Wednesday, March 31, 2010


More photos from Pearl Harbor: Within sight of Missouri is the Submarine Force Museum. Here we can walk the decks of USS Bowfin, a WW2 fleet submarine.

Torpedo room of USS Bowfin.

On Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor is the new Pacific Aviation Museum. Its first phase includes WW2 aircraft like this Japanese Zero.

A B-25 bomber like those which participated in the "Doolittle Raid" over Tokyo.

Pearl Harbor was named for the pearls that were once harvested here. One grain of sand caught within an oyster is enough to start a pearl forming. Our planet Earth may have began with a Black Hole even smaller than a grain of sand. Many billions of such tiny singularities were created in the Big Bang. When our solar system was no more than a diffuse cloud, a number of small Black Holes collided with the gas.

The matter particles of the pre-solar disk were too tiny to form planets on their own, but a Black Hole drew matter like a magnet. Some gas fell into the singularity, causing it to glow red hot. Outward pressure from radiation prevented more gas from being sucked up. Dust gathered around the singularity until it formed a globe of matter with a hot centre. This was the birth of a planet.

Still no larger than a grain of sand, the Black Hole is still at Earth's centre. It consumes no more matter than a human eats, barely a ton per year. This small amount is more than replenished by matter falling to Earth via meteorites. The Black Hole rotates within Earth, dragging charged particles around it to generate a magnetic field. The heat produced by the singularity keeps Earth's core hot. This heat formed continents and continues to create the Hawaiian Islands.

NEXT: On the Big Island, we see results of the Black Hole's heat.

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Monday, March 29, 2010


Captain's chair on bridge of Battleship USS Missouri.

Missouri docked at her permanent home in Pearl Harbor, Oahu. On her decks the instrument of surrender was signed ending World War 2.

An unforgettable view from the bridge windows towards the USS Arizona Memorial. To protect against bombs and torpedoes, Missouri is armoured in steel plate more than 30centimetres thick in places.

The 16-inch gun turrets. Missouri and other Iowa-Class battleships carried 9 such giant rifles. They could each fire a 2700-pound shell 40 kilometres! Due to Earth's curvature a battleship can only fire as far as it can see, leaving the advantage to aeroplanes. For centuries ships with cannon dominated naval warfare.

Isaac Newton saw warships armed with cannon. He saw that the faster a cannonball is fired, the farther it travels. Newton deduced that a projectile moving fast enough would "fall" around the Earth's curve, becoming a satellite. The farther a satellite orbits from Earth, the slower its velocity. Newton surmised that the Moon's orbit followed the same law of gravitation.

If Newton were alive today he would see that particles of light (photons) appear to travel at the same velocity. He would also see evidence that Space/Time began at a tiny point, called a "Big Bang." As the Universe gets older, every point in Space/Time travels farther from that initial singularity.

Perhaps Newton would deduce that gravitation affects all particles, even those of light. Just as satellites circle the Earth, he might surmise that photons are locked in orbit around a "Big Bang." As light particles move farther in Space/Time from the Big Bang, their velocity must also slow.

GM=tc^3. Where G is Newton's gravitational constant, M and t are mass and age of the Universe. As time t increases, speed of light c is predicted to slow. Newton's laws continue to guide our spacecraft to the planets. The power of ideas lasts longer and travels much farther than a battleship's guns.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

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.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Age of Black Holes and the Universe

Cool new video from the James Webb Space Telescope team.

How old is the Universe and how big? When Space and Time are one phenomenon, both questions have the same answer. Scale radius R of the Universe is given by R = ct, where t is the age. As t increases, the Universe is predicted to expand. It can't expand at the same rate forever, for gravity slows it down. Speed of light c is further related to t by GM = tc^3, where G is Newton's gravitational constant. As t increases, c is predicted to slow.

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have found a pair of primordial Black Holes formed shortly after the Big Bang. They form the centres of two giant quasars billions of years in the past. Their apparent age is 13 billion years, about 700 million years after the Universe began. Quasars J0005-0006 and J0303-0019 have masses 200-300 million times the mass of our Sun. The paper is in the March 18 issue of NATURE.

Scientists have found many supermassive Black Holes formed shortly after the Universe began. They appear to be primordial, formed from small quantum fluctuations grown large by expansion of the Universe. Size of a primordial Black Hole is limited by a "horizon distance" that light can travel. If the speed of light were constant, primordial Black Holes would all be tiny. Discovery of primordial supermassive Black Holes is a big clue that the speed of light has slowed.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Last Tuesday March 16, 2010 at the Sheraton Waikiki: Geologist and Moonwalker Harrison Schmitt (in an Aloha shirt) receives a medal from the American Society of Civil Engineering. The ASCE Earth/Space Conference was attended by engineers and scientists from across the Pacific, energized by ideas of engineering in Space.

