Friday, March 02, 2007

Enceladus and the Rings


For 2 months Cassini has been in a high-inclination orbit around Saturn, allowing views of the polar regions. This photo from January 17 shows the moon Enceladus orbiting with the Rings. The moon's orbit is within the tenuous E Ring. Eruptions from the polar "hot spot" resupply this Ring. If they were not replenished, the Rings would dissipate within 100,000 years. There must be other sources maintaining the other Rings.

Saturn's Rings show conditions similiar to the solar system's formation. They are full of unexplained phenomena--the Enceladus hot spot, spokes believed caused by electromagnetic discharges, even cone-shaped jets of radiation issuing from the Rings. These phenomena could be explained by the presence of singularities. This would be an excellent place to search.

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4 Comments:

Blogger nige said...

Those rings are amazing. They really symbolise classical physics for me.

A massive planet with orbital dust lined up in a flat plane.

Obviously the way the dust gets injected in the first place determines this in part, but the small mass of each grain of dust in comparison to the massive planet helps keep the system stable.

My understanding is that if you have any orbital system with masses in orbit around mass which all have fairly similar (i.e., no more than an order of magnitude difference) masses to each other and to the central mass, then classical orbitals disappear and you have chaos. Hence you might describe the probability of finding a given planet at some distance by some kind of Schroedinger equation.

I think this is a major problem with classical physics; it works only because the planets are all far, far, far smaller than the mass of the sun.

In an atom, the electric charge is the equivalent to gravitational mass, so the atom is entirely different to the simplicity of the solar system because the fairly similar charges on electrons and nuclei mean that it is going to be chaotic if you have more than one electron in orbit.

There are other issues as well with classical physics which are clearly just down to a lack of physics. For example, the randomly occurring loops of virtual charges in the strong field around an electron will, when the electron is seen on na small scale, cause the path of the electron to be erratic, by analogy to drunkard's walk Brownian motion the motion of pollen grain which is being affect by random influences of air molecules.

I think therefore that:

quantum mechanics = classical physics + mechanisms for chaos.

Another mechanism for chaos is Yang-Mills exchange radiation. Within 1 fm of an electron, the Yang-Mills radiation-caused electric field is so strong that the gauge boson's of electromagnetism, photons, get to produce short lived spacetime loops of virtual charges in the vacuum, which quickly annihilate back into gauge bosons.

But at greater distances, they lack the energy to polarize the vacuum, so the majority of the vacuum (i.e., the vacuum beyond about 1 fm distance from any real fundamental particle) is just a classical-type continuum of exchange radiation which does not involve any chaotic loops at all.

This is partly why general relativity works so well on large scales (quite apart from the fact that planets have small masses compared to the sun): there really is an Einstein-type classical field, a continuum, outside the IR cutoff of QFT.

Of course, on small scales, this exchange of gauge boson radiation causes the weird interactions you get in the double-slit experiment, the path-integrals effect, where a particle seems to be affected by every possible route it could take.

‘Light ... "smells" the neighboring paths around it, and uses a small core of nearby space. (In the same way, a mirror has to have enough size to reflect normally: if the mirror is too small for the core of nearby paths, the light scatters in many directions, no matter where you put the mirror.)’

- Feynman, QED, Penguin, 1990, page 54.

I really do believe that everything above is well validated experimental fact. It's not controversial. People just choose to research string theory and extra dimensional unification schemes because they think it is more exciting.

They are right in the sense that they can more easily generate a lot of mathematical papers by taking string theory, setting N = 10 or N = 11 dimensions, and writing about the resulting landscape.

Looks mathematically impressive, but is it really anything new mathematically? Is it really physics?

The problem is harder to confront the real evidence and explain it mathematically. For example, building a classical + chaos mechanisms replacement for quantum mechanics is quite an undertaking, particularly as the subject is so heretical nobody is likely to read the resulting paper or publish it.

8:18 AM  
Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Saturn's Rings show conditions similiar to the soalr system's formation. They are full of unexlained phenomena--the Enceladuys hot spot, spokes believed caused by electriomagnetic discharges, even cone-shaped hets of radiation issuing from the Rings.

Hi Louise, you must have been in a hurry when you wrote this post. I was going to link to it, but too many errors for such short text. Q

10:25 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Whoops, keyboard fatigue. Try the link now, Q9.

10:59 PM  
Anonymous a quantum diaries survivor said...

I saw Enceladus last night. It is usually tough to spot, since its magnitude is low and it is always quite close to the rings, which far outshine it.

I also think I saw a glimpse of the Encke division, although that is even tougher... I think it is at the limit of power for a 16" scope.

Cheers,
T.

11:52 AM  

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