Monday, March 19, 2007

Conservation of Energy Pt. 2


The new Highlander hybrid. As Samwise has noted, the Big Island has a lot of rugged terrain. Some lovely beaches are only accessible by foot or 4WD, and your Ocean View Estate may be at the end of a lava road. The greenest form of transport is still a good pair of legs. In Sacramento, California is a man who is very proud of his body, has posed in skimpier outfits than I would ever wear, and is the governor.

Conservation of energy leads to some interesting questions. Many of us have lived through earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Earth's internal heat creates the islands and continents we live on. Even the petrol in your tank was produced by internal heat. Earth may be thought of as a Gaussian surface containing an energy source. Where does the energy come from?

The old answer in the books is "radioactive decay." That inferrence reared its head last week as an explanation for Saturn's Moon Enceladus. As we have seen, the little Moon has a "hot spot" centred on its South Pole. The hot spot spews ionised materiel into Space, resupplying Saturn's E Ring. The JPL Press Release, suggested that radioactive elements caused the hot spot. This idea needs to be examined critically.

Because the hot spot spews materiel from the Moon's interior into Space, the Cassini spacecraft can sample what Enceladus is made of. The atmosphere contains nitrogen, which is produced from the decomposition of ammonia (NH3). That process requires temperatures in excess of 850 degrees Kelvin. Total energy production of Enceladus has been estimated at 10^9 Watts! The atmospheric plume also contains traces of methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), propane (C3H8) and acetylene (C2H2). Radioactive isotopes of these elements are all very short-lived.

The JPL team speculated about radioactive aluminium and iron. The only naturally-occuring isotope of aluminium is Al26, which has a half-life of only 720,000 years. The longest-lived isotope or iron, Fe60 has a half-life of 1.5 million years, an eyeblink in geologic time. Even potassium 40 has a half-life of 1.3 billion years. If these elements were found inside Enceladus, (they were not) the Moon should have run out of fuel billions of years ago.

When faced with an inexplicable phenomena, it is tempting even for good scientists to come up with a half-baked explanation. That is how "dark energy" got started. Once the half-baked idea is in place, it will prevent better ideas from being considered. The lead scientist of the JPL team says, "The only way to achieve such high temperatures at Enceladus is through the very rapid decay of some radioactive species." That is primitive science, for there is another way.

Enceladus' core can be modelled with a central singularity of 10^12 kg. This mass is typical for a primordial Black Hole. The singularity consumes only 2.8 kg of mass per year generating 10^9 Watts of radiation. Water and other molecules near the centre are heated to a plasma. Electrons are stripped from atoms, and the resulting ions are drawn into circular orbits around the core. The resulting electric current generates a magnetic field with the "positive" pole in the South.

Electrons and positively charged ions spiral along magnetic field lines to form bipolar jets, the classic sign of a singularity. The Northern jet is composed of electrons which are absorbed by the moon's interior. More energetic ions of the Southern jet penetrate these layers to create a South Polar hot spot. Escaping ions spiral into Space, exactly as observed by Cassini.

Without replenishment, Saturn's Rings would decay within 100 million years. Then we would face the anthropic question of why they exist at just the right time for humans to view them. Thanks to the Cassini spacecraft, we have witnessed the E Ring being resupplied from Enceladus. This observation suggests that other, unseen satellites maintain the Rings.

Like Wegener's continental drift, it will be years before these theories are accepted. in the meantime, there are many interesting discoveries on the road. This Prius has been modified as a "Plug In" hybrid, recharged from a wall socket. 100 MPG is a minimum; if you only drive locally you may not need to buy petrol at all. I confess to not paying a utility bill for years. Water falls from the sky and energy is all around us--why pay for it?

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2 Comments:

Blogger nige said...

"When faced with an inexplicable phenomena, it is tempting even for good scientists to come up with a half-baked explanation. That is how "dark energy" got started. Once the half-baked idea is in place, it will prevent better ideas from being considered."

That's the whole problem behind both dark energy and also string theory.

It isn't a problem that these theories exist and that people work on them.

The problem is just that these mainstream speculative ad hoc theories are supported in an irrational way despite making no checkable predictions or even holding out any realistic hope of ever doing so.

If dark energy and string theory were being presented as being highly speculative, unchecked and probably uncheckable, then OK. That's fine. People can choose to work on them.

It's the entirely misleading claims and egotism of the mainstream, despite having no scientific checks whatsoever, that's the problem.

I just can't believe how this intrusion of irrationality into science has taken place! Reading a lot of textbooks from different periods, everything until the early 1980s which was speculative and unchecked was strongly emphasized as being just a conjecture or guess.

After about 1983, loads of books arrived which began to reverse this attitude and hype string theory as being a scientifically justified framework of ideas, despite opposition from many scientists like Feynman.

The approach of the mainstream is just to ignore criticisms, and in some cases increase the hype level to outride it.

Dark energy is more mysticism, like epicycles it does work up to a point as an ad hoc, physically speculative (unchecked) model, until you google "evolving dark energy" and see that it isn't clear from the data whether a cosmological constant is really fixed, so the model requires epicycles within epicycles, more modifications, and still the basic reason for the small positive cosmological "constant" is unknown officially.

2:40 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Hello Nigel: I appreciate your supportive words. Personally I have become embroiled in a controversy which will be described on the blog soon.

5:52 AM  

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