Saturday, August 30, 2008

Angela Again

This week Forbes magazine again named physicist ANGELA MERKEL as the world's most powerful women. Because science jobs are so hard to find, she has been working outside the field of physics. Even if they must work in office hobs, we should still consider women such as Angela to be scientists. The selection of Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate has excited women of all political stripes. Many of us were deeply disappointed that Hilary Clinton did not get a similiar nod. Eventually even the US will have a woman leader. Despite all the challenges, women continue to advance.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Scuttle the Shuttle?

On August 9, the day after the Georgia invasion began, Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko photographed the battlefield for "humanitarian" reasons. The new conflict has made many nervous about cooperation with Russia. After the Shuttles are retired in 2010, Orion will take at least 5 years to be operational. During the gap, ISS astronauts would be dependent on the Russian Soyuz.

As relations with Russia are reassessed, uncertainty has grown about ISS support. Doubts exist whether Ares I will work at all or be ready in 5 years. Some have been arguing to extend Shuttle past 2010. On August 25, US Senators John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchison and David Vitter sent this letter to the President. (One of those senators is also a candidate for President.)

"Given all of these considerations, we believe that it is imperative, as NASA continues the transition from the Space Shuttle to the successor vehicles, that the means for producing additional flight hardware and obtaining additional flight engineering and support services, not be completely or irretrievably lost through destruction or deterioration, at least until a clear path to alternative launch capabilities is at hand. At a minimum, we request that you direct NASA to take no action for at least one year from now that would preclude the extended use of the Space Shuttle beyond 2010. We understand that several such actions are pending in the near future, and believe that allowing them to continue would remove an option for US human spaceflight capability that must not be irretrievably lost at this time."

Extending Shuttle past 2010 would be expensive and possibly dangerous. The fixed costs are 3 billion per year, even if Shuttles are only flown 1-2 times. Many of the 1970's parts would be difficult to replace. In his NASA blog, Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale has weighed in. He points to the many difficulties and risks of extending Shuttle past 2010.

"In probably 15 to 18 months would would have the parts to build that second tank -- only a year or so later than we needed them. So a new gap would form. Not between shuttle and orion but between shuttle and shuttle. And what would we get: even higher price per flight of an old technology which is not nearly as safe as we would like . . .

"Hey, I am the biggest shuttle hugger there is. I think it is the best spacecraft ever built. But I also deal in the real world. Where does the money come from? Where do the people -- who should be working on the moon rocket -- where do they come from? We started shutting down the shuttle four years ago. That horse has left the barn."

The vital tooling for 8.4 meter external tank is scheduled to be retired. Even if Shuttle never flies after 2010, the jigs would be needed for the DIRECT architecture. DIRECT would use the same launch pads and 4-segment boosters as Shuttle. This option should be preserved for the next administration.

The COTS program is an outside possibility. COTS D, an option that NASA has not yet ordered, would provide passenger transport to ISS. COTS D would have immediate commercial applications, such as bringing passengers to Bigelow's orbiting habitats. Possibly commercial Space would save us from the gap.

As this is written, Elon Musk's SpaceX is working feverishly. Sometime in September they will try for the fourth time to launch Falcon 1 into orbit. If this is successful, the larger Falcon 9 will be tested in 2009, with demonstration flights to ISS in 2010. If all goes well, passenger flights could start in 2011. We continue to wish them good fortune.

UPDATE: Both the Orlando Sentinel and report that NASA is now studying extending the Shuttle past 2010. That might prevent Launch Complex 39 from being modified, further delaying Constellation. These decisions are going to shape the next century in Space. Do people care?


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who Mourns For Adonis?

Americans, what does this resemble? This is the classic STAR TREK episode WHO MOURNS FOR ADONIS? The temple set is designed to make its occupant look big. It turns out that Apollo is not a God, but an alien whose flashy technology awed his audiences. As Arthur Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The blonde woman in the short skirt is Leslie Parrish, whose other notable credit was THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.

