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Tilting at Windmills

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April 9, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

BLEEP....Why, yes, as a matter of fact I did rent the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? and thought it was crap. But I'll give The Disgruntled Chemist credit: at least he seems to have watched the whole thing. I only made it halfway through before my brain rebelled.

Oh, and DC is actually too kind. The movie is even worse and more tedious than he says.

Kevin Drum 2:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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You should see the comments at PZ Myers's dig!

Posted by: Frenchdoc on April 9, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I saw this movie in part because I was excited to see a film shot here in Portland... who knew it was literally a "cult" flick? Now I don't want anyone to know it was shot here. (Oops, probably not a good idea to comment about it on a blog... or is it?) At least the Ramthans responsible for this wretched rotoscope are from Washington, not Portland.

Posted by: Bob R. on April 9, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't get through five minutes of it. It was just about to start on Encore, I read the description, and thought it might be interesting. Oops.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on April 9, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

My girlfriend and I only made it 20 minutes into that film. It seemed like it was trying to brainwash us. I hated the way they took obvious observations and made them seem brilliant--like the bit about Columbus and the Indians or the whole "we're only concious of a fraction of the information we recieve". Why 'novelty' and 'perception' should make us rush out and pray to the filmakers' gods is beyond me.

Posted by: spindlefritz on April 9, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I saw the movie in a theater in the town where I live. A college town. I chuckled through most of the movie, but I fear I just confused some of the other moviegoers, who were trying to figure out the joke. JZ Knight is an exceedingly tedious guru, but hey -- it's not JZ. It's Ramtha! JZ couldn't charge the consulting fees she does in her own persona, but she's worth her weight in gold when pretending to be a 35,000 year old spirit-warrior. I found her scenes particularly funny.

It's less amusing that some of the college kids in the audience really thought they were getting valuable information from the frauds and poseurs on the screen. No, that's not funny at all. Too bad it can be difficult to recognize frauds, especially when they dress it up with the language of math and science.

Posted by: Zeno on April 9, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

I thought it was crap too. Embarrassing crap. Vile quasi-mystical pseudoscience. While Zen Buddhist cosmology tends to mesh better with quantum physics than other religious consmologies, that does not validate it as a scientific worldview. It's still superstition. More lost sould searching for spiritual certainty that isn't there.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 9, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Haven't seen it, but based on what I'm hearing and reading, this example might be something to remember when making fun of scientific ignorance and credulity in others.

This film is full of PhDs, scientists, doctors, and the like, and I would bet five bucks there isn't a Republican in the bunch.

Religion, and the scientific delusions it can inspire, can be quite widely defined, and those who smugly claim they're immune are often just using a different brand name.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 9, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, shut up fake tbrosz. The real one is tedious enough without a low(er) quality knock-off.

Posted by: phleabo on April 9, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

To tbrosz:

One of the scientists in the film has stated very publicly that his words were edited to mean the complete opposite of what he was saying. He spent the whole interview trying to tell the filmmakers why he thought their assertions were incorrect, and they twisted it all around to make him look supportive.

- Bob R.

Posted by: Bob R. on April 9, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

A vile and dishonest movie (which I may have mentioned here last year.) I was appalled by the number of people who actually though it was deep. Simple question that threw them all off: Who interviewed the Indians?

Worse yet there is now a sequel: Down The Rabbit Hole!

Something to avoid soon at a theatre near you.

Posted by: Martin on April 9, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Must you politicize EVERYTHING, tbrosz? Sheesh.

Posted by: BobT on April 9, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

More lost sould searching for spiritual certainty that isn't there.

I really don't know that I would characterize zen buddhism as a search for spiritual certainty. My sense of it ( and I am certainly no Zen Buddhist or expert on same) has been that it is about embracing uncertainty. All the Zen koans are, at least it seems to me, about learning to think and act in recongnition of the fact that there is often no definitive answer available.

Of course, that is all something quite separate from all the lame modern mysticism that coopts various shades of Buddhism and tries to merge them with concepts in quantum physics and so forth. But even in those cases it seems that there is a still a certain embrace of the philosophical idea of uncertainty that drives it all. That is at least part of why it is all so "fuzzy," I think.

