Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gala Dinner

A photo of the Spacesuit appeared on Instapundit. Their blogger Glenn Reynolds has been posting from ISDC every day. "It's not a Space conference," he writes, "unless there's someone walking around in a Spacesuit." He also noticed that the number of young women at Space conferences grows each year. Though getting a job in sciences is difficult, more of us are breaking in.

Someone else must have liked the outfit, for an invitation appeared to the Gala Dinner Friday night. Our master of ceremonies was CNN’s Miles O’Brien. We heard speeches from Hugh Downs and Frederick Ordway remembering Sir Arthur Clarke. We received gift packages from the Discovery Channel with DVD's of their new series "WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: The NASA Missions." and a helping of freeze-dried ice cream. It's not really a space conference," Instapundit also concludes, "unless they've got Astronaut Ice Cream at the bar."

At dinner the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to BURT RUTAN. His many achievements in aviation range from the Long-EZ to Voyager. Spaceship One extended his record of accomplishment outisde the atmosphere. His speech was long, lively and very opinionated. Rutan is a treasure who never fails to speak his mind. (photos coming)

Friday, May 30, 2008


The day after the Space Investment Summit, the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) began in Washington. Thursday morning saw a talk by Elon Musk of Paypal and SpaceX. He is youthful, filthy rich and optimistic about his chances for the COTS contract. Many private companies like Virgin and XCOR are represented here, competing to take passengers into suborbital and orbital flight. Like a Shuttle waltzing toward a Space Station, we are approaching the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY dream of commercial flight to orbit.

Above is a model of the Ares I and Orion, which would replace Shuttle as NASA's sole access to Space. The first stage solid rocket motor has 5 segments rather than the 4 in the Shuttle SRB. The J-2X engine powering the second stage is developed from the J-2 engine in the Saturn V. These are all new powerplants that will need expensive development and testing. The huge Ares V booster, bigger than Saturn V, will be even more expensive to develop.

Thursday afternoon representatives of the DIRECT launcher made a presentation. DIRECT would use 4-segment SRB's like those in Shuttle, and the RS-68 engine in the second stage. The engineers made a convincing case that DIRECT would make better use of existing hardware. Developing one launcher rather than two will save a huge amount of time and funds. If someday Ares V is cancelled by another administration, the US will be stuck back in LEO. DIRECT is a proposal that needs consideration.

In an unscheduled appearance during a panel on Space Solar Power, Colonel "Coyote" Smith announced the first demonstration SSP project. To get around FCC regulations, officially it will be a student project of students from Colorado Spring and Annapolis. Free power from the sky may finally become reality. We may soon see a new tech boom in Space.

ISDC is a truly exciting event with many fascinating people! Many men and a growing number of women here are all enthusiastic about Space. Daytime talks cover every subject from Earth to Mars and Beyond. Everyone is fascinated by the Spacesuit; it seems to symbolise a new human adventure.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fly Me To the Moon

The Fourth Space Investment Summit in Washington DC May 28 was an invitation too good to pass up. The Capitol is very pretty around Memorial Day. The cocktail party afterwards led to a conversation with BUZZ ALDRIN. He is a fascinating man with a lot of sense about many things. This year he will appear in a movie called FLY ME TO THE MOON. It's the story of a fly who misses a chance to join John Glenn's flight, but becomes determined to stow away with Buzz and Apollo 11. That would have been a great mission to have been a fly on the wall!

Our generation faces a similiar dilemna, never having enjoyed the opportunity to reach the Moon. Landing on Mars or an asteroid depends on the capability to reach the Moon first. In terms of species survival, settling the Moon is a chance to "back up" the human race. In the whirl of politics that is Washington, let us hope we make it this time.

If things get too busy for blog posts, check out the Carnival of Space!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Einstein's Sphere

Everyone should read a book called "RELATIVITY: A Simple Explanation that Anyone Can Understand" by Albert Einstein. No one understood the subject better than Einstein himself. He used methods, like imaginary time, that have been abandoned by today's "relativity" books. In paperback this book is also much less expensive than the heavy book the college forced you to buy! In his writings, Einstein even mentioned changing the speed of light.

In Chapter 31 Einstein attempts to imagine an entire Universe! Like Pythagoras 2500 years before, Einstein is motivated by a search for harmony. He follows what would be called the Cosmological Principle: The Universe looks the same no matter what direction one looks, and every bit resembles every other bit. He rejects a flat Universe, for his General Relativity shows that Space/Time is curved. He rejects the idea of boundaries and considers the Universe “finite yet unbounded”. The obvious analogy is a sphere.

This 4-dimensional spherical Space has a finite volume given by:

V = 2 $\pi$^2 R^3

Where R is radius, with dimensions of length. (If anyone can't abide by this, please complain to Einstein.)

Here Einstein found a conflict. The very gravity which causes Space/Time to be curved would cause the sphere to collapse. Here we could add, "Unless it were already expanding." An expanding Universe it would have been one of history's great predictions. Instead Einstein introduced a fudge factor, a repulsive "cosmological constant" preventing the Universe from collapsing. When Edwin Hubble's observations showed that the Universe is expanding, Einstein would call the cosmological constant his greatest blunder.

We can express the expanding Universe simply:

R = ct

Again R has dimensions of length and c has dimensions of distance/time. For an expanding Universe, it is axiomatic that R is some multiple of t.

The Universe can't expand at the same rate c forever, for gravity slows it down. We do some math and get:

GM = tc^3

Where GM combines mass of the Universe with its gravitational constant.

Together these simple expressions form a solution to the Einstein-Friedmann equations with stable density:

$\rho$f = (6 $\pi$ G t^2)^{-1}

Here we encounter an interesting difference. If an initial mass M is distributed among this spherical volume V, we get an initial density $\rho$i of:

$\rho$i = M/V where M = (tc^3)/G

$\rho$i = (2 $\pi$G t^2)^{-1}

In addition to expanding and slowing the Universe, GM = tc^3 drives it toward the stable density.

The difference is made up by the matter we are made of. When the Universe is "underweight," quantum mechanics predicts that matter will appear via pair production. The amount of this matter is the difference between $\rho$i and $\rho$f, or 4.507034%. This unique prediction is precisely matched by the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe.

The Albrecht/Maguiejo paper can be a help here. Refer to their equation (10). Here R (not a) is scale and e is the deviation from critical density.

e = $\Omega$ - 1

edot = (1 + e)e(Rdot/R)(1 + 3w) + 2(cdot/c)e

Now we have w = 0,
(Rdot/R) = (2/3t) and (cdot/c) = (-1/3t)

edot = e^2 (2/3t)

Is it not reassuring that the other terms cancel? When t is low e is large and a large edot drives density toward a critical value. Today, when t is billions of years and e is very nearly zero, little mass is being created. Just as scale R began in a Bang and has been slowing since, the amount of mass creation has also been slowing and is now nearly zero.

Can you believe some people act as if this isn't a Theory? It is painful to say that new ideas take time for scientists to figure out. Papers on this subject (including Albrecht and Maguiejo's) face great difficulties in publishing. Arthur Eddington joked in the 1920's that only 3 people understood Relativity, though he couldn't think of the third one! We are doing much better.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Retirement Plans

While Discovery is being cleared for a May 31 launch, decisions are being made in Washington that will shape the future in Space. A bipartisan bill being introduced in the US Congress would direct NASA to launch one additional contingency mission in 2010 to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. AMS will seek the highest energy cosmic rays as they impact Earth's atmosphere. The experiment has 15 international partners and 1.5 billion already spent. It would be a shame to leave it in a clean room. Today the House bill was unanimously approved in committee.

Two planned contingency flights are booked with supplies that can only be delivered by Shuttle. The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (Spacesuit) for instance, was designed for Shuttle and can not be carried in Orion. The newer spacecraft does not have an airlock. Once Shuttle stops flying there is no way to get any more EMU's into Space. The ISS crew must rely on the suits they have until those suits wear out.

The Constellation program depends upon Shuttle retiring on time. STS-125, the last flight of Atlantis, is scheduled for October 8. The mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope has already been delayed by the introduction of new external tanks. STS-126 is scheduled for November 10. Endeavour will serve as a backup in case the Hubble mission requires rescue. Launch pad 39B will then be converted for the first test flight of Ares 1-X in 2009. Delays in Shuttle missions would directly affect the timing.

With the second Soyuz in a row going ballistic on reentry, NASA is very nervous about relying on Russia. The hard landing sent Korea's first astronaut to the hospital with a very painful back. There will be at least 5 years between shuttle retirement and introduction of Ares. With the usual delays in government prgrams, the gap could grow longer. Some have even whispered about the US abandoning ISS.

The most lasting legacy of Michael Griffin may be the COTS program for commercial access to orbit. Elon Musk's SpaceX has targeted June for its next launch attempt. The first flight of Falcon 1 in March 2006 ended after 29 seconds. The second flight a year later failed to achieve orbit, but reached Space and most of its design goals. SpaceX has the best hope of achieving the goals of the COTS programme. They hope to begin delivering payloads to ISS in 2011. Let us wish them luck.

Much will depend on the next US President. More news from Washington soon!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

SUSY in Trouble?

Tommaso Dorigo is a fine scientist and blogger. He has handled silly criticism from others with style and grace. This week at the Particle Physics and Cosmology meeting (PPC008) in Albuquerque Tommaso will show how Tevatron data is wiping out one supersymnetry model after another. This could be the beginning of the end for a class of ideas called SUSY.

The standard model of particle physics contains at least 20 free parameters, from particle masses to the speed of light. Finding a mathematical basis for these numbers has obsessed physicists for decades. SUSY hypothesised that each particle had a corresponding "superparticle." These superparticles conveniently have energies too great to be detected by our experiments. This turns the problem of 20 free parameters into hundreds. This is progress?

Like inflation and cosmic strings, there was no way to falsify the theory. For years SUSY provided employment to many theorists. It turned into a framework in which anyone could insert their own speculations. New accelerators are approaching the energies in which superparticles would be found. As experimental energies get higher, more SUSY theories may be falsified.

There is Trouble With Physics because theories like SUSY have not led to advances in our understanding. Funding and respect for physics is dropping along with job prospects for young researchers. In the meantime, out of the spotlight, progress is quietly being made. If the speed of light can be predicted, there is hope that someday we will find a mathematical basis for other numbers.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Antea and the Green Flash

The European Southern Observatory at Paranal, Chile is location of the villain's lair in the next James Bond movie. They send us this photo taken May 2 of the "green flash." This phenomenon is occasionally seen at sunset, more often at places with stable atmosphere and free of light pollution like Paranal. The flash is said to result from interplanetary grains of dust, reflecting sunlight like tiny moons.

The green flash also inspires the epilogue to Roger Penrose's excellent book THE ROAD TO REALITY. Antea is a postdoc from a small town in Italy, possessed of remarkable artistic and mathematical talents. Her own ideas, not fully formed, are at variance with those of her colleagues. Like many others, she is deeply puzzled by the problem of quantizing gravity. One evening while watching the sunset Antea witnesses the green flash. "Then a remarkable thought overtook her..."

Penrose does not say what happens later, but from experience we can guess:

After publishing her idea, Antea found increasing difficulty getting postdocs. She wandered the world for years without landing a permanent job. Her colleagues became deeply suspicious of her research. As the mathematics were complex and unconventional, few took the time to understand it. In public forums she was peppered with more questions than a PhD defense. Critics probed to find some tiny mathematical flaw and claim her work was invalid.

After getting a position at a small college and teaching for more years, Antea found that getting tenure was very unlikely. Later she would find that jealous colleagues had spread outrageous rumours about her work. It would have been far easier to follow fashionable ideas like String Theory or Inflation. She found that the image of an attractive woman was not what the university sought for a physicist.

Despite all the challenges, Antea did not let her spirits sag. She happily answered questions about her work even from those she thought hostile. Antea had been inspired as a child by stories about Galileo and Isaac Newton. She continued because math and nature told her she was on the right track. She was surprised and saddened when others resorted to attacks, but more for their sake than hers. After many years she woke to find that her supporters were the top people in science and detractors had disappeared into the woodwork.

Antea's odd thought led to physics books being rewritten everywhere. Rumour has it that Antea is still happy and optimistic as a teenager. In the worst of times even detractors noted her positive personality. In a time when pessimism was the fashion, she believed in the future. Her belief enabled Antea to go where no one had dared go before.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Groping in the Dark

"Observing Dark Energy," a symposium held at the Omni Tucson Golf Resort and Spa 18-20 March, 2004. After a long and dicey journey, the student enjoyed a suite with front door facing the swimming pool and back door facing golf courses. She also enjoyed the chance to present a paper ask her puzzling question about 4.507034%. She was deeply disappointed that there was no "dark energy" to observe. 4 years later they've still not made any progress.

Last week the Space Telescope Science Institute held a "Symposium on Dark Energy." Even the revered Ed Witten was at a loss to explain it or even point the way toward an explanation. The assembled big brains can not even agree on a strategy. The proposed Joint Dark Energy Mission must be chosen from at least three competing candidates. (This is "Joint?") The hypothesis of repulsive energy leads to a divergence of solutions. A tiny industry has grown up around "dark energy" theories. Even if JDEM is launched it will not return a single wave or particle of DE, just an "equation of state." An unsuccessful idea would keep many theorists busy for decades with their non-success.

The May 10 issue of NEW SCIENTIST spotlights the work of astrophysicists Jean-Phillipe Uzan, Chris Clarkson and George Ellis. Their proposal would look at high-redshift quasars in different parts of the sky to see if expansion is uniform. Some theorists like David Wiltshire have suggested that different regions of the Universe expand at different rates. NEW SCIENTIST continues:

"If this is true, the case for dark energy would start to look shaky. Dark energy is thought to be accelerating the expansion of the universe. But if expansion rates differ over areas of space rather than time, it would scupper dark energy models that assume acceleration is uniform."

Ruth Durrer of the University of Geneva in Switzerland likes the idea. "It could have a profound effect on the interpretation of the apparent acceleration," Durrer says. "It could help us get rid of dark energy."

You go, girl! A lot of smart people are uncomfortable with DE, and they are coming out of the woodwork. If the model is not questioned, science could run around in epicycles for decades. JDEM is a nice idea, but even with it there will be no solution involving "dark energy."

GM = tc^3, a child could figure it out.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Science of IRON MAN: Flight

IRON MAN can fly higher and faster than the F-22 Raptor. Is this just a comic book fantasy? His inexhaustible chest power source provides energy to "repulsors," which drive him through the air without propellant. Are those air intakes in his boots? They appear to ingest air, compress and expel it like a jet engine. His hand repulsors steer him and have the added use of blasting things. This may seem fantastic, but a good suit may lead to an unexpected application for Space.

The biggest expense in human Spaceflight comes from putting people into orbit. After years of design work, the Orion spacecraft is about 2000 pounds overweight. Private companies like Space-X are trying to create more economical spaceships. Again we must sit back and think of what hasn't been considered. For certain critical missions, we may not need a spaceship at all.

An Advanced Spacesuit is based on direct counter-pressure, allowing a suit that fits close to the skin. For EVA it can be armoured like Iron Man, protecting the wearer from hazards of Space. Fitting the suit close to the skin allows integral nutrition and waste elimination, meaning an astronaut can spend days in the suit if necessary. Like Iron Man, the outer armour can be equipped with a reaction control system and integrated helmet controls. This allows the suit to become a true wearable spacecraft.

Imagine the launch of a small booster, the size of Falcon 1 or smaller. The payload can be just one suited astronaut, along with time-critical small payloads. (This would be handy next time the computer aboard ISS crashes.) She is surrounded not by a ship, but by a payload shroud that jettisons in the upper atmosphere. Upon reaching orbit she separates from the upper stage, then flies solo like Iron Man. The view would be more spectacular than any spaceship porthole.

Atmospheric entry can also be accomplished without a ship. This astronaut reclines on a 2-meter heat shield. The shield may be a "ballute" that inflates from the backpack. If an astronaut needs to return in an emergency, she passes over a large landmass and fires retro-rockets. This allows an inaccurate but safe return to Earth.

Several heatshields could be docked around ISS to serve as escape pods. Presently ISS relies on a single Soyuz for escape, limiting the permanent crew to three. In an emergency the crew could be separated from the Soyuz, as happened during a fire aboard Mir. As we saw last month Going Ballistic, even the reliable Soyuz can miss the target by hundreds of miles. Multiple lifeboats are far better than just one.

The current Extravehicular Mobility Unit (spacesuit) was designed around Shuttle and can not fit into Orion. Once the Shuttle stops flying there is no way to get more EVA suits to ISS. The crew will rely on whatever suits are left up there, until they wear out. Why not a suit that delivers itself to orbit?

The dream of flying like Icarus is closer than most think. Advanced spacesuits will allow astronauts to fly far higher and faster than an F-22. Spaceflight is dangerous, and many emergencies can require a quick rescue in Space. Presently lifesaving options are highly limited. Someday an emergency will arise that is beyond our current spacecraft capabilities. Then we will need an Iron Man.

A gallery of Space stories is at the Carnival of Space!

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Science of IRON MAN: Fusion

The coolest superhero movie in years, and one particuarly dear to those who work on spacesuits is IRON MAN! A protective suit that amplifies the wearer's strength dates to Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS, and has inspired anime like BUBBLEGUM CRISIS. It is as natural outgrowth of spacesuit technology, and one such application will be discussed tomorrow. Today we'll focus on Iron Man's energy supply. What is that glowing thing in his chest?

Iron Man's power supply is a small version of the display reactor at Stark Industries. A similiar display appeared at the New York World's Fair of 1964. The Tokomak is a donut-shaped magnetic bottle for containing hot plasma. Controlled fusion has long held the promise of limitless energy, but requires temperatures and pressures similiar to the Sun's interior. Despite decades of work, controlled fusion remains as it was in 1964, just around the corner. Doctor Octopus in SPIDER MAN 2 was still working on fusion. Hopefully ITER or the National Ignition Facility in Livermore will finally make it practical.

Humans presumptuously think they understand the Sun, enough to reproduce it in a lab. Containing plasma at temperatures of millions of degrees is like holding smoke with rubber bands. As readers of this blog know, our Sun works by pulling the plasma inward. The Sun was ignited by a tiny Black Hole that drew gas toward it until temperatures and pressures allowed fusion to commence. The Black Hole is still there, quite at home in the Sun's hot centre.

Tony Stark is shown carefully making a ring of palladium. This material is key to "cold fusion" experiments. Could Stark have perfected cold fusion in a cave? His chest device combines the shape of a Tokomak with palladium rings. Though the initial hype about cold fusion was discredited, determined researchers are still working on it. Since such work is considered un-mainstream, we can sympathise and wish them luck.

Though some of us are fortunate to live off the grid, the search for energy is always on the world's mind. A lecture in 1908 about the future of energy would have been about coal and oil. In 1905 someone had written down E=mc^2, though the world had as yet taken little notice. By 1945 the world had built a nuclear reactor and an atomic bomb. What surprises could someone be cooking up in the dark of a cave? The energy of a Black Hole would make even nuclear fusion look crude.

UPDATE: Stark mentions in passing that his chest device produces 3 GJ/sec, or 3000 megawatts! That's enough watts to light 3 million homes, power not just the suit but the lights of Los Angeles too. An exaggeration?

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thunder, Lightning and Vog

The Chaiten volcano in Chile continues to erupt, having forced the evacuation of thousands. Chaiten has also produced spectacular displays like this one. Lightning is powered by an excess of electric charge, which occurs in storms but also in volcanic clouds. We learned this in school, but what triggers the discharge? The tracks of lightning bolts resemble the shower of particles from cosmic rays. Since Earth is bathed constantly in cosmic rays, some have suggested that they trigger lightning bolts. If the frightening bursts of thunder should someday shown to result from cosmic rays, it is one more example of how are lives are intertwined with Space.

Our Cassini spacecraft has photographed a huge thunderstorm on Saturn that has raged for five months. Some theories suggest that Saturnian thunderstorms are connected with the mysterious "spokes" seen in the rings. Aided by a network of "amateur" astronomers, Cassini has also observed a wave pattern in the atmosphere. Temperatures vary at different latitudes in a hot-cold pattern. Sometimes the equator is wamer than surrounding latitudes and sometimes it is colder, switching at half-year intervals when the Sun is directly over the equator. Previously we have seen that Saturn's poles are hot spots, with the highest temperatures of the surface. Source of this hot-cold pattern is considered a mystery, but Saturn's interior is an excellent place to seek a Black Hole.

Though Hawaiian shield volcanoes are gentler than Chilean volcanoes, the eruption of Halema'uma'u Crater continues. It has left the nuisance of "Vog," or volcanic smog. Sulfur dioxide regularly issues from Kilauea, but with the eruption it has spread throughout the islands. Neighbours have complained about respiratory ailments. Certain plants, like eucalyptus and Asiatic lilies, are particularly harmed. Our coffee and macadamia nut trees appear unaffected. We are fortunate that our volcanoes are more nuisance than danger.

Volcanoes may be tied to cosmology. As longtime readers of this blog know, internal heat could be product of a tiny Black Hole in Earth's core. Human life exists in a very thin surface between Earth and Space. Cosmic rays rain from the heavens, causing showers of energetic particles in the atmosphere and possibly lightning discharges. Lightning storms have been observed on Jupiter and Saturn. At Chaiten, Earth's internal heat leads to spectacular lightning displays. Space and cosmology are part of our lives whether we like it or not.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Asteroid Beckons

From the UK Guardian May 7: NASA engineers have identified asteroid 2000SG344 as a potential landing site for astronauts. A study to be released next month suggests a 3-6 month mission with 2 weeks spent on the surface. When this 40 meter object was discovered in 2000, it was briefly considered a danger to Earth. 2000SG344's orbit close to Earth makes it a tempting target, one of hundreds of new worlds.

Bode's Law suggests that another planet should orbit between Mars and Jupiter. When Ceres, the largest asteroid, was discovered it was first thought to be the missing planet. In subsequent years hundreds more asteroids have been found. Ceres was long classified as an asteroid but recently has been promoted to minor planet. The DAWN spacecraft will rendezvous with asteroid Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015.

We are fortunate to have found meteorites from Vesta. The Camel Donga meteorite seen below now sits in the Hall of Meteorites and New York's Museum of Natural History. Science fiction writers have long dreamed about mining the asteroids for metal. Some theories suggest that Ceres is largely made of water, and could contain even more water than Earth. More than just big rocks, the asteroids are new worlds that could even harbour life.

Observations suggest that Ceres is differentiated into core and mantle, which would mean that it was melted early in its history. Ultraviolet observations have found water vapour near Ceres' North Pole. How such a small body could be heated is a complete mystery. The asteroid's 10^{21} kg mass could easily hide a small Black Hole.

One can imagine the adventure of landing on this new world. An Orion spacecraft launched on an Ares V booster would carry along a small hab module. Since 2000SG344 very likely rotates, the Orion would have to line up with the asteroid's spin axis and match rotation. This maneuver would be similiar to the Orion docking with a space station in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Since the asteroid's gravitational field is negligible, the ship would fire pitons to contact the surface. The final touchdown might be accomplished by reeling the spacecraft in.

New presidents like to impose their own Vision, and an asteroid mission would be a lasting legacy. After a return to the Moon, an asteroid mission will be far simpler than reaching Mars. In addition to the adventure of landing on a new world, the mission could easily be justified. Much needs to be learned if we are to prevent another big impact. If we do not venture into the asteroids, one day they will venture into us.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

New Friends

Chen Shi-Zheeng, director of operas and the movie DARK MATTER. Chen was inspired by a 1991 incident at University of Iowa, when a physics grad student from China killed 5 colleagues and himself. An innocent woman named Miou had been assigned to the physics department as a pool secretary, and was caught in the crossfire. She was severely injured but survived to enjoy the movie Saturday.

Chen noted that at least 1000 suicides occur each year on campus (more Americans than are killed in Iraq). For some reason the schools don't tell our parents about this, or the many assaults and crimes against women. Along with all the other hazards, there is great pressure for us young minds to conform. Anyone on physics will tell you how difficult it is to propose new ideas. After the New York screening of DARK MATTER, astrophysicist Neil Tyson stood up and said, "that's the way it is!"

Each individual life is valuable, and you may note some additions to the blogroll. Long overdue for a link is Carl Brannen, who singlehandedly has come up with some fascinating ideas about masses and "snuarks." He has noted that if c ~ t^{-1/3} and R(t) ~ t^{2/3}, we could just as easily write c(t) = R/t. Black Hole radius, Planck length, wavelength of photons and even the scale of magnetic fields would also vary proportionately to R. Keep up the good work, Carl!

We are fortunate to have heard from Robin Booth. As an MSc student at Imperial College he had Joao Maguiejo as supervisor and heard many things about a changing speed of light. His paper has many parallels with other research on "c change." Expect to hear many good things about Robin's work. Look for his link "Insular Institute." (slow download)

Carl and Paul Nielson also point out a paper by Alexander Unzicker, which reexamines Dirac's large number hypothesis. Paul Dirac, one of the biggest names in quantum mechanics, noticed some strange coincidences in the fundamental values. Putting c ~ t^{-1/3} neatly solves Dirac's mystery, something even a hostile questioner at St. Louis noticed.

Robin reminds us that the Alternative Cosmology Group, is having their conference September 7-11 in Port Angeles, Washington. The location is a national forest at the entrance to Puget Sound, across the strait from Victoria BC. Sometimes a walk in the woods is the best way to find new insights. One can also observe salmon swimming upstream! Carl, Robin and others show that real breakthroughs come from outside the mainstream.

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