Einstein’s Witnesses: a new “faith”

Not faith, reallyโ€”just fact! This strip, a specimen of Rick Stromoski’s “Soup to Nuts” cartoon, a strip that, says reader Diane G., “is a lot more subversive than it appears.” Well, this one surely is, and a great parody of religion (click to enlarge):

 

69 Comments

  1. Kevin
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure that either special or general relativity say anything about time stopping at light speed.

    Otherwise this cartoon, which is good, makes me kind of sad because it reminds me how many times I’ve tried to have conversations with people about physics and they just don’t care.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      You likely will have to introduce physics using human interest stories. Start by asking them if they know that Issac Newton was a psychotic loaner who never married. You can artfully make your way around to mentioning gravity, prisms, etc.

      • Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Or tell them about Tycho Brahe, who lost the bridge of his nose in a duel and had a brass prosthetic. He lived in a castle and his pet elk died when it got drunk and fell downstairs. He was a much more colourful character than Newton.

        • KD33
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          That is gold! Gonna look more into Tycho …

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

          Fan of Citation Needed?

        • James Walker
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          Also, he died of a bladder infection when he had to urinate but his host wouldn’t excuse him from the dinner table. (As a teenager I used to bring this up when my mother would tell me that nobody ever died from good manners.)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 5, 2017 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

            It wasn’t his host, Tycho himself refused to leave because it would have been a breach of etiquette.

            This (Tycho’s fate) is something I’m always acutely aware of whenever I get that uncomfortably-full feeling.

            cr

        • Posted September 6, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          Newton was a *very* colourful character, just not the sort you’d want *around*, or at parties.

          (Sticking a needle in his eye to figure out how deforming his eyeball would affect its optics?)

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted September 12, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

            You, sir, need to attend a wider (wilder?) range of parties.

        • Kev
          Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          Moral: noseless people who live in castles shouldn’t stow elks after drinking hours.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Also, of course, Tycho’s observatory was the contemporary Hubble Telescope (that is to say, he could produce by far the most accurate observations of celestial positions). Which were critical in allowing his assistant Kepler to produce his own accurate heliocentric theory of the solar system.

          cr

      • BJ
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        “Start by asking them if they know that Issac Newton was a psychotic loaner who never married.”

        The money-lending business often drives people to madness ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • rickflick
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Yes, he was director of the mint and had the opportunity to hang a number of counterfeiters. I’m not sure he wasn’t already rather strange before that though.

          • BJ
            Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            I was playing off your misspelling of “loner” ๐Ÿ˜›

            • rickflick
              Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

              I appreciate you letting me know I can’t spell in such a subtle way I didn’t even know you did it.

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 6, 2017 at 2:47 am | Permalink

                Don’t worry, all the rest of us did.

                ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 6, 2017 at 5:03 am | Permalink

                Diane you’re evil!

                ๐Ÿ™‚

                cr

              • rickflick
                Posted September 6, 2017 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                Diane G, then it’s up to you aloan from now on to keep me honest. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • eric
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Psycho loaner! So, if you asked Newton if you could borrow a few pennies, he’ll show up in a clown suit to give you hundreds of dollars? ๐Ÿ™‚

        • rickflick
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          That would definitely put him in the psycho category. He’d have plenty of friends too.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 6, 2017 at 2:48 am | Permalink

        Great stuff in this thread–glad you started it!

        Wish they’d do more of this in classrooms, too.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 6, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          In NY it’s the time constraints based on the State Reagent’s standards. It keeps the classes boring as hell. Sad.

    • Torbjรถrn Larsson
      Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      I think the standard response is that since you cannot assign a frame of reference to a photon wave-packet the question is meaningless. A traveling photon does experience change as the universe expand, but some physicists write that off as their energy not being well defined in general relativity. Potato, potatoe.

      • Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        I’d just like to clarify one thing. We Brits don’t actually say potatoe.

        • Kevin
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Indeed.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potoooooooo

          It’s Pot-8-Os.