Of course, maybe I am just imagining all that. What the bleep do I know anyway?

Posted by: brent on April 9, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK


Must you politicize EVERYTHING, tbrosz? Sheesh.

On this board? You're kidding, right?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 9, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno about this film, but I hear it's


Posted by: Buttsexy on April 9, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm proud to say I watched a copy from the local library, rather than renting, so the ramthans didn't get a dime from me.

I was embarassed that a couple of actors I kind of like (Marlee Matlin and Armin Shimerman) were in such a piece of shite.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 9, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Whereas the "Left Behind" series is wildly popular with the far right crowd, as are other scientifically improbable assertions.

Scientific stupidity is non-partisan.

Posted by: podrock on April 9, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

First movie I've walked out on in years and years. Didn't know it was a cult thing, since I only got to about the 15 minute mark. Painfully stupid, it was.

Posted by: luci on April 9, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

We also walked out -- this must be the most walked out upon film in history.

Unfortunately, I know some people who take it VERY seriously. I'd appreciate learning more about the scientist who felt that he was selectively quoted in the film.

Posted by: Bill Gardner on April 9, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

I watched the movie and enjoyed it. I didn't like everything in the movie, or take it all literally.

But I did think it posed some interesting questions from quantum physics.

Posted by: Dave on April 9, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, this thread is making me happy. I made it through maybe 25 minutes, giggling at the absurdity of the thing, before it suddenly hit me that it wasn't so much funny as horrible. Then I became furious, wondering how many people the film had successfully deluded. It's good to hear how many other people got fed and walked out too.

Posted by: Evan on April 9, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Dave, it doesn't pose interesting questions from quantum mechanics; it tells a bunch of pseudoscientific fairy tales dressed up as quantum mechanics. Don't believe any of it.

Posted by: Evan on April 9, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Let's compare boxoffice take:

What the Bleep: ~$10 million

Passion of the Christ: ~$370 million

As bad as Bleep sounds, I'm not too worried yet its effect on our national dialogue.

Posted by: Irony Man on April 9, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

*about* its effect

Posted by: Irony Man on April 9, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz, when Democrats start demanding that this crap be taught in schools and government scientists include mention of these wacky ideas as legitimate points of view, you will be allowed to chime in with comments. Until then, you have to accept the fact that you're a supporter of the anti-science party.

Posted by: Constantine on April 9, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell is negative energy? Anybody?

Posted by: buddy66 on April 9, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I actually watched this entire movie, and while there was certainly some hooey in it, there was a great deal of interesting thought and ideas about physics that I hadn't heard before. Certainly Ramtha was tedious, but a good part of it was actually not pseudo-religious twaddle; it was a way to think about reality and science that was more fun and approachable than some things. It was kind of like a panel discussion, in that some scientists were a little out there and some had cool ideas and some had stupid ideas. Not sure why all the rage on this board about this movie, but I found it enjoyable and stimulating and managed to get something out of it.

Posted by: Wally on April 9, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't see this movie. I had considered seeing it only to see how wacky these people were. Based on these postings, it seems the film doesn't rise to the level of being the joke that I thought it was. I think I'll take everyone's advice and just skip it. But I will leave a comment for Matt about Zen. The Zen strain of Buddhism (if it even is Buddhism) primarily deals with the rejection of dualism. Zen koans are usually used to expose the absurdity that results from dualistic logic and help train students to see through dualistic thinking. So, uncertainty isn't really what they are getting at. Anyway, it begs the question: what is dualism? Essentially, it is the concept that any particular thing is seperate from any other particular thing. Practitioners of Zen try to view the entire universe as a single whole entity and view the appearance that things are distict from each other as an illusion. That's about the best that I can describe it. And I am coming from the Mahayana Buddhist perspective that was rejected by the Bodhidarma (founder of Zen and Kung Fu). So, I'm probably a little off as well. But it is very difficult for those of us raised in western culture to understand these concepts. If anything, the movie apparently makes it clear that its makers suffered from this very problem.

Posted by: Tom on April 9, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK


I was about 65 percent kidding and 35 percent amazed that even when everyone seems to be in agreement you somehow manage to drop a steaming "learn your lesson, you arrogant elitists" turd in the middle of the floor.

