Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Methanogenic Archaea Convert Electrons Into Methane

Carbon dioxide + water + electrons = methane + oxygen.

Penn State Live: Microbes turn electricity directly to methane.

University Park, Pa. -- A tiny microbe can take electricity and directly convert carbon dioxide and water to methane, producing a portable energy source with a potentially neutral carbon footprint, according to a team of Penn State engineers.

"We were studying making hydrogen in microbial electrolysis cells and we kept getting all this methane," said Bruce E. Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, Penn State. "We may now understand why."

Methanogenic microorganisms do produce methane in marshes and dumps, but scientists thought that the organisms turned hydrogen or organic materials, such as acetate, into methane. However, the researchers found, while trying to produce hydrogen in microbial electrolysis cells, that their cells produced much more methane than expected.

"All the methane generation going on in nature that we have assumed is going through hydrogen may not be," said Logan. "We actually find very little hydrogen in the gas phase in nature. Perhaps where we assumed hydrogen is being made, it is not."

Microbial electrolysis cells do require an electrical voltage to be added to the voltage that is produced by bacteria using organic materials to produce current that evolves into hydrogen. The researchers found that the Archaea, using about the same electrical input, could use the current to convert carbon dioxide and water to methane without any organic material, bacteria or hydrogen usually found in microbial electrolysis cells. They report their findings in this week's issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

"We have a microbe that is self perpetuating that can accept electrons directly, and use them to create methane," said Logan.

Motion and Change on Mars

In Aristotle's Physics, he said nature is a principle of motion and change.

Stuart Atkinson of UnmannedSpaceFlight.Com has new pics of Mars which confirm Aristotle's wisdom: Boulders a’bouncing on Mars….

They show movement, they show that things are moving on Mars right now. It’s not the dead, lifeless, corpse of a world I grew up with; it’s a world - we now know - where dust devils whirl and twirl across the plains… where clouds drift through the pale pink sky… and where huge stones fall from high cliff face, fall to the ground below, then bounce and roll and crash over it… unseen by anyone.

For now.

Bad Assumptions = Bad Conclusions

Science Daily: Hundreds Of Natural-selection Studies Could Be Wrong, Study Demonstrates.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2009) — Scientists at Penn State and the National Institute of Genetics in Japan have demonstrated that several statistical methods commonly used by biologists to detect natural selection at the molecular level tend to produce incorrect results.

"Our finding means that hundreds of published studies on natural selection may have drawn incorrect conclusions," said Masatoshi Nei, Penn State Evan Pugh Professor of Biology and the team's leader. The team's results will be published in the Online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week ending Friday 3 April 2009 and also in the journal's print edition at a later date.

Nei said that many scientists who examine human evolution have used faulty statistical methods in their studies and, as a result, their conclusions could be wrong.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Peratt Vs. Newton

Tom Wilson points out an Anthony Peratt paper which debunks Newtonian gravitation and the idiotic inverse square so-called "law": A New Look at Near Neighbors Part One. (Hat tip: Anaconda)

It is worth a few words here to summarize some very important seminal work in the paper by Anthony Peratt mentioned above. In his study, Peratt performed particle-in-cell computer simulations of Birkeland current interactions. The results illustrated how plasma dynamics lead to galactic structures evolving from double radio galaxies, to radio quasars, to ellipticals and then to spiral galaxies. This paper is thick with insight. There are some papers that you can read over and over and continually find new gems, this is one of those papers.

As Peratt's simulations revealed, a galaxy evolves as two (or more) Birkeland currents moving together with an attractive force proportional to the inverse of their linear distance (note it is not the inverse square law). In astronomical observations, the two Birkeland currents are detected as radio “lobes” due to synchrotron radiation.

As the two pinched Birkeland filaments come close to each other, intergalactic plasma is trapped, forming an elliptical core at the geometric center between the two filaments, which later becomes the nucleus of the galaxy. Magnetic fields between the filaments condense and aggregate the intervening plasma, raising its internal energies. The elliptical core at this point is analogous to a radio quasar.

The two Birkeland filaments (also concentrating matter within their magnetically pinched volume) torque around each other, changing the morphology of the core plasma (flattening the ellipse) and eventually evolving into trailing arms as electric current, axial to the arms, flows into the core of the galaxy. At that point the two Birkeland filaments merge with the core. So the core of a galaxy derives from whatever intergalactic plasma was trapped between the two (or more) Birkeland filaments and the arms of the spiral derive mostly from the pinched Birkeland filaments themselves. ...

4) M33 has been said to lack a super-massive black hole at its core (that is to say, the rotational velocity decreases closer to the galactic core).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Glory Satellite To Monitor Solar Cycles

Science Daily: New Sun-Watching Satellite To Monitor Sunlight Fluctuations.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2009) — During the Maunder Minimum, a period of diminished solar activity between 1645 and 1715, sunspots were rare on the face of the sun, sometimes disappearing entirely for months to years. At the same time, Earth experienced a bitter cold period known as the "Little Ice Age." ...

When NASA launches the Glory satellite this fall (no earlier than October 2009), researchers will have a more accurate instrument for measuring TSI than they've ever had before.

The Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) on Glory is more sophisticated, but still related in concept to the very earliest ground-based solar radiometers, which were invented in 1838. Where those radiometers used sunlight to heat water and indicate the intensity of the sun's brightness at the Earth's surface, Glory's TIM instrument will use a black-coated metallic detector to measure how much heat is produced by solar radiation as it reaches the top of the Earth's atmosphere. ...

Research shows such variations in the Sun's emissions can affect the ozone layer and the way energy moves both vertically and horizontally through the atmosphere.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Media Distortion Damages Science

Simon Baron-Cohen: Media distortion damages both science and journalism.

WHEN media reports state that scientist X of Y university has discovered that A is linked to B, we ought to be able to trust them. Sadly, as many researchers know, we can't.

This has three serious consequences. For starters, every time the media misreports science, it chips away at the credibility of both enterprises.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Venus and Velikovsky

Rens Van Der Sluijs: Velikovskian Chaff and Wheat: Venus

Science progresses in a variety of ways.

