Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Koala Mania!

Q: What eats eucalyptus, is handy and economical? A: Koala 12-pack!

Scientists at the University of Queensland have produced 12 test-tube koalas. They are part of an artificial insemination programme to help preserve the species. The programme will lead to the first koala sperm bank, letting researchers screen out koala diseases. The koala is vulnerable to extinction in parts of Queensland and New South Wales.

The programme is a joint project with the Zoological Society of London, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Dreamworld, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and David Fleay's Wildlife Park. Australia has many private zoos in addition to Steve Irwin's. Perhaps this research can be applied to other threatened marsupials, like the Tasmanian Devil. Visit your local zoo today!

Speaking of endangered species, the Hubble Space Telescope will be repaired in a mission scheduled for '008. The success of the last 3 missions inspecting their spacecraft was a deciding factor. If anything goes wrong, a second shuttle will be available for rescue. Of course there will be risk, but risk is how things get done. Since the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey, we have dreamed about astronauts performing repairs and rescues in Space.

I also took the photo below. Koalas have long known that GM=tc^3, but have not told humans because we are not intelligent enough. Koalas have a range of sounds to communicate over long distances. They don't need to work and sleep 18 hours per day. Which species is smarter?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stump the Cosmologist

Cosmologist Sean Carroll admits that he couldn't figure out what these two crescents were. Come on Sean, there are only two crescent objects visible from a planet with a blue sky. See comment #1 for the answer.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cassiopeia A

The Spitzer Space Telescope made this infrared photo of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. This is the brightest radio source outside our own solar system. From the photo we see that this supernova blew up in concentric layers, each composed of different elements. This echoes the progenitor star's makeup, with light elements like hydrogen in the outer layers and heavier elements within. The symnetry of this explosion casts doubt on current theories of supernovae.

A supernova, even in a distant solar system, releases enough radiation to kill every living thing on Earth's surface. These explosions also created the heavy elements that life is made of. Despite their life-or-death importance, little is known about the causes of supernovae. We know that a star in its lifetime somehow maintains an equilibrium between outward radiation pressure and gravity's tendency to make the star collapse. As it uses up its store of hydrogen and helium, the star hungrily moves up the periodic table burning heavier elements. When the elements up to iron are consumed, the star can no longer maintain equilibrium and collapses catastrophically.

The October issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN summarises what is known about core-collapse supernovae. How the collapse turns into an explosion has been a mystery. The very power source of supernovae has been unknown. Until recently it was thought that the explosion was asymnetric, with one finger of the explosion escaping the inward fall. This photo shows that the explosion is so symnetric that the star's layers are preserved. A better theory is needed.

In 1979 the Soviet astrophysicist Shklovsky predicted that Cas A contained a Black Hole at its centre. This point-like source of radiation was detected by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in 1999. The singularity may have been there even before the star was born. Presence of a Black Hole caused a primordial gas cloud to collapse until nuclear fusion ignited. Radiation balanced gravity within the star for billions of years until the nuclear fuel ran out. When the stars layers suddenly collapsed into the singularity a huge explosion occured. Black Holes have more than enough energy to account for supernovae.

The primary evidence for "dark energy" are redshifts from Type Ia supernovae. Although little was known about what causes them, they were thought to be reliable standard candles for measuring expansion. Recently the Supernova Legacy Survey has discovered SNLS-03D3bb, a Type Ia with twice the luminosity of a standard Type Ia. It will be necessary to somehow identify these "super-Chandrasekhar" supernovae to prevent them from messing up the luminosity-redshift curve.

Despite these questions, the supernova cosmologists think that the way to explore "dark energy" is to find still more supernovae. They have proposed the expensive JDEM mission to find thousands of Type Ia's. They believe that will somehow distinguish between the myriad models of "dark energy." Any number of variables, from non-standard supernovae to a changing speed of light, can make it appear that the universe is accelerating.

On the other hand, there are inexpensive ways to verify that c is changing. We can do so by comparing solar evolution with Earth's temperature record, by using corals with lunar ranging to measure the Moon's apparent recession, or by laboratory experiments to measure c. Multiple lines of evidence point to a c change in physics. If you wish to believe in "dark energy," that will cost you about a billion dollars.

