Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just found this Blog, Quantum Weirdness

Quantum Blog

An entire blog could be done about Quantum Theory. OK, there is an entire blog.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D2, if given in high enough doses, prevents infantile rickets and is capable of healing adult osteomalacia. However, the inefficiency of vitamin D2 compared with vitamin D3, on a per mole basis, at increasing 25(OH)D is now well documented, and no successful clinical trials to date have shown that vitamin D2 prevents fractures (19-21, 47). Given the assumption that the intake of any nutrient will deliver defined effects [ie, supplementation with vitamin D will lead to an increase in 25(OH)D or fracture prevention], it is clear that vitamin D2 does not fit this current nutritional notion. This is not to suggest that vitamin D2 is not efficacious, but, because the units of the 2 forms is clearly not equivalent, likely due to its distinct metabolic features and diminished binding of vitamin D2 metabolites to DBP in plasma, continual application of vitamin D2 in clinical use, including in research trials, only serves to confound our understanding of optimal vitamin D dosing recommendations. Furthermore, the public expects to derive the equivalent effect per unit dose of vitamin D, whether it is vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. The scientific community is aware that these molecules are not equivalent. Therefore, vitamin D2 should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods.

More Mercury Madness

J Child Neurol. 2007 Nov;22(11):1308-11.

Blood levels of mercury are related to diagnosis of autism: a reanalysis of an important data set.

Department of Psychology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614, USA.

The question of what is leading to the apparent increase in autism is of great importance. Like the link between aspirin and heart attack, even a small effect can have major health implications. If there is any link between autism and mercury, it is absolutely crucial that the first reports of the question are not falsely stating that no link occurs. We have reanalyzed the data set originally reported by Ip et al. in 2004 and have found that the original p value was in error and that a significant relation does exist between the blood levels of mercury and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, the hair sample analysis results offer some support for the idea that persons with autism may be less efficient and more variable at eliminating mercury from the blood.

PMID: 18006963 [PubMed - in process]

Oxidative Stress in Autism: Elevated Cerebellar 3-nitrotyrosine Levels

American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology 4 (2): 73-84, 2008
ISSN 1553-3468
© 2008 Science Publications
Corresponding Author: Elizabeth M. Sajdel-Sulkowska, D.Sc., Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital,
Department of Psychiatry, BLI-151, 221 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA
A comparative evaluation of the effects of MMR immunization and mercury doses from thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines on the population prevalence of autism.

Mercury and autism: accelerating evidence?

Mercury in babies first haircuts

Baby teeth
are a good measure of cumulative exposure to toxic metals during fetal development and early infancy, so this study suggests that children with autism had a higher body burden of mercury during fetal/infant development. Antibiotic use is known to almost completely inhibit excretion of mercury in rats due to alteration of gut flora. Thus, higher use of oral antibiotics in the children with autism may have reduced their ability to excrete mercury, and hence may partially explain the higher level in baby teeth. Higher usage of oral antibiotics in infancy may also partially explain the high incidence of chronic gastrointestinal problems in individuals with autism.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Calomel, they used to give it to children ...

It may be hard to believe now, but this was considered good science at one time, and was used for teething with babies. It was called Calomel, but it is Mercury.

Medical uses for calomel were common well into the nineteenth century. It acts as a purgative and kills bacteria (and also does irreversible damage to their human hosts). Some treatments are of historical interest. The three physicians atttending Gen. Washington's final hours administered calomel to the dying President. Lewis and Clark carried it on their expedition and used it to treat their men's STD's. Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) suffered from its effects. Even in the present decade several cases of mercury poisoning have been attributed to facial cremes containing calomel. Such cremes are banned in the United States because mercury is readily absorbed through the skin.

