Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Changing Constants

For 10 years an Australian research team including Michael Murphy, John Webb and Victor Flambaum, have investigated apparent changes in the fine structure constant Alpha. This value, e^2/hc, combines the speed of light with Planck's value h and the electron charge e. Though their work has received some good press from time to time, physics still tries to ignore it.

The team's latest paper has been submitted to Physical Review Letters:

Evidence for spatial variation of the fine structure constant

Previous work showed a smaller value of Alpha at high redshifts. Combining data from our Keck telescope with the European Southern Observatory's VLT, new evidence shows that Alpha is higher in a different direction. It appears to show a dipole effect, seemingly aligned with Earth's poles. Evidence mounts that "constants" such as c are not really constant, as predicted. The Universe which is governed by these values is far more wondrous than humans imagine.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Emperor Has No Clothes Pt. 2

Newport Beach at Sunset in 2007, the day someone argued to the National Research Council that "dark energy" would be very bad for science. Along with a changing speed of light, another prediction has come true.

The term "dark energy" has started to slowly fade. Yesterday August 13 a decadal survey on the future of astronomy was released by the US National Academy of Sciences. The report recommends a Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST) as a priority Space mission to be launched around 2020. WFIRST would be a 1.5 meter instrument remarkably similar to the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) studied for years by the US Department of Energy. The term "dark energy" is gone from the mission's name. WFIRST's mission will be to search for terrestrial planets around other solar systems, and look for "dark energy" on the way. This hedges everyone's bet when they admit that dark energy doesn't exist. article.

At one time "dark energy" was the hottest ticket in science. An ambitious JDEM would launch around 2009 to find its equation of state. The hypothetical DE has not led to solution, but rather a divergence of speculative ideas. Even if the JDEM were launched, it would not return a single particle, just an "equation of state" which could easily be explained by a changing speed of light. First the DE researchers split into 3 competing camps, each with its own Principal Investigator (PI), each proposing a different mission. (Remember SNAP and DESTINY? Read The Dark Side from 2006!)

In September 2008 NASA and DOE tried to bring the 3 teams together for a combined proposal. The PI hopefuls were reduced to advisors in the new plan. The merged mission looked so expensive that NASA asked ESA to contribute. DOE, feeling jilted for the Europeans, dropped out and pursued their own experiment. When all this mate-swapping was finished, the alphabet soup agencies were back to three competing proposals. reported in 2009, Dark Energy Rips Cosmos and Agencies. DE was called by a "fudge factor." As for JDEM, the article quoted, "This is an example of a satellite blowing up before it gets built." In addition to a divergence of speculative ideas, DE has led to splits in science. Cost of the proposed mission has risen from 600 million to at least 1.6 billion US.

As readers know, "dark energy" is not a repulsive force, but an effect created by a changing speed of light. It can be predicted by a simple algebraic equation, too simple for scientists to figure out. For the solution, check the physics blogs. Just beneath FQXi is a little blog known by Nature as "GM=tc^3." It's not the same as a paper in Nature, but it is very popular blog!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Emperor Has No Clothes

Someone has been a long way from the computer, so this story from almost escaped our attention:

Glimpse of Distant Universe Could Unravel Dark Energy [Secrets]

"A new radio telescope technique has allowed astronomers to glimpse distant reaches of the universe and could help answer some fundamental cosmic riddles, such as whether mysterious things like dark energy really exist.

"Dark energy is believed to constitute nearly three-fourths of the mass and energy of the universe. It is also thought to be responsible for the speeding up of the universe's expansion. Yet scientists still aren't sure dark energy even exists."

Doubts continue to grow, even in the press, about a repulsive "dark energy." Why is there not a single particle or track in a bubble chamber to prove its existence? If it composes 3/4 of the Universe, where is it? Why is it not in our solar system affecting planetary orbits? DE is promoted mostly by physicists, while few astronomers really believe it. The idea has led scientists further from the truth, that the speed of light is slowing.

Despite growing doubts, DE supporters still treat it as settled science. Just last week a respected scientist was seen lecturing about DE in South America. What will happen to his credibility when the truth comes out? Invisible "dark energy" may someday be described as physicists' mass delusion, or the Emperor's New Clothes.

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