In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

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I was asked my opinion of a video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfegFnaRcqE. I would not recommend watching the video, but if you happen to watch it, I have written out some thoughts in response. The video is produced by TBU News, which is not exactly a credible news organization. It seems to have a bent towards parascience and conspiracy theories.

I could not make it through more than 1 out of the full 5 hours of the video. I ran into quite a lot of factual inaccuracies and facts presented in misleading ways. I happen to be a little bit of a science buff, so I was able to detect a lot of problems. My science explanations may not be perfect, but I think they are closer to the truth than the explanations in the video.

I go through some of the categories of ideas in the video, explaining various inaccuracies, and then I offer a couple of concluding thoughts.

Sound: Not all vibration is sound. Sound is almost a side-effect of vibration. The old advertisement for the movie Alien said, “In space no one can hear you scream.” In space, you may be able to get your vocal chords to vibrate, but that vibration does not become sound unless there is an atmosphere with particles to be compressed by the vibrations of your vocal chords. The vibrations of extremely small particles do not produce any sound. The particles are too small. Furthermore, sound cannot cause these particles to vibrate. No sound can occur at a high enough frequency or small enough amplitude.

The movie shows lots of cool patterns created by sound waves. These images are very misleading. They are actually interference patterns created by sound echoes. Acoustics engineers are very familiar with such patterns when designing sound systems for theaters, churches, etc. If you produce sound from one location in an enclosed space, the sound waves will bounce off the walls, ceiling, and floor of the enclosed space creating patterns of interference. Positive interference is created in places where the crests of more than one sound wave meet, causing the sound to be louder. In negative interference, a crest meets a trough, causing the sound to be cancelled out. So those cool patterns are just the patterns of positive and negative interference of sound passed through a medium.

What makes it so misleading is that the people are not “discovering” these patterns. They are creating the patterns. The patterns are determined by the frequency of the sound, the make-up of the substance they play the sound through, the shape of the enclosed space in which they play the sound, etc. An acoustics engineer could design all kinds of such patterns.

Something else that is misleading is the idea that sound could have similar effects on any substance, but that is not the case. Playing sound at a stone wall will have negligible impact on the shape of the stone. Directing sound at the human body will make little permanent changes in the shape of any structures in the body.

Finally, the concept of patterns is in the mind of the beholder. The people running the experiment only stop at certain frequencies. This is because they do not think that the intervening frequencies create patterns. In other words, it is the human mind that declares one thing to be a pattern and something else to not be a pattern. This principle explains why some of the sound patterns match the geometric patterns in ancient art. It is not that the ancients knew about secret, fundamental patterns in nature. Rather, the people running the sound experiment stopped at frequencies that produced recognizable and aesthetically pleasing patterns.

Emotions: It may be that our brains place emotions into two general categories: positive and negative. The video calls these categories love and fear. However, it is a gross oversimplification to say that we only experience two different emotions. I think we are all able to distinguish between hate, anger, and fear. We are also able to distinguish between the enjoyment of a video game and the love we feel for a wife/husband.

I do not believe that the brain waves produced by our emotions can be described as a simple frequency. It is my understanding that brain waves produce patterns across the surface of the brain, and I use the term “pattern” loosely.

Furthermore, brain waves are not very powerful signals. It is doubtful that brain waves have much significant (if any) impact on the surrounding environment. In fact, brain waves do not have any significant direct impact on the body of the person producing them. Brain waves are too weak to alter the chemical make-up of a substance. That kind of alteration requires relatively powerful radiation.

DNA: DNA probably does not have any unused segments. Those segments probably serve some purpose – if only as placeholders. It is like saying the spaces between words are not useful. The truth is that spaces, even though they are not letters, assist the reader in decoding the meaning of the letters. Or it is like the pauses between the dots and dashes in Morse code. Morse code would be completely meaningless without the brief moments of silence between sounds.

I would be extremely surprised if DNA could be modified by means of emotional brain waves. I doubt the frequency of brain waves is high enough or the amplitude of brain waves is small enough for brain waves to connect with a DNA strand more than once. Even if a brain wave could connect in the patterns shown on the video, I would find it hard to believe that a brain wave would be strong enough to alter that DNA strand in any way. And even if a brain wave could alter a DNA strand, chances are that any changes made would be harmful – in the same way that the sun’s UV rays cause cancer.

