Saturday, June 25, 2011

Polonium Halos

I haven't written anything on Robert Gentry's claims about polonium haloes in a while.  My major piece on this topic was Polonium Halos as Evidence of a Young Earth? on my main site which covered aspects of the radioactive decay series ignored by Mr. Gentry.

However the NCSE has recently published a few articles related to the geology of these halos.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Geocentrism: Ubiquitous Aberrations

One of the popular attack points for pseudo-scientists is to go after the earliest measurements which supported a theory such as relativity, under the notion that the entire acceptance of the theory is based only on these measurements.

The major error with this approach is that it ignores the fact that many theories, once well-established in many experiments, are integrated into many precision measurement techniques.  This means the original theory gets tested every time the measurement technique or technology is used.

Consider the phenomenon of stellar aberration (wikipedia).  Aberration is a consequence of the fact that we see objects by the light they emit (or reflect) and that the speed of light is finite.

Everyone is probably familiar with the effect of aberration.  The popular analogy is of walking through rainfall.  Even though the rain may be falling vertically, to the walking observer, the rain appears to be falling at an angle. 

In the case of light from distant objects, the change in the angle of propagation for the moving observer means that the object under observation will appear at a different position, relative to a given coordinate system, than it appears to an observer at rest in that system.  In the case of the Earth moving around the Sun, this effect makes stars appear to trace out ellipses on the sky.  The aspect of the ellipse varies depending on the angle of the star relative to the plane of the Earth's orbit, the ecliptic.  At the ecliptic pole, the effect makes the star move around in a circle, while in the plane of the Earth's orbit, the star appears to move back and forth.  The maximum value of this aberration angle is about 20 seconds of arc, about 1/90th the diameter of the full Moon (about 30 minutes of arc).  This aberration angle created some problems for the first attempts to measure the parallax (wikipedia) of stars as it is much larger than parallax angles for the nearest stars.

Aberration in Practice
The effect of aberration is sufficiently small, that it is of no real concern in casual astronomical observation, when precision pointing not required.  When more precision is required, the contribution of aberration becomes important. 

Catalogs of stars and ephemerides of planets are generally computed with the position of the object in a specific reference frame.  However, when it comes to pointing telescopes or similar light-based instruments at these stars and planets, the position and velocity of the observer relative to reference frame of the catalog must be known, as well as the velocity of the target object relative to the reference frame.  This result is then used to compute the pointing corrections needed for the telescope to properly position the star or planet in the field-of-view.  Note that the catalogs are constructed from telescope measurements and the aberration effects in the telescope reference frame must be REMOVED to make the catalog entry (ADS).  This makes it possible to use the catalog in a different reference frame. 

Resources for understanding stellar aberration:
Aberration and other types of position corrections are important for astrometric (wikipedia) missions where the goal is to determine positions of objects in space with high precision.  The Hipparcos mission (ESA, wikipedia) was the first large-scale astrometric mission, cataloging over 100,000 stars with precision parallaxes.  An additional mapper on the satellite obtained position information on over a million stars.  Due to a rocket failure, the Hipparcos spacecraft did not achieve the planned geosynchronous orbit, but ended up in a highly-elliptical transfer orbit.  This accident would create a radically different aberration measure from that of the originally planned circular orbit.
FAQ entry about stellar (and other) aberration effects on the Hipparcos astrometry mission

The ancients navigated by knowing the positions of the stars.  Modern navigation, requires high-precision for astronomical positions.  Today, these positions provide the inertial reference frame (wikipedia) used for many precision navigation systems on the Earth, such as GPS.  Most people don't even think about the connection of the GPS receiver in their phone with the ICRF (USNO) or its successor, ICRF2 (NASA), but this reference system is used to establish accurate positions of the GPS satellites.

But the positions aren't just important for navigation on the Earth.  The orientation of a spacecraft relative to a reference coordinate system determines how applications of thrust by the spacecraft will move it.  Even a small error in the spacecraft direction angle, magnified by the spacecraft motion over millions of kilometers at high speeds, can create a huge error in the final position.

To determine the orientation of a spacecraft, devices called star-trackers are mounted to the spacecraft to obtain information on the spacecraft orientation.  Modern star trackers are very precise.  Ball Aerospace has models (Ball Aerospace) with 3 and 0.2 arcsec positional accuracy - small enough that aberration effects must be included.
    Aberration on the Leading Edge...
    As the need for more accurate positional measurements increases, the inclusion of aberration is even more important.

