Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dark Fantasies Vs. Plasma Reality

Thunderbolts Picture of the Day: Dark Matter-Dark Currents.

In his now-famous 1962 essay, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn proposed that the common idea of scientific progress as a continuous, albeit bumpy, approach toward the truth or toward reality failed to explain particular historical episodes that were discontinuous.

Kuhn wrote, "[S]cience has included bodies of belief quite incompatible with the ones we hold today." These beliefs were "produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons" as are today's beliefs. And this "makes it difficult to see scientific development as a process of accretion."

He goes on to describe "revolutions" in science, and he notes that theories on opposite sides of a revolution are "incommensurable." Because the worldview of a theory colors the facts, selects the problems to be solved, and defines the acceptability of solutions, there are no scientific criteria to justify judging one theory to be closer to the truth than another.

Nevertheless, scientists do judge one theory to be "more true" than another. At times of revolution, this judgment is transferred from an accepted theory to a novel theory, and pieces of the old theory are reinterpreted in the light of the new worldview to be precursors to the new more true theory.

What are overlooked are non-scientific criteria for choosing one theory to be more apt or useful with respect to evolving goals and cultural conditions. While theories cannot legitimately be judged by the standards of another theory, they can be compared with respect to the problems, performance, and promise of each one judged by its own standards.

This is the same kind of judgment that a cook uses in the produce department when deciding whether to buy turnips or asparagus. The facts, the problems, and the potential solutions are incommensurable among theories, but scientists' interest and curiosity, shaped by the surrounding conditions of life in a particular time and place, lead them to decide among the offerings.

Recourse, then, is not to facts or to compatibility with some "already known" but to differences in vision and promise. This series of Pictures of the Day will contrast such differences between presently accepted theories and Electric Universe theories.

The image above is of the nearby spiral galaxy in Andromeda. From the viewpoint of gravity theories, what you don't see is more important than what you do. A black hole at the center of the galaxy pulls in matter and squeezes it until it explodes with a superabundance of radiation. A halo of dark matter surrounds the galaxy and causes the stars in the spiral arms to revolve at the same velocity. The quasars, small galaxies, and gas clouds that stretch out along the rotation axis far from the galaxy are coincidental alignments of background objects. The blue shift of the galaxy indicates that it is moving toward us.

From the viewpoint of an Electric Universe, what you don't see also is important. A plasma focus mechanism at the center pulls in current and squeezes it until it explodes in a superabundance of radiation. The pinch effect in plasma currents causes filaments to form, and these you can see. A persistent current can only exist in a circuit, so the spiral arms are "feeder" currents that complete the circuit to the center.

These currents are in "dark mode" and therefore are invisible, like dark matter. But unlike dark matter, dark mode currents can be investigated in a lab. Lab dark currents are a source of copious microwave radiation; so, the cosmic microwave background radiation, which the Big Bang theory identifies as a distant remnant of its secular "Genesis story," is likely a microwave "fog" generated locally by the web of currents in our own galaxy's spiral arms.

Because these currents are also subject to the pinch effect and to concomitant instabilities, stars (cosmic ball lightning) form along them. Since electrical forces, not gravity, drive them, they all have the same velocity. The plasma focus at the center repeatedly discharges its accumulating charge by ejecting blobs and streams of plasma along its spin axis.

Because the electrical stress among these blobs varies in a resonant, step-wise manner, their radiation shows a quantized variation of redshifts. The blueshift of the galaxy, one quantum step from the sequence of redshifts that ends with the Milky Way at zero, indicates that the Milky Way may be one of the first objects ejected from the Andromeda galaxy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Saturn's Rings: A Magnetic Phenomenon

Saturn's Rings cannot be described in terms of gravity. Since gravity acts in all directions, the rings should be a sphere. But that's not what we observe. What we observe are rings in a flat plane perpendicular to the lines of force of Saturn's magnetic field.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's raining in San Diego.

Apparently rainfall is correlated to the Sun's magnetic activity: Blame the Sun for a Cloudy Day?

An Australian researcher has linked the sun's magnetic activity to rainfall patterns in his country over the past century. The connection is solid enough that meteorologists might be able to use it to make better long-term weather predictions. But experts remain cautious about the wider implications of the findings.

Scientists have long known that the sun plays a key role in Earth's weather patterns. For example, the number of sunspots on its surface--dark zones of intense magnetic activity--peaks about every 11 years, followed by a period of dormancy. The cycle causes swings in sea-surface temperatures--more sunspots mean warmer oceans, and fewer mean chillier waters--but the effect is small. There's also a 22-year cycle, in which the sun changes the polarity of its magnetic field, but it's unclear how that phenomenon affects Earth.

Now geographer Robert Baker of the University of New England, Armidale, in Australia, has linked solar magnetic activity to Earth's climate--at least regionally. Using sunspot counts and Australian meteorological data, as well as NASA satellite data for more recent years, he tracked sunspots and rainfall in Australia from 1876 to 2006. In this month's issue of Geographical Research, Baker reports that the amount of rainfall in most regions of the country tracked the 22-year magnetic cycle almost exactly. "It was unbelievable," Baker says. At the height of magnetic activity, rainfall across most of the country was plentiful. At the other end of the cycle, many of those same regions experienced severe droughts. The findings are particularly compelling, Baker says, because even though the lengths of the magnetic cycles are not precise and can vary by several years, the rainfall patterns followed them.

So what's behind the connection? Baker thinks it has to do with the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation hitting Earth. When the reversing of polarity approaches, he explains, the sun's magnetic field weakens, allowing more UV energy to reach our planet. More UV radiation kills off some of the oceans' plankton, which produce dimethyl sulfide, one of the primary atmospheric chemicals involved in cloud formation, and fewer clouds mean less rainfall.

Based on the 130 years of data, Baker predicts that the current solar cycle, which reached a minimum in 2007, will continue a bit longer. In fact, he says, "there could be a 100-year minimum in solar activity," meaning much of Australia could experience a prolonged drought.

"This could be an important paper," says climatologist John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville. He explains that current climate models don't give the solar effect much weight in general, because scientists think it is overwhelmed by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But if there's a mechanism by which the sun's variations are tied directly to weather patterns, such as the effect of UV radiation on cloud formation, he says, the sun may have a greater impact than the models are showing. As a result, the models might not be creating an accurate picture for the future.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cold Christmas Eve

No Matter What Happens, Someone Will Blame Global Warming.

Global warming was blamed for everything from beasts gone wild to anorexic whales to the complete breakdown of human society this year -- showing that no matter what it is and where it happens, scientists, explorers, politicians and those who track the Loch Ness Monster are comfortable scapegoating the weather. takes a look back at 10 things that global warming allegedly caused — or will no doubt soon be responsible for — as reported in the news around the world in 2008.

1. Cannibalism

In April, media mogul Ted Turner told PBS's Charlie Rose that global warming would make the world 8 degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years. "Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state, like Somalia or Sudan, and living conditions will be intolerable," he said.

Turner blamed global warming on overpopulation, saying "too many people are using too much stuff."

Crops won't grow and "most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals," Turner said.

2. The Death of the Loch Ness Monster

In February, Scotland's Daily Mirror reported that 85-year-old American Robert Rines would be giving up his quest for Scotland's most famous underwater denizen.

A World War II veteran, Rines has spent 37 years hunting for Nessie with sonar equipment. In 2008, "despite having hundreds of sonar contacts over the years, the trail has since gone cold and Rines believes that Nessie may be dead, a victim of global warming."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oil's Origin Revisted

Robert Matthews: Oil’s origins revisited.

Once upon a time, clever people scared themselves by trying to predict the end of the world. Sir Isaac Newton’s best estimate, for example – recently uncovered in archived manuscripts – was some time in the year 2060 [Yet more Newtonian idiocy].

Today smart people seem intent on scaring all of us by trying to predict an event no less apocalyptic for modern economies: the arrival of “peak oil”, after which output of crude oil falls into terminal decline.

Last week it was the turn of Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency (IEA), who argued that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020. How seriously we should take this is anyone’s guess. Only last month, the IEA itself was claiming the turning point would be 2030 – 10 years later than its current estimate. With Opec having just imposed its largest-ever cut in oil production, the IEA may well have to issue another estimate next month.

Like predictions of the Final Trump, attempts to guess when oil will run out have a long and sorry history. In 1874, the chief geologist of Pennsylvania, then America’s leading oil-producing state, estimated the nation only had enough of the stuff to last around four years. Nowadays, there seem to be almost as many views as experts, with some claiming peak oil may have been passed some years ago and others – as this newspaper reported recently – insisting it lies far in the future.

In the end, all the arguments centre on simple supply and demand: is there enough exploitable oil in the ground to meet projected needs? So far the ingenuity of petroleum engineers has kept the black gold flowing through advances in the technology of finding and extracting oil. But it seems obvious that it must run out eventually; after all, there’s no more of the stuff being made deep underground. Or is there?

According to the textbooks, oil is the product of 150 to 200 million- year-old fossilised remains of marine organisms being transformed by the combined effect of bacterial action, heat and pressure. But according to some scientists, there may be other sources of oil, created by different means, which remain undiscovered simply because no one expects to find them.

During the 1950s, a team led by the Soviet geologist Dr Nikolai Kudryavtsev of the All-Union Geological Research Institute pointed out that crude oil is sometimes found at sites with no obvious connection to fossilised organisms – such as the Siljan Ring structure of central Sweden, where tar and oil seep out of pure crystalline granite.

According to Dr Kudryavtsev and his colleagues, these puzzling discoveries suggest that oil can also be formed in the absence of living organisms – for example, from hydrocarbons trapped inside the Earth during its formation around 4.5 billion years ago.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sun Causes Growing Earth To Breathe

Science Daily: Breathing Cycles In Earth's Upper Atmosphere Tied To Solar Wind Disturbances.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2008) — A new University of Colorado at Boulder study shows the periodic "breathing" of Earth's upper atmosphere that has long puzzled scientists is due in part to cyclic solar wind disturbances [and not gravity], a finding that should help engineers track satellites more accurately and improve forecasts for electronic communication disruptions.

Aerospace engineering sciences department Associate Professor Jeff Thayer said the outer, gaseous shell of the atmosphere, known as the thermosphere, is known to expand and contract as it exchanges energy with the space environment, causing changes in thermosphere density [so much for gravity]. Changes in thermosphere density can alter the atmospheric drag [aka inertia] of satellites, causing them to deviate from their predicted paths and complicating tracking and orbital adjustment maneuvers, he said. [LOL @ Newtonian prediction]

While extreme ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the dominant mechanism [i.e. electromagnetism not gravity] that causes the thermosphere to "breathe," the new CU-Boulder study indicates high-speed wind from the sun triggers independent breathing episodes by creating geomagnetic disturbances, heating the thermosphere and altering its density. The wind streams are generated by relatively cool pockets on the sun's surface known as solar coronal holes that periodically rotate around the sun's surface, said Thayer.

