Friday, October 29, 2010

GPS, Relativity & Geocentrism

This is in response to Rick DeLano comments on GPS and relativity, originally posted in the comments of John Hartnett's Cosmos. 1. Introduction.

For this analysis, I will define Physical Geocentrism as a system which claims that the Michelson-Morley experiment (MMX) makes the Earth a fixed, motionless frame of reference.  This seems to be consistent with the claims Mr. DeLano makes in his earlier comments and below.

Just how well tested is relativity?
DeLano: "We are only now beginning to be in a position to determine whether the behavior of “c“ is as predicted in non-Earth reference frames."

We've pretty much had the capability since space flight - and especially interplanetary flight.  We've been able to measure newer predicted relativistic effects since the 1960s, such as the Shapiro Delay (Wikipedia

In addition, there are currently at least two satellite instruments flying in space, moving relative to the Earth, AND to the object they're imaging, where the optical configuration used is similar to the Michelson-Morley experiment.  The system is used for precision Doppler velocity measurement.  They use 'c' for the velocity of light when removing Doppler effects from the spacecraft velocity relative to the target.  

As high-bandwidth transmissions become common in space, we will have to include the relativistic effects there as well to keep precise timing.  Physics Today: Time dilation seen at just 10 m/s.

But Doesn't GPS Use Geocentric Coordinates?
The GPS system uses several different coordinate systems, including an inertial system with an orientation fixed to the distant stars.  Computations transform to a geocentric system when needed to compute locations physically on the Earth.  For more details and references, see Scott Rebuttal. I. GPS and Relativity.
DeLano: "The early evidence is shockingly unsupportive of Relativity (JPL time correction built into GPS software, for example, which renders “c“ constant in only one frame. Hint: it ain't the solar system barycenter)."
That can only be a credible statement to an audience that knows NOTHING about relativity.

According to relativity, provided you do ALL your calculations in a given frame, you can always use 'c' as the speed of light in that frame. 

That is what frame-independence of the speed of light MEANS. 

If you transition between reference frames you must do the appropriate relativistic transformation and then do all your calculations based on measurements in THAT frame.  Then you can use 'c' in that frame as well. 

If You Want to Know About GPS, Read the Spec!
But here is the real killer for the claim of no relativistic effects in the GPS system. Back during the system's development, the contention over the reality of relativistic effects was so severe, a frequency synthesizer was installed to alter the system clock frequency to the relativistically-corrected value - just in case. Neil Ashby describes how the required clock synchronization could not be achieved until the corrected synthesizer was turned on (see General Relativity in the Global Positioning System by Neil Ashby). A copy of the original paper, from 1978, describing the launch and initial testing of the first GPS satellite, is available online: INITIAL RESULTS OF THE NAVSTAR GPS NTS-2 SATELLITE.

Today, the relativistic correction is described in the GPS specifications. It's available at the Navigation Center of the U.S. Coast Guard, under GPS References, see Interface Specification (IS-GPS-200E, 8 June 2010). The relativistic corrections are described in Sections and (Note that the USCG site layout has changed so these links are different than the earlier article.)

So I ask the question, could Physical Geocentrists have built a working GPS system?

But the implications of an absolute reference frame like Physical Geocentrism requires goes far beyond what is covered here.

Coming Soon: More technology implications (more things that would NOT work if Physical Geocentrism were valid) AND APPLICATIONS (what WOULD work if Physical Geocentrism were valid) of Physical Geocentrism!

Friday, October 22, 2010

On Dark Matter. II: An Exotic Hack?

This is a continuation of an earlier post, “On Dark Matter. I: What and Why?”

But the planet Neptune is not some 'exotic' form of matter, so it can't be considered Dark Matter.

To re-iterate, “Dark Matter” is an all-encompassing generic term used over the years covering cases where we see evidence of gravity before identifying the mass or masses responsible. 

Don't confuse the terminology used to describe the modern Dark Matter problem with the underlying concept of matter being detected by indirect means, in this case, gravitationally, before it could be directly detected.  I say Neptune was 'Dark Matter' in quotes to indicate it was not literally called Dark Matter by the researchers of the day.  However it does still meet the requirements of Dark Matter, that it was detected through its gravitational influence before it was detected by more direct means.

Today we continue to find remote members of the solar system that were previously below the detection threshold of our instruments.  We also are finally developing an inventory of extrasolar planets, some detected initially by their gravitational influence.  These are also components of Dark Matter (the baryonic component).

So what qualifies as 'exotic' matter?

For a time, Dark Matter had a far broader range of definition, which included baryonic (Wikipedia) matter.  It is only fairly recently, as more of the baryonic components are identified, that the definition has narrowed in on a subatomic particle.

Does the neutrino qualify as 'exotic' matter?  The neutrino is non-baryonic, as are electrons.  Neutrinos are suspected to be just one of the possible components of Dark Matter.

