Immunology Needs Physics Envy

I’ve been reading The Economist magazine for the past year. It’s the vanguard of a particular branch of bougie, British, neoliberalism — usually not my cup of tea. But I believe it’s important for me to understand how that particular tribe sees the world and occasionally they publish some real gems. 

The June 22, 2024 edition of The Economist contained an absolute bombshell article titled, “Cracks in the heavens: New observations hint dark energy may break scientists’ best model of the universe.” Physics is the original “hard science” — it’s the science on which all other sciences are based. And in this article, physicists are acknowledging that they have almost no idea how 95% of the universe works. 

Kudos to the physics community for their candor. But in many respects physics is the easiest science — their theories are generally developed from measuring the movements of observable bodies. And if physics has almost no idea how 95% of the universe works, what does that tell us about the other sciences that are trying, and usually failing, to mimic physics?

The social sciences have been attempting to copy the language and style of physics for more than a century. But the social sciences are trying to copy Newtonian physics, which has already given way to relativity, which is about to be superseded by some new theory that can better explain recent data.

Immunology is much more complex than physics because it’s a combination of physics, biology, chemistry, and psychology and involves an almost infinite number of poorly understood variables. But I’ve never seen the field of immunology admit error or learn from their mistakes. The immunology that is forced upon us today (in the form of endless vaccine campaigns) is based on ideas from 1796 — that has not advanced much since. So if physics acknowledges that they know almost nothing about the universe and immunology seems incapable of self-reflection or correction then immunology likely knows less than nothing about the immune system. Almost no one in the field of immunology is honest enough to acknowledge what they don’t know because there is so much money to be made from pretending to know. 

Unlike most of their competitors, The Economist makes it difficult to share articles. But I feel that there is a compelling public interest in sharing this article with my readers. In the long excerpts below I highlighted sections that blew my mind and added additional commentary comparing and contrasting physics and immunology (which I believe falls under the “fair use doctrine”). In the spirit of collegiality, I should note that you can subscribe to The Economist (here). 

Cracks in the heavens: New observations hint dark energy may break scientists’ best model of the universe

Photograph: DESI Collaboration/NOIRlab/NSF/AURA/R. Proctor

In Arizona, at Kitt Peak National Observatory, a telescope has spent three years building a three-dimensional map of the heavens. In examining the light from tens of millions of galaxies, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) may have found something astounding.

We almost never read about basic bench science in immunology these days. Moderna claimed that its “coronavirus vaccine was designed in just 2 days” and ‘voilà it must work, let’s inject it into 5 billion people.’ 

DESI, as its name suggests, is a tool to investigate the nature of dark energy, a mysterious entity that accounts for 68% of everything in the universe and which pushes space apart in a repulsive version of gravity. Though they do not know what it is, scientists have hitherto assumed that the density of dark energy has been the same since the start of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago. But DESI’s initial results suggest that this assumption may have been wrong. Perhaps, say DESI’s scientists, the density has been changing over time. “It’s so bizarre,” says Dragan Huterer from the University of Michigan, who was involved with the work. If the findings prove true, it would catapult cosmology into a crisis.

Physics began as an exploration of the iron laws of the universe on the assumption that they were knowable, fixed, and unchanging. Turns out, the iron laws of the universe may change over time. Immunology would never dream of acknowledging that sort of complexity.

The study of dark energy is surprisingly new. Direct evidence for its existence was not detected until 1998, when scientists discovered that extremely bright exploding stars called supernovas were moving away from Earth much more quickly than they ought to. Their conclusion: not only was the universe expanding, but that expansion was accelerating. “People did not expect that,” says Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University, who shared a Nobel prize in physics for the discovery in 2011.

