Thursday, March 31, 2011


Last year friend Jennifer Ouellette wrote this for Discovery News:

Graphite Whiskers to Determine Fate of Our Universe?

Graphite is the carbon form seen in pencils, which are all a cosmologist really needs to work. By exposing graphite to common adhesive tape, physicists have produced graphene, a material with many potential uses. The APS meeting in Dallas last month was full of presentations on graphene and its applications. Recently graphite has been found to occur naturally in tubelike whiskers, even in Space. Today graphite whiskers have been found in Moon samples.

Apollo 17 landed in Mare Serenitatis. The Sea of Serenity is said to form one eye of the Man in the Moon. Mare Serenitatis was also home to the fictional Moon Kingdom in SAILOR MOON before it was overcome by cosmic dark energy. Apollo 17also carried Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist yet to have explored the Moon. Evidence from the Moon may be dark energy's undoing.

Our Apollo samples are over 40 years old, yet they still yield new discoveries. Examining Apollo 17 regolith samples using the technique of Raman spectroscopy, scientists at JPL have found traces of graphite whiskers. They could be leftovers from 3.9 billion years ago, when the Moon and solar systems underwent a Late Heavy Bombardment of meteors. The whiskers would have arrived on the Moon via meteorites, having formed in deep Space.

In 2008 other astronomers found traces of graphite whiskers in 3 different meteorites. Graphite dust may be common in the Universe. The dust would block light in infrared wavelenghts. If so, its presence might dim the light from distant supernovae. That dimming is the only evidence of "cosmic acceleration" or "dark energy." Other sorts of cosmic dust might also explain away dark energy.

Redshifts are related to the speed of light. The other explanation is that the Universe is not accelerating but the speed of light is slowing down. If the "accelerating" redshifts are caused by dust, there is other evidence for c slowing. Since this blog started, evidence for c change has also been found from the Moon. Like whiskers on the Man in the Moon, alternatives to "dark energy" continue to sprout.

UPDATE: "Dark energy" skeptic Subir Sarkar of Oxford reports that the Hubble WFC2 data only rules out some void models, not others. An assertion in the press that DE's existence has been proven is premature, to say the least.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inflation May Need Air

In the late 1970's, when rising prices were on everyone's mind, Alan Guth and others proposed that the universe had also suffered from inflation. According to inflation, when the universe was only 10^{-33} seconds old it expanded at warp speed, many times faster than light. Though it appeared to solve some puzzles in cosmology, inflation would violate both the First Law of Thermodynamics (conservation of energy) and Relativity's stipulation that nothing travels faster than light.

To power inflation, physicists had to infer repulsive "scalar fields" or "inflatons." None of these imaginary forces has ever been observed in nature. Inflation can never be demonstrated by experiment--humans can not time-travel to the first 10^{-33} seconds to observe inflation, and no human experiment can approach the titanic energies near the Big Bang. Nevertheless, inflation theories have been a cottage industry for 3 decades.

In the cover story of this month's SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, cosmologist Paul Steinhardt asks:

The Inflation Debate: Is the theory at the heart of modern cosmology fundamentally flawed?

"In brief: Cosmic inflation is so widely accepted that it is often taken as established fact. The idea is that the geometry and uniformity of the cosmos were established during an intense early growth spurt.

"But some of the theory’s creators, including the author, are having second thoughts. As the original theory has developed, cracks have appeared in its logical foundations.

"Highly improbable conditions are required to start inflation. Worse, inflation goes on eternally, producing infinitely many outcomes, so the theory makes no firm observational predictions."

Steinhardt, one of inflation's founders, has abandoned the idea and is now advocating a cyclic universe. Other alternatives have also appeared. A cosmology where light was much faster in the early universe would sidestep the problem of expanding faster than light. Varying c would solve the same problems that inflation claims--why the universe appears uniform and why it is at a critical density. For inflation to work, the overall density must be tuned to a very precise value. According to GM=tc^3 the "critical" density is the stable density.

Inflation appeared to solve cosmological puzzles and provided much food for thought. Though a useful step, inflation can never be proven. Unlike inflation, a GM=tc^3 model makes a surprising and testable prediction--light is still slowing down at a tiny rate. Evidence for a "c change" may be here with us today.