"We were surprised to find the density changes were so consistent in our observations," [something Newton and Einstein were unfamiliar with since they died before the Space Age began in 1957] said Thayer, lead study author. "Because of the huge increase in satellite activity in recent years, finding this new thermosphere breathing mechanism should help improve our models and increase the accuracy satellite tracking and collision avoidance."

A paper on the subject was presented at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union held Dec. 15 to Dec. 19 in San Francisco. Co-authors included Research Associate Jiuhou Lei, Professor Jeffrey Forbes, Research Associate Eric Sutton and Professor Steve Nerem of CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department.

The thermosphere begins at about 60 miles above Earth and extends to about 300 miles in altitude. The thermosphere gas is known to expand and contract on a 27-day solar rotation period due to changes in extreme UV radiation, said Thayer. The new findings indicate the thermosphere also has periodic oscillations occur at four-to-five days, six-to-seven days and nine-to-11 days caused by the violent effect of the high-speed solar winds interacting with Earth and transferring energy through auroras and enhanced electric currents.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Petrobras Oil Hunter Fights To Keep Finds For Brazil

Bloomberg: Petrobras Oil Hunter Fights to Keep Finds for Brazil.

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Guilherme Estrella found an undersea lake of oil that may transform Brazil’s economy forever. Now, the exploration chief for Petroleo Brasileiro SA is at the center of a debate over who will profit from it.

At stake is how much of Brazil’s newfound riches will be controlled by the state and how much will end up in the pockets of Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and other oil companies hungry for new sources of crude. Estrella wants to make Western oil companies little more than hired help for government-controlled Petrobras, as his company is known.

“Petrobras is our space program,” ...

Few people have been involved in the discovery of more oil than Estrella, said Gerrard Demaison, a former Chevron Corp. geologist who is president of Capitola, California-based Petroscience2000.

“This guy’s work was prophetic and essential for finding the oil Brazil has today and making Petrobras what it is,” Demaison, 76, said in a telephone interview. “I would put him alongside the great petroleum geologists of the last century.” ...

“If he’d stick to geology, he’d be fine, but I’m afraid his political ideas and those of his allies are going to damage the industry and put the country’s energy future at risk,” said Amaral, now a senator. “We need investment.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Velikovsky Correct About Pole Shift

"Diogenes Laertius repeated the teaching of Leucippus: 'The earth bent or inclined towards the south because the northern regions grew rigid and inflexible by the snowy and cold weather which ensued thereon.' The same idea is found in Plutarch, who quoted the teaching of Democritus: 'The northern regions were ill temperate, but the southern were well; whereby the latter becoming fruitful, waxed greater, and by an overweight preponderated and inclined to the whole that way.' Empedocles, quoted by Plutarch, taught that the north was bent from its former position, whereupon the northern regions were elevated and the southern depressed. Anaxagoras taught that the pole received a turn and that the world became inclined toward the south." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1950

"The sea erupted. Often the sea and land changed places. The immutability of contours of continents and seas, a dogma in geology, has no basis in fact. And immediately there is the problem of the climate. There were ancient climates that were very different from what they are today. If those corals grew where they were found, certainly the Earth was not travelling with the same elements of rotation and revolution which means not in the same orbit, not with the axis directed in the same position as it is today. If you don't believe it, try to cultivate corals on the North Pole." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1966

Stephen Smith: Europa's Unsettled Poles.

It appears as if the north and south poles on Jupiter's giant moon are no longer located where they originated.

Scientists have been studying images returned by the Galileo spacecraft for almost ten years now. The images transmitted from Jupiter's moons, in particular, revealed structures that seem to defy conventional geological theories. Why is Callisto covered with craters? Why does Ganymede possess a magnetic field? Why does Europa appear to be covered with water ice that is floating on a vast ocean?

A May 15, 2008 article in the science journal Nature announced that Europa seems to have experienced displacement of its north and south poles on more than one occasion.
Hecht, J., Jupiter's Moon's Poles 'Wandered' Far and Wide, New Scientist, May 2008

Schenk, P., Matsuyama, I., and Nimmo, F., True Polar Wander On Europa From Global-Scale Small-Circle Depressions, Nature, 453, Pages 368-371, May 2008

Fountain, H., Arc-Shaped Troughs on Europa May Be Sign of Wandering Poles, The New York Times, May 2008

Phil Plait: Censorship = Science

I've been banned from posting comments on the aptly named censorship advocacy website Bad Astronomy. Phil Plait had no logical or scientific response to my questions so rather than attempt to answer them persuasively he just deleted the questions. How scientific of him. Then he called me a troll because anyone who asks questions (Socrates etc) is a "troll". Not only did he delete my questions and prevent me from commenting but he also banned my ip from accessing the website. I wonder how much further science would have progressed by now if instead of directing their time and energy towards censorship they directed it towards listening, debating, and learning. If it wasn't for people like him I would probably have doubts about my beliefs. So let's all thank Phil for reinforcing our worldview.

I'm used to it by now. Brian R. has also banned me from commenting on Clastic Detritus.

UPDATE: He must've seen this because I can now access the website.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Giant Breach in Earth's Magnetic Field

NASA: A Giant Breach in Earth's Magnetic Field. (Hat tip: BF)

Dec. 16, 2008: NASA's five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth's magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to "load up" the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms. But the breach itself is not the biggest surprise. Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.

"At first I didn't believe it," says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction."

The magnetosphere is a bubble of magnetism that surrounds Earth and protects us from solar wind. Exploring the bubble is a key goal of the THEMIS mission, launched in February 2007. The big discovery came on June 3, 2007, when the five probes serendipitously flew through the breach just as it was opening. Onboard sensors recorded a torrent of solar wind particles streaming into the magnetosphere, signaling an event of unexpected size and importance.

"The opening was huge—four times wider than Earth itself," says Wenhui Li, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire who has been analyzing the data. Li's colleague Jimmy Raeder, also of New Hampshire, says "1027 particles per second were flowing into the magnetosphere—that's a 1 followed by 27 zeros. This kind of influx is an order of magnitude greater than what we thought was possible."

The event began with little warning when a gentle gust of solar wind delivered a bundle of magnetic fields from the Sun to Earth. Like an octopus wrapping its tentacles around a big clam, solar magnetic fields draped themselves around the magnetosphere and cracked it open. The cracking was accomplished by means of a process called "magnetic reconnection." High above Earth's poles, solar and terrestrial magnetic fields linked up (reconnected) to form conduits for solar wind. Conduits over the Arctic and Antarctic quickly expanded; within minutes they overlapped over Earth's equator to create the biggest magnetic breach ever recorded by Earth-orbiting spacecraft.

The size of the breach took researchers by surprise. "We've seen things like this before," says Raeder, "but never on such a large scale. The entire day-side of the magnetosphere was open to the solar wind."

The circumstances were even more surprising. Space physicists have long believed that holes in Earth's magnetosphere open only in response to solar magnetic fields that point south. The great breach of June 2007, however, opened in response to a solar magnetic field that pointed north.

"To the lay person, this may sound like a quibble, but to a space physicist, it is almost seismic," says Sibeck. "When I tell my colleagues, most react with skepticism, as if I'm trying to convince them that the sun rises in the west."
Velikovsky was well familiar with how difficult it was trying to tell people Herodotos and Plato were right about the sun rising in the West.

Here is why they can't believe their ears: The solar wind presses against Earth's magnetosphere almost directly above the equator where our planet's magnetic field points north. Suppose a bundle of solar magnetism comes along, and it points north, too. The two fields should reinforce one another, strengthening Earth's magnetic defenses and slamming the door shut on the solar wind. In the language of space physics, a north-pointing solar magnetic field is called a "northern IMF" and it is synonymous with shields up!

"So, you can imagine our surprise when a northern IMF came along and shields went down instead," says Sibeck. "This completely overturns our understanding of things."

Northern IMF events don't actually trigger geomagnetic storms, notes Raeder, but they do set the stage for storms by loading the magnetosphere with plasma. A loaded magnetosphere is primed for auroras, power outages, and other disturbances that can result when, say, a CME (coronal mass ejection) hits.

The years ahead could be especially lively. Raeder explains: "We're entering Solar Cycle 24. For reasons not fully understood, CMEs in even-numbered solar cycles (like 24) tend to hit Earth with a leading edge that is magnetized north. Such a CME should open a breach and load the magnetosphere with plasma just before the storm gets underway. It's the perfect sequence for a really big event."

Sibeck agrees. "This could result in stronger geomagnetic storms than we have seen in many years."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Scientists Confirm Infinite Hydrocarbons On Titan

NASA: Titan's Volcanoes Give NASA Spacecraft Chilly Reception.

Some Cassini scientists indicate that such volcanism could release methane from Titan's interior, which explains Titan's seemingly continuous supply of fresh methane. Without replenishment, scientists say, Titan's original atmospheric methane should have been exhausted long ago.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stream of Atomic Hydrogen Coming From The Sun

James Anthony Phillips: Solar Flare Surprise.

Dec. 15, 2008: Solar flares are the most powerful explosions in the solar system. Packing a punch equal to a hundred million hydrogen bombs, they obliterate everything in their immediate vicinity. Not a single atom should remain intact.

At least that's how it's supposed to work.

"We've detected a stream of perfectly intact hydrogen atoms shooting out of an X-class solar flare," says Richard Mewaldt of Caltech. "What a surprise! These atoms could be telling us something new about what happens inside flares."

The event occurred on Dec. 5, 2006. A large sunspot rounded the sun's eastern limb and with little warning it exploded. On the "Richter scale" of flares, which ranks X1 as a big event, the blast registered X9, making it one of the strongest flares of the past 30 years.

NASA managers braced themselves. Such a ferocious blast usually produces a blizzard of high-energy particles dangerous to both satellites and astronauts. Indeed, moments after the explosion, radio emissions from a shock wave in the sun's atmosphere signaled that a swarm of particles was on its way.

An hour later they arrived. But they were not the particles researchers expected.

NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft made the discovery: "It was a burst of hydrogen atoms," says Mewaldt. "No other elements were present, not even helium (the sun's second most abundant atomic species). Pure hydrogen streamed past the spacecraft for a full 90 minutes."
Read the whole thing.

