Friday, April 30, 2010

Crackpot Pseudoscientist Alan Guth Owned In Public

Above: crackpot pseudoscientist Alan Guth demonstrates his lack of organizational skills.

John Matson: Star physicists trade barbs over cosmological model.

A tony social club in midtown Manhattan is not the place one might expect to find a verbal sparring match between famous physicists. But that was the case April 23 at the Harmonie Club, when Alan Guth and David Gross had a feisty off-the-cuff debate about Guth's model for the dawn of the universe. Perhaps in keeping with their genteel surroundings, the two kept their jabs mostly playful, but a few may have stung nonetheless.

The exchange took place at a physics symposium hosted by the City College of New York (CCNY) at which both Guth and Gross gave lectures. Guth, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology renowned for his role in developing the concept of cosmological inflation in the early 1980s, had just given brief remarks introducing some of the concepts he would cover in a later lecture. Inflation holds that the entire observable universe began as a bubble that underwent extremely rapid growth, doubling in size every 10–37 second, before a more gentle expansion took over. Many of its predictions mesh well with precision measurements taken by probes such as NASA's WMAP spacecraft, making inflation one of the leading—if not the leading—explanation for what went on in the very early universe.

The model implies that although inflation came to an end billions of years ago in our local universe, it continues apace beyond our cosmic horizon and will for eternity. Our bubble, then, is just one of many—a universe within a multiverse—each of which might have its own laws of physics. As such, Guth said, the parameters of our physical world might be nothing more than a historical accident. That did not sit well with Gross, who earned a share of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics by exploring those parameters, unwinding the dynamics of the strong force that binds quarks together in protons and neutrons.

"In reaction to that last talk—oy vey," said the Israel-educated Gross, who directs the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (He also sits on Scientific American's board of advisers.) Gross called Guth's concept of eternal inflation somewhat speculative, noting that if other universes do exist, they are causally disconnected from ours—"every goddamn one of them." As such, Gross added, talk of other universes "does bear some resemblance to talking about angels."

When Guth began his full lecture later in the afternoon, he got a dig in at Gross, poking fun at his colleague's late arrival. Gross had been scheduled as the symposium's first speaker but was not at the Harmonie Club at the appointed hour, a mishap that he attributed to a time-zone change. Guth noted that his ideas had been "maligned by someone who doesn't know how to set his alarm clock." (Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna, another Scientific American adviser who had been booked to speak second, moved into Gross's slot and delivered a humorous and engaging talk about quantum entanglement and quantum information systems.)

Toward the end of his talk, Guth set out to address one catch in his model: that the energy density of empty space is far lower than would be expected in a typical corner of the multiverse. It's so low, in fact, that the likelihood of finding ourselves in such a place is about the same as flipping a coin 400 times and getting heads every time.

But maybe there is a selection effect in place, Guth suggested—that is, maybe life can only take hold in universes with weak vacuum energy. As an analogue, he said, we find ourselves on a highly unusual place within our universe—on the surface of a planet instead of, say, inside a star or out in empty space. We don't think of that as strange; we simply accept that we live in a place that permits life. The same might be true of bubble universes within the multiverse—the universes that are hospitable to life, rare though they may be, will be the only ones with inhabitants. Perhaps we just find ourselves in a highly atypical habitable universe embedded in a largely unwelcoming multiverse.

The inhabitants of our universe are then free to hypothesize and argue with their esteemed colleagues about the nature of the cosmos—and to drop the occasional zinger in the process. "The selection effect is both logical and scientific, and it could be right," Guth said. "I don't know if that contradicts 'oy vey'."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Bhagavad Gita

Was in the park with nothing to read so I used the Bhagavad Gita app on my iPhone.

Found more passages regarding interplanetary warfare and the immortal soul.

"I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth." -- Arjuna, The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 32-35

"They lead not to higher planets but to infamy." -- Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 2

"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both." -- Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 16

"O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets." -- Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 32

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reaction to Stephen Hawking Comments

Seth Borenstein: Too risky to phone ET? Too late -- NASA's tried it.