One way that science progresses is through a careful evaluation of arguments advanced by earlier scholars in the field. For the sake of academic honesty, this has to be done in a completely dispassionate manner. The work of pioneers, Nobel-prize winners and other prestigious people cannot be judged by different standards than that of the least noticed postgraduate student.

The maverick Russian-American polymath, Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979), deserves recognition for his pioneering statements about the role of electromagnetic activity in space and the importance of catastrophic events even in historically recent periods. Yet science has no place for worship and it is incumbent on modern researchers to scrupulously evaluate each of Velikovsky’s many claims in the light of current knowledge.

One of Velikovsky’s boldest ideas was that the planet Venus is a relative newcomer in the solar system: during the mid-2nd millennium BCE, it would have been erupted from the interior of the planet Jupiter and have inflicted damage to the earth’s atmosphere and biosphere with its conspicuous cometary tail before settling in its present orbit and shedding its appendage. How does this analysis fare when approached today with an open but a sternly critical mind? ...

First, Velikovsky’s citation of the Roman intellectual, Varro, to the effect that Venus “changed its color, size, form, course, which never happened before nor since,” presents a genuine puzzle to modern historians of the solar system. The citation itself is unambiguous and not suspicious, but it needs to be resolved exactly how and when Venus’ colour, appearance and movement were modified.

In addition, the so-called Venus Tablet of Ammiṣaduqa (7th century BCE?), which presents the oldest known set of Venus observations, remains a mystery. Specialists are urged to investigate whether the data given in the tablet could consistently describe not the present orbit of Venus, but any other course the planet might have followed.

Second, Velikovsky’s argument that Venus once sported a cometary tail stands up to close scrutiny and can be buttressed with a mass of additional evidence. In modern terms, a plausible explanation for the ancient testimony would be the assumption that Venus’ large magnetosphere had acquired a visible glow in historical times, at a time when the inner solar system was brimming with electrical activity.

Third, Velikovsky rightly drew attention to the voluminous body of mythical traditions concerning the birth of the morning star. The spectacular ascent to heaven of the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, in Aztec mythology, is a textbook example for this motif.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Electrically Charged Particles Correlated To Antarctic Ozone Hole

Protons, alpha particles, and electrons. Oh my! (Via Watts Up With That)

Lu, Q.B., Correlation Between Cosmic Rays and Ozone Depletion, Physical Review Letters, Volume 102, Number 11, 118501, Mar 2009

This Letter reports reliable satellite data in the period of 1980–2007 covering two full 11-yr cosmic ray (CR) cycles, clearly showing the correlation between CRs and ozone depletion, especially the polar ozone loss (hole) over Antarctica. The results provide strong evidence of the physical mechanism that the CR driven electron-induced reaction of halogenated molecules plays the dominant role in causing the ozone hole. Moreover, this mechanism predicts one of the severest ozone losses in 2008–2009 and probably another large hole around 2019–2020, according to the 11-yr CR cycle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mainstream Scientists Track "Mythology" For The First Time

Scientific American: Rock Science: First Meteorites Recovered on Earth from an Asteroid Tracked in Space.

Last October, asteroid monitors at the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson picked up a small object on an immediate collision course with Earth. The asteroid was too small to present a real threat—just a few meters across, it stood little chance of penetrating the atmosphere intact. Indeed, it exploded in a stratospheric fireball over northern Sudan less than 24 hours later—an event witnessed by people on the ground as well as the pilots of a KLM airliner—conforming well to astronomer's predictions for its trajectory.

But the asteroid, dubbed 2008 TC3, was nonetheless a momentous discovery: Among the countless small objects that strike Earth's atmosphere every year, none had ever been detected and tracked before it impacted. Now the Sudan bolide has yielded yet another first: Researchers report in Nature today that they have recovered 47 meteorites from the object in the Nubian Desert. And lead author Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., says that another search completed earlier this month, after the paper was submitted, has upped the meteorite count to about 280.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flying Cars To Burn Hydrocarbons & Defy Gravity

"Heavier than air flying machines are impossible." -- Lord Kelvin, gravitational physicist, 1895

Science Daily: Flying Car Takes Wing: Invention Makes Its First Test Flights.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2009) — A prototype of what is being touted as the world's first practical flying car took to the air for the first time this month, a milestone in a project started four years ago by students in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

At 7:40 a.m. on March 5, the winged car taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway -- a maneuver it would repeat about a half dozen times over the next two days. In the coming months the company, a Woburn-based startup called Terrafugia, will test the plane in a series of ever-longer flights and a variety of maneuvers to learn about its handling characteristics.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cold Fusion Confirmed (Again)

EE Times: Cold fusion experimentally confirmed.

PORTLAND, Ore. — U.S. Navy researchers claimed to have experimentally confirmed cold fusion in a presentation at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting.

"We have compelling evidence that fusion reactions are occurring" at room temperature, said Pamela Mosier-Boss, a scientist with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (San Diego). The results are "the first scientific report of highly energetic neutrons from low-energy nuclear reactions," she added.
No doubt the results will be deliberately ignored i.e. the science denied and actively suppressed, censoring scientific progress with the help of Twitter.
Cold fusion was first reported in 1989 by researchers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons ... Other scientists were unable to duplicate the 1989 results, thereby discrediting the work.
Scientists can't duplicate the results of Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens either, but that doesn't mean the 100 mile per hour fastball doesn't exist.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Evidence For Pacific Vicariance

Above: The Late Cretaceous World of Meinong's Jungle According to Plate Tectonics
(It's dominated by gravitation which allows pterosaurs the size of giraffes to defy it, and by Dark Matter of course)


Below: The Real World of Biogeography and Dennis J. McCarthy (Yeah yeah, another McCarthy puff piece I know...:P)

Vicariance: The separation or division of a group of organisms by a geographic barrier, such as a mountain or a body of water, resulting in differentiation of the original group into new varieties or species.

