Friday, April 30, 2010

Dinner With a Black Hole

A number of people have asked: If Earth contained a tiny Black Hole, wouldn't we be sucked up? This shows a common misconception, even among PhD's. A Black Hole, even nearby, would not swallow you. We can illustrate this around the dinner table.

Suppose you are seated at the dinner table, about one meter from the table's centre. The hostess surprises you by placing a primordial Black Hole on the table. The Universe is thought to contain billions and billions of these tiny holes. They were formed from tiny quantum fluctuations grown large by the rapid expansion of the Universe. Typical mass of a primordial Black Hole is about 10^11 kg.

This Black Hole with the mass of Diamond Head, would have a Schwarzhild radius of:

2GM/c^2

The 10^11 kg hole has a diameter of just 10^(-16) meters, less than the size of a proton!

Sitting at the table, the gravitational acceleration you would feel is given by:

GM/r^2

Where G is Newton's gravitational constant, M is Mass of the Black Hole and r is your distance.

This is easy to calculate. G = 6.67 x 10^(-11), M is 10^11 kg and r = 1 meter. The acceleration you would feel is just 6.67 m/sec^2, barely 2/3 that of Earth's gravity! If you braced yourself against the table, you would not fall into the Black Hole.

Suppose that you were suicidal and reached for the Black Hole. As soon as you touched the event horizon, a portion of your finger would be converted into radiation according to E=mc^2. If your fingertip weighs 1 gram, the radiation released would be 9 x 10^13 Joules, equivalent to a small nuclear explosion! The rest of you would be blown sky high, easily exceeding the Black Hole's tiny escape velocity. Your charred remains would never bother the Black Hole again.

As for the table, a small amount would be swallowed by the Black Hole, releasing enough radiation to keep the everything else away. The immediate vicinity would become a swirling mass of charged particles. If enough charged mass orbited the Black Hole, iot would generate a magnetic field like that of Earth.

Sitting to dinner with a Black Hole, a person could not be swallowed even if he wanted to. The Black Hole would create radiation and possibly a magnetic field, just like Earth's centre. As we eat dinner tonight, we have reason to consider a Hole in the Earth.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Planets Going Backwards

Tranisiting exoplanets are found by the light curve they create when passing in front of their parent star. Many of these planets are "hot Jupiters" orbiting very close to stars. Discovery of nine new transiting exoplanets was announced this week. When these results were combined with earlier discoveries, it was found that 6 of 27 exoplanets were orbiting in the opposite direction from the star's rotation. This challenges theories of stellar formation.

Since Pierre Laplace, scientists have thought that solar systems condense from rotating disks of gas. As a result, the planets should orbit the same direction as the star rotates, as in our solar system. Unfortunately nature does not follow the theory. The very existence of "hot Jupiters" challenges the old theory. Orbiting so close to their parent star, these planets should boil away. The theory can not explain how planetary embryos can form from dust. If particles collide at orbital velocity they will ricochet rather than stick together.

If these planets formed around Black Holes, they would follow the Black Hole's rotation independently of the parent star. The Black Hole would not suck these planets up, but would stabilize their centres. As a result Jupiter-size planets could exist very close to Suns, as observed. Black Holes could exist within most planets, even Earth. Planets orbiting in the opposite direction from their stars are another sign of Black Holes where no one has thought to look.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quasars Reveal Holes in Universe

Closely related to Black Holes, quasars are the most distant and powerful objects yet observed in the Universe. The oldest quasars predate the galaxies from a time much closer to the Big Bang. Their power sources are supermassive Black Holes like those which later formed the centres of galaxies. The existence of giant Black Holes in the quasar era is another indicator that the speed of light has slowed over time.

Time dilation is one of the most interesting results of Special Relativity. According to SR, distant events should appear to occur more slowly. The light curves of distant supernovae should appear to decay at a slower rate. To account for time dilation, a "stretch factor" is regularly added to calculations of supernova redshifts. If not for time dilation and the stretch factor, the evidence for an "accelerating" universe would be useless.

Astronomer Mike Hawkins from the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh has studied the light curves of 900 quasars. His surprising result is that they do not show time dilation at all. Quasars 6 billion light-years distant showed the same light signatures as those 10 billion light-years away. Though the more distant quasars showed a much higher redshift, there was no difference in their Fourier power spectra. Hawkins' paper appears in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:

On Time Dilation in Distant Quasar Light Curves

One explanation is microlensing, the light being affected by Black Holes scattered throughout the Universe. These Black Holes would be primordial, formed shortly after the Big Bang. The total mass of these objects would be huge, possibly 70% of mass in the Universe. "This is a controversial suggestion," says Hawkins, "most physicists favour dark matter consisting of hitherto undiscovered subatomic particles rather than primordial black holes."