(AP) -- Stephen Hawking says it is too risky to try to talk to space aliens. Oops. Too late. NASA and others have already beamed several messages into deep space, trying to phone E.T.

The U.S. space agency, which two years ago broadcast the Beatles song "Across the Universe" into the cosmos, on Wednesday discussed its latest search strategy for life beyond Earth.

"The search for life is really central to what we should be doing next in the exploration of the solar system," said Cornell University planetary scientist Steve Squyres, chairman of a special National Academy of Sciences panel advising NASA on future missions.

The academy panel is looking at 28 possible missions - from Mars to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. And NASA is focused mostly on looking for simple life like bacteria in our solar system rather than fretting about potential alien overlords coming here.

Just days ago, Hawking said on his new TV show that a visit by extraterrestrials to Earth would be like Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas, "which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."

The famous British physicist speculated that while most extraterrestrial life will be similar to microbes, advanced life forms would likely be "nomads, looking to conquer and colonize."

The comment reinvigorated a three-year debate roiling behind the scenes in the small community of astronomers who look for extraterrestrial life, said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, which looks for aliens. Should astronomers ban purposeful messages into the universe for fear of attracting dangerous aliens?

Shostak maintains it doesn't really matter, saying that approach is unnecessarily fearful.

While some people think broadcasting into the universe is "like shouting in a jungle, not necessarily a good idea," Shostak asked, "Are we to forever hide under a rock? That to me seems like no way to live."

There's a big difference of opinion in astronomy about the issue, said Mary Voytek, a senior astrobiology scientist at NASA headquarters.

"We're prepared to make discoveries of any type of life, of any form," Voytek said in a NASA teleconference. But much of the search for intelligent life is privately funded, by groups like SETI, she said.

About 20 years ago, NASA held a conference on this issue. Back then, most of the experts were worried about attracting the wrong type of aliens, said Christopher Kraft, the former NASA Johnson Space Center director who created Mission Control.

But Kraft, a NASA legend who received a lifetime achievement award Wednesday from the Smithsonian Institution, said he would welcome aliens. "I might just learn something," he said.

The SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., takes a passive approach, listening for any signals from aliens.

But for more than a quarter of a century, various groups have been purposely sending out signals to other worlds. The most famous was a three-minute broadcast from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in 1974, Shostak said.

The Canadians made a series of broadcasts using a Ukrainian antenna in the 1990s. The now-defunct Team Encounter of Houston and a prominent Russian astronomer make public and distinct "cosmic calls" out to the universe, including one just from teenagers.

NASA beamed "Across the Universe" to the star Polaris in 2008 to promote the space agency's 50th anniversary, the 45th anniversary of the Deep Space Network and the 40th anniversary of the Beatles song. And the same year, as part of the publicity for the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the movie was broadcast to the stars, Shostak said.

Four NASA deep space probes - Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 - carry plaques and recordings that say hello from Earth and give directions on how to get here. Those probes launched in the 1970s are at the edges of the solar system.

And that's on top of the broadcasts Earth inadvertently sends into the cosmos as part of daily life: radio and TV signals, airport and other radar communications.

"That horse left the barn a long time ago," Squyres said, speaking from an astrobiology conference in Houston. "Whether you do it intentionally or not, the signals are out there."

MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager doesn't think much of the broadcasts to space because so far they are pointed at random, not toward potential Earth-like planets.

"We wouldn't even know where to send our message, it's so vast out there," Seager said. That will change in a few years when new telescopes will be able to find terrestrial planets that could support life.

Even then, Seager said any aliens coming to Earth likely would be so advanced they wouldn't need to hear our message to find us. It wouldn't be like Columbus stumbling upon on the New World, she said.

"If they have the capability to come here, they're probably to us as we are to ants on Manhattan," said former NASA sciences chief Alan Stern.

