"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Marooned in the Quantum Wrongness Field
Exclusive to STR
April 16, 2007
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
-- Albert Einstein
"Everything you know is wrong."
Surely you've noticed the phenomenon: a thing is widely believed to be true and even "obvious" – and yet it is wrong. The "truth" turns out to be no such thing; indeed, it may be not merely wrong but dangerously and bizarrely wrong.
This is common enough to be (check all that apply):
__ Proof that humans are not as smart as they think they are
__ Evidence that The Flying Spaghetti Monster (or deity of your choice) has an unpleasant sense of humor
For readers who doubt such rampant Wrongness exists, I hereby produce Exhibits A through E:
Beliefs: Category: Historical Wrongness
- A) The Earth is motionless and the center of the universe
- B) Sacrificing live, screaming humans to the gods will result in a good harvest or some other form of good fortune
- C) The Emperor/Pharoah/King/Poobah must be obeyed because He is an actual, no-kidding "God"
- D) Alright; he's not a God, but he has been CHOSEN by God to rule – so you STILL have to obey him
- E) Alright; never mind the "God" idea, but a large GROUP of people somehow has the right to rule another large group of people; this is called "democracy," and the majority of voters (in the U.S., this is almost always a minority of eligible voters, and an even smaller minority of the total adult population) "owns" and controls as much of everyone else's life and income as they want to. Except that politicians and bureaucrats (and their armed agents) do the actual controlling and decision-making, so . . . well, never mind. The point is, you still have to obey.
Oops! That last one is still current. See what I mean? The idea that humans are somehow "smarter" than other animals is, at the least, seriously called into question by the ongoing Wrongness of most humans. Indeed, I am working on research to support my hypothesis that certain breeds of small dogs are actually smarter than humans. For starters, dogs do not participate in massive wars, do not create WMDs, seldom believe what they see on television (other than the occasional Thing That Needs Barking At), and clearly understand that friendship is more important than, say, owning a fancy car. I expect to have additional data shortly.
Other current or recent examples of cosmic-level human Wrongness include the beliefs that:
- Bill Clinton actually felt your pain
- The US economy is in fine shape
- George Bush the First was both "compassionate" and "conservative"
- Peace and compassion can be "implemented" via the violence and coercion of the State
I am certain you can come up with an endless supply of such examples yourself. Clearly, none of the so-called "four forces of the universe" can account for the strength, pervasiveness, and other qualities of the Wrongness Field, leading to my theory of the fifth fundamental force, which I propose to call, naturally, the Wrong Force. I theorize that the Wrong Force is mediated by particles of zero mass and infinite stupidity which I call Morons. Morons have an undetermined (although clearly high) spin number and, given the human propensity to send hardware and information ever-farther into space, a likely range of "infinite."
The human race has been mired in the Quantum Wrongness Field for eons, yet the path to non-Wrongness is always near: open your eyes and see reality as it is, for crying out loud.
Check back for further details as they become available.
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 Reasons why the economy is NOT in fine shape include (but are hardly limited to): trillions in national debt, many more trillions in unfunded obligations (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), a depreciating fiat currency on track to lose its "reserve currency" status, a negative savings rate, a massive trade deficit, and an out-of-control military-industrial-Congressional complex (as Eisenhower put it in the penultimate draft of his famous farewell speech) that consumes nearly half of all federal tax revenues on past, present, and future wars. Note in particular that the national debt is far worse than it appears; ignoring future obligations plus borrowing from the Social Security "Trust" Fund and using the money in the general fund does NOT actually change anything, except, you know, in a bad way. You'll understand when you're older – say, after you retire (see also here). See my column Destruction by Paradigm ( 3/20/2007 ) for further detail.
 For those reading this off-line, the link about the FDA is to a March, 2006 editorial titled "FDA Threatens to Raid Cherry Orchards" by William Falloon at the Life Extension Foundation. (LEF has published dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of articles about the harm done by the FDA, which Falloon once called "the number one cause of death in the United States" – and he documented that assertion strongly). An excerpt from the recent cherry story:
As Americans struggle to eat a healthier diet, the FDA has taken draconian steps to suppress information about foods that reduce disease risk.
While various agencies of the federal government encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables, the FDA has issued an edict that precludes cherry companies from posting scientific data on their websites. This censorship of published peer-reviewed studies denies consumers access to information that could be used to make wiser food choices . . . .
. . . On October 17, 2005 , the FDA banned information about cherries' health benefits from appearing on websites. The FDA sent warning letters to 29 companies that market cherry products. In these letters, the FDA ordered the companies to stop publicizing scientific data about cherries. According to the FDA, when cherry companies disseminate this information, the cherries become unapproved drugs subject to seizure. The FDA warns that if those involved in cherry trafficking continue to inform consumers about these scientific studies, criminal prosecutions will ensue.
 The USDA link is to a USA TODAY editorial (8/3/2006) about the USDA preventing a beef producer from performing "mad cow" testing on its herd. An excerpt:
Creekstone Farms, a Kansas beef producer, wants to reassure customers that its cattle are safe to eat by testing them all for mad cow disease. Sounds like a smart business move, but there's one problem: The federal government won't let the company do it.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture – invoking an obscure 1913 law intended to thwart con artists from peddling bogus hog cholera serum to pig farmers – is blocking companies from selling the testing kits to Creekstone.
USDA is doing the bidding of large cattle barons afraid that Creekstone's marketing will force them to do the same tests to stay competitive. It's true that the incidence of mad cow disease is quite low. But there's little logic in stopping a company from exceeding regulations to meet the demands of its customers, or protecting its rivals from legitimate competition.
Not only is USDA blocking Creekstone, the department said last month that it's reducing its mad cow testing program by 90%. The industry and its sympathetic regulators seem to believe that the problem isn't mad cow disease. It's tests that find mad cow.
 It would be a waste of electrons to email me with your outrage at how unoriginal this pseudo-physics humor is. I agree with you, and in fact I suspect that at least one member of every high-school and college physics class for the past century has come up with something similar. If you know of any examples that are especially funny, however, I'd love to hear them.