Archive for the ‘Cosmos’ Category
First Law of Planetary Building: no two planets will ever be alike.
Corollary #1: if two planets are almost identical, then at least one of them will have at least one outrageously peculiar feature.
Corollary #2: Universes made of perfectly identical planets are not allowed.
The First Law is manifest in the fact that each planet in the Solar System and elsewhere appears to be a unique, very specific experiment with peculiar conditions that are never repeated elsewhere. Even single satellites are all very different from one another. And if you want to top strangeness, how about Corot-7b with its clouds of minerals?
One objection could be raised about Venus and Earth, or Uranus and Neptune, as both couples look like made of identical twins. However, Venus’s hellish atmosphere and very slow, retrograde rotation are truly outrageously peculiar features; and Uranus basically lies to one side (hence corollary #1).
Corollary #2 is necessary otherwise the First Law is invalidated. It seems plausible, since the number of universes is large but not infinite.
The Total Perspective Vortex […] shows its victim the entire
unimaginable infinity of the universe […] in an infinite
universe the one thing sentient life cannot afford to
have is a sense of proportion.
Just as a painter with a canvas, colors, brushes and inspiration is ipso facto bound to paint: so the Creator, having the capabilities and tools created the cosmos. And with no configuration preferred over another, the Creator painted all possible canvasses, and everything that could exist came into existence.
And so here we are, existing because we could.
And many, ever more different copies of ourselves exist in this Cosmos, but in other Universes, covering all the possibilities even beyond our imagination. Each one of them, existing only if but also every time it could.
In the big scheme of things, the existence of each one of us is thus even more irrelevant that anybody has ever dreamed of. But from each one of us’ point of view, it’s all we have: and so in a paradox, it is extremely important, just because such an existence is so singularly precious only to itself, and to a handful of otherwise just as irrelevant people.
and you know that these are the days of our lives
While analyzing the consequences of modelling the Cosmos as a collection of a huge number of Parallel Universes, I wrote some 18 months ago:
[…] We have learned that our planet is not the Center of the Universe. Apart from being able to harbor life, Earth is a run-of-the-mill planet in an average star in a not-so-special galaxy, belonging to an ordinary Local Group gravitationally linked to a Supergroup like many others, in a corner of the Universe that is not extraordinary at all
Let’s call that the “Banality Principle”, with us since at least since the times of Copernicus […]
As it happens, it is called the Copernican Principle indeed.
It is already quite important as it is, since it means we can investigate physics in our own vicinity and assume that the laws we observe are the same throughout the Universe.
There is another step usually missed though: if we just expand the Copernican Principle to include time, then the hypothesis is that then the same things will keep happening.
This is the so-called Perfect Cosmological Principle, rejected in the past because undermined by the overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang, a”Beginning” and therefore a “special Time” in the Universe.
However, this argument fails in in a Multiverse Cosmos, where the Big Bang is just one of many. If that is the case then, the Ecclesiastes may very well be right:
1,9: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun
Is your SUV destroying the Universe?
Supernovae data from the 1950’s to 2007 show trends very worrying for the fate of the whole cosmos.
The Magnitude (brightness) of observed explosions, after hovering for several decades around the 20 mark, has recently dropped to 15 (i.e. towards brighter supernovae).
Furthermore, the number of observed supernovae has been increasing at an exponential rate, again after many decades below 50 per year, to 95 in 1996 and a little less than 600 in 2007.
The fact that this is happening exactly as anthropogenic greenhouse-gases emissions are on the increase, cannot be just a coincidence. If this will not convince Governments about the importance of stopping CO2 emissions, nothing will!
The existence of a Multiverse has many philosophical consequences (and it just makes so much more physical sense than having us living in a Goldilocks Universe). And as the Multiverse has been postulated from actual observations, we can almost say we can test its existence.
Of course it would be all much more interesting if we could talk to a parallel universe.
Or would it? Communication between Universes may actually be made rather difficult by a “crowding echo effect“.
Imagine I were to try send a message via a quantum interference pattern, for example.
Obviously, all my quasi-identical copies from “nearby” parallel universes quasi-identical to my own Universe, would be trying to send quasi-identical information via quasi-identical ways at quasi-identical times: so we could all be creating so much noise as to make the reception of any message next-to-impossible.
Even more paradoxically, we could actually be reading each other’s message: but since those messages would all be quasi-identical to each other, we could mistakenly convince ourselves that we were listening each one only to his own echo.
After all what meaningful information could anybody exchange with a quasi-identical copy?
It may take a very very long time to figure out the minute differences between the two and those may as well be undetectable or absolutely irrelevant.
In a few years, the old ideas of Fred Singer will come back into fashion.
Venus’ retrograde rotation, incredibly massive atmosphere and relatively young (<500 million years) surface will be elegantly explained by the crash of a massive satellite half a billion years ago (with subsequent melting of much if not the whole crust, and humongous outgassing).
Current lead-melting surface temperatures will be just as beautifully explained by simple adiabatic processes.
