As full disclosure, I have thrice attended Star Trek conventions. Hence, I am well-versed in the kind of scientificating mumbo jumbo that is the basis of sci-fi. So when the European Space Agency claimed to solve a 20-year-riddle involving stars that aren't supposed to have the kinds of magnetic fields that they apparently have, I was skeptical. The case was a Herbig star. Herbig stars put out massive amounts of X-rays even though they are not thought of as having the internal conditions necessary to create a magnetic field powerful enough to produce such X-rays. I'm not terribly concerned with explaining the whole Herbig mess, but it involves the discovery of a "magic number" and, "luckily," a group of astronomers in the team had the right know-how to contribute. All of it culminating in a "neat explanation" that is so far-fetched that it cannot possibly apply to all the other Herbig stars out there. This is where my mumbo-jumbo detector started redlining. The thing is, these guys didn't really answer anything. Magnetism is basically the quantum version of medieval gremlins, who were blamed on everything from rough seas to earthquakes to squeaky wheels. It's not an unrelated fact that whenever some quack dares lay claim to the invention of a perpetual motion machine, its core engine is driven by magnets. It's the kind of dead-end intellectual dishonesty the charlatans of String Theory are now dealing with. When we talk about solar winds or electromagnetic interference -- or, worse, "anomalies" and "mysterious forces" and "cosmic riddles" -- we're basically jabbering. Especially given the tenet that matter may be a product of waves rather than particles, the electromagnetic spectrum basically encompasses all matter. It's like matter-energy or space-time. What I would like to happen just once is for scientists, such as these well-intentioned Herbig folk, to admit failure rather than attempt to appease funders or journal editors or other colleagues with the kind of gymnastics of logic and methodological origami evident in such dogpiles of claptrap as this Herbig business. It's a lesson I learned in, like, high school or college: jibberish -- even quantum jibberish and cosmological jibberish -- doesn't become any more legitimate just because you use PowerPoint to add a chart to what you're talking about. You might as well hand out brownies after your
book report press conference.