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Monday, March 28, 2011


NASA concept for a long-duration exploration vehicle capable of travel to Mars and beyond. Nautilus-X would be assembled near Earth, tested by journeying to lunar orbit, and be reused for different missions. A centrifuge is included to help the crew cope with microgravity, though the wheel doesn't seem to have much headroom. This design isn't as simple and sexy as 2001's Discovery, and would have serious problems with crew radiation exposure. Still it is nice to see someone in the office thinking this far ahead.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yet Another Top 50!

This scientist has not been awarded the million dollar Shaw Prize, the half million dollar Gruber Prize, a MacArthur Grant or this year's Einstein Prize. Experience shows that people who have those things remain insecure, living in fear that someone will show that cosmic acceleration doesn't exist. Instead of getting greedy for more, we are happy for all the people who do care. Another Top 50 blog list has been discovered, from

50 Phenomenal Astrophysics Blogs

"GM=tc^3: Subtitled Adventures in Space/Time, Riofrio's blog explores the cosmos with a scientific perspective and a curiosity for the unknown."

Scientific perspective and curiosity for the unknown is all one really needs. Thank you, Laboratory Technician! Science could not function without you!


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Dark Strikes Back

This blog has often reported speculation about a repulsive "dark" energy. Curiously, Dark Lords refuse to acknowledge alternative ideas. From their first paper back in 1998, they have tried to rule out other explanations. A article Bizarre Dark Energy Theory has been picked up by everyone from CBS to the Albuquerque Express. Using data from Hubble's WFC2 camera, which astronauts installed during STS-125, a Dark Lord claims to have ruled out an alternative to DE.

This may be referring to the "Bubble" hypothesis from Oxford's Timothy Clifton and Pedro Ferreira. In this theory, we live inside a cosmic "bubble" of different density. This led SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN to ask in a cover story: Does Dark Energy Really Exist? We reported in 2009:

Now They Ask: Does It Really Exist?

Alternately the Dark Lord may be trying to squelch a theory from Blake Temple of UC Davis and Joel Smoller. Their work suggests that our galaxy is in the middle of a density fluctuation that mimics the effects of acceleration. This led NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC to ask:

Dark Energy's Demise?

Today there are multiple alternatives to a repulsive "dark" energy. The Dark Lord has not yet ruled out the simplest alternative, one that can not be ruled out no matter how many supernovae are found. Redshifts are proportional to v/c, velocity divided by the speed of light. The universe may not be accelerating, but the speed of light is slowing down.

Dark Lords can call this "Undesirable No. 1"

UPDATE: Void proponent and "dark energy" skeptic Subir Sarkar of Oxford reports that the WFC2 data only rules out some void models, not others. The assertion that DE's existence is proved is quite premature.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Herd in Dallas

This has been a very busy week at the huge American Physical Society meeting in Dallas. APS has taken over the convention center and most of the good hotels. There was a large and attentive audience for Monday's talk: Lunar Orbit Anomaly and GM=tc^3 Cosmology. Tuesday was filled with poster sessions and meetings with APS journal editors. Wednesday started with another meeting, this one with Physical Review Letters. The Physical Society of Japan is holding a collection for tsunami relief. Scientists came from every continent to hear talks.

In front of the convention center is this sculpture of cosmologists. The herd finds it easy to follow fashionable ideas, be they "inflation" or "dark energy." Has anyone told them the awful fate that awaits the end of their journey? How inflation can never be proven experimentally? How "dark energy" will be remembered alongside ether and epicycles? As physicists head for slaughter, they feel safe in their great numbers.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Supermoon Tonight

The view from my lanai. Everyone look at the Moon tonight! As with the planets, the Moon orbits in an ellipse. Tonight's full Moon coincides with perigee in the lunar orbit, leading to a "supermoon." The Moon will appear larger than ever before.

One moon ago February 21 this paper appeared from Lorenzo Lorio:

On the anomalous secular increase of the eccentricity of the orbit
of the Moon

The eccentricity of an ellipse measures its departure from a circle. According to Lorio, the Moon's eccentricity has increased at an anomalous rate. He is generous enough to examine a variety of possible causes, from General Relativity's Lense-Thirring effect to an undiscovered planet. If this effect is confirmed, it adds to a number of anomalies in solar system orbits.