Particle physics is quite desperate for funding. Guessing that dark matter consists of exotic particles may mean more funding to search for such particles. Similarly physicists promote "dark energy" to fund more expensive programmes. Real astronomers have little use for such dark speculations. Physicists have invaded astronomy with their speculative energies.

Starting from R = ct and GM = tc^3, one can predict that 4.507034% of the Universe is baryonic matter. This unique prediction is confirmed by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). One can then construct models where 23.87% of the Universe is "dark" mass in galaxies, and the other 71.62% is scattered throughout Space. By Theory, primordial Black Holes would be ubiquitious in the Universe, exactly as indicated by quasar data.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Dark Keeps Flowing

Back in October 2006, this blog predicted that Super-Ultramasive Black Holes lie undetected in Space, Stirring Things Up.

"Expansion of the Universe is not uniform. Individual motions of galaxies can oppose the Hubble flow, like trout swimming upstream. The Milky Way and thousands of other galaxies are falling at 600 km/sec toward an unseen mass called the Great Attractor. This object has the mass of 10^16 Suns or 100,000 galaxies! It may be a true Black Hole, so monstrously massive that nothing can escape. There is evidence of another Great Attractor some 700 million years away.

"These monsters could be common, yet they are not counted in mass surveys. The missing 2/3 ascribed to "dark energy" may be hidden from us. It is foolish to think that humans know all that is out there. That is like Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius not realising that he is falling into an abyss.

In September 2008 a paper by Alexander Kashlinsky of Goddard Space Flight Center reported a mysterious Dark Flow, drawing galaxies toward it. Huge clusters were reported moving at 600 km/sec in direction of the constellations Centaurus and Vela. Kashlinsky's results remain controversial; physicists Ned Wright claimed to find flaws in their analysis.

A month later another research group led by Mike Hudson from University of Waterloo reported that our region of the Universe is not expanding uniformly. One half of the sky appears to be expanding faster than the other half. Hudson's group concluded that massive, unseen structures exist in the Universe. These great attractors would not lie outside the Universe, but beyond our local group of galaxies. The tired old cosmological model can not account for such huge structures. Consistently Large Flows on Scales of 100 Mpc/h: A Challenge for the Standard LCDM Cosmology.

Last month Kashlinsky and colleagues published data indicating that the Dark Flow extends even further into Space. The new paper makes a strong claim that Dark Flow is real. Already it has led to speculation that the source of attraction is outside our Universe! Dark Flow can easily be explained by considering light.

Because the early speed of light was much larger, primordial Black Holes formed to immense size. These ultra-massive Holes cleared immense dark voids in Space. Today they would invisibly attract galaxies toward them, exactly as has been observed. Models can precisely predict the 71.62% proportion of this dark mass, precisely the amount found by WMAP. Though the dead old "LCDM" model can notaccount for Dark Flow, it can be explained in a Universe with a changing speed of light.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Meeting the Apollo 13 Crew

The Apollo Mission Control room in Building 30 is kept as much as possible in its historic state. The surviving crewmembers of Apollo 13 are Fred Haise (left) and Jim Lovell (right). Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert passed away in 1982. Last week the crew and some of the ground personnel visited Johnson Space Center to share some memories. The mirror behind me has its own history--it was presented to the Mission Control crew by the Apollo 13 astronauts so they would be reminded who the real heroes were.

One anecdote: When the original explosion occured, the astronauts thought that the LM might have depressurised. They tried to close the hatch between the CM and LM, but for some reason it would not shut. If it could not be closed, the modules could not separate for reentry. Somehow when the time came the hatch closed and the Command Module separated for reentry.

Apollo 13 launched 40 years ago April 11, 1970. Originally called "the flight that failed," today we know that it was their finest hour. The crew on the ground and in Space performed heroically despite overwhelming odds. In an emergency, they "worked the problem." The performance of Apollo crews inspired many of us to solve problems of Space and Time.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

A Visit to Mauna Kea

The highlight of stay on the Big Island is a trip to Mauna Kea's summit. We meet in the Stone House at the 9200 foot level. Nearby are the dormitories where we can sleep or get meals; noone is allowed to sleep at the summit. Mauna Kea is one of the world's best observing sites due to its altitude, lack of humidity, and the clean air rolling in from the Pacific trademwinds.

The twin domes of the Keck Telescope, flanked by the Subaru telescope (left) and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facillty (right.) Mauna Kea is considered sacred by Hawaiians. One legend says that the summit is where sky and Earth pulled apart to create the heavens. Today Mauna Kea sports the world's premiere collection of telescopes. On the lower slopes Apollo astronauts once trained for the Moon.

The summit is 13,796 feet above sea level. Measured from its base on the ocean floor, this is the world's tallest mountain. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, another product of Earth's internal heat. Possibly that heat is generated by a tiny Black Hole at Earth's core. While
astronomers search the skies for Black Holes, they should also consider what could be beneath their feet. A tiny Black Hole would have pulled dust from Space to start the birth of a planet. Like our Hawaiian legend, the Black Hole would have separated Earth from the heavens. The Big Island is indeed a place where Earth and sky are connected.