Because it is hard to study directly, the true nature of dark energy remains poorly understood. The leading hypothesis is that it is energy intrinsic to the vacuum of empty space. Per quantum theory, a vacuum is not really empty, it fizzes with countless pairs of particles and antiparticles that emerge from nothing, only to annihilate each other. These interactions produce a “vacuum energy” that, over the scales of the cosmos, could push space apart. This idea is not without its problems — when physicists try to calculate what this vacuum energy density would amount to, they get a value between 60 and 120 orders of magnitude larger than what observational evidence currently supports — a fiasco known as the vacuum catastrophe. “The general consensus is that resolving the [catastrophe] will require fundamental new insight,” says Dr Huterer.

Wait, what!? “Particles and antiparticles emerge from nothing only to annihilate each other?” The Biblical story of creation seems pedestrian by comparison. 

Vacuum catastrophe aside, dark energy now forms one of two central pillars of the standard model of cosmology, the best scientific description of the universe’s evolution. The other pillar is dark matter, an invisible form of matter that makes up 27% of the universe. Regular matter, which constitutes stars and galaxies, accounts for a measly 5%. The standard model says that, after the Big Bang set the universe’s expansion in motion, the gravitational attraction between atoms first led to the formation of stars and galaxies, while also acting as a brake on the universe’s overall growth. As the amount of empty space increased, however, so did the amount of dark energy and, eventually, it took over as the primary influence on the evolution of the cosmos, driving the accelerated expansion that Dr Riess observed a quarter of a century ago.

As I imagine you’ve already figured out, “dark energy” and “dark matter” are placeholders. It’s a way of saying ‘We don’t know because we cannot measure what’s happening in those spaces.’ So 95% of the universe is made up of ‘we don’t know.’ 

This expansion of the universe is expected to go on forever, with galaxies eventually drifting out of each other’s sight, a fate known as the Big Freeze. But if, as DESI suggests, the density of dark energy can change, other scenarios come into play: ever-denser dark energy could one day cause atoms and even the fabric of spacetime itself to burst apart, a scenario known as the Big Rip. Conversely, a dark energy of decreasing density could cause matter and gravity to take over the universe once again, recollapsing the cosmos into an inverse Big Bang, known as the Big Crunch. (Earthlings need not worry overmuch — the Sun will swallow up the innermost planets of the solar system long before either fate occurs.)

Cool, cool. Big Freeze, Big Rip, Big Crunch. Said differently, ‘many of the fundamental tenets of physics over the last 100 years are now up for grabs.’

DESI’s preliminary findings were announced at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting in California in April, swiftly after a series of papers were published on arXiv, a preprint server. The papers contained the data from the first year of DESI’s five-year survey. Tasked with capturing an invisible target, DESI has had to find creative, indirect methods to hunt for the signs of dark energy. The instrument’s main task is to map the distribution of galaxies in space. Buried in this map are imprints of sound waves that travelled through the early universe. These patterns have grown as dark energy has caused the universe to expand. Analyzing the most distant imprints in effect gives cosmologists a way of looking back in time, allowing them to chart the evolution of dark energy over the course of billions of years.

Big crunch time

DESI’s results suggest not only that dark energy’s density has changed over time. According to Dr Huterer, what happened is even stranger than that: the density increased until around 4 billion years ago and then it began decreasing (see chart). Nobody can explain why.

If the DESI team’s results are right, it would mean a complete re-evaluation of what dark energy could be. “The moment [dark] energy changes in time, it is no longer vacuum energy,” says Bhuvnesh Jain, a cosmologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Alternative proposals already exist, centering on a dark-energy field called quintessence, which pervades all space and can change with time. However, Dr Jain says, the DESI results as they stand now indicate something more complex than the simplest quintessence models.

“Quintessence” is another placeholder for something they cannot see or measure but they think might exist. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines quintessence as “the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies.” To me, that sounds a lot like spirit. So we’re supposed to act like spirituality is NOT science but when physicists borrow a term from Aristotelian theory that is laden with spiritual significance that they are doing science? I think that there is a lot more overlap between these fields than many people care to admit. 

