Midweek Cuckoo:Gary Novak

I have mentioned mushroom scientists Gary Novak before, but it was prior to the inception of the Midweek Cuckoo, and I did not do him the justice he truly deserves. I believe Gary’s time has come.

Gary Novak has a master’s degree in biochemistry, specialising in yeast physiology. According to him, ‘mental pain’ forced him out of graduate school (apparently “mental pain is caused by distracting sights or sounds which contact memories containing pain which are too close to the surface”) and he retreated to the peace of a vacated farm in South Dakota, were he has been ever since.

Gary has spent the last 30 years researching the evolution of the morel mushroom, and has concluded that the morel mushroom is in the process of evolving from a yeast. I’m not really qualified to comment on the veracity of that, but the mycology community has apparently not published any of his research, a fact which Gary believes is evidence of a massive conspiracy in the scientific community to hide the truth. It’s Gary’s bizarre misunderstanding of physics that I am actually qualified to address, and believe me, in all my years teaching and tutoring the subject I have never seen someone misconstrue the theories of physics quite so… thoroughly.

Let’s start with a quote from him, just to warm you up to the way he thinks:

I was thinking about Einstein’s equation which says that the energy in matter is equal to its mass time the velocity of light squared. It occurred to me that he would have had something if he hadn’t squared the velocity of light, because nothing can move at velocity squared.

Yes indeed, Gary appears to think that the “c squared” is meant to imply that something is actually moving at velocity squared. Of course, it has lead him to question the equation of kinetic energy, which also includes a velocity squared. Here’s Gary’s opening salvo:

So I started reviewing the subject. There is a precursor formula for the kinetic energy equation. It says force times distance equals kinetic energy for an accelerating mass. I immediately recognized the force-distance analysis to be erroneous, because the force does not move through any distance relative to the mass it acts upon. Distance relates to the starting point, while the force does not act upon the starting point.

Gary embarks on a long winded “proof” where he invalidly tries to compare the acceleration of a mass-losing rocket against gravity to the falling of a constant-mass object accelerated by gravity, and thinks that because he doesn’t get the same answers in the two completely different situations, somehow this disproves all of physics.

Then he moves on to the subject of relativity.

Near the origin of relativity is the claim that the velocity of light is determined by the receiving point. Effect supposedly precedes cause. Everyone knows something cannot be caused after it occurs. That claim is not allowed anyplace.

The logic is that the velocity of light cannot be determined by the emitting point (such as a star), because it would then have different velocities for different sources, which are not found. Notice that the same would be true of receiving points, because they have different velocities also.

Um, no actually, special relativity claims that the velocity of light is always the same, completely regardless of your point of reference, the velocity of the observer or the velocity of the source, because the speed of light is not merely the velocity of a phenomenon but an integral part of the way time and space tie together.

How about the Big Bang?

Physicists base their claim that the entire universe started at a very small point on a red shift in light.

Um, what? That doesn’t even make sense! But wait, maybe he will explain himself further:

The total context shows that there was no big bang. The distance problem is an example. Physicists claim the universe is about 15 billion years old. When they look at a galaxy which is 15 billion light years away, they say they see it shortly after the universe began. How did it get that far away in such a short amount of time? If it traveled at the speed of light, it would have taken 15 billion years to get that far away from the earth in addition to the 15 billion years for the light to get to earth. It doesn’t add up. One tenth the speed of light would be a more realistic velocity for matter to travel. It would then have taken 150 billion years to get that far from the earth.

Oh boy, where to start? Firstly, the expansion of the universe is an expansion of spacetime, not a movement of mass. It is therefore not actually restricted by the speed of light, because it is reality that is moving, and the stuff in it is moving with it. At a later point when he speaks of inflation, Gary makes it obvious that he does not understand the difference between something moving within space, and space moving and carrying things with it thus making them appear to move. Secondly, the star didn’t move for 15 billion years, stop, and then emit the light! It emitted the light 15 billion years ago. We are seeing the star as it was 15 billion years ago, when it emitted the light. You don’t add the two together.

Gary also seems to think that eating transgenic crops will cause us to become genetically similar to the genes used in the crops, which makes me wonder about his qualifications as a biologist. The genetic material of what we eat does not survive our stomach acids! Gary also believes that chlorinated water causes heart disease, that fluoride in drinking water is toxic, that all cancer is caused by nanobacteria or viruses, that there is no scientific method by which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause global warming, that oceans can heat up without transferring that heat to the atmosphere, and that ice ages are caused by hot spots rotating in the earth’s core.

It must be very difficult for Gary to have revolutionized just about every subject in academia, and yet still be known only as  a mushroom scientists who can’t get his papers published.