Today's Cassini photo is of Janus over Saturn on September 25. This little moon is about 180 kilometres long. The surface is covered with many craters from impacts with many objects. It is also covered with a layer of fine-grained icy materiel, similiar to Enceladus. Janus and Epimethus share the same orbit, periodically changing places.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimming champion and a hero to us islanders. He popularised our Hawaiian sport of surfing around 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 1924.

Between Olympics he 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 home to 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. Maxwells 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 inference of an invisible ether lasted until Einstein introduced Special Relativity.

In 1924, while Duke was competing with Johnny Weismuller in the Olympics, a graduate student named 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. His thesis would have been rejected outright except for the support of Albert Einstein. Einstein also nominated De Broglie for the Nobel Prize in 1929--nice to have friends like that.

As the divine Kea has divined, I have been working on a book. The book will contain just one equation, but answer many questions about the Universe. Would anyone want my picture on a book cover? We will find out.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


The Crab Nebula is the remains of a supernova visible in 1054 AD. Here it is imaged simultaneously in X-Rays by Chandra (green), by the Hubble Space Telescope (blue) and in infrared by Spitzer (red). It is nice when groups cooperate. The white dot in the centre is the Crab pulsar spinning like a beacon due to some unknown (singularity?) power source.

Disturbing story from THE AUSTRALIAN: "The nation's most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don't wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned meat that attracts voracious animals. In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame."

Australia is a sunny place with many women in science. We wear shorts in Summer because the weather is hot. Aboriginal women wear even less and are perfectly happy. The cleric's statement shows what we are fighting for.

Spitzer has also discovered two of the most distant galaxies ever found. Galaxy 1417 (top) and Galaxy 964 (bottom) were intitially discovered by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. We see them at redshift 7.5, when the Universe was only 700 million years old. They appear to be about 500-600 million years old, meaning they formed very soon after the Big Bang. How can galaxies with central Black Holes form so early? Evidence is mounting that supermassive Black Holes are primordial, another indication of a changing speed of light.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


In response to another blogger, I have found a better graph of the WMAP Year One angular correlation function. This is from Glenn Starkman and Dominik Schwarz in Scientific American August 2005. The inflationary paradigm predicts that density fluctuations are the same at all scales, leading to the red prediction curve. In fact fluctuations are nearly zero for angles greater than 60 degrees. Note the error bars--inflation's prediction is ruled out by both WMAP and COBE.

Now that the data is here, expect either willfull ignorance or a barrage of questions looking for openings to attack the theory. Having just read Lee Smolin's "The Trouble With Physics," it is becoming apparent to this young mind just how petty scientists can be. Despite that, who is smiling in the pictures? Discovery is still a thrilling adventure!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dark Energy Doesn't Exist

XMM-Newton gave us this X-Ray photo. Cluster RXJ0847.2+3449 is about 7 billion light-years away. We see the cluster as it was when the Universe was half its present age. This pretty picture, containing dozens of galaxies, has much to do with cosmology. X-Ray spacecraft give us more evidence that "dark energy" doesn't exist. From ASTRONOMY magazine:

"Using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space observatory, a team led by Alain Blanchard of the Astrophysics Laboratory of the Midi-Pyrenees Observatory in France found galactic clusters whose distance corresponds to nearly halfway back toward the beginning of time. Composed of hundreds or thousands of galaxies, clusters form over billions of years as gravity pulls matter together. But roughly five billion years ago, dark energy became the dominant force in the universe, expanding space and rendering it even more difficult for gravity to sculpt its masterworks."

"As dark energy dilutes the matter, galaxy clusters should become fewer and farther between. So when Blanchard's team surveyed clusters that predate the onset of dark energy, they should have found many more than exist today. Instead they found significantly fewer--suggesting that matter has continued to gravitationally coalesce over time, that there is four times as much dark matter as previously believed, and that dark energy is nothing more than a fantastic illusion."

Bee's Backreaction October 21: "Globular clusters show little or no evidence for dark energy."

