Tachyon Energy for the Masses

Browsing the Web the other day, I came upon several websites that sell products that supposedly harness the power of… tachyon energy. These products include “tachyon-infused” silica disks, beads, crystals, elbow wraps, blankets, bottled water, and of course massage oils and body lotions. Tachyon BeadsSuspending disbelief for a moment, I explored the websites hoping to discover the secret behind the process of Tachyonization. The discovery of tachyons itself, not to mention being able to control them at room temperature, surely deserves worldwide attention! I have no idea why any of these companies hasn’t gone public with their discovery. No idea at all! So let’s begin.

The last time I checked, a tachyon is a hypothetical particle that is one of the byproducts of special relativity. Recall that Einstein’s famous relation

$$E = \frac{mc^{2}}{\sqrt{1 – \frac{v^2}{c^2}}}$$

yields both real and imaginary solutions. The real solutions apply to real-world physical particles, that is, particles that travel slower than the speed of light. The imaginary solutions arise when we invent a particle that has a velocity (v) greater than the speed of light (c). Since Einstein’s equation permits this kind of solution, there’s nothing stopping us from imagining such a particle.

The thing to remember, however, is that just because the equation allows such solutions does not automatically imply that such particles actually exist. In fact, the existence of tachyons would present significant problems for physics as we know it, since their interaction with normal matter (if it’s allowed) would violate the laws of causality, since any matter or information traveling faster than light must also travel backwards in time.

Apparently, what the naïve mainstream physicists fail to realize is that there’s a ton of money to be made from selling New Age products that claim to harness the True Power of tachyons!

A company called Advanced Tachyon Technologies (no joke!), has been marketing such products, which include glass beads for $50 that “have been proven to be the most effective directional antennas for the localized clearing of blockages in the Energetic Continuum.” The company peddles its products through a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM), where various distributors organize their own websites and sell the products on behalf of the parent company. Examples of these sites are here, here, and here.

So what exactly is this “tachyon energy” they speak of? The ATT website attempts to explain this, but I’ll spare you the mind-numbing pseudoscientific psycho-babble, and instead provide a short excerpt:

Tachyon Energy is the very first energetic structure that emerges out of non-structured, formless Zero-Point Energy. Just like Zero-Point Energy, Tachyon is not limited to a certain frequency. Tachyon cannot be measured in the Hertzian frequency spectrum. It is not a certain type of energy. Rather, it includes all energies within itself. Its qualities are much like Zero-Point Energy, varying only in that it is a structured field.

Very rarely have I seen this many misuses of scientific terminology in a single paragraph. What is an “energetic structure”? Why is zero-point energy “formless”? What other “frequency spectrum” is there besides the “Hertzian” one? This paragraph alone should be enough to taint our confidence in the effectiveness of the Tachyon line of products.

In another page of their website, ATT attempts to explain the “physics of tachyons.” This should be good…

The condensation of zero-point energy into tachyon energy is the beginning of the Energetic Continuum, which is directly responsible for all forms on the planet. It is this condensation that creates all forms. In the production of matter, this formless zero-point energy condenses into faster-than-light tachyon. At the point of the speed of light, tachyon interacts with the Subtle Organizing Energy Fields (SOEFs).

Once again, pure garbage. Each sentence becomes more and more devoid of meaning to anyone but the most scientifically ignorant. They proceed to give a diagram and an explanation of a tachyon interacting with other particles:

For this explanation, we will explore the interaction of tachyon energy with the lepton family of particles. The first elementary particle in the lepton family is a pion. The pion exists below the speed of light and has a consistent mathematically computable orbit, which we call the Subtle Organizing Energy Field (SOEF).

This paragraph, if anything, is the nail in the coffin, since it speaks volumes about the background of the “scientists” behind these products. A pion is indeed a known particle, but it’s by no means a lepton (it’s a meson). The family of leptons includes the electron, the muon, and the tau. (There are also three flavors of neutrinos, and all the corresponding antiparticles.)

Even if we assume that the author meant to say “tau” instead of “pion,” there is still a slew of problems. The tau is not the “first” particle in the lepton family. That would be the electron. Also, the author speaks of a “mathematically computable orbit.” Orbit around what?

It’s fairly clear that these ramblings are from a person with a high-school level grasp of physics who has taken too many issues of Popular Science too seriously. It’s highly unlikely that this person not only proved the existence of tachyons, but invented a process that alters matter at the subatomic level, allowing tachyons to be focused, thereby healing the human body of all ailments. The fact that the “inventor” of this technology hasn’t yet been invited to Stockholm for the Nobel ceremony proves this point definitively.

