Posts Tagged ‘universe’

OUU Podcast #5: Something from Nothing

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Aridian PR
Our Undiscovered Universe Podcasts


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OUU Podcast #5: Something from nothing

Welcome to the fifth in a series of podcasts that explore Null Physics as presented in the book, Our Undiscovered Universe, written by Scientist and Engineer, Terence Witt.

The topic of discussion today is “Something from nothing”, discussing various cosmology theories like the big bang and how they compare to the theory presented using Null Physics.

Also in Episode 5:

  • How does science address new ideas?
  • What role does the Big Bang play when scientists are looking for an alternative theory?
  • How did Null Physics evolve to the theory it is today?
  • What is the difference between a steady state universe of null or zero, and the theory that one began as zero then exploded with a bang?
  • Also available on iTunes! Search “Null Physics” and Subscribe Now!

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    Students Discover New and Different Planet

    Monday, December 8th, 2008 by Bellatrix

    Three undergraduate students from the Netherlands have made a new discovery in our universe without even trying. They discovered a new extrasolar planet, which is a great discovery itself, but to top it off they discovered it using a new technique and found it orbiting a special kind of star.

    Students Meta de Hoon, Remco van der Burg, and Francis Vuijsje were given the assigned to develop search algorithms. They did so well on this project that they had time to test their search algorithm on real data. So they set to work investigating light fluctuations in thousands of stars in the so far unexplored OGLE database. The brightness of one of the stars was noticed to decrease by about 1% every two and a half days. The students were then allowed to use the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile to follow up and confirm that a planet was causing the fluctuations.

    The planet was given the name OGLE2-TR-L9b, but the students like to call it ReMeFra-1 after their names. The planet is quite large, weighing in at about five times the mass of Jupiter. To make sure that it was a planet and not a small star o brown dwarf they used spectroscopy to look at the chemical make up of the orbiting body and confirmed it is not a star. The planet is orbiting very close to its star; it lies at only three percent of the Earth-Sun distance giving it an orbital period of only 2.5 days. This discovery is also special because of the type of star. The star, named OGLE-TR-L9 is now the hottest star found to have a planet orbiting it. The star itself also rotates very quickly, which would have made it hard to use the conventional method of planet detection to find this one.

    So we can add another extrasolar planet to the growing list. With each new planet discovery we learn so much. We have now expanded the list of possible stars that could have planets, knowing that stars this hot and fast can have planets. This technique may prove quite useful in detecting planets around similar stars. And the part that I think is most exciting is that this was all done by undergraduate students. Undergraduates are usually lucky to get some research experience, maybe a have a paper published with their names below their professor’s, but these students did something extraordinary and they’re getting the credit. It shows that you don’t have to be a stuffy know it all professor who has been researching for many years to be able to contribute.

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    Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 by Terence Witt

    Although Newton and Einstein were both brilliant individuals, far ahead of their time, this was not their defining attribute. What they, and most of the other truly great theorists of history have shared, is a genuine humility before nature. This is not the same thing as admitting to the incompleteness of the standard model of particle physics, for instance, nor is it the same thing as claiming that the deepest secrets of the universe remain shrouded in great mystery. Humility before nature is to stand in utter awe of the universe, listening with unshielded, unprejudiced ears to what it’s trying to tell you. This is not a mystical experience; this is a case of striving for total objectivity. The mental noise generated by our protracted simian ancestry clouds our thoughts with nonsensical egocentric ideas, and scientific progress is often the first casualty. Examples are too numerous to mention, so let’s just play the highlight reel.

    Anthropic principle. This is one of my favorites; designing the universe in man’s image. The anthropic principle is perhaps the most egregious case of the tail wagging the dog in the history of organized thought. There is nothing; absolutely nothing, that is universally unique about the human form. I’ve often said that if the universe were different than it is, we would be different than we are. On reflection, however, the more accurate statement is if the Earth, the lovely blue-green speck floating amongst the hundreds of billions of stars in another speck – the Milky Way – were different than it is, we would be different than we are. Saying that the universe is designed to accommodate humans is like saying that the Earth has to be the way it is or else seagulls would be unable to fly. Ludicrous, yet the anthropic principle persists in many forms.

    Conflating math with reality. Although America’s forefathers saw the wisdom of separating church and state, theoretical physics has failed to draw a clean line between math and reality. This is an occupational hazard of course. Without math, theoretical physicists would have little to do. Perhaps if enough theoretical physicists were immersed in engineering or applied mathematics, they would eventually come to the realization that our math is no more than a clumsy idealization of reality. It is the simplistic shadow that reality casts on our minds. Calculus, for instance, works because of the way reality is, not because of the way that calculus is designed.