In photo below, viewscreen photos are from X-Ray spacecraft. Picture on the left is from SOHO and the right is from CHANDRA.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dark Side Losing Grip

Galaxy Cluster 2XMM J083026+524133 taken by the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. The blue glow is X-ray emission from gas at 100 million degrees K. The cluster was first discovered by the ESA's XMM Newton telescope. With a mass 1000 times that of our Milky Way, this is the most massive distant cluster yet found.

Discovery of this cluster has been claimed to be proof of 'Dark Energy.' The original paper makes no mention of DE, but the ESA Press Releasemakes the fantastic claim. The European Space Agency is trying to fund their own "Dark Energy" probe, so we can expect many other 'proofs' of its existence. Perhaps DE will be blamed for hurricanes.

Massive galaxy clusters like this are thought to be rare in the distant Universe. Finding a big one is thought to be due to DE, which would cause the Universe to pull apart in more recent times. According to their theories, the scientists do not expect to find any more. Their statement may sound foolish, for there could be many more big clusters out there. Since size of clusters is limited by a distance related to c, massive clusters indicate a changing speed of light.

In the Universe Today comments, we see how much ridicule DE claims get. Instead of the lone trolls that try to pester this blog, criticism of Dark Energy comes from all sides. While scientists compete for the biggest branes, their reputation continues to sink.

An upcoming paper by Jose Senovilla et al. in Physical Review D suggests that DE is a sympton of time itself slowing down. This is outwardly similiar to the work of David Wiltshire in New Zealand, whom Kea has pointed to. Lacking a mechanism, the Spanish team invokes the speculative world of "branes." Is the accelerated expansion evidence of a forthcoming change of signature on the brane? Slowing of time is mathematically equivalent to a changing speed of light.

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

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 25, 2008


The W5 star-forming region courtesy of Spitzer Space Telescope. The oldest stars are the two big blue dots, which lie at the cetre of large voids. Younger stars, pink in the photo, line the edges of these voids. A few stars can be seen forming at the tips of gaseous pillars. The pillars could be locations of Black Holes.

Speaking of simulations, yet another computer model claims to show how stars form in the galactic centre. Astronomers have long wondered how stars could form near the supermassive Black Hole without being torn apart. The new model imagines that the stars formed elsewhere as a cluster, and migrated toward the centre. No evidence supports this model, for one has ever found the trail of stars this would leave. The paper is in the August 22 issue of SCIENCE. In the same issue, another astronomer points out that the simulation does not necessarily correspond to reality.

If a galactic core can contain one Black Hole, it could harbour many more. The Big Bang may have created countless billion of Black Holes in a variety of sizes. If stars formed around them, presence of the singularities would prevent the stars from being torn apart. The immense temperatures and pressures near the Black Hole would provide the trigger to begin nuclear fusion. A Black Hole could exist in the second last place humans would expect, rising in front of our faces each day.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Los Angeles Convention Center August 12, 2008

We've not had a lot of pictures lately, so here is the SIGGRAPH convention August 11-15. This is an annual event for computer graphics and a whole lot of fun. There are presentations by major graphics houses like Pixar, Disney and ILM. Computer simulations pay a big part in today's science.

What is this, a time machine? It's a device to make accurate recordings of a human face for movies like BEOWULF. At the left are stereoscopic cameras. The spherical lighting pattern provides even illumination.

This is ASTRO BOY from the classic anime and an upcoming movie. Instead of actual observations, some cosmologists rely on computer simulations. No simulation should be confused with reality. My computer says that Lara Croft can run and jump with those breasts.

Check out the new Carnival of Space!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Dark Side

Good luck to Ethan on his new job starting today!

To preserve them for the future, some of the best "hate Riofrio" posts will soon be published. We must appreciate the many hours of anger that must go into these efforts. To keep Ethan from being misquoted or taken out of context, his entire post will be repeated. Unfortunately, space does not allow printing all the comments. From April 24, 2008:


Warning: Crazy talk ahead. Some of you may remember that I wrote about inflation and why its alternatives fail awhile back. Apparently, Louise Riofrio didn’t get the memo. When there’s misinformation about cosmology out there, it’s up to me to set the record straight. (And I am not alone.) Let me first remind you about one of the alternatives to inflation I debunked last month:

Add defects and vary the Speed of Light. This one’s out. Why? Because we would see defects in the Cosmic Microwave Background, and we don’t. The constancy of the speed of light is highly supported by experiments, but there is a theoretical disaster if it turns out that either c (the speed of light), G (the Gravitational constant), or h (Planck’s constant) changes: energy is no longer conserved in the Universe! It’s possible, but… yeesh!

