The gloves should be off, when pondering science. No courtesy for authorities, no courtesy for the rest of humanity. Nothing is granted and everybody suspected of treason, including yourself. Still, it is you who is conducting the investigation so you have to have some confidence in good old you.
‘Where were you when your husband was murdered, your majesty?’
‘Do you know who you are talking to?! I am The Queen of England! etc.’
‘Yes. Isn’t she a female version of the Pope in a somewhat smaller church? So, where were you, madame?’
This is the kind of spirit, you have to have, when thinking of fundamentals.
When a character like Sagan or bigger pops up, talking about stars, he is already a prime suspect in the crime of being fundamentally wrong. And wrong he was, as we now know. Not only him, but the whole gang.
For stars never die. And they are never born. Only clouds of cosmic gas get denser in some circumstances and glow more intensely due to the faster fusion. The talk of a dying star can be very misleading. The narrative ‘they convert mass to energy when shining’, is directly wrong. Because even when you ‘convert matter to energy’, the amount of mass does not change. This fact that has been staring at us for a century, has been acknowledged only recently. Stars don’t convert mass into energy. Only some particles transform while the mass and the energy, which are equal, stay the same! The fact that now the mass-energy is in photons and neutrinos as opposed to atoms of hydrogen doesn’t change this.
Okay, you may say, that’s just nitpicking. It’s irrelevant.
No it isn’t! You want the table to be clean when performing a surgery, assembling a computer chip or dealing with any other delicate matter. Germs and dust may result in failure.
When pondering galaxies, atoms, numbers, sets, dark energy and so on, the table must be even cleaner. Spotting the dirt and being absolutely dogmatic in the matters of hygiene is very crucial.
I am afraid, that Her Majesty has no alibi here. And that the desks are dirty. The good science doctors of today, are as blind as those doctors of medicine from the Victorian era, completely unafraid of the so called microbes.
Astrophysics, as is it is now, is particularly messy. “You know, there might be an infinite number of Universes like ours out there!” they claim enthusiastically.
Excuse me, sir! What infinity are you talking about? The countable one? Do you mean the continuum many? More than that? Something between aleph zero and aleph one, in the Cohenian sense? What the Hell are you talking about? Your desk is as dirty as it can be, and you aren’t afraid that your patient might get infected? Are you sure, that there is a patient at all? Are you sure that the desk is?
Put this way – “There might be an infinite number of Universes near us” – reminds me more of mud wrestling a pig, then of rigorous science.
Another example. Some astrophysicists are equally enthusiastic when telling us about a time in the far future, when there will be no more galaxies visible from Earth, and a civilization will have no way of knowing that they were once plentiful.
Excuse me, sir! Would every far future civilization necessarily prohibit paleontology and other past researching sciences? When and why will all the information about the past be erased?
Even thought you are ‘just talking for the sake of understanding, to the general public now’, your table is dirty. I suspect it might be dirty even when ‘real science’ is going on.
Astrophysics has no preferential treatment here. Chemistry can also be dirty. When they tell us, that some weird quantum effects are responsible for smelling substances, not just chemistry… Sorry, the whole of chemistry is ‘weird quantum effects’. Every single chemical reaction is just a manifestation of electro-weak, strong and gravitational forces interacting. Yes all of them!
Is Math dirty? Oh, yes, it is. Stay tuned for another post exclusively about it.