Mercurous Chloride MSDS information

3. Hazards Identification

Emergency Overview

J.T. Baker SAF-T-DATA(tm) Ratings (Provided here for your convenience)
Health Rating: 3 - Severe (Poison)
Flammability Rating: 0 - None
Reactivity Rating: 0 - None
Contact Rating: 3 - Severe (Life)
Storage Color Code: Blue (Health)

Potential Health Effects

Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms include sore throat, coughing, pain, tightness in chest, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath and headache. Pneumonitis may develop. Can be absorbed through inhalation with symptoms to parallel ingestion.
Toxic! Average lethal dose for inorganic mercury salts is about 1 gram. May cause burning of the mouth and pharynx, abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea. May be followed by a rapid and weak pulse, shallow breathing, paleness, exhaustion, tremors and collapse. Delayed death may occur from renal failure.
Skin Contact:
Causes irritaton. Symptoms include redness and pain. May cause burns. May cause sensitization. Can be absorbed through the skin with symptoms to parallel ingestion.
Eye Contact:
Causes irritation to eyes, may cause burns and eye damage.
Chronic Exposure:
Chronic exposure through any route can produce central nervous system damage. May cause muscle tremors, personality and behavior changes, memory loss, metallic taste, loosening of the teeth, digestive disorders, skin rashes, brain damage and kidney damage. Can cause skin allergies and accumulate in the body. Repeated skin contact can cause the skin to turn gray in color. Not a known reproductive hazard, but related mercury compounds can damage the developing fetus and decrease fertility in males and females.
Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions:
Persons with nervous disorders, or impaired kidney or respiratory function, or a history of allergies or a known sensitization to mercury may be more susceptible to the effects of the substance.

Wiki page on this

Some photos and information here
PubMed article

Unregulated potions still cause mercury poisoning

The toxicity of inorganic mercury, known as the mercuric or mercurous form, has been recognized for centuries. Roman historians noted that men working inSpanish cinnabar mines, rich in red mercuric sulfide, developed tremors, mental deterioration, and ataxia. The idea for Lewis Carroll's mad hatter inAlice in Wonderland came from his knowledge of the neural toxicity of mercuric nitrate, which was used in the fur industry to make felt.
Mercurous compounds became the most common form of mercury used in medicinal preparations. They are often regarded as safe and nontoxic, reflected in the innocent names of the preparations, which suggest gentleness and beauty : sweet sublimate, mercurous dulcis, and calomel (fromcalos, meaning “good,” and melas,“black”). Calomel, or mercurous chloride, probably originated inChina and was used by Paracelsian physicians in the 16th century. It was used to treat malaria and yellow fever, and a preparation called “wormchocolate” or “worm candy” was given to patients infested with helminths.1
Toxic effects were soon noticed in individuals given large doses for long periods, in whom excessive salivation, gum inflammation, loosening of the teeth, gastrointestinal upset, and an ashen appearance developed. They had troubling neurologic symptoms, such as arm and facial tremors, hyperfine, ataxia, and erethism—unusual timidity and personality change.In 1825, a poem appeared in a Virginia publication warning physicians of the dangers of calomel : “Since Calomel's become their boast,/How many patients have they lost,/How many thousands they make ill,/Of poison, with their calomel.”2(p253)
Some physicians became alarmed by the toxicity of mercury-containing medicines. 1 In1822, Samuel Thomson declared that,
the practice of giving poison as medicine, which is so common among the medical faculty at the present day, is of the utmost importance to the public....and [I] enforce in the strongest manner on their minds the pernicious consequences that have happened and are daily taking place by reason of giving mercury, arsenic, and other deadly poisons to cure diseases.3
The toxic potential of calomel was highlighted in 1948. A Cincinnatipediatrician discovered that a common infantile and childhood illness called acrodynia or “pink disease” was caused by the widespread use of calomel in treating childhood teething and constipation.4 As late as 1950,acrodynia accounted for more than 3% of admissions to children's wards inLondon hospitals. Official statistics record that 585 children died of pink disease between 1939 and 1948 in England and Wales.
Because of the recognition of mercury's toxicity, compounds containing mercury have been banned from almost all regulated drugs and over-the-counter preparations in the United States and many other countries. But mercury still appears in unregulated potions, as shown by Weldon and colleagues' study.
The authors report a series of patients in whom elevated urinary concentrations of mercury developed, and they had symptoms suggestive of inorganic mercury poisoning, such as tremor and paresthesia. The women had used a cream containing calomel for a prolonged period, and enough mercury had become systemically absorbed to produce a marked rise in urine mercury. Women usually bought the cream in Mexico, although one fifth had obtained it in theUnited States at flea markets or health shops. Such beauty creams are available worldwide and have been associated with renal and peripheral nerve damage.
Other unregulated potions containing mercury are available in the UnitedStates. Kang-Yum and Oransky report the cases of 3 patients who developed in organic mercury poisoning from Chinese herbal and patent medicines taken orally or as salves.5 Their article includes a table listing 18 different Chinese patent medicines that contain mercurials.
Physicians should think of mercury intoxication in all patients with unexplained neurologic or cognitive symptoms. Patients who have had access to unregulated products, from either the United States or elsewhere, are most at risk. If the diagnosis is suspected, the patient's mercury levels should be measured and then the suspected product analyzed.

