Saturday, September 23, 2006

New Scientist: WTF?

Sci-Fi author Greg Egan, via John Baez: Save the New Scientist. Basically the British magazine New Scientist used to be very good - like Scientific American before they started cutting content for the sake of flashier visuals (basically trying to look more like Discover, though to be fair, Scientific American still has scientists do the actual writing, which is very nice). Over time, it's devolved to the point of being a conduit for press releases from the worst of the hype-spewers. The coup de grace that pushed Egan to write his plea was this COVER article, which conveniently neglects to point out that the gizmo in question would have to violate conservation of momentum if it works as described. Sad. A "science" magazine publishing, as a cover story, non-peer-reviewed junk that doesn't pass the laugh test.
(Not too much on cond-mat this week that seems good for the general blog reader - I'm sure more will come up soon.)


Anonymous said...

the gizmo in question would have to violate conservation of momentum if it works as described.

There's prior art in the classic film Barbarella where a fan mounted on a sailboat provides pressure on the sails. What with the ingenious inventions like the Orgasmatron, it's no wonder that Barbarella is an M.I.T. Lecture Series Committee favorite!

Douglas Natelson said...

Now hang on - wasn't the Orgasmatron from Sleeper?

BhpG said...

I particularly like:

Since the microwave photons in the waveguide are travelling close to the speed of light

Shouldn't the photons be moving at the speed of light? :) Or is this going to be some hand-wavy waveguide-phase-versus-group-velocity thing...?

Oh, wait, relativity is involved. It must be possible to violate long-tested laws of physics, then.

Does anyone have idea why the interaction force doesn't actually cancel out, one side of the chamber with the other? Even for a lousy piece, that bit stood out.

Douglas Natelson said...

Bernie - the guy fails to account for the on-axis component of the force on the tapered walls. Instead he simple-mindedly worries only about the forces on the (different sized) ends of the cavity. Doh. Pretty basic.

Also, regarding the above discussion with Alison, it looks like we're both right.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that Barbarella was an MIT fav because of Jane Fonda in tight-fitting clothing.