It would also mean that the standard model of cosmology, in its current form, is toast. It is no wonder, then, that DESI’s results are causing consternation. But these are not the only vexing cracks in the model. For example, some astronomers have observed that matter in the nearby universe clumps together less than the standard model says it ought to and that the early universe does not seem to have been as uniform a place as the standard model’s predictions say it should have been.

What’s more, over the past decade different teams have measured differing values for the Hubble constant, the rate at which the universe is currently expanding (named after Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, who worked out that galaxies were moving away from Earth at a velocity proportional to their distance from it). This would imply that cosmologists do not really understand the universe’s historical expansion — or, by extension, how dark energy has behaved in that time. Recent observations from the James Webb Space Telescope, however, collected by Wendy Freedman of the University of Chicago and her team, seem to suggest these values can be reconciled, implying nothing unexpected in dark energy’s behavior. The results have yet to be published in a scientific journal, though, so not all sides in the debate are convinced.

All these problems have led some cosmologists to advocate for radical solutions—adopting more flexible notions of dark energy, for example, or working on an alternative to the standard model of cosmology. Some even go so far as to suggest that Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, on which the model is based, may have reached its limits. “We know that sooner or later, it will fail. It happened to Newton, it will happen to Einstein,” says Andreu Font-Ribera, a cosmologist at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Barcelona and another member of the DESI team. That would not mean that Einstein was wrong but only — small consolation though it may be — incompletely right. Just as Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation was shown to be an approximation of general relativity under the right conditions (ie, across the relatively small distances and low gravitational fields on and around Earth), general relativity may also turn out to be the limiting case of some deeper, as-yet-undiscovered theory.

So Newtonian physics was replaced by relativity which is about to be replaced by some new theory (based on recent data) but we’re supposed to accept Edward Jenner’s theories about vaccination from 1796 as the unchanging laws of how the human immune system works? Really!? 

For now, all talk of replacing the standard model of cosmology, let alone general relativity, is motivated by hints and guesswork. But as the next generation of telescopes and observatories begins to generate data, a new, more complete picture of dark energy’s role in the universe may emerge. The Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile, for example, will also chart the universe’s expansion over time and map the universe’s evolution over the past several billion years. That will start watching the heavens next year. The European Space Agency’s Euclid, a space telescope, is already in orbit and building its own map of galaxies. It is likewise aiming to track dark energy through measurements of the universe’s expansion. “You feel like the clues are almost there,” says Dr Riess. “I keep waiting for a really smart person to put these puzzle pieces together.” 

What a wonderful invitation there at the end! They’re saying ‘New data destroyed our existing models of the universe, we have some clues but no overall theory that makes sense, we look forward to new models of understanding.’ Such candor and humility are unthinkable in immunology. 

Again, kudos to the physicists for their humility and honesty in admitting what they don’t know. But this makes the arrogance of immunology all the more glaring by comparison. Immunology is stuck in an 18th century paradigm that is almost certainly wrong but we don’t know all of the ways in which it is wrong because they almost never bother to do proper research in the first place. 

If we follow the money I imagine that physics is able to raise more money by acknowledging what they don’t know so that they can fund new telescopes, supercolliders, and such. But immunology makes money by pretending to know everything (when they actually know less than nothing) so that they can inject toxic products into people and make them chronically ill. At this point I don’t even think we can call immunology and vaccinology a science anymore. Instead they are a horrifying, barbaric mix of business and politics masquerading as science. 

Republished from the author’s Substack


Some of the posts we share are controversial and we do not necessarily agree with them in the whole extend. Sometimes we agree with the content or part of it but we do not agree with the narration or language. Nevertheless we find them somehow interesting, valuable and/or informative or we share them, because we strongly believe in freedom of speech, free press and journalism. We strongly encourage you to have a critical approach to all the content, do your own research and analysis to build your own opinion.

We would be glad to have your feedback.

Buy Me A Coffee

Source: Brownstone Institute Read the original article here: