Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Failure of Peer Review

Publisher Biomed Central has been forced to retract a large number of papers due to abuses of the "peer review" system. From the Washington Post:

Major Publisher Retracts 43 Scientific Papers Amid Wider Fake Peer Review Scandal

The system of "peer review" is supposed to ensure the quality of scientific papers. In fact the system rejects unconventional theories while allowing papers that are mediocre or completely false. Many, many more scientific papers are published full of questionable research. This scandal is barely the tip of an iceberg. Scientific research has become broken.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 2014

Here is one excerpt from the new book, THE YEAR OF LIGHT, March 2014 and the BICEP2 announcement:

Albert Einstein's birthday, March 14, is easy as Pi for physicists to remember because it is 3.14. In The Year of Light it will be even more memourable, 3.14.15. On March 14, 2014 Paul Steinhardt planned to post online a paper that would review and demolish cosmic inflation, showing its many inconsistencies and failings. Unfortunately Steinhardt was "scooped" by the dramatic BICEP2 announcement.

Already on March 7 someone on the BICEP2 team had leaked to Mark Kamionowski that they had found his long-sought gravitational waves. On March 12 Harvard-Smithsonian notified the press that a dramatic announcement was scheduled for Monday March 17, with Alan Guth and Andre Linde invited to attend. By Friday, March 14 speculation was abuzz around the internet and the scientific world that BICEP2 had discovered something important about the universe.

On March 17 the four chief scientists of BICEP2 staged a dramatic press conference at Harvard. They proudly wore matching blue BICEP2 T-shirts and sat in front of a diagram of cosmic inflation. They told the assembled press, and the whole world, that they had discovered gravitational waves from the time of inflation. Ron Cowen of Nature was in attendance, and he called the evidence a "smoking gun." That day Alan Guth said the BICEP2 result was 'definitely' worth a Nobel Prize.

The front-page headline in The New York Times read "Space time ripples reveal Big Bang's Smoking Gun," accompanied by a worshipful profile of Alan Guth. On March 18 Guth gave a triumphant talk at MIT. In attendance were Andre Linde and Ron Cowen. That week speculation turned to who would get the Nobel Prize. Guth? Linde? The BICEP2 team? Experts were proclaiming a gravitational wave revolution. Nature devoted a special issue to "Waves From the Big Bang".

In succeeding months the BICEP2 discovery had crumbled literally to dust. Doubts raised by other scientists, and better data from PLANCK, showed conclusively that BICEP2 simply saw dust in the sky. What had gone wrong? Why had a near-certain detection turn out to be false?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Waves and Dukes

(From Waikiki, 2006)

Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimming champion and a hero to us islanders. He popularised our Hawaiian sport of surfing to the world. At age 20, in an amateur meet, he broke the world record for the 100-meter freestyle. This feat by an islander was so surprising that the athletic union didn't recognise it for years. He won Olympic medals for the US in 1912, 1920 and the Paris Olympics of 1924.

Between Olympics Duke Kahanamoku gave surfing displays around the world. His exhibition in Sydney on December 23, 1914 is regarded as the start of Australian surfing. A statue of Duke stands at Freshwater Beach north of Manly. Thanks to the Duke, Queensland's Coast is known as Surfer's Paradise. He worked as a film actor in Hollywood, like yours truly. While living in Newport Beach, he single-handedly rescued 8 people from a sinking boat using his board.

Future generations will wonder why this planet was called "Earth," since it is mostly covered by water. If one grew up on an island, it is obvious that we are surrounded by the sea. Pacific navigators colonised the islands from Asia to Hawaii in a process that took centuries. That is a natural model for exploring other solar systems.

As we have seen many times, waves are important to physics and astronomy. The imprint of waves in the CMB can determine whether inflation happened or a changing speed of light. Maxwell's equations show that visible light, infrared and gamma radiation are all electromagnetic waves. Contributor Nigel has explored the waves in nuclear explosions. Waves touch us in sound and in the tides. The effect of tides on the Moon is one more clue that c has changed.

Because sound waves travel in air and water waves through water, it was long assumed that light travelled through some medium. Since light travels throughout the Universe, this ether was presumed to be invisible and fill all Space, just like "dark energy." Maxwell himself believed that Earth travelled through ether like a ship through water. The inferrence of an invisible ether lasted until Einstein introduced Special Relativity.

In 1924, while Duke Kahanamoku was competing in the Paris Olympics, another duke was making waves nearby. A graduate student in Paris named Duc Louis de Broglie suggested that electrons also took the form of waves. Their wavelength is given by the relation h/p. De Broglie published this simple relation in an extremely short PhD thesis.

