Thursday, July 22, 2010

A look at Nassim's response to this blog

An apology


There's been a lot of talk about Nassim Haramein's physics on this blog over the past few months. I'm intending to wrap up the saga with this little post. Wish me luck.

There are six previous posts: an introduction, the original article questioning his legitimacy as a scientist, observations of his approach to mathematics, a detailed look at his current flagship physics paper, a collection of extracts from grossly misleading presentations, and a more personal article about why I started writing all this in the first place. Number seven seems like a good place to end.

I've focused throughout on Haramein's physics. Why physics? Because he claims to be doing serious science, and his institution claims to be revolutionising our physical understanding of the world. If his physics is as awful as I'm saying it is, then that is a very serious bit of misselling.

If fancy physics isn't your cup of tea, there's no shortage of blatant examples of misunderstanding of basic physics that you might get more sense out of. I'd encourage anyone to sit down with their cup of tea and investigate these things further.

If you don't mind a bit of physics with your cupcakes and you're interested in his Schwarzschild Proton theory (that the strong force is actually a gravitational interaction between black holes), then you might be interested to know that if you ask a few simple questions of it, his theory falls completely apart.

Or does it...?

Nassim's response

In this video, Haramein presents his killer reasoning against those who claim to disprove his theories of the universe:

Ok, ok, sorry. I'm not taking this seriously enough...

That's not really Haramein. (Although...) No. You're right. It isn't.

Let's start again.

Nassim's response – take 2

Haramein has now taken on some of the claims that I've made, and has devoted a part of his website to responding at length to the criticisms that I've raised. [Edit, May '13: Haramein has, after nearly three years, decided to remove his response to criticism of his work from his website, as well as virtually all information on what his institution actually does or has been doing for the last two decades. But that's ok - we still have working links...]

I'm happy to spotlight his response here in order to encourage debate. I'm also happy to host any kind of critical debate here, provided it's not offensive and empty. (In contrast, Haramein doesn't encourage debate or provide links to any criticisms about his work, and any kind of critical comment on his blog, no matter how reasonable, will not pass moderation.)

Haramein's response has come as a great source of delight to those who really want to see me getting a good kicking for speaking out against this inspiring and creative new thinker of our time. There do seem to be many such people. Happy days for them!

Nassim's response to my original article is called "Letter to Dr. Bob-a-thon",

So, what to make of all this. To summarise, his rhetoric is great! The bits of physics he's thrown in look really impressive! If the aim is to wow the fans and seal their contempt for me, he's done an excellent job.

But has he actually addressed the criticisms that I've raised? Surely, somewhere in all that work, he must have? Help me out here if you think I'm missing something, but I really don't think he has. I'll illustrate some of the ways he's misused physics in his defence later on.

If you disagree – if you can find any single point in there that convinces you that any of my criticisms of his physics aren't completely valid – then I'd really love to hear from you. It would be great if we could keep it to the physics. I know it won't happen, but it would be great if it did.

Meanwhile, as you can see for yourself, he has had fun doing what he does best – inventing things to entertain his fans, and telling them what they want to hear. He presents this new, conveniently fictionalised version of me to his followers as "an important study for anyone who is interested in my work."

I'm apparently to be seen as someone who "proclaims himself and his institution the beholder of the truth and the only truth as if the standard model was complete and a done deal." I'm also a "reactionary defending the status quo", indulging in "personal attacks, character assassinations and name-calling."

I haven't mentioned the standard model, so I don't know where that came from. I'd never proclaim it as a done deal, and neither would any physicist.
Which one of us has an institution with an ideology to defend against legitimate questions? I don't have one.
Which of us is engaging in immature name-calling? Here's a clue: in Haramein's first response, he twists my silly pseudonym into a derogatory term that he's sourced from that well-respected reference work Urban Dictionary, and uses it as the title of his article. Someone should have pointed out that that's kinda puerile :)

Irony aside, I'm curious as to what name-calling he might be referring to on my part. I can sympathise if he doesn't like the words fraud or fake or pseudoscientist. I did present an extensive exposition of the discrepancies between the claims he makes for his work and the pitiable content of it, however, so they were very natural terms to use. Inescapable, even. Not names.

As for character attacks, I can't prevent him from feeling attacked if he's attached to his ideas. That's fairly standard among pseudoscientists. The thing is, I don't think I've even mentioned his character, except to point out that his integrity is called into question by the claims that he makes.

And I don't even like Status Quo.

But he's right to complain that I don't give him the respect that he feels entitled to. He makes it known that he is deeply offended, which is fair enough. My aim was always to discuss his ideas for what they are, not for what he thinks they are, so his sense of entitlement never really entered into it. It's just one of those things – if you spout nonsense in public instead of doing science, sooner or later people will start saying "hang on, but that's nonsense" rather than treating you as a scientist.

He also makes it very clear that I'm a mediocre mind and that he is a brilliant thinker – in fact he repeatedly compares himself to Einstein. If he has such a high view of himself, it's odd that he should be so upset by the unimaginative challenges of some obscure mediocre blogger. But there we are.

What we do agree on is that one of us must be very closed-minded and deeply attached to his own view of the world.

I do rather like my view of the world, I admit. I've worked quite hard for it. But I also love the fact that people and situations can, and very often do, challenge it and open my mind to greater things. It's just that I resist changing it when presented with nonsense that conflicts with straightforward observations of nature. I've given his approach a lot of consideration – but it is what it is.