The closest any aliens could be is a few tens of light years away. With one light year equaling about 5.9 trillion miles, that means it would take them generations to get here traveling at the speed of light, Shostak said. And even that would be unlikely, he added.

Frank Drake, who did the first modern experiment looking for extraterrestrial intelligence, estimated there are about 10,000 intelligent civilizations in the universe, while the late Carl Sagan figured it was closer to a million, Shostak said.

Given how big the universe is, our nearest intelligent neighbor is more likely about 5,900 trillion miles away, he said.

"God has nicely buffered us," he said.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Destroyed World

"And then the great Rishis, approaching the gods, spake unto them, 'Lo, in the middle of the night springeth a great heat striking terror into every heart, and destructive of the three worlds.'" -- Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Section XXIV, 8th century B.C.

"Between the celestials [angels] and the Asuras [fallen angels], there happened, of yore, frequent encounters for the sovereignty of the three worlds with everything in them." -- Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Section LXXVI, 8th century B.C.

The late astronomer Tom Van Flandern of the United States Naval Observatory was not the first in modern times to realize that the asteroids which orbit between Mars and Jupiter are the remnants of a world destroyed by extraterrestrial intelligence and interplanetary warfare. In 1992, the British astronomer Nigel Henbest also wrote on the subject in a book called Mysteries of Mind, Space, and Time: The Unexplained Volume 18.

Circling the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter are thousands of broken fragments of rock and metal - the asteroids. The largest is Ceres, 620 miles (1000 kilometers) in diameter, roughly one twelfth of Earth's size and less than a thousandth its weight. The others range down to the size of mere grains of sand.

Ever since the asteroids were discovered, one thought has haunted astronomers: could they be the remnants of an exploded world?

The asteroid story starts many years before their discovery. In the year 1766, the German mathematician Johann Titius noticed a certain numerical relationship between the distances of the planets from the Sun. Shortly afterwards his discovery was popularised by the astronomer Johann Bode, and it became what is known as the Titius-Bode law.

The law goes as follows. Take the series of numbers 0, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 - where each number (except the first and second) is twice the preceding number. Add 4 to each, and the result is the series 4, 7, 10, 16, 28, 52, 100. Taking the Earth's distance from the Sun as 10 units, this series gives, to a great degree of accuracy, the distances of the planets to the Sun. The planets Mercury and Venus fall at 4 and 7 respectively; Mars is at 15 (very close to the 16 predicted by the Titius-Bode law), Jupiter at 52 and Saturn at 95 (close to the predicted 100).

But there is no planet between Mars and Jupiter, at the value 28 predicted by the Titius-Bode law.

In 1800, a group of astronomers met at Lilienthal in northern Germany and agreed to watch the sky for traces of the missing planet. Each of them agreed to search a certain area, but before this self-styled 'celestial police' had managed to track down its subject, it was announced that the Sicilian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi had discovered it by accident, on 1 January 1801. Piazzi named the new 'planet' Ceres; it was far smaller than any other planet, so tiny that it was invisible to the naked eye. Its motion through the heavens from night to night was the only thing that revealed it was not a star, and showed that Ceres's orbit was indeed that of the predicted planet. It began to seem as if the mystery had been solved.

A year later a founding member of the celestial police was attempting to relocate Ceres when he stumbled on another point of light, a second tiny planet orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The discoverer, Heinrich Olbers, named the new body Pallas. He at once concluded that there could only be one reason why the solar system had two small bodies where Titius and Bode had predicted a planet: the planet had once existed, but at some time in the past exploded into fragments.

The celestial police took to the beat once more. Within five years they found another two asteroids - the name, meaning 'starlike', given them by the great British astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822) because they appear only as points of light. Almost 40 years elapsed before a fifth asteroid was found; but when, at the close of the last century, astronomers began to photograph the sky, they immediately started picking up dozens of asteroids. Their technique was to use very long exposures; the asteroids then showed up as blurs, moving in their orbits, while the fixed stars were recorded as point sources of light.

