Science & Society

Science and Society and how they get along.

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Location: Santa Barbara, California, United States

I'm a physicist and science consultant specialized in optics, lasers and optical engineering. This blog, StarkFX, looks at what applications physics is finding today. Or, if you are looking at my StarkEffects blog, it displays my views about and interest in the interface between society and science.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I can't believe the absolute nonsense that I just read in an email designed to get me to buy some "secret revealed" program. Why does quantum mechanics get used like some explanation of magic? This email tried to tell me that quantum mechanics really provides a scientific explanation for "the law of attraction". Even if there were some mystery about the law of attraction -nobody needs quantum mechanics to explain it. I'm quite sure quantum mechanics has only one connection to the world of thought and that is through chemistry- it is a great way to approach chemistry. The law of attraction on the other hand is not misunderstood because it takes quantum mechanics to understand it. It is misunderstood because people want to believe in nonsense. In reality -if you spend your time thinking about something you really want to see happen it still doesn't happen until you DO something to make it happen. The real law of attraction is a law of action--stuff happens when you are out there making it happen. The guys that worked out quantum mechanics were out there making it happen -that was a real creative process of mistakes and triumphs -not some discovery about magic! When you translate your thoughts into action (and what other actions will you have?) then you reap the rewards for those thoughts --and like it or not, most of those rewards will fall short of your desires so --here is the real secret ---keep acting and correcting your actions until you get the result you want! Stop believing in magic since that prevents correct actions.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Orgasms and the Polygraph

Have you ever lied about an orgasm? Usually (of course, I wouldn't know about this) someone (she) pretends to have one when in fact it never happened. Well, I have heard from a generally reliable source that a polygraph operator would usually be able to accurately tell if you had an orgasm during a polygraph and then lied about it. That is the best you can hope for from a polygraph. It does not accurately test whether or not a subject is lying. It does often present a false positive. That makes this instrument perfect for destroying careers and useless for catching spies. It just so happens that it never has caught a spy or a terrorist. This poor performance record is exactly the reason our government wants to employ this instrument to test the loyalty of the nations scientists working for government labs:

From Bob Park's What's New: A 30 Apr 07 memo notified Los Alamos employees that random polygraph tests of 8,000 personnel in high-risk categories will be conducted by the DOE as part of a new counter-intelligence program.

Why am I not surprised?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Science Can't Even Explain Love.

I've heard complaints lately from a few religiously inclined individuals that I put too much faith in science. "After all, science can't even explain something like love."

I must admit, the scientific exploration of the experience of love is limited to the observable facts of biochemistry and neuro-biology which I find absolutely enthralling. These observables are a step on the road to "explaining" what I think is an emergent property, called emotions, which are based in basic physics and chemistry but are too complex to exist at any lower level. This leaves us with no satisfying explanation of an experience that most of us know when we feel it, but can't really explain. -Just try to tell your best friend what love is. You'll find that you have no idea what it is. You'll still have no idea what love is when you completely explain all of the biochemistry and physics underlying it. You may however, be able to understand why some people are plagued by emotional disorders and be able to help them, but the experience of love will still be no easier to explain than the taste of salt, which could be described at the chemical and neural level but the shared experience is still required to really be able to talk about it.

So, as a scientist I'm left no better off than a poet at providing a satisfying explanation of love. I might even prefer a poet's approach in the situations that count most. But science will be able to help in some situations in a way that I think is important. On the other hand, to tell me that love is a gift from God does no more for me (probably less for me) than to wonder how the experience of love has emerged and evolved. All that really matters is how we enjoy the experience.