Posted by: BobT on April 9, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Out of curiosity (I haven't seen, nor do I plan to) the movie, but what is the link to Buddhism? I was under the impression that this little cult movie was produced by the Ramthans, who are damn sure no Buddhists.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 9, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oops... got carried away with parentheticals... that should be (I haven't seen, nor do I plan to, the movie) in the parentheses above.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 9, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Coincidentally, I saw the film last week and also thought it was dreadful. It was billed to me by a (well-meaning) relative as a "science documentary." A few minutes into it, I started thinking "this movie is to science documentaries as Omni is to science magazines." That was the high-water mark of my opinion of the film; from there on it was completely nonsensical and spurious. So many of the statements on quantum physics were misleading or misstated.

Posted by: ANM on April 9, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen, if not the worst. In addition to my wanting to cringe myself inside out over how stupid it was from start to finish, I took extra points off for the self-congratulatory nature of the film. Worst of all, I couldn't leave because I was visiting a cousin and he was treating me to a night out.

Posted by: Beale on April 9, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

To MJ Memphis, Apparently it has nothing to do with Buddhism. I had mistakely thought that the Ramthanism was a quasi-Buddhist New Age cult. After checking out their web site, it appears they are more quasi-Hindu, with an emphasis on the quasi. The God as Quantum Mechanical Observer stuff is surely not Buddhism, which generally rejects the concept of God. And it is surely not science, either. The story of Ramtha is really strange. Apparently, he managed to accumulate 2 million followers before teaching them what he knew. Then he decided to leave the physical world and assembled his people, taught them everything, and then 'ascended'. To assemble 2 million people 35,000 years ago is quite the feat, especially when you haven't really taught them anything yet. I think I'll pass on this religion. Without evidence to the contrary (not much evidence from that time in history), I'll let them believe what they want. But they had better not teach this stuff in public schools.

Posted by: Tom on April 9, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

To assemble 2 million people 35,000 years ago is quite the feat

I'm not sure the world human population at that time was as high as 2 million. However, bear in mind that this is before the invention of writing, of cities, and probably even before the invention of agriculture. So we're talking nomadic goups of hunter-gatherers. It's also unlikely that any of them had numbering systems capable of counting to 1000, much less 2 million.

I suppose they would say these people were part of some sort of civilization surrounding an ancient city of Atlantis. Of course there's no evidence there ever was any such civilization.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 9, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

"I suppose they would say these people were part of some sort of civilization surrounding an ancient city of Atlantis. Of course there's no evidence there ever was any such civilization."

Actually, it's better than that. They say (per wikipedia) Ramtha was from Lemuria and led a rebellion against the Atlanteans. So, he was from a continent that never existed, and fought against an island nation that never existed. Neat trick, that.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 9, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

You know, what pisses me off the most about this movie is that I heard nothing but great things about it from other people, or from snippets I read about it online (I failed to read a full-length review of it; I normally do for almost every movie before I see it, but inexplicably failed to do so in this instance.) Seriously...who the hell watched this and didn't get that these people didn't know what they were talking about, and had an agenda to push? I haven't read a book on quantum mechanics since I was a teenager, and yet I knew they were seriously mis-stating basic principles of quantum mechanics and physics. But I heard nothing but praise about it, and got the impression that it was one of those indie documentaries that's much better than anticipated. I mean seriously...I almost considered going to a theater in Alexandria, VA that showed indie flicks and PORN because I wanted to see this movie so much (thankfully I didn't, and that theater is now closed.) As it is I only had to pissed off that I waited 3 days for it from Netflix, instead of that I was surrounded by dirty old men in a run down theater. Sheesh.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on April 9, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen it and found it interesting. It's a bit of a mess because of the way they mix radically different things like quantum physics, gestalt, neuroscience, etc. in a sort of cheating way to make their point, but it was pretty watchable. It certainly isn't my idea of a saturday night movie, and some of it is misleading but I can't really understand all the hate.

