Sunday, March 30, 2008


Halema'uma'u Crater March 29, 2008

Halema'uma'u crater has been erupting since March 19. On March 24 the fumes were joined by ash and molten particles. Halema'uma'u is located on the floor of Kilauea caldera--for years we children ould safely walk to the edge. Ash has been reported as far away as South Point (southernmost spot in the 50 states). Part of Chain of Craters Road is closed because of the hazard. The vent at Pu'u O'o has been erupting for years. Change is inevitable, even in the speed of light. Without Earth's internal heat our islands and continents would not have formed.

Cassini's close encounter with Enceladus was marred by a faulty sensor. Nevertheless, scientists have found traces of organic molecules in Enceladus' vapour plume. They have also found higher temperatures than were found before. The thermal view below of the South Pole shows heat emanating from the tiger stripe features. The interior likely has temperatures suitable for liquid water and life. For life to evolve so far from the Sun, internal heat would have to be maintained over billions of years. This is a good place to search for a Black Hole.

We have found organic molecules and possible internal heat on Titan, also considered a possible home of life. We grew up learning that life depends on a Sun. Inner heat of worlds may be more important to life than previously thought. Someday we may find that Black Holes and life are connected.

Check out the new Carnival of Space!

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Friday, March 28, 2008


For the entertainment of Steve and others, here is one derivation. There are many ways to solve a differential equation, even one of Einstein's equations. Thanks to the encouragement of Kea and other friends, this was briefly posted 17 months ago before being taken down. As more papers are written, the writing style improves. Since this was written additional supporting data has been gathered from the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment.

Someone is scheduled to give a talk at the APS Meeting in St. Louis USA on April 14, details in their program.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Road Less Travelled

Three cheers for mathematician Avraham Trahtman! The 63-year old emigrated from Russia to Israel in 1992, then worked many odd jobs in maintenance and security while seeking work in mathematics. The "Road Colouring Problem" had been first posed in 1970 and has defied decades of mathematicians. It conjectures that there is a "universal map" that allows one to arrive at a destination regardless of origin. Regardless of Trahtman's humble origins, he has arrived. He prefers simple solutions, and his was written in pencil on 8 pages. It is also posted here. We can understand the Universe without fancy machines; all one really needs is a good pencil.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blast From the Past

The SWIFT spacecraft is designed to catch gamma-ray bursts on the fly. An explosion detected by SWIFT in the constellation Bootes is the most distant object visible to the naked eye. GRB 080319B is estimated to be 7.5 billion light-years away, with a luminosity 2.5 million times greater than the brightest supernova. SWIFT has imaged the gamma ray burst in X-rays (left) and optical/UV (right). The next most distant visible object is the Andromeda galaxy, only 2.9 million light-years. Here is a place many agree we could find a Black Hole.

The Black Hole would be supermassive, like that at the centre of our galaxy. Since GRB 080319B exploded when the Universe was less than half its present age, the Black Hole must have grown to this size long before. Theories of collapsing stars could not explain something so massive and so old. The Black Hole may even be primordial, formed in the immense temperatures and pressures follwing the Big Bang, Size of a PBH is limited by a horizon distance related to the speed of light. This blast from the past is a signal that the speed of light may have once been much larger.

(Hat tip to Tommaso and Kea)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clarke in Paradise

With great sadness we heard of Sir Arthur C. Clarke reaching Paradise. Many of us read or saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as children, then continued to every book he wrote. In childhood travels, this writer had the great honour of meeting Clarke at age 8. A child still recalls Clarke saying that if Earth's surface were peeled like an orange and laid upon Jupiter it would appear no bigger than India. He will be sorely missed.

Decades after Clarke first wrote about geosynchronous satellites, THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE described a Space Elevator. In the last chapter the hero imagines multiple elevators radiating from Earth with a great Ring connecting them. Here the Elevators are placed 60 and 120 degrees apart to serve Earth's population centres: America at top, East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Europe. Coincidentally, this configuration resembles the old "peace" symbol. The nodes could be locations of solar power stations or more advanced power stations that need no solar panels at all. Perhaps this is Earth in the year 2101, a future humans have not even imagined.

NOTE: The "Peace" symbol was introduced 50 years ago Good Friday at an anti-nuclear march in London. Its designer was Gerald Holtom, a pacifist and conscientious objector in WW2.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Shadow In Shadow from Alex Mukensnable on Vimeo.
Like a slowly forming neural net, the links continue to march on! Scienceblogs was kind enough to notice the 3.14 post for A Blog Around the Clock.

