Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Bob Lazar's 2011 Nobel Prize

UFO whistleblower Bob Lazar's claims about science make some basic mistakes. They were spotted by physicist David Morgan as early as 1996, showing that Lazar doesn't seem to understand:

  • the omni-directionality and mass-energy requirements of wormholes.
  • the fundamental differences between gravity and the strong nuclear force.
  • that gravity is a field and will have to be quantized, using something like the graviton.
  • that a spin-2 boson like the graviton can only be attractive, not repulsive.
  • that the abundance of heavy elements beyond Polonium (element 84) depends on past supernovae in the galactic neighborhood, and not on the nature of subsequent star systems.
  • the basics of charge and energy conservation in the creation of antimatter.
That is, Lazar seems to lack a basic grasp of how his claims contradict the vast majority of modern cosmology and especially quantum theory. The latter is famously one of the best-confirmed theories in all of science. 
Now, it could be that the vast majority of modern cosmology and quantum theory is fundamentally wrong, but that's not how paradigm shifts have been working over the last century or more. When Special Relativity and General Relativity and quantum mechanics replaced earlier theories, they still agreed with the previous theories in normal domains, and the differential predictions only happened in domains of the very small/brief or large/eternal. 
Lazar is talking about divergence in a domain scale of a basketball-sized device that he could turn on and off as it sat on his laboratory bench. That is not the scale at which to expect a paradigm shift. In over 30 years, Lazar still hasn't done his homework in demonstrating a grasp of the scientific theories he claims that he saw invalidated on a lab bench. It's the most important development in the history of science and technology, and Lazar just wants to be left alone to run his mail-order chemistry-set supply business. Yes, he claims that he shuns publicity and doesn't care if anyone believes him, but that's also a great way to avoid serious cross-examination.
In one sense I feel bad for Lazar, because when he came out in 1989 he was only one lucky guess away from looking like a genius. Here's how. It was well-known then that Einstein called his Cosmological Constant the biggest mistake of his career. Einstein's constant represented a hypothesized repulsive force, that Einstein abandoned after the 1929 discovery of the Big Bang expansion of the universe. Lazar in 1989 could have just said that UFOs use a mysterious form of anti-gravity similar to that implied by Einstein's Cosmological Constant. Lazar could then claim to have anticipated the greatest scientific breakthrough of our lifetime: the 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
But instead, poor Bob built his UFO propulsion idea on regular old-fashioned antimatter and black holes, and his energy budgets don't add up at all. 1998-style dark energy is still poorly understood. Its ideas of negative pressure probably apply only to the universe as a whole, and not to tiny items like spaceships. But if Bob had just mumbled about the Cosmological Constant instead of mumbling about antimatter and element 115 and wormholes, he'd arguably deserve at least a share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics, which was awarded to the team that made the 1998 discovery.
More red flags show up in Lazar's 2019 interview with Joe Rogan. Not only does nobody on the show know enough science to raise any of physicist Morgan's 25-year-old objections above. In addition:

  • Lazar just sits by and lets Rogan and his hagiographer Corbell act as though the 2016 detection of gravity waves was some big confirmation of a daring Lazar prediction. Lazar surely knows that gravity waves have been predicted as far back as Einstein.
  • Ditto for the first synthesis in 2003 of element 115, which Lazar sits by as Rogan googles it. Tom Mahood explainsI have a 1969 article from Scientific American with a cool 3D graph showing an “island of stability” around 114. This was also repeated in my undergrad physics textbook. But maybe most interesting is an article (“Creating Superheavy Elements” by Armbruster and Munzenberg) published in Scientific American again talking about a potential island of stability around 114. The article’s date? May 1989, the same month Lazar began his interviews with KLAS TV in Las Vegas.
  • Lazar at 1h51m subscribes to the idea of Project Looking Glass. In UFOlogy, this is an alien device that uses time-travel technology to allow its government operators to look forward into alternate futures. Mentioning Looking Glass further undercuts Lazar's credibility, as it exponentially expands the amount of apparent government failure to leverage its alien technology. (And it would be weak soup to make the Panglossian claim that our current timeline is the least bad option available to the wielders of Looking Glass.)
Lazar is not a dumb guy. He doesn't need Looking Glass to know what kind of forums and audiences he should avoid in order to face only friendly and scientifically-illiterate questioning. There are lots of skeptical critiques about Lazar's missing educational records, criminal conviction, etc. Those are weak soup too. 
A case like Lazar's is only really interesting insofar as it can be tested in two important ways. First, it should yield predictive claims about when or whether science will catch up with Lazar's theories. Second, it should yield claims about how the government's possession of alien science and technology should have influenced the last half-century.
This article argues that Lazar's story is weak regarding (1). I'm writing a longer analysis regarding (2) that lists the many ways that alien science and tech could have influenced the last half-century, but hasn't.

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