If one wishes to claim that 'dark matter' is nonsense, the statement carries with it the implication that our current level of science and technology is at its peak and there is nothing which our current technology cannot detect.  That is:
  1. We know how to detect all types of subatomic particles in the universe, no matter how they interact with other particles that we know.
  2. Our telescopes can detect all matter in the universe by the light it emits.  There is nothing below the level of sensitivity of our current telescopes.
Dark matter can be ruled out only if you can demonstrate that 1 and 2 are absolutely true.

The history of science and astronomy has shown that assuming nothing can be beyond our current technology's level of detection is a losing bet.  Every time we've had dramatic increases in instrument sensitivity, we've made new discoveries of what is 'out there' and sometimes new discoveries on smaller scales of size as well.

As I noted in an earlier post, Theory Vs. Experiment. II, there is a certain symmetry in the possible existence of an additional class of particles if we group the particles by the interactions to which they respond:

color (strong)electromagneticweakgravitational




Electrons muons, tau







Dark Matter




Such a pattern, if real, might suggest a new avenue for the whole Grand Unified Theory (Wikipedia) option.  After all, even I am beginning to think string theory is stretching to the point of breaking.

Dark Matter is a Hack

In some ways it is.  But it has the advantage of being a very simple hack, just an additional particle that only interacts via gravity.  Even better, it is a TESTABLE hack.  In your simulations, you add an extra density component that only responds to the gravitational interaction and see how it changes your results.  Though this process, Dark Matter has made a number of successful predictions detectable in astronomical observations (such as the Bullet cluster, Wikipedia). 

Another advantage, compared to some other alternatives to Dark Matter, is that a previously undetected particle has the potential of being demonstrated in laboratories (XENON project).

Realistic Alternatives to Dark Matter

Numerous alternatives have been proposed to solve the missing mass problem.  Some, such as Anthony Peratt's galaxy model, have already been ruled out by more recent observations by instruments such as COBE and WMAP.  I've written much about this model on this site as it lives on among Electric Universe supporters.

Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND): At one time I regarded this option as borderline 'crank' science.  In recent years, the supporters have actually been producing mathematical models that are actually *testable* against observations.  Unfortunately, unlike the possible particle component of dark matter discussed above, it is unclear if MOND could ever be tested at laboratory scales. (Wikipedia)

Relativistic Effects due to Matter Inhomogeneities:  I include this possibility since when I first read about them, I thought it was a cool idea.  Basically, some aspects of cosmology rely heavily on the universe being very smooth or uniform density on large scales.  But what happens if there are large non-uniformities?  There were some interesting papers suggesting that the gravitational self-energy (the gravity created by effective mass density of gravitational energy) could distort space-time sufficiently to mimic the effects of Dark Matter.  The last I heard, these have been dismissed as mathematical errors.

Next: Just how much 'dark matter' do we need?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reading: "Discarded Science" by John Grant

I've finally managed to read one of the books I picked up several years ago at a science fiction convention, John Grant's “Discarded Science: Ideas that seemed good at the Time...”

The book delves into a number of ideas that, for a time, were actually regarded as science.  While this is the emphasis, it does occasionally divert away from that theme into descriptions of many flavors of pseudo-sciences that were never part of accepted science.

There were a few pages (78-82) devoted to Velikovsky, whose ideas were never accepted science.  However, there was nothing on modern merging of Velikovsky's ideas with plasma cosmology, the  “Electric Universe“ crowd.  Eric Lerner's “The Big Bang Never Happened” is listed in the bibliography but plasma cosmology is not discussed in the text.  Plasma cosmology did enjoy some resurgence of interest before the COBE and WMAP results ruled it out (see Scott Rebuttal. II. The Peratt Galaxy Model vs. the Cosmic Microwave Background).

Creationism and Intelligent design received some pretty extensive treatment and mention of connections with other ideas throughout the book.  Some items I found of interest included pre-Darwinian ideas, quite ancient, which suggested the notion that species change over time has a very long history (pg 131).

Grant includes a discussion of panspermia (pg 189), which covered the more legitimate investigations of Fred Hoyle[1] and Chandra Wickramasinghe, as well as its variants that have been integrated into some religions.  Grant even mentions the somewhat irreverent treatment of the idea (pg 214), Allegro Non Troppo (wikipedia), where life evolves from the discarded trash of an extraterrestrial visitor. A segment of the movie is available on (YouTube),

On page 31, Grant reports that Martin Luther and St. Augustine insisted the Earth had to be flat which I cannot say I've heard before.  This brings me to one of my most serious complaints about the book, that citations for some of the topics in the text are weak to lacking.  This greatly inhibits its use as a more general reference. 