Posted by: Carlos on April 9, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

as someone with a physics degreee and an advanced degree in psychedelics i have contemplated alot of outlandish ideas about time and space but this was the stupidest f**king movie i have ever seen - if you want to see real transformation go see "Honey i shrunk the kids"

Posted by: Spice on April 9, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Lemuria! Wow! These guys give the young earthers a real run for their money in the wacko category. I wanted to come up with something clever about pseudoscience here, but Alexander Pope says it best: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again." I majored in physics, so I can't write like that.

Posted by: Tom on April 9, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, you'll get far more accurate information from the Washington Post.

Let's stomp on the unconventional and praise only the peer-reviewed and the polite.

Posted by: Slothrop on April 9, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Let's stomp on the unconventional and praise only the peer-reviewed and the polite.

My complaint wasn't that the movie was unconventional. My complaint was that the movie purported to explain things about quantum mechanics, while getting major parts of quantum mechanics completely wrong.

Posted by: The Disgruntled Chemist on April 9, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

if you want to see real transformation go see "Honey i shrunk the kids"


Posted by: nota bene on April 9, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Let's stomp on the unconventional and praise only the peer-reviewed and the polite."

I could care less about polite. But if something is purporting to be science, then yeah, "peer-reviewed" is kinda necessary.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 9, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I enjoyed this movie. What I took away from it was that there were facts related in the movie which I knew were true (e.g. quantum physics phenomena), and there was stuff which I didn't believe was true (ice crystals forming differently based upon emotional environment... ugh). The kicker was that the stuff which I didn't believe was no more preposterous than the stuff which I believed. I mean, quantum physics is really counter-intuitive stuff.

It was really a fun movie. Maybe, I'm too ignorant of quantum physics, and they completely mis-stated some stuff, but I enjoyed the idea that what we think is preposterous may prove to be accepted scientific fact in the future.

Rathma, ranma, or whatever her name was, was ridiculous, but I thought it was quite an enjoyable film. It sounds like some here may be a little more aware of the indiscretions taken by the film-makers (stuff taken out of context or mis-represented).

I also enjoyed the idea of the observer affecting the observed phenomenon (temporarily spacing on which principle this is - Heisenberg?), so that if you observe yourself, you can affect yourself, and thus become the "ultimate observer" (gasp!). Really, is that so preposterous? OK, it was very new-agey, but maybe I like new-agey. I'll never be Johnathon Livingston Seagull, traveling to different dimensions by thought alone, but I can still enjoy the story.

That said, I have no problem with the dissing on this thread. I'm all for a good butt-kicking for a psuedo-scientific movie. I'm just saying that not everyone who enjoyed the film bought everything in it wholesale.

Let the butt-kicking continue... :)

Posted by: Paul on April 9, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Clarification - I don't buy that you can affect the properties of water in your body merely by "thinking positive", but we know that emotion does have a significant impact on metabolic processes. This is what I really found interesting, and the movie had an interesting way of saying it.

Keep a diary. Observe yourself. By observing, you will change the subject under observation. Obvious, no?

Posted by: Paul on April 9, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I am so going to get roasted for defending this movie.

Posted by: Paul on April 9, 2006 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

That whole segment on water during the movie is what really set off my BS detector. Otherwise it was OK.

Posted by: Robert on April 10, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

I also enjoyed the idea of the observer affecting the observed phenomenon (temporarily spacing on which principle this is - Heisenberg?), so that if you observe yourself, you can affect yourself, and thus become the "ultimate observer" (gasp!). Really, is that so preposterous?

Heisenberg came up with uncertainty based on the concept that you can't observe something without 'throwing' at least one photon at it. If a photon hits something it will tranfer momentum to it, thereby changing it a little. This creates some 'fuzziness' in our observations. At the very minumum, our uncertainty must be comparable to the momentum of the photon we throw at it. Shroedinger took this a little further in his famous "half-dead cat" thought experiment, essentially questioning whether the 'fuzziness' was intrinsic or merely an observational limit. The Rathmans apparently take this concept way over the edge. I guess in their view, the cat can decide whether he's dead or alive. Yes, we can change an experiment by how we observe it. But we are talking about one or two particles not "billyuns and billyuns" (I went to Cornell, so I can rag on old Carl). Quantum Mechanically affecting things on a macroscopic level seems highly improbable, at best. It as also true that we can consciously change our mental states and heart rates, as experiments with Buddhist monks and meditation have shown. But the monks don't claim to be consciously manipulating their body chemistry, they only claim to be making themselves happy. They sure smile a lot, so I believe them. So, yeah, the ultimate observer stuff is a little preposterous. It is certainly true that many things that seem proposterous now will seem normal in the future. In fact, Einstein thought the very idea of quantum mechanics was preposterous. Scientists are eventually proven wrong due to the ever increasing observational capability. But there is a big difference between "informed wrong" and "uninformed wrong." Maybe the Rathmans have stumbled upon the truth. But their knowledge of science is far too shallow to have brought them there. They can never be proven right, only lucky. Science always changes, so it is good to keep an open mind. If you got that from the movie, that's great. But an open mind should also be an informed mind. Glad you liked the movie.

