Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Young Universe that Could Not Stand Up in Court

by Len Hart, the Existentialist Cowboy

Before his demise, A. Scalia's name come up in connection with, of all things, Warp Drive! Interestingly, Scalia's narrow view of the universe was not unlike that of Sarah Palin. Scalia managed to get a lifetime gig on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It allowed him to thrown in with a fringe group called young earthers because they believe that the Universe and the Earth were created con-currently about 6,000 years ago. That is something that A. Scalia had that in common with Sarah Palin who presumably still believes that human beings walked with Dinosaurs.

There is no evidence but religious dogma for this young universe theory. The opposite is true of the scientific evidence that proves conclusively that the universe is much, much older.

Most recently scientists discovered an "object" whose distance from Earth can be measured. That distance is about 13.7 billion light years from Earth. Put another way --it has taken light (the light we see) some 13.7 billion years to reach earth. That, of course, disproves Palin and other "young earthers" who clam that the universe and every thing of any significance in it is no older than a mere 6,000 years.

Not a chance! 

Not just Palin but fundamentalists of all types tell us that the age of the universe is derived by adding up the "begats" in the Old Testament. Scalia joined S. Palin by subscribing to it. Both Palin and Scalia were wrong! Embarassingly so! Recently --the most distant object in the universe was discovered and verified by real scientists in the real world. A poor decision from the bench would not secure Scalia's ventures into astronomical science.

The age of the universe is determined by the distance in light years to the object under observation, a recently discovered object. Its distance from Earth is stated in light years; that is the case with almost every object beyond our moon. The distance to this recently discovered object makes it the most distant object yet discovered. That distance is 13.7 Billion Light Years. Ergo: it has taken light from this object some 13.7 billion light years to reach Earth! That we see this object is PROOF that the universe is at least 13.7 billion light years distant/old as it has taken light itself some 13.7 BILLION years to reach the Earth where we have, in fact, observed it as it might have appeared some 13.7 billion years ago!

Monday, April 14, 2014

NASA Plans: A Warp Drive, Visit to Alpha Centauri

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

This is a "big deal" for at least two reasons. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system in the sky. Because of that it’s very bright, and because it's very bright, it is well studied.  It has been the object of "planet searches" for decades. At one time and for awhile some toyed with the idea that the small red dwarf Proxima could boast a planet. Alas --if it has a planet, it may be too small or far out to be detected.
    The signal from the planet is very weak; it was only located because its gravity tugs on the star. The effect of the "tug" is detectable and measurable: it's a wobble! Predictably, a massive star tugs harder on the star it orbits, smaller planets less so. The "wobbles" are very nearly imperceptible. In the case of stars, the "wobble" almost always means: planet! In the case of planets of "low mass" the doppler shift is less apparent! Don't Forget the Aiens!

    Relatively speaking, the "system" is in our "backyard"! Additionally, the stars seem very much like our own old Sol --the Sun. UFO aficionados have said that this is the most obvious location of "aliens" that some believe have already visited earth. Some believe that one expedition crashed in the planes of Southeastern New Mexico in the 1940's.

    Some writers have said that "... we are very close to finding a planet with the same mass as Earth." It is also said that these planets may have water, being its star but not too far. Liquid water may very well equal life. It is one thing to find planets of the "correct mass". It is quite another to find planets having both ideal position vis a vis "their" star as well as having the "right mass".

    Several writers, scientists, astro-physicians have said that it is only a matter of time before the first life sustaining planet other than Earth may be discovered. red dwarf Proxima could boast a planet. Alas --if it has a planet, it may be too small or far out to be detected.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Of Space-Time and Clock Towers

by Len Hart

Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. A professor at Columbia University since 1996, Greene has worked on mirror symmetry.

As a result, he believes that in “infinite” universes, the number of ways in which matter can arrange itself is infinite. Eventually, a “universe” is repeated. Such a parallel universe would look very much like the one we live in. Therefore, Greene says: if the universe is infinitely large, it is also home to infinite parallel universes.

As a string theorist, he believes that apparent conflicts between current cosmology (Relativity theory) and quantum mechanics is resolved with string theory –his 'specialty' for the past 25 years. Greene believes that the entire universe is explained with small strings vibrating in as many as 11 dimensions.

Moreover, within our single universe time is relative to where you are and how fast you are going at any given instant. Therefore, time is always local even within the single universe we live in. For example, time is slower for anyone who is moving. As Einstein demonstrated, time stops for anyone traveling at light speed.

