Monday, 12 May 2014

The Emperor's New Clothes: the heritage cult ― 5. Multiple viewpoints

with universe branching.
Visualization of the separation of the universe due to
two superposed and entangled quantum mechanical
Author: Christian Schirm (public domain)
People often have a hard time with the concept of infinity and. indeed, the term can be qualified in different ways. The many worlds interpretation in quantum mechanics has been used by the popular media in science fiction in the TV series "Sliders" and the "infinite probability drive" in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Mostly, though, these "alternate universes" are described in such a way that the fictional observers ever have only slight difficulties with the realization that they are not in the same universe that they just left. In an episode of Sliders, whether a garden gate squeaked or not was used (incorrectly) to determine that home universe had not been reached   ― the squeaking gate had actually been repaired since the experimenter had left the home universe. Most famously, the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment is cited in quantum physics. While amusing alternate universes are used in Hitchhiker's..., infinity would also have to allow for a universe in which, when you have just placed a book on your desk at a specific angle to the front edge of the desk, another universe must exist where that angle differs very slightly and that this is the only difference between the two universes. Therefore, if an infinity of universe exists, no one could ever know if one had entered one of them in any split second -- we could also imagine a state in which the shifting from one universe to another is commonplace with such simple determinisms such as the position of the placing of a book on a desk or any other self-determined action. If David Bohm's idea about thinking the universe, instead of thinking about the universe is correct, then we can never have any way of determining the existence of one or an infinity of universes. This could, among many other observable phenomena, explain the existence of lucky and unlucky people.

In practical applications, of course, none of this has any relevance whatsoever. What is relevant is, that ideas about things that people have are constantly being modified  through their experiences. Even in our agreed-upon universe with certain laws of physics at play, gravity will always act in the same way but what we think about gravity and how it affects our actions can change in a myriad of ways: falling off a ladder will certainly get you to think about gravity the next time you climb one, and perhaps, you might even develop a phobia about doing such. The saying: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” is often attributed to Einstein but no one is certain of this and examples, in many cases, are subject to many definitional and semantic problems.

The process of scientific discovery, as everyone knows, is a story of many modifications over the years, sometimes it is a matter of a deeper understanding of the same things, the development of new process etc. and even dramatic paradigm shifts such as those within quantum mechanics. In an ideal world, any scientist would welcome such shifts and perhaps even expect them, but in the world we have, this is not always the case and people can have a habit of wanting things to remain just as they have always believed them to be. Scientists are not exempt from this phenomenon, and this concept must have been in the mind of the visiting British forensic scientist that I met with this weekend to discuss the design of an electron microprobe testing project of a very large number of Celtic coins.

My interests included determining efficiency ratings of preparing small-batch alloys over a period of time; the identity of secondary hoards and the original locations and duration of the deposition of the primary hoards before their amalgamation; the manufacturing processes of the blanks and the coins, themselves, and so on. With some of these topics, I had already worked out justifiable hypotheses that I was confident about, but had not been able to test to confirm them. One or two of the hypotheses had been offered by previous researchers but these were greatly marred by the provable erroneous classification systems of Colbert de Beaulieu and its later modification by Katherine Gruel. For example, the former had said that distribution patterns for Coriosolite coins could not be detected, but I was able to clearly plot these patterns by correcting the classification ― thus, many of the conclusions offered by subsequent researchers using the wrong information had been rendered useless. Certain procedures, too, had been poorly designed, such as by using averages instead of clustering patterns and these had effectively eliminated the possibility of discovering the errors. I have an online quiz about the distribution patterns here .

What I found most exciting of all about the planned project is that the forensic scientist does not have an archaeological background but a background of police forensic science with evidence from crime scenes etc. Thus, he is not so susceptible to the theory-ladenness of archaeology and will thus likely be able to produce a far more objective study. He did have a warning for me, however, and that it is that some of my hypotheses might be negated by the evidence which will come to light. I assured him that not only was I aware of this fact, but actually welcomed it, and I gave him a couple of examples.  A personal example involved the discovery, by the observation of some crystals on a coin and their subsequent identification by electron microprobe analysis in a laboratory in which I was working. I came up with a theory whereby such crystals could have appeared on the coin when certain elements were transferred to the coin from its die during the striking. I don't even remember the details now, but it was an entirely logical process albeit due to an unusual set of circumstances. The other two people working in the lab agreed that it made sense. However, one of the "accidental" circumstances of the specific damage on the coin appeared on another coin the very next day. As soon as I saw it I realized at once that the crystals had been synthesized by an old method of spectrum analysis using an electrical arc. My companions were sympathetic when I said that my previous model was completely wrong, saying "you must be disappointed that it did not work out for you". My reply was to say that, on the contrary, I thought that it was wonderful that an internally logical and consistent model could yet be proven to be utterly wrong! It was a "eureka" moment for me.