"The notion of random, and sometimes two-way, 'rafting' across the wide oceans ... evinces, however, a weakening of the scientific outlook, if not a confession of doubt from the standpoint of organic evolution." -- Alexander Du Toit, geologist, 1844

Chilean Flat Oyster

Ostrea chilensis is endemic to Chile and New Zealand.

"Currently, a significant number of distributional facts, particularly involving oceanic disjunctions of poor-dispersing taxa, are in direct conflict with conventional paleomaps of the Mesozoic Pacific and Tethys."
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeographical and Geological Evidence for a Smaller, Completely-Enclosed Pacific Basin in the Late Cretaceous, Journal of Biogeography, Volume 32, Issue 12, Pages 2161 - 2177, 2005

"Many researchers have dealt with these inconsistencies by ignoring basic biogeographical realities and positing a radical cross-ocean rafting dispersal hypothesis to explain the problematic disjunctions."
Foighil, D.O., et al., Trans-Pacific Range Extension by Rafting Is Inferred for the Flat Oyster Ostrea chilensis, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Volume 13, Pages 1087-1105, 1996

However, the flat oyster, Ostrea chilensis, does not have an extended pelagic phase suggesting alternative tectonic theories.
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeography and Scientific Revolutions, The Systematist, Number 25, Pages 3-12, 2005

Sphenodon (Tuatara)

"Sphenodontian reptiles successfully radiated during Triassic and Jurassic times, but were driven almost to extinction during the Cretaceous period."
Apesteguía, S., and Novas, F.E., Large Cretaceous Sphenodontian From Patagonia Provides Insight Into Lepidosaur Evolution In Gondwana, Nature, Volume 425, Pages 609-612, Oct 2003
Miller, H.C., Belov, K., and Daugherty, C.H., Characterization of MHC Class II Genes From An Ancient Reptile Lineage, Sphenodon (Tuatara), Immunogenetics, Volume 57, Number 11, Pages 883-891, Nov 2005
Miller, H.C., Belov, K., and Daugherty, C.H., MHC Class I Genes in the Tuatara (Sphenodon spp.): Evolution of the MHC in an Ancient Reptilian Order, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Proceedings of the SMBE Tri-National Young Investigators' Workshop, 2005

"The fossil record of sphenodontids in the Southern Hemisphere is much longer than in Laurasia, where they became extinct after Early Cretaceous times."
Apesteguía, S., A Late Campanian Sphenodontid (Reptilia, Diapsida) From Northern Patagonia, Comptes Rendus Palevol, Volume 4, Issue 8, Pages 663-669, Dec 2005

"At the end of the Early Cretaceous the once abundant sphenodontians vanished from the Laurasian record and were thought to have become virtually extinct."
Apesteguía, S., and Rougier, G.W., A Late Campanian Sphenodontid Maxilla from Northern Patagonia, American Museum Novitates, Volume 3581, Pages 1-11, 2007

"Recent works demonstrated the persistence of at least eilenodontine sphenodontids until the ‘mid’-Cretaceous of Patagonia."
Apesteguía, S., A Late Campanian Sphenodontid (Reptilia, Diapsida) From Northern Patagonia, Comptes Rendus Palevol, Volume 4, Issue 8, Pages 663-669, Dec 2005

"The most recent fossil relatives of the only living sphenodon, New Zealand's lizard-like Tuatara, are the Late Cretaceous sphenodontians of Patagonia."
Apesteguía, S., and Novas, F.E., Large Cretaceous Sphenodontian From Patagonia Provides Insight Into Lepidosaur Evolution In Gondwana, Nature, Volume 425, Pages 609-612, Oct 2003

said lead study author Marc Jones, a postdoctoral fellow at University College London. "If we look at the transoceanic capabilities of the modern [tuatara], it can swim but only short distances. It is able to survive without food for several months, but dehydration would be a serious problem for a long journey."

Paleontologist Ewan Fordyce, a professor at the University of Otago who was not involved in the study, said another problem with the theory is an apparent lack of a mainland tuatara population that could have recolonized the islands.

"If tuatara had actually migrated here after [Zealandia went underwater], we would expect to find a fossil record in nearby land areas like Australia," he said, "and they're just not there."
Hansford, D., Tuatara Ancestor Adds to "Sunken New Zealand" Debate, National Geographic News, Jan 2009

So the question is naturally raised, if the Paleomaps of the Late Cretaceous are correct, how did the tuatara teleport from Patagonia to New Zealand in the Late Cretaceous, without leaving a single descendant in between if they were separated by the Pacific Ocean?
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeographical and Geological Evidence for a Smaller, Completely-Enclosed Pacific Basin in the Late Cretaceous, Journal of Biogeography, Volume 32, Issue 12, Pages 2161 - 2177, 2005
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeography and Scientific Revolutions, The Systematist, Number 25, Pages 3-12, 2005

Fiji Banded Iguana

Fiji's banded iguana Brachylophus is closely related to the Fiji crested iguana and the two are related to the Californian iguanid Dipsosaurus better known as the desert iguana and possibly also the green iguana.
Sites, J.W., Jr., et al., Character Congruence and Phylogenetic Signal In Molecular and Morphological Data Sets: A Case Study In The Living Iguanas (Squamata, Iguanidae), Molecular Biology and Evolution, Volume 13, Pages 1087-1105, 1996

How they arrived on the shores of Fiji and other Pacific islands is a puzzle. One theory is that they rafted some 13-million years ago.
Hello Hello: New Species Found In Fiji, New Zealand Associated Press, Sep 2008

The disjunction of the Fijian banded iguana and its California sister requires, according to conventional paleomaps, an 8000 - 12000 km rafting trip, mostly over hypothetical (i.e. currently nonexistent) seafloor. This is more than three times longer than the now forsaken trans-Atlantic rafting trips put forth to save continental stabalism. This hypothetical trip would be the greatest oceanic jaunt of any taxon in the history of terrestrial vertibrates - and by far. Yet the banded iguana is restricted to Fiji-Tonga and appears on no other oceanic islands.
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeography and Scientific Revolutions, The Systematist, Number 25, Pages 3-12, 2005