Today the orbits of over 2000 asteroids are known; and astronomers estimate that there must be at least 100,000 altogether in the region of space between Mars and Jupiter that is known as the asteroid belt.

It is true that, as Heinrich Olbers predicted, astronomers have found countless fragments of rubble where the Titius-Bode law suggests there should be a planet. But was his theory correct? Are the asteroids the remains of an exploded planet? Controversy on this point raged throughout the 19th century. Rather than believe the asteroids are merely the unused building blocks of a planet that never formed, many astronomers argued that they must be the remains of an Earthlike world that had been overtaken by a catastrophe of immense proportions. ...

Only man-like humanoids, argue [Aleksandr] Kazantsev and [Felix] Zigel, could have triggered such a catastrophe, for it could only have come about as the result of an ... explosion of nuclear weapons. ...

Kazantsev and Zigel are convinced that their evidence is conclusive. ... planet Phaeton once orbited the Sun beyond Mars; its civilisation, more advanced than ours, invented thermonuclear weapons a million years ago. ...

Whatever anthropologists may say, Kazantsev and Zigel insist that it was survivors from the catastrophe that befell Phaethon, astronauts stranded in space, who descended to Earth as gods and led Man on his rise to civilisation.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Prehistoric Geniuses

"It is somewhat disquieting to speculate on the fact that even 50,000 years ago, in the early Stone Age, the human family contained individuals with innate capacities for reasoning and self-expression approaching those of a Shakespeare, a Beethoven or an Einstein." -- Frederick Seitz, physicist, President of the National Academy of Sciences, The Scientist, 1962

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stephen Hawking: Aliens Might Hate Us

"Aliens could attack at any time." -- Nick Pope, British defense minister, November 2006

New York Daily News: Contact with aliens could get us killed, says Stephen Hawking in Discovery's 'Into the Universe'

Aliens are out there... and we need to stop trying to talk to them.

That's the advice of famed physicist Stephen Hawking.

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," the award-winning British scientist said in a series for the Discovery Channel, "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking."

To drive the point home, Hawking argued that aliens visiting Earth would likely be the same as when explorers first arrived in the New World.

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he said.

If aliens in space ships did come to Earth, Hawking suggests, they may be more "V" than "E.T."

"Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach," he said, arguing that they may have taken to the stars because they depleted resources on their home world.

However, if humans were to encounter aliens, Hawking believes they would likely be animals or even just microbes.

The Discovery series, which begins airing tonight, will address issues such as space exploration, alien life, as well as time travel.

"Into the Universe" took three years to complete, and was spearheaded by Hawking, who suffers from neuro-muscular dystrophy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hubble Releases New Photo On Anniversary

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." -- Psalm 19:1

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Limits of the Body

I was driving back to the city from Ithaca and heard the most amazing radio program on NPR's Radiolab called Limits of the Body. (Download Mp3).

The second segment was about the RAAM race in which the cyclists experiment on the human body by testing the limits of human sleep deprivation resulting in hallucinations, visions of zombies and mujahideen, and general insanity.

The third segment was about the capacity of human memory and individuals who have total recall and compete in the Memory Championships.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Electricity Generated By Tapping Into Algae

Science Daily: Engineers Generate Electricity by Tapping Into Algae Cells.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2010) — In an electrifying first, Stanford scientists have plugged in to algae cells and harnessed a tiny electric current. They found it at the very source of energy production -- photosynthesis, a plant's method of converting sunlight to chemical energy. It may be a first step toward generating "high efficiency" bioelectricity that doesn't give off carbon dioxide as a byproduct, the researchers say.

"We believe we are the first to extract electrons out of living plant cells," said WonHyoung Ryu, the lead author of the paper published in the March issue of Nano Letters. Ryu conducted the experiments while he was a research associate for mechanical engineering professor Fritz Prinz.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcanic Ash Grounds European Flights

BBC: Icelandic volcanic ash alert grounds UK flights.