Discovery of the rebellious supernova SNLS-03d3bb further confronts "dark energy." Redshifts are the only evidence of cosmic acceleration, and this Type Ia doesn't support the paradigm. Despite all this, people claiming to be scientists have been telling the world that DE exists. How long can this go on?

One More X-Ray Photo

This X-Ray image is from the Japanese ASCA satellite. The CHICCAGO (Chasing Identity of Complex ASCA Galactic Objects) survey locates these X-Ray sources and correlates them to supernovae or other objects. This is source AX 3185015-0025, the X-Ray counterpart to Supernova remnant 32.4. Additional sources from the XMM-Newton spacecraft are shown in blue. Thanks to Gemma Anderson from University of Sydney for this photo.

Dennis Overbye in today's New York Times: "Critics of the Big Bang mutter darkly that all these mysterious elements in the equation are reminiscent of the epicycles, circles upon circles added to the orbits of the planets back in the Middle Ages to maintain the appearance that they were circling the Earth. Sometimes I wonder if the astrophysicists have been too glib for their own good. By adding dark energy and dark matter on top of black holes, they have overextended the 'dark' brand just when we need a fresh dose of wonder."

As a representative of the mainstream, Overbye must now repeat the sentiments of many physicists that "DARK ENERGY" DOESN'T EXIST. The Big Bang would indeed be in trouble if it relied upon these epicycles. We need to ask, why a Big Bang? Why does the Universe expand in the first place?

Scale of the Universe is its age multiplied by c, R = ct. As t increases R expands. A child can understand it.

The Universe can't expand at the same rate forever, so c is further related to t by GM = tc^3. This explains the "dark energy."

Since "dark energy" was considered a hot topic, to advance one's career physicists had to profess its existence. Many friends have been forced to lecture about DE even when personally doubting its existence. Do we all recall the Emperor's New Clothes? No doubt his suit was made of "dark energy." We can infer its existence by the reactions of the physicists fawning over it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Flying By Enceladus

I've been working all day on Enceladus research. This is a composite of the third Cassini flyby on Bastille Day, 2005. The South Pole region has the highest temperatures of the surface. It is the source of gaseous geysers jetting into Space, resupplying Saturn's E Ring.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Into the Infrared

The James Webb Space Telescope will extend our observations into the far-infrared, putting us a bit closer to the Big Bang. I had the good fortune to interview with Chief Scientist John Mather, who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on COBE. Since JWST will look at similiar wavelengths to SNAP/JDEM, it can also be used to find high-redshift supernovae. Such a survey could be done at extremely low cost because it could be "piggybacked" onto other observations. Robert Kirschner has a proposal to do exactly that. JWST wil be able to find 50-100 supernovae, less than the thousands a dedicated mission could find but enough to verify that c has been changing.

The Spitzer Space Telescope has shown us some fascinating pictures from the infrared sky. This is Herbig-Haro object 49-50, a baby star in the making. It spirals through a dust cloud jetting off radiation in its wake. A tiny Black Hole would behave exactly like this. Jets are a telltale sign of a singularity.

Another two galaxies are mating, NGC 2207 and IC 2163. Their cores burn blue with high-energy radiation, while their disks glow in the infrared. The many blue spots reveal additional singularites in addition to those at the galactic cores. Galaxies could be full of Black Holes.

Though it is touted as a sucessor to the Hubble Space Telescope, JWST will look at different wavelengths. Hubble will long be valuable for its optical and ultraviolet capabilities. Hopefully HST can be refurbished for a long life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stirring Things Up

Today's Cassini photo was taken September 25. Saturn's F Ring is pulled into knots and curls by the influence of unseen satellites. These objects have not been seen, but we can detect their influence. Small Black Holes could be closer than we think, maybe in our neighbourhood.

The infra-red photo below is from the Spitzer Space Telescope. 210 million years ago the dwarf galaxy M32 smashed into Andromeda, creating ripples in the bigger galaxy's disk. Andromeda is slowly approaching our galaxy and will collide with us in 5-10 billion years. There is unseen mass between them, possibly ten times a galaxy's mass pulling the Milky Way and Andromeda together.

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.

