Friday, October 30, 2009

The Most Distant Object?

The Swift Gamma Ray Observatory was designed to catch GRB's "on the fly." Power source of these immense explosions has been considered a mystery. Light from GRB 090423 reached Earth on April 23. This Gamma Ray burst is estimated to have exploded 13 billion years ago, making it a candidate for the oldest object ever observed.

The most likely power source of GRB's is the explosion of gigantic black holes. Size of a primordial Black Hole is limited by a "horizon distance" within light's reach. These gigantic Gamma Ray bursters exploding near the beginning of time is one indicator that the speed of light was once mych larger.

Further observations from Swift indicate that photons travel at the same speed regardless of their energy--a gamma ray photon travels as fast as visible light. This shows that c is not related to photon energy, but the speed of light may have changed with time.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Holding the Moon

October 22, 2009

This is a very exciting and busy period, for which there is scarcely time to write about. The Augustine Committe Report was released today, giving the President options for continuing in Space. One of those options, the Ares 1-X test vehicle has been rolled onto the Launch Pad 39-B for an October 27 launch. Nearby at Launch Complex 40, the SpaceX Falcon 9 will soon attempt a launch. Though friends at NASA sometimes scoff at private space, Elon Musk may be the best hope for shuttling crew to orbit. Whether to land again or just orbit, the goal is still the Moon.

This is a piece of the Moon, a real lunar sample from Apollo! How much is it worth? We can take the cost of the Apollo program, about 200 billion in constant dollars, and divide it by the 381.7 kg of material returned for a market price of 50 million per kilogram. This little bag cost almost as much as my Naval aircraft.

Of course Apollo had other benefits. It jumpstarted technology and science education in the US, leading to uncounted technical advances. It inspired a whole generation to study math and science. The famous Earthrise photo from Apollo 8 showed all humanity how small our planet is. The Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment is one more proof of "c change" in physics, a slowing speed of light.

These priceless samples are kept under the strictest security. Back in 2002 a very foolish intern tried to steal some samples, and is still in the Federal pen. To even get near these rocks one needs a security clearance and a strict background check. (Could "crackpot pest" from Cornell with his Stalinist beliefs get a security clearance? What was that guy's name and what has he ever accomplished?)

It feels like an honour to hold a piece of the Moon. It is a reminder of the enormous achievement 40 years ago. The experiments to be done with this sample will make it safer for humans to return to the Moon and get more. Someday Moon rocks may sit in classrooms, inspiring children to reach higher and farther.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Mighty Saturn V

Earlier this month (October 1) the movie APOLLO 13 was shown at Johnson Space Center, projected on the side of the Saturn V. Even the third stage is big enough to serve as a movie screen. This is the moment in the movie when Armstrong first stepped on the Moon.

The Saturn V retired with a perfect safety record. Three Saturn V's built for Apollo 18-20 were never used. The first, SA-513, launched the Skylab space station in 1973. Boeing engineers wanted SA-514 and SA-515 for modification into flyback Shuttle boosters. As we heard from Shuttle Program Manager Bob Thompson, that plan was axed as too risky. Shuttles would fly with today's familiar Solid Rocket Booster and External Tank configuration.

The Saturn V on display here at Johnson Space Center is composed of the first stage of SA-514, the second stage of SA-515, and the unused third stage of SA-513. The latter third stage was not needed for the two-stage Skylab mission. The second and third stages of SA-514 are in the Saturn V on display at Kennedy Space Center.

Saturn V was the biggest successful rocket ever flown. (The Russian N-1 kept blowing up.) The proposed Ares V would be even larger and more powerful. The newer design would be nearly too big for the VAB doors, and might require modification of the crawlerway at KSC. Most plans for the Moon and Mars use a heavy-lift booster. We have yet to see what vehicles will take people beyond Earth orbit.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Set in Stone

TERRACOTTA WARRIORS: GUARDIANS OF CHINA'S FIRST EMPEROR the exhibit at Houston's Museum of Natural Science closes this weekend! The famous warriors were built at the orders of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who feared for his safety in the afterlife. In the course of becoming China's first emperor he buried scholars and burned books, a power that today's physics censors can only envy. To keep his army organised, Qin even built terracotta bureacrats. Over 8,000 terracotta warriors guard the emperor's tomb.

As you can see, I've recently met one of those commenters who insist that the speed of light is constant. He seemed to be an educated sort, and asked long lists of detailed questions. When those objections were answered, he brought up some more. New physics was beyond him, so it must be wrong! Finally it became obvious that no amount of reason or data would move this man:

"So, you say that you can better 'conceptualise' this than all the thousands of physicists in the last about 90 years who have studied General Relativity, and better than the even more thousands of mathematicians who have studied Riemannian geometry for even more decades?"

We regret that all such comments can not be answered. Someone who acts onstage wearing a towel gets much nicer comments from men! Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result, and talking to a brick wall with a PhD hanging from it is still talking to a brick wall. Perhaps nothing will change this man's attitude, but we enjoy his company nonetheless.

(No original terracotta warriors were harmed during filming. This is a knockoff, made in China.)