Another example is on pages 251-252, where Grant discusses N-rays, mentioning that when R.W. Wood exposed their subjective nature, N-rays were quickly rejected by the scientific community everywhere except France, the home country of the discoverer.  I've not found this cultural bias confirmed in other sources (Skeptic's Dictionary; Wikipedia).

While not relevant to the topics of this site, I did enjoy the sections on anthropology and medicine.  Some of the beliefs discussed were familiar from my youth as some of the more bizarre ideas mentioned were espoused by family and friends.  It was interesting to read about their origins.  The section on chromotherapy [pg 303-304] was particularly funny as I recall attending a Mensa meeting where one of the attendees would shine this little red light on her food before she ate it.  High I.Q.s do not make people immune to pseudo-science!

There are a number of additional topics of interest.  Puthoff's zero point energy (pg 254), is a popular source of claims for some creationists models such as Barry Setterfield's c-decay.  The section on the Pons & Fleishmann “Cold Fusion” scandal (pg 260) had one of the more entertaining quotes by the author:

“It's an obvious rule of thumb that only a scientific illiterate would attempt to use a lawsuit to influence a scientific debate.“

As already mentioned, my greatest disappointment for using this book as a more general reference is the limited annotations of the various ideas presented.  Hopefully the information is sufficient that I will be able to follow up on some ideas mentioned through other sources. 

Grant has two other books on similar topics, “Corrupted Science” which is waiting on my shelf, and “Bogus Science” which I will probably purchase in the near future.

[1] In graduate school, I had an opportunity to meet Fred Hoyle (Wikipedia) and had him autograph my copy of “Diseases From Space” by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The IBEX Challenge for the Electric Sun

The IBEX mission was in the news recently yet again.  This time publishing a new skymap from the past six months of observing neutral atoms from the heliopause and beyond.  The new map reveals some significant changes in the emission of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) along some regions of the 'ribbon'.

IBEX Finds Surprising Changes at Solar Boundary

There are a number of proposed explanations by researchers (some descriptions here at SWRI) actually working with the data (SWRI/IBEX data).  Each of the proposed mechanisms can create mathematical predictions that match some characteristics of the ENA emission, but not all.  As happens in many of these cases, the truth is probably some combination of these mechanisms.

The IBEX results have again caused a stir among the Electric Universe (EU) and Electric Sun (ES) supporters as reinforcing their claims of the Sun being powered by external electric currents.  The new result has re-invigorated the topic at Thunderbolts (forum link).  I've written about this with some earlier IBEX releases:
In the last link, I covered one of the proposed mechanisms for the ribbon emission. This was a really good paper as the researchers used their model to generate a neutral atom emission map which could be compared DIRECTLY to the IBEX result. Here's a comparison:

The agreement between the actual data (left) and the model, which does not include background emission, (right) is surprisingly good.

While the Electric Sun supporters CLAIM their 'model' explains the IBEX result, where are their model predictions that we can directly compare to the IBEX results?  Note the arrogance of the poster 'mharratsc' in this thread (thunderbolts forum), claiming that IBEX PROVES THE ELECTRIC SUN.
Bridgeman et al can yammer up a storm about what they think about the Electric Sun model and plasma cosmology in general, but when it comes to IBEX- their model was PROVEN WRONG.

EU/PC/Electric Sun- VALIDATED.

Then where IS the equivalent IBEX map generated for the Electric Sun model?  

The ES map should show better (or even perfect) agreement with the data map.  It should show better agreement than the other proposed models.

After all, such a bold claim by EU requires evidence that can be compared to real data.  Without it, why should anyone regard the EU claim as anything more than a fairy tale?  Failure to present the EU claim at the same standards that other scientists must satisfy makes the EU claim look more like scientific fraud.

Here's just a few additional questions I would have for the ES theorists when it comes to explaining the IBEX observations:
  1. Describe the mechanism for the pinch current powering stars to produce this sunward flux of neutral atoms.  How do we compute the particle fluxes and energies?
  2. If the change in the ribbon represents a change in the current of the z-pinch that powers other stars, shouldn't we expect to see a pattern of nearby stars (powered by this stream) changing brightness?  If so, by how much?  When and where could we expect to see this change?
  3. Related to 2, if the IBEX changing knot is the imprint of another current stream against the Sun's current stream, we should be able to use this to build a map of one of these nearby current streams.  Where's the skymap of this current stream?
If the ES model is insufficient to answer these questions, then their claims of a model that explains the IBEX observations is false.

Is there ANY EU supporter up to the challenge of doing something that could be described as REAL science?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Electric Universe: Plasma Modeling vs. 'Mystic Plasma'

Earlier posts in this topic line:
1) Electric Universe: Real Plasma Physicists Use Mathematical Models!
2) Electric Universe: Real Plasma Physicists BUILD Mathematical Models
3) Electric Universe: Plasma Physics for Fun AND Profit!