Hard to imagine.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vaccines, Mercury, death, related issues

Just found this Blog

and this one

Oh no. Will have to do an entire entry on these issues.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mercury is bad for you, and your children too.

Update on Mercury, especially in regards to your teeth.

The idiocy of how they said they tested mercury in children.

Articles related to the original scientific discovery of Mercury being bad for you.


Alfred Stock (1876-1946) was a famous German inorganic chemist who is still recognized as a pioneer in his specialty. (The German Chemical Society awards an Alfred Stock Memorial Prize for inorganic chemistry, Stock was himself the victim of a chronic intoxication by mercury vapour, which was not uncommon (though poorly recognized) among chemists at that time. He became deeply involved in this problem, and wrote some 50 papers on various aspects of mercury during the years 1926-1943, many of which are still well worth reading for their amazingly modern educational content, insightful observations, and important experimental results.



This study shows that individuals with dental amalgam fillings who exhibit symptoms typical of chronic mercury poisoning, all have mercury vapour concentrations in their oral cavity far higher than acceptable levels and on average, higher than the maximum permitted levels for the industrial environment.

Original paper (PDF)


Saturday, February 2, 2008

This Matter of Gravity

This is a very complicated issue. The inverse square law, a fundamental part of the theory of gravity, is under investigation. While it works just fine for calculating orbits, launching space craft and building bridges, it isn't exactly correct it seems. Was Newton wrong about his famous Law of Gravity?

An interesting article here, a new theory.

Outer space: A matter of gravity

by John D. Barrow

When Isaac Newton reflected upon his law of gravitation — the famous "inverse square law" which states that the force of gravitational attraction between two masses whose centres are separated by a distance r is inversely proportional to r2 — he realised there was a big gap in his arguments. Filling that gap delayed the publication of his momentous Principia until 1687. He had been assuming that the gravitational force exerted by a sphere is exactly the same as that exerted by an idealised point of the same mass located at its centre — let's call it the spherical property. He had assumed that this was always true, but maybe it wasn't. It certainly made life easier to assume it to be true. Planets could be thought of as mere points feeling the gravitational pull of a point-like Sun as they traced out their oval orbits in his notebook, just as they did around the solar system.

Eventually, in the first part of the Principia, Newton was able to show that his assumption had been a good one, but along the way he discovered some other things that are at least as surprising. If the law of gravitational force between two masses separated by a distance r is proportional to rn then the only values of n for which the spherical property holds are n = -2, which gives the inverse square law, and n = +1, giving the so-called "harmonic law". The other possible laws with different values of n wouldn't allow us to replace a sphere by just a single point of any mass and get the same results. Newton was no doubt relieved to discover that his intuition had been right all along.