          Reminds me of an undergrad asked to clean and label drawers in a lab. He did so. He labeled everything in the drawers. The labels read like: 2 pens, 18 paperclips, 4 rulers, 1 sticky pad…. and on and on. It was incredulous…the whole lab.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

            I think you mean incredible…

            (since this thread seems to be in that sort of mood ๐Ÿ˜‰

            cr

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 6, 2017 at 2:50 am | Permalink

            That’s hilarious!

        • Posted September 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          Dan Quayle spells it that way.

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      You’ve heard of moving clocks running slow? The closer a clock approaches to the speed of light, the slower it gets. Were it possible for a moving clock to travel at the speed of light it would appear to us to be frozen.

      • Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        But to an observer traveling with the clock, it would be ticking along normally.

        • davidintoronto
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          But the ticking clock would still register zero duration because the length of the Universe is zero at lightspeed – and it would take no time at all to traverse zero distance.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 5, 2017 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

            I’m not sure that’s correct. The length of the universe surely stays what it is. It takes 8 minutes for light to reach us from the sun at lightspeed. That’s not zero distance.

            I think maybe the equations say length appears to be zero at lightspeed (which is different from saying it actually is).

            But I’m not a physicist.

            cr

            • Posted September 6, 2017 at 5:24 am | Permalink

              No. To a photon, the Universe is rushing backwards at the speed of light. distance in the direction of travel contracts to zero, so the Universe to a photon would be of zero thickness.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 6, 2017 at 6:09 am | Permalink

                That is, to a photon, but not to the rest of us ‘at rest’. Surely, if (to a photon) the universe is rushing backwards at light speed, and is of zero thickness, then the photon would traverse the universe in zero time**. But we know that starlight takes millions of (our) years to reach us.

                (**And time ‘stops’ at the speed of light, I believe).

                Something to do with frames of reference, I think…

                I’m afraid if I get my head around that, my brain will explode ๐Ÿ˜‰

                cr

        • Posted September 6, 2017 at 5:21 am | Permalink

          If it were possible for the observer to travel with a clock at the speed of light, the trip would be instantaneous.

          • Posted September 6, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

            Right, because of the Lorentz contraction. But that is not the same as proper time stopping.

      • eric
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but a clock has mass. The SR equations govern things with mass. With photons, which have no mass, the situation is a bit more complicated.

        As another example, consider that for an object (with mass) hypothetically traveling at c, time is stopped. It cannot change. Yet a photon constantly shifts its magnetic and electrical field components as it moves through space. This should be impossible if “time is stopped” for it. So what’s the solution? That one should be careful extrapolating ideas from the equations that govern masses to massless particles. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Posted September 6, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

          In fact, it was wondering about that that led Einstein to his revolutionary work.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 6, 2017 at 2:53 am | Permalink

      Well, this character is a grade-school student, so I think she’s doing pretty well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The one that intrigues me the most is “time stops at light speed” which also means that light traveling across billions of light years sees all that distance as one place simultaneously. So for light, everywhere and every when is all the same. Discuss?

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      My understanding is that to us a photon from the early universe travelled 13 billion light years to reach us. To the photon, it was instantaneous.

    • davidintoronto
      Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Discuss? OK.

      It kinda bugs me that fantasy characters like The Flash get extra credit for being able to travel faster than light. But since time stops (and the Universe contracts to zero length) at lightspeed, thereโ€™s quite literally NO ADVANTAGE to going faster.

      ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • BobTerrace
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        Unless going faster caused negative time and negative distance (whatever that might be). Oh wait! Maybe negative mass too – a weight loss plan !!

      • busterggi
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        The Flash always gets the closest parking place, that’s a decent advantage.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

        I think you’ve discovered the secret behind the Infinite Improbability Drive…

        http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Infinite_Improbability_Drive

        cr

        • Kev
          Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          Is that what Babel fish use to reach escape velocity?

  3. busterggi
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    If light is the fastest thing ever how come darkness got there first?

    • Michael Sternberg
      Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I take it that’s a rhetorical question that a fundamentalist would ask.

      There actually is a possible answer: cosmic inflation, though we don’t yet know if it is correct, or even if the question truly makes sense.

      • busterggi
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Once again science comes up with an answer – damn, its good!