Celestial Spider hosts the new Carnival of Space!

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Kealakekua and Tsunamis

Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology has warned that Europe's largest undersea volcano, Marsili, could collapse at any time. Enzo Boschi, President of the NIGV, warned that Marsili's fragile walls could collapse without warning. The resulting tsunami would engulf the Italian coast. Marsili is located 150 kilometres South of Naples, and its crater is only 450 meters below the Mediterranean surface.

Above is a favourite place, Kelakekua Bay on the Big Island. It was the site of great tragedy when Captain Cook's blood was spilled in 1779. Today it has some of the best snorkelling reefs on the island. Spinner dolphins are often seen in the bay too.

The steep cliff on the far side of the bay marks where a 30-km chunk of the shoreline broke free 120,000 years ago and plunged into the sea. The resulting tsunami completely submerged the island of Kaho'olawe, 1427 feet high! The wave continued and nearly inundated the island of Lanai. Today on Lanai you can still find chunks of coral deposited at the 1000-foot level.

Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands looks peaceful now. Undersea surveys have found a 400 cubic km landslide, the debris of a prehistoric eruption. Previous activity has caused the Western slope to come loose, creating a North-South fracture. Another large eruption would cause 500 cubic kilometres of mountain to crash into the sea. Dr. Simon Day and Steven Ward have modelled what would happen next.

The initial impact would create a water dome 900 meters high, collapsing and spreading like a stone in a giant pond. A massive tsunami would race across the Atlantic at nearly 800 km/hr. The coast of Morocco would be struck by waves 100 meters high. Waves up to 50 meters from crest to trough would strike the US East Coast. Water would inundate coasts from Britain to Brazil.

The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 produced waves up to 30 m high. Krakatoa's eruption in 1883 created 6 m waves, killing 30,000 people. The damage in New York City alone would make 9/11 look like a college prank. The Northeastern US is also vulnerable to earthquakes. As recently as 1925 a magnitude 7 quake struck the region. Unlike California or Hawaii, New York has never prepared for a major earthquake.

Before Einstein and Planck some scientists believed they knew everything about physics. Even today some will tell you that they have inventoried everything in the Universe. It is the height of folly to think we know everything in nature. Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis could be the hiccoughs of a Black Hole less than a millimetre across. The Universe has power and mystery far beyond human understanding.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Who Is a Time Lord?

Another thespian has been Playing Doctor this year! Matt Smith, the new Doctor in the new series of DR WHO, premiering in the US April 17.

Amusing article title from the April 1 issue of NEW SCIENTIST:

Time Lords discovered in California

"Time Lords walk among us. Two per cent of readers may be surprised to discover that they are members of an elite group with the power to perceive the geography of time.

"Sci-fi fans – Anglophile ones, at least – know that the coolest aliens in the universe are Time Lords: time-travelling humanoids with the ability to understand and perceive events throughout time and space. Now it seems that people with a newly described condition have a similar, albeit lesser ability: they experience time as a spatial construct.

"Synaesthesia is the condition in which the senses are mixed, so that a sound or a number has a colour, for example. In one version, the sense of touch evokes emotions.
To those variants we can now add time-space synaesthesia.

"In general, 'these individuals perceive months of the year in circular shapes, usually just as an image inside their mind's eye,' says David Brang of the department of psychology at the University of California, San Diego."

The Brang et al. paper is in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

Many people, no matter how educated, will never figure out that Space/Time are one phenomenon. R = ct leading to GM=tc^3. In Planck units, these two expressions combine as M = R = t. Mathematics allows us to reduce the immense Universe to equations that even student Time Lords can understand. Others may go to their graves muttering that the speed of light is constant.

In the modern world, we are pressured to conform to the group. If physics professors can't grasp that GM=tc^3, they dismiss it as wrong. People should be valued for their differences, and more of us should try to be Time Lords. At the end, we can someday regenerate our aging bodies to become young and beautiful anew.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Weak Evidence

Aloha and Happy Easter! April is also 20th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope. It was launched April 24, 1990 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.

The wondrous Kea pointed out this paper, which uses data mined from the Hubble Space Telescope COSMOS survey.

Evidence for accelerated expansion of the universe from 3d weak lensing with COSMOS

Graviational lensing is the bending of light by mass. Weak lensing is the warping of local Space/Time by the presence of mass concentrations, such as galaxy clusters. The distortions produced by weak lensing are extremely small, and must be measured statistically. This produces many opportunities for researchers to massage the data to fit their assumptions.