All flights in and out of the UK and several other European countries have been suspended as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland moves south.

Up to 4,000 flights are being cancelled with airspace closed in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark among others.

The UK's air traffic control service (Nats) said no flights would be allowed in UK airspace until at least 0700 BST on Friday amid fears of engine damage.

Safety group Eurocontrol said the problem could persist for 48 hours.

The volcano is still spewing ash and the wind direction is expected to continue bringing clouds into UK and European airspace for some time to come.

The UK's airspace restriction was the worst in living memory, a Nats spokesman said. Some 600,000 people are thought to have been affected.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Huge Petroleum Find In Gulf of Mexico


Last week, Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced the discovery of 100 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth more than 25,000 feet below the seabed, in 7,217 feet of water, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The report once again confirms the argument my co-author Craig Smith and I made in writing "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Politics of Oil and the Myth of Scarcity," namely that oil is generated by abiotic processes on an ongoing basis deep within the mantle of the earth.

In other words, oil is not (and never has been) a "fossil fuel," produced by biological material, including dead dinosaurs, ancient forests, or today's favorite championed by the remaining advocates supporting the biological theory of the origin of oil – plankton.

Six months earlier, BP announced a "giant" discovery of oil in its Tiber prospect in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Wall Street Journal further reported that in 2008 alone, 15 discoveries of large oil reserves were found in the Gulf of Mexico, largely due to advances in deep-water drilling technology.

Brazil discovers giant offshore oil fields in Atlantic

One of the continuing fallacies of peak oil theory is that there is a reliable way to know how much undiscovered oil remains yet in the earth.

Peak-oil theorists are typically fossil-fuel advocates who believe that since there were only a limited number of fossils, the oil produced from those fossils must also be limited.

Abiotic oil theory postulates that oil is formed on a constant basis deep within the mantle of the earth, requiring no deterioration of biological material to produce the oil.

In November 2007, Brazil announced the discovery of a huge offshore oil field that could contain as much as 8 billion barrels of oil, enough to expand Brazil's 14.4 billion barrels of proven oil reserves by 40–50 percent.

The "ultra-deep" Tupi field was found under 7,060 feet of water (1.34 miles down), under 10,000 feet of sand and rocks (another 1.89 miles down), and another 6,600 feet of salt (1.25 miles), for a total of 4.48 miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sergio Gabrielli, the chief executive officer of the state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR), told Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that reserves in the pre-salt area off Brazil's coast are much larger even than the Tupi field, possibly containing as much as 80 billion barrels in oil reserves.

By specializing in advanced ultra-deep offshore oil exploration, Brazil has moved from being a country dependent on ethanol for its gasoline consumption to becoming a net exporter of oil within less than a decade.

That Brazil has effectively become the Saudi Arabia of the Western Hemisphere should be enough to cast doubt on the peak-oil theory.

With three-quarters of the world's surface under water, how many more Tupi fields are there yet to be discovered?

The abiotic-oil theory predicts deep-water finds of oil will dramatically increase estimates of world oil reserves in coming decades.

Why the world will never run out of oil

Economist Julian Simon, then a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, was famous for taking a contrarian position on energy resources, arguing that our perception of scarcity was not validated by the current or historical factual record of energy abundance.

Simon argued that gloomy predictions about running out of oil, coal or any other energy resource, including natural gas, were typically wrong for several reasons, including these:

* Typically, all energy resources exist on earth in quantities much larger than initially estimated;

* Advances in technology make exploration and recovery of previously difficult-to-develop energy resources more efficient and economically affordable;

* Improvements in productivity lead to more efficient use of energy resources over time;

* Alternative sources of energy are found, even while predominately used energy resources remain abundant;

* Previously dominant energy resources, such as coal, become less dominant as more efficient energy resources, such as oil, become more understood and utilized – a process Simon believed would continue as liquefied natural gas replaces oil applications, culminating in nuclear energy replacing many current applications of oil and natural gas.

