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The Retarding of Science - Revisited

by John G. Cramer

Alternate View Column AV-179
Keywords: humor, retarding, science, gold-plated, AARSE, awards
Published in the October-2015 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine;
This column was written and submitted 03/29/2015 and is copyrighted ©2015 by John G. Cramer.
All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced in any form without
the explicit permission of the author.


Last October I added a Google Analytics link to my online archive of these AV columns.  Among other things, this allows me to conduct a "popularity contest" of my old columns.  Rather to my surprise, the clear winner as the most popular of my 177 Alternate View columns so far is AV-04, "The Retarding of Science", published in the mid-December 1984 issue of Analog.  That column was my only tongue-in-cheek foray into humor in writing these columns, but the surprising interest this 30 year old column  seems to have gathered encourages me to do it again.

The December-1984 column was inspired by a Leo Szilard short story, "The Mark Gable Foundation", which described the creation of an endowed non-profit foundation for the specific purpose of slowing the pace of scientific progress. In the story, a physicist emerged from cold-sleep 200 years in the future to find that most of his scientific training was obsolete and that science was progressing "altogether too fast as it is".  He enlisted the help of the world's wealthiest man to create a non-profit organization, The Mark Gable Foundation, dedicated to retarding scientific progress.

The Mark Gable Foundation achieved this objective by creating, for each major field of scientific investigation, a panel of distinguished scientists which would meet monthly to award prizes and grants for the best recent scientific work.  (The Foundation, as Szilard pointed out,  bears some resemblance to the U.S. National Science Foundation.)  This plan, it was explained, would keep the best of the older scientists away from their laboratories and busy with unproductive travel, meetings, and report writing and would cause the younger scientists in need of funds to go for the "sure thing" that would be certain to lead to publishable results, thereby filling the scientific journals with trivial results and channeling research in the direction of the safe, the fashionable, and the obvious, and away from the more risky innovations and breakthroughs at the frontiers of knowledge.

Inspired by this concept, in 1984 I announced the creation of the American Association for the Retardation of Science and Engineering (acronym: AARSE), dedicated to the retardation of scientific progress wherever it may occur, in whatever field, in whatever place. AARSE is created for the specific purpose of encouraging the retardation of scientific progress and of giving appropriate recognition to those who have done the most in the recent times to further this goal.

Not having a zillionaire backer like the physicist in Szilard's story, I have had to change the rules slightly.  I have made membership in AARSE free and open to all. AARSE members are self-electing.  Anyone can elect to become a member of AARSE.  To become an active AARSE member, one has only to make a copy of Gold-Plated AARSE Certificate of Meritorious Effort reproduced below and present it to any and all who are worthy of recognition for their work toward the goals of the AARSE organization.

In the first incarnation of AARSE, the 1984 Gold Plated AARSE Awards went to Senator William Proxmire, to the Administrators of Columbia University and Catholic University , and to the Institute for Creation Research of El Cajon, California, and the State Legislatures of Arkansas and Louisiana .  However, many other Awards were presented privately by active AARSE Members.

I had originally intended to present Gold Plated AARSE Awards each year in my Alternate View Columns, but somehow writing columns about real science got in the way, and the 1984 Awards turned out to be a one-time thing.  However, in view of the amazing online popularity of the old 1984 column and the fact that this is the 30th anniversary of the creation of the American Association for the Retardation of Science and Engineering, I want to revive the tradition and present 2015 Gold Plated AARSE Awards.

The first 2015 Gold Plated AARSE Award goes to Boston Patriots Coach Bill Belichick for the press conference in which he provided a "scientific explanation" of how 11 out of 12 Patriot footballs and 0 out of 12 Colts footballs became deflated during their playoff game.  Belichick set a new standard for "baffel 'em with BS" in his pseudo-scientific explanation of the deflate-gate phenomenon, which should strongly promote the retardation of science.  The "scientific experts" quoted by the media and reaching a variety of conflicting conclusions did not do much better and also deserve Gold Plated AARSE Awards.

In view of the great number of botched explanations of the role of the ideal gas law in the Patriot's kerfuffle, let me here attempt to present the real issues.  The ideal gas law, pv=nRT, for a constant number of air molecules and small changes in absolute temperature (i.e., temperature relative to absolute zero), can be manipulated into the dimensionless form DT/T = Dp/p + Dv/v, where DT/T is the fractional change in absolute temperature, Dp/p is the fractional change in absolute pressure (i.e., pressure relative to vacuum), and Dv/v is the fractional change in volume.  None of the media's science experts mentioned or considered the volume term and its effects.