Now, it is very important to consider alternatives to our cosmological model, and to test them as best as possible, both experimentally and observationally, as well as theoretically for consistency.

So let’s remember what inflation does for us: gives us a flat Universe, with the same temperature everywhere, without defects or ultra-high-mass relic particles, and the observed spectrum of fluctuations. Well, Louise comes out with this graph, which I assume comes from a popular science magazine:

Now, I’m not an expert on inflation, but I’m pretty adept with it. Inflation does not give a unique prediction like that for the angular correlation function. Each individual model of inflation does, but we don’t know what that model is. How do we figure it out? Measure the scalar and tensor indices, as well as other cosmological parameters, and then reconstruct the model of inflation from that. What’s Louise’s solution? Vary the speed of light and change the age of the Sun, Earth, and Universe. That could be why her work isn’t published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

There is crazy out there, folks. Even from people with Ph.D. degrees, sadly. Does inflation solve everything? No. But is the speed of light constant? Well, we can place limits on its variation from two major sources:

1. Quasar Absorption Lines: These can be used to measure the time variation in the speed of light, as the frequency of the absorbers are highly dependent on whether the speed of light stays the same or not. (For those of you who are experts, this is the same experiment that measures variations in the fine-structure constant.) The results for this place limits on the variation of the speed of light, c, to change by less than 0.24% over the last 10-12 billion years. (Remember, if you will, that the Universe is only 13.7 billion years old.)

2. Natural Nuclear Reactors: the Oklo Nuclear Reactors have been going strong for nearly 2 billion years. By measuring the rate of radioactive decay and isotope abundances, we can determine how much the fine structure constant, and therefore how much the speed of light, has changed. The limits from this are that over the last 1.7 billion years, the speed of light has changed, at most, by 0.02%.

Now what is Louise’s prediction? That the speed of light, c, changes as the age of the universe to the minus-one-third power (i.e., c ~ t-1/3). Over the same time as Oklo (where t changes from 12.0 billion years to 13.7 billion years), that would correspond to a change in the speed of light of 4.5%, or over 200 times what is observed.

Verdict? Inflation, valid. This alternative? Invalid. Very, very invalid. And don’t let anyone, even the Carnival of Space (which I love, is great this week, and you should check out), tell you different. You’ve got the info, now, and you know better.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 15, 2008

'Dark Energy' Bad For Spelling

This is an actual NASA Procurement Notice Title:


DESTINY (Dark Energy Space Telescope) is one of three competing concepts, along with SNAP and ADEPT for a DE mission. The competing teams have yet to agree on a concept, and are still not sure how the project will be funded. The hypothesis of a repulsive "dark energy" leads to a divergence of solutions, which will keep theorists in grants but not tell us anything about the universe.

In his December Physicsworld article, Lwrence Krauss describes the observational challenge:

"Existing data show that –1.2 < w < –0.8, which means that we know w is very close to the cosmological-constant value of –1. But since we have no theory whatsoever to guide us if w turns out not to equal –1, either today or earlier in cosmic history, we have to allow for the possibility that w varies arbitrarily with time. When this theoretical uncertainty is combined with the likely systematic uncertainty of observations — for example due to difficulties in determining the absolute brightness of supernovae — it will be very hard to tell whether the equation of state of dark energy actually deviated from –1 at any time in the past.

"Earlier this year I, along with Dragan Huterer at the University of Chicago and Kate Jones-Smith of Case Western Reserve University, calculated that even if 3000 supernova observations were made with a measurement accuracy slightly better than anything that has been possible thus far, then the constraints on the measured value might improve by at most a factor of 2 once the theoretical uncertainty in w is incorporated. In other words, –1.1 < w < –0.9 (New J. Phys. 9 141).