While some of us were tied up in meetings at Marina Del Rey, Alex Mukensnable atop Mauna Kea made a time-lapse film (with music) of February 20's eclipse. Being so far West, Hawaii only caught a portion of the event after sunset. (Maximum coverage was 4:32 PM local time.) The mountain's shadow on the clouds is always beautiful to behold.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Encounter With Enceladus

After the March 12 flyby, Cassini has returned the closest pictures yet of Saturn's moon Enceladus. For the first time we are seeing the Northern hemisphere. Already we have found that the South Pole is a "hot spot." The Southern hemisphere is extremely young, being continually resurfaced. In contrast the Northern Hemisphere is much older, as evidenced by the many craters. Why are North and South so different?

Because the Southern hot spot spews materiel from the Moon's interior into Space, Cassini 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.

Scientists have 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 at Enceladus, (they were not) the Moon should have run out of fuel billions of years ago.

Enceladus can be modelled with a central singularity of 10^12 kg, 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 warm the South Pole. 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 Cassini, we have witnessed the E Ring being resupplied from Enceladus. This observation suggests that other, unseen satellites maintain the Rings.

Saturn's rings and icy moons show conditions similiar to our Solar System's formation. Discoveries about Enceladus may tell us about Earth. Our planet also produces internal heat and a magnetic field. Earth's core may also be a place to seek signs of a Black Hole. We are only beginning to undestand our Universe and its formation.


Friday, March 14, 2008


DR. WHO David Tennant as Sir Arthur Eddington in the upcoming production EINSTEIN AND EDDINGTON.

For today's mathematicians, it is easy to remember that 3.14 is Einstein's birthday. Today we are used to overnight fame, and from this perspective it seems that Einstein's ideas were accepted quickly. It was years before Einstein and his papers became public knowledge. A century later we can review how long that took.

In the 5th year of the century Einstein's four major papers are published. He is still working in the patent office and has not received his PhD. Fortunately Max Planck is an editor and sees the value in Einstein's photoelectric effect. If not for Planck, Einstein's papers might not have been published for years.

After Einstein's publication, the response is a deafening silence. Not until the 9th year of the century does Einstein get an academic job. Not until the 11th year does SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine make any mention of Einstein's work. In the 15th year Einstein finally completes his General Theory, but few people notice. The 14th to 18th years are occupied by a long and costly war.

In the 19th year of the century Arthur Eddington makes his famous eclipse expedition. Though a respected British scientist and Director of the Cambridge Observatory, Eddington at 36 is younger than Einstein. He would have been college age upon first reading Einstein's papers. Some jokingly claim that Eddington is one of only three people including Einstein who understood Relativity. As one of the younger generation, Eddington is open to testing new ideas.

On November 6 of the 19th year Eddington's results are announced at the Royal Society. Today Wendy Freedman and others suspect that Eddington "cooked the books" to support Einstein. The next morning the Times of London announces: "Revolution in Science--New Theory of the Universe--Newton's Ideas Overthrown." Three days later the New York Times picks up the story and Einstein's fame spreads like wildfire. (This is about the time a JDEM would begin returning data.)

Copernicus published his "Revolutionibus Oblure Coelestium" in 1543, but not until the late 17th century was the Sun-centred model taught in universities. Along the way Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake and Galileo sentenced to house arrest. As late as the 1660's Isaac Newton heard lectures on the Ptolemaic system in Cambridge. Before Einstein came a communications revolution more profound than today's internet, telephones and telegraphs transmitting at the speed of light. Even with this quantum leap in technology, Einstein's ideas took more than a decade to spread around the world.

The number 3.14159 may have still more significance. As the wondrous Kea has noted, the difference between $\pi$ and 3 is 4.507034 percent, exactly the proportion of baryonic matter in the Universe. This is a check on the shape of Space/Time. If the Universe were a shape other than a sphere, that proportion would be different. This may be part of something our century will discover.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Check out the new Carnival of Space! It begins with astrophysicist Ethan Siegel rhetorically asking The Universe is Accelerating? As scientists celebrate the 10th anniversary of an accelerating "dark energy," doubts are beginning to appear in mainstream publications. Both inflation and an accelerating Universe are being questioned.

Once upon a time scientists assumed Earth was centre of the Universe, and the planets revolved around us. Since anyone observing the sky sees the planets appear to move backwards in their orbits. To explain retrograde motion scientists added epicycles, wheels within wheels. A divergence of theories grew up, some containing 60-100 epicycles.