        • Kev
          Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

          The most important principle in science: always give a convincing answer, even when you don’t understand the question. Even creationistscan get the hang of that one, if nought else.

  4. mirandaga
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Hmm. I took the cartoon as a parody of science approaching the status and employing the tactics of religion. Eye of the beholder, I suppose.

  5. harrync
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of my last attempt to engage with door-to-door proselytizers [now I just say “Not interested.”] Two young men in white shirts and narrow ties knocked on the door and asked if they could take a few minutes to explain their religion. I said sure, as long as they would first give me five minutes to explain why they should be atheists. They literally took off running down the sidewalk. And I do mean “literally”.

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      They literally took off?

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      My father was sympathetic to (soft-spoken) believers but otherwise uninterested in religion. Years ago, he told a Jehova Witness at the door: “I’ll buy today’s Watchtower and I invite you to have a cup of tea and a chat – provided we don’t talk about your church”.
      The man accepted the deal, and they had a few more agreeable (secular) Saturday afternoon chats.
      .-

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

        My grandfather was a Methodist (or Baptist or Congregational or Presbyterian, one of those anyway) lay preacher. One day the Jehovah’s Witnesses called and they got into a theological debate which lasted half an hour. I don’t think anybody convinced anybody else but they had such a good time debating they came back weekly for several weeks after that to continue the discussion.

        cr

        • mirandaga
          Posted September 6, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

          I can top this. When I was in a Jesuit seminary in rural Sheridan, Oregon, two Jehovah’s Witnesses climbed the long hill, knocked on the door, and proceeded to try convert a whole houseful of Jesuits to their cause. Now, that’s balls.

          And then there’s one about the man whose father was a Jehova’s Witness and whose mother was an agnostic and who just went around knocking on doors for no reason at all.

          • Richard
            Posted September 7, 2017 at 3:11 am | Permalink

            I read an account by an ex-Mormon of how he spent his two-year mission in Paris trying to persuade the French to give up coffee, cigarettes, wine and extra-marital sex. It just didn’t work.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 7, 2017 at 5:18 am | Permalink

              When I was on the boat to Pukapuka in the Cook Islands in 1980 (first boat for 5 months) there were two young Mormon missionaries on board. Now Pukapuka is 2/3 Cook Islands Christian Church (the old LMS), 1/3 Catholic, and they are quite happy with their religions thank you. I should add that those religions have been adapted almost out of recognition to suit the local lifestyle, which is fairly… relaxed about male-female relationships. In fact it tends to regard celibacy as a strange and inexplicable aberration. Talk about the Children’s Crusade…

              I’m not sure how long they lasted before the local girls got to them. I was told that one of them became a father and they both got excommunicated by their church (or so the story goes).

              Maybe they were lucky, at that. ๐Ÿ™‚

              cr

    • eric
      Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      I remember a time in high school when, during dinner time, we were solicited by a window salesman. My dad looked the guy straight in the eye and with complete seriousness said “I’m sorry, we have no windows”, then closed the door.

      ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 6, 2017 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Jacob Goodman
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Excellent

  7. Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    So how about organizing Darwin’s Witnesses?

    “Did you know that chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas?”

    “Do you know the six major principles that illustrate why evolution is true?”

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 6, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Exactly my thought. It shouldn’t have taken this long to come up with that.

  8. Ken Elliott
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    “Einsrein’s Witnesses!” I need a tee shirt.

    • Posted September 6, 2017 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      You need a spell-checker.

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted September 6, 2017 at 6:13 am | Permalink

        Haha! Thanks. I need skinny fingers.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted September 6, 2017 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it helps to have more experience with this cartoonist. I’m too busy to search for other strips that exhibit the author’s lack of belief, but trust me, they exist. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ll try to find one when I have time–they’re only occasional, though.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 6, 2017 at 3:06 am | Permalink

      Sigh. And that is supposed to be a reply to mirandaga at comment 4 above.

  10. Kev
    Posted September 8, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    What about the Young Earth Darwin’s Witnesses: the ones that have a personal testimony of macro-evolution in less than 6000 years. Halleluia


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