I think I've thought through his ideas quite thoroughly though, if you'll excuse the tongue-twister. Far more than I really ought to have; and certainly far more than I intend to in the future.

Ok, ok, enough already, show me the physics

If you're fed up of all these arguments going around in circles, you're not the only one. Let's cut to the chase.

My criticisms rest on the fact that he claims to be doing serious science and revolutionising physics, but his physics theories are nothing more than naive, misleading, and blatantly incorrect ideas. If this is true (and it still is), then all the rhetoric in the world won't save him from being called a fraud.

Let's take the two most straightforward and significant criticisms of the Schwarzschild Proton.

1. His theory gives the mass of the proton as 885 million tonnes when it's straightforward to measure that it's 1.67 trillionths of a trillionth of a gram.

2. His theory predicts a force between the protons in a nucleus of 7.49 x 10^47 dynes, which is also many many orders of magnitude larger than what is measured.

These particular conclusions of his theory are all so unambiguously and blatantly wrong, and by such an enormous amount, that I did for a while believe that he wouldn't seriously attempt to defend them. But he has.

1 The discrepancy of the mass of the proton

Haramein discusses the problem of the mass of the proton on this page, about half way down. He starts off by suggesting that I made a basic error in confusing mass and weight, which is untrue – weighing gases to establish their mass is fairly sensible. He then talks about how the source of mass is still a mystery in the standard model, and somehow ends up on the quantization of spacetime... all of which has absolutely no bearing whatever on the very simple and straightforward fact that if something has a mass of nearly a billion tonnes, it ought to be heavy.

He then tells us that "in the final copy of The Schwarzschild Proton we calculate the mass dilation resulting from a proton rotating near relativistic speeds and find that at a velocity of 10^-39 slower than C, the proton exhibits the mass of a Schwarzschild entity."

Mass dilation is a consequence of special relativity that makes objects moving close to the speed of light appear more massive than they would be at rest. I doubt that this will help him explain why they appear so light to us.

This new idea would imply that we'd experience these Schwarzschild protons as 10^39 times heavier in a bound state than as a free proton! A bound state of two protons (and/or neutrons, one would assume – deuterium, for example) would have a mass of 10^39 times heavier than a single proton.

Needless to say, none of this is remotely like what is observed in the real world. He really hasn't thought it through very well.

(He then goes on to say fabulous things like "On the cosmological level, this highly turbulent structure of horizons where velocities approach c may be the source of matter creation through sheering of the spacetime manifold itself at the quantum level which predicts a continuous matter creation model at black hole horizons..." and links to a whole load of string theory papers. All meaningless in this context, and seemingly irrelevant to anything that Haramein has ever suggested. The blatant discrepancy between his theory and the real world remains. Still, if the desired effect is "whoa, hit me with that far-out shit, you like totally pwned that status quo dude, man", then I give it top marks and a gold star.)

Haramein returns to discuss this discrepancy in this document, about 40% of the way down, first by claiming that the Standard Model fudges the mass of the proton by renormalisation. I want to say a quick few words about this complex idea, at the risk of giving you something of a caricature of what's actually involved...

Renormalisation is an aspect of the mathematical treatment of quantum field theories that can either be used very well or rather badly. When used well, the results it predicts are either independent of the finite cut (the "fudge" as Haramein calls it) or if not, the effects of the physics above and below the cut are treated seperately and combined in the final analysis, and a physical rationale for the value of the cut is predicted by the theory itself. This is now such a well-understood process, it can't really be described as a fudge. The prime example is the entire standard model, which has driven forwards the last four decades of highly successful particle physics research, and in particular renormalised QED, the most accurate theory that mankind has ever produced.

When it's used 'badly', the results are highly dependent on the cut, and the user imposes some "correct" scale on the theory from outside, and then asserts that the results of the calculation have some actual measurable physical significance. That surely is a fudge. (I find it unconvincing, though I'm hardly an expert.) I'm not aware of any observations that have ever been made that validates this kind of use of the theory. I'm thinking in particular of the fetish for ascribing values to the energy of the vacuum. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Nassim Haramein, the man who denounces the fudgelessly renormalised Standard Model, makes prominent use of one of these fudged renormalisation results at the start of his Schwarzschild Proton paper by quoting a vacuum energy density as if it has a physical significance.

More irony.

It's true that the standard model doesn't predict the mass of the proton – at least not without first knowing the masses of quarks. It's true that it bases its predictions on a renormalisation process that some see (or let's be honest, some saw several decades ago) as controversial. But does any of this excuse Haramein's theory from the requirement that it should make some sense and relate to the real world? Sorry, but no.

The thing about the measured mass of the proton is that it's always equal to the measured mass of the proton. It's an exceptionally precisely known and unerringly consistent value, and whether or not the standard model predicts it, all theories of physics have to use it. The whole point of science is that it is attempting to reflect nature. As Carl Sagan puts it, "Whatever is inconsistent with the facts, no matter how fond of it we are, must be discarded or revised."

We're still left with the fact that Haramein's theory offers no results that are supported by experiment (aside from those that would follow from the original assumptions anyway), and a whole bunch of conclusions that are inconsistent with the facts by many, many orders of magnitude.

2. The discrepancy of the force between protons

There is another enormous difference between the measured force between two protons and the 'stupidly big' figure in his paper.

Haramein says, "It matters little how 'stupidly big' something is. What matters is if the numbers derived are logical, plausible, consistent with the theory involved, and point to at least useful and/or, ideally, testable results." True words indeed! The numbers Haramein gives in his Schwarzschild Proton paper aren't remotely plausible. Furthermore they can be very easily 'tested', i.e. compared directly to the real world, without using any fancy physics at all, as I will illustrate.