"But let us say, for the sake of argument, that the true value of the equation of state parameter is w = –0.96. Then, even if we are able to improve the existing uncertainty in w by a factor of 10 using a variety of proposed techniques beyond simply measuring distant supernovae, a value of w = –1 will only be two standard deviations away from the best fit value (which may not even correspond to w = –0.96). Unfortunately, such confidence intervals occur routinely in physics and, while suggestive, are not sufficient to claim a discovery.

As readers know there IS a theory. Three truly independent experiments: Type Ia supernovae, lunar laser ranging and the 'Faint Young Sun" show not just that c slows, but that it slows at exactly the rate GM=tc^3 predicts. Once we know what to look for, finding a signal in the data becomes easy.

The epicycles of "Dark Energy" will take a long time to die out. Billion-dollar Space missions are planned to find its "equation of state." Careers, reputations and even hoped-for trips to Stockholm now centre around its existence. Scientists have vested interest in promoting DE. Their reputation continues to erode with their spelling.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Enceladus Flyby

The excitement in Southern California was palpable. Monday August 11 our Cassini spacecraft made another close flyby of Enceladus' South Pole. The spacecraft also recorded occultations of light from the star zeta Orionis. By combining stellar occultation data with photos, we can get precise locations of the geysers. Upper photo shows Damascus Sulcus, one of the "tiger stripes" at resolution of 24 meters/pixel.

In the graphic below, the blue line is the path of starlight from zeta Orionis. Interruptions of starlight are labelled a, b, c,... Roman numerals are gas jets found in photographic images, which closely correspond with the stellar occultations. The sources of the jets are less than 300 meters across. Data indicates that the jets are blasting off with velocities greater than 600 m/sec. The surface is strewn with huge ice boulders, apparently throw off by the jets.

As readers of this blog know, Saturn and Enceladus are subjects of intense study. One of the first posts back in June 2006 was about Enceladus internal heat.

"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.

"Unless Saturn's Rings are replenished, they would decay within 100 million years. Then we would face the anthropic question of why they exist in the right time for humans to view them. Thanks to the Cassini spacecraft, we have witnessed the E Ring being resuppllied from a moon. This observation suggests that similiar processes maintain the rings indefinitely.

Back in December 007, the AGU meeting included a short talk by scientist Jennifer Meyer. The young woman asserted 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. Why do so many worlds have hot spots on their poles?

On October 9 Cassini will make its closest flyby, passing only 25 km from Enceladus! Already the spacecraft has found tantalising data and spectacular photos. Little Enceladus could hold wonders not yet imagined. It could even hide a small Black Hole.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Green Ghost

Astronomy is abuzz with discovery by 25-year old Hanny van Arkel of a galaxy unlike any ever found. The Dutch schoolteacher found this strange object while participating in the Galaxy Zoo. This project invites anyone to classify galaxies from the vast Sloan Digital Sky Survey database. Hanny will likely be named a co-discoverer, increasing respect for "amateur" astronomers.

This hot green ring of gas is a starless galaxy, radiating from an unseen energy source. The object radiates with a greater intensity and temperature than could be accounted for by normal means. The central void in this object would be an excellent placed to seek a Black Hole. There could be many more dark objects out there. The 71.62% of the Universe ascribed to "dark energy" may be hidden in the voids.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 08, 2008

Attitude Changes

From the Orlando Sentinel: The astronaut office is rumoured to be unhappy with design of the Ares 1. A solid-powered first stage can not be turned off or even throttled. Wehrner Von braun did not trust solids for crewed vehicles. The "stick" has vibration problems that would require isolation machinery for the crew. Poor performance has led to cutting things like the ability to recover on land. The problems have led to consideration of a new crew launch vehicle with two 4-segment boosters flanking a central stage powered by RS-68 engines. The new design would be very similiar to the DIRECT launcher.

SpaceX's Elon Musk is determined to recover from the August 2 launch failure. The problem has been traced to the new Merlin 1C regeneratively cooled engine (20-second video). The design circulates fuel around the combustion chamber, leaving some fuel after Main Engine Cutoff. Missing video released by SpaceX shows the first stage separating, then accelerating to bump into the second stage. The vehicle is then thrown into an uncontrollable spin. The problem did not show up on ground tests because it occurs at 10 psi and the ground tests are at 14.7 psi. Elon's commitment makes us hope that they will reach orbit next time.