So were does this leave us?

Building Plasma Models for EU...

Siggy_G, in comments earlier in this thread, has set himself (herself?) to the task of setting up a suitable simulation for the Peratt galaxy model to run on modern hardware.  It would be consistent with my purpose for this blog to post reports on the progress of that activity.  It would also be fair to discuss computational tricks/techniques for solving the physics of such an effort.  Siggy_G should feel free to contact me directly via e-mail if they wish to discuss the topic.  I might consider setting up a 'sticky post' in this blog on the project so others can observe the progress and problems.  I think it is valuable when others not in the scientific community get a first-hand experience of what solving these types of complex problems is really like.

APODNereid redirected me back to re-examine Peratt's “Physics of the Plasma Universe” in an attempt to determine if Peratt had actually included the effects of gravitation in his simulations that receive so much attention among EU supporters.  On examining the text, I find that Peratt uses a number of his examples (pages 62-66) where he sets up energy contributions from gravity and electromagnetism and demonstrates that gravity has a significant contribution in the larger-scale   configurations  In some of his estimates, he appears to take the upper bound for contributions from electromagnetism and the lower bound for contributions from gravity which biases the result in favor of electromagnetism.

A re-examination of Chapter 8, where Peratt outlines the requirements for simulating these configurations, suggests I had interpreted this incorrectly before.  I read this section with the impression that this was how Peratt had done these simulations.  On reexamination, I now realize Peratt is outlining how he thinks these simulations should be done.  I can find no evidence that the TRISTAN code in the text (Appendix E) includes gravity, and by Peratt's own work, the gravitational energy is NOT negligible when you get to galactic scales.  This also suggests that the scaling laws invoked so many times by EU supporters to turn laboratory experiments into cosmic scale experiments have never included gravity. Thanks to APODNereid for bringing that to my attention.

So clearly Peratt's own analyses were incomplete, and I can't find any evidence in later papers that this shortcoming was repaired.  The paper referenced by Siggy_G, Rotation Velocity and Neutral Hydrogen Distribution Dependency on Magnetic Field Strength in Spiral Galaxies by Snell & Peratt, seems to entirely justify ignoring gravity based on the EM force being 10^7 times larger than gravity for roughly neutral hydrogen (this depends very much on the mass density and temperature which determines how readily those charges will recombine to form neutral atoms so this estimate is shakey).

I should add that Peratt's energy analyses are similar and consistent with what I did in my Electric Sun analyses which EU supporters always claim are wrong.  Why is that?  

Nonetheless, I suspect EU supporters will continue to use Peratt's work as their touchstone galaxy model.

Even though EU supporters say plasma models are useless...

On page 126 of The Electric Sky, Don Scott quotes Alfven:
"From the point of view of the traditional theoretical physicist, a plasma looks immensely complicated. We may express this by saying that when, by an immense number of vectors and tensors and integral equations, theoreticians have prescribed what a plasma must do, the plasma, like a naughty child, refuses to obey, The reason is either that the plasma is so silly that it does not understand the sophisticated mathematics, or it is that the plasma is so clever that it find other ways of behaving, ways which the theoreticians were not clever enough to anticipate."  -- H. Alfven. Double layers and circuits in astrophysics. IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 14:779–793, December 1986.
Alfven's description gives plasmas an almost mystic character, that it has a mind of its own, like a living being, beyond the ability of physics and mathematics to describe.  Attributing such mystical character to the natural world is common in many religions.  While such prose is common in popular-level science books, only someone with Alfven's level of prestige could have gotten away with making such a statement in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. 

Then Dr. Scott tries to make the point...
The Princeton statement [Scott is referring to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, particularly Magnetic Reconnection] that plasmas are “described very accurately with such a theory” is blatantly untrue.  Indeed, if plasma can be described very accurately with such a theory, why have all attempts to use this theory in order to obtain a sustained and controlled nuclear fusion reaction here on Earth have been so spectacularly unsuccessful for more than 50 years? [D.E. Scott, The Electric Sky, pg 126]
The details that Dr. Scott DOESN'T tell you with this statement is the topic for a future post, but the bottom line is the EU regards even attempts at plasma modeling as doomed to failure.  These statements clearly are not “plasmas models are good to precision 'x' or if they include process 'y'”.

In Summary...

As noted in comments to an earlier post, the promoted EU position on plasma modeling appears to be a two-parter:
  • Alfven: All mathematical models of plasmas or discharges are unreliable.
  • Peratt: Claims a successful model of galaxy formation from mathematical plasma model
Both of these statements CANNOT be true!

Since one commenter got so upset over my choice of the term 'schizophrenic' in my earlier post describing EU's position on plasma modeling, I'll clarify with a link to a dictionary definition,

Note definition 2:
2. a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.
I think the term is certainly applicable.