He addresses the discrepancy here, about 90% of the way down. He points out that he has already explained it in his paper using the centrifugal force, and he berates me for not having read it. As it happens, I did read it (the paper is only a few pages long, after all). I didn't bother to discuss it because it doesn't change anything.

In the Newtonian classical mechanics that Haramein has employed, in a rotating reference frame, gravity has an inverse square dependence on separation, whereas centrifugal forces follow an inverse cube dependence. (The only assumption needed for this is that any external angular impulse must be negligible in comparison to the angular momentum of the system, which will certainly be true here.) This means that at some definite separation they will balance – as Haramein correctly points out – but for any displacement from that definite separation there will be a net restoring force. The system is forced back to equilibrium. This is why gravitational orbits are stable.

What does this mean for the Schwarzschild Proton? The forces are balanced at 2.64fm separation; if they were pulled even to 2.65fm apart, the restoring force would already be 0.37% of the full gravitational force, which is 2.83 x 10^45 dynes. Which is stupidly big. By which I mean big enough to make it utterly impossible – it's already many many orders of magnitude greater than any force we could hope to create or observe on Earth.

Looking at it in terms of energy gives us a better way of comparing the numbers directly with the real world.

We can calculate the amount of energy required to separate two protons. For a classical circular orbit, it's half the magnitude of the gravitational potential energy (the rest is provided by the kinetic energy of the orbiting body). In this case, the answer is 1.98 x 10^28 Joules (try it yourself).
This is an astronomical figure, and it would be stupid to suggest this was the amount of energy to split a single nucleus – it's more than half of the amount of energy it would take to remove the Moon from its orbit around the Earth.

Compare this to Haramein's assertion that the "balance between the centrifugal force and the centripetal force is extremely fragile and any disturbing entity would easily knock it out of equilibrium." The work of a brilliant thinker of our time, or utter idiotic nonsense? Go figure.
For the actual, measured, maximum value for the energy required to separate two protons, consider the nucleus with the highest proton separation energy, Helium-4. Subtract the mass of this nucleus from the combined masses of a proton and a tritium nucleus, and multiply by c². The maximum energy required to remove a proton is 3.2 x 10^-12 Joules. For most nuclei, the figure is much lower than this.

Once again, Haramein is around 40 orders of magnitude from reality as a result of using gravity instead of the strong force. Have I used any dodgy physics theories here? These are fairly straightforward observations.

3. Other things that are fundamentally flawed or straightforwardly wrong

I raised many other fundamental issues with his theories, for example his claim that there is an event horizon around a proton (a region from which no light or particles can emerge, especially if this event horizon is somehow immune to rapid decay as protons clearly are). This is contradicted by the fact that we can clearly observe the proton's internal structure. Haramein hasn't responded to this at all.
There's so much in his response that there's no way I could try to deal with it all. There's actually lots of quotes from and links to quite good physics that have been mixed in there that I wouldn't argue with... but very little if any of them are relevant to any of the claims that he's been making. (And in the majority of cases they really don't imply the kind of things that he tries to make them imply. He even includes a quote "the effects of gravity can safely be ignored on a small scale, such as the atomic one" from an article that was supposedly providing a rationale for his black hole obsession. Wake up, research dudes! Get with the cherry-pickin' program!)

All in all, despite the magnitude of the work that has gone into this by Haramein and his staff, I don't believe that he's provided one reasonable argument that contradicts any of the flaws in his physics that I've highlighted in my earlier posts.

I'd like to know if you think otherwise.

As I said earlier, if you can find any single point in Haramein's response that convinces you that any of my criticisms of his physics are unfounded – then I'd really love to know what it is, and why you find it convincing. It would be great if we could keep it to the physics. I know it won't happen, but it would be great if it did. Let's face it, it doesn't matter how upset his groupies get, it's the dodgy physics and Haramein's utterly disproportionate claims for his research that are in question here.

If anything interesting comes up from the physics discussion in the comments or by email, I'll include it in my post, and I'll gladly amend the blog if I've said anything incorrect.

Haramein and his fans may be glad to know that I don't intend to write about him any more. And I'll stay anonymous, so they can continue to mythologise me to their hearts' content.

An apology to Mr Haramein

Before I finish, though, I do – in all seriousness – want to apologise for one thing that I have said. Not because I'm worried about legal consequences or anything like that, but because I think I've been unfair.

I did use the word "manipulative", and also words such as "lying" or "deceitful", to describe Haramein's approach to presenting physics. Not very often, but even once is too much. These words clearly imply that he is deliberately setting out to mislead, and I can't possibly know that. While I think the term "misleading" is entirely appropriate, I will accept his objection that it is unfair of me to assume any such thing about his motivations.

It's perfectly plausible that Haramein does have such an inflated sense of his work that he believes that he's doing serious science research, leading a revolution in physics, answering age-old mysteries about the pyramids, solving crop-circles, receiving and interpreting communications from aliens that fly in and out of volcanos and sunspots, proving that there are complex tetrahedral geometries in everything in the universe that generate paranormal phenomena, finding the secret connections that link them all with hidden subtexts within the Bible, and so on and so on; and perhaps he truly believes that he's on the verge of transforming the world into a haven of free energy and understanding and that any minute now the scientific community will wake up to his truth and recognise his contribution. He may well also believe that he didn't invent the fictionalised version of me that he presented. Who knows what he believes.