Gravity In The Garbage Can

Science Daily: Planet Formation Could Lie In Stellar Storms Rather Than Gravitational Instability.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2008) — New research suggests that turbulence plays a critical role in creating ripe conditions for the birth of planets. The study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, challenges the prevailing theory of planet formation.

Using three-dimensional simulations of the dust and gas that orbits young stars, the study demonstrates that turbulence is a significant obstacle to gravitational instability, the process that scientists have used since the 1970s to explain the early stage of planet formation.

Gravitational instability proposes that dust will settle into the middle of the protoplanetary disk around a newly-formed star. It is thought that the dust will gradually become denser and thinner until it reaches a critical point and collapses into kilometer-size clumps, which later collide to form planets. But new research by San Francisco State University professor Joseph Barranco shows that turbulent forces keep the dust and gas swirling and prevent it from forming a dense and thin enough layer for gravitational instability to occur.

"These results defy the proposed solution of how planets are formed," Barranco said. "Scientists have long been using gravitational instability theory to explain how millimeter-size particles grow to kilometer-size, but these new simulations open new avenues of investigation. Perhaps massive storms, similar to hurricanes found on the Earth or Jupiter, provide clues about how tiny dust grains clump together to become kilometer-size boulders."
Hmmm. Planets forming from the hurricanes of Jupiter? I seem to remember a certain Dr. Velikovsky making such a claim.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Warm Plasma Cloak Discovered

Science Daily: Discovery Of Warm Plasma Cloak Surrounding Earth, New Region Of Magnetosphere

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2008) — A detailed analysis of the measurements of five different satellites has revealed the existence of the warm plasma cloak, a new region of the magnetosphere, which is the invisible shield of magnetic fields and electrically charged particles that surround and protect Earth from the onslaught of the solar wind.

The study was conducted by a team of scientists headed by Charles "Rick" Chappell, research professor of physics and director of the Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University and published this fall in the space physics section of the Journal of Geophysical Research. The northern and southern polar lights – aurora borealis and aurora australis – are the only parts of the magnetosphere that are visible, but it is a critical part of Earth's space environment.

"Although it is invisible, the magnetosphere has an impact on our everyday lives," Chappell said. "For example, solar storms agitate the magnetosphere in ways that can induce power surges in the electrical grid that trigger black outs, interfere with radio transmissions and mess up GPS signals. Charged particles in the magnetosphere can also damage the electronics in satellites and affect the temperature and motion of the upper atmosphere."

The other regions of the magnetosphere have been known for some time. Chappell and his colleagues pieced together a "natural cycle of energization" that accelerates the low-energy ions that originate from Earth's atmosphere up to the higher energy levels characteristic of the different regions in the magnetosphere. This brought the existence of the new region into focus.

The warm plasma cloak is a tenuous region that starts on the night side of the planet and wraps around the dayside but then gradually fades away on the afternoon side. As a result, it only reaches about three-quarters of the way around the planet. It is fed by low-energy charged particles that are lifted into space over Earth's poles, carried behind the Earth in its magnetic tail but then jerked around 180 degrees by a kink in the magnetic fields that boosts the particles back toward Earth in a region called the plasma sheet.

Chappell and his colleagues – Mathew M. Huddleston from Trevecca University, Tom Moore and Barbara Giles from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Dominique Delcourt from the Centre d'etude des Environments Terrestre et Planetaires, Observatoire de Saint-Maur in France – used satellite observations to measure the properties of the ions in different locations in the magnetosphere.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Black Holes And Other Cosmic Mirages

"They are looking through the wrong end of the telescope and telling us what they imagine they see." -- Mel Acheson

According to relativity, photons have zero mass. Since they have zero mass, it is impossible for gravity to have any effect on them. However this is all denied by the fanatic relativists: Supermassive Black Hole Dissected With Natural Magnifying Glasses: 1,000 Times Clearer Than Best Telescopes Can Do.

The team of astronomers from Europe and the US studied the "Einstein Cross", a famous cosmic mirage. This cross-shaped configuration consists of four images of a single very distant source. The multiple images are a result of gravitational lensing by a foreground galaxy, an effect that was predicted by Albert Einstein as a consequence of his theory of general relativity. The light source in the Einstein Cross is a quasar approximately ten billion light-years away, whereas the foreground lensing galaxy is ten times closer. The light from the quasar is bent in its path and magnified by the gravitational field of the lensing galaxy.
So let me get this straight. Prior to Einstein's hypothesis of General Relativity, magnetic fields couldn't bend light? Ever heard of magneto-optic effects? And how can something that has zero mass be affected by gravity? If gravity bends light, why don't astronauts and cosmonauts observe this effect when they look at the Earth? Why don't we see the Earth as blurry? And why don't we observe this effect around Sagittarius A*?

Dowdye, Jr., E.H., Astrophysical observations at the galactic center appear to counter General Relativity, suggesting that the conventional understanding of gravitational lensing is seriously flawed, 2007

Intense astrophysical observations at the galactic center of the Milky Way appear to counter General Relativity, suggesting that the conventional understanding of gravitational lensing is seriously flawed. The lack of evidence for any gravitational light bending effects on the emissions from the orbiting stellar objects about the galactic core clearly shows that fundamental principles of Mathematical Physics may have been seriously misapplied to the problem at the galactic core. This has apparently resulted in flawed concepts on the interaction of gravity and light, also resulting in the conventional understanding of gravitational lensing.

Observed emissions from the rapidly moving stars, especially the star known as S2, observed to move on an well defined eliptical path about the galactic center known as Sagittarius A*, appear to contradict General Relativity. Time resolved images of the Keplerian motion of these stars have exhibited to date no evidence of gravitational distortions in the images due to gravitational
light bending effects, as predicted by General Relativity. Moreover, the findings clearly show that fundamental principles of Mathematical Physics may have been seriously misapplied to the conventional understanding of gravitational lensing.

Details have been published in the highly esteemed and renowned refereed journal, the Astronomische Nachrichten (English title: Astronomical Notes). The title of the article is: "Time resolved images from the center of the Galaxy appear to counter General Relativity", Dowdye, Jr., E.H., Astronomische Nachrichten, Volume 328, Issue 2, Date: February 2007, Pages 186-191.
Scott, D., Gravitational Lensing or Death of a Theory?, Jul 2006

Dowdye, Jr., E.H., Profound Fundamentals of Mathematical Physics Seriously Misapplied to Gravitational Lensing, Dec 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why Doesn't The Earth Crash Into The Sun?

According to Newton and Einstein, the sun and Earth are attracted to eachother gravitationally.

So why haven't they crashed into eachother?

According to Newton's so-called "theory" of gravity: God.

The Earth is alleged to have formed 4.5-4.6 billion years ago and according to Newton and gravity, God in His infinite wisdom made the Earth with the exact perfect velocity at the time of creation so as not to exceed the escape velocity.

In Principles of Mathematics Having Nothing To Do With Physics Newton writes:

"Every body perserveres in it's state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line [Einstein doesn't believe in right lines so according to Relativity that's impossible], unless it is compelled to change that state by forces [electromagnetic perhaps?] impressed thereon."

However, for the past 4.5 billion years the Earth has been experiencing forces and friction via cosmic rays and Birkeland currents so the Earth should have either (a) been accelerated past escape velocity into the depths of space or (b) slowed sufficiently below orbital velocity, thus crashing into the sun.

In the General Scholium, Newton writes the following:

"...lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other, he [God] hath placed those systems at immense distances from one another."

Fixed stars? Is this guy serious? The Arp 147 galaxy pair crashing into eachother don't look too distant from one another or fixed to me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Earth Expansion Observed At Continental Rift

Calais, et al.: Strain accommodation by slow slip and dyking in a youthful continental rift, East Africa.

Continental rifts begin and develop through repeated episodes of faulting and magmatism, but strain partitioning between faulting and magmatism during discrete rifting episodes remains poorly documented. In highly evolved rifts, tensile stresses from far-field plate motions accumulate over decades before being released during relatively short time intervals by faulting and magmatic intrusions1, 2, 3. These rifting crises are rarely observed in thick lithosphere during the initial stages of rifting. Here we show that most of the strain during the July–August 2007 seismic crisis in the weakly extended Natron rift, Tanzania, was released aseismically. Deformation was achieved by slow slip on a normal fault that promoted subsequent dyke intrusion by stress unclamping. This event provides compelling evidence for strain accommodation by magma intrusion, in addition to slip along normal faults, during the initial stages of continental rifting and before significant crustal thinning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Black Hole Imagined At The Center of the Galaxy

"An atom differs from the solar system by the fact that it is not gravitation that makes the electrons go round the nucleus, but electricity." -- Bertrand Russell, physicst, 1924

It has recently been claimed that there is proof of stars orbiting a black hole at the center of our galaxy. However, gravity predicts that stars are sucked into black holes not that they orbit them regularly: Unprecedented 16-year-long Study Tracks Stars Orbiting Milky Way Black Hole.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 10, 2008) — By watching the motions of 28 stars orbiting the Milky Way's most central region with admirable patience and amazing precision, astronomers have been able to study the supermassive black hole lurking there. It is known as "Sagittarius A*" (pronounced "Sagittarius A star"). The new research marks the first time that the orbits of so many of these central stars have been calculated precisely and reveals information about the enigmatic formation of these stars — and about the black hole to which they are bound.
"The essential result of this investigation is a clear understanding as to why the 'Schwarzschild singularities' do not exist in physical reality. … The 'Schwarzschild singularity' does not appear for the reason that matter cannot be concentrated arbitrarily. And this is due to the fact that otherwise the constituting particles would reach the velocity of light. This investigation arose out of discussions [with Robertson and Bargmann] on the mathematical and physical significance of the Schwarzschild singularity. The problem quite naturally leads to the question, answered by this paper in the negative, as to whether physical models are capable of exhibiting such a singularity." -- Albert Einstein, mathematician, 1939

"Even mainstream scientists admit that at singularities the ‘laws of physics’ break down. It would be more accurate to say that their own theories break down." -- David Pratt, natural philosopher, 2005

Earthquakes Can Spark Eruptions

BBC: Earthquakes can 'spark eruptions'.

Very large earthquakes can trigger an increase in activity at nearby volcanoes according to a new study.

The controversial findings come from an analysis of records in southern Chile.

It showed that up to four times as many volcanic eruptions occurred during the year following very large earthquakes than did so in other years.

The work, by a team at the University of Oxford, appears in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The researchers say volcanoes lying up to at least 500km away from an earthquake's epicentre were affected. ...

The researchers examined the volcanic eruption and earthquake records of southern Chile where, in 1835, Charles Darwin first speculated on the link between earthquakes and eruptions.

