Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bob Park - Physics Strikes Back!

It is very seldom that physics and/or physicists are in the popular media to strike back at all the nonsense that are constantly reported and taken as "facts". This range from reports of "perpetual motion" machines, machines that can generate energy more than it consumes, various claims of faster-than-light illusion, politicians making science decisions not based on science, etc. It is sad to see a lot of the general public are taken in by such quacks, fraud'sters, and charlatans simply because they have colorful personalities and lots of bells and whistles. Science, including physics, has taken quite a beating with even attempting to fight back.

The exception to this, however, is a physicist by the name of Robert Park of the University of Maryland. Starting off while he was with the American Physical Society, he started a weekly column called What's New. This soon became a hit among physicists who subscribed and read his column religiously. This was, to me, the original "blogger" before it became a household word. Bob Park began addressing all the absurdity and abuse of science done by everyone ranging from some Joe Newman who claimed to have physics-defying inventions, to the brain-dead decisions of various politicians and govermental bodies. He was very instrumental, at least for me, in exposing the unbelievable patent of The Blacklight Co. for the "hydrino", attributed to various members (now deposed) of the US Patent Office having some affinity for "free energy".

This, and other embarrasing misteps in physics can be hilariously read at the What's New webpage.

His new column are posted and e-mail to subscribers every Friday. While I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, I applaud his courage for being one of the few physicists who dare to expose these quacks for what they are and reminding people that in the end, Nature always wins.

Related to this, he also has a book that I highly recommend, titled "Voodoo Science". In it he relates everthing from the Cold Fusion debacle, to astrology, to medical fallacies. Throughout the book, he tries to convey the distinct difference between "scientific evidence" and "anectdotal evidence", and why the latter is not acceptable. A science major, especially, should read this book. An essay from that book on "magnetic therapy" can be read here:


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