It's plausible, though I admit to finding it difficult to understand. How is it possible for a view like that, however sweet and innocent an ideal it might come from, to survive contact with the real world for so many years? Perhaps this could be admirable in some way.

Maybe it's understandable if you set out early in life with a drive to communicate some view of the world that feels good and gives people what they want to hear; and if you then find yourself with thousands of fans who admire you for it and allow you to make a living from it and see you as their hope and their light, then I guess you could be forgiven for mistaking it all for reality. I'm sure there are plenty of precedents.

What's hard to believe is that it could be possible to maintain these kinds of delusions without some conscious act of sustained wilful ignorance as to what's actually out there, especially if he's involved in actually trying to carry out research. But perhaps he is somehow capable of this in all innocence. So I'll let it go.

For this reason I've agreed to remove all instances of the offending words from the main body of my blog, and this disclaimer can be seen as a retraction of any use of these words elsewhere by me. He may well be a really lovely character, as I said in my original post nearly six months ago. My criticism, as I keep saying, concerns the content of his science, and the disparity between this and the claims that he makes for it. Not his intentions in doing so.

Misleading it certainly is. He succeeds in pulling the wool over so many of his followers' eyes, whether he intends to or not. His impressive ability to sustain this level of ignorance for so many years will never qualify as a reasonable excuse for making a living by misleading people into seeing him as an authority.

Luckily for us, we can continue to discuss his incompetence as a scientist and to question his integrity without resorting to any assumptions about what in the name of arse is going on inside his head.

I do hope that settles the matter to Mr Haramein's satisfaction.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

What's so misleading about Nassim Haramein?

"If a planet suddenly stopped spinning it would explode"
NH explains his Grand Unified Field Theory (here).

I've said a number of times that Nassim Haramein is misleading people, and I'd like to try to make it crystal clear why. 

Traducción al español y la discusión aquí

Have a quick browse, or have a good old read... it's up to you. 

I'm aiming to encourage people to think carefully about what he is telling them. I'm not out to discourage people from trying out any promising new ideas – what I want is to help people question what's out there for themselves. If they want to, of course. You may choose to disagree with my assessment of Haramein. I'm interested in your reasons if you want to share them.

Of course you're also free to doubt my assessment of my own motivations if you like – that doesn't bother me at all. All I ask is that you check out what I'm saying, and see if any of it fits with what you know.

There is no doubt that Haramein is a very talented communicator. It's clear that he's learned some very interesting facts and is eager to share them. But there are some very serious questions about his understanding and his integrity.

There are two things that it seems Haramein does, time and time again, that I feel no-one with any integrity should ever do:
  1. He misunderstands the most basic ideas of physics in video presentations and interviews, and presents papers that are flawed throughout;
  2. and at the same time, he claims to have insights into the problems that the top physicists in the world are currently working on, and to be solving fundamental issues in physics.
For me, anyone who can do both these things – whether it is deliberate or not – is acting irresponsibly and is misleading people. Surely if anyone is suggesting such a view of Haramein, and giving sound reasons for it, it should be taken seriously.

Below are some examples.

[Edit October 2017: it hasn't got any better. 2017 update here.]

1. The hype and the Schwarzschild Proton

Haramein recently wrote a paper called The Schwarzschild Proton. The paper is full of assertions that conflict with what we know about protons and black holes.

(You can check out my analysis of that paper here if you want – I'm very open to challenges if you feel I've made any errors or false assumptions. I think it's pretty watertight.)

Here's one example:

a. The force between protons

(Please bear with me on this one, it's nothing complicated.)

Haramein's calculation of the force that holds two protons together in a nucleus, using his theory, gives a force of 7.49 x 10^47 dynes. To see why this is silly, all you need to do is look at what a dyne is, and try to find something comparable.

If I turned Mount Everest upside down and balanced it on my head, it would crush me with a force of 10^21 dynes.

If I stood one metre from a 50 megaton thermonuclear bomb and let it off, it would blast me with a force of about 10^22 dynes.

Haramein's result is more than a million million million million times bigger than either of these forces! How can this be the force holding protons together? You can separate protons from a nucleus by tapping them with a tiny electron in a small accelerator.

The issue here is not so much that he got something wrong, but that he is capable of presenting a theory in all seriousness that gives results that are so far from reality without even stopping to notice. If you're trying to present a theory that's supposed to represent reality, surely you would ensure that you (a) understand what your answers mean, and (b) take every opportunity to compare them with the real world?

This isn't the only example – There are many others. He also tells us that every atom of our body contains protons which have a mass of 885 million tonnes each. That ought to raise a few (very heavy) eyebrows too. [1]

b. Introducing the theory to the world: He's literally mathematically proved it!

Below is a clip in which Haramein introduces The Schwarzschild Proton theory at a "free energy" conference in 2009. [2]

At 4 minutes in he tells us, with his usual charm, how his genius enabled him to transcend mainstream physics. He goes on to say that he has some "new material which solves the equation that proves – literally, mathematically proves – that every single atom you're made of is a mini black hole."

He is talking about the same paper on the Schwarzschild Proton, the one that is full of discrepancies from reality. He does make some vague claims in it, but nowhere does he even mention 'proving' anything whatsoever. So why is he saying these things?

Is he blind enough to actually believe he's proved something, or is he deliberately misleading?
I don't know.

If you skip to 6:30, you'll find him explaining why it's important that he can prove that we're all one with the universe (and the vacuum energy). "Not one in an esoteric way that's not really palpable, that's not really able to be understood, but one with everything in an actual physical and mathematical way that I can write an equation and tell you why."