Anomalies in orbits can have great significance. Mercury's elliptical orbit precesses at 5600 arcseconds per century, but a discrepancy of only 43 arcsec/century was enough to prove General Relativity. Readers of this blog know that the Moon is receding from Earth 1/3 faster than geology says. The anomaly may be predicted even more precisely than Mercury's precession! If you are in Dallas, Texas for the American Physical Society meeting next week, you might enjoy this talk:

Lunar Orbit Anomaly and GM=tc^3 Cosmology

ABSTRACT: Studies of the Moon at Johnson Space Center have confirmed a large anomaly in lunar orbital distance, with possible applications to Relativity. Our Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment has reported the Moon's semimajor axis increasing at 3.82 ± .07 cm/yr, anomalously high. If the Moon were gaining angular momentum at this rate, it would have coincided with Earth less than 2 Gyr ago. The Mansfield sediment (Bills, Ray 2000) measures lunar recession at 2.9 ± 0.6 cm/yr. Additional observations independently measure a recession rate of 2.82 ± .08 cm/yr. LLRE differs from independent experiments by 10 sigma. A cosmology where speed of light c is related to time t by GM=tc^3 has been suggested to predict the redshifts of Type Ia supernovae, and a 4.507034% proportion of baryonic matter (Riofrio 2004). If c were changing in the amount predicted, lunar orbital distance would appear to increase by an additional 0.935 cm/yr. An anomaly in the lunar orbit may be precisely accounted for, shedding light on puzzles of "dark energy.'' In Planck units this may be summarised as M=R=t.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Enceladus is Hot, Hot

Previously this blog has reported ever-increasing estimates of the heat coming from Saturn's moon Enceladus. Our Cassini spacecraft has found that little moon's South Pole is a "hot spot" spewing gas and water vapour into Space. Enceladus is a laboratory in which contains clues to a tiny Black Hole. A central singularity would affect our understanding of many objects, including Earth.

Way back in June 2006, the estimates of Enceladus' heat output were around 1 gigawatt. This was reported in Here Be Dragons.

"In 2005 our Cassini spacecraft made some amazing discoveries about Saturn and her moons. The moon Enceladus has a volcanic "hot spot" centred on its South Pole. The pole, which should be the coldest region on the moon, is the hottest! This spot emits an enormous plume of vapour which maintains Saturn's E Ring. Old theories of radioactive decay or tidal stress can not explain this hot spot.

"Enceladus' core and behaviour can be modelled with a central singularity of 10^12 kg. This mass is typical for a primordial singularity. This object consumes only 2.8 kg per year and generates 10^9 watts of radiation. Water and other molecules near this centre are heated to a plasma. Electrons are stripped from atoms, and the resulting ions are drawn into circular orbits. The resulting 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."

By December 2007, estimates of the heat were up to 6 GW, AGU's Expanding Universe.

"Monday morning in Moscone South Room 102 Carolyn Porco began a series of talks on Saturn moons. Jennifer Meyer made the surprise assertion that Enceladus' 6 GW of heat can not be accounted for by tidal forces. The conventional estimate from tidal heating is only 0.12 GW. The old hypothesis or "radioactive decay" does not work for these icy moons. In desperation some researchers are conjecturing a meteorite strike at the South Pole, a true deus ex machina. Enceladus' core is an excellent place to consider a Black Hole."

Hooray for Jennifer Meyer, young and daring to question the orthodoxy! This month estimates of the heat are up to 15.8 gigawatts!
JPL Press Release:

"Heat output from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus is much greater than was previously thought possible, according to a new analysis of data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on March 4.

"Data from Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer of Enceladus' south polar terrain, which is marked by linear fissures, indicate that the internal heat-generated power is about 15.8 gigawatts, approximately 2.6 times the power output of all the hot springs in the Yellowstone region, or comparable to 20 coal-fueled power stations."

15.8 gigawatts is far more than can be produced by radioactive decay, tidal forces, a meteorite strike, or any other theory so far considered. It is well within the range that could be produced by a tiny Black Hole. Saturn's little moon is a laboratory where we can observe the processes that created our Earth. Earth also generates internal heat, as if our planet were formed around a Black Hole. Earth also has a magnetic field, the existence of which baffled even Einstein. Rotation of the Black Hole would create a field that would not necessarily be aligned with Earth's geographic poles. These mysteries shoud make minds consider a Hole in the Earth.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PhD: Phobos and Deimos

3 conferences in 3 weeks, in 3 different cities! People actually get paid to have this much fun? The Phobos-Deimos conference is happening at NASA Ames in California. We just heard famous planetary scientist William K. Hartmann talk about theories of a late-heavy bombardment of asteroids. Evidence from Earth's Moon points to a huge storm of impacts 3.9 billion years ago. According to Hartmann, not all scientists agree. No one is sure how the Martian moons originated. Since Apollo, most have agreed that our Moon is the result of a giant impact. The answers may wait until people have visited Phobos and Deimos.