The role of CO2 in the heating of the atmosphere via some “greenhouse effect” will be seriously reconsidered and almost completely dismissed.
Some quick computations:
Ratio of available solar energy Venus/Earth: 190%
Earth, surface pressure: 1000 mbar; temperature: 288K
Venus, 50km altitude pressure: 1000 mbar; temperature: 330K
330K/288K = 114% < 190%
Venus, surface pressure: 90,000 mbar; temperature: 735K
Temperature of terrestrial air compressed from 288K/1,000mbar to 90,000mbar: 887K
735K/887K = 82.9% < 190%
Far from showing any CO2-induced global warming, Venus is much cooler than expected, likely because of the high-altitude clouds that prevent us from looking at the surface.
Astronomy Magazine’s latest Collector’s Edition issue “50 Greatest Mysteries in the Universe” (ed: David J Eicher) is even more special than usual, unintentionally so given the width and breadth of its errors.
With mistakes ranging from excessive simplifications to incredible blunders, it is just too tempting to wonder about Mystery #51, namely “Does anybody do any proofreading at Astronomy Magazine?”
Here’s a list of what I have spotted so far, starting from the biggest howlers:
Question 36: “Could a distant, dark body end life on Earth?”: (page 73):
“Among them are the Sun-like star Alpha Centauri”
Egregiously wrong. Alpha Centauri is not a single star. In this case, the text does not show the most elementary grasp of astronomical knowledge.
Question 31: “Does inflation theory govern the universe?”: (page 62):
Under caption titled “Minuscule Time”
“…compare 1 second to the 13.7-billion-year-age of the universe. Next, divide that 1 second into an equivalent number (13.7 billion) of parts…”
Egregiously wrong. The text mistakes “years” for “seconds”. This is quite worrying as it is trivial to understand that the correct “equivalent number of parts” is 31 million times larger: that is, 13.7 billion years times 365 days a year times 24 hours a day times 3600 seconds per hour.
The result is 4.32*1017, definitely not 13.7 billion.
Question 19: Can light escape from black holes?”: (page 41):
“1067 years, or more than one million times longer than the whole history of the universe to date”
Egregiously wrong. If the Universe has been around for 13.7 billion years, that’s 7.3*1056 times less than 1067. That number is 730 billion quadrillion quadrillion, not just “one million”.
Looks like whoever did the computations, misread 1056 into 106. Or worse.
Question 6 “How common are black holes?”: (page 18):
“Encountering a black hole of any type, your body […] would be pulled into a very long line of protons”
Wrong. If one were shielded against radiation, falling into a sufficiently large black hole would entail experiencing relatively weak gravity gradients.
Question 8 “Are we alone?”: (page 21):
“Viruses…’life’ – which for them amounts to cannibalizing cells”
Wrong. Only some viruses kill the host cells: many of them are more like non-lethal parasites (I am leaving aside the fact that cannibals eat their own species, and that’s not what viruses do).
Question 42: “What will happen to the Sun?”: (page 82):
“As the swollen Sun incinerates the solar system’s inner planets, its outer, icy worlds will melt and transform into oases of water…”
Mostly wrong. That is, true only under extraordinary conditions. Liquid water can exist only at pressures above Water’s Triple Point’s (661 Pa). And so it will only appear on those satellites and asteroids capable to maintain at least that much atmosphere.
How many will? Not many, perhaps just a handful or none at all.
Question 13 “Will asteroids threaten life on Earth?”: (page 30):
“The destructive power a rock carries to Earth is directly proportional to its size”
Oversimplistic. Roughly, the consequences of an asteroidal impact are directly proportional to its mass. But this leaves out other considerations, including the asteroid’s chemical make-up, density, shape, atmospheric entry angle, and more.
Question 6 “How common are black holes?”: (page 16):
“If you could throw a baseball at a velocity of 7miles per second, you could hurl it into space”
Oversimplistic. As the baseball would have to go through lots of air at first, the initial speed must be considerably larger, for a simple throw (even leave aside all considerations about heating by friction). This may look trivial, but considering the other errors in the magazine, one is left with the lingering doubt that the 7mi/s figure may have been not just a simplification.
Question 2 “How big is the universe?”: (page 10):
“…we live in a Universe that is at least 150 billion trillion miles across…”
Antiquated. The galaxies we observe as 10 billion light years away have obviously had 10 billion years to move away much further by now, and that is not all. By considering additional effects such as post-Big Bang inflation, and the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, the actual value for the size of the Universe may be in the region of 160 billion light years
Question 2 “How big is the universe?”: (page 10)
“Other universes might exist beyond our ability to detect them. Science begs off this question…”
Question 3 “How did the Big Bang happen?”: (page 12):
The often-asked question ‘What came before the Big Bang?’ is outside the realm of science”
Antiquated. For a more up-to-date view, check http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4974134.stm and Science magazine
All in all: plus 50 points for the magazine’s idea, but minus several million for being so careless with the stuff they are supposed to know more about…