Final photo is from the Hubble space Telescope. The Antennae galaxies NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 are in the process of colliding. I prefer to call this "mating."

A physicist can go with the flow, avoid risk, and not stand out. One can profess that the Universe is dominated by "dark energy" and the Sun circles the Earth. Such people end up complaining about their unsatisfying lives because they never make a difference. It is much more fun to stir things up!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Celestial Sphere

What is this? It looks like the inside of a seashell or a Fibbonacci sequence, but it's the dome of San Francisco's new shopping centre. It was preserved from the department store that once occupied the site.

By 240 BC, many educated people believed that Earth was spherical. In that year Erastothenes, librarian of Alexandria, made a remarkable estimate of Earth's size. Making use of Pythagorean geometry, Erastothenes combined the Sun's altitude at different locations with estimates of the distance to those locations. He derived a circumference of 250,000 stadia. Though the exact length of a Greek "stadium" is unknown, Erastothenes' estimate was amazingly accurate.

Aristarchus of Samos, a later librarian of Alexandria, published two books about the universe. His work "On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon" contained estimates that were strikingly good for their time. Those distances were measured from the Earth, fitting an Earth-centred cosmology. The enormous distances to solar system objects may have started Aristarchus thinking about alternatives. He published another book that is now lost and known only through citations of contemporaries like Archimedes.

This second book introduced a cosmology with the Sun in the centre and Earth circling as a planet. Aristarchus also believed that the stars were immeasurably distant, to explain their lack of parallax. This second book caused great argument. Another contemporary wrote that Aristarchus should have been put on trial for impiety! The cosmology of Aristarchus was incredibly prescient for its time, and the reaction to it predated that given to Galileo and Bruno. (Did Aristarchus get nasty comments on his blog?)

In discussions online and at conferences, I have observed that "standard model" cosmology is in big trouble. It has harmed the reputation of science. Most people doubt the existence of "dark energies," and are waiting to hear alternatives. Once the initial barrier of resistance is broken through, there is a ready audience for better Theories.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

X-Ray Vision

CONSTELLATION-X will be composed of several telescopes. It will allow unprecedented resolution in X-Ray images, allowing us to observe matter spiralling into Black Holes! For those who believe in such things, it will observe clusters of galaxies as probes for the amount and evolution of "dark energy." CON-X is considered the next priority after the James Webb Space Telescope.

Thanks to the human spaceflight vision, we will develop the ATLAS V launcher. That will give us heavy-lift capability like the old Saturn V. It will allow all of the CON-X spacecraft to be launched at once, decreasing the cost of the mission. Human and robot Space programmes can aid each other.

CON-X is part of NASA'S Beyond Einstein program, which also encompasses JDEM and LISA. Because of the Joint Dark Energy Mission, we must choose which will launch first. In his talk at the AAS HEAD meeting, Chief Scientist Harvey Tananbaum emphasised that CON-X and LISA are approved by NASA (and JDEM is not). He also emphasised that the technology for CON-X is mature.

The CON-X team has settled on a single concept for the mission. "Dark energy" researchers are divided among SNAP, DESTINY or ADEPT concepts. This excludes other worthy concepts, like JEDI, that did not make the cut. Speculation about "dark energy" does not lead to a true Theory, but to a divergence of ideas.

BTW, this author is also part of the NASA programme. We deliver presentations on research that goes Beyond Einstein. If any school or astronomy club wishes a lecture, contact me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Madame Pele's Wrath

At 7:07 AM today, Madame Pele struck our Big Island with magnitude 6.6, centred about 19 km offshore. (For non-islanders, Pele is our resident fire goddess.) There is damage everywhere, but fortunately I have not heard of any deaths. Madame Pele is violent but merciful.

Like Olympus Mons, the Hawaiian Islands sit atop a hot plume rising from a planet's interior. As the Pacific Plate slides over this hotspot, old islands sink into the sea and new ones form. Our Big Island is the youngest, less than 1 million years old. As we have seen, Pele is still creating new land. Volcanic rocks are our favourite fencing materiel.

In about 80 million years the Big Island will return to the sea. To our Southeast, the new island of Loihi is already forming. Currently Loihi's summit is 1000 metres below sea level. The theory of continental drift was first proposed by Alfred Wegener, and they didn't believe him either.