Simon's energy-resource analysis essentially maintains that we will be running automobiles with nuclear batteries long before we run out of oil.

Yet peak-oil theorists insist we have only another 10 years left before the world's oil supply begins to dwindle.

Red Alert believes that scientists in the next 10 years will accept that peak oil, like global warming, was predicated on "junk science."

Still, that does not mean peak-oil theorists or global-warming alarmists will abandon their ideological views.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Matter From Sun Causes Earth To Grow

Science Daily: Solar Explosion Tracked All the Way from the Sun to Earth.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2010) — An international group of solar and space scientists has built the most complete picture yet of the full impact of a large solar eruption, using instruments on the ground and in space to trace its journey from the Sun to Earth.

Dr Mario Bisi of Aberystwyth University presented the team's results, which include detailed images, on the 13th of April at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Glasgow.

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are giant eruptions of the Sun's atmosphere from its 'surface' which are ejected out into space. They are many times larger than Earth and typically contain over a billion tonnes of matter. CMEs travel away from the Sun at speeds of up to several million kilometres an hour (between 200 and 2000+ kilometres per second) and can impact on comets, asteroids, and planets -- including Earth.

Our planet is normally protected from CMEs by the terrestrial magnetic field, but the twisted magnetic fields carried by CMEs can break through this protective shield, causing particles to stream down over Earth's polar regions. They can also lead to displays of the northern and southern lights (aurora borealis and australis).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kristian Who?

Science Daily: Cluster Spacecraft Takes First Look at Charged Particles That Drive Brightest Aurora.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 13, 2010) — Using the Cluster spacecraft, scientists from University College London (UCL) have made the first direct observations of charged particles that lead to some of the brightest aurora.

Dr Colin Forsyth presented the results at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM2010) in Glasgow on April 12.

The aurora, or northern and southern lights, are caused by highly energetic charged particles, normally held in space by Earth's magnetic field, colliding with Earth's upper atmosphere. As these high-energy particles collide with molecules in the atmosphere they lose energy, causing the atmospheric molecules to glow and heating the atmosphere. The result of is spectacular displays of shimmering curtains of red, green and blue light normally seen above the polar regions, but occasionally seen as far south as northern England.

Despite their frequent occurrence, there are still many questions regarding the physical processes behind the aurora. The particles that excite the aurora are accelerated up to high energies in a region extending to around 50 000 km (31 000 miles) above the atmosphere. By understanding the accelerating processes in this region, scientists hope to further understand the aurora.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Supervolcanoes: Origin Unknown

Science Daily: Scientists Explore Origins of 'Supervolcanoes' on the Sea Floor: Ancient Goliaths Blamed for Multiple Mass Extinctions.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2010) — "Supervolcanoes" have been blamed for multiple mass extinctions in Earth's history, but the cause of their massive eruptions is unknown.

Despite their global impact, the eruptions' origin and triggering mechanisms have remained unexplained.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Observations Defy Conventional Theories

Science Daily: Planet-Like Object Found Circling a Brown Dwarf.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2010) — As our telescopes grow more powerful, astronomers are uncovering objects that defy conventional wisdom. The latest example is the discovery of a planet-like object circling a brown dwarf. It's the right size for a planet, estimated to be 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. But the object formed in less than 1 million years -- the approximate age of the brown dwarf -- and much faster than the predicted time it takes to build planets according to some theories.

Goddess Venus Is Geologically Alive

Science Daily: Venus Is Geologically Alive, Signs of Recent Lava Flows Suggest.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2010) — For the first time, scientists have detected clear signs of recent lava flows on the surface of Venus.

The observations reveal that volcanoes on Venus appeared to erupt between a few hundred years to 2.5 million years ago. This suggests the planet may still be geologically active, making Venus one of the few worlds in our solar system that has been volcanically active within the last 3 million years.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jesus Christ: Archmagus

MSNBC: The Archaeology of Christianity.