Like an equation about light, Duc De Broglie's thesis was short but revolutionary. His thesis would have been rejected outright except for the support of Albert Einstein, who recommended De Broglie for a PhD. Einstein also nominated De Broglie for the Nobel Prize in 1929--nice to have friends like that. Like Duke Kahanamoku's 100-meter record, Duc de Broglie's achievement almost went unrecognised. Thanks to supporters like Einstein, we enjoy both surfing and De Broglie waves.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Evolution of the Moon in 2 minutes 40 seconds

2 minute 40 second video of the Moon's history. According to the most popular theory, the Moon was created when a Mars-sized planet struck the Earth. The impactor was vaporised, and Earth's mantle was blown off into Space. The pieces of mantle were large enough to coalesce in Earth orbit until they formed the Moon. The Giant Impactor theory became popular after Apollo Moon samples were found to resemble parts of Earth's mantle.

The Moon first coalesced less 1/4 its present distance from Earth. Since that time 4.5 billion years ago the Moon has been slowly drifting away. This is interpreted as tidal forces transferring angular momentum from Earth's rotation to the Moon. Apollo's Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment measured this distance increasing at 3.82 cm/yr, anomalously high. If the Moon were today gaining angular momentum at that rate, it would have been in the same place as Earth only 1.5 billion years ago.

If the speed of light were slowly decreasing, time for light to return from the Moon would increase each year, making the Moon appear to recede faster as seen by LLRE. Change in the speed of light, predicted by the simple expression GM=tc^3, precisely accounts for the lunar anomaly. This is striking evidence that the speed of light is slowing today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Apollo 13

Here I am with 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 are Fred Haise (left) and Jim Lovell (right). Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert passed away in 1982. On the anniversary of Apollo 13 the crew and some 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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Year

What a year has gone by! In May 2014 THE SPEED OF LIGHT was published, and is still selling briskly.

On March 17, 2014 the BICEP2 team announced "smoking gun" evidence in the microwave background of gravitational waves from inflation. This was immediately hailed as discovery of the century, worthy of Nobel Prizes. Those of us who understand light wondered if BICEP2 had seen something else. On February 1, 2015 a paper from the PLANCK team showed conclusively that the signal was just galactic dust. There is, as before, no evidence that "inflation" ever happened.

The idea, that the early universe briefly inflated many times faster than light, is at a dead end. It has not led to a solution, just an inflation of speculative ideas. Inflation is fundamentally untestable. Scientists can not time-travel to the first 10^[-33] seconds to observe inflation, and no conceivable experiment can even approach the conditions of the Big Bang. As Paul Steinhardt said in NATURE, inflation is scientifically meaningless.

A highly cited 1997 paper by Mark Kamionowski held out the hope that B-modes and gravitational waves in the microwave background could be signs of inflation. Despite many experiments seeking them, gravitational waves have never been detected. Some doubt that they exist or are detectable at all. Despite the hype, BICEP2's detection has turned to dust.

The inflation idea is thoroughly discredited. There is no evidence for it. The BICEP2 fiasco has brought discredit to the Big Bang and science itself. Now there is room for a better idea, a universe that can be explained with simple equations. Though it seems dark and mysterious, we live in a universe of light.

GM=tc^3, where G is Newton's gravitational constant, M and t are Mass and age of the universe. This universe has a characteristic scale R=ct. In Planck units these two equations combine as M=R=t. Mass, size, and age of our big universe are all related to the microscopic PLANCK units!

M=R=t is the simplest equation ever! A child could understand it! Why has it remained undiscovered until now? These will be some exciting years.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Year of Light

2015 is the International Year of Light, as proclaimed by UNESCO along with the International Astronomical Union and other organizations. It is 1000 years since Ibn Al-Haytham wrote the first treatise about light. 1815 saw Fresnel's work on refraction, and in 1865 Maxwell's equations showed that light is a form of electromagnetism. Of course we remember Einstein's General Relativity in 1915 and discovery of the microwave background in 1965. This is a very special and exciting year.

Last year saw BICEP2 claim "smoking gun" evidence of gravitational waves, which was later found to be just galactic dust. Today the old inflation idea is in serious disrepute. Cosmic inflation is untestable and therefore scientifically useless. The story of this so-called discovery of the century, and inflation's collapse, could fill a book.

It is also time to draw attention to a better idea, that our universe is explained by some extremely simple equations. These make the prediction that the speed of light is slowing, something that can be tested with more accurate clocks. Starting in 2016 the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space may find a "c change" in science.

The new book project is THE YEAR OF LIGHT:

We hope you enjoy it, tell your friends, and consider backing. One candle can light the darkness.
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