Posted by: Tom on April 10, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK


"Maybe the Rathmans have stumbled upon the truth. But their knowledge of science is far too shallow to have brought them there. They can never be proven right, only lucky."

Very well said.

Posted by: Paul on April 10, 2006 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

I thought the movie was dumb but earnest. Its been a long time, so I cant be specific, but I thought it was kind of sweet and its overall point was one that needs to be made, which is:

Mind, body and spirit are one. Each has a strong effect on the other and none can be studied without taking the others into account. Materialistic science concerns itself with only one aspect and it is therefore the poorer for it. The scientists typical mindsetwhat is beyond space, time and the information we receive through our senses is unknowableis actually a defence against knowing and shuts out vast other fields full of valid methods for discovering Truth.

Example: the placebo effect is evidence that the mind can have a powerful effect on healing. If we think we will get well, taking a sugar pill can make us well. So why doesnt science investigate ways of harnessing the power of the mind? Because going beyond the material is anathema to materialist scientists.

That is why we see all this hate for such a silly little movie. When people see their settled world views challenged, they go into an extreme defensive crouch.

Posted by: James of DC on April 10, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

James of DC, science is open to whatever evidence someone wants to bring to the table. There is just one caveat- you have to be able to back it up. Oddly enough, many of the "alternative science" folks don't want to do that.

Take Emoto, the water crystal guy, for example- he doesn't use double-blind studies, and freely admits to not really understanding the concept of double-blinding. So his photographers get to hunt through the individual water vials looking for pretty crystals to photograph, knowing what the message on the bottle is and knowing that supposedly the message influences what kind of crystal you'll find. Real scientific, huh? Can you say "cherry-picking the data"? Is this really how you want scientists to work?

As for so-called "materialist science" (as opposed to what?) limiting itself to what can be observed... well, yeah, if you can't observe something you can't study it. Deal with it. This will bother some people, such as the lady who thinks she is channeling a 35,000 year old spirit from a never-existent continent, but that is their problem.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on April 10, 2006 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

It was a horrible movie, but it was better than "Crash". I'll take a loopy hippie bullshit movie anyday over a freaking after-school special written by a third-grader.

Posted by: kokblok on April 10, 2006 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK


I made it as far as the anecdote about the native Americans who couldn't see ships on the horizon because they had never seen ships before.

15 minutes of my life that I will never get back.



Posted by: theperegrine on April 10, 2006 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Gardner,

I received a copy from my therapist. In the following session I deconstructed the 15 minutes I'd managed to sit through. A few weeks later she cited this as an example of my resistance to therapy.

I terminated our relationship on the spot.


Posted by: theperegrine on April 10, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin and relevant folks: I would like to hear something based on intelligent understanding of the issues (and they are strange and counter-intuitive), not just a superficial impression.

Posted by: Neil' on April 10, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I wish they had made this without the backstory and special effects. To see this done better (yet with still too much special effects), rent Nova's "The Elegant Universe" hosted by Brian Greene.

Posted by: bobby on April 10, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Example: the placebo effect is evidence that the mind can have a powerful effect on healing. If we think we will get well, taking a sugar pill can make us well. So why doesnt science investigate ways of harnessing the power of the mind? Because going beyond the material is anathema to materialist scientists.

Science HAS studied the placebo effect and do you know what they found? The placebo effect has no effect on healing. It is evidence that sometimes our feelings have nothing to do with reality. Sometimes, for awhile, we can feel better without actually being better.