Newton studied the n = +1 law because it was easy to solve but he discarded it as being of no scientific interest for the study of gravity because it required forces between masses to increase as their separation grew in space. He didn't know of any natural forces that behaved like that. Gravity certainly didn't. Nearly 125 years later, Pierre Laplace went a step further and showed (what Newton likely knew) that the most general possible force law that has the spherical property is just the sum of any n = -2 law and any n = +1 law. So a mass m is accelerated by another mass M by a gravitational force equal to

Gravitational Force = -GMm/r2 + mλr,

where G is the Newtonian gravitational constant. Here, I have equipped one of the constants of proportionality, -GMm which gives Newton's law of gravity, with a minus sign because gravity is attractive. The other, λ, will be repulsive if λ is positive, and so it appears with a plus sign. The second term (λr) is strange and, like Newton before him, Laplace ignored it in matters of gravity....
continued here

Testing the gravitational inverse-square law

If the universe contains more than three spatial dimensions, as many physicists believe, our current laws of gravity should break down at small distances

Nothing seems more certain than the "fact" that there are three dimensions of space. But can we be sure that there are only three dimensions? Imagine a tightrope walker balancing on a cable high above the ground. To the tightrope walker the cable is effectively a 1D object, because he only needs one coordinate to specify his position as he walks back and forth. But an ant, for instance, sees the cable as a 2D object, because it can crawl along and also around the cable.

Today, increasing numbers of physicists are seriously questioning whether we are like tightrope walkers, unaware of the true number of dimensions in space. New ideas from theoretical physics suggest that the best way to discover the actual dimensionality of space is to study how the gravitational attraction between two objects depends on the distance between them.

The whole story on this here


Red Sprites and Blue Jets

Red Sprites and Blue Jets are names for electromagnetic events that occur above thunderstorms. While they are one of the most abundant events on our planet, most people have never witnessed either. In fact, photographs of them are rare, and movies even more so.

So we have these incredible, huge events, taking place all the time, all over our world, that most have never witnessed, and even with advanced sensing equipment and cameras, including from the Space Shuttle and Space Station, we have very little evidence.

These are not small discharges of energy, they can be 75 miles high, and a hundred square miles wide.

I find that amazing.

So here is some of the evidence.

A movie
and the website


Howstuffworks has a video on lightning, that contains some excellent research footage of sprites.

This page has the video link.

Extensive research and documentation here (pdf)

(updated Nov 13 2014)

Awesome video

also new blog post, thanks and a tip of the hat to Wattsupwiththat

Friday, February 1, 2008

Observational Science and You Part Two

In the original post about this, I became fascinated by the data on you, the reader, and despite my desperate inquiries, I still know nothing about how you found this half finished effort.

In fact, some of you know far more than I do at this point. The latest data on you, is here:

Country Count
United States60 (86.96%)
Germany3 (4.35%)
United Kingdom2 (2.90%)
Austria1 (1.45%)
Canada1 (1.45%)
Malaysia1 (1.45%)
Romania1 (1.45%)

Browser Count
Firefox (81.16%)
Internet Explorer 7.011 (15.94%)
Internet Explorer 6.01 (1.45%)
Safari 523.12.21 (1.45%)

OS Count
WinXP68 (98.55%)
MacOSX1 (1.45%)

So if you are in Austria, Canada, Malaysia or Romania, you know who you are. The lone Mac user also knows.

I, I am clueless. And avoiding finishing that entry on DMSO, as well as several new entries.

I have 112 entries to go. And every single one of them requires hours of work. And I still did nothing on the first three entries, all of which are crucial to everything else. Half baked. Half baked indeed.

What is a Scientific Theory? Scientific Law? Scientific Hypothesis?

What is a Scientific Theory? Scientific Law? Scientific Hypothesis? These are important and common questions.

A lot of information from various sources, discussing the Laws of Physics and other matters.
A scientific law or scientific principle is a concise verbal or mathematical statement of a relation that expresses a fundamental principle of science, like Newton's law of universal gravitation. A scientific law must always apply under the same conditions, and implies a causal relationship between its elements.

A law differs from a scientific theory in that it does not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: it is merely a distillation of the results of repeated observation. As such, a law limited in applicability to circumstances resembling those already observed, and is often found to be false when extrapolated.

Honderich, Ted, ed., "Laws, natural or scientific", Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 474–476

 Ehrenberg, Andrew S C , "Even the Social Sciences Have Laws," Nature, 365 (30), 385.

From Encarta
Scientific Law, in science, principles that are taken to be universally applicable. Laws (for instance, Boyle's law and Newton's laws of motion) form the basic theoretical structure of the physical sciences, so that the rejection of a law by the scientific community is an extremely rare event. On occasion a law may be modified, as was the case when Albert Einstein showed that Newton's laws of motion do not apply to objects traveling at speeds close to that of light.