    Gaia (ESA) is the follow-on astrometry mission to Hipparcos, with the goal of collecting accurate stellar parallaxes on a billion stars.  For more details, see Reference Systems, Conventions, and Notations for Gaia by U. Bastian (2007).

    For astrometry missions requiring micro-arcsecond precision, we'll will actually have to include the effects of the motion of the solar system barycenter moving around the galactic center, a phenomenon called secular aberration: Astrometric Effects of Secular Aberration.  Sergei M. Kopeikin and Valeri V. Makarov, ApJ 131, 1471 (2006).

    Astrometric Software
    The effects of aberration are included in astrometric software libraries such as NOVAS (USNO) and SPICE (NASA/JPL), which is actively used for satellite trajectory planning.  Here's a direct link to the documentation of the subroutine for computing the position of the satellite relative to the target, which includes corrections for stellar & planetary aberration (spkezr).

    In Summary
    Aberration has been measured from reference frames other than the Earth.  Spacecraft in Earth orbit and going to other planets must compute a different barycentric velocity correction to accurately account for aberration effects.  Positional corrections due to aberration must be included to define inertial reference frames for accurate navigation, including GPS systems on Earth.

    With their interest in ignoring relativistic effects such as aberration, Biblical Geocentrists have still failed to demonstrate that they are competent to navigate satellites anywhere in the solar system.  Any nation that expects to either travel in space, or reap other benefits of space-faring capability, should view Biblical Geocentrism as a recipe for lost satellites and lost astronauts.

    Thanks to Scott Snell, a flight software engineer at NASA/Goddard, for directing me to some of the public data available on star-trackers.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    What The Electric Universe 'Theorists' Won't Tell You...

    This is a response to the anonymous commenter in the thread:
    Electric Universe: Real Plasma Physicists Use Mathematical Models!
    I've also posted a similar, shorter response to the article at dad2059.

    In indicated quotes from the commentor in red: Anonymous Poster:
    Mathematics aside, most relevant scientific discoveries are initially serendipitous and/or conceptual postulates. This appeal to show current (PC/EU) research which corroborates studies and articles over 20 years old is fallacious.
    Fallacious?  Not at all.  Real science is subjected to constant revisions and updates as new data become available.  It is rare enough for a scientific reference to be iconic  and ACTIVE references after 20 years, but with NO newer work?  If you are using material this old as your PRIMARY references, it limits EU to:

    1) It is a historical or religious reference, perhaps where the 'original intent' of the author is under examination.  This option supports my view the EU is more of an ideological or religious movement (see The Electric Universe & Creationism);

    2) It is a DEAD science.  The commenter is basically saying there has been no new discoveries in plasma physics since the work of Alfven or Peratt and that plasma physics has been a stagnant science. 

    Loads of new missions and data impact PC/EU models, yet all the verbal claims of EU proponents have yet to generate one viable computation model where the theoretical model gives numbers even close to the new data.  The Peratt galaxy model has yet to be shown consistent with modern cosmological microwave background measurements (see Scott Rebuttal. II. The Peratt Galaxy Model vs. the Cosmic Microwave Background, Still no electric currents powering the galaxies...)   Has anyone in PC/EU even mapped locations of current streams across the sky they need to power stars and galaxies in their model?  Not that I've been able to find!

    Meanwhile, REAL plasma physicists have been revising and improving their mathematical models, to the point of commercial viability.  The commenter conveniently evaded the other posts in this topic. 
        •    Electric Universe: Real Plasma Physicists BUILD Mathematical Models
        •    Electric Universe: Plasma Physics for Fun AND Profit!
        •    Electric Universe: Plasma Modeling vs. 'Mystic Plasma'

    REAL plasma physicists have had significant success with numerical plasma models, in spite of EU's (theological?) position that it can't be done. 
    The Steady State Theory (sic) and Relativistic Physics have been accepted models for over two decades themselves. Most of the salient data was collected many years ago. Just because you can quantitatively show relevance on paper or electronically, without any way to reproduce those findings in the lab, does not make the ideas of the Standard Model or “Einsteinian Mechanics“ more concrete.
    The commenter obviously does not know how quickly science can be integrated into technology.  This is possible because we can define how many physical processes operate through mathematical means.