From a physical health perspective the problem with the placebo effect is that it is not very reliable and it does not last very long. Even used for short-term pain relief it is prone to failure at any time.

So if you want a "treatment" that doesn't actually treat anything and won't even diminish the pain reliably I say use the placebo effect.

Of course you'll claim that somehow the scientific study was flawed simply because it didn't give the answer you wanted.

Well boohoo. Go ahead and use the placebo effect the next time you get a toothache. Use it the next time you get cancer. Nobody's stopping you.

Me, I'll stick with what works.

Posted by: Tripp on April 10, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

In September, we had a dinner for a late friend, a really good builder of custom Bass Guitars (see Curbow.com if you're interested), who's wife has always had a newage slant. Afterward she said, "I've got this movie I'd like you to see", and fortified with a few glasses of wine, we watched "What the BLEEP..." When I saw Ramtha, and the ice crystals stuff, I had greatest difficulty not bumming a reefer from a rock veteran who was sitting next to us, to be able to tolerate this mushy and annoyingly presented tract. The science is scrambled, and much of it's not science. (I did prefer it to "Chronicles of Riddick" and "Passion of the Christ", but that ain't sayin' much.) Can our 'attitude' improve our lives, and health? Yeah, but...
When Ramtha shows up, I hang on to my wallet.

Posted by: Mr. Bill on April 10, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK


What the hell is negative energy? Anybody?

well, you know how when you do an experiment or calculation and it doesn't come out the way you want to so add the "f" (fudge) factor in to make it right and hope the professor doesn't see it?

"Negative energy" is what you blame when your bullshit fails in a controlled experiment.

It is around us all the time - not measurable in any physical way, or course, but instantly available as an excuse for anything.

I hope this helps.

Posted by: Tripp on April 10, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

My impression of the movie was that they had accumulated a little information through indirect methods but hadnt figured out what it meant. In part it was like cheering about the modern discovery of pi as about 3.14. None of their proclaimed discoveries were new at all, and they were still on the elementary stage. It seemed that they hadnt gained much wisdom.

Essentially the game at this stage (or perhaps it's that they're not up to that yet) is about understanding ones real self, but they do it by looking in the mirror. Why should someone need to look outside to know oneself? Does a person need to go out to the street and look at the street-sign and then check the house number to see if hes at home?

Unfortunately the movie is less about understanding oneself than it is about how to get ahead in the world. However thats not the point in life, as our material advancement reduces to zero at death. It really doesnt matter about quantum physics or politics or any of that stuff, because the passage of time reduces it all to zero. The puzzle that must be solved, then, to know Who am I? to see whether I am also reduced to zero in the end. That, however, is not a matter of movies or peer review. Its a question that each must answer alone.

Posted by: Pandu on April 10, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The reason there's hate for this "silly little movie" is that it's preying on most people's unfamiliarity with the subject matter to make money. You can decide for yourself whether this is deliberate or accidental on the filmmakers' part, of course.

If anyone wants to learn about quantum physics in an entertaining manner, I second the recommendation of the Elegant universe. The book's a bit math-intense, but the video is very accessable.

And Tom, you know Carl insisted he never said that--"too imprecise".

Sigh. I miss Carl.

Posted by: Wrye on April 10, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Negative Energy? Maybe it's like the Pauli Effect, not to be confused with the Pauli Exclusion principle. The Pauli Exclusion Priciple says that no two electrons of the same spin can inhabit the same orbit. The Pauli Effect says that whenever Wolfgang Pauli is present during your experiment, the most expensive piece of equipment will fail and destroy all of your data. Oddly enough, the 'Pauli Effect' initially recieved the better reception from Pauli's colleages, if only as a joke. And scientists really would kick him out of their labs. He really seemed to be cursed. But science tells us that it was probably just coincidence.

Posted by: Tom on April 10, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK


In response to your request for "...intelligent understanding of the issues..."

I can personally speak to the quantum mechanical issues.

The problem with what was stated in the film is the application of QM to macroscopic scale phenomena is absolutely incorrect.

Part of the goal of the science of physics is to describe real world phenomena with a mathematical model. Each model must be used in the domain and with the internal assumptions that it is appropriate for.