Of course he can't write any such equation – it's completely false. But what he says next explains why he wants to so badly:

"Because if we can write the equation, if we can make the mainstream scientific community understand the theoretical functions of it, then we stand a chance to be able to apply it in the most powerful way to our society"

This is very flawed way of getting people to do what you want. If you have results, you don't need to fabricate an equation for them – just present the results. If you don't have results (and he doesn't), why would making something up that has equations in it make it any better?

Science doesn't – will never and should never – work by someone having a 'vision' which he has convinced himself is the truth, and then trying to force some equations to fit the fantasy without any respect for evidence or for reasoning. Especially if in the meantime they go around claiming they've already proved it. Equations aren't a means of rhetoric. At least they're not in any decent society. In some messed-up world where people are encouraged to worship the equation despite not understanding what it means or what it implies, perhaps they are becoming a means of rhetoric.

If the aim is to influence scientists, it's not very clever.

I encourage you to watch the whole video, to check that I'm not taking these statements out of context. (He's a good speaker, isn't he. Good at emotionally charging what he says with promises of a magic perfect future, so that you actually really want to ignore any doubts you might have, and just believe it all.)

2. Misunderstanding basic physics

Haramein can often be seen in video presentations misunderstanding some basic ideas in physics so naively that it's amazing nobody in the audience said anything.

a. The "first law of physics"

Here's one. It's from his 8-hour presentation at the Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library in 2003. It's a long time ago, but this remains the most popular of Haramein's presentations on the internet.

Skip to 3:00 and he's quoting Newton's 3rd law of motion (which he refers to as "first law of physics") – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Here's a good place to learn about it (perfect if you're under the age of ten).

Of course not everybody knows or cares about Newton's laws of motion – but remember this man claims to be a world-leading physicist. (Indeed, in this clip he gloats about how his "first law of physics" insight stopped all the other physicists in the room in their tracks... I can't help feeling that if they had "blank look on their faces" it might not have been for the reason he's suggesting.)

This law explicitly only applies to forces on a pair of interacting objects. If I kick a brick, the brick exerts a force back on my foot and it hurts. If I shoot a bullet from a gun (not that I ever have or would), there's a recoil. If I catch a baseball, hand applies slowing force to ball, ball applies hitting force to hand. That kind of thing.

Instead of this, he uses it for the volume of space in the Universe, which is about as far from Newton's 3rd law as it's possible to get. There are many, many reasons why this is silly.

Why would something need to contract anyway? If space itself expands, then there just is more space. Why would anything need to contract to make room for it? [3]

Seven years later, he's still milking the same story, and still misusing the same piece of 8th grade physics. [Sorry – that video seems to have been removed since I provided this link]

The point is that he's using this law despite it being completely irrelevant. He uses it to 'prove' that "obviously something is contracting". This becomes a big theme in many of his other ideas. There's nothing 'obvious' about it – unless your version of obvious is feeling like "yeah, looks obvious to me, and you look like you're convinced so I'll go with it."

It's terrible misinformation. I think people deserve better than this.

b. Why the night sky is black

Here's another example, again from his Rogue Valley presentation.

Skip to 2:25 and you'll find the following description of the Universe:

"The mass inside the Universe exceeds the escape velocity of light. That means if you shine a light in one direction... it'll bend around one star, bend around another star, bend around another star... and come right back! That means we live inside a black hole. That's why when you look up in the sky at night, it's black."

First off, a mass can't exceed an escape velocity. That's like saying there's more corn in your barn than the national speed limit – it doesn't make sense. I think he's trying to say that there is so much mass in the Universe that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. Perhaps it just came out mangled.

Secondly, he's describing a closed universe, which all observations in the last ten years seem to suggest is nothing like the one we live in. Thirdly, even if we do live in a closed universe, that doesn't mean light bounces around stars and comes back to you at all – it means that everything ultimately falls together in a big crunch at the end of time. (Kind of a re-union with the light, I suppose... but nothing like he makes it sound.) And fourthly, a closed universe isn't a black hole. (Unless you stretch your definition of black hole by a very long way.)

But his explanation of why the night sky is black really beggars belief. Surely the night sky is black because the observable universe isn't infinite, and the sources of light are much smaller than the spaces between them? I don't think that is a difficult or controversial idea – why start pretending it's because we're in a black hole? [4]

Again, even after seven years, he's still saying the same thing. [Sorry – that video also seems to have been removed since I provided this link.]

c. Peer review

Skip to 5:00 and he tells us he's just about to publish his ideas and they're being very well-received by scientists. Of course, it never happened. [5] This is another story we hear again and again in his presentations – he's always so sure, it's always just around the corner. Why does he string people along like this?

I guess he believes it, and wants us to believe it too.
(That's the most charitable way of seeing it.)

d. Atoms as mini white wholes / black holes

Skip to 7:30 in the same video. "Some of the largest, most comprehensive unification theories that are trying to be worked out now – and are incorrect because they're missing the fractal component – by Stephen Hawking, for instance, describe all subatomic particles as mini black holes. And the Hadron Collider that's being built in Geneva that I mentioned earlier is being built to search for these mini white whole/black holes for subatomic particles."

Haramein once again takes the opportunity to make his claim that mainstream physics is lagging far behind his 'unification theories' (which have 'the fractal component').

Is Stephen Hawking working on unification theories in which all subatomic particles are mini-black holes? Has he ever? No. At least, I haven't seen any – let me know if you have. [6]

Was the Hadron Collider built to look for Haramein's black hole particles, or anything remotely like them? No, of course it wasn't.