First reference to Christ?

Does the world’s first known reference to Christ refer to him as a magician? An inscription on a bowl uncovered from the underwater ruins of Alexandria in Egypt reads “DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS,” which archaeologists translate to mean either “by Christ the magician” or “the magician by Christ.” The bowl dates to between the late second century B.C. and the early first century.

If the word “Christ” does indeed refer to the biblical Jesus Christ, then it would be the first known written reference to Christ and might provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world. The archaeologists who discovered the bowl think that a magus could have practiced fortune telling rituals with the bowl and used the name Jesus to legitimize his supernatural powers. At the time, the people of Alexandria were likely aware of stories about Jesus' miracles, such as turning water into wine and multiplying loaves of bread.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Another Problem For Evolution

"All things were mixed up together, then Mind came and arranged them all in distinct order." -- Anaxagoras, philosopher, 5th century B.C.

"Then I heard someone who had a book of Anaxagoras, as he said, out of which he read that mind was the disposer and cause of all, and I was quite delighted at the notion of this, which appeared admirable, and I said to myself; If mind is the disposer, mind will dispose all for the best, and put each particular in the best place ...." -- Socrates, philosopher, Phaedo, 360 B.C.

"... if chance were real, it would seem strange indeed, and the question might be raised, why on earth none of the wise men of old in speaking of the causes of generation and decay took account of chance; whence it would seem that they too did not believe that anything is by chance." -- Aristotle, Physics, Book II, 350 B.C.

"Certainly the early physicists found no place for chance among the causes which they recognized...." -- Aristotle, Physics, Book II, 350 B.C.

Institute For Creation Research: Scuba-Diving Caterpillar an Evolutionary Conundrum.

The beautiful Hawaiian Islands are not only desirable travel destinations, they also provide unique habitats for tropical creatures. When certain caterpillars were found living in the wet mountainous regions, researchers were baffled both by their underwater lifestyle and their nonstandard “evolution.” How and why did these insects acquire amphibious traits?

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers were surprised to discover that 12 species out of over 300 Hawaiian moths in the genus Hyposmocoma are able to live, eat, and completely mature underwater. The moths don’t have gills, so their ability to breathe while submerged remains a mystery.

The researchers found that each amphibious species is closely related to a terrestrial variety. They concluded that “this amphibious lifestyle is an example of parallel evolution and has arisen from strictly terrestrial clades at least three separate times in the genus.”1 A clade is a grouping of similar organisms that are thought to be evolutionary related.

Yet another unexpected finding showed that some of the genes that enable these species to be amphibious are found in the nuclear DNA, but other required genes are in separate mitochondrial DNA. So, if the amphibious lifestyle evolved, then the same set of genes evolved independently at three separate times within the same, but separately located, chromosomes.

The evolutionary biologists also considered the possibility that the ancestral Hyposmocoma started out with amphibious genes when it colonized the islands many years ago. The genes would then have subsequently been lost in over 300 descendant species and stayed intact in just the few that remain amphibious. The researchers wrote that “either scenario is remarkable because they represent the repeated acquisition or loss of a truly amphibious lifestyle not recorded anywhere else.”1

Are these finds considered “remarkable” because they do not fit the standard evolutionary story? In the context of big-picture evolution, the authors explained that “it would be parsimonious to assume that it arose once in the genus and that the lineage diversified in the 12 species and three lineages in this study.”1 In other words, it would have been simpler for “nature” to have had all amphibious species “emerge” from one ancestor, not three.

The authors suggested, “Such diversification and parallel evolution may be possible for the caterpillars owing to particular characteristics of Hyposmocoma but more likely involves features of this insect lineage working in conjunction with Hawaii’s extreme isolation.”1 But this speculative statement fails to address which “characteristics” or “features” could have been involved in these “unparalleled evolutionary phenomena.”1

From a creation perspective, it may be tempting to explain these unusual moths by simply saying that God “made them that way,” but that’s probably too simple. After all, it appears that the amphibious species share many characteristics with strictly terrestrial species of this moth. And considering that members of the same genus are typically very closely related and possibly able to interbreed, perhaps today’s 350 Hyposmocoma “species” descended from a founder population or individual moths that landed on Hawaii when it was a virgin island.