By analysing historical records, Sebastian Watt along with Oxford colleagues David Pyle and Tamsin Mather, discovered that volcanic activity increased for about a year after each of the largest earthquakes in southern Chile - those greater than 8.0 magnitude - over the past 150 years.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mystery Chemical On Venus

(Please note: the numbers and coordinate lines have been mathematically superimposed by human imagination and do not exist in physical material actuality.)

Venus is a very strange place. It is the only planet in the inner solar system with retrograde rotation.

Now scientists say there is an unidentified mystery chemical in it's atmosphere that absorbs ultraviolet light: Venus Comes To Life At Wavelengths Invisible To Human Eyes.

Using Venus Express, it is possible to compare what the planet looks like in different wavelengths, giving scientists a powerful tool to study the physical conditions and dynamics of the planet’s atmosphere.

Observed in the ultraviolet, Venus shows numerous high-contrast features. The cause is the inhomogeneous distribution of a mysterious chemical in the atmosphere that absorbs ultraviolet light, creating the bright and dark zones.
All cultures on Earth worshipped Venus. The Chinese (Tai'Pei), the Sumerians (Innana), the Babylonians (Ishtar), the Greeks (Aphrodite), the Romans, the Arabs (Al-'Uzza), the Aztecs (Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli), the Yucatec Maya (Kukulkan), the K'iche' Maya (Gukumatz), the Toltecs (Quetzalcoatl), and the Olmecs. Even into recent times among the American Indians, in the last century still, human sacrifices were brought to the planet Venus.

Thurman, M.D., The Timing of the Skidi-Pawnee Morning Star Sacrifice, Ethnohistory, Volume 30, Issue 3, Pages 155-163, 1983

Monday, December 8, 2008

Magic Dinosaurs Loved The Freezing Cold

Even though dinosaurs were reptiles and their alleged descendents the birds migrate during the winter, "scientists" are once again ignoring Anaxagoras, Empedokles, Herodotos, Leukippos, Demokritos, Platon, Seneca, Plutarchus, Diogenes Laertius, and Velikovsky and telling us the poles have always been in their same places and the Earth's axis of rotation has never changed in the past 4 billion years: Polar Dinosaurs Endured Cold Dark Winters.

Polar dinosaurs such as the 3.3-ton duckbill Edmontosaurus are thought by some paleontologists to have been champion migrators to avoid the cold, dark season. But a study now claims that most of these beasts preferred to stick closer to home despite potentially deadly winter weather.
The dinosaurs must have had white scales to camouflage themselves in the Antarctic snow. That's why all the invisible snow lizards of today have white scales and live at the poles.

Oil Seeps Now Monitored By Satellite

New Scientist: Hunt for oil slicks boosted by free satellite images .

Natural oil oozing out from the seabed makes up nearly half of the oil that spills into the oceans. Now, a new technique that uses freely available satellite imagery can precisely locate and monitor every natural seep on Earth.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cosmos Without Gravitation

"I have long held an opinion, almost amounting to conviction, in common I believe with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, one into another, and possess equivalents of power in their action. In modern times the proofs of their convertibility have been accumulated to a very considerable extent, and a commencement made of the determination of their equivalent forces." -- Michael Faraday, physicist, 1845

"The long and constant persuasion that all the forces of nature are mutually dependent, having one common origin, or rather being different manifestations of one fundamental power, has often made me think on the possibility of establishing, by experiment, a connection between gravity and electricity …no terms could exaggerate the value of the relation they would establish.'' -- Michael Faraday, physicist, 1865

"What we call mass would seem to be nothing but an appearance, and all inertia to be of electromagnetic origin." -- Henri Poincaré, physicist, 1908

"Gravitation is an electromagnetic phenomenon." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1946

Velikovsky, I., Cosmos Without Gravitation: Attraction, Repulsion and Electromagnetic Circumduction in the Solar System, 1946

1. The ingredients of the air—oxygen, nitrogen, argon and other gases—though not in a compound but in a mixture, are found in equal proportions at various levels of the atmosphere despite great differences in specific weights. ... Why, then, do not the atmospheric gases separate and stay apart in accordance with the specific gravities?

2. Ozone, though heavier than oxygen, is absent in the lower layers of the atmosphere, is present in the upper layers ... Nowhere is it asked why ozone does not descend of its own weight or at least why it is not mixed by the wind with other gases.

3. Water, though eight hundred times heavier than air, is held in droplets, by the millions of tons, miles above the ground. Clouds and mist are composed of droplets which defy gravitation.


7. Cyclones, characterized by low pressure and by winds blowing toward their centers, move counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. This movement of air currents in cyclonic vortices is generally explained as the effect of the earth’s rotation.

Anticyclones, characterized by high pressure and by winds blowing from their centers move clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere. The movement of anticyclones has not been explained and is regarded as enigmatic.

Cyclones and anticyclones are considered a problem of fluidal motion with highest or lowest pressure in the center. As the movement of anticyclones cannot be explained by the mechanistic principles of gravitation and rotation, it must be concluded that the rotation of cyclones is also unexplained.
And the same is true for the cloud bands on Jupiter which have differential rotation.

a. Gravitation acts in no time. Laplace calculated that, in order to keep the solar system together, the gravitational pull must propagate with a velocity at least fifty million times greater than the velocity of light. A physical agent requires time to cover distance. Gravitation defies time.

b. Matter acts where it is not, or in abstentia, through no physical agent. This is a defiance of space. Newton was aware of this difficulty when he wrote in a letter to Bentley: “That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body can act upon another at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that I believe no man, who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it.” Leibnitz opposed the theory of gravitation for this very reason.
"If Dr. Velikovsky is right, the rest of us are crazy." -- Harlow Shapley, astronomer, 1946

"He [Velikovsky] invents electro-magnetic forces capable of doing precisely what he wants them to do. There is no scientific evidence whatever for the powers of these forces." -- Martin Gardner, mathematician, 1957

Immanuel Velikovsky

I have just listened to this man and read him for the first time, which given his intellectual greatness is most certainly due to censorship and poor educators, and all I can say is "wow." The religious reaction to his scientific claims was so fundamentalist and extreme that it has been the subject of psychological and psychiatric studies and papers in peer-reviewed journals and is what is known as the Velikovsky Affair.

Like Galileo, Velikovsky was ridiculed in his time by the mainstream religious establishment but time has vindicated Velikovsky.

Here are 3 Velikovsky claims.

Claim Number 1: Uniformitarianism is false.

"The sea erupted. Often the sea and land changed places. The immutability of contours of continents and seas, a dogma in geology, has no basis in fact. And immediately there is the problem of the climate. There were ancient climates that were very different from what they are today. If those corals grew where they were found, certainly the Earth was not travelling with the same elements of rotation and revolution which means not in the same orbit, not with the axis directed in the same position as it is today. If you don't believe it, try to cultivate corals on the North Pole." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1966

Claim Number 2: Venus is hot.

"And Venus must be hot if the history of the solar system is not the history of no change for billions of years. And Venus was found hot, not room temperature as was thought until 1959. In 1961 it was detected with radio means that it is like something like 600 Farenheit and Mariner 2 was sent out to find out true or not true? It was found that even more it is full 800 [degrees Farenheit]." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1966

Claim Number 3: Jupiter emits radio waves.

"But then if there were events of this character, discharges between planets and so on, I put one of the most outrageous claims before the scientific readers, that in the solar system and in the universe generally, not just gravitation and inertia are the two forces of action but that also electricity and magnetism are participating in the mechanism, so the Lord was not just a watchmaker. The universe is not free of those forces with which the man makes his life easy already more than 100 years. They were unknown practically or little known in the time of Newton in the second half of the 17th century. But today we know that electricity and magnetism, these are not just small phenomena that we can repeat as a kind of a little trick in the lab, that they permeate every field from neurology into botony and chemistry and astronomy should not be free...and it was admitted by authorities that this was the most outrageous point in my claims. But the vengeance came early and swiftly. In 1960, already in 1955, radio noises from Jupiter were detected and this was one of the crucial tests that I offered for the truth of my theory. In 1958, the magnetosphere was discovered around the Earth, another claim. In 1960, the interplanetary magnetic field was discovered and solar plasma, so-called solar wind, moving rapidly along the magnetic lines and then it was discovered that the electromagnetic field of the Earth reaches the moon ." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1966

"Our debate ended on Friday, April 8, 1955, only nine days before Einstein’s death. I think I was the last person with whom he discussed a scientific problem. On that day I brought him the published news that Jupiter sends out radio noises; ten months earlier, in a letter to him, I had offered to stake our dispute on this my claim of an as yet undiscovered phenomenon..." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1976

The radio noises of Jupiter that were only predicted by Velikovsky are available on Youtube:

He was Albert Einstein's best friend and neighbor late in life and wrote a book on the subject titled Before The Day Breaks. Einstein and Velikovsky exchanged many letters which are available online.

Here are some highlights:

"Here is the year 1845. Leverrier in France and Adams in England, out of perturbations of Uranus calculated, to the exactness of one degree of arc, the presence of a yet unseen planet. Both of them assumed that a planet of a size not larger than that of Uranus travels on an orbit at a distance dictated by Bode’s law. Neptune is actually of the size of Uranus, but the mean distance between their orbits is not ca. 1,750,000,000 miles, as Bode’s law required, but only ca. 1,000,000,000 miles; thus the error is equal to ascribing to Neptune a triple mass. The discovery of Pluto did not solve the conflict between the theory and the fact and caused also conflicting estimates of Pluto’s mass. Thus the finding of the planetary stations in relation to a chart of fixed stars is not enough; if the theory is true the distances must also be correct. And still the discovery of Neptune is regarded as the strongest proof of the Newtonian theory of celestial motions.

Now in the same 1845, the year of this triumph, Leverrier calculated also the anomaly of Mercury, and by this caused to think that the Newtonian law of gravitation may be not precisely true. Leverrier first thought of some planet moving inside the Mercurial orbit or of a possible unequal distribution of the mass in the sun. You have used the fact of the anomaly to prove that the space is curving in the presence of a mass. About the same time—in 1913—G. E. Hale published his paper on “The general magnetic field of the sun” (Contr. M. Wilson Obs., #71), in which he estimated the general magnetic field of the sun as of 50 Gauss intensity. At this intensity “under certain conditions electromagnetic forces are much stronger than gravitation.” (Alfven) The last named author in his “cosmical Electro-dynamics” (Oxford, 1950, p. 2) shows that a hydrogen atom at the distance of the earth from the sun and moving with the earth’s orbital velocity, if ionized, is acted upon by the solar magnetic field ten thousand times stronger than by the solar gravitational field."