There will be searches for tiny black holes because some theories predict that if there are several extra dimensions of space, and if these dimensions are not too small, then black holes should appear in the collider experiments – and immediately evaporate, leaving a particular decay signature. These theories are absolutely nothing like Haramein's. The only similarity is that they both use the term "black hole" – they don't even mean the same thing when they use it.

Can he fit any more misinformation into one ten-minute chunk of a presentation?

Here's some more:

e. Biological cells are black holes too

At 8:40 in the video, Haramein explains that proteins in cell membranes oscillate at 10^11 Hertz, and that if you use that to plot a cell on his Scaling Law graph it falls close to the line he plotted for black holes.

He seems to be trying to suggest that somehow this means a cell must be a black hole.

At 10:25, he says, "The cell biology - the biological resolution of a cell - actually obeys the Schwarzschild Condition of a black hole, because it generates so much energy. 10^11 is a huge number."

First of all, let's be clear, a frequency of 10^11 Hertz isn't huge – it's tiny. A single photon of light – the tiniest amount of light that it's possible to have – has a frequency of over a thousand times more than this. And a single photon of light doesn't generate a lot of energy. But that's an aside.

What does Haramein mean by 'the Schwarzschild Condition'? [7] The most obvious thing he could mean given the context is the condition of something being compressed so thoroughly that the whole of it lies within its Schwarzschild radius, making a black hole. But this formula tells us very clearly that to make a black hole the size of a cell, you'd need to compress more than a million million million tonnes into it.

That's very clearly not what biological cells are like.

It's difficult to get a sense of what he actually means when he says black hole. In his papers, he frequently uses the formulae from Einstein's General Relativity (the origin of all our concepts of black holes, and Schwarzschild's formula), which show unambiguously that every black hole has an event horizon beyond which nothing can be seen.

In fact that's what event horizon means.

Haramein uses the term event horizon all over the place. He uses it to mean the membrane of a cell at 8:55 in this video. Which makes no sense, because we can see inside a cell. [8]

So come on, why on Earth would anyone say something so ridiculous as biological cells are black holes? Whether or not you agree with or understand any of the physics involved, what he's saying just makes no sense.

In fact he doesn't stop there. In this video in the same series, we can see him explaining that a woman's vagina is an event horizon! [9]

I think this makes it clear that here is a man who really does not know what he's talking about, but is nevertheless prepared to play the role of the expert. Are these acceptable qualities for someone you should wish to follow?

3. Other examples of basic misunderstandings

There are so many videos of Haramein now on the internet, I could give example after example after example of him misunderstanding, misquoting and misrepresenting very basic scientific ideas.

a. Quantum mechanics and the strong nuclear force

In video 16 in the same series, he explains his understanding of quantum mechanics (getting it completely wrong in the process) before dismissing it as 'bunk'. He goes on to explain why the strong nuclear force was simply invented from thin air, and why he's sure there's really no need for it. [10]

I hope to do a separate post about this at some point. I'll put a link here when I've done it. Because this little bundle of schoolboy errors is the basis of his attempt to unify gravity with the strong force, which has been reported by some sources on the internet as if it's cutting-edge research. It's not.

I'll explain why I'm saying this at another time. In the meantime, don't take my word for it – check it out yourself. Investigate.

b. The phi spiral

I gave another example in my post here (number 3 on that page) that shows him being clueless with basic mathematics. I know this wasn't 'published material' – just a casual situation – but you can see how he gets his ideas.

In the video, all that happens is that he spots something on a graph that looks like somethings else. Does he...

(a) investigate it further?
(b) calculate it?
(c) announce that his 'discovery' relates to interference resonances and has profound implications for Einstein's field equations and matter spiralling into a black hole and that it links his theories to the 'Mathematical Fingerprint of God'?

Of course he goes for (c). Just a little pre-university mathematics would have shown that the whole thing was a complete mistake. The 'resonances' were another mistake; the black hole ideas were also wrong; and the other stuff was... I don't even have a word for it. (The mistakes are all explained here.)

True, anyone can make a mistake or four.

But what kind of person would jump straight to (c) and ignore the others? Seriously?

4. The Resonance Project website

Haramein's website is full of claims that do seem a little over-the-top, given what we've seen about him, and illustrate how readily he resorts to hype and hyperbole.

a. More claims for himself and his work
Of him, it says "As early as 9 years old, Nassim was already developing the basis for a unified hyperdimensional theory of matter and energy, which he eventually called the 'Holofractographic Universe.' " [11] He's keen to paint himself as a genius from an early age.

He claims his Schwarzschild Proton paper was "chosen by a panel of 11 peer reviewers, Haramein's paper won the prestigious 'Best Paper Award'." I've explained here why his use of 'peer review' is misleading, and the term 'prestigious' is something of an overstatement.

He claims that "this simple paper is already producing remarkable results!" and "This radical new view of the quantum world produces a unification of the forces and appropriately predicts measured values for the nucleon of atoms." I've explained here why these are absolutely untrue.

The Schwarzschild Proton paper also "lays down the foundation of what could be a fundamental change in our current understandings of physics and consciousness." (I'll leave that one to you to figure out.)

His Scaling Law paper "leads to theoretical and technological advancements that move us towards a sustainable future. This new approach to the physics of universal forces has the potential to solve the most pressing issues of our times." Is any explanation or justification given for such grand, save-the-world statements? No. (But see note [2], I guess.)