Thanks to Mars Odyssey for hosting the Carnival of Space!


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Light Shines Through

From the National Space Society: The team of Stanley Von Medvey, Mike Snead, and NSS Governor Howard Bloom produced this video as a message for the next US President. In late June Colonel "Coyote" Smith announced the first solar power demo from Space. Legally it will be a student project, which gets around a lot of regulations! Japan is also working seriously on SSP. The International Space Station has given humans experience building big things in Space. The dream of clean power from Space may finally be moving forward.

Another interesting comment from Canada has been found following Lawrence Krauss' December article at Physicsworld.

"Riofrio claims that the speed of light varies with time. Very simply – perhaps too simply – I understand that her reasoning goes something like this. In Plank units we can write (assuming a locally flat universe) the rest energy of a mass m as:

E = GmM/R…(1)

"But R the distance to a mass M having the equivalent mass of the universe and R=ct, where t is the age of the universe (t=time since the big bang), E = mc^2 so that:
mc^2 = GmM/(ct). Thus tc^3 = GM implying that c is a function of time.

"If Riofrio’s interpretation is correct, light is slowing down and thus the measured supernova redshift does not necessarily indicate an accelerating expansion of the universe; hence no Dark Energy is needed! I would appreciate your comment on this line of reasoning."

UPDATE: In case anyone wonders who came up with "GM=tc^3" theory, another short paper from 2005 is available for sale at the British Library website.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Part Two: The Speed of Light May Be Slowing Down

(More from the GM=tc^3 thread at Counterparts, whose moderators have much bigger brains than arxiv. The thread originator is nice enough not to draw too much attention to this writer. Some refer to "Krasinsky's Theory," though the linked paper and illustration came from this blog. In his papers, Krasinsky doesn't favour changing c. Someone should check the order of magnitude.)


Measurements of the distance between the Earth and the Sun have become increasingly precise in recent decades.

But a mystery has emerged, indeed several mysteries.

The astronomical unit (AU) is the mean distance from Earth to Sol. Astronomers use the AU as a baseline in calculating the parallax distance to nearby stars.

Recent experiments seem to indicate that the AU itself is growing.

By analyzing radio echoes from the planets, G.A. Krasinsky et al measured a change in the AU at about 7 cm/yr. (See G.A. Krasinsky and V.A. Brumberg, "Secular increase of astronomical unit from analysis of the major planets motions, and its interpretation," Celest. Mech. & Dyn. Astron. 90:267, 2004.) Other astronomers working independently have found a change of about 5 cm/yr.

Unlike Luna's slow drift from the Earth, growth in the AU can not be explained by tidal effects (gravitational tugging).

Recently Krasinsky and others have published a summary of Various anomalies that have been observed in the orbits of space craft placed in Solar orbit over the decades.

*"Fly-by anomaly." It has been observed at various occasions that satellites after an Earth swing–by possess a significant and unexplained velocity increase by a few mm/s.

*"The Pioneer Anomaly." An unexplained acceleration of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they approached the Sun.

If one factors in the slight change in AU over time, these anomalies essentially vanish. Moreover, tiny discrepancies in the measured distances to distant galaxies and quasars also vanish if a similar adjustment is made factoring in time.


Why would there be any correlation between the Earth-Sun system drift and those of distant galaxies and quasars?

Lacking any gravitational explanation for the tiny growth, and taking into account that a similar observation seems to apply outside our solar system as well, Krasinsky and colleagues have suggested a radical solution.

The speed of light is slowing down over time.

Here is a somewhat technical explanation from Krasinsky:

Page One

Page 2

In summary, If the value of c was slowly reducing, the time for radio waves to return would increase over time, making the AU appear to grow. But Krasinsky and colleagues have also drafted a theorem to determine the size of the effect.

GM = tc^3

to solve for c we use:

c(t) = (GM)^{1/3} t^{-1/3}

Using 14 billion years as the age of the universe, and factoring an AU of 149 million kilometers, that distance will appear to increase by:

-(149E9 meters)/(42 Gyr) = 3.5 cm/yr

This 3.5 cm change in AU per year is in the ball park of the effects being observed in our Solar System, the distance anomalies to distant objects and even the behaviour of black holes.