Here is a May 1966 speech he gave to a parochial school in mp3 format known as From Book to Book and Land to Land. In it he uses his now famous expression "Collective Amnesia."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Imagination Vs. Measurement

Math Vs. Physical Science or Imagimetry Vs. Geometry.

There was a time (back in the days of philosophy) when geometry actually meant "Earth Measure." Measurement is an empirical physical science. It's truths are determined empirically through measurement of physical material. Today, geometry doesn't measure anything. Geometry has become Imagimetry. Instead of measuring the Earth with a ruler as geometry once did, Imagimetry on the other hand measures imaginary mathematical space with a magic ruler that has no defined units of measurement.

Where did science go wrong? One word: Newton. "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" are not "Empirical Conclusions of Physical Science." Science went wrong when it started worshipping Newtonian "absolute, true, and mathematical time" while ignoring the fact that Kantian mathematical time is a priori and not a physical object in itself. Physical "relative, apparent, and common time" must be measured with actual units. "Absolute, true, and mathematical" time on the other hand has no units because it is imaginary.

"Nothing exists until it is measured." -- Niels Bohr, physicist, 1930

"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." -- Nikola Tesla, physicist, 1934

"The elements of the physical reality cannot be determined by a priori philosophical considerations [aka mathematics], but must be found by an appeal to results of experiments and measurements." -- Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen, physicists, 1935

Stephen Smith: What is truth?

Astronomical research in the virtual realm [aka imagination] instigates foregone conclusions [aka a priori mathematical principles].

The Thunderbolts Picture of the Day has never considered questions that involve the search for subjective meaning in the universe to be necessary when analyzing the observations that NASA and other research groups provide. It is enough in most instances to draw correspondence between the theories proposed in peer-reviewed journals and the concepts embodied in Electric Universe [EU] hypotheses. The so-called anomalies in consensus opinions tend to disappear in most cases when EU theory is brought to bear on the questions.

A recent article in the scientific press highlights the disparity between the conclusions that should be drawn from observations and those that are drawn from within the imagination.

"Jupiter has a rocky core that is more than twice as large as previously thought, researchers announced today."

On its face the headline is not unusual and seems to indicate that evidence has been uncovered supporting a previously held theory. Not only that, the previous theory is tacitly assumed to have been correct because new information is enabling them to amplify its conclusions. However, when the announcement is fleshed-out the headline has no basis in evidence at all:

"Burkhard Militzer, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues ran computer simulations to look at conditions inside Jupiter... With information gleaned from these simulations, the researchers developed another computer model..."

Shell Breaks Subsea Drilling Record

Shell oil well in Gulf sets undersea record. (Hat tip: Anaconda)

HOUSTON - Shell Oil Co. said Tuesday it has set a world water-depth record by drilling and completing an oil well in 9,356 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

The well is part of Shell's Perdido Development project about 200 miles south of Houston. It easily topped the previous record of 6,950 feet - also set by Shell in the Gulf of Mexico. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has completed natural-gas wells in about 9,000 feet of water in the Gulf.

Production at Perdido is scheduled to begin around 2010. Shell says the project, which dates to a lease sale in 1996, will be capable of producing 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.

Deepwater drilling in the Gulf dates to 1979 when Shell began production, but development really didn't take off until the 1990s as technological advancements made it more feasible.

Shell didn't disclose Perdido's costs, but such ventures can cost billions of dollars.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nassim Taleb On Charlie Rose

NASA Observes Comets Then Ignores The Observations

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." -- Sir Winston Churchill

NASA's Swift Looks To Comets For A Cool View.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2008) — NASA's Swift Gamma-ray Explorer satellite rocketed into space in 2004 on a mission to study some of the highest-energy events in the universe. The spacecraft has detected more than 380 gamma-ray bursts, fleeting flares that likely signal the birth of a black hole in the distant universe. In that time, Swift also has observed 80 exploding stars and studied six comets.

Comets? ... Comets are "dirty snowballs" made of frozen gases mixed with dust.
Comets are dirty snowballs? I wonder why they haven't melted in the sun during the past million years. It looks more like a unicorn than a snowball.

X-rays come from superhot plasmas.

What do cold comets have in common with exploding stars or the birth of black holes?
Good question. I suspect either plasma or else absolutely nothing.

"It was a big surprise in 1996 when the NASA-European ROSAT mission showed that comet Hyakutake was emitting X-rays," says Dennis Bodewits, a NASA Postdoctural Fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "After that discovery, astronomers searched through ROSAT archives. It turns out that most comets emit X-rays when they come within about three times Earth's distance from the sun."
Hmmm, they emit x-rays but they don't melt. Sounds like the snowballs I know. A database full of comets observed and every time they emit x-rays it's a surprise? When will it stop being a surprise?

Bodewits is working with the Swift team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to study comets using data from the spacecraft's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) and X-Ray Telescope (XRT). "Swift is an excellent platform for studying dynamic processes in comets," he says.

Ultraviolet wavelengths let astronomers identify the chemical composition of the comet's atmosphere, observe the structure of dust emission, and identify the rotation of the comet's icy nucleus. X-rays reveal the structure of the comet's gas and the state of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that flows from the sun at speeds upwards of 900,000 mph.
Plasma? What's that all about? Ah nevermind, just forget it. Let's talk about gravity some more.

Swift's UVOT captured a striking sequence that shows unresolved blobs of dust trailing from a crumbling comet.
Dust or plasma? Must be dust.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Geological Myth Refuted

Geological science fiction refuted: A ‘cool’ new picture of early Earth.

The first 700 million years of Earth’s 4.5-billion-year existence are known as the Hadean period, after Hades, or, to shed the ancient Greek name,

That name seemed to fit with the common perception that the young Earth was a hot, dry, desolate landscape interspersed with seas of magma and inhospitable for life. Even if some organism had somehow popped into existence, the old story went, surely it would soon have been extinguished in the firestorm of one of the giant meteorites that slammed into the Earth when the young solar system was still crowded with debris.

Over the last decade, the mineralogical analysis of small hardy crystals known as zircons embedded in old Australian rocks has painted a picture of the Hadean period “completely inconsistent with this myth we made up,” said T Mark Harrison, a professor of geochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Those same zircon crystals also show that the modern oceans didn't exist in the Triassic and the Earth was half it's present diameter. Maybe now people can start to realize the mantle is also cold and therefore mantle convection is a myth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Time Is It?

Louis, as in Louis Hissink, made a very keen Kantian observation the other day in the comments section.

"What we have thrown out is purely mathematical science with no connection to physical reality, and why we throw out Einstein's relativity theory - his initial error was to make time a physical entity - it isn't. Knock that assumption off its perch and the rest falls down." -- Louis Hissink, Nov 2008

Which got me thinking (yet again) about the unparalleled genius of my favorite scientist and philosopher of all time, Immanuel Kant, a.k.a. "The Great Chinaman of Königsberg" (Nietzsche, 1886).

"Ah-so, Grasshopper, your shaolin metaphysical training with respect to transcendental idealism in accordance with empirical realism is now complete," Kant must've been saying with folded legs and squinting eyes in Nietszche's imagination.

As you may or may not know, it was Immanuel Kant who discovered in 1754 that the Aristotelian/Newtonian concept of "absolute, true, and mathematical time" (Newton, 1687) does not exist in material reality but can only be thought of as ideal.

In order for time to be known in any absolute sense, it must be in the form of units, and in order for it to be in the form of units, it must be measured. So what units is time measured in? Days of course.

What Kant discovered in 1754 that changed the world forever is that the rotation of the Earth is being retarded due to tidal forces not to mention the radial increase of the Earth, thus the lengthening of the day.

"Kant pointed out in the middle of last [18th] century, what had not previously been discovered by mathematicians or physical astronomers, that the frictional resistance against tidal currents on the earth's surface must cause a diminution of the earth's rotational speed. This really great discovery in Natural Philosophy seems to have attracted little attention,--indeed to have passed quite unnoticed,--among mathematicians, and astronomers, and naturalists, until about 1840, when the doctrine of energy began to be taken to heart." -- Lord Kelvin, physicist, 1897

Time, according to Kant (1781), is the a priori form of our intuition and therefore not a thing in itself or a so-called "fabric" as claimed by 20th century dogmatism.

"If we...consequently take objects as they are in themselves, then time is nothing." -- Immanuel Kant, philosopher, 1781

"...As our intuition is always sensuous, no object can ever be presented to us in experience, which does not come under the condition of time. On the other hand, we deny to time all claim to absolute reality; that is, we deny that it, without having regard to the form of our sensuous intuition, absolutely inheres in things as a condition or property. Such properties as belong to objects as things in themselves never can be presented to us through the medium of the senses. Herein consists, therefore the transcendental ideality of time, according to which, if we abstract the subjective conditions of sensuous intuition, it is nothing, and cannot be reckoned as subsisting or inhereing in objects as things in themselves, independently of our intuition." -- Immanuel Kant, philosopher, 1781

If I had known about the essay contest "On The Nature of Time" and the $10,000 cash prize being offered by the Foundational Sciences Institute earlier [in time?], I would've addressed this issue in detail.

Physicist Brian Cox and others, interviewed on the BBC, agree as well.

And thus the house of cards that Einsteinian relativity is built upon comes tumbling down.

The speed of light is not a constant "c" as there is no such material thing as empty space, a vacuum, or void (the universe is filled with plasma) and the speed of light has been experimentally slowed to less than 38 miles per hour (Hau et al., 1999, 2001) in a frozen sodium ion chamber. The records continue to be broken. Therefore special relativity has been empirically falsified.

Newton, I., Principles of Math Treating Time As Absolute, 1687

Kant, I., Kant's Cosmogony: As In His Essay On The Retardation Of The Rotation Of The Earth And His Natural History And Theory Of The Heavens, 1754

Kant, I., Critique of Pure Reason, 1781

Kant, I., Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, 1786

Nietzsche, F.W., Beyond Good and Evil, 1886

Bostick's Plasmoids: Plasma Vortices and Spiral Galaxies

Ian Tresman of Plasma Universe: Bostick’s Plasmoids.

On December 12, 1956, the front page of the New York Times announced: "Physicist 'Creates' Universe in a Test Tube; Atom Gun Produces Galaxies and Gives Clues to Creation".

Just over 50 years ago, plasma physicist Winston H. Bostick made the kind of news headlines that many a scientist dreams. In his laboratory experiment Bostick created a simple "plasma gun" consisting of a 4-inch diameter glass jar around which he wound a wire carrying an electric current that created a small magnetic field. Most of the air was removed from the jar and two titanium wires were connected to a high-voltage, high-current electric power source.