He claims that "scientists at the Resonance Project Foundation have found a new solution to Einstein’s field equations" – this is also untrue. They changed Einstein's equations in an attempt to fit what they wanted into them. [12]

And so it goes on.

b. 'Layman Paper' on the Origin of Spin

From the research section of his website, you can download a 'Layman Paper' on the origin of spin [Edit, May'13: the links to Haramein's website in this section are now links to archived material, as virtually all of the previous information on his activities has now been removed from his website]. In this paper, Haramein announces that he was way ahead of Stephen Hawking in his ideas on black holes, and he got there by using "pure logic" and geometric extrapolations from Hebraic and Egyptian texts. He takes the opportunity to compare himself to Isaac Newton! And, with characteristic humility, he explains that he's named his "landmark" amendment to Einstein's equations after... himself.

However, the very first sentence of the paper is false. This is a problem, because this sentence encapsulates the idea that motivates all Haramein's ideas about spin, torsion, Coriolis effects, vortices... the works. It's wrong because

(a) the Universe would evolve into spinning systems even if there is no spin to begin with – there are good reasons why it would be impossible for spin not to arise [13]. And

(b) the idea that spin (or angular momentum) would run down if there is friction within a system is also false. He illustrates this with an example of a spinning egg, which can easily be shown to be flawed – you can even demonstrate yourself with a simple experiment. [14]

Under Haramein's biography on his site, there is a link to a radio interview in which you can hear him present his own ideas. He starts with the nonsense about spin that I mentioned above, and within 3 minutes he's diverged so far from reality that he's telling us that "if a planet suddenly stopped spinning it would explode." Which is so sweet I couldn't resist featuring it at the top of this article.

c. Science

One other little quote from his website that I liked: in the advert for his DVD, he asks "Have you ever wondered why those science classes were at all important?"

xkcd's illustration of the original big bang theory predictions of the
cosmic microwave background (curve) and later observations from COBE (dots).
The theory was correct to a spectacular degree of accuracy.

Hopefully they were important because they encouraged us to explore, to question, to find out for ourselves. Not to take Haramein's word for anything, or my word for anything, or anyone else's word for anything, but to seek out convincing ideas and build up our own sound but flexible interpretation of the physical reality of the wonder-filled universe we find ourselves in. One that reflects reality, as truly as we can.

Ask yourself honestly. Are the natures of astrophysical objects, or the mysteries of high energy collider physics, really something you believe you can encompass with your intuitive experience? Do you seriously believe that you're better off relying on an inner sense of resonance in your soul – even more than investigating the world of experiments, observations and the interpretations that follow from them – for deciding whose theory of black holes you should agree with, or what the nature of a proton is?

If the answer is yes, then that's quite some inflated view of yourself you've got there.

If not, then please lay off the "I don't understand any of the physics but I just know in my heart that what Nassim is saying is true" business. I've heard that far too many times already. If you think any of the facts that I'm giving are wrong, tell me why. (And tell me why the facts are wrong, not how you think you can read my motivations from thousands of miles away, please. The facts are there. If they're correct, deal with it. If they're wrong, explain it. They won't go away.)

There's nothing open-minded about hanging on to a theory that's WAY outside anyone's intuitive experience, just because you really like it or you really like the person who told you it or you felt a spiritual response to it. If you want to know about cosmology or particle physics, go and find out about them. If you think you can do better than the scientists out there working on them, go and do it.

If not, just let go, and accept that there are things you don't know.
And I'll happily accept what I don't know.
It's very good for the soul.

5. A little thought

Haramein's physics world may appear solid, especially when you're in it... but it can all be evaporated by nothing more than a little thought. And once you're spared his fake sense of intuitive obviousness, you can get back to actually searching for the truth yourself. Which is a heck of an adventure.

An unfolding, enriching, genuine quest that can last a lifetime.



[1] I've heard some of his latest suggestions as to how this 885 million tonnes can be explained away using relativity... I'll wait until he publishes them before I say what I think. [Edit: here they are. They're pretty absurd.] (return)

[2] In this video he's speaking at a "free energy" conference, so he's addressing an audience who believe or want to believe (in contrast to all reputable scientific opinion) that we can magically harvest limitless amounts of energy from a vacuum and save the world using impressive-sounding quantum wizardry. And where anyone who says otherwise is closed-minded and can't think outside the box and is part of the mainstream conspiracy to kill other people's creativity.

I mention it in this way because that last sentence may well contain defences that you have heard before. If you ever find yourself with legitimate reasons for questioning a set of ideas and the people defending it have no answers, they will often use these defences. If you think about each of them, you can see that they say nothing at all about the ideas being questioned, which means they're as easy to use for someone who is talking complete nonsense as they are for anyone else. They divert attention away from a complete lack of evidence or reason behind an idea, and onto the obviously wonderful emperor's clothes, without any clothes actually needing to be there.

In the case of "free energy", there is no evidence; and I have seen no reasons put forward for it that aren't fatally flawed from the outset. There are of course many reasons why many people would want it to be true (and for some people, if they want something and someone tells them it's possible, that's all it takes for blind faith to set in). It's wide open for charismatic and unscrupulous people to gain fame, followers and fortune by tapping into this. But there are some very powerful reasons as to why energy cannot be extracted from the vacuum, reasons which I would think virtually all physicists who deal with the quantum physics of the vacuum would agree on.