If a one month rafting trip for green iguanas is stretching the limits of hydration and imagination then surely a two year rafting trip is impossible.
Rivera, R., Rafting Iguanas, Science World, Jan 1999


The discovery of Chinese marsupials, particularly the oldest known marsupial Sinodelphys szalayi which lived in China 125 million years ago, is a deathblow to plate tectonics. How did marsupials teleport from China to South America?
Rincon, P., Oldest Marsupial Ancestor Found, BBC, Dec 2003
Pickrell, J., Oldest Marsupial Fossil Found in China, National Geographic, December 2003
Klinger, M.A., Sinodelphys szalayi, Carnegie Mellon Natural History, 2003


"Monkeys do not appear on any oceanic island so if they do have the ability to raft across oceans, it is apparently a talent they do not like to flaunt."
Mittermeier, R.A., et al., Nowak (ed) Walker's Primates of the World, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeography and Scientific Revolutions, The Systematist, Number 25, Pages 3-12, 2005


The only study done on saltwater tolerance of Malagasy cichlids confirmed that their exposure to saltwater was 100% fatal after 12 hours. Cichlids have been unable to reach any oceanic island and have a predominantly Gondwanan distribution, showing the precise sister relationships predicted by vicariance: Africa-South America and India-Madagascar. The dispersal hypothesis requires freshwater cichlids to have negotiated thousands of kilometers of open ocean between India and Madagascar without colonizing any other island or, for that matter, crossing the Mozambique Channel to Africa. Apparently, these taxa like to confine their oceanic jaunts between regions that were once connected. Chakrabarty concludes from his review of phylogenetic analyses that vicariance is the only explanation.
Chakrabarty, P., Cichlid Biogeography: Comment and Review, Fish and Fisheries, Volume 5, Issue 2, Pages 97-119, May 2004
McCarthy, D.J., Biogeography and Scientific Revolutions, The Systematist, Number 25, Pages 3-12, 2005

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Conspiracy To Edit War At Good Schist

"Some 'scientists' attempted to suppress Velikovsky's ideas. The supression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there's no place for it in the endeavor of science. We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system and the history of our study of the solar sytem shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources." -- Carl Sagan, cosmologist, 1980

"When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -- Jonathan Swift, author, 1726

Good censorship. Geologists conspire to suppress scholarly information and keep people uninformed: Geoblogosphere Call to Arms: The Wikipedia Mantle Page.

I would like to make this post a call to arms of sorts to all geobloggers and internet-savvy geologists out there to help with something. This particular page, Wikipedia’s entry on the mantle, is an absolute shambles. ...

Modern observations suggest that the mantle is cold.[15][16][17][18][19]
The mantle of Mars is also cold.[20]
This has very serious implications for those who believe the mantle is convecting hot fluid.
That has a very serious whiff of the EEdiots about it. Especially considering that every single reference given about the “cold mantle” is either in regards to an underlying section of the equatorial Atlantic MOR being colder than expected, or other areas of other MORs or spreading regions being cooler than expected (for the record, references 16 and 17 are the same). Not a single one of those references suggests the mantle is cold. The reason being that the mantle isn’t “cold” (whatever that means anyway, cold compared to what? Very unscientific). Any layperson reading this page would, however, be left with the impression that there’s serious debate regarding whether the mantle can flow at all.

I hereby kindly request that anyone out there with sufficient expertise in the mantle or associated sciences to please help in righting this travesty. I’m not asking for this to be done today, but over the next year we should endevour to pretty much rewrite this entire Wikipedia entry (lest the EEdiots take it upon themselves to do it for us and misinform the public even further).
5 against 1; I guess that makes it fair for them considering their combined lack of brain mass...=)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Lamentation For Arp 261

Mel Acheson: A Lamentation for Arp 261.

ESO has released another image of another instance of standard-theory hermeneutics. The several space bureaucracies have become adept at discovering peculiar celestial objects that send them back to the drawing board only to draw the same idea again.

The press release begins with a spark of curiosity: “Sometimes objects in the sky that appear strange, or different from normal, have a story to tell and prove scientifically very rewarding. This was the idea behind Halton Arp’s catalogue of Peculiar Galaxies that appeared in the 1960s.”

The press release neglects to mention that one reward of Arp’s catalog was the questioning of the expanding universe hypothesis—a challenge that was suppressed by the political prohibition of questioning established answers.

The press release remarks that “...the image proves to contain several surprises,” but this soon proves to be only a rhetorical remark: The next paragraph sweeps the surprise into the standard bin of “colliding galaxies” before anyone’s pulse can get in a faster beat. Curiosity is soothed back into unquestioning somnolence by parroting approved answers. That makes for a short press release, so the piece is filled out with repetitions of standard repetitiousness about supernovae and stars.

What if curiosity were not patronized into conformity? What if the questions were encouraged to explore the surprises in defiance of the answers who seek to constrain vision with their tunnels of acceptability? What else could Arp 261 be?

Instead of “clouds of gas and dust” that “crash into each other,” there could be cells of plasma driving electromagnetic forces throughout the system. Gravitational forces and gas phenomena could be insignificant. Instead of colliding galaxies, Arp 261 could be a single barred spiral galaxy disrupted by a surge in its galactic circuit.

The “bright new clusters of very hot stars” could be high-current discharges along spiral-arm Birkeland cables. The loop of bright clusters at the center of the image in the upper arm contains filaments that seem to converge. If the clusters were moved to the point of convergence, they would make the arm a continuous spiral: Perhaps the loop is the result of a double layer that exploded in the surging current.

Modern astronomers busy themselves applying accepted theories to new observations in deliberate disregard for the unexpected. They may as well reprint previous papers, close the telescopes, and save the taxpayers’ pennies. They’ve ceased looking for new ideas and have become technicians of the rote.

Astronomy has become a science of answers, of “secure knowledge,” of ritual. It can be contained on a hard drive. It’s a science for robots or parrots. Answers are victories that soon become dead leaves of reminiscence, dry pages of textbooks and scriptures.