On flicking the power switch, a 10,000 ampere electric current passed through the titanium wires, instantly vaporizing them and creating a puff of ionized gas (a plasma) travelling at 450,000 miles per hour. Bostick noted that the puffs of plasma formed distinctive shapes that resembled galaxies at various stages of aging and formation. Bostick called his laboratory produced plasma entities, "plasmoids".

Over the next thirty years, Bostick, a Professor of Physics at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, investigated plasmoids further and found that "not only the morphology [shape] but the controlling dynamic elements, electric and magnetic fields, are the same in the laboratory as in the galactic phenomena".

Bostick's theory describes galaxies as analogous to series-wound homopolar generators (a kind of motor) that convert gravitational energy of rotation into increasing magnetic energy that causes galaxies to expand away from each other. Furthermore, Bostick suggested that such a model could produce a concentration of current perpendicular to the galactic disk that would be a cosmic-sized "plasma focus" – a device that produces high energy, relativistic (near the speed of light) particle beams, or jets.

Winston H. Bostick was born in 1916, and died January 19, 1991, at age 74.

Left: Two plasmoids in a magnetic field producing similarities to the shape of barred spiral galaxies.
Right: Winston H. Bostick makes the news headlines in 1956.

Further reading: Winston H. Bostick and Plasmoids.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Magnetic Reconnection On Mars

Solar Wind Rips Up Martian Atmosphere.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 29, 2008) — Researchers have found new evidence that the atmosphere of Mars is being stripped away by solar wind. It's not a gently continuous erosion, but rather a ripping process in which chunks of Martian air detach themselves from the planet and tumble into deep space. This surprising mechanism could help solve a longstanding mystery about the Red Planet.

"It helps explain why Mars has so little air," says David Brain of UC Berkeley, who presented the findings at the 2008 Huntsville Plasma Workshop on October 27th.

Billions of years ago, Mars had a lot more air than it does today. (Note: Martian "air" is primarily carbon dioxide, not the nitrogen-oxygen mix we breathe on Earth.) Ancient martian lake-beds and river channels tell the tale of a planet covered by abundant water and wrapped in an atmosphere thick enough to prevent that water from evaporating into space.

Some researchers believe the atmosphere of Mars was once as thick as Earth's. Today, however, all those lakes and rivers are dry and the atmospheric pressure on Mars is only 1% that of Earth at sea-level. A cup of water placed almost anywhere on the Martian surface would quickly and violently boil away—a result of the super-low air pressure.

So where did the air go? Researchers entertain several possibilities: An asteroid hitting Mars long ago might have blown away a portion of the planet's atmosphere in a single violent upheaval. Or the loss might have been slow and gradual, the result of billions of years of relentless "sand-blasting" by solar wind particles. Or both mechanisms could be at work.

Brain has uncovered a new possibility--a daily ripping process intermediate between the great cataclysm and slow erosion models. The evidence comes from NASA's now-retired Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft.

In 1998, MGS discovered that Mars has a very strange magnetic field. Instead of a global bubble, like Earth's, the Martian field is in the form of magnetic umbrellas that sprout out of the ground and reach beyond the top of Mars' atmosphere. These umbrellas number in the dozens and they cover about 40% of the planet’s surface, mainly in the southern hemisphere.

For years, researchers thought the umbrellas protected the Martian atmosphere, shielding pockets of air beneath them from erosion by the solar wind. Surprisingly, Brain finds that the opposite can be true as well: "The umbrellas are where coherent chunks of air are torn away."

Addressing his colleagues at the Workshop, he described how he made the discovery just a few months ago:

Brain was scrolling through archival data from Global Surveyor's particles and fields sensors. "We have measurements from 25,000 orbits," he says. During one of those orbits, MGS passed through the top of a magnetic umbrella. Brain noticed that the umbrella's magnetic field had linked up with the magnetic field in the solar wind. Physicists call this "magnetic reconnection."

What happened next is not 100% certain, but Global Surveyor's readings are consistent with the following scenario: "The joined fields wrapped themselves around a packet of gas at the top of the Martian atmosphere, forming a magnetic capsule a thousand kilometers wide with ionized air trapped inside," says Brain. "Solar wind pressure caused the capsule to 'pinch off' and it blew away, taking its cargo of air with it." Brain has since found a dozen more examples. The magnetic capsules or "plasmoids" tend to blow over the south pole of Mars, mainly because most of the umbrellas are located in Mars' southern hemisphere.

Brain isn't ready to declare the mystery solved. "We're still not sure how often the plasmoids form or how much gas each one contains." The problem is, Mars Global Surveyor wasn't designed to study the phenomenon. The spacecraft was only equipped to sense electrons, not the heavier ions which would make up the bulk of any trapped gas. "Ions and electrons don't always behave the same way," he cautions. Also, MGS sampled the umbrellas at fixed altitudes and at the same local time each day. "We need to sample many altitudes and times of day to truly understand these dynamic events."

In short, he told the audience, "we need more data."

Brain is pinning his hopes on a new NASA mission named MAVEN. Short for "Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution," MAVEN is an upper atmosphere orbiter currently approved for launch to Mars in 2013. The probe is specifically designed to study atmospheric erosion. MAVEN will be able to detect electrons, ions and neutral atoms; it will be able to measure both magnetic and electric fields; it will travel around Mars in an elliptical orbit, piercing magnetic umbrellas at different altitudes, angles, and times of day; and it will explore regions both near and far from the umbrellas, giving researchers the complete picture they need.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Should We Presume?

Mel Acheson: How Should We Presume?

The burden of proof is on gravity theorists to explain some mechanism that suppresses the large initial electromagnetic energies and then enables the weak force of gravity to build them back up again.

Several astrophysicists have told me that, although plasma cosmology appears interesting, they won’t consider it until proponents can prove that some mechanism can produce charge separation in space from neutral matter on an astronomically significant scale.

At first thought, the presumption that neutral matter is the starting condition appears reasonable. It’s consistent with our everyday experience, and it fits with our other physical theories. It’s compatible with “secure knowledge.” Until the space age, human experience was almost exclusively that of neutral earth, air, fire, and water. Except for a few intermittent events such as lightning, plasma phenomena occur only in the high-energy domains of outer space. The concept of plasma didn’t exist until the twentieth century.

Investigations of plasma phenomena in the past century now confront us with another possibility. We’ve become aware that most of the observable universe is composed of plasma. The starting condition could just as well be separated charges, and what we observe is the consequential charge combination (not recombination).

Consilience with the “already known” is a circular argument because our other physical theories are also based on this presumption. After removing tautologies, “reasonableness” reduces to “familiarity” and parochialism.

Geology provides an illustration of this bias. The formations on Earth have been exclusively described in terms of mechanical action, and the resulting facts are turned back to justify the presumption. A river flows down a valley, and the valley’s existence and form are attributed to the water’s erosion acting over a long time. Then the existence of the valley and the river as the only apparent instrumental agency is thought to justify the attribution.

Stephen Smith, in many Thunderbolts Pictures of the Day, has examined these formations in the light of a presumption that plasma forces may have caused them. The valley could have been formed in a short time by planetary-scale electric arcs, and the river would have been opportunistically “captured.” After all, we see similar formations on planets and moons that don’t have, and probably never had, water.

The electrical presumption is as general as the mechanistic one: the ocean floor may be understood as the scar of an Earth-engulfing plasma discharge, a small-scale version of what we see in planetary nebulae, and the water subsequently collected at the bottom. Changing the familiar presumption changes the familiar landscape into an unfamiliar one.

Awareness of the “bias of familiarity” then provokes a second thought. The bias arises not from where we live but from the peculiar limits of our senses. Plasma activity proclaims itself largely in frequencies such as radio and x-ray that lie outside the sensitivities of our senses. We are unfamiliar with plasma because we are blind to it. Modern astrophysicists are in this sense correct to claim that 90% of the universe is undetectable “dark” substances. Their error is to fill in the blank with mathematical extrapolations from familiar theories and to leave their thinking blind to plasma.

The space age has provided us with instruments and techniques that extend our senses to detect plasma. We are now able to experiment with it in laboratories. Our thinking tends to remain stuck in familiar habits and ideas, however. We must make an effort, sometimes a great and frightening effort, to root out our familiar presumption and to adapt our thinking to an unfamiliar new empirical foundation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cosmic Ray Hot Spots Puzzle Researchers

Ball, P., Cosmic-Ray Hot Spots Puzzle Researchers, Nature, Nov 26th 2008. (Hat tip: Dave L.)

Proton discovery may cast doubt on dark-matter theories.

Philip Ball

The Milagro detector has seen cosmic-ray hot-spots. Hot on the heels of speculation that cosmic rays may have revealed the signature of elusive dark matter in space, new observations could challenge that idea and reinforce an alternative explanation.

A seven-year-long experiment at the Milagro cosmic-ray detector near Los Alamos, New Mexico, has revealed 'bright patches' of high-energy cosmic rays in the sky1 – something incompatible with a dark-matter source.

Cosmic rays are charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, that are produced in space and generally have a characteristic energy spectrum — the higher their energy, the rarer they are.

But last week, researchers working on the Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter (ATIC) experiment, which uses detectors borne by a high-altitude balloon to measure cosmic-ray electrons above the Antarctic, reported an unexpected bump in this energy spectrum, corresponding to a surfeit of electrons with energies between 300 and 800 gigaelectronvolts2.

Hints at such an anomaly have been seen before. A satellite observatory — Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics (PAMELA) — detected an excess of cosmic-ray positrons, the anti-particles of electrons, at similar energies3. And a Japanese detector called the Balloon-borne Electron Telescope with Scintillating fibers (BETS) also found a small excess of cosmic-ray electrons at high energy4.

These cosmic rays may be the decay products of hypothetical particles of dark matter, thought to make up about 85% of all matter in the Universe. Astronomers have invoked dark matter's gravitational effects to explain why rotating galaxies don't fall apart as they whirl through space. But as the name implies, dark matter can't be seen directly and its identity remains obscure.

A common assumption is that dark matter consists of a hitherto unknown particle that interacts weakly with other forms of matter. In some theories, two dark-matter particles are predicted to annihilate when they collide, producing a high-energy electron–positron pair. These could account for the ATIC cosmic-ray bump and the hints of it in the PAMELA data. But if that's so, the anomalous cosmic rays should be distributed more or less evenly across the sky.

In contrast, the Milagro team, led by Jordan Goodman at the University of Maryland, College Park, found cosmic-ray protons bunched up in two 'hot spots': one between the Orion and Taurus constellations, the other near Gemini. They think that the excess cosmic rays may be coming from exotic sources such as the rapidly rotating neutron stars known as pulsars, rather than dark-matter annihilations.