A nice explanation from a Teacher:
1) An empirical generalization; a statement of a biological principle that appears to be without exception at the time it is made, and has become consolidated by repeated successful testing; rule (Lincoln et al., 1990)
2) A theoretical principle deduced from particular facts, applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by a statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions be present (Oxford English Dictionary as quoted in Futuyma, 1979).
3) A set of observed regularities expressed in a concise verbal or mathematical statement. (Krimsley, 1995).
1) The grandest synthesis of a large and important body of information about some related group of natural phenomena (Moore, 1984)
2) A body of knowledge and explanatory concepts that seek to increase our understanding ("explain") a major phenomenon of nature (Moore, 1984).
3) A scientifically accepted general principle supported by a substantial body of evidence offered to provide an explanation of observed facts and as a basis for future discussion or investigation (Lincoln et al., 1990).
4) 1. The abstract principles of a science as distinguished from basic or applied science. 2. A reasonable explanation or assumption advanced to explain a natural phenomenon but lacking confirming proof (Steen, 1971). [NB: I don't like this one but I include it to show you that even in "Science dictionaries" there is variation in definitions which leads to confusion].
5) A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles or causes of something known or observed. (Oxford English Dictionary, 1961; [emphasis added]).
6) An explanation for an observation or series of observations that is substantiated by a considerable body of evidence (Krimsley, 1995).
Scientific Laws, Hypotheses, and Theories

Lay people often misinterpret the language used by scientists. And for that reason, they sometimes draw the wrong conclusions as to what the scientific terms mean.

Three such terms that are often used interchangeably are "scientific law," "hypothesis," and "theory."

In layman's terms, if something is said to be "just a theory," it usually means that it is a mere guess, or is unproved. It might even lack credibility. But in scientific terms, a theory implies that something has been proven and is generally accepted as being true.

Here is what each of these terms means to a scientist:

Scientific Law: This is a statement of fact meant to explain, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and univseral, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don't really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.

Specifically, scientific laws must be simple, true, universal, and absolute. They represent the cornerstone of scientific discovery, because if a law ever did not apply, then all science based upon that law would collapse.

Some scientific laws, or laws of nature, include the law of gravity, Newton's laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, Boyle's law of gases, the law of conservation of mass and energy, and Hook's law of elasticity.

Hypothesis: This is an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.

Theory: A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.

In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology.

In fact, some laws, such as the law of gravity, can also be theories when taken more generally. The law of gravity is expressed as a single mathematical expression and is presumed to be true all over the universe and all through time. Without such an assumption, we can do no science based on gravity's effects. But from the law, we derived Einstein's General Theory of Relativity in which gravity plays a crucial role. The basic law is intact, but the theory expands it to include various and complex situations involving space and time.

The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law governs a single action, whereas a theory explains an entire group of related phenomena.

Theories can be tweaked, but they are seldom, if ever, entirely replaced.

Words have precise meanings in science. For example, 'theory', 'law', and 'hypothesis' don't all mean the same thing. Outside of science, you might say something is 'just a theory', meaning it's supposition that may or may not be true. In science, a theory is an explanation that generally is accepted to be true. Here's a closer look at these important, commonly misused terms.
A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.
A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. Therefore, theories can be disproven. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it's an accepted hypothesis.

A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain 'why'.
There is no 'proof' or absolute 'truth' in science. The closest we get are facts, which are indisputable observations. Note, however, if you define proof as arriving at a logical conclusion, based on the evidence, then there is 'proof' in science. I work under the definition that to prove something implies it can never be wrong, which is different. If you're asked to define hypothesis, theory, and law, keep in mind the definitions of proof and of these words can vary slightly depending on the scientific discipline. What is important is to realize they don't all mean the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably.