To refine these results we just need a more accurate age for the universe. Our present estimates are a bit fuzzy, and range from 13-16 billion years. More accurate data for t will yield more accurate measures.

Radiometric data depends on the speed of light. A changing c will affect all such measurements in approximately the same proportion.

This hypothesis is not only simple and elegant, if it holds up to further scrutiny it will eliminate the need for the increasingly serpentine Inflation Theory, dispense with the need for Dark Energy and provide a unified explanation for various anomalous observations of different parts of the universe. There is no need for Inflatons (particles that make space bigger) or Scaler Fields (a headache-inducing concept I won't bother explaining)or any of the other mathematical hoops the Big Bang model has had to jump through since 1980.

In any significant measure, the need for these Ptolemaic elaborations go away with the application of GM = tc^3.

The predictions of Inflation Theory have also failed to match observations of angular correlation between objects in the universe. According to the Inflation model, the universe should be topographically flat. If you plot the corresponding angles of various objects in the universe on a large scale, the result would be a neat "s-curve."

Neither the COBE or WMAP sattelites have found such a relationship. Instead, the corresponding angles flat-line as they would if the topography of the universe was curved. If the value of c decreases over time, the space-time curvature would correspond to actual observation much better.

Lunar Laser Ranging data (derived from lasers being bounced off a mirror left behind on the Moon by the Apollo program) correlate to the change in AU, as do observations of Type Ia supernovae just outside the galactic disk. As measurements become more accurate, the similarity of all these anomalies to each other is becoming clearer.

This theory is falsifiable by fine-tuned measurements over time, while Inflation Theory has become increasingly a dead-end avenue.

When the chips are down, c may be demoted from the status of a fundamental constant to some kind of hypervariable.

Ah, science marches on.


Monday, August 04, 2008

"C How a Revolution Happens"

(This interesting thread has opened up on the Counterparts message board, which is filled by fans of the rock group Rush. Somewhere in the thread the work of Krasinsky et al. is referenced. Fortunately published papers from the author of "GM=tc^3" date from 2004. Thanks to the Rush fan for reading this blog, which on June 4 pointed to Krasinsky and Blumberg, Astronomical Unit Changing? Thanks also to Kea, who has been a tireless supporter in discussion threads. The infection is spreading!)

The biggest revolution in cosmology since Einstein may be quietly brewing.

The speed of light may not be as rock-steady as it has been deemed to be. Rather, the value of this fundamental constant may be changing -- slowing down -- as time passes.

A number of observations made in recent years have pointed in this direction. If verified, we can bid goodbye to both the Inflationary Model of the early universe, and dispense with the idea of Dark Energy.

Neither theory would be necessary anymore to explain the smoothness of the universe on large scales and the apparent acceleration of the cosmic expansion.

Instead, all we would need to understand these characteristics of the universe is a simple equation:

GM = tc^3

Where G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the universe, and t is the age of the universe (time) times the speed of light cubed.

Because the mass of the universe (M) remains constant, flipping the equation to solve for c would be variable depending on the value t. In short, as time passes the speed of light (c ) would decrease.

But let's back up a bit. A bombshell of this magnitude requires a bit of back story, and some evidence.

Deflating Inflation

Inflation Theory was proposed by Alan Guth in 1980. The theory is a cornerstone of modern cosmology because it solves a lot of the problems raised by a universe that is expanding -- which is known to be the case. One of these problems is why the universe is so smooth (the Cosmic Background Energy is virtually uniform) when different parts of the universe could not have been communicating with each other as they moved apart. Since energy cannot exceed the speed of light, as the universe grew the different parts could not exchange energy with increasingly remote parts of the universe, and so local blobs of matter should have dominated the picture.

In short, the universe should be pretty lumpy. Instead, on the biggest scales it is smooth. Inflation Theory posits that in the initial moments after the Big Bang, the universe expanded enormously -- time-space changed its metric much faster than the speed of light itself. This expansion overwhelmed such forces as gravity, and resulted in an initial configuration that was very smooth, and which only later began to agglomerate into structures such as galaxies.