Last night March 23, 2010 at Johnson Space Center in Houston: We greet the crew of STS-130. Their mission installed a Node and viewing Cupola to the International Space Station.

Equally important, Lockheed contractor Blake Dumesnil was named winner of the Shuttle patch design contest. His patch is symbolic of the entire Shuttle program.

The view from my room at the Sheraton Waikiki. Also Tuesday I delivered a talk on lunar research to the same international audience. That girl with ideas about light will never amount to anything, will she? More pictures from Hawaii coming soon!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Broadens Understanding of Science"

Aloha and three cheers for colleague Yves-Henri Sanejouand! His tireles work has found multiple signs that the speed of light is slowing down, as GM=tc^3 predicts. His latest paper thanks someone named Riofrio for useful comments. Sanejouand's work is starting to get press attention.

From Optonics and Photonics Focus, February 18 2010:

Is Light slowing Down?

The speed of light is a universal constant — or is it? Some evidence seems to suggest it might actually be slowing down. Will we soon have to revise our cosmological beliefs?

If light were slowing down, we would have to revise many of our astronomical beliefs: from the age of the Universe to the distances between galaxies, from the dark matter to the definition of many physical constants. What a tremendous set of implications! Some evidence that this might indeed be the case starts piling up, as recently reported by Yves-Henri Sanejouand from the University of Nantes in France.

From Vertical News:

Research from Y.H. Sanejouand et al broadens understanding of science

2010 JAN 26 - ( -- According to a study from France, "Possible empirical evidences in favor of the hypothesis that the speed of light decreases by a few centimeters per second each year are examined. Lunar laser ranging data are found to be consistent with this hypothesis, which also provides a straightforward explanation for the so-called Pioneer anomaly, that is, a time-dependent blue-shift observed when analyzing radio tracking data from distant spacecrafts, as well as an alternative explanation for both the apparent time-dilation of remote events and the apparent acceleration of the Universe."

"The main argument against this hypothesis, namely, the constancy of fine-structure and Rydberg constants, is discussed. Both of them being combinations of several physical constants, their constancy implies that, if the speed of light is indeed time-dependent, then at least two other ''fundamental constants'' have to vary as well," wrote Y.H. Sanejouand and colleagues.

The researchers concluded: "This puts severe constraints on the development of any future varying-speed-of-light theory."

Sanejouand and colleagues published the results of their research in Epl (About some possible empirical evidences in favor of a cosmological time variation of the speed of light. Epl, 2009;88(5):59002).

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The MarXiv Goes Begging

Fascinating bit of news in the new PHYSICS TODAY. The MarXiv was advertised as a "free, open" archive for physics papers, and they will rub out anyone who disagrees. A previous post uncovered the Stalinist beliefs of a Marxiv censor. When Marxists are not deleting papers, they have been begging for money. Unfortunately access to PHYSICS TODAY requires a paid subscription. For those outside the academic elite, the article is presented free and translated:


"The keepers of the arXiv, the physics community's most popular e-print server, are trying to gather financial contributions from society journal publishers and academic institutions that use it. The aim is to lessen arXiv's dependence on the Cornell University library, which has maintained the website since 2001, when it moved with its founder, physicist Paul Ginsparg, from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

TRANSLATION: They are out of money

"My rough understanding," says Ginsparg, "is that in this current era of declining university budgets across the board, it's difficult for the library to maintain an indefinite commitment to unilateral support of a resource which provides so much benefit outside of the university."

TRANSLATION: Cornell library told them to pick other pockets, MarXiv costs too much.

"Simeon Warner, who is in charge of arXiv's day-to-day operations, says that the current business proposal is to ask the top institutions in usage to pay a voluntary tiered subscription fee. Invoices for 2010 went out last month. The top 100 institutions pay 4000 dollars; the next 100, 3200 dollars; and the remainder, 2300 dollars. That revenue would reduce the library's current 400,000 dollar annual commitment in salaries, server costs, and upgrades from 75% of arXiv's total cost in 2010 to 15% by 2013. More than two dozen institutions pledged to provide support for 2010 before the plan went public, says Warner, and 'we have had several spontaneous pledges since then.'

