Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fighting the Darkness

Happy 50th birthday to NASA!

On August 1 a dragon will swallow the Sun. The path of a totality will pass across Asia and northern China. August 1-4 in Kunming the International Astronomical Union Pacific Division will meet. At the last meeting in Bali, the writer was privileged to deliver the talk on cosmology. Dr. John Huchra (Vice-Provost of Research at Harvard) gave a very good review:

"A delightful talk by Louise Riofrio on how a non-standard cosmology with a varying speed-of-light might reproduce the high-redshift supernova Hubble diagram."

Despite a terror bombing in 2002, Bali remains free and tolerant. To Australian students it is like Cancun for Americans, a place of beaches and school breaks.

Kunming is a bustling city of 4 million, capital of Yunnan Province. Yunnan is one of the most multi-ethnic provinces of China, with 26 recognised nationalities. Kunming is known for the bazaars of its Muslim quarter. Nearby are the Stone Forest, Tibetan Buddhist temples and Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Unfortunately the violence this Spring made scientists and others rethink travel plans. Because of its large Tibetan population, Yunnan saw a severe crackdown. Soldiers patrolled the streets and monks were locked in their monasteries. The police state did not stop what happened last week.

On the morning of July 21, 2-3 bombs exploded on buses in Kunming, killing at least 2 people. Yesterday an Islamic terrorist group claimed responsibility. The video also claimed two bus bombings May 21 in Shanghai, and promised more for the Olympics. Security in Kunming is now more intrusive than ever, with soldiers at the airport and train stations. This was not a good week to visit Yunnan.

Sunday in Istanbul two bombs exploded within minutes in the same square, killing 15. Saturday in Ahmadabad 19 connected explosions struck public places and hospitals. Friday another series of bombs exploded in Bangalore. India's Ruling Congress Party just severed its alliance with the Communists to seek nuclear technology from the US. (With all the attention given to China, we should remember that by 2050 India will be the most populous nation.) Similiarity in the bombings suggests this is a synchronised campaign.

With all the bombings, an explosion on a Quantas 747 this weekend gave everyone the jitters. Despite their leadership in the terror war, Australia and the US have been unusually free of attacks. Though we have seen John Howard replaced by Kevin Rudd, Australia continues her involvement overseas. The cleric who last year derided women as "uncovered meat" was uniformly denounced. The US has been nearly free of terror attacks since 2001, despite threats allegedly from Osama Bin Laden. When will the world figure out that OBL has been out of action for years?

Seen from Space, the political lines disappear. Despite all the challenges, women continue to move forward. Though people were once frightened by eclipses, the light of knowledge tamed the dragon of ignorance. In a struggle with dark energies, light always emerges victorious.



Blogger nige said...

I'm glad that your last talk at Bali went off so well, although it's slightly annoying that it was stereotyped as 'a non-standard cosmology'.

Whether something is 'standard' or not in the sense of being mainstream, is not scientifically relevant. The name of the mainstream particle physics model, the 'standard model', similarly exudes unsatisfactory groupthink bias. They called it the standard model to squeeze out alternative ideas using the political-type authority of being mainstream, which is a sneaky and unethical thing marketing gimmick.

The number of people who accept a model has nothing to do with its scientific accuracy and usefulness, particularly if the mainstream rival has been hyped as being the 'standard' model.

If people want to judge whether a scientific theory is right or wrong, they shouldn't follow the herd's groupthink decisions about what is the 'standard' theory, but should instead try to evaluate the relative scientific merits of the scientific theories based on predictions and agreement with nature.

3:46 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Nige, your input is very valuable. Dr. Huchra, who is also a big part of the Sloan Digital Sky survey, was very nice. One of these days the world will appreciate what it takes to speak up against the mainstream. Once the competing theories are truly evaluated, I am sure who which idea come out on top.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Toomas Sildvee said...

Thank You for this nice picture...

8:55 PM  

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