Religion and Science: a chimera I can do without   Leave a comment

2015-06-29 christadelphian sign science


This isn’t so silly a question as you might think. Frequently, scientists I work with become adept at operating instrumentation from the control PC’s and learn how to manipulate these controls to vary and even optimize the outputs of the instruments. However, they don’t have an accurate picture of what is actually happening inside the instruments because they have no interest in the First Principles of how these things operate: their Belief in how these contraptions work (Subjective Reality) is more important to them than the Objective Reality.




One postdoc that I have dealt with strode into the lab his first week and started delivering a sermon to me about how an FTMS works (which, fair enough, is something the inventors of the devices, most of whom I have worked with, might think is overdue). It seems that in his belief system, a beam in an electrostatic orbital trap at 1e-9 torr would be dephased in the cell due to collisions over the course of a 1/8 second transient despite the fact that the ions would only traverse a distance 1/100th the mean free path in the cell. The frustrating thing is that his Religion did, in fact, observe the correct phenomenon: that when the Orbitrap, as it is called, is at the higher end of the UHV regime the ions dephase quickly.  However, the reason this is so is much more subtle.


science stained glass

When the pressure rises in the cell, it is most often because the pressures in one of the other vacuüm regimes has risen due either to design or fault. The voltage he tweaked to ‘prove’ that he was right forces the ions through several differentially pumped regions with bunching optics that are optimized for lower pressures — and, ideally, less frequent velocity slowing collisions — than he was working at. If this wasn’t just a Black Box or The Hand Of God to him, he would recognize that the ion packet was introduced to the cell with a smeared kinetic energy distribution that makes it appear as if it is becoming dephased when in fact is started out doomed to this fate. Original sin, in a way, or the nasty, brutish, and short free inductive decays (FIDs) that the prototypes of this equipment experienced.

Usually, one of the postdocs harboring a mythological doctrine makes no difference to me as long as the professors are happy with their productivity.  However, the mouthy ones that want to spread their fairy tales to the world need to preface their edicts with, “this is only my opinion and the facts it is based on are far from complete;” or shut the fuck up…I don’t want people I respect thinking you got that bullshit from me.  It’s bad enough that I’m splattered with the same theological excrement that my Bible Belt brethren wallow in even though I’m a lifelong atheist and haven’t even visited the backwards hellhole of my birth in five years; the last thing I need is for new fairy tales to sprout up in Castalia.


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