TRANSLATION: They have raised barely 1/4 of their yearly operating costs.

"The multi-institution donation proposal is a transitional option until a more sustainable business model can be implemented with more input from the physics community, says Warner. 'We believe that a more diverse funding model will likely be better.'

TRANSLATION: MarXiv will beg from individuals and the government next.


Friday, March 12, 2010


Shortly after our work with lunar sample, results were presented at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. LPSC began as a small affair in JSC's Gilruth center, later graduating into the South Shore Harbour Resort. Since last year LPSC has been held in the Woodlands Conference Center, a lovely place served by waterways and little boats. The field of planetary science continues to grow.

Monday March 1 was NASA night, with a briefing by Dr. Laurie Leshin from headquarters. Here she is celebrating our Cassini mission being extended another 7 years. Tuesday morning was the Women's networking breakfast, which also gets bigger each year. This year there was barely time to speak with the woman next door.

While water on the Moon is still a hot topic. water on Mars was also on many minds. There is ample evidence of ancient stream beds and oceans on the Red planet. Thanks to spacecraft, today's planetary scientist can closely study individual features on Mars. There is plenty of work for new scientists.

Thursday afternoon's session turned into a debate about life on Mars. In 1996 scientists found signs of life on Martian meteorite ALH84001. One key bit of evidence was magnetites, minerals formed by living things in reponse to Earth;s magnetic field. Since then detractors have tried vainly to find alternate explanations. One naysayer stood up Thursday, claimed that magnetites were produced by heating. He showed computer simulations of heating that seemd to support his thesis.

Kathie Thomas-Keprta of the Mars Meteorite Team then gave her talk and completely demolished the opposition. She found places in his computer code where he entered zero instead of a number. Kathie had even contacted the author of the computer program, who concurred that the detractor had used his software improperly. Science based on computer models is hardly science at all.

Overwhelming evidence shows that ancient Mars had conditions for liquid water and life. Old models claimed that the Sun was faint and Mars was frozen solid. Ancient water on Mars is more evidence of a hot young Sun and a changing speed of light. There will be detractors to the end, but rewriting laws of physics will keep physicists employed too.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not On the Carpet!

"Of course I know how to write shorthand. I just don't know how to read shorthand."

Thanks to Brian Treybig (a fine actor too) here is 6 minutes of video from our farce PLAYING DOCTOR. Max Blake is "an incompetent secretary forced to masquerade as an incompetent nurse." The costume shows a lot of leg, but I get to do scenes with Superman! Look how packed the front row is. Don't you wish that physics lectures were this full?


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Touching the Moon

February 24, 2010

This is the Lunar Sample Return Facility at Johnson Space Center. Apollo 14 landed in the Fra Mauro formation, the intended site of Apollo 13. Sample 14003,96 was a contingency sample collected by the crew at the beginning of their first EVA in February 5, 1971. This returned sample was unopened by anyone in 38 years! Today is the great honour of touching the Moon.

Apollo samples are beyond priceless. Only by many months of applying and experimenting can one get a piece. 14003,96 is the largest sample ever released to researchers. The sample is handled here in the clean room, within a glovebox pressurised with nitrogen.

The sample is kept within this flying saucer-shaped container, sealed with many bolts. No one knows exactly what we will find within. Working within a glovebox is tricky, much like being on EVA. Removing the lid, we find 3 layers of heat-sealed plastic and another metal container.

Here is the first view of sample 14003,96. It will be used for some very important experiments.

Unlike Earth's surface, which has been renewed many times by plate tectonics, the lunar regolith is extremely ancient. The "Genesis Rock" found by Apollo 15 was 4.5 billion years old, nearly as ancient as the solar system. The lunar regolith is therefore a recorder of solar system history. It can give us a record of stellar variability, and whether dangerous supernovae have exploded nearby. Exploring the Moon is therefore valuable for uncovering Earth's history.

The regolith can also tell us how the Sun's luminosity has varied over time. The "Faint Young Sun" hypothesis claimed that the Sun has been slowly warming. According to this idea, 4 billion years ago Earth and Mars would have been frozen solid. Data from geology and paleontology does not support this hypothesis. Early in their history, both Earth and Mars were warm enough for liquid water and life.

The Sun turns fuel to energy according to E=mc^2. Because speed of light c has slowed over time, billions of years ago the Sun was nearly as bright as today. Evidence from Apollo missions to the lunar surface is smoking-gun evidence that the speed of light slows to this day. Whose pots are cracked now?

Discovery News hosts this week's Carnival of space!


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