Scientific Hypothesis, Theories and Laws
The principles and theories of science have been established through repeated experimentation and observation and have been refereed through peer review before general acceptance by the scientific community. Acceptance does not imply rigidity or constraint, or denote dogma. Instead, as new data become available, previous scientific explanations are revised and improved, or rejected and replaced. Science is a way of making sense of the world, with internally-consistent methods and principles that are well described. There is a progression from a hypothesis to a theory using testable, scientific laws. Only a few scientific facts are natural laws and many hypotheses are tested to generate a theory. Find out how scientific hypotheses, theories and laws describe the natural world.
What is a hypothesis?
A hypothesis is an idea or proposition that can be tested by observations or experiments, about the natural world. In order to be considered scientific, hypotheses are subject to scientific evaluation and must be falsifiable, which means that they are worded in such a way that they can be proven to be incorrect.
What is a scientific theory?
To scientists, a theory is a coherent explanation for a large number of facts and observations about the natural world.
A theory is:
  • Internally consistent and compatible with the evidence
  • Firmly grounded in and based upon evidence
  • Tested against a wide range of phenomena
  • Demonstrably effective in problem-solving
In popular use, a theory is often assumed to imply mere speculation, but in science, something is not called a theory until it has been confirmed over many independent experiments. Theories are more certain than hypotheses, but less certain than laws. The procedures and processes for testing a theory are well-defined within each scientific discipline.
What is a scientific law?
A scientific law is a description of a natural phenomenon or principle that invariably holds true under specific conditions and will occur under certain circumstances.

Here are a couple of definitions of each word.
1) An empirical generalization; a statement of a biological principle that appears to be without exception at the time it is made, and has become consolidated by repeated successful testing; rule (Lincoln et al., 1990)
2) A theoretical principle deduced from particular facts, applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by a statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions be present (Oxford English Dictionary as quoted in Futuyma, 1979).
3) A set of observed regularities expressed in a concise verbal or mathematical statement. (Krimsley, 1995).
1) The grandest synthesis of a large and important body of information about some related group of natural phenomena (Moore, 1984)
2) A body of knowledge and explanatory concepts that seek to increase our understanding ("explain") a major phenomenon of nature (Moore, 1984).
3) A scientifically accepted general principle supported by a substantial body of evidence offered to provide an explanation of observed facts and as a basis for future discussion or investigation (Lincoln et al., 1990).
4) 1. The abstract principles of a science as distinguished from basic or applied science. 2. A reasonable explanation or assumption advanced to explain a natural phenomenon but lacking confirming proof (Steen, 1971). [NB: I don't like this one but I include it to show you that even in "Science dictionaries" there is variation in definitions which leads to confusion].
5) A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles or causes of something known or observed. (Oxford English Dictionary, 1961; [emphasis added]).
6) An explanation for an observation or series of observations that is substantiated by a considerable body of evidence (Krimsley, 1995).

Some scientists will tell you that the difference between them is that a law describes what nature does under certain conditions, and will predict what will happen as long as those conditions are met. A theory explains how nature works. Others delineate law and theory based on mathematics -- Laws are often times mathematically defined (once again, a description of how nature behaves) whereas theories are often non-mathematical. Looking at things this was helps to explain, in part, why physics and chemistry have lots of "laws" whereas biology has few laws (and more theories). In biology, it is very difficult to describe all the complexities of life with "simple" (relatively speaking!) mathematical terms.
Regardless of which definitions one uses to distinguish between a law and a theory, scientists would agree that a theory is NOT a "transitory law, a law in waiting". There is NO hierarchy being implied by scientists who use these words. That is, a law is neither "better than" nor "above" a theory. From this view, laws and theories "do" different things and have different roles to play in science. Furthermore, notice that with any of the above definitions of law, neither scientists nor nature "conform" to the law. In science, a law is not something that is dictated to scientists or nature; it is not something that a scientist or nature has to do under threat of some penalty if they don't conform.