The Phantom DNA experiment sounds like a hoax to me. I am not sure about the science behind detecting the arrangement of photons in a contained space. Photons travel in the wave-particle duality of light. What does it mean for them to be in a pattern? How would you detect that pattern?  How would you insert DNA into a vacuum? How would you detect changes in the pattern of photons as a result? My guess is that if the photons “clung” to the DNA, there is probably a simple explanation for it, such that photons would behave in a similar way when interacting with any molecule. Furthermore, even if there truly was some sort of phantom effect when the DNA molecules were removed (again, how would you remove DNA molecules from a vacuum?), it probably also has a pretty simple explanation such that photons would behave in a similar way when interacting with any molecule. I can’t even say why the makers of the video found this experiment so important. I looked the experiment up, and I discovered that there were other even stranger parts of the experiment that sound even more far-fetched. It is the kind of research that sounds so ridiculous that no serious scientist would even bother taking the time to respond to it. Sort of like if I claimed that my wife gave birth to a mermaid – no one would bother wasting the time to expose such an obvious hoax.

Matter: The video repeatedly made certain misleading statements about matter. It often reminded us that matter is mostly empty space. In one sense an atom is mostly empty space, but in another sense, it is not. A race track is mostly empty space, but I would expect that if I walked out on the track on race day, I will get run over. Much of the empty space of an atom is like a race track for extremely fast-moving particles. My understanding is that the particles are moving so fast that they are almost considered to be in all places within that space simultaneously.

Another way of looking at it is that the particles exist in all places within that space and do not have a defined location until they are observed. Think about a railroad track around the base of a Christmas tree. The train moves around the track at a relatively slow speed. You are able to slide the presents safely across the track as long as you are careful. However, if you speed that train up to the speed of light, it moves at such a speed that it becomes a blur. It is almost as if it occupies the entire track simultaneously. If you try to slide anything across the track, it will hit the train. In other words, the train moves so fast that it almost becomes a wall. Sure, on the one hand the track is mostly empty space, but on the other hand, the track is fully occupied. It even becomes impossible to reach the empty space in the center of the track, since the train keeps everything out, just as the walls and roof of a building keep everything from passing through to the empty space inside. Cinder blocks are hollow and porous, but they make very solid walls.

Another misleading statement is that there is no such thing as solid matter because matter is just held together by forces. It is the forces that touch. The particles themselves never come into contact. This is just a matter of perspective. In other words, they are defining matter as particles only. However, if you define matter as the whole package (particles and forces), then matter is solid. If you apply their thinking to building materials, a wall is bricks, but not mortar, or a structure is lumber, but not nails. That is not how I think of a wall. I think of a wall as both the bricks and the mortar. When the bricks and mortar are combined, the wall is solid. I think of a structure as wood, nails, screws, brackets, etc., so the structure is solid. Matter is not just made up of the building blocks of particles. It is also made up of the forces that hold the particles together. When you view the whole package together – both particles and forces – the result is solid matter.

One of the things that I find disturbing is the idea that the microscopic perspective somehow negates the macroscopic perspective. Just because something looks different when magnified does not mean that how it looks without magnification is false. Planet earth from far away looks relatively spherical. From standing on it, it looks relatively flat with a very gentle curvature. Neither perspective is incorrect or false. It reminds me of the old postage stamps which were printed with dot matrix printers. Under a magnifying glass they looked like just a bunch of differently colored dots. Without the magnifying glass, they looked like a picture. Neither perspective is wrong. You can’t say about the old postage stamps, “Those aren’t pictures, they are just a bunch of dots.” They are both pictures and a collection of dots. They are pictures made up of dots. It’s like those new pictures made up of smaller pictures.

Pyramids: Like most such videos, they couldn’t resist talking about the pyramids of Egypt. Of course, the pyramids were amazing, but I want to put it in perspective. I used to think the pyramids were a lot more amazing until I saw kids playing with Legos. It does not take a 4-year-old long to “discover” the pyramid construction shape. Pyramids are not a brilliant innovation of a genius architect. It is a basic fact discovered by many small children that the easiest way to build something tall is to give it a wide base. The taller the structure, the wider the base. The structure is more stable if it gets smaller as it gets taller. If you give small children square blocks, they will eventually figure all of this out. It is no wonder that many ancient civilizations built pyramids. It’s not because of aliens. It’s because of children playing with blocks.

