Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Doggerel #33: "Invisible"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the strangest things I hear woos complaining about is that skeptics "don't believe in the invisable," or "can't accept what they can't see." Such things make me wonder if they're living in a stone age society, and if so, how their isp works. Our society is built on countless invisible things that work:

When I'm in my room, I'm typing on a laptop that shuffles around invisible electric and magnetic charges, sending photons that are exactly the same as visible light, except for the shape of the wave they travel in, through my seemingly opague wall into a router that sends more invisible electric signals to some distant server I've never seen, where those signals eventually find their way into your computer and assemble themselves into a link to an article about scientists finding confirming evidence of invisible matter in a galaxy so far away that it can't be seen by the naked eye by calculating the amount of invisible force the invisible matter exerts on the visible.

Science is very good at detecting invisible things. That's because nothing is really, really invisible: Everything in the natural world has an effect. Science observes these effects under tightly controlled conditions to determine their causes. The only way for something to be truly invisible is for it to have no effects whatsoever. In such a case, it might as well not exist at all.

Meanwhile, woos like Sylvia "You can't prove air!" Browne aren't letting anyone sort out the noise to see if their claimed powers have a genuine effect. And they're going nowhere, fast. They need a little negativity in their lives.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This post made me giggle because, as a Ph.D. student in molecular genetics, I was just bitching to friends and family that I am getting really tired of working with invisible things all day. I *believe* there is DNA in this little tube, but I sure as hell can't see any double helices! I like to call it "faith-based science."