Dark-matter mystery

Goodman stresses that it's not yet clear if the ATIC and Milagro results are related, because the former measure cosmic-ray electrons whereas the latter detect protons. But he says the sources of the protons they have seen could also plausibly generate the electrons and positrons found in the earlier studies. "If it's the same phenomenon making them all, then it's not dark matter," he says.

But the dark-mater explanation still cannot be ruled out. "I've been totally perplexed by the hot spots but I don't see any reason to connect them with the ATIC findings," says Dan Hooper, a theoretical physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

The Milagro detector isn't aimed primarily at investigating cosmic rays, but is instead used for gamma-ray astronomy. When high-energy gamma rays hit our atmosphere they trigger a shower of exotic particles. These particles annihilate when they collide with water in Milagro's giant tank, producing a flash of light that can be recorded by sensors.

But 99.9% of the flashes seen by Milagro originate from collisions of cosmic-ray protons, explains Goodman. That creates a background signal that has to be subtracted in order to identify gamma rays from energetic astrophysical sources. Goodman says that finding localized sources of cosmic-ray protons in this background came as a surprise to them.

An earlier cosmic-ray experiment called the Tibet Air Shower Array, run by a team of researchers in Japan and China, saw broad differences in the cosmic-ray intensity between the two hemispheres5, but no one had previously seen such smaller-scale concentrations.

The Milagro team suggests that the protons, with energies of around 10,000 gigaelectronvolts, may be generated in the extreme astrophysical environment of a super-dense neutron star or pulsar. At least some high-energy cosmic rays have previously been shown to come from super-massive black holes in nearby galaxies6.

"We don't know what is causing it," Goodman admits. He suggests that the localization may be partly caused by magnetic fields focusing the protons' trajectories.

But in general, magnetic fields in interstellar space should exert a randomizing influence, destroying any bright spots, says Hooper. "I can't imagine how they're created, and I don't know if anyone has any great ideas," he says.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Of White Whales and Dark Energies

Dylan Thuras: Of White Whales and Dark Energies.

It would appear that something is blasting our universe apart— an awkward situation, to say the least. As a resident of the universe, one feels as if he should have a say, a vote in the cosmic election. "Nay on Proposition Omega - The Blasting Apart of the Universe!" But alas, the universe is cruelly undemocratic. Despite one's uncomfortable feelings about it, the galaxies will continue to fly away from each other at an ever-increasing speed, and they will seemingly do so forever, until the universe turns cold and empty— a cosmic desert.

This is the standing theory anyway. To understand how we got here, to this strange and disconcerting flinging to pieces, we must go back (or at least I feel like taking us back) on a curious journey. A journey through rough seas and darkened basements, up mountain observatories and into the furthest reaches of dying starlight. We'll even learn about whales! We begin this tale one hundred and thirty years ago in Nantucket, with the unfortunate tale of a young whaler named Owen Coffin.

It was 1819 and seventeen year old Owen was bored of the Nantucket life. Bored. To. Tears. To escape his folks and enjoy a little adventure, Owen and his friend Charles took jobs aboard a whaling ship. It was a stroke of good fortune that Owen's cousin was George_Pollard_Jr, the captain of the Essex. He had gladly secured Owen and Charles positions on the ship. They were going to see the world! The intended voyage would be a two and half year trip around the west side of South America and into the South Pacific in search of Sperm Whale.

They had been out to sea for about a year, and things were going well. In fact, if things kept up at this pace, the crew of eighteen would be home, and rich, in no time at all. On the morning of November 20, 1820, whale spouts were spotted on the horizon. Three small whaling boats set out from the Essex. In the midst of the Sperm Whale hunt, a seemingly improbable disaster struck. The whale fought back.

The crew had already speared two sperm whales when, in a flash, an 85-foot bull whale 1 slammed its huge head into the side of the boat, causing the boat to rock violently "as if she had been struck by a rock," the first mate recalled. "We looked at each other with perfect amazement, deprived almost of the power of speech." As young Owen and the crew regained their footing, the whale struck the Essex again, this time staving in the bow of the huge ship. Nothing could be done. Within ten minutes, the 238-ton ship was underwater. The first mate wrote of the incident,

"Amazement and despair now wholly took possession of us. We contemplated the frightful situation the ship lay in, and thought with horror on the sudden and dreadful calamity that had overtaken us...To shed tears was all together unavailing, and withal unmanly; yet I was not able to deny myself the relief they served to afford me."

Melville wasn't kidding when he wrote "forehead to forehead I meet thee, this third time."

Two of the whaling boats were too far away to see what had occurred. When they returned to find the ship, it was nowhere to be found. Things only got worse for the crew of the Essex from there on out. Owen, George, and the rest of the crew survived in the three small whaling boats, before finding the uninhabited Henderson Island. They remained on land for a week, eating every available food source, until they had exhausted all natural resources. All the remaining crew but three set off on water in an attempt to make their way back to civilization. Back on open seas, many soon succumbed to exposure and starvation. Without some kind of sustenance, they would surely die. It was only a matter of time before they would have to answer the delicate question of which one it would be.

When Owen drew the black dot, he knew what it meant. His cousin George tried to take his place, as did his friend Charles, but Owen was steadfast. He drew the black dot and it was he who would be killed and eaten. In a cruel twist of fate, his friend Charles drew the black dot which decided who would be the one to kill Owen. Pollard pleaded with his cousin once more saying "My lad, my lad, if you do not like your lot, I'll shoot the first man that touches you," to which Owen lay down his head and replied "I like it as well as any other." Owen's 28-year-old cousin George and captain of the Essex, who had sworn an oath to protect Owen, looked on in horror as Charles shot his best friend Owen in the head. And then they ate. 2

Eventually, George and Charles were rescued along with a few other members of the crew. The ship's first mate went on to publish a book about his experiences titled Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. You can be sure Melville read it with horrified delight, and the sinking of the Pequod is based largely on the tale. 3

Horrible as it was, Owen Coffin's death was not in vain. Besides saving the lives of his fellow shipmates— albeit in a horrible and gruesome manner— and inspiring Moby Dick, there is another legacy that can be found in the tale. In a funny roundabout way, the way in which I am taking you on this strange tale, Owen, and other whalers like him, were of significant importance to the advancement of modern physics. Without whalers like Owen, we might not have achieved one the great discoveries of physics or been lead to one of the greatest scientific mysteries of our day.

Albert Abraham Michelson also once served on a ship in the US Navy. Born in Poland, but raised in the rough-and-tumble mining towns of California, the Jewish Albert had to work twice as hard to get by. While serving in the Navy, he had shown great skill in the fields of optics and heat. Now in his thirties, he was working as a scientist at the Case School in Cleveland, Ohio. One thing in particular interested Albert Michelson: He was obsessed with light and how it got where it was going. The year was 1887, and Michelson had just met another scientist named Edward Morley, who was also curious about light and the substance that carried it across the universe. They called it "the luminous ether."

Waves move through water as sound does through air. They knew there was no water or air in the vacuum of space, but there had to be something, some kind of medium in which light waves could propagate. That something was the ocean that made up all of space, it was ether, and together Michelson and Morley were going to measure it. The basic idea was that the Earth, sun, everything was spinning and moving in this ethereal stuff, like apples in a bobbing bucket. As the Earth spun in the ether it would create an ether wind, and the speed of the light aligned with the direction of the ether. Wind would be faster, like a runner with a breeze at his back. To measure this, they would use a curious instrument which Michelson had been perfecting for the past 10 years.

An inferometer is a delicate device. It is made of a steady light source, a half silvered mirror, two (or more) regular mirrors, and a "detector" or something for the light to shine onto. To detect the ether, a beam of light is sent to the half silvered mirror, a mirror that lets half of the light through and reflects the other half, split at a right angles. Then using the normal mirrors, the beam was sent back to the half silvered mirror where it would recombine into one beam and shine onto the detector.4 The speed of the light would change depending on how the Earth was positioned to the ether wind, and this difference would be shown in a tell-tale pattern on the detector. Measure this, and you'd measure the ether.

Michelson and Morley often had to wait to do their experiments until late in the evening, when the city had quieted down, to make sure there would be no disrupting vibrations. To protect against vibrations and interference, the inferometer was kept in a basement and built on a massive slab of marble, which was then floated on a pool of mercury. One can picture them now, sitting there, bowler-hatted and mustachioed in a dark basement, ready to use the apparatus. All they needed was a steady and reliable light source. For this they looked to the sea.

And here is where the whales come back in. Are you ready to learn more about whales? Here goes. Physeter macrocephalus, or the Sperm Whale, is a remarkable creature. They have the largest brain 5 ever to exist in any known animal; they can survive in a huge range of environments and are found from the Arctic to the equator; they feed primarily on giant and colossal squid (and have been known to snack on Great Whites); they collectively eat more tonnage of seafood then the entirety of humanity; the bull males have no natural predators and are the largest living toothed animal; they use echolocation to help see and find mates; they produce the loudest sounds known in nature; and they can live for over 70 years! Whew! Sperm Whales are bizarre, majestic, and truly fantastical creatures.

To the people of the 19th century, whales were a lot like a floating Wal-Marts; huge, ugly, and full of desirable products. Whale bone was used in clothing and as decoration, whale meat could be eaten (though it rarely was 6) or used as feed for animals, and whale teeth were carved into artful decorations called scrimshaw. Even more valuable was whale fat, used in soaps, cosmetics, and as machine lubricant. A foul-smelling mass called ambergris, when aged, was worth almost its weight in gold and was used as an ingredient in expensive perfumes7. But more than anything, Sperm Whale hunters were after spermaceti.

Today the finite [sic] resources of petroleum pose a major problem, but in those days, they had a different kind of dependence on foreign oil. The head of a Sperm Whale is one fourth the length of it's entire body, and it is filled with a waxy white substance known as spermaceti. It is used by the whales as ballasts. When the fluid was first discovered in the 1700s, it reminded whalers of sperm, hence the name Sperm Whales. 8 To collect this liquid, the whale's head would be cut off and lashed to the side of the ship. A whaler would then bore a man-sized hole in the whale's head and climb inside, chest deep in spermaceti, and hand out buckets— often up to three tons— of the of the waxy liquid. This messy job was done because spermaceti proved to have one exceedingly valuable property. It burned brightly, and it burned evenly. 9

Candles were a big business in the 19th century. William Procter and his brother-in-law James Gamble (you might recognize their last names) made their fortune selling candles. During the Middle Ages, candles were made of either animal fat (known as tallow) or beeswax. Tallow candles were smoky, the light was uneven, and they smelled of seared flesh as they burned. The more expensive beeswax candles burned better, but spermaceti candles proved to be the best. They burned brightly and evenly— evenly enough so that they could be used to produce a standard measurement of light, something of great importance to anyone that might, for example, be trying to control the variables in physics experiments.