Anyone observing the cosmic background also sees that large areas of the sky have reached thermal equilibrium, as if the speed of light were once faster. This is the horizon problem. Nearly 30 years ago Alan Guth and others suggested that the early Universe expanded at warp speed, many times faster than light. This inflation would violate both the First Law of Thermodynamics and Relativity's stipulation that nothing travels faster than light. A divergence of inflation theories has grown up, containing many epicycles. Inflation shares with strings the convenient property of being unprovable. Since we can't time-travel to the Big Bang, or reproduce its unimaginable energies, the inflationary hypothesis may never be proven.

The March issue of PHYSICS TODAY spotlights "Alternatives to Cosmic Inflation." They are kind enough to mention another idea:

"The varying-speed-of-light scenario is a proposed alternative to inflationary cosmology that assumes the speed of light in the very early universe was much larger than it is today. Relative to (Standard Big Bang) cosmology, the enhanced speed of light increases the size of a region that can be in causal contact. Thus... the varying-speed-of-light scenario provides a solution to the horizon problem. It also solves the flatness problem of SBB cosmology."

Unlike inflation, which can never be tested, the speed of light is changing right now at a tiny rate. The best evidence comes from redshifts of distant Type Ia supernovae. Since anyone examining the data can see that the speed of light has slowed, scientists have added a repulsive "dark energy" causing the Universe to accelerate in relation to light. A cottage industry of "dark energy" theories has grown up, containing many epicycles. Since we can't travel to intergalactic Space to collect some, the "dark energy" hypothesis may never be proven.

The March 8 issue of NEW SCIENTIST suggests Dark Energy May Just Be a Cosmic Illusion. Here they ilustrate the fascinating work of David Wiltshire at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Wiltshire has come up with a model Universe with 90% dark matter, 10% baryons, and no dark energy at all. This model has an age of 14.7 billion years, but even greater in distant parts of the Universe. In these distant regions, time would pass at a different rate. A changing rate of time is mathematically equivalent to a changing speed of light.

At one time alternatives to inflation and "dark energy" could not reach print at all. Today mainstream publications are beginning to question these prevailing hypotheses. There is room for a Theory that could replace them both, which could be simple as GM=tc^3.

Monday, March 10, 2008


As this is being written, the shuttle Endeavour has lifted off. The 16-day mission, the longest construction trip yet, carries a Japanese module to ISS. There will be at least 5 EVA's. These boys could use a better spacesuit.

On March 12 Cassini will make its closest flyby yet of Enceladus, within 50 km! The 2-minute video from JPL describes what we may see. The power source of Enceladus' geysers is considered unknown. Their location at the South Pole is also a mystery. Polar jets are telltale signs of a Black Hole, and this is a good place to seek one.

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Friday, March 07, 2008


For the pleasure of Michael and others, here again is the Universe on a T-shirt. From this perspective it is not very complicated. Everything can be described with 1-2 equations that a child could understand. Amazingly, our big Universe is really very simple.

The circle represents our entire Universe, with dimensions x, y, and z compressed into the screen. Like an ant on the surface of a globe, any direction that you travel in Space keeps you in that surface. There is no centre in Space, for every bit resembles every other bit. There is a centre in Time, commonly called a "Big Bang." We are separated from that origin by t, age of the Universe.

Relativity tells us that Space and Time are one phenomenon related by speed of light c. Scale R of the Universe is age t multiplied by c:

R = ct.

This predicts an expanding Universe, for as t increases R expands.

The Universe can't expand at the same rate continuously, for gravity slows it down. By doing some maths we can turn Einstein's thought into an equation:


Where G is Newton's Gravitational constant, M is Mass of the Universe. When t was tiny c was enormous and the Universe expanded like a Bang. Now that t is billions of years, c decreases at a rate too small to detect until recently.

Physicists are fond of using Planck units, made from combinations of h, c and G. In Planck units these equations are combined into an even simpler form:

M = R = t

Where M is Mass, R and t are expressed in Planck units.

These simple equations tell everything you wanted to know about the Universe but were afraid to ask: the size, mass, rate of expansion, and the speed of light. Mathematics predicts that the proportion of baryonic matter is 4.507034%, the amount of "dark" mass is 23.87%, and many other things. Until recently Humans have not understood something so simple, but that too is changing.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Five Year Mission

After a very long wait, Year 5 results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe have been released. We can test Theory's predictions with the data:

$\Omega$b is the proportion of baryonic matter-the protons, neutrons and electrons that humans are made of.