A science for humans is a science of questions, of learning, of possibilities and opportunities. Its aim is not to fold the unquestioned into the envelope of the given but to learn new words and to write new narratives. Arp 261 is part of a lexicon that for too long has been neglected.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Myth of Rising Sea Levels

Via Watts Up With That?: Despite popular opinion and calls to action, the Maldives are not being overrun by sea level rise.

No spot in the Maldives is more than six feet above sea level. ...

The Maldives, a strand of coral atolls south of India, is just about the most tenuous country on Earth. No patch of land in the island chain, where the population has risen from 200,000 to 400,000 in the last 25 years, is more than six feet or so above sea level. Even modest projections for a rise in sea level from global warming would increase flooding from storm surges. A higher rise could render hundreds of islands uninhabitable. ...

So it boils down to this: Who would you rather believe? People doing studies on-site and gathering photographic evidence that shows clear geologic actions of lowered sea levels on the islands, or somebody sitting in an office analyzing and doing regressions on tide gauge data
The Maldives are not submerged nor are they submerging.

As a matter of fact, the sea level is receding as the Earth expands.

Ostia, aka Portus Romanus, the main seaport of Ancient Rome, is now 2 miles inland with no access to the sea.

In New Jersey, new land exposed by the receding sea is sold to the highest bidder.

And the only thing submerged in the Maldives is Ithaa at the Conrad.

Amazing what a little intelligent design can do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Are Octopuses Evolving Into?

How come Octopuses haven't evolved in the past 100 million years?

And if they are evolving, what are they evolving into?

Science Daily: Cretaceous Octopus With Ink And Suckers -- The World's Least Likely Fossils?

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2009) — New finds of 95 million year old fossils reveal much earlier origins of modern octopuses. These are among the rarest and unlikeliest of fossils. The chances of an octopus corpse surviving long enough to be fossilized are so small that prior to this discovery only a single fossil species was known, and from fewer specimens than octopuses have legs.

Even if you have never encountered an octopus in the flesh, the eight arms, suckers, and sack-like body are almost as familiar a body-plan as the four legs, tail and head of cats and dogs. Unlike our vertebrate cousins, however, octopuses don't have a well-developed skeleton. And while this famously allows them to squeeze into spaces that a more robust animal could not, it does create problems for scientists interested in evolutionary history. ...

Palaeontologists have just identified three new species of fossil octopus discovered in Cretaceous rocks in Lebanon. The five specimens, described in the latest issue of the journal Palaeontology, are 95 million years old but, astonishingly, preserve the octopuses' eight arms with traces of muscles and those characteristic rows of suckers. Even traces of the ink and internal gills are present in some specimens. '

"These are sensational fossils, extraordinarily well preserved," says Dirk Fuchs of the Freie University Berlin, lead author of the report. But what surprised the scientists most was how similar the specimens are to modern octopus: "these things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species." This provides important evolutionary information.
Indeed: it provides information that none has occured.

Similarly, the tuatara is alleged to be "the fastest evolving animal" yet it's phenotype hasn't changed in 200 million years.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cuba's Oil Reserves Increasing

"One can, then, conceive the production, by purely mineral means, of all natural hydrocarbons. The intervention of heat, of water, and of alkaline metals - lastly, the tendency of hydrocarbons to unite together to form the more condensed material - suffice to account for the formation of these curious compounds. Moreover, this formation will be continuous because the reactions which started it are renewed incessantly." -- Marcellin Berthelot, chemist, 1866

Infinite natural hydrocarbon production continues unabated as anyone with basic knowledge of hydrocarbon chemistry is well aware: Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Reserves Are Increasing, AFP Reports. (Via: Ghawar Guzzler)

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Cuba’s oil reserves in its portion of the Gulf of Mexico “continue increasing,” Agence France- Presse reported, citing Yadira Garcia, the island nation’s minister for basic industries.

The Caribbean country’s future oil reserves are most likely to be found in its area of the gulf, which measures 112,000 square kilometers (43,000 square miles) and is divided into 59 oil blocks, AFP reported, citing Garcia, who spoke at a geological sciences conference in Cuba.

Cuba may have 21 billion barrels of probable oil reserves, including onshore and offshore discoveries, AFP said, citing conference participants.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bacteria In The Stratosphere Defy Gravitation

Indian Space Research Organization: Discovery of New Microorganisms in the Stratosphere. (Via: Universe Today)

Three new species of bacteria, which are not found on Earth and which are highly resistant to ultra-violet radiation, have been discovered in the upper stratosphere by Indian scientists. One of the new species has been named as Janibacter hoylei, after the Distinguished Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, the second as Bacillus isronensis recognising the contribution of ISRO in the balloon experiments which led to its discovery and the third as Bacillus aryabhata after India’s celebrated ancient astronomer Aryabhata and also the first satellite of ISRO.
I love the fact that the bacteria is named after one of my favorite physicists of the 20th Century, the late Fred Hoyle, who rejected Big Bang mythology and biogenic fossil fuel mythology.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sophistry Vs. Philosophy

Science Daily: 'The Unexpected Outcome' Is A Key To Human Learning.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2009) — The human brain’s sensitivity to unexpected outcomes plays a fundamental role in the ability to adapt and learn new behaviors, according to a new study by a team of psychologists and neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania.
There are two types of scientists in this world: scientists who think their antiquated theories expect everything (Sophists) and scientists who realize their theories can't explain everything and much is unexpected (Philosophers).

Sophists are incapable of learning because they think there is nothing unexpected; Philosophers can learn because they realize much is unexpected.