If the footballs were inflated to a pressure of 13 psi in a 70° F room and then taken to a 45° F field, the fractional change in absolute temperature is DT/T = 4.7%.  If the gauge pressure drops from 13 psi to 11 psi, the change in absolute pressure is Dp/p = 7.2 %, so there is already a discrepancy.

However, a football does not have a constant volume when its internal pressure drops.  For a 2 psi out of 13 psi drop in gauge pressure, a completely rigid steel football would have no change in volume, while a "balloon-like" football with an elastic skin that responded linearly to gauge pressure would have a volume decrease of 15.4 %.  A real football that had been "rubbed down" by the professional ball handlers to make it more elastic should have a fractional change in volume somewhere between these limits, which I estimate the drop in volume to be around Dv/v = 3%.  (Enterprising readers of this column can get out their footballs and check my estimate experimentally, perhaps by using a variation the method of Archimedes.)

The net result is that Belichick was attempting to explain a 10.2% change in Dp/p + Dv/v with a 4.7% change in DT/T.  His explanation was more than a factor of two off, and he also failed to explain why the Colt's footballs did not show a similar pressure drop.  Complete confusion in the science of footballs and gas dynamics resulted.  It is therefore with profound emotion that I present to Coach Bill Belichick with the first Gold-Plated AARSE Award of 2015.

The second 2015 Gold Plated AARSE Award goes to the 56% of Congressional Republicans who deny the existence of climate change of human origin.  This group has done an outstanding job of ignoring the views of the roughly 98% of the climate scientists who have a consensus agreement that anthropogenic warming is real and serious, while quoting profusely from fringe sources and the 1-2% of climate scientists that have expressed other opinions.  This is a brilliant application of a previously little-used technique that at a stroke confounds the distinction between science and uninformed opinion and brings scientific research into direct conflict with public ignorance in a way that has been sadly absent since the Flat-Earth consensus that existed before the voyages of Columbus and Magellan.

This group has recently increased its strength and effectiveness by assuming control of the US Senate, and it includes the leading climate-change deniers Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), new chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) new chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Science and Space, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) new chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) new chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  We of AARSE are confident that under this new and aggressive leadership, the retardation of science will be able to reach new levels of accomplishment

The third 2015 Gold Plated AARSE Award goes to the many anti-vax parents of children in the USA and UK who have wisely protected their children from autism by preventing their vaccinations for measles and other childhood diseases.  They have bravely resisted the heavy handed prompting and requirements of government agencies and health authorities, who think that just because a link between vaccination and autism has been overwhelmingly rejected by a long series of scientific studies, all children should be vaccinated.  These parents instead prefer to be "on the safe side" by accepting the validity of an autism-vaccination link originally suggested in 1998 in a paper by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield.  Wakefield 's publication has since been discredited and retracted by the publishing journal, and he has lost his medical license.  These thoughtful parents cover a broad range of ideologies from Oklahoma redneck libertarians to California alternative medicine liberals, and they have done an outstanding job in confusing the distinction between medical science and uninformed opinion.  It is clearly better to protect our children from the possibility of autism, even if it means that thousands of other children will be sickened or killed by a disease that we thought had been completely eliminated  from our shores.  It is therefore with profound emotion that I present to all of the anti-vax parents with their Gold-Plated AARSE Awards for 2015.

Due to the space restrictions of this column we are not able to give public recognition to the many other individuals and organizations who richly deserve to receive a Gold-Plated AARSE Award for their contributions and efforts.  However, we are confident that the active members of our AARSE organization will be able to give recognition to most of these individuals on a personal basis in the coming year, by presenting them with copies of the 2015 Gold-Plated AARSE Certificate of Meritorious Effort provided below. And we expect a fruitful year of accomplishments in retarding science that will lead to  a whole new set of Gold-Plated AARSE Award presentations in 2016.

John G. Cramer's 2016 nonfiction book (Amazon gives it 5 stars) describing his transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics, The Quantum Handshake - Entanglement, Nonlocality, and Transactions, (Springer, January-2016) is available online as a hardcover or eBook at: or

SF Novels by John Cramer: Printed editions of John's hard SF novels Twistor and Einstein's Bridge are available from Amazon at and His new novel, Fermi's Question may be coming soon.

Alternate View Columns Online: Electronic reprints of 212 or more "The Alternate View" columns by John G. Cramer published in Analog between 1984 and the present are currently available online at: .


Leo Szilard, "The Mark Gable Foundation" in The Voice of the Dolphins and other stories, Simon and Schuster, New York (1961).

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