Scientific law

true or (more weakly understood) well confirmed or established. On realist conceptions the laws of science are generally regarded as expressing the [causal} laws according to which all occurs, or by which all is governed. See cause, determinism.
[Philosophical Glossary]

Scientific Laws and Theories
A scientist seeks to understand both how and why nature works. But scientists are far more successful at understanding the "hows" than the "whys". We are good at recognizing patterns in nature and predicting them. But our understanding of the complexities of nature has just begun. Although we would always like to know why some phenomenon occurs in nature, extracting this information can be very difficult. On the other hand, discovering how nature works through the patterns and order revealed through scientific experiments can lead to general laws from which predictions about the phenomenon in question can be made. It is important to understand at the outset that science does not require an answer to the question of why something happens, only how. The degree of success of a scientific law, theory or model is judged by the accuracy that they can predict phenomena.
A scientific law is a rule or a set of rules which generalizes the behavior of some phenomenon in nature. For example, Newton's First Law of Motion states that every object either remains at rest or in continuous motion with constant speed unless acted upon by a force. A scientific law is subjected to rigorous testing by a variety of experiments which are repeated many times. A valid scientific law can accurately predict natural phenomena. For example, Newton's First Law of Motion predicts that a student wearing in-line skates coasting with constant speed atop a flat, horizontal, friction-free surface would continue forever if there were no outside forces acting on the skates. If we knew the student's speed, we could predict how far the student would travel in a given amount of time. For example, if moving with a constant speed of 2 m/s for 5 sec, how far would the student move? Here we appeal to Newton's First Law, which stated algebraically is the familiar expression, distance = speed x time or d = vt.
A theory , as opposed to a scientific law, is usually not as thoroughly tested by experiments. Either a law or a theory can sometimes explain the actual cause of the phenomenon. However, neither a law nor a theory needs to specify a cause of phenomena in nature to be considered successful. Rather to become acceptable to the community of scientists as scientific laws and theories, whether in the form of statements or algebraic expressions, the laws and theories must merely be capable of reliable predictions of natural phenomena. Scientific inquiry in the physical sciences generally proceeds not with hypothesis testing, but by developing and refining "models".
The modeling approach to learning science developed by David Hestenes and his colleagues at Arizona State University has also proved to be a very effective way to learn science1. We will be following the modeling approach in doing experiments in this manual.
There are basically two stages in the modeling approach: 1) model development and 2) model refinement. The first stage is generally conceptual, and the second stage refines the initial model into numerical or mathematical models. Here we will emphasize the first stage of the modeling approach to scientific inquiry, namely, model development.

Scientific Law: A general statement based on the observed behavior of matter, to which no exceptions are known.

scientific law


Independently and sufficiently verified description of a direct link between cause and effect of a phenomenon, deduced from experiments and/or observations. Also called laws of science, scientific laws are considered established and universally applicable (to certain class of things or phenomenon under appropriate conditions) but not necessarily definitive.
scientific law is in the Information & Knowledge Management subject.

A List of Scientific Laws
Michael Shermer on "The Scientific Method"
The scientific method-->

Fact vs Theory vs Law vs Hypothesis vs Proof

updated Dec 30 2013 from Reddit

 The National Academy of Sciences defining a scientific theory:
The formal scientific definition of theory is quite different from the everyday meaning of the word. It refers to a comprehensive explanationof some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence. Many scientific theories are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory), that matter is not composed of atoms, or that the surface of the Earth is not divided into solid plates that have moved over geological timescales (the theory of plate tectonics)...One of the most useful properties of scientific theories is that they can be used to make predictions about natural events or phenomena that have not yet been observed.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science weighing in:
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.

*updated May 16 2012 to add The scientific method

* updated May 2 2013 to add Library of Alexandria link ( which no longer works Oct 2014)

*updated February 17 2016 to add this link about gravity, theory or law?

Magnetic fields that map the brain may also treat its disorders

Welcome to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), one of the hottest research tools in neuroscience. Since its invention 15 years ago, TMS has become a relatively simple, noninvasive, and usually painless way to electrically stimulate specific brain regions. It's power tantalizes investigators who want to unravel how the human mind works. More recently, TMS has also grabbed the attention of physicians and psychologists, who predict that it has the potential to treat conditions ranging from epilepsy to stuttering to depression.

There's preliminary evidence, for example, that TMS offers a less drastic alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the treatment of last resort for people with severe depression. At the same time, investigators acknowledge that there's much they don't know about how TMS affects the brain.