Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Astronomy Vs. Astrophysics

"I am terrified of Geoffrey Burbidge. I admit it. He makes me quake in my boots. The larger by a considerable margin of the famous husband-and-wife team that has earned the moniker 'B-squared', Geoff is certainly a different kettle of fish. Margaret, on one hand, is a motherly figure, treating visitors to their lovely San Diego home to tea and crumpets in the glorious English tradition. Dealing with her husband is quite another matter. Geoffrey does not suffer fools gladly, and it would seem to me that by his definition, all the world’s a fool. And that includes me, of course. Over the years, I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the Burbidges, and hasten to assure you that Geoff has never been unkind to me. We are, after all, on the same side (I think, I hope!). It’s just that he’s direct. Very direct. Dr Burbidge’s brand of civility is unadorned by frills or meaningless platitudes. If you’re a spade, he will certainly not call you a shovel. My point is this: Whether or not Geoffrey Burbidge’s social skills make you feel all warm and cuddly, you will ignore him at your peril. He is arguably the most accomplished theoretical astrophysicist alive today, and although I disagree with him on the fundamental issues of universal expansion and what energises the Sun, I use every opportunity that comes my way to learn from him. He is without doubt one of the giants of the modern era." -- Hilton Ratcliffe, astronomer, May 29th 2009

So I'm seriously thinking about moving to California to go back to school: UCSD's Center for Astronomy and Space Sciences to meet the Burbidges. I just hope they don't die on me before I get there.

Astronomy or physics -- That is the question: Interview with Dr. Halton Arp By Paul Wright, July 29, 1975

I never thought of myself as an astrophysicist. As a matter of fact, that’s an anecdote I can tell. When I arrived from Harvard I was convinced I was an astronomer. There was never anything else in my mind. And when I went into nuclear physics course with Willie Fowler, who was teaching at the time, we all handed in our blue slips in the beginning. When he went through the blue slips and he announced proudly to this group, he said, oh, we have an astrophysicist in the class and I started looking around to see an astrophysicist, pretty interesting. I tried to find this astrophysicist, but finally Willie pointed to me and said, “you!” And I said, “I’m not an astrophysicist, I’m an astronomer.” I never accepted that term about astrophysicist. I think, that one of the underlying currents right now in astronomy today is a deep seated struggle between the physicist, to be blunt about it, and the astronomer. Physicists believe that the universe is just another example of laboratory physics, just another arena for their laws to work in. And I think a few true astronomers, at least I believe, that there is in astronomy most important fundamental new processes which have yet to be discovered which are transcendent to physics in a sense. I don’t know if it’s going to be right, we’ll have to see. But a lot of physicists are shifting in to astronomy so I mean, I think, for other reasons, I think they sense it. But they bring different skills and different approaches to the astronomy. They approach it as a deductive exercise, as if they were trying to prove again and again the things they learn in the laboratory and learn in their courses and I think the reason that they are going to fail is that they don’t look on astronomy as an arena for discovering new things. They look at it as an arena for proving old things. That’s a fighting statement.
UPDATE (Hat tip: Fungus): Voyager Makes an Interstellar Discovery.
The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist.


Quantum_Flux said...

I was thinking about quasars and neutron stars today, I think they are an electrical phenominon (a highly negatively charged spherical shell) in combination with gravitation (dense neutron core)....perhaps the charged shell is what repels those giant jets of dust and plasma, and gives the neutron star its massive magnetic field too. A magnetar is an unstable neutron star before the magnetic spin-field stabilizes.

Perhaps the plasma ring accretion disk is made of the denser negatively charged particles, somewhat like a giant atomic electron orbital, and as to why neutrons dominate the oversized nucleus, well, that follows from the nonlinear relationship whereby the higher the atomic mass the greater the neutrons. This is because protons are heavily unstable at higher densities and that neutrons are more stable at higher densities.

KV said...


…they don’t look on astronomy as an arena for discovering new things. They look at it as an arena for proving old things. – Dr. Arp, as posted by you.

Look at most of your posts, and your efforts in trying to prove all the old things!!

Do go back to school and may be you might redeem yourself.

OilIsMastery said...


"I was thinking about quasars and neutron stars today, I think they are an electrical phenominon"

If neutron stars exist, you are probably right.

"According to electric star theory, neutron stars belong in the same category with invisible pink unicorns." -- Stephen Smith, writer, November 2008

OilIsMastery said...


"Look at most of your posts, and your efforts in trying to prove all the old things!!"

One vote for astrophysics.

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...


Millions of years old.........!

Quantum_Flux said...

Well, superatoms exist ergo neutron stars should exist.

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...


Physics says (?) it shouldn't be there ..........

Hahahahaha! Herd hysteria and then amnesia!

OilIsMastery said...


LOL. Nice finds!

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

Thanks OIM!

I am trying to learn what is real. Why do others react so violently to the efforts of some to enlighten them?

The vituperation you receive is getting to be extreme. It certainly undermines their arguments, but what is the point of allowing them to sound off so shrilly? I have suggested that you are maybe experimenting a little. True?