November 26, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Flaky Cosmic Notion Gets Good Press

Does the universe grow like a giant brain?  If anyone but a scientist said that, it would be in the cartoons.

Live Science gave good press to a physicist who proposes that galaxies and brains grow by similar physical processes.  “Universe Grows Like a Giant Brain,” reporter Tia Ghose wrote about the views of a team including Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist at UC San Diego.  What, exactly, was proposed?  Only that “some undiscovered, fundamental laws may govern the growth of systems large and small, from the electrical firing between brain cells and growth of social networks to the expansion of galaxies.”  Maybe she should have waited till it gets discovered.

An outsider from the study said, “At first blush they seem to be quite different systems, the question is, is there some kind of controlling laws can describe them?”  Maybe they should wait till they have some evidence.

The team used a computer model as evidence, unaware of the problem of investigator interference.  By programming their computer to compare “the universe’s history with growth of social networks and brain circuits, they found all the networks expanded in similar ways: They balanced links between similar nodes with ones that already had many connections.”

The eerie similarity between networks large and small is unlikely to be a coincidence, Krioukov said.

So what “unknown law governs the way networks grow and change, from the smallest brain cells to the growth of mega-galaxies”? Ghose asked.  Krioukov told Live Science, “This result suggests that maybe we should start looking for it.

Yes, go look for it so we don’t have to hear your weird speculations.

Let’s analyze this.  Somebody at a university calling himself a scientist has assumed galaxies form networks like brains, but this is an argument from analogy.  He thinks there is an undiscovered law of nature out there, but he hasn’t started looking for it.  Instead, he has been playing computer games at work.  Conclusion: he must be desperate for funding.

If anybody else propounded fact-free tales this outlandishly, grotesquely capricious, he would be either repudiated as a nut or become a special guest on The View (not necessarily mutually exclusive options).  Why do scientists get away with it?

Do you sometimes get the feeling that scientists are warming up to their role as modern cultural shamans and taking advantage of it?  We need a new Gershwin hit, “Whatever reliance you put in Live Seance it ain’t necessarily so.”

 

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Comments

  • rockyway says:

    1. “some undiscovered, fundamental laws may govern the growth of systems large and small, from the electrical firing between brain cells and growth of social networks to the expansion of galaxies.”

    – This is akin to equating the growth of a child with the growth of a bubble gum balloon.

    2. “The eerie similarity between networks large and small is unlikely to be a coincidence, Krioukov said.

    – I had forgotten that ”eerie” was a scientific term. I guess I’m due for a refresher course. I thought it meant a reference to the supernatural. or to people frightened by superstition.

    Thanks to my days in the lab (I won’t say how many) I can assure people that if they look closely, they’ll notice a similarity between things that are eerie and things that are weird. It’s almost as if there were an undiscovered law that connects them.

    Again we see the strong reductionistic tendency in materialism; the push to reduce all things to a single entity, or a single explanation.

    3. ‘They programmed their computer to compare “the universe’s history with growth of social networks and brain circuits, they found all the networks expanded in similar ways:

    – This is called the law of getting bigger. It goes something like; “If x does not get smaller, and does not stay the same size, there is a tendency for it to get bigger.”) If I remember correctly it was discovered by Prof. Lack A. Daze-Ical, on a day off at the zoo.

  • lux113 says:

    “Do you sometimes get the feeling that scientists are warming up to their role as modern cultural shamans and taking advantage of it?”

    Exactly… they are reveling in it! It’s like the shackles of the scientific method were hacked away by Darwin’s theory and now no one has to endure the hard, difficult path of actually proving your claims! And to think of all the power that was unleashed! Now they aren’t just studying the laws of nature – why, heck, they’re writing them! It’s like being God.. (well, you know, if they were to believe in such non-science).

    I think we all have looked at the drawings of atomic structures and then seen galaxies.. and thought “hmm, atoms going around a nucleus….. planets around a sun.. seems like a theme here.” It’s interesting that there’s such a pattern. What it leads me to is the conclusion that the same mind that made our bodies made the heavens as well. I think that was the point being made by these similarities. As children we considered these analogous structures and it didn’t take research grants or super computers to do so.

    It’s really sad what they pass off as science these days.

  • dan says:

    But they’re scientists!

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