Einstein imagined a street car leaving the clock tower in Bern. As long as his speed was less than that of light, the clock viewed from the street car would appear to be moving forward, marking the 'forward' progress of time. But –should the street car exceed the speed of light, the hands of the clock would appear to go backward as the street car –velocities faster than that of light –actually catches up with and passes light beams.

This effect can be simulated with an oscillator or an old 33 and a third RPM album turntable with a disc of concentric hash marks calibrated to appear stationary under florescent (pulsing) light. If the turntable is too slow, the hash marks will appear to rotate in one direction. If the rotation is too fast, the marks will appear to move in the opposite direction. At the desired turntable speed, the hashmarks will appear absolutely motionless. By the same token, time STOPS for one traveling at the speed of light.

The downside is that many other unfortunate things will happen to you at that speed. So –don't try this at home or without the supervision of experts. You are safe if you confine your experiments to an old 33 1/3 RPM turntable and some old Rolling Stone LPs.

A few years ago, Julian Barbour “shook up” readers of “Discover” magazine when he denied the existence of “time”. He may be correct. Interestingly, he is consistent with Einstein. Einstein posits that time is merely one's local' movement relative to the speed of light. Young Einstein lived in Bern (Switzerland) where he worked at the patent office. He often took the tram home in a direction away from the famous Bern clock tower. He imagined how the clock might appear should his tram exceed light speed. He immediately concluded that the hands on the clock tower would appear to move backward relative to the forward movement perceived by pedestrians on either side of the street. The explanation is simple: at faster than light travel, the tram overtakes that light that had previously left the tower. One looking back at the tower would see the hands run backward.

That, of course, is a dramatic example that drives home the point for anyone daring to imagine faster-than-light trams. The conclusion is simpler: time is different for every person occupying a different space from every other person. For that matter, time differs from every point to every other point in the universe.

Barbour believes the past, present and future all exist in what may be called a timeless 'super-verse'. Barbour posits a series of “NOWS” like individual frames on a motion picture film strip. 'Nows' exist for actual events but, interestingly, many 'nows' are alternate possibilities, i.e, virtual universes.

This view is consistent with Einstein's analogy re: the Bern clock tower. To use Barbour's film strip analogy, NOW is a single frame, the universe –the entire film strip. Parallel universes may be compared to alternate "film strips", thus Barbour's views are consistent with Greene's idea of "parallel" universes.

If Barbour's timeless universe is a film-strip, then Greene's parallel universes are a shelf full of film-strip canisters –each containing a feature-length film. In this case the feature-length movie is the universe as it unfolds.

Man, Myth and Magic

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Forbidden Planet is a classic Sci-Fi tour de force staring Leslie Nielson, Walter Pidgeon, and Anne Francis. Released in 1956, it holds up surprisingly well against Star Wars, the Star Trek series and even the most recent digital entries into the genre.

The story of Dr. Morbius, re-discovering the technological marvels of a lost race of Krell on the distant planet Altair, is updated Shakespeare: The Tempest. Forbidden Planet excels in special effects, but it's enduring fascination is to be found in it story --a parable of technology vs its inventor, the monster vs Dr. Frankenstein, the enemy of our own making.

Forbidden Planet shows us the dark side of human kind, a forbidding gestalt of uncontrollable urges that lies within all of us --a monster from the ID! Even intelligence —seemingly papered over the more powerful id —cannot negate our darkest, deepest reservoirs. Just as Lord of the Rings depicts the absolute corruption of absolute power,

Forbidden Planet confronts us with a question we would rather not answer: what are we to do with the physical manifestations of our inmost monsters?

Far fetched? Consider this: what are nuclear weapons if not the "physical manifestations" of our darkest, unconscious impulses?

Is "Terrorism" a Monster From the ID?

It was stated on the internet that the U.S. is hated by 100% of terrorists. Aside from being an amusing tautology, it misses the point. FBI statistics, for example, published by the Brookings Institution, utterly repudiate the political exploitation of terror.

The FBI's own numbers are conclusive: while Ronald Reagan waged his famous "War on Terrorism", terrorist attacks against the United States increased. Terrorist attacks were many times greater under Reagan than Clinton. Yet Clinton is criticized for not having waged such a war, if war it is. It raises the question: is it preferable to wage a war and fail than not wage a war and succeed?

Like Morbius of Forbidden Planet, we may be too late to recognize that the only demons that howl are of our own making. Shakespeare's The Tempest deals with the same question: what does it mean to be human? The traditions of the enlightenment, and more recently, of Existentialism, come down heavily on the side of the fully realized individual --free to be human within the context of a free society.

How oddly quaint and surrealistically naive that seems after a mere two years of debacle and the unleashed madness of the monsters from the Id.