    In addition, processes important in astrophysics get testing all the time, and not just in laboratories.  I've documented a number of examples in these articles:

        •    Astronomy as an 'Unprovable' Science
        •    The Cosmos In Your Pocket - Updated
        •    Testing Science at the Leading Edge
        •    'Out There' Astrophysics Impacts Technology (again)
        •    Testing Science at the Leading Edge... II
        •    “Real” Science vs. “Cosmological” and “Origins” Science

    In the 1930s, Hans Bethe (wikipedia) and Edward Teller (wikipedia) developed the physical and mathematical techniques for understanding the energy generation in stars by nuclear processes. They subsequently used these same techniques to develop the atomic & hydrogen bombs in the 1940s & 50s.  How did they do this?  They used the microphysics, the same reaction rate and energy generation equations from small-scale laboratory experiments and computed them for the different environments of energy release in the center of a star (under very high pressure) and in a lower pressure environment (the Earth's atmosphere).  Even today, there is much data and theory exchanged between nuclear astrophysicists and nuclear weapon designers.

    We have yet to see such a demonstration from those who claim the Sun and stars are powered by external electric currents.

    Many of the unusual instruments that were used to collect leading edge data decades ago are part of standard instrumentation today - atomic clocks, Michelson interferometers, lasers, etc. so these theories are subjected to continual testing everywhere the technology is used.  Principles such as relativity are tested every time someone uses a GPS receiver, regardless of EU & creationist denials.  Relativity becomes even more important when we use GPS to do high-precision positions of other satellites.  We are already in the planning stages of a GPS system that could operate throughout the Solar System.  Thanks to relativity, we knew what relativistic correction was needed for the GPS clocks before they were launched!
    All those electrical engineers supporting EU and denying relativity (and insinuating other scientists are incompetent or worse) have yet to build a guaranteed relativity-free GPS receiver.
    There is a lot of merit to Alfven's Plasma Cosmology as well as some EU ideas which make more intuitive sense than any ideas of “Dark This/That.“
    'Intuitive' does not make the science correct.  Quantum mechanics is incredibly un-intuitive, yet those aspects of it, which could be readily predicted through mathematics, enabled us to replace large vacuum tubes with microscopic transistors which make modern electronics possible.  What matters in science is that one can make numerical predictions that can be compared to data and observations.
    The physics community is one big circle jerk for the most part. The same can be said for biology and chemistry too. Unless someone is willing to stray from the status quo, a profession will become prone to self aggrandizing and auto-kudos.  
    'Circle jerk'?  This sounds more like a description of EU 'theorists'.  They build cosmic-scale circuits with no EMF to drive them - the electrical equivalent of perpetual motion machines, yet conveniently ignore where the energy comes from that drives that EMF.  They invoke electrons which can't emit synchrotron radiation in a magnetic field for some mysterious reason, a process well-established experimentally.  EU 'theorists' hide behind the archaic term “Dark Current” which is no longer used in modern plasma studies since it is now well understood  (Dark current has a radically different interpretation in modern physics - wikipedia).
    The neutrino took 25 years from postulate to direct detection, but in between that time there were numerous experiments which were consistent with the neutrino's existence.  For 'Dark Matter', a subatomic particle, below the detection threshold of our current technology, is the simplest solution. 

        •    On Dark Matter. I: What & Why?
        •    On Dark Matter. II: An Exotic Hack?
    If M-Theory is all that modern theoretical physics has to offer, and it in itself is built upon the accepted physics modalities, then don't expect that mankind will be able to jump to that epic next step which will allow us to truly understand the intricacies of It All, and allow us to be successful universal wayfarers.
    M-theory, whether valid or not, has nothing to do with why PC/EU is a failure.  PC/EU fails from very basic considerations from electromagnetism and mechanics.

    As for the 'universal wayfarers', considering the EU/PC has yet to produce a usable, reproducible model of the heliospheric and interstellar environment, those 'universal wayfarers' will have some serious problems dealing with the field and radiation environment.  I have repeatedly made light of these problems and received nothing but excuses from the EU 'theorists' instead of actual, testable models.
    The commentor closes with:
    You never stifle a brainstorming session with negativity or filtering. If you folks had an IQ above 125 you'd know this, but sadly even the so-called intellectually adept are just barely above average. Your numbers mean jack if they propose abstract absurdities.
    Einstein felt quantum mechanics made absurd predictions, yet QM and its absurd predictions made possible the computer on which you are reading this.  Nature is under no obligation to adhere to what anyone believes is 'not absurd'.  What matters is what we can test with experiments and observations.

    If you were an astronaut traveling to Mars, would you accept a QUALITATIVE value for the level of radiation your ship can take from a CME before the astronaut's health is seriously impacted?  The CCMC does that today using the standard solar model.

    If you operated the northern electrical grid, would you accept a QUALITATIVE value for the level of voltage induced in your long distance power lines by a CME striking the Earth's magnetic field?  The CCMC does that TODAY, using the standard solar model.