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LCROSS Crash Site

View from the LCROSS shepherding stage as its Centaur companion crashed into the Moon.

Happy Birthday US Navy!


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Water In the Moon?

96-second video of the LCROSS mission.

All eyes from Houston to Mauna Kea are on the Moon for the LCROSS impact Friday. At the same time we are inundated with evidence of water on the Moon, Mars and beyond. The big hope is that the Moon has abundant water to sustain human settlement.

Until recently the Moon was thought to have only a small amount of water, which arrived via the solar wind. Astrophysicist Arlin Crotts of Columbia University has been working for years on a theory that the Moon has abundant water, and it comes from within. Crotts theorises that water forms deep beneath the surface and slowly wells upward. His theory would explain the recent discoveries of water.

Crotts has submitted a paper with his student Cameron Hummels. We hope that their paper is accepted soon so that more scientists can read it. New ideas, even controversial ones, deserve to see the light of day.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Light Is Winner of 2009 Nobel Prize

The 2009 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three Americans: Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith, 79. Kao, 75, was born in Shanghai and also has UK citizenship. He pioneered the fibre optics used in modern data networks. Boyle, 85, also has Canadian citizenship. While working at Bell Labs, Boyle and Smith developed the Charged Couple Devices (CCD's) now seen in everything from cellphone cameras to the Hubble Space Telescope. All three physicists invented applications for light that affect our daily lives, and none had any use for "dark energy." Today working on something new about light looks like a good career move.

The speed of light is still slowing down.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Another Blogger Locked Up

"Dark energy" exists largely inthe minds of those who promote it. They would have us believe it composes 70% of their universe, which will eventually be torn asunder in a "big rip." Einstein's work was ignored in much of the world because the author was Jewish. Today the dark energy of anti-Semitism is once again loose in the world.

Among the thousands arrested during the Summer's Iranian crackdown was blogger Mehdi Khazali. Dr. Khazali, 34, is director of the Hayyan Cultural Institute in Tehran and son of an ayatollah. Khazali's crime? He revealed in his blog that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the holocaust-denying fraudulently elected president, has Jewish roots!

(While Ahmadinejad's mother was an upper-class Persian, his father was known to have more hardscrabble roots. The family changed it's name when Ahmadinejad was a child, his original surname has been kept quiet. Khazali and others have found that Mahmoud's birth name was Sanourjian, a name reserved for Iranians of Jewish origin. The surname hails from Abadan, city of Mahmoud's birth.)

Armchair psychologists will say that Mahmoud's anti-Semitic ways are overcompensation for a childhood he is ashamed of. This story will not please his anti-Semitic supporters. In July Dr. Khazali was arrested and is still held at an undisclosed location. This has not killed the story. Yesterday this story appeared in the UK Telegraph:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Revealed to Have Jewish Roots

The Iranian regime has done its brutal best to suppress people and their ideas. Thanks to bloggers like Khazali and others, the truth is
finally coming out. If America's president can't bring the Olympics to Chicago, what makes him think he can trust Mahmoud? We should be talking to Iran's people.

UPDATE: The regime vehemently denies any stories about Mahmoud's religion. The latest rumours focus on Khamenei's sinking health. Tehran is swirling with rumours and intrigue, just like in 1979.


Mercury Bright Spot

In 1974-75 Mariner 10 flew by Mercury 3 times. No spacecraft has visited the innermost planet since then, but since 2008 MESSENGER has flown by Mercury 3 times on its own preparing for an orbit in 2011. Most of the planet's surface has been unseen by humans until MESSENGER. One discovery is this mysterious bright spot, surrounding a depression similiar to volcanic craters on Hawaii.

Since Mariner 10 the planet has been known to have a magnetic field and be unusually dense. The magnetic field is sign that Mercury contains a tiny Black Hole. The singularity would be too tiny to suck Mercury up, but the small amount it does eat would be converted into radiation. Outward radiation pressure would balance gravity's inward pull until an equilibrium is achieved. Mercury would then have a hot interior, which would occasionally well up as volcanic action. Like volcanic craters on Earth, this bright spot could be sign of a Black Hole in Mercury.

The ellipse of Mercury's orbit precesses at 5600 arc seconds per century, yet an anomaly of only 43 arc seconds per century provided one proof of General Relativity. The solar system is full of orbital anomalies. As readers of this blog know, the Moon appears to be receding far too fast as measured by laser ranging. The lunar orbit anomaly is prime evidence that the speed of light is changing today.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Rio Victorious

Congratulations to beautiful and sensual Rio de Janeiro! In August the city hosted the International Astronomical Union General Assembly, an event that only happens every 3 years. Maybe some of you saw my talks on the Moon and the changing speed of light. Today Cariocas can look forward to another special event, as hosts of the 2016 Olympics! Despite last-minute pleading and pandering by Chicago's president, Rio won the honour hands-down. Sports fans can look forward to beautiful beaches, tanned bodies and lots of parties!

Readers of this blog have travelled from atop the John Hancock Center in Chicago to the beaches of Rio. The best is yet to come!


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