18 Responses to “Midweek Cuckoo:Gary Novak”

  1. I bet his mushrooms grow spectacularly well because he feeds them from his copious supply of bullshit.

  2. Maybe … he’s eating his mushrooms.

  3. i wonder if he believes in electro-shock therapy. i certainly do. i believe that i we use electro-shock therapy on people like this, repeatedly, until they can no longer effectively communicate whatever it is that’s bubbling through their minds, this world would be a better place.

    or better yet, let’s send people like this as scientific ambassadors to enemy countries as “experts”… 😛

  4. This guy missed his calling. He should have become a politician.

  5. physics_guy Says:

    His mental pain through school was most likely due to his limited one dimensional mind. It’s only fitting that he spends so much time with mushrooms.

  6. residentRsole Says:

    One more reason to make Riemann geometry compulsory at university. Hell, if I had my way, I’d shutdown all faculties except science, medicine and engineering.

  7. Skydancer Says:

    What really scares me is that there are people out there citing him as a source for evidence against Global Warming.


  8. M82SoCalif Says:

    Here’s someone else citing the Mushroom Scientist as a source of evidence against Global Warming:


  9. you are a hack

  10. kewlman97 Says:

    dude seriosly nice man niceeeeeeeee

  11. Yes, he’s rather amusing, and irritating, but fortunately, you suspect and discover he’s an idiot quite soon. I was looking up wood stoves, and came across his Thomas Aquinas writing, where he said the invention of the woodstove started the renassance, because people were warm enough to think and read in peace, but I think it was antiquestove.com and good time stove company who said the stove really wasn’t invented until the early 1700s. I thought it was a little earlier too, but not pre dating the renassance for christs sake! I think he’s putting forth his suppositions like as if they’re facts, and so is a liar, then.

  12. Hey all. LOL. Yeah I’ve communicated to him as well and yeah he’s kind of loopy. I kind of got screwed up on Costantinella cristata by misidentifying it which turned out to be some sort of contaminate, and asked Novak about what it was, and he said something something “they are mutagenic” or something something, and something “go ask your gods”.

    But he did have a page on that site file-named ../Ower.html

    which he did kind of point out “clay”. Which for one isn’t the best nutrient poor substrate layer, but I figure he figured what every other intelligent person concluded a long time ago, and he was trying to mask the clue.
    Alumino-silicates? nah just silica.

  13. More sites citing his statement about “recently evolving from a yeast”,
    note the recently.

    Its funny, didn’t all mushrooms evolve from something like a yeast, some millions of years ago?
    The basic principle or common knowledge is that all life started at some “single-celled-organism” point in time.

    Some of these people out there citing him must not know better or something.

  14. I stumbled upon this site after crashing into Gary’s http://nov55.com/steph.html
    this letter as I just wanted 3 more sig figs for SB’s constant than the easy ones and Gary’s site was top hit of a Famous Popular Search Engine.

    erm. Well. Where to start. Quote:
    ” At the freezing temperature of water (0°C, 32°F), it’s [radiative output is] 315 W/m2.” Out by 0.5 but hey, close enough for jazz. Then he goes on,
    “It isn’t happening. Normal temperature matter is not giving off that much infrared radiation. [] If freezing water were emitting and absorbing the heat of three 100 watt light bulbs per square meter, the heat would interfere with the freezing process. “. Well, yes, melting ice gives off just that amount of heat, but absorbs more from the surroundings which we scientists call “warmer”.

    Useful stuff, IR, lets us measure temperatures using IR thermometers. Which work.

  15. […] and a whole lot more: Global Warming Science in Perspective. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful Midweek Cuckoo:Gary Novak moonflake I have mentioned mushroom scientists Gary Novak before, but it was prior to the inception of the […]

  16. AcidHorse Says:

    Its funny, didn’t all mushrooms evolve from something like a yeast, some millions of years ago? The basic principle or common knowledge is that all life started at some “single-celled-organism” point in time.

    Nope, and for starters, mushrooms – a very broad and kind of unscientific term for large fleshy fruiting bodies – come up on several independent lines of evolution, generally within the Dikarya, that is, the “higher” fungi, the basidiomycetes and ascomycetes. One can say that all “mushrooms” eveolved from “molds” (simple mycelial fungi) and ultimately from aquatic single-celled flagellate chytrids (which, in turn, share a common ancestor with the choanozoan ancestors of animals).

    Now within the ascomycete line, the phylogeny suggests that the most basal form was indeed yeast-like, or at least alternated between yeast-like and hyphal forms. (However, yeasts themselves ultimately derived from multicullular mycelial fungi – evolution from a multicullular to single-cellular form is not unknown in nature). But looking at molecular phylogenetics, its pretty clear that morels are no closer to the true yeasts than are any other of the Pezizomycota, that is, the vast majority of ascomycete species, including truffles, lichen-forming fungi, cup fungi, etc.

    And getting back to Gary Novak, the thing that jumps out immediately and puts him in the “crank” rather than “scientist” category is that he doesn’t even deal with any of the published literature on the topic, as mentioned above. Nor does he even correspond with any academic mycologist working in the field. He basically holes up in his cabin, does unreviewed research, and then publishes on his website. And apparently, this is supposed to be adequate to figure out everything from morel evolution to the true nature of relativity.

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