    After the STEREO spacecraft can no longer view the far side of the Sun, as an astronaut, would you accept a QUALITATIVE value for whether an active region has formed out of view and is about come around the limb, with the potential of blasting you with radiation from a solar flare?  Helioseismology gives us this capability, but it works using a very different solar structure than ES supporters claim.

    Current standard models for the solar environment (very different from the ES model) can generate QUANTITATIVE values for these parameters!

    The people you want to call 'sub-125 IQ circle jerks' have real accomplishments.  What can EU demonstrate?

    Update 6/22: Fixed some grammatical errors.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Geocentrism: Failing More Basic Physics...

    This is a continuation of my response to the comment stream placed in this blog post by Mr. John Martin.

    Mr. Martin's claims quickly become more bizarre due to the fact he has built them on of many of the false premises he made, which I addressed in my first response (Geocentrism: Failing Basic Physics...).  Mr. Martin claims he has had some physics and is an engineer, yet it appears he is incapable of doing even the basic math and geometry which he would need to understand, and correct, his misconceptions. 

    Questions referenced in this comment.
    Dr. Bridgman said – “Sungenis' 'evidence' consists of selective interpretation of the geometric fact that you can move your coordinate origin to any convenient location - including the Earth - and ignoring the fact that this trick applies everywhere. He completely ignores the dynamical aspects of the problem that make these coordinate systems different when actually moving from planet to planet. The really funny part is he is basically using a relativistic argument to make his case, then tries to prove relativity wrong.” JM- Sungenis’ evidence for geocentrism is all encompassing and shows the science experiments used to determine the motion of the earth through space are all consistent with a stationary earth surrounded by an aether flow. Furthermore, the large scale structure of the universe also points to the earth being at the center of the universe. Combining these evidences, a powerful case is made for a stationary earth at the center of the universe, just as it was made by the See more... creator. I invite you to review your position on this matter as a matter of scientific truth. Dr. Bridgman said – “I've seen no evidence that his 'theory' can answer any of the questions that must be dealt with by satellite designers and astronauts.” JM- What are these problems and why is it not possible to address them with a stationary earth? Please present evidence for your claims.
    It is not impossible.  It can always be done by transforming to heliocentric coordinate systems when needed, but that can be done from any point in space or planet - it does not favor the Earth in any way.  If you want to do the entire calculation in a geocentric system with some 'aether' to account for the coriolis and other forces, then supporters of geocentrism must demonstrate that this works from first principles. 

    Basically, Geocentrists need to produce the algorithm that enables us to compute the forces this 'aether' creates at any given position and time.  Then they need to demonstrate that this can produce the same paths we observe for planets, and design for spacecraft.

    Everything I've seen from Geocentrists is a cheat, trying to take someone else's heliocentric solution and then moving the origin to the Earth.  They don't appear to have the competence, or courage, it takes to actually transform the known equations of motion, Newtonian gravity and acceleration, well-tested in everything from laboratories to mechanics to spacecraft, to a reference frame where the body of the Earth is not rotating (Wikipedia: Frame of Reference, Non-inertial frames).  Once you can compute the forces at any point, particle positions and velocities at any time can be computed.