In this scenario, these well-designed moths could have established themselves on Hawaii and diversified, multiplied, and filled then-empty niches. Whatever mechanism brought the amphibian genes into (or out of) certain moths and skipped over others is not yet clear.

However, that mechanism does not appear to have been genetic mutation, because mutations do not build or produce whole coordinated gene sets. Rather, they mostly accrue as miniscule aberrations of genetic data. It is more likely that the addition or removal of coordinated gene sets occurred through a well-designed process that was created for that purpose, just as has occurred with various other animals

Thursday, April 1, 2010


"Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals...." -- Plato, philosopher, Timaeus, 360 B.C.

"... the stars ... fell from heaven at the time of Phaethon's downfall." -- Aristotle, Meteorology, Book I, 350 B.C.

Science Daily: Was a Giant Comet Responsible for a North American Catastrophe in 11,000 BC? Let me guess: the correct answer is yes.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 1, 2010) — Some 13,000 years ago the Earth was struck by thousands of Tunguska-sized cometary fragments over the course of an hour, leading to a dramatic cooling of the planet, according to astronomer Professor Bill Napier of the Cardiff University Astrobiology Centre.

He presents his new model in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The cooling, by as much as 8°C, interrupted the warming which was occurring at the end of the last ice age and caused glaciers to readvance. Evidence has been found that this catastrophic change was associated with some extraordinary extraterrestrial event. The boundary is marked by the occurrence of a "black mat" layer a few centimetres thick found at many sites throughout the United States containing high levels of soot indicative of continental-scale wildfires, as well as microscopic hexagonal diamonds (nanodiamonds) which are produced by shocks and are only found in meteorites or impact craters. These findings led to the suggestion that the catastrophic changes of that time were caused by the impact of an asteroid or comet 4 km across on the Laurentide ice sheet, which at that time covered what would become Canada and the northern part of the United States.

The cooling lasted over a thousand years, and its onset coincides with the rapid extinction of 35 genera of North American mammals, as well as the disruption of the Palaeoindian culture. The chief objection to the idea of a big impact is that the odds against the Earth being struck by an asteroid this large only 13,000 years ago are a thousand to one against. And the heat generated by the rising fireball would be limited by the curvature of the horizon and could not explain the continent-wide occurrence of wildfires.

Professor Napier has now come up with an astronomical model which accounts for the major features of the catastrophe without involving such an improbable event. According to his model, the Earth ran into a dense trail of material from a large disintegrating comet. He points out that there is compelling evidence that such a comet entered the inner planetary system between 20 000 and 30 000 years ago and has been fragmenting ever since, giving rise to a number of closely related meteor streams and comoving asteroids known as the Taurid Complex.

In the course of the giant comet's disintegration, the environment of the interplanetary system would have been hazardous and the Earth would probably have run through at least one dense swarm of cometary material. The new model indicates that such an encounter would last for about an hour during which thousands of impacts would take place over continental dimensions, each releasing the energy of a megaton-class nuclear bomb, generating the extensive wildfires which took place at that time. The nanodiamonds at the extinction boundary would then be explained as having come in with the comet swarm.

One recent meteorite is known which may have come from this giant comet progenitor: the Tagish Lake meteorite, which fell over Yukon Territory in January 2000. It has the highest abundance of nanodiamonds of any meteorite so far analysed.

Professor Napier sums up his model: "A large comet has been disintegrating in the near-Earth environment for the past 20,000 to 30,000 years, and running into thousands of fragments from this comet is a much more likely event than a single large collision. It gives a convincing match to the major geophysical features at this boundary."