The source of Earth's core heat has been radiating for billions of years. Old theories of radioactive decay simply cannot account for this energy. Nickel-iron meteorites approximate the composition of Earth's core, and they contain no radioactive elements. The source of the heat forming our planet comes not from geology, but from cosmology.

The immense energy forming our islands and continents is caused by a tiny singularity, barely one millimeter in diameter. The planet formed around this tiny object just as a pearl forms around a grain of sand. If not for this object, the planet would not exist at all. My home is a mess, but we owe our Big Island to Madame Pele.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Proof of "dark energy"

The Korean Peninsula from Space. Unlike the prosperous South, the North has energy shortages and no electricity after 9 PM. Their one bright spot is Pyongyang where Kim Jong Il and cronies keep their own lights on. Even China has more electricity.

Here is something to consider: If a blast had the yield of 1000 tons of TNT, maybe it really was 1000 tons of TNT. The Communist world has built Potemkin villages before. On July 4 North Korea launched 6 old Scuds to cover the failure of their ICBM. That same day the US Space Shuttle launched successfully.

Physicists would say that a "dark energy" is causing those data points to crowd South. Perhaps dark energy explains the precession of Mercury too. Remember the Emperor's new clothes? Who wants to be the little boy pointing out that the fool is naked?

At yesterday's High Energy Physics Advisory Panel meeting, Michael Salamon of NASA HQ made these points:

* Original 2004 ordering of Beyond Einstein Missions was LISA (launch in 2013), Con-X (launch in 2018), with Einstein Probes initiating as funds were provided (JDEM, Inflation Probe, Black Hole Finder Probe)

* FY 05 Presidential Budget delayed LISA and Con-X by a year, and deferred the Einstein Probes to beyond the budget horizon.

* Intense focus on Dark Energy has created programmatic pressure to consider placing JDEM at top of BE queue.

Thanks to Nigel for citing condensed-matter theorist Phil Anderson commenting in Cosmic Variance that Dark Energy Might Not Exist. Blogger Sean argues that the accelerating universe is the best evidence for DE. You all know that acceleration is an illusion caused by c change. We remember Cassandra's warnings being ignored.

Now we have "dark energy researchers" fighting amongst themselves for which expensive DE probe will go while the whole project is likely to be deferred indefinitely. We have them pressuring to skip the queue ahead of Con-X. We all can see other blogs where string and LQG theorists rip each other apart. Is this a time to say I told you so?

Below is Saturn imaged by Cassini's Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIRMS). The strings of pearls are clearings in the cloud system. More than two dozen of these clearing occur at 40 degrees North latitude. Each clearing follows another with a regular spacing of 3.5 degrees.

As our Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea saw earlier, Saturn has an infra-red hot spot centred within 2-3 degrees of the South Pole, most visible at 17.65 microns. There is more going on in Saturn than meets the eye. Here is more energy than humans could desire.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Today's Cassini photo is a mosaic of Saturn eclipsing the Sun. The known Rings are visible, along with some that were just discovered. When you closely observe raindrops, they form spheres in freefall. Large objects under the influence of gravity form spheres, and the Universe is very large.

Both Phil Plait and Steinn Sigurdsson were at the High Energy Astrophysics Division Meeting. Having been to both COSMO and HEAD, I can add a few observations. Though COSMO should have been a welcome venue for "dark energy" research, the SNAP team sent just one researcher to do a presentation. The poor woman was asking around for a ride because she had no way of getting from Lake Tahoe back to Berkeley. Is SNAP running out of petty cash?

HEAD emphasised X-Ray and Gamma Ray astronomy. We saw fascinating results from GLAST, Chandra and other experiments. Saturday morning's talks emphasised the next stage, Constellation-X. That will be a formation of 3-4 satellites acting as interferometers for high-resolution X-ray images. Chief Scientist Harvey Tananbaum made some important points:

1) CON-X is the next priority after the James Webb Space Telescope.

2) CON-X and LISA are approved programs (unlike JDEM?)

3) With the ATLAS V booster, Con-X can be fitted into a single launch.