    Reality by consensus and aversion to new concepts. This is tribal activity at its best, and it does have a heavy evolutionary heritage. The shamans of thousands of years ago had jobs similar to the cosmologists of today – to answer questions for which there are often no good answers. The best way to do this is adopt a sweeping, agreed-upon liturgy that covers all the bases. It doesn’t even have to be self-consistent, it just has to be consistent. Getting the story straight, so to speak. In ancient times, the missing logical sequences were attributed to god; in modern times, the missing sequences are denigrated as philosophy. In both cases, the probing of logical inconsistencies is considered an attack, because these areas have already been labeled as out of bounds. “Foul!” they cry in unison. Since any genuinely new idea represents a change in the worldview, and since it takes so long to “get the story straight”, there is widespread resistance to original concepts. Hubris replaces humility, authority replaces curiosity, and science takes the fall…again.

    Discovery by brute force. The LHC involves the work of literally thousands of scientists, with the oft stated and well-publicized goal of “probing nature’s deepest mysteries”. Yet it is all done to support a standard model of particle physics that contains a gaping schism near its core – the fundamental incompatibility between quantum mechanics and relativity. This is seen as a problem of course, but not really a pressing problem. Indeed, how could it possibly be in need of urgent attention? The schism has been in place for nearly a century. Full steam ahead, business as usual, damn the torpedoes. So, whereas a prudent airplane mechanic might be deeply concerned upon noticing a crack in a plane’s engine, theoretical physicists are convinced that they can unmask nature’s fundamental secrets by sheer force of will and accelerators so large that they need their own electrical generating plants.

    These are only four of the dozens of implicit ways that science has been polluted by our needy, anthropocentric genes. While it is true that a progression of our worldview periodically occurs, it usually takes the form of observations kicking down the door and leaving us with no available recourse. It took a very long time for Earth to be demoted from “Center of Universe” to its current status as “Center of Intelligent Life”. It is entirely unclear how long it will take humankind to see the universe through eyes divorced from their heavily ego-dominated lenses, but this is the one and only path to scientific objectivity. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, time will tell) we are quickly approaching a situation where the cost/benefit analysis of colliders larger than the LHC and telescopes beyond 20 or 50 m becomes simply indefensible. Either our worldview freezes and physics dies, or we go all the way back to where the cracks started forming in the current paradigms and we start using the most powerful tool of all – logic.

    You might think that the author of a book as ambitious as Our Undiscovered Universe would be the last person to blog about humility and respect. And perhaps it might be easy to mistakenly conflate my book’s unbridled enthusiasm for the power of its new ideas with an author’s ego run amok. But as I continue the daunting task of developing and applying null physics, with its nonlinear four-dimensional geometry of particles and photons, and as I see single particle calculations that can effortlessly bring a supercomputer to its knees, humility is really my only option. Or as Yoda might say, “be beaten down by Mother Nature a thousand times in a thousand different ways for 30 years, humbled you will be!”

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    GLAST and The Mystery of Gamma Ray Bursts

    Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 by Bellatrix

    It has been nearly three months now since GLAST was launched, NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope. The telescope isn’t fully functional right now, but according to NASA’s website the telescope is up and running and so far passing all of the checks the engineers are laying out.

    Gamma rays are some of the most powerful and mysterious objects detected in space so far. As their name entails they are short-lived bursts of gamma ray photons, having energies ranging from a thousand electron volts to several billion electron volts. They range in duration from a few tenths of a second to a few minutes. However, this very short duration makes them very hard to detect and gather data on, since by the time a telescope is alerted to a burst and pointed in the right direction the burst will be over.

    Gamma ray bursts are not well understood. They weren’t discovered until the 1960’s, and as late as the 1990’s astronomers weren’t even sure if these bursts were coming from the edge of the solar system or the edge of the universe. However, with recent advancement in technologies we’ve been discovering much more about them, giving us clues to their origin. We now know there are two different classifications of gamma ray bursts. Long Duration ones are bursts lasting 2 seconds to a few minutes, short duration ones are shorter than 30 seconds. Astronomers think fundamentally different processes create them. Long bursts are believed to be generated billions of light years away by the death or collapse of very massive stars, or Wolf Rayet stars. Short bursts are less understood, but may be created in very high energy collisions like between two neutron stars or a neutron star and black hole.

    GLAST will be able to cover much more of the sky than the current gamma ray satellite, SWIFT. The GLAST team is currently in the process of checking the validity of the burst locations it detects. So far, GLAST has detected 12 bursts, and other telescopes have so far verified four of these bursts. Once all the checks have been performed and the team operations are running smoothly GLAST should start making some great discoveries. It will be able to gather data on a much higher number of bursts and tell us about the area from which they originated. Matching up the bursts with data about the originating area from before the bursts will hopefully tell us more about how they are created, such as if a known super giant star is in the vicinity of the bursts before but not after the burst.

    New technology for this purpose is quite exciting. There are so many strange and mysterious things in the Universe we still don’t understand; to have something that may lead to a new discovery in astronomy is thrilling. It will be important to keep an eye on the data coming in once GLAST really gets going.

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