$\Omega$b = 4.6 +/- 0.2% (Prediction = 4.507034%)

$\Omega$m is the proportion of other mass, the "dark" mass that surrounds the galaxies in haloes and sheets between them.

$\Omega$m = 23.3 +/- 1.3% (Prediction = 23.87%)

The remainder was once called "dark energy," but bloggers like Steinn now say "No Clue." Hint: Look at the voids between sheets of galaxies. The vast majority of the Universe is contained within those voids, and they are far from empty.

Remainder = 72.1 +/- 1.5% (Prediction = 71.62%)

The 4.507034% prediction was published (after a very long wait) in the very short paper of 2004. This slide was prepared for the London conference a year ago. As we can see, predictions match the data for all three parameters within less than half a standard deviation. There are no error bars for a prediction, for mathematics allows us to calculate as many decimal places as we like. These results, and their close fit with the predictions, show why a better Theory of the Universe is slowly spreading.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Walk of Fame

Hollywood and Vine February 18, 2007

Down Hollywood Boulevard from the Kodak Theatre and Academy Awards is the Walk of Fame. At the choice corner of Hollywood and Vine is this star commemorating the Apollo 11 crew. The first voyage to the Moon outshines any achievement of make-believe. Today's information age allows even theories that the speed of light is changing. Unfortunately, it also spreads the most harmful and unsubstantiated rumours.

This year's Academy Award winner for best actress has admitted to being fascinated by conspiracy theories, such as about September 11, 2001. There is ample room to question the government's intelligence, such as whether Osama Bin Laden is still alive. But to believe that it was all a massive conspiracy is to give too much credit to the government. This calls in question the motives of conspiracy theorists, suggesting they are motivated by unreasonable hatred of Jews or the West.

Worse yet, the woman questioned one of history's most positive achievements: "Did man really walk on the moon? Me, I've seen quite a few documentaries on the subject. That, really, I question."

Given that many of us are too young to have watched it in person, this is both ridiculous and harmful. The Moon landing was seen by many millions on TV. The film footage is far beyond what 1960's special effects could achieve. Many schoolchildren have seen Moon rocks, some of which are billions of years older than Earth's surface. The event was monitored by hundreds of technicians on the ground. No amount of fakery could detract from the event.

We have known that it was possible to reach the Moon since Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Achieving that vision took thousands of engineers, with friendly competition from thousands more in Russia. Even Australia contributed by monitoring lunar transmissions from the Parkes telescope. The astronauts themselves were just the tip of the spear. Could all these people be liars?

To say that the Moon landings were a trick defies reason. That would tell us that the best of humanity is really the worst. This calls into question the conspiracy theorist's view of humanity. Prior to 1969, such people would have said that going to the Moon was impossible. Now that they are proven wrong, they would deny the proof. To say such things shows that hatred of humanity transcends all reason.

If the academy wishes to contact a brunette with a brain, they can leave a comment.


Sunday, March 02, 2008


Five spacecraft flybys of Earth out of six show an anomaly in their orbital paths. Data from Galileo's two flybys, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, the Rosetta mission to a comet, Cassini to Saturn and MESSENGER to Mercury were examined. NEAR, for instance, was travelling 13 millimeters per second faster than expected. The anomaly will subject of a paper in Physical Review Letters.

The one exception was MESSENGER, which approached Earth from 31 degrees North and left at about 32 degrees South. This path was in a plane containg Earth's centre, which may be a clue. Flybys that are asymnetrical about the equator seem to show the anomaly. Such an effect would not be noticed by the many Earth-orbiting satellites, for their orbits are coplanar with Earth's centre. This strongly suggests that the anomaly is connected with Earth's rotation.

Earth's spin naturally causes a slight acceleration which had been accounted for. This is related to the relativistic frame-dragging effect. If a spacecraft like NEAR is given an extra anomalous velocity, it could mean that part of Earth is rotating much faster. The detailed calculations will take some time, but this anomaly may be another reason to suspect a Black Hole in Earth's core.

Update: The Black Hole is tiny, barely 1/10 of a millimeter in radius but weighing nearly as much as the Moon. It is far too tiny to suck us up, and consumes about as much mass in a year as a human eats. That small amount, partially converted to radiation, keeps Earth's core hot. The Black Hole dates from a time near the Big Bang. When our solar system was just a gas cloud Earth formed around the singularity like a pearl around a grain of sand. Our planet and life would not have formed without this little hole.
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