Here are some contemporary examples:

Scientists Incapable of Learning Because They Think There Is Nothing Unexpected

"It's disturbing to see that there is a new theory every time there is a new observation." -- R. Brent Tully, astronomer, 1989

"We may now be near the end of the search for the ultimate laws of nature." -- Stephen W. Hawking, mathematician, 1988

"We do not need a new theory because our present one explains everything." -- Richard P. Feynman, professor, 1988

"It is the theory that determines what can be observed." -- Albert Einstein, mathematician, 1926

Scientists Capable of Learning Because They Think Much Is Unexpected

"The fact of the matter is geology, geophysics, and planetary science, are, by no means, settled subjects." -- Dennis D. McCarthy, geoscientist, 2005

"The Big Bang is predicated on the assumption that from the point of view of physics there are no surprises in store for us. Which is very unlikely." -- Fred Hoyle, cosmologist, 2000

"The cosmology as a science has begun one century ago with Einstein's theory. So in one hundred years you cannot produce a theory of everything. This is crazy. Even from a philosophical point of view and historical point of view. We have begun one hundred years ago. In 1920 we thought that the Milky Way was all the universe and now they want to produce the belief that in 80 years or something you have produced the theory of all the universe from the beginning to now. This is incredible. And not very objective." -- Martín López Corredoira, astronomer, 2000

"We are certainly not at the end of science. Most probably we are just at the beginning!" -- Halton C. Arp, astronomer, 1998

"One part that came to maturity in the pauses between ping pong games is also perhaps the most important from the point of view of general interest. The name of this particular discovery is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It takes a strange position in regard to an ancient question, determinism. Is the future really predictable? If we knew the situation at the present with complete accuracy, then the laws of physics say that the future should be completely predictable. What Heisenberg's uncertainty principle says is that it is impossible to know completely accurately what the present is." -- Edward Teller, physicist, 1990

"I am a materialist with a difference. The difference is that I realize that I have barely begun to understand what matter is. I know as much about matter as a person knows about mathematics when he just has learned how to count." -- Edward Teller, physicist, 1990

"Our knowledge of the universe is limited...." -- Geoffrey Burbridge, astrophysicist, and Margaret Burbridge, astronomer, 1967

"No man should escape our universities without knowing how little he knows." -- J. Robert Oppenheimer, physicist, date unknown

Friday, March 13, 2009

Change In Earth's Orbit Was Catastrophic

Science Daily: Wind Shifts May Stir Carbon Dioxide From Antarctic Depths.

Many scientists think that the end of the last ice age was triggered by a change in Earth's orbit that caused the northern part of the planet to warm. ...

The scientists say that changes in the westerlies may have been triggered by two competing events in the northern hemisphere about 17,000 years ago. The earth's orbit shifted, causing more sunlight to fall in the north, partially melting the ice sheets that then covered parts of the United States, Canada and Europe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Electromagnetic Batteries

Science Daily: Spin Battery: Physicist Develops Battery Using New Source Of Energy.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2009) — Researchers at the University of Miami and at the Universities of Tokyo and Tohoku, Japan, have been able to prove the existence of a "spin battery," a battery that is "charged" by applying a large magnetic field to nano-magnets in a device called a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ).

The new technology is a step towards the creation of computer hard drives with no moving parts, which would be much faster, less expensive and use less energy than current ones. In the future, the new battery could be developed to power cars.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

The device created by University of Miami Physicist Stewart E. Barnes, of the College of Arts and Sciences and his collaborators can store energy in magnets rather than through chemical reactions. Like a winding up toy car, the spin battery is "wound up" by applying a large magnetic field -- no chemistry involved. The device is potentially better than anything found so far, said Barnes.

"We had anticipated the effect, but the device produced a voltage over a hundred times too big and for tens of minutes, rather than for milliseconds as we had expected," Barnes said. "That this was counterintuitive is what lead to our theoretical understanding of what was really going on."

The secret behind this technology is the use of nano-magnets to induce an electromotive force. It uses the same principles as those in a conventional battery, except in a more direct fashion. The energy stored in a battery, be it in an iPod or an electric car, is in the form of chemical energy. When something is turned "on" there is a chemical reaction which occurs and produces an electric current. The new technology converts the magnetic energy directly into electrical energy, without a chemical reaction. The electrical current made in this process is called a spin polarized current and finds use in a new technology called "spintronics."

The new discovery advances our understanding of the way magnets work and its immediate application is to use the MTJs as electronic elements which work in different ways to conventional transistors. Although the actual device has a diameter about that of a human hair and cannot even light up an LED (light-emitting diode--a light source used as electronic component), the energy that might be stored in this way could potentially run a car for miles. The possibilities are endless, Barnes said.

"There are magnets hidden away in many things, for example there are several in a mobile telephone, many in a car, and they are what keeps your refrigerator closed," he said. "There are so many that even a small change in the way we understand of how they work, and which might lead to only a very small improvement in future machines, has a significant financial and energetic impact."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pseudoscientists Have Captured Peer-Review Process

A Harvard University astrophysicist is repeating what everybody already knows: 2009 International Conference on Climate Change: Update #3. (Via Heliogenic Climate Change)

NEW YORK--Willie Soon, a Harvard University astrophysicist and geophysicist with scores of peer-reviewed papers and books to his credit, said he is "embarrassed and puzzled" by the shallow science in papers that undergird the proposition that the Earth faces a climate crisis caused by global warming.

Soon told the second International Conference on Climate Change here, "We have a system (of peer reviewing scientific literature) that is truly, truly appalling." ...

Sununu and Soon both said global warming alarmists, particularly the politicians and the few scientists who wrote the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, have captured the scientific paper process, and in Sununu's words, have been successful in "taking control of who gets funding, who gets published, who gets acclaimed, and who gets demonized."

"What happened to the peer-review process?" Soon asked rhetorically as he reviewed egregious and complex examples of doctored data and sloppy scholarship in global warming alarmist literature.
Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sun Continues Hibernation

Intellicast: Sun Continues Hibernation. (Via: Heliogenic Climate Change)

The sun continues in hibernation mode. NASA and others thought in late 2006 it had bottomed out but it has continued to slide. Since it can’t go negative, it has leveled off scraping the bottom of the chart. The NASA team projections for the next cycle continue to slip further into the future and periodically adjusted down. They present two scenarios one for a more active cycle (24) with a peak at the start of 2012 and the second a weaker one peaking around the end of 2012 or start of 2013. ...