Sunday, March 13, 2011


As we watch the horrifying footage from Japan and elsewhere, hearts go out to the friends whose lives are affected. Previously this blog has warned of the dangers of tsunamis, which could touch every place from Hawaii to New York. The earthquake, and Earth's core heat, could be products of a tiny Black Hole in the Earth.

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 bay was created in an enormous tsunami.

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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Saturday, March 12, 2011

LPSC 2011

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, North of Houston. This week March 7-11 was the big Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in the Woodlands. Monday afternoon scientist Robin Canup lectured on formation of planetary satellites. Later Monday the MESSENGER team reported on the spacecraft's approach to Mercury orbit, due this St. Patricks Day!

Tuesday afternoon we heard new results from the Mars meteorite team at Johnson Space Center. Study of the Nahkla Martian meteorite show sings of carbonates, a key indicator of life. Tuesday evening the Antarctic Meteorite search (ANSMET) reported on 1200 new meteorites recovered from Antarctica to JSC.

Thursday morning Japanese researchers reported that the Hayabusa spacecraft had returned tiny particles of asteroid regolith to Earth. The roundtrip journey to asteroid Itokawa took seven years! On the way three of the spacecraft's four ion thrusters failed. Finally in 2010 the sample capsule returned by parachute to Australia. We hope to learn more about asteroids for future human missions.

We also heard the first news about the enormous earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The more we understand Earth and the processes within its interior, the better prepared we will be. The source of Earth's core heat could be mysterious as a Black Hole.

In Woodlands you might also have heard this presentation:

Lunar Orbit Anomaly and GM=tc^3 Cosmology

INTRODUCTION: Studies of the Moon, made thanks to Johnson Space Center, have confirmed a large anomaly in lunar orbital evolution. The Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment (LLRE) has reported the Moon's semimajor axis increasing at 3.82±.07 cm/yr, anomalously high. Tidal data indicates a recession rate of only 2.9 ± 0.6 cm/yr. Additional observations independently measure a recession rate of 2.82 ± .08 cm/yr. A cosmology where speed of light c is related to time t by GM=tc^3 has been suggested to predict the redshifts of Type Ia supernovae. By this hypothesis, lunar orbital distance would appear to increase an additional 0.935 cm/yr. An anomaly in the lunar orbit may be precisely accounted for, shedding light on puzzles of "dark energy.'' This hypothesis may also explain the “faint young sun” paradox of astrophysics.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

More Life From Meteorites

Disclaimer: This scientist had the pleasure of working with researchers who found signs of fossilised life in an Antarctic Martian meteorite. Since 1996 many others have claimed alternate explanations for the fossils. The most recent research from the Mars meteorite team focused on magnetites. These were found in patterns that could not be produced except via biology. Though many have claimed in the press that the 1996 findings were disproven, the evidence for life in meteorites continues to grow.

Richard B. Hoover of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has spent the last 10 years travelling to remote spots like Antarctica in search of CI1 carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. These rare meteorites are thought to originate in asteroids and comets. In a paper published Friday in the Journal of Cosmology, he claims evidence that life is common in the solar system.

Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites

The Scanning electron Microscope image is from the Ivuna meteorite, found in Tanzania. This filament is encased in a carbonaceous sheath. It is very simlar to Earthly bacteria, both in shape and chemical makeup. It is hard to imagine how it could have formed, except through biology.

Using examples from multiple CI1 meteorites, Hoover advances the argument that life is common: in asteroids, moons and comets. Life's appearance on Earth could have been the result of meteorites/comets. We could all be descendants of Space travellers. Hoover's paper adds to evidence of life from multiple Martian meteorites. The evidence for extraterrestrial life continues to grow. As we dreamed via science fiction stories, life could be everywhere.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

STS-133 Memories

A couple more photos to remember the STS-133 launch. Waiting by the river in Titusville with about 100,000 others. Spaceflight has many supporters, of all ages worldwide and across the political spectrum.

Go, baby go! The STS-133 launch and smoke trail. It is amazing that humans can accomplish something like this.


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