Cargo Cult Image Formation Science

imageA reader writes:

Nice bunch of jaw wagging there yesterday on how to figure out how the image was made. RMO Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.

In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.

RMO? (no morning coffee, yet)

I think the reader makes a valid point. (but then again, no morning coffee, yet)

Note:  Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) was first published in 1997. It was a New York Times bestseller. It is still selling well, now in every imaginable format. Amazon give us a brief biographical note:

Richard P. Feynman was born in 1918 and grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. At the age of seventeen he entered MIT and in 1939 went to Princeton, then to Los Alamos, where he joined in the effort to build the atomic bomb. Following World War II he joined the physics faculty at Cornell, then went on to Caltech in 1951, where he taught until his death in 1988. He shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965, and served with distinction on the Shuttle Commission in 1986. A commemorative stamp in his name was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005.

Note 2: I reformatted the reader’s email to set off  Feynman’s words. Emphasis his.

8 thoughts on “Cargo Cult Image Formation Science”

  1. If the image on the Shroud was indeed formed because of some miraculous event, then the closest we can come to reproducing the image (short of another miracle) will only be analogical in form, and therefore resemble Cargo Cult Science.

  2. I remember that, in 1998,
    I have bought the book
    “Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman” (original edition = 1992.
    Then this was a translation just published in Italy…)
    by James Gleick
    Gleick’s “Genius…” is a masterpiece of scientific biography.

    Is the study of the Shroud a Cargo cult science ?
    Yes, perhaps there are practices that have the semblance
    of being scientific, but do not in fact follow the scientific method…
    I think that sometimes it can happen this strange fact …
    and the book by Andrea Nicolotti (published in Italy by Einaudi), which
    indicates some particular examples, perhaps would want to force us to believe
    that the Shroudology is made whole in this way.

    1. Here I want to continue what I started writing in my previous message.
      — —
      It seems clear that the determination of the degree of polymerization of the cellulose may have to do with the wise use of Nanotechnology.
      I believe you’ve read my previous posts that often insisted on this issue.

      See, for example, what I wrote in this blog
      (in November 25, 2014).
      Under the address:

      You can read:

      >what is needed for us
      >would be the Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) study of the cellulosic
      DP (= Degree of Polym.) changes…

      >In any case it’s an interesting thing to show that in the past
      someone has worked with the AFM and that you can work
      with use of the AFM on cellulosic materials …
      — —
      Obviously the controls based on AFM technology should be used when needed.
      But I believe You must first use Optical Microscopy in order to discover the right
      areas to check (= those with no mold or … fungal attacks).
      And here, in particular, I am referring to the objections of Colin Berry
      (see his last notes about: “PCW and SCW, etc., etc.” … and his strange idea
      that I have committed “the same mistake” that made the researcher Prof.
      Paolo Di Lazzaro).

      So …
      …in that period (= 1997-1998) I was very interested in the Foresight Institute
      (since 1986, the Foresight Institute has been in the forefront of a worldwide community of visionaries who work to help shape these possibilities into a positive, beneficial reality) and the Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes …

      For example:

      – Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology
      is awarded for excellence in theory to the researchers whose recent work has most advanced the achievement of Feynman’s goal for nanotechnology: molecular manufacturing, defined as the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems.

      – Foresight Prize in Communication
      This Foresight Institute Prize in Communication recognizes outstanding journalistic or other communication endeavors that lead to a better public understanding of advanced nanotechnology. By offering this Prize, Foresight hopes to encourage continued responsible coverage of nanotechnology as a means for engaging the public in dialogue leading to improved public policy on these important issues.

      – The Feynman Grand Prize
      The Feynman Grand Prize For Major Advances In Molecular Nanotechnology was announced in 1996 (see Feynman Grand Prize announcement). The Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology recognizes recent achievements that contribute to the development of nanotechnology; the Grand Prize will be awarded at some undetermined date in the future to recognize a crucial milestone on the road to a mature molecular manufacturing technology


      Feynman was a person a bit ‘strange, but it was one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century

      1. Richard Feynman was one of the most iconic, influential and inspiring scientists of the 20th century. He helped design the atomic bomb, solved the mystery of the Challenger Shuttle catastrophe and won a Nobel Prize.
        — —
        >… Weiner’s interviews are a marvel in the historiography of physics. They surely rival the Archives for the History of Quantum Physics (AHQP) project headed by Thomas Kuhn, which is itself now largely online. (AHQP should be considered at least as important as Structure among Kuhn’s contributions to the history of science.) But, where AHQP has formed much of the basis for the truly intensive historiography of the quantum revolution, Weiner’s interviews remain lamentably unexploited by comparison. Although, as his son-in-law notes, his interviews of Richard Feynman — not online — were a resource exploited in James Gleick’s popular biography, “Genius”. …

        — —
        Ralph Leighton (born in 1949) is an American biographer, film producer, and friend of the late physicist Richard Feynman. He is the son of the late Caltech physicist Robert B. Leighton, who was also a close personal friend of Feynman…

        — — —
        I think that (previously) I have outlined to you something about what has to do the Nanotechnology (and the Feynman Prize) with our research on the Holy Shroud of Turin …

        But we should not limit ourselves to dream about what we could do (ie: non-destructive testing, as opposed to the C14!) on linen fibrils of the Shroud…

        1. I want to add even a reference (although it is vague) published in
          Methods Mol Biol. 2012;908:23-30.

          “Imaging cellulose using atomic force microscopy.”
          Ding SY, Liu YS.