The Supernova Acceleration Probe (SNAP) is one of three approved concepts for a Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM). JDEM must compete with CON-X and LISA to be next to launch. The crowd from Goddard Space Flight Center was solidly behind Con-X. Even Roger Blandford avoided mentioning "dark energy."

Mahndisa has noted that these funding issues have been covered up. Within the next year we must decide which mission is next. This decision was forced on us by the SNAP team. What would happen if people find out that acceleration and "dark energy" don't exist? Now you see why supernova researchers have tried to squelch GM=tc^3.

The photos below were taken by the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys. Jupiter's Great Red Spot has been joined by a Little Spot. In April the Little Spot grew large enough to turn red. This is caused by dredging up of darker materiel from deep within Jupiter. Like a tornado's funnel cloud, these features reach deep into the atmosphere. This indicates that Jupiter's interior is warmed by a hidden heat source.

For string theorists eating each other, look elsewhere. This site will strive to have the real science.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

That's No Moon, It's a Space Station

Ed Morana of Tracy, California took this photo of ISS transiting the Moon. He used his own camera and a backyard telescope. It looks like we are nearly there. As mentioned before, I've been at the AAS HEAD Meeting. Compared to COSMO the papers are less speculative, with little mention of strings or "dark energy."

In his Friday talk, Roger Blandford of KIPAC urged us to attack fundamental problems directly, instead of "assumption-fitting model-building." He joined those calling the current physics "epicycles." Though he has previously lectured the public about it, he avoided mentioning "dark energy." Welcome to the team, Dr. Blandford.

Pythagoras is known for his theorem about triangles, though he probably learned that from Babylonians. He encouraged his followers to have many interests, making contributions to music and astronomy. As a musician, he is credited with the idea that "music of the spheres" described the planets. As a mathematician, Pythagoras was inspired to claim that that "all is numbers," meaning that everything in the world could be described by equations. This idea is the basis of modern physics. Pythagorean ideas began a quest that would last thousands of years, to find equations describing the Universe.

To please his musician's ear, Pythagoras sought a "cosmic harmony." A sphere is simply a circle of three dimensions rather than two. Reasoning that the most harmonious shpae was a circle, he theorised that Earth was spherical. This theory, born from a first principle, turned out to be correct. Today's science seeks to explain the Universe from such principles.


The American Astronomical Society High Energy Astrophysics Division (AAS HEAD) Meeting coincided with a visit by the Navy's Blue Angels. Their low-level maneuvers are spectacular to behold. I managed to photograph four F-18's at rooftop level. Few thrills match that of scientific discovery, but flying comes close.

Events are happening faster than one person can write about them. The Cassini spacecraft made a flyby of Titan on October 9, and will visit Titan again on October 25. On September 25 at Kennedy Space Center, the huge door to the Operations and Checkout building was opened for the first time in 20 years. This building was where the Apollo spacecraft were assembled. The photo from April 1, 1969 shows the Apollo 11 Command and Service Modules in the foreground.

On October 6 the US released a new National Space Policy supporting visits to the Moon, Mars and Beyond. This report describes both military and civilian Space programs. The illustration from Space.com shows an unmanned aerial vehicle similiar to the Predator and a two-stage launch system for military payloads. What is that in the lower right? It looks like a Long-Range Strike Aircraft (LRSA) capable of reaching anywhere in the world from bases in the US. Is the public supposed to know about that? Hello?

Monday, October 09, 2006


What a happy surprise! After just one week the post on Philica.com has broken into their top 15. Blogger Bill Lama has chosen the October 3 photo to illustrate The Female Brain. Thanks to physicist Katie Freese for snapping that photo. The number of women is science increases every day.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail: "According to new research, heterosexual women with post-secondary degrees are more likely to reach orgasm than their less-educated counterparts."

"There is also a higher incidence of orgasm in women who speak English at home, have a higher household income or hold a managerial or professional job, the Australian study found."

"The telephone survey was conducted by researchers from Sussex University in England and the universities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. More than 10,100 men and 9,100 women ages 16-59 across Australia participated in the survey."