QM deals with the fact that the real world is quantized and it seems to not really make sense to talk about what quantized state a particular particle is in unti a measurement is made.

What this means is that ( for one of the most well known examples ) the electrons in atoms are not allowed to be at any energies. They must occupy certain fixed levels, and it really does not make sense to ask what level the electrons are in while no one is observing it. But you must remember this is on the extremely small scale of the amount of energy of electrons in an atom.

The quantization of all things does occasionally have real macroscopic effects ( for example see Balmer series ) however, most of the time the real world deals with objects which are so big and have so many particles that quantum effects have no possibility of showing up. The numbers are just too big - the probabilities just too small.

For example it makes no sense to extrapolate quantum effects to something on the order of the size of a basketball. ( Such as was illustrated in the film ).

A basketball is made up of upwards of 10^26 particles all buzzing about in their quantum mechanical states. With this many particles we can say with certainty that all the wierdness which is due to QM effects on the particles will average out.

Please note these are not numbers which make macroscopic variations from classical results highly unlikely. These are impossibilities. The chances that a basketball may suddenly jump to another state displaced by a macroscopic amount due to the effects of quantum mechanics are beyond what could possibly be observed. Remember science deals with what is repeatable. Any freak accident which occurred against these principles would just be an unrepeatable impossible event.

The argument that the mind could control the QM fluctuations is in itself ludicrous. QM fluctuations exist because energy conservation can be violated for small amounts of time. But these QM fluctuations must eventually allow the incredibly well documented and experimentally verified conservation of energy to be correct. The mind can not create macroscopic changes of state by controlling the QM fluctuations. To propose something like this is beyond ridiculous.

I hope this helps.

P.S. to my other science colleagues who comment on this blog - I have not actually worked in physics for quite a while. If there is something here which is not quite rigorously stated. I will not feel insulted if the description is made a bit more rigorous.
JH Ph.D. UCLA 1990

Posted by: John Hansen on April 10, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

To Wrye,
I guess I stand corrected on Carl. I miss him, too. I'm not very familiar with his research, but he was great at explaining science to non-scientists. For that, we should all be thankful. We could use more like him. Except for the part of him that nearly ran me over when I was walking past his house. It was a blind corner and I know he didn't see me. So it wasn't his fault. I forgive him. He had a beautiful house overlooking Fall Creek Gorge, by the way.

Posted by: Tom on April 10, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Thats the point, MJ Memphis. Its O.K. to limit hard science to observable phenomena, but to insist that non observable (by the physical senses) phenomena are irrelevant or nonexistent, stunts the research and stunts the researcher's outlook on life, also.

The yogis of India have filled thousands of books and tracts with a vast edifice of knowledge that is built on experiences in meditation. It is cohesive and continuous from one Yogi to another, from millennia to millennia, indicating they have tapped into an overall immutable Truth. In this system the world revealed by the senses (the material world) is only a portion of a vast cosmos of interacting planes. Each of us even carries around other bodies beyond the physical, which we are quite unaware of.

I notice some branches of string theory now posit the existence of infinite other realities. Im amazed that math alone has discovered this, which is a very hopeful sign, but the Yogis have always known it.

But most scientists pooh-pooh this kind of spooky science (Einstein) thinking it too crazy to be credible. That is what I mean by scientists stunting themselves by not having an open mind toward all phenomena. Looking back over the history of science, you would think wed learn. Spooky science tends to become accepted science over time.

Posted by: James of DC on April 10, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Anyway, it begs the question:

I can't stand it. I just can't stand it.

No, it doesn't. It raises the damned question...urgh! Arrgh! GAAAAAH!

Posted by: Gone Insane, Return Soon on April 10, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen:

I appreciate your thoughts, but in your discussion of mind/quantum issues you neglected *correlative* effects which are the main way that a holistic mind could inhabit a brain.

Posted by: Neil' on April 10, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

No worries, Tom. Carl did (eventually) have a sense of humour about it--it's the springboard he used for the first essay of his last book. Evidently Johnny Carson liked to use the phrase as part of his Sagan impression.

I'm sure he'd use almost running you over as a means of illustrating the speed of light, a la Cosmos, of course...

Posted by: Wrye on April 11, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK



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