For nearly 30 years now, numerous investigations have been made into the structure of the early universe, and on the surface these observations have largely fit with Inflation Theory.

But there are problems.

*Just what caused the massive inflation of time-space? The leading candidate is Dark Energy (or quintessence, the Fifth Force) that works like gravity, except it repels mass. Nobody has ever directly observed this putative force. It is implied to exist, but it doesn't fit with either Einstein's relativistic concept of gravity (space-time curvature) or the Quantum-mechanical conception (the force would need an associated particle, in this case an antigraviton).

*Inflation Theory violates the First Law of Thermodynamics (conservation of energy).

These are not trivial problems. Indeed, Inflation Theory has been compared to the Ptolemaic Model of the Universe by its detractors because, like that ancient geocentric model with its elaborate epicycles, it requires the existence of unobserved and inexplicable forces/particles in order to work.

In the last 28 years, Inflation Theory has become rather elaborate, as each new observation of the universe related to the theory has had to be accommodated.

Elaborate is actually a polite term. Some cosmologists and astronomers think its an overwrought edifice on a shaky foundation. This post is getting long, so I'll end here with a tease.

NEXT POST: The Earth is not drifting away from the Sun. It just looks that way.


Space Race

On June 10 the blog included a link to one presidential candidate's comments on Space. Saturday the other candidate delivered his own (3:30) remarks in Titusville on the Space coast. No American presidential candidate can afford to ignore Florida. One candidate was inspired by Bradbury's MARTIAN CHRONICLES, while the other grew up watching astronauts return on TV. Both candidates have seen the 409-15 House vote increasing NASA funding and adding a Shuttle flight for AMS. Support for Space is bipartisan, making us berlieve we can reach the Moon and Mars this time.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

SpaceX Video: Flight of the Falcon

"There has been an anomaly on the vehicle."

Just over 2 minutes into flight, the third test of SpaceX's Falcon 1 ended. The history of rocketry tells us that there are many failures before a success. The views of Kwajalein Atoll as the vehicle passes Mach 1 are spectacular. In the meantime, Falcon 9 has successfully completed ground firing of all 9 engines. Elon Musk has vowed to continue, with another Falcon 1 launch soon.

Despite the failures, SpaceX may still complete the NASA COTS contract. The COTS D option would allow human flights to ISS, possibly our best hope for the "Gap." As SpaceX's Laurence Williams said a month ago in San Francisco, Falcon 9 and Dragon would be all-American spacecraft. Let us wish SpaceX the best of luck next time.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 01, 2008

Water and Life

Thursday NASA made official news that water has been found on Mars. This has been called by some a "non-discovery," since evidence for H2O has been mounting for years. When NASA someday announces that the speed of light is slowing or that a Black Hole exists in Earth's core, it will be because of overwhelming evidence from multiple sources. The biggest news is that the Phoenix Lander found water directly beneath the landing site. This implies that it can be found anywhere in the region you set down.

Even bigger news may be forthcoming. According to AVIATION WEEK, the White House has been briefed on new information regarding the potential for life. The data presumably comes from the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer. MECA uses multiple tests to determine if Martian soil can support life. We may soon hear announcement that Mars can support life as we know it.

Also this week discovery was announced of an enormous lake on Titan's South Pole. As in the subsurface lakes of Earth's Antarctic, this implies a subsurface source of heat. Much has been written in this blog about nearby Enceladus' South polar hot spot. Saturn herself has hot spots centred on the poles. What could cause the poles of all these diverse worlds to be hotter than the rest of the surface? Heat plumes rising to the poles resemble the twin jets of a singularity. The centres of Earth, Titan, Enceladus and even might Saturn could be locations of Black Holes.

Water and life have been suspected on Mars since the Schiaparelli first claimed to observe "canals." After multiple visits by spacecraft, we finally have definitive evidence of water. More data and possibly a sample return will be needed to find life. It may take many lines of evidence to discover a Black Hole in the Earth.

Check out the new Carnival of Space!

Labels: , ,

Locations of visitors to this page