One of the most amazing facts about the pyramids is the precision with which they were built for something so large. Again, I used to be more amazed at this until a saw good carpenters at work. A good carpenter has a lot of simple tricks for building structures straight, square, and even. They can often do it without performing much mathematics. In fact, I have found that the more mathematical calculations made during construction, the greater chance of error. I once had a carpenter with no knowledge of advanced trigonometry solve a difficult trigonometric problem with a set of basic tools like a pencil, paper, compass, and straight edge. When difficult math problems are put into the real world, there is often a real world shortcut to solving them.

What the pyramids show is that Egypt had some skilled foremen who were able to direct large groups of people to meet high building standards. That is an impressive feat, but it is not unreasonable to expect from people in any time period.

The pyramids have lasted so long because they are made of stone, they are built in the extremely sturdy pyramid design employed by any child with blocks, they are in a climate that is ideal for preservation, and apparently there was never an invader who saw the point in tearing them down.

There is a lot about the pyramids that remains mysterious. This is just because they are so old. Archaeologist and historians do not want to admit it, but they know precious little about the ancient world. What they do know has been pieced together from scant, unhelpful evidence. This does not mean that our imaginations should run wild. It means we should be skeptical of any theory about ancient civilizations

Math: Is everything in nature mathematics? To me, this is kind of a silly question. It’s like asking if everything can be measured. Of course you can measure anything in the physical world. How tall is Everest? How long is an inch worm? Just because you can measure things doesn’t mean that measurement reveals some deep secrets of the universe.

The same applies to math. Of course you can put together a mathematical model of most things in the universe. Some things are going to have simple models, like the pattern of petals in a flower. Other things are going to have exceedingly complex models, like the pattern and shape of clouds in the sky. There is no way that we could have enough information at our disposal to create a mathematical model of even a single cloud, but if we did have enough information and computing power, it is theoretically possible to do it. But just because it is theoretically possible to make mathematical models of many things, it does not mean that math reveals some deep secrets of the universe.

The shell of a nautilus grows in an approximation of a certain mathematical spiral because that spiral is a simple, practical pattern to accommodate a growing animal. It is not because that spiral is tied to some deep secret of the universe. That spiral may be in flowers, but it is not in every flower. Some flowers grow according to other patterns. That spiral may be according to a ratio that approximates the average proportions of the human body, but that ratio is not in every living thing or in every part of the living things it is found in.

Furthermore, even if you do find the Golden Ratio in many places, it is never exactly right. No sunflower or nautilus shell has a perfect spiral. No human being has a “perfectly” proportioned body. In fact, the proportions of the average male are different than that of the average female. The proportions of an adult are different than the proportions of a child. All mathematical models are only approximations.

Besides, not everything is mathematical. In fact, many of the most important things are not mathematical. I am convinced that there is no mathematical model for love, and I even believe that love transcends even theories of brain chemistry.

So, to pull it all together, I think it is hard to make a scientific case for the idea that everything is an interconnected consciousness or that our thoughts and emotions directly influence the universe or vice versa. Just because things are in constant motion, or held together by forces, or part of a matter-energy and space-time continuum does not mean that they are part of some cosmic consciousness. It just means that things interact with each other according to certain observable laws.

The fact that there is a high degree of order in the universe, the fact that there are observable patterns which we consider to be beautiful, the fact that we can use math to explain so many things, the fact that everything is extremely complex beyond our understanding, the fact that everything is held together by immense and precise forces are all evidences that the universe was designed by God. However, I wouldn’t say that vibrations/oscillations/motions of particles are left over from the “voice” of God. As I already pointed out, these are not sounds. Also, the forces that hold together particles are not necessarily best explained as the direct intervention of the power of God holding everything together. It could be that we will find something else that directly explains these forces. Of course, whatever explains them will probably be even more mind-bending and complex. God is the ultimate explanation behind everything, but it seems he has made the universe with layer upon layer of increasing complexity. At some point humanity may reach its limit of potential understanding. I just don’t think we have reached that limit yet. Science is still coming up with new explanations for things. We do not yet need to leap to pseudoscientific explanations.

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