The most compelling argument is that the very same theory (quantum field theory or QFT) that predicts vacuum energy also predicts very clearly that it cannot be removed. It is only postulated to be there at all because it's an absolute minimum energy that a vacuum must have. So either you agree with QFT, or you don't – either way it's not available. The only way you could think it was available is by grossly misreading the theory.

Note that Haramein, and Stephen Greer, and other free energy advocates don't understand QFT. They either state explicitly that they don't (e.g. Greer), or dismiss quantum mechanics entirely (e.g. Haramein), or try to use it or to talk about it and in the process make it very clear that they're clueless (e.g. Haramein trying to explain renormalisation). Or a combination of the three.

People are free of course to research what they will, because one never knows. But that doesn't make it ok for these people to hold massive events in which they promise the world to happily-paying members of the public, when in fact they have nothing at all to give. Telling people there's no need to worry about the energy/climate crisis because soon they're going to make it appear out of nowhere is not going to help the real change that we need one bit. (return)

[3] If that doesn't make a convincing enough argument for you, the real reasons can be found in the beautiful theory of general relativity, which has so far stood up to every single experimental and observational test that a century of science has thought of to throw at it. I'd encourage anyone who's interested in the nature of space-time to study it. (return)

[4] Although if you want to explore further, it can get interesting. Haramein may be confusing an event horizon of a black hole with the cosmological event horizon. The latter is the furthest distance from which light could ever reach us in an accelerating universe. For the vast majority of the life of the universe, the cosmological event horizon is way beyond the current cosmological horizon that marks the limit of the observable universe. The two types of event horizons are very different.

Anyway, hang on, didn't he just say that all the light from the Earth (which is well-lit by the Sun) goes around a few stars and comes back to where it came from? If that's what it's like in Haramein's black hole universe, wouldn't that make the sky light again? (return)

[5] The paper he was referring to (Scale Unification – A Universal Scaling Law For Organized Matter) exists only as a preprint for conference proceedings. Conference proceedings are a collection of all papers presented at a conference. Preprints are the versions issued privately (e.g. to the conference-goers) before being published.

(How many of Haramein's papers have been published in a peer-review journal? Is the only possible reason for this the supposed fact that the peer-review process is corrupt? Discuss.) (return)

[6] Hawking did discover the theoretical necessity for black holes to evaporate by emitting thermal radiation. What I mean by that is that unless they do, several fundamental physical laws must be violated – in ways that we'd really expect to have seen elsewhere. Hawking's work implies that any black hole with a mass below 228 tonnes would vanish in a flash of high energy radiation in less than one second. (What would this mean for Haramein's black holes?) (return)

[7] There is no "Condition" normally named after Karl Schwarzschild – if there was, it should probably be the pemphigus that killed him. There's a Schwarzschild Criterion, but that has nothing to do with black holes either – it's about plasma flow within a star. (return)

[8] The same argument applies to anything else that he describes as a black hole – for example a proton. Hundreds of accelerators throughout the world have been used to see very clearly the internal structure of a proton. It's not an event horizon if information is reaching us from inside. (return)

[9] Scientists have seen inside those, too. (return)

[10] The things he says about quantum mechanics and the strong nuclear force in this video are remarkable. He takes no notice of the fact that people have been investigating the nucleus for a hundred years and actually finding out what it's like. Instead he makes something up based on misunderstandings of the kind of facts you find in school textbooks. And this is what's led him to produce his paper on the Schwarzschild Proton; even as we speak he's still trying to force it to work. Good luck to him. (As I said, I hope to find some time to explain why I think this in another post.) (return)

[11] This is because he had a vision on a school bus, which he describes here. No doubt a powerful one – powerful enough that he's clung onto it and spent decades trying to force physics to fit it instead of using physics honestly to find out what physical reality is actually like. (return)

[12] See the paper here. It's not recommended bed-time reading. At the top of page 157 it's announced that Einstein's equations will have to be altered. On page 161 the electromagnetic field has to be altered too. (return)

[13] I won't try to explain it fully here. Briefly, when a gas cloud condenses to form a galaxy, if anything has motion that is not directed precisely towards the centre then that would give rise to angular momentum. The overall rate of spin naturally increases as an object becomes more compact. Total angular momentum should be conserved: for every unit of spin in galaxies turning clockwise about any axis, there should be a unit of spin in galaxies turning anticlockwise about the same axis. The total angular momentum in the Universe can still balance out to zero.

Interestingly, there's a theorem that states that in a friction-free system, spin couldn't arise. Friction is really the key to how different parts of the Universe acquire spin – not, as Haramein would have us believe, a reason for why it shouldn't be there. (return)

[14] If you spin an egg on a table, to use Haramein's example, it only slows down because its spin is passed to the Earth. If the egg was on a table in space, the spin of the egg would slow and the table would start to spin. Friction within the system doesn't reduce the overall spin of the system. Friction merely passes spin from one part of the system to another.

So why does a raw egg slow down so much faster when you spin it? Because when you spin a raw egg using your fingers, you only set the shell and the outer part of the albumen spinning! The non-spinning core of the egg quickly slows it down. What would happen if you could set the whole egg spinning? To test it, attach an egg to the centre of a plate, set that plate spinning constantly for a minute or so, and then detatch the spinning egg onto a table. Time how long the egg spins for on the table, and you'll find that it makes no difference whether it's raw or boiled. The friction or viscosity within the egg doesn't slow it down at all.

There's no reason for the spin of the Earth or a galaxy or a star or the Universe to be slowed by the effects of internal viscosity or friction. In fact, angular momentum is an absolutely conserved quantity in every single reliable theory of physics. (return)