Speaking of the Tachyonization process, the ATT website states that the inventors would rather “keep it proprietary” instead of patenting it (I wonder why!). The website does, however, try to explain what tachyonization is not:

The Tachyonization process is not a frequency, spin manipulation, or transfer. It is not a high frequency or coil technology. It does not use magnets or sounds. It does not use sacred geometry to inform products. It is not a photon-based technology. It is not an SE-5 or other form of radionics-based technology. It does not require prayer or meditation. The technology does not use crystals or orgone technologies. It is absolutely not operator-sensitive.

Well of course it’s not any of those things. It’s not anything! Correction, it is something: it’s a cleverly-worded excuse for these companies to charge $30 for a bottle of water and $50 for a bunch of glass beads.

More Tachyon BeadsThese companies have created the perfect recipe for sucking in highly impressionable New-Agers: throw in a bunch of the usual vague spiritual buzzwords: energy, healing, flow, balance, chakra, any of which would give an unsuspecting customer a hard-on… and combine them with the latest cool-sounding scientific jargon hijacked by the New Age movement: frequency, spectrum, continuum, fields, waves, and now, tachyons.

Combining all these words into randomized, barely coherent sentences, as ATT has done, speaks of a very naïve, superficial understanding of physics and mathematics, not to mention medicine. The only terminology that the website uses correctly is the financial and legal terminology for recruiting distributors and reeling in unsuspecting customers to pay through their noses for glass beads, silica disks, and bottled water.

Once again, tachyons are hypothetical, and not real! Even if they do “exist,” it would certainly not be possible to manipulate them. It’s not even clear what it would mean to manipulate them. Even if tachyons could be controlled, doing so would not be possible by modifying ordinary matter. And even if it were possible to control tachyons using ordinary matter, it’s absurd to assume that they would have some sort of healing effect on the human body!

My god, browsing all these sites has made my head hurt. It’s a bullshit overdose!

Open-Source Tools for Everything

I thought I’d post a list of the best open-source utilities (at the present time) for performing various tasks. This isn’t necessarily a list of the “best” tools, but just tools that have worked the best for me.

  • OpenOffice.org – Word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, etc.
  • Firefox – Web browser.
  • Xine and/or MPlayer – Play DVDs and various video formats. (Linux only)
  • VideoLAN – Play videos, DVDs, and streams.
  • XMMS – Audio player (Linux only). Requires a special plugin to play MP3 and WMA files.
  • The GIMP – Drawing and image processing
  • The Paint.NET – Simple yet very powerful image editor.
  • dvd::rip – DVD ripping and transcoding (Linux only)
  • CDEx – CD ripping (Windows only)
  • Audacity – Audio track recorder and editor
  • VirtualDub – Video capture/processing utility
  • FileZilla – FTP client and server (Windows only)
  • WinMerge – File and directory compare (Windows only)
  • 7-Zip – Archive utility (Windows only)
  • gaim – Instant messaging client
  • Wireshark – Ethernet packet analyzer (formerly Ethereal)
  • Metasploit – Framework for testing exploits
  • HxD – Hex editor

Miscellaneous open-source (or otherwise free) things that are nice to have:

On Mind-Body Duality and the Afterlife

[read the disclaimer before proceeding]

Consider a clock that is ticking. We can think of the ticking as the “soul” or “consciousness” of the clock. As long as the clock’s spring or battery has sufficient power, the clock will continue to tick. When the battery runs out, the clock stops ticking. The consciousness of the clock ends at that point. The clock does not continue to tick in some kind of spiritual dimension – it simply halts. It seems only natural to apply this analogy to human consciousness: when electrical impulses stop propagating through the brain, human consciousness ceases to exist.

It seems to me that the idea of mind-body duality (that the body and the mind are somehow separate entities), and hence the idea of an afterlife, can be challenged with a short series of trivial observations.

The Brain

The very existence of a brain already casts doubt on the existence of a soul. If a separate, intelligent soul really exists and inhabits the body, why would the body need a brain? If all cognitive functions are indeed performed by the soul, then the brain becomes useless.

Brain damage can have profound effects on the body, ranging from paralysis, retardation, and of course death, to very subtle changes in the individual’s behavior or personality. Clearly, this alone is devastating evidence against the existence of a soul. If a slight modification to the brain causes a change in the personality of the individual, doesn’t this imply that the brain alone is responsible for the individual’s personality? What role, then, is left for the soul to perform?

One can make the argument that the brain is actually a “receiver” acting as an antenna of sorts, simply picking up signals from a soul that exists elsewhere. But this adds an unnecessary layer of complexity. If we make the argument that the complex structure of the brain is necessary to receive “signals” from an extra-corporeal soul, then why not simplify a bit, and admit that the complex structure of the brain is the source of the soul? It’s the same as suggesting that the Sun that we see in our sky every day is really a reflection from a giant space-mirror located where we think the Sun is, while the “real” sun is someplace else entirely, shining light onto the mirror.