From my experience, I can only support their findings. Go get those advanced degrees, ladies! At this week's conference, I hooked up with Gemma from University of Sydney, who was Tamara Davis' observing partner. Gemma's research is also fascinating and will be subject of an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Swimming Upstream

I photographed trout in the Truckee River, the only river that empties into Lake Tahoe. Our form of life depends upon liquid water, which makes up 70% of human bodies. Liquid water only exists at temperatures above 273 degrees Kelvin, and Earth's average temperature is about 283K. We occupy a very narrow temperature range.

According to the Standard Solar Model, life as we know it could not have evolved here because when Earth was formed the Sun was only about 75% as luminous. Power is related to temperature by the Sefann-Boltzmann Law P = aT^4. Earth's temperature would have been (.75)^{1/4} or 93% of its present value. At a temperature of -10 C Earth would have been frozen solid, making evolution of life unlikely. Fortunately the Sun turns its fuel to energy according to E = mc^2. Speed of light c has changed in exactly the amounts needed to keep the Sun constant.

The first Earth life was probably bacteria living below the surface. Sea life evolved next, and was confined the water for much of Earth's history. The trout must think it amazing that we survive above the surface, and would drown in water. We are one step in an evolution where the next stop is Space.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

c change, see physics change

AUSTRALIA and South Africa are the shortlist for the Square Kilometer Array, a next-generation radio telescope to be completed around 2016. The Australian site in our western desert, is unique for its vast open space, stable politics, and isolation from radio sources. With all those antennas they will get excellent television reception.

Paul Davies, Tamara Davis, and Charles Linaweaver published a Letter to Nature about changing constants. A few words about Tamara Davis: She works on cosmology and the origins of life. She has been a ski instructor, gymnastics coach and surf lifeguard. Tamara was on Australia's Ultimate Frisbee Team and is an all-around exemplary woman.

As Mahndisa pointed out, someone named Duff tried to refute them. He was not accepted by Nature and forced to post his rebuttal on arxiv. How the world has changed! Not long ago people who said the constants are changing were completely ignored. I still hope that all ideas get heard so that you can decide which is best. Our turn on arxiv is coming soon. Today I'm at another conference and things are moving forward quickly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

COSMO 2006

Lake Tahoe is high in the Sierras on the California-Nevada border. It was site of the COSMO 2006 conference, attracting scientists from around the world. I listened to Andrei Linde about eternal inflation and Neil Turok about cyclic universes. On Friday we heard talks from theorist-author Lisa Randall and influential cosmologist Michael Turner.

Today I will focus on Turner's talk. Michael is often credited with coining the term "dark energy," yet he is willing to adopt other ideas. Among his bullet points:

* The Hot Big Bang model is "reality-based,"
(which is why CMB observers earned a Nobel prize today).
* The highly-touted "precision cosmology" depends on priors.

* "Measuring the gears is not the same as understanding the machine."

* We are "over-invested" in string theory and inflation.

* There is no Plan B for cosmology.

He made a list of ideas that need to be investigated. The very top of his list was: VARYING CONSTANTS.

Recently I have replied to as many questions as possible. Despite my answering every objection, some will not be convinced. Don't worry guys, at one time only three people understood General Relativity. Even the most influential cosmologists are coming to our side. It is time to get with the program.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Kea always has fascinating posts. Thanks to Kea for encouraging the publishing of these ideas. Progress is being made on a gr-qc article. Though even arxiv has gatekeepers, more and more outlets are becoming available.

Astro.Philica is a new resource. It allows publication of observations and papers without the usual process of peer review. Nigel, Gebar and others, this is something you could use. To demonstrate, I have published a brief observation. When you have digested my 2000 characters, feel free to look around the site.

This observation alludes to a GM =tc^3 solution to the "Faint Young Sun" paradox. The Sun also converts its fuel to energy according to E = mc^2. The upward L/Lo curve is luminosity according to the Standard Solar Model. The green line indicates a level to keep Earth above the freezing point. When c change is factored in, instead of an upward curve the Sun's energy output has been nearly constant. Life on Earth has been able to evolve over billions of years. If c had not changed in the amounts predicted, we would not be around to argue about it.
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