Let's take a moment here to talk about units of measurement. It may not seem like it, but units of measurement are fascinating and really quite wacky. The cubit, span, yard, fathom, handbreadth, and foot all measure the same thing: length. In a 1958 MIT fraternity prank, members used their fraternity brother Oliver R. Smoot to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge in a unit of measurement they termed "smoots." They layed Smoot end over end across the entire bridge. (The bridge's length was measured to be 364.4 smoots plus or minus one ear 10.) So really, anything can be a unit of measurement, as long as it is agreed upon. But of course, they weren't agreed upon at all until recently. An "inch" was measured as the width of a man's— any man's— thumb, and the weight of a pound was based on the weight of grain, which was different in each town. Uniformly agreed-upon units of measurement are extremely important, because without them, activities like building a house, paying someone for a bag of feed, or asking someone how far to the next town become very, very difficult. So when people did manage agree on a new unit of measurement, it was worth noting.

And so it was defined in 1860 that a unit of candlepower was the light produced by "a pure spermaceti candle weighing one-sixth of a pound, burning at a rate of 120 grains per hour." Spermaceti candles weren't just an excellent source of oil, but were now a scientific instrument as well. When Michelson and Morley lit their spermaceti oil-filled lamps, they understood that it burned at a scientifically calibrated rate of eight candlepower units per hour.

But what Michelson and Morley didn't understand was why they couldn't see the ether. They tried the experiment again and again, but they couldn't seem to measure anything substantial. What they did measure was 1/40th of what they expected— so small, in fact, as to fall within the margin of error. It was almost as if the ether didn't even exist. But that couldn't be right, for if the ether didn't exist and light traveled at a constant speed... well, it would mean that Newton, Galileo, and the entire basis of physics was wrong! The lack of an ether was a shocking discovery, and the Michelson-Morley experiment became known as the most famous failed experiment. This is not to say it wasn't valuable; indeed, it may have been one of the most important physics experiments ever conducted. Michelson went on to receive the Nobel Prize for his work on the experiment. (For his part, Morley never fully believed the results of his own experiment, and he went on to test for the ether in several more experiments.) But there was one young man who became sure the experiment had been a success. He was only eight years old at the time of the Michelson-Morely experiment, busy reading geometry books, and it would be another eighteen years before he would say exactly how they were wrong. But when he did explain, the world took notice.

Albert Einstein was positive the inferometer had worked. He was sure that it proved there was no ether. As it turns out, ether is kind of unwieldy. If you consider a universe governed by a mysterious and unmeasurable substance and a universe without it, this mysterious ether quickly seems like a bizarre assumption. All you needed to do was forgot all your assumptions and imagine a universe without ether, which Einstein promptly did. 11 Einstein developed this idea further, saying that the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment meant that light traveled in all directions, at once, at a constant speed. Einstein slowly began to realize that even if Michelson and Morely had been doing the same test while flying through space at half the speed of light, their results would have been the same. There was no light faster then light, no light slower than light— there was only the speed of light and it was a constant. 12 Einstein called this idea his special theory of relativity and it was to turn the world of physics upside down.

Ninety some years later, Einstein's special theory of relativity, with all it's strange space-time implications 13, as well as his general theory of relativity have been established as tried and true physics and the basis for modern cosmology. At first Einstein fitted the universe with what he called the cosmological constant, a sort of antigravity ether of his own devising. Einstein was embarrassed by the cosmological constant, as it was an awful lot like the ether, but his belief was that the universe was static and the anti-gravitational constant was a way of explaining why gravity hadn't simply crushed everything. But when Einstein was confronted with evidence that the universe was expanding, he took back his cosmological constant, calling it the biggest blunder of his life. The stars, it seemed, would not allow for a static universe.

Galaxies have a color, some are red and some are blue. To us humans at least. This sounds a bit whimsical, but these colors are how we first realized that the universe was doing more then just sitting around, hanging out. Discovered by a shy and secretive astronomer named Vesto Slipher and made famous by braggart Edwin Hubble, astronomers realized that by measuring the colors of galaxies, they could tell which way the universe was moving. In the spectrum of light, blue light is more energetic (shorter wavelengths) and red light is less energetic (longer wavelengths). When light moving through the galaxy is all scrunched up and moving toward us, it appears blue, known as a "blue shift," and when the light is all stretched out and moving away from us, it appears red, known as a "red shift." 14

Slipher and Hubble clearly saw that things in the universe were, by and large, very red. Not only that, but the red shift coming from distant galaxies was proportional to the distance. Most galaxies were red, and the further away the galaxy, the redder it appeared. This meant that the universe was indeed expanding, and the Big Bang Theory was born shortly thereafter. High fives were had, and it seemed, for a while at least, that cosmology was really beginning to make some sense. That is, until astronomers watched a star explode. There were still some very big surprises in store for physicists, involving another measurable unit of light or "standard candle" as well. This candle, however, would be even more exotic than the one crafted from spermaceti.

And this is where we learn about giant, fiery, exploding stars! Imagine a star, the sun for example. It is a huge, massively gigantic fireball, capable of fitting roughly 1.3 million Earths inside. Now imagine it exploding... are you picturing it? If what you see isn't cool, you are not imagining it right. As the star explodes, the explosion rips through its solar system, destroying everything in its path. Planets are incinerated like garbage, moons are vaporized, all in its path ceases to be. It is a big damn explosion. Stars go supernova when the star suddenly has too much (or not enough) energy to remain stable. Sometimes the star's core abruptly turns off and the star collapses into a black hole, releasing massive waves of energy. The other and even more spectacular result is when, like someone who eats himself to death 15, a star sucks up too much fuel from a neighboring star and undergoes "runaway nuclear fusion," literally blowing itself to smithereens.

It probably goes without saying that supernovae are also extremely bright. Five billion times brighter than the sun kind-of bright. In 1006, a supernova occurred that was seen around the world. Chinese, Arab, and Native American astronomers all recorded the stellar event, and it was bright enough that, according modern astronomer Frank Winkler, "people could probably have read manuscripts at midnight by its light." A single supernovae can emit as much light in a couple of weeks as our sun will in its entire 4.5 billion-year life span. Really. Really. Bright. Lucky for us they are also very far away. For astronomers looking to gauge the rate at which the universe was expanding, something really, really bright and really, really far away was just what they needed.

Astronomers knew that the universe was expanding. Slipher and Hubble had already proven this, but what they didn't know was how fast it was happening. Measuring the red shift of galaxies to find the rate was problematic due to interfering light from other galaxies. In the words of astrophysicist and writer Michael Brooks "it is like trying to measure the properties of human speech by listening to a soccer crowd." No, to figure out the the speed of the universe's expansion, they needed something of uniform extreme brightness, a "standard candle" as they called it. Enter the supernova.

Set on mountaintops in Chile, Hawaii, and Arizona are three observatories with exceedingly powerful telescopes. In 1996, they were all trained on an exploding star in the far reaches of space. Like the spermaceti candle before it, certain types of supernova have a uniform brightness, so they can be used as a unit of measurement to calculate the distance and acceleration in the farthest reaches of the cosmos 16. By measuring the rate at which the light from these massively bright star explosions shifts red, the astronomers would be able to tell the rate at which the universe was expanding. From that, they could project when they thought the expansion would end. The general assumption was that 13.5 billion years after the Big Bang, the universe should be getting tired and slowing down a bit. It would still expand, but slower and slower. Eventually, astronomers agreed, it would stop expanding and begin contracting in a process known as "the big crunch." But in 1996, as the research teams watched a star explode and looked at the data from the supernova, they saw something no one had expected.

One head researcher, when looking at the data, said his reaction was "somewhere between horror and amazement." Just like Michelson and Morley, they looked through the data again and again, knowing it couldn't be correct. It all pointed to one impossible thing. The supernova was further away than they thought it to be, and the red shift was much greater than they expected. And it was increasing exponentially. The universe was not just expanding, the expansion was growing faster and faster; the cosmos, in the words of Michael Brooks, was literally "blowing itself apart."

This was a fate was not only terrifying, but it made no sense. For the universe to be exponentially expanding, something, some energy— you might even say some sort of ether— must be pushing it. When the astronomers tried to account for this by calculating the quantum energy in the vacuum of space, they got an even more confusing answer. It suggested that the vacuum energy was 1 followed by 120 zeros larger than the expansion of the universe, which meant the universe should have effectively ripped itself into pieces in the first microseconds of its existence. On the one hand, you had a universe accelerating for no reason, making no sense in the context of the Big Bang, and on the other, there was a number derived from quantum physics that suggested we shouldn't even have a universe to watch accelerate in the first place. Into this unpleasant void stepped a theory, or more accurately, a name for something— the something that has no explanation, but fills the cosmos and is pushing it apart with untold force. Luminous ether, meet your evil twin: dark energy 17.

And that is how we, and this tale told via Owen Coffin, whale attacks, cannibalism, Moby Dick, spermaceti, the weird history of the ether, inferometers, smoots, relativity and time dilation, red shifts, and exploding stars, have arrived at the rather problematic cosmological situation we are in. No one knows what dark energy is, or how it works, or what it is made up of. But we know that without it, our current understanding of the universe ceases to function. Like the debunking of the ether, the accelerating universe has left a smoking theoretical hole in the cosmological underpinnings of our universe, and we humans are in the odd position of living in a frightening universe where everything is constantly getting further from everything else. But scientific confusion makes for opportunity, and the unexplainable often leads to entirely new scientific paradigms. Perhaps somewhere out there, there is an eight-year-old child studying geometry books, a child who will one day turn the world of astrophysics on its head and present humanity with an entirely new model of creation.

Whales live an exceedingly long time. Some, like the Bowhead Whale, can live for more than 200 years. A whale that could have been a baby swimming in the Artic Ocean in 1820 when the Essex was sunk and Owen Coffin drew the black dot, a teenager when Moby Dick was published, a young adult in 1887 when Michelson and Morley disproved ether and Einstein presented the theory of special relativity in 1905, and reaching old age when we humans discovered that the universe was flying to pieces in 1996— that whale, that aged and magnificent creature, may yet still live to see yet another revolution in physics. Hopefully, this time, it won't come at the cost of his head.
Happy thanksgiving!