          >Cellulose is an important biopolymer primarily stored as plant cell wall material. Plant-synthesized cellulose forms elementary fibrils that are micrometers in length and 3-5 nm in dimensions. Cellulose is a dynamic structure, and its size and property vary in different cellulose-containing materials. Atomic force microscopy offers the capability of imaging surface structure at the subnanometer resolution and under nearly physiological conditions, therefore providing an ideal tool for cellulose characterization.


  3. The Kardashev scale was developed as a way of measuring
    a civilization’s technological advancement based upon how much
    usable energy it has at its disposal.


    >The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization’s level of technological advancement, based on the amount of energy a civilization is able to utilize. The scale has three designated categories called Type I, II, and III. A Type I civilization uses all available resources on its home planet, Type II harnesses all the energy of its star, and Type III of its galaxy..

    >… …The famous physicist Michio Kaku believes we will reach Type I in 100 – 200 years time. … etc. …

    — — —
    Do you know the Physics of Extraterrestrial Civilizations?
    In other words:
    How advanced could they possibly be?
    — — —
    Surfing the Web I have read that John Barrows
    (an well known Professor of Astronomy of the University of Sussex) writes:
    “Suppose that we extend the classification upwards.
    Members of these hypothetical civilizations of Type IV, V, VI, …
    and so on, would be able to manipulate the structures in
    the universe on larger and larger scales, encompassing
    groups of galaxies, clusters, and superclusters of galaxies.”
    Civilizations beyond Type III may have enough energy to escape
    our dying universe via holes in space…

    If I am right in my readings, the physicist Alan Guth of MIT,
    one of the originators of the inflationary universe theory,
    has even computed the energy necessary to create a
    baby universe in the laboratory (the temperature is 1,000 trillion
    degrees, which is within the range of these hypothetical civilizations).

    But I think we are still very far from advanced Civilizations hypothesized
    by Michio Kaku

    Our world is still at very low level.
    I believe this is demonstrated by the level of terrorism that often develops…

    — — —

    We can also believe that dark energy has been the source for the origin of
    the Image on the Shroud. But to convince doubters must give evidence.
    Despite the very interesting experiments (carried out with the use of vacuum UV)
    by Paolo Di Lazzaro, in my opinion there is not yet such evidence.
    We have not even seen the controls AFM on what has been done
    (in the experiments [= VUV by DiLazzaro and CD by Fanti]) in comparison
    to the controls on linen fibrils of the Shroud.

    In fact, anyone can discuss ideas (… or maybe get lost in speculation!)
    that he prefers.
    Instead, the most important thing should be the results achieved
    after the adequate set of experiments and useful comparisons…

    We are able “to photograph” cellulose chains using atomic force microscopy,
    but we have not yet solved (…apart the past interesting attempts by Eng. Fanti.
    But, following a certain look on this problem done by others, he worked on questionable samples…) the problem about “dating of the Shroud”.
    Then (IMHO), this lack of useful knowledge (on results obtained after AFM
    measurements about the cellulosic DP of linen samples) is very strange…
    Our supposed progress is going very badly.
    My opinion is that we are too blocked by several problems…
    and terrorism is one of the ugly problems plaguing our world.

    This old “Planet of the Apes” is proceeding quite unequal to the Knowledge…
    — — —
    How influential was Caltech physicist and Nobel Laureate
    Richard Feynman’s 1959 talk, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”
    which first appeared in print in the February 1960 ?
    >… The article was, among other things, a vivid description
    of a precise science of manipulating matter at the
    molecular and atomic levels.

    >Eigler … … had read Feynman’s paper before
    his famous manipulation of xenon atoms:
    “I can not say for certain, but
    I believe I read, or came to be aware of ‘There’s
    Plenty of Room’ in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s
    while I was a graduate student. I know for a fact
    that I had read it a long time before first manipulating
    atoms with the STM. …etc. …”

    >When he reread “Plenty of Room,” he “found an
    extraordinary affinity between the written words
    of Feynman and my own thoughts . . . I was more
    than ever impressed with how prescient Feynman’s
    thoughts were. … …”


    Click to access Succession.pdf

    In any case, we know that our mind can perform experiments “in vitro” …
    and probably we are able “to photograph” cellulose chains
    (on linen fibrils) using AFM techniques in order to detect the cellulosic DP
    and try to solve the “big problem” about
    the exact epoch of that famous Linen sheet…

    If then we can go to the laboratory tests,
    ie: the tests on the materials treated (coming
    from the experiments already made by others …
    and maybe even from other possible laboratory tests)
    then it will be better for us and for the credibility of
    the inherent scientific research …

    I think the credibility of scientific research allows the same to be funded adequately …
    But here, I believe, we enter in a field other than that of Feynman (= Physics and Mathematics).
    It seems to me that this is the “self-sustainability of the research” …
    For example, we can think about the Marketing of Innovation, etc. …
    and perhaps we have to find an innovative AFM technology
    that is a disruptive market force …
    These are some complex issues and I do not think that
    here is the right place to discuss them.
    However I am open to your questions or replies …

    Sorry. It seems to me that this speech seems almost to that of
    a bull in a glazier shop or in a china shop…

  4. Tell me what does “RMO” because I do not know the meaning of that acronym!

    Thank you in advance…

Comments are closed.