These predictions suggest that a period of quiet solar activity is expected, lasting until around 2030, with less disruption to satellite orbits, satellite lifetimes, and power distribution grids and lower risk of spacecraft failures and radiation dose to astronauts. Our model also predicts a recovery during the middle of the century to more typical solar activity cycles with peak sunspot numbers around 120.

Eventually, the superposition of the minimum phase of the 105- and 420-year cycles just after 2100 leads to another period of significantly quieter solar conditions. This lends some support to the prediction of low solar activity in 2100 made by Clilverd et al. 2003.”

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Electric Muons and their Implications

Back in January I had posted about cosmic rays inside the Earth and some of their implications. Louis Hissink pointed out that cosmic rays are really electricity, in this case muons. Referring back to Osprey et al 2009, Louis has great new commentary on the electric muon weather connection and it's implications: Another Electrical Connection – Stratosphere and underground Muons.

Most muons observed at the surface of the earth are produced by primary cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere and are the most numerous energetic particles at sea-level, according to Hyper-Physics. Muons are simply electrically charged particles, as are cosmic rays. Moving electrically charged particles are otherwise known as electricity or electric currents.

Fluctuations in the underground muon detection rate could then be interpreted as fluctuations in the cosmic ray input to the Earth, so Osprey et al’s conclusions might be restated as Sudden Stratospheric warmings are strongly correlated with vertical electric currents measured deep underground.

I use the term “vertical currents” because this is dominantly what the underground sensors measure, vertically above, since this is the shortest distance to the surface.

But if surges in muons are correlated with temperature rises in the Stratosphere, then maybe a base current maintains the background temperature of the stratosphere, and by implication the temperature of the earth itself.

It cannot be stressed too many times, but volcanoes do not just erupt from a pent up store of energy, but do so from a surge in energy from an external source. Clearly heat produced by radiogenic elements, under our present state of knowledge, can never surge but only wane over time, since the source of radiogenic heat is continually being depleted by radioactive decay.

This leads me to suggest that the temperature of the earth is probably maintained by the influx of electrical energy to it, whether by flux tube [transfer] events, aka Birkeland currents, as well as the influx of cosmic rays. There is an obvious diurnal heat source in the Sun’s direct radiance, but as previously posted here, sometthing is amplifying the known solar radiation, and I would suggest that its the missing link – the Earth-Sun-Galaxy electrical system.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Isaac Asimov's Nightfall

I was reading Anthony Peratt's article in Sky and Telescope and I found the most wonderful story by Isaac Asimov called Nightfall which ties so many scientific themes of this blog together: Plasma Cosmology.

Isaac Asimov's 'Nightfall' tells the story of a civilization on a planet with six suns, where night comes only once every 2,049 years. Scholars of that world have uncovered traces of at least nine previous cultures, all of which reached a height comparable to their own and then vanished suddenly. Because of their viewing handicap, those scientists cosmology is faulty. At their most creative, they can imagine that their universe consists of perhaps a few dozen 'stars' -- mysterious lights that eccentric cultists are always talking about. When night does fall and myriad stars shine forth, their cosmology, and indeed the philosophical basis for their society, crumbles.
Oh man I can't wait to read this. Apparently it was voted the greatest Science Fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

NASA Pursues Mars Methane Orbiter

Via The Great Beyond: NASA pursues Mars methane orbiter.

When Michael Mumma, of Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, finally published his methane-on-Mars results in Science, it certainly caused a stir. So far, the people tasked with picking a spot for the Mars Science Laboratory rover have resisted the allure of a landing site that sits within a broad methane hotspot, arguing that the hotspots are still too uncertain. Well, NASA is going to get to work on that uncertainty: it announced today that it is considering a "Mars Science Orbiter" (MSO) mission in 2016 that would specifically look to see when and where Mars is belching up the natural gas. (Methane can be produced via natural geologic processes but could also point towards hives of microbes living and burping underground.)

NASA Mars Program Chief Doug McCuistion described what the agency calls its "baseline" plan at the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group meeting in Virginia on Tuesday, a chance for the science community to offer feedback on these long-term plans, which are often very tentative -- and very fluid. The plan would include an MSO in 2016 followed by a exobiology lander or rover mission launched during a particularly juicy launch window in 2018 (the best since the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, McCuistion says). That plan would satisfy two longstanding NASA program requirements: keeping continuous communications orbiters in place for lander missions (Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be getting old), and continuous practice with the tricky task of landing spacecraft on the surface (gotta keep those engineers employed). The plan would also follow a natural progression: MSO would map the methane

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gravity Anomalies Mapped By Satellite

Allegedly these are useful in the search for oil and gas. Don't ask me how.

Technical University of Denmark: Global Gravity Field Model.

The global gravity field model shows the gravity variations over the global ocean as mapped by satellite. On land the field have been augmented with the best available terrestial gravity field com complete global coverage. Gravity changes are mainly caused by the changes in the attraction of mass under the surface.
What changes in the attraction of mass are occuring under the surface?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Galaxies Defy Gravitation and Big Bang

A new Hubble Space Telescope image shows three galaxies defying the myth of gravitation and the Big Bang myth: Stars forced to relocate near the Southern Fish.

The three pictured galaxies — NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) — are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s.
Let's take each myth separately.

The Gravitation Myth

First the occult 17th century myth known as gravitation.

Quoting from Newton's Principia, General Scholium, Book III:

"...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." -- Isaac Newton, mathematician, 1687

According to Newton's so-called "theory" of universal gravitation the stars are immobile and "fixed" and God has placed them at distances such that gravitation has no effect on them.

In actual physical reality however, the stars are in motion and God has not placed the galaxies at immense distances from eachother thus falsifying Newton's so-called "theory."

When assessing the sanity of contemporary scientists, keep in mind that as recently as 2005, the religious fundamentalist and occult alchemist was voted the "world's greatest scientist."

The Big Bang Myth

If the universe is expanding, how is it possible for galaxies to collide?

