: Conservapedia Debunks Relativity Part 2 « DC Skeptics

  4. Pingback: Conservapedia Debunks Relativity: Part 3 « DC Skeptics

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