Unfortunate Cases

When a mentally handicapped person dies, does his soul remain mentally handicapped for all eternity? Or does the soul somehow get “repaired” to a healthy state? If so, can the new soul really be considered “the same” as it was before the repair? The new soul would now possess cognitive abilities that the real-life person could never use in the real world. What good would these abilities be for the soul if it can no longer wield them in our reality?

When an infant dies, will the infant’s soul continue to exist in a perpetual infantile state? Similar to the previous example, let’s entertain that the infant’s soul will be “upgraded” to a healthy adult state. Frankly, this makes even less sense than the first example. In order for a soul to reach adulthood, the physical person needs to lead an actual life into adulthood, gathering knowledge, experience, and memories. What kind of memories (never mind knowledge and experience) can this hypothetical adult-baby possess if it never had any conscious experiences in the real world?

When an elderly person passes away because of a disease like Alzheimer’s, will the soul continue to exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s, existing in a weak, confused, and compromised state? Or will the soul be reverted to a time when the disease was not yet present? If this is the case, who decides the age to which the soul will be reverted? What about all the experiences and memories that the person collected as the disease progressed (fuzzy as they may be)?

Emotional Incentive

There also seems to be a suspiciously large amount of emotional incentive associated with the belief in souls and an afterlife, which would lead one to believe that the two are simply a product of wishful thinking. We don’t want to die, so we’d rather believe that we can survive death. Since it’s blatantly obvious that people don’t actually survive death, we invent the idea of a noncorporeal essence that represents our living “state.” This essence, conveniently enough, is only temporarily bound to the body, and thus survives death – problem solved.

Afterlife and Religion

One final problem is the utter naivete with which the major world religions (and therefore the majority of people) interpret the idea of an afterlife, inventing pseudo-physical “places” like heaven, hell, and numerous others where life continues indefinitely after death, with benefits and/or punishments based on the person’s behavior during life. The religious interpretation of the afterlife is primitive at best, and potentially quite dangerous. Indeed, any belief that cheapens real human life and attempts to misplace our hopes and dreams onto some intangible, imponderable promise of “eternal life beyond death” casts a truly negative light on the whole afterlife concept.

A Glimmer of Hope

Apparently, the trial in Dover, PA has sobered up members of a school board here in Ohio. Hopefully (and god willing (!)) this will ignite similar litigation that will finally put an end to teaching pseudoscience to impressionable young minds.

[Plain Dealer article]

Something I’ve never understood is, if creationists want biology classes to devote time to teaching intelligent design, then why don’t churches agree to devote some of their time to preaching evolutionary theory?

Evolving Straight Into the 15th Century!

The Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, a leading proponent of the “intelligent design” movement, and the star witness in the developing case against the school board of Dover, PA, would have us believe that the currently accepted definition of “science” is flawed and needs revision. No doubt, this is because the inconvenient definition of “science” categorically rules out so-called Intelligent Design as a viable scientific theory.

The United States National Academy of Sciences defines a scientific theory as:

…a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

Since Intelligent Design does not deal in facts, laws, and provides no hypotheses to test, even Behe agrees that it’s not a scientific theory under this definition.

Behe instead proposes to think outside the box of 21st century science, and relax the definition a bit, to the effect of:

Under my definition, scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.

The “logical inference” of Intelligent Design is essentially, “It looks complex, therefore it must be designed.” Unfortunately, neither Behe nor any of his ID colleagues have defined what is meant by “looks complex,” and all instances of “irreducible complexity” presented by ID proponents can be explained by modern evolutionary theory.

Under Behe’s definition, astrology would also be considered a science. Behe actually agreed with this when asked by the plaintiff’s attorney Eric Rothschild.

Proponents of Intelligent Design swear and cross their heart (pun intended) that their hypothesis bears no religious implications. With that in mind, I wonder what a high-school class on Intelligent Design would consist of:

TEACHER: Darwinian evolution does not explain the complexity and diversity of today’s species. An alternative is that an “Intelligent Designer” created everything we see today. Conveniently enough, the book of Genesis provides just such an explanation. Let’s begin our reading.

The day we accept miracles as scientific explanations is the day we revert to 15th century science. Hopefully the trial in Dover, PA will make a strong stand against such foolishness. The only miracle here is that Mr. Behe was ever allowed to teach a college Biology class.

Even the Christian Science Monitor makes the following refreshing and enlightened statement:

If this case encourages a deeper pondering of God, that’s welcome. One could even argue that intelligent design, as a widely accepted concept, should go much further, seeking to scientifically explore mankind’s spiritual nature rather than the origins of matter. But such exploration is a personal one, not appropriate for a public classroom. [emphasis added]