The abstract admits that they are "Assuming a flat LCDM cosmology,..." This hypothetical universe is flat, like the Earth. It requires a repulsive "dark energy" to expand. Despite its many shortcomings, this consensus is promoted by a noisy minority in physics. The most telling quote begins on page 13:

"We note that the lensing data alone cannot formally exclude a non-flat 0CDM cosmology. However, the cosmological parameters inferred for such a model would be inconsistent with various other cosmological probes. We therefore perform our analysis in the context of the well-established LCDM model, where the lensing data provide additional evidence of cosmic acceleration."

After pages and pages of statistical analysis, the study can not exclude a non-flat cosmology with no "dark energy." The authors admit to adjusting their conclusions to fit the groupthink LCDM model. Researchers feel pressure to find some "dark energy" and justify their funding.

The evidence is, for lack of a better term, weak. It depends on ray-tracing through a Millenium Simulation, which in itself is just a computer construct. The models used to support the conclusion are subject to interpretation and bias. As has been seen many times, the "dark energy" enterprise is in deep trouble. The reading public doesn't care for Monte Carlo analysis or non-Gaussian sample variance. Expensive Space probes designed to find DE have little chance of launching in today's funding climate. Physicists are desperate to show that DE even exists.

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

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sidemount Reconsidered

When the Space Shuttle system was new, NASA planned a Shuttle-C for Cargo. The winged orbiters would be replaced by a cargo pod, powered by the same Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) and Orbital Maneuvering System. Without the burden of wings or crew compartment, this configuration could lift twice as much payload to orbit without risk to crew. During the first Bush administration, Shuttle-C was promoted as a heavy-lift vehicle for the Moon and Mars. The new booster's cost, over 5 billion USD, led to it being abandoned.

On June 17 before the Augustine Commission, Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon described this "Sidemount" booster, similiar to Shuttle-C. Because so many components are common with Shuttle, this could be built for about 6.6 billion USD. This is slightly more than the shutdown costs of Constellation (2.5 billion) combined with the proposed R&D budget for boosters (3.1 billion). For an extra cost, the Sidemount booster could be human-rated. A Moon mission would launch Orion with an extra stage to boost the crew into lunar orbit for rendezvous with the lander. Launch Complex 39 and much of the Shuttle workforce would be maintained.

As promising as Commercial Crew is, terminating all of Constellation might be foolish. A Crew Exploration Vehicle is needed to move beyond Earth orbit. The parts to build Sidemount already exist, along with people who know how to build and launch them. Abandoning the production of tanks and Solid Rocket Boosters would lose those technologies indefinitely. Laying valuable people off would be a poor reward for a successful Space program. When the President visits Kennedy Space Center on April 15, he should consider building a new rocket.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Volcano Erupts

Mark Twain in 1866 hiked through Kilauea Crater and wrote about a lake of molten lava:

"It was like gazing at the sun at noon-day, except that the glare was not quite so white. At unequal distances all around the shores of the lake were nearly white-hot chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet high, and up through them were bursting gorgeous sprays of lava-gouts and gem spangles, some white, some red and some golden--a ceaseless bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye with its unapproachable splendor."

Until 2008 anyone could walk here, the crater floor. In the background is the smaller Halema'uma'u crater. Until recently one could eat lunch or spend the night at Volcano House on the rim of Kilauea Crater. Today no one is allowed on the crater floor, Volcano House is shut down, and Halema'uma'u Crater looks like this.

The crater has again become a lava lake, and steam isues constantly. At night an orange glow is visible from Jaggar Museum.

Former location of the Kalapana subdivision, now covered with miles of lava. In the background clouds ominously hover over Kilauea.

Humans fear them, but volcanoes are not all fire and destruction. Their heat created the Hawaiian islands, along with wonders like the Punaluu black sand beach. The continents were formed and transported by Earth's internal heat. Life on Earth may have began in undersea vents warmed by volcanic heat.

Humans fear Black Holes, but our planet and solar system may be the result of a tiny Black Hole drawing dust to it. Without a Black Hole, scientists have difficulty explaining how Earth formed at all. Though still smaller than a grain of black sand, it continues to produce the heat that forms islands and continents. The magnetic field produced by the Black Hole's rotation guides compass needles and protects Earth from harmful radiation.

Here at Punaluu evidence for the Black Hole is right at our feet. The volcanic sand with its high iron content must originate deep within the Earth, from the hot plume that built the islands. Old theories of "radioactive decay" would fill these sands with radionucleides, but few such elements are present. Radioactive elements are only common in Earth's crust, where they arrived via meteorites. The core's heat must originate with something even more powerful than nuclear radiation, the heat from a tiny Black Hole.

Two fearsome phenomena may be related, the volcano's heat originating in a Black Hole. Both are subjects of fear and wonder. Humans may speculate for centuries before figuring out the relation. They are both part of the unapproachable splendor that Mark Twain marvelled at.

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