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But to break the flow of leg and bum discourse, we received some stellar comments on antimatter, neutron stars and black holes:

If you RTFA, it seems at bottom to be about nothing much at all: an asymmetry in the positron distribution is alleged to correspond to "a region in which there are believed to be a lot of binary star systems containing neutron stars or the even more outrageous black holes". But binaries, neutron stars (and black holes, of course) are supposed to be everywhere - what is the (statistical) strength of the alleged correlation? Is someone staking a pole in the ground here, or merely waving a flag about as a warning-off to others? This in turn seems to be nothing more than the astronomical equivalent of seeing a white patch in the sky and deciding to call it "fog".

Entertaining as all the shed-loads of speculations riding on top of that might be to Reg (not to mention Nature) readers, it is entertainment that costs serious money. Ignoring that every man, woman and child in the UK is now effectively invoiced for £1000+ over Northern Rock, it is not even remotely gladiatorial fun - and the Romans didn't go to the Colliseum to see a vocal contest between crowds of gladiators' supporters. That is simply not distracting enough.

There are no black holes. They are a fuck up of the mathematics. http://www.geocities.com/theometria/index.html.

Facts of observation need explanation - not an ever-burgeoning totem pole of figments of the imagination, each mythic ancestor propitiated with offerings from the faithful, and demonstrating its fertility by sprouting a hierarchy of ever more fabulous progeny, all imbuded with previously unsuspected magical powers.

This is what advancement in scientific theories has come to - not the power to explain a broader domain of facts, but power pure and simple, power as dominion, power reified and made anthropomorphic. My black hole trumps your neutron star - the pot is mine. (My "field" is bigger than your "field". My "forces" are stronger than yours. We imagine science is purely descriptive, but the centrifugal attraction of figurative language lures ever Siren-like). Ultimately another conflation of synechdoche with metonymy. Yet it curiously mirrors inverted many other features of society.

The causes of black holes are on this planet, and are growing more potent and threatening. We need an invasion of Tim Burtons.

Luther Blissett


Less than 24 hours after El Reg reports an obscure cosmological discovery, 50 comments have been posted grappling with the possible explanations. Many of these are from people who seriously know what they are talking about. Several comments contain very good short descriptions of Hawking radiation and how it can lead to the "evaporation" of black holes, and speculating about mechanisms which might, just, explain how a black hole might spew out a cloud of anti-protons.

OK, a few made mistakes. A few thought that anti-matter behaves differently to "normal" matter under gravity, for example, but this was soon corrected in the debate.

This is what science is all about. We might never know "the truth" but we can get closer and closer to it with better and better theories, by debate based upon observed evidence (Popper!).

Peter Mellor


>> We might never know "the truth" but we can get closer and closer to it with better and better theories, by debate based upon observed evidence (Popper!).

Slick use of quotes.

Because without them the truth of that statement is unknowable, except by assuming that Popper! was a God-who-Never-Lied (the evidence for this is underwhelming). It would also be tautological - truth is the product of better theories, but better theories are merely those which produce better truth. Round is nice for wheels, but circular reasoning is not much use in finding out what is really true, or what is really a better theory. In terms of social praxis (aka following the money), it implies "just keep on with the funding, and we'll find the bastard one day - right now we need a bigger telescope/cyclotron/office/remuneration package to do that". Shades of the hunt for OB-L there. Perhaps a telescope/etc big enough to let us read the labels on energy packets, then we can all unambiguously distinguish Hawking radiation from the fake designer goods (e.g. the radiations the Alien Greys are pumping at us from their orbiting spaceships)? So those quote marks are disingenuous - tantamount to admitting that science funding is a racket played on the public.

OTOH they really should be around "closer", don't you think. Does "closer" mean we will not know that we've got to the truth until like we're on top of it, perhaps having just fallen over it and sprawling (in agony or in ecstasy)? As I said figuratively, resort to figurative meanings to justify science makes the activity indistinguishable from that which say promotes totem pole enlargement (literally or figuratively) because they would then be so much closer to the Spirit in the Sky - or of course to those Alien Greys. But people with less curiosity about the natural world but with the same values of self-adulation have already mapped that semiotic structure onto their own bodies - and the surgeons are standing by. (In Rome wannabe PHs boast that Daddy has promised to pay for a boob job if they pass their exams). And natural scientists still wonder why they have trouble getting their message across...?

Not enough competition, one suspects. It's time to spread physics funding wider. And ensure the research can get published. And is made accessible. As for "getting the message across", forget your PhD in physics, this is the Media-Information Complex you're fishing in now.

Luther Blissett

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