Setting science aside, "public relations"' of all sorts has always been sparing with matters of truth, and I can demonstrate that with an example involving the Celtic Coin Index Online that my wife and I first created. This is the story of the history of the Celtic Coin Index's original online presence from Oxford. It omits its subsequent movement to become part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum, but what it does say about its design development is very accurate -- after all, I designed the GUI myself! Compare this to a magazine version of the history of the Celtic Coin Index which also speaks of its online version. Although the British Museum version of the Celtic Coin Index has more recent records it cannot use the user-friendly interface that I designed because of the nature of database copyright laws. That same interface was used, with my permission by William Astle of Lexicom for his database-driven version (still in development) which replaced our static page original. Lexicom kindly offered to maintain its online presence when Oxford withheld news of an AHRB grant for its development from us (we built it under an agreement that we would receive such money) and did not even pay the last invoice for bandwidth costs already used. When confronted about the subterfuge, the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford admitted that the grant money went mostly, to its keeper in wages, although a percentage was allowed, by the grant regulations to be retained by Oxford university in their general coffers without explanation of what the money was being used for. As Oxford has never reimbursed me for our work (my wife and partner Carin Perron has sinced died from the cancer she suffered from while building the CCI online), their lawyers have informed me that my version is now my own property. The debt, however, is still unpaid although admitted to be valid by Oxford's legal team. (I have all of the documentation). So even modern history gets rewritten to avoid any potentially embarrassing facts.

When public relations is used by a cult, the deceptions are more extreme than this, but there is a sure-fire clue to cult behavior that is not shared by science, and that is that the opinions and beliefs of the cultist are never modified through subsequent research. It becomes a static example of propaganda and dogma that is never admitted to be wrong in any way. When such cultists brought this dogma to the discussion list of the Council for British Archaeology on matters of metal detecting and started to undermine what advances had already been made in the communication between metal detectorists and archaeologists, it was the archaeologists who began to complain about the same old type of message that was being promoted again and again without any modification or evolution of thought that we see in proper scientific discourse, and all such topics quickly became moderated, as they are to this very day, by the machine use of keywords. The cultists, then started their own web pages and blogs to maintain this dogma. We are seeing less of it, however, some sites and blogs have vanished completely, and others post only infrequently. A few extremists still remain however and I will discuss workable methods by which they can be recognized tomorrow.

I have considerable experience with cults. After being fooled by one in my younger years, and after its Calgary office, in which I was on staff, became fully aware of its true nature, we not only disbanded it as a legal entity in Alberta, but also managed to get the RCMP Fraud Squad to go through documents which we had obtained to see if legal proceedings could be implemented against them. After three months of full time investigation by an RCMP officer, it was seen that the parent organization covered their tracks very well. The same happened in a US investigation by the FBI (several of my companions were FBI witnesses in one case that actually made it to court). Other incidents were settled out of court with undisclosed settlements being paid out by the cult to its victims. It still exists, worldwide, to this day but most of the public is aware of its cult identity, and sensibly stay away from it. Ruthless, would be an understatement of its methods, blackmail and even murders have been claimed. Once, in a televised confrontation between my friends and I and representatives of the cult, the entire block was cordoned off by the Calgary Police for our protection. For some time, I slept with a loaded pistol by my bed. Two of my friends died (under suspicious circumstances: one through neglect by other cult members, the other through a hit and run "accident" where the description of the vehicle matched that of a cult member whose job it was to to eliminate opposition). I hope you will forgive me if I do not mention the name of this cult. I have no desire to return to my previous life, and while I was trained to be a decent shot, I really don't like guns.

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