And if gravitation is strong enough to counteract the inertia from the Big Bang, how can the universe be expanding?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hubble To Point At Arp 274

Arp 274 won the Hubble Site vote and no doubt my vote was the decisive one...:P

67,021 votes vs. second place which was only 11,451 votes.

I think this vote pretty much sums up where the public is on the Arp redshift controversy.

Now, let's get to the facts.

This is yet another system where the redshifts of the objects show them to be at drastically different distances, but they are in obvious contact.

Redshift velocities for the three components are - A 7483 km/sec, B 8654 km/sec and C 7618 km/sec.

Arp 274

By conventional theory A and C are fairly close, but B should be a background object, anywhere from 17 to 23 Mpc in the background. This is the distance from us to the main Virgo cluster, so how is there interaction?

Methane On Pluto

There must be a lot of cows, cyanobacteria, and dinosaurs living on Pluto to produce all this biogenic fossil fuel: The lower atmosphere of Pluto revealed.

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto. The scientists found unexpectedly large amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and also discovered that the atmosphere is hotter than the surface by about 40 degrees, although it still only reaches a frigid minus 180 degrees Celsius. These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the presence of pure methane patches or of a methane-rich layer covering the dwarf planet's surface.

"With lots of methane in the atmosphere, it becomes clear why Pluto's atmosphere is so warm," says Emmanuel Lellouch, lead author of the paper reporting the results.

Biogenic C13 Cult Shot Down Yet Again

Another article reiterating that C13 isotope depletion is not a biomarker: Controversy Over World’s Oldest Traces Of Life.

Research carried out in 1996 argued that a five metre wide outcrop of rock on the island contained graphite with depleted levels of 13C. Carbon isotopes are frequently used to search for evidence of early life, because the lightest form of carbon, 12C (atomic weight 12), is preferred in biological processes as it requires less energy to be used by organisms. This results in heavier forms, such as 13C, being less concentrated, which might account for the depleted levels found in the rocks at Akilia. ...

The new research, led by Martin J. Whitehouse at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, casts doubt on this interpretation. The researchers present new evidence demonstrating that the cross-cutting relationships are instead caused by tectonic activity, and represent a deformed fault or unconformity. If so, the age of the intrusive rock is irrelevant to the dating of the graphite, and it could well be older. Because of this, the scientists turned their attention to dating the graphite-containing rocks themselves, and found no evidence that they are any older than c. 3.67 billion years.

"The rocks of Akilia provide no evidence that life existed at or before c. 3.82 Ga, or indeed before 3.67 Ga," they conclude.

The age of the Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years. If life complex enough to have the ability to fractionate carbon were to exist at 3.8 billion years, this would suggest life originated even earlier. The Hadean eon, 3.8 – 4.5 billion years ago, is thought to have been an environment extremely hostile to life. In addition to surviving this period, such early life would have had to contend with the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment’ between 3.8 and 4.1 billion years ago, when a large number of impact craters on the Moon suggest that both the Earth and the Moon underwent significant bombardment, probably by collision with asteroids.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research

Martin A. Schwartz: The importance of stupidity in scientific research.

I recently saw an old friend for the first time in many years. We had been Ph.D. students at the same time, both studying science, although in different areas. She later dropped out of graduate school, went to Harvard Law School and is now a senior lawyer for a major environmental organization. At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else.

I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It's just that I've gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn't know what to do without that feeling. I even think it's supposed to be this way. Let me explain.

For almost all of us, one of the reasons that we liked science in high school and college is that we were good at it. That can't be the only reason – fascination with understanding the physical world and an emotional need to discover new things has to enter into it too. But high-school and college science means taking courses, and doing well in courses means getting the right answers on tests. If you know those answers, you do well and get to feel smart.

A Ph.D., in which you have to do a research project, is a whole different thing. For me, it was a daunting task. How could I possibly frame the questions that would lead to significant discoveries; design and interpret an experiment so that the conclusions were absolutely convincing; foresee difficulties and see ways around them, or, failing that, solve them when they occurred? My Ph.D. project was somewhat interdisciplinary and, for a while, whenever I ran into a problem, I pestered the faculty in my department who were experts in the various disciplines that I needed. I remember the day when Henry Taube (who won the Nobel Prize two years later) told me he didn't know how to solve the problem I was having in his area. I was a third-year graduate student and I figured that Taube knew about 1000 times more than I did (conservative estimate). If he didn't have the answer, nobody did.

That's when it hit me: nobody did. That's why it was a research problem. And being my research problem, it was up to me to solve. Once I faced that fact, I solved the problem in a couple of days. (It wasn't really very hard; I just had to try a few things.) The crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn't know wasn't merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite. That realization, instead of being discouraging, was liberating. If our ignorance is infinite, the only possible course of action is to muddle through as best we can.

I'd like to suggest that our Ph.D. programs often do students a disservice in two ways. First, I don't think students are made to understand how hard it is to do research. And how very, very hard it is to do important research. It's a lot harder than taking even very demanding courses. What makes it difficult is that research is immersion in the unknown. We just don't know what we're doing. We can't be sure whether we're asking the right question or doing the right experiment until we get the answer or the result. Admittedly, science is made harder by competition for grants and space in top journals. But apart from all of that, doing significant research is intrinsically hard and changing departmental, institutional or national policies will not succeed in lessening its intrinsic difficulty.

Second, we don't do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid – that is, if we don't feel stupid it means we're not really trying. I'm not talking about `relative stupidity', in which the other students in the class actually read the material, think about it and ace the exam, whereas you don't. I'm also not talking about bright people who might be working in areas that don't match their talents. Science involves confronting our `absolute stupidity'. That kind of stupidity is an existential fact, inherent in our efforts to push our way into the unknown. Preliminary and thesis exams have the right idea when the faculty committee pushes until the student starts getting the answers wrong or gives up and says, `I don't know'. The point of the exam isn't to see if the student gets all the answers right. If they do, it's the faculty who failed the exam. The point is to identify the student's weaknesses, partly to see where they need to invest some effort and partly to see whether the student's knowledge fails at a sufficiently high level that they are ready to take on a research project.

Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.