    Evidence for my claims - yeah - no one is using Geocentrists methods (whatever they actually are) to successfully navigate to other planets.
    Q1 - Why is it that Newtonian mechanics requires instantaneous action at a distance to account for gravity and this is taken seriously by science?
    Q1: Newton was uncomfortable with “action at a distance“.  He eventually adopted the solution of noting that his gravitational force law gave predictions to planetary motions that matched observation and left it to others to figure out further details of how it worked.  This is common in empirical science.  The gas laws (wikipedia) were used for years before we knew about molecules and statistical mechanics.
    Q2- What is the mechanism proposed by science what is consistent with Newtonian physics to permit the force of gravity to be effective instantaneously over large distances?
    Q2: I don't know.  Magic Pixies?  Angels?  Not really relevant to the fact that the force equation works.  Others have proposed theories for a finite speed of gravity.  Einstein's theory subsequently provided a model for the 'speed of gravity' (wikipedia).
    Q3 - Relativity says gravity is caused by a completely different mechanism of a bending of the space time continuum. As this mechanism is very much unlike the Newtonian mechanism for gravity, why are the two mechanisms routinely acknowledged within modern science?
    Q3:  and yet in the limit of weak fields, the central-force problem derived from Einstein's field equations reduce to Newton's equations for motion by gravity.  i.e. it works.  If you don't believe it, do the mathematics yourself.  The process is also outlined in many introductory textbooks on general relativity.
    Q4- Why is it that the notion of the barycenter is fundamentally flawed and yet it is taken seriously by modern science and is routinely used in planetary flight path calculations when using Kepler’s laws? For example a planet is said to obey Kepler’s laws by taking an elliptical flight path around the sun as one of its foci, yet that same planets is also said to travel around the solar system barycenter as one of its foci, which is not at the center of the sun. This singular inconsistency seems to be routinely ignored by modern science, yet Kepler’s laws are routinely stated to be compatible with Newton’s laws and reflective of real planetary flight paths. Please comment.
    Q4: The concept of a barycenter (center-of-mass) is a fundamental concept of mechanics and a consequence of Newton's Laws (wikipedia) and applies to far more systems than celestial mechanics.  Ever seen a see-saw?  Ever used a lever?  Do you know why a bridge is stable (or unstable)?  What about an automobile or an aircraft or a rocket?  You claim to have some physics background, but it is  painfully apparent that you don't understand even these basic concepts.
    Q5 – Modern sciences understanding of the physical cause of gravity is not well understood. Why then is Newtonian mechanics and relativity theory used against geocentrism when such theories merely make assumptions concerning the mechanism for gravity and then produce equations based upon those assumptions? After all if those assumptions are not well established by science experiment, then objections to geocentrism are at best only objections, based upon models founded upon assumptions about the nature of gravity. Please comment. . . .
    Q5: You have yet to demonstrate any operational knowledge of gravity, so it is clear that YOUR understanding of gravity (and mechanics) is deficient, as demonstrated by your claims above.  Modern science has sent humans and spacecraft to the Moon and other planets thanks to how well we understand gravity.  We launched satellites into orbit in spite of the fact we had no precision tests of Newtonian gravity between the surface of the Earth and the orbit of the Moon.  Talk about a GAP in a scientific theory!  Do Geocentrist models have any equivalent accomplishment? 

    We don't “know“ what electrons are.  Does that make my 'Magic Pixie' model correct, or even a viable contender?  There is no "proof" that the Earth is round (and technically, it isn't)

    "not well established by science experiment"???  According to whom?  You who has (knowingly?) misrepresented Kepler's Laws, and apparently cannot do basic geometry, trigonometry, or mechanics?  You've demonstrated that you can't even do the BASICS required for celestial navigation or travel, so why should I, or anyone else, believe you?

    If our understanding of gravity was as poor as you suggest, we would have never made it into space. 

    Your 'arguments' are, at best, an attempt to 'muddy the facts'.   You try to detour the fact that the language of modern science is mathematics (see Mathematics: The Language of Science) and not weak rhetorical games.  Science requires you to provide a demonstration that your Geocentrism claims are equivalent, in the language of science, or your claims are useless (see Crank Science: Worse than Wrong). 

    Questions referenced in this comment.
    Q6 – The Foucault pendulum is routinely used as apparent evidence for the moving earth. The pendulum is said to swing in a plane parallel to the fixed stars, whilst the earth rotates underneath the pendulum. How does modern science explain the force produced by the fixed stars that causes the pendulum to swing in a fixed plane relative to the stars?
    Q6: It's called inertia, (Wikipedia: Inertia, Foucault Pendulum)
    Q7 -Why does the pendulum apparently overcome the gravity fields of the sun and moon and not swing in a plane following those bodies and yet not overcome the gravity fields of the distant stars?
    Q7: This reads like some distorted interpretation of Mach's Principle (wikipedia), which is a (hypothetical) explanation of inertia.   Compute the torque that would be produced by the Sun & Moon on the pendulum configuration.  What kind of precession rate would it produce?  What would it take to measure the effect?
    Q8 - Why doesn’t a Foucault pendulum that points towards the earth’s center of mass continue to do so throughout the day when the pendulum is traveling along with the rotating earth?
    Q8: Huh?  The local vertical of the pendulum will always point along the direction vector of the local acceleration of gravity.
    Q9 - Why doesn’t a Foucault pendulum merely follow the rotating earth and continue to swing in a plane with the moving earth and thereby have no variation of the plane direction with the earth’s daily rotation?
    Q9: Inertia.  Some of the mathematics for understanding it in a rotating frame is described on the Wikipedia page.

    Closing Comments

    I don't mind trying to clarify things that are not on the web or don't necessarily have a good explanation.  But as I have referenced above, there is loads of material online which Mr. Martin has apparently never bothered to read, or has read and decided to ignore (most likely the latter).  Some web searches indicate that very similar questions have been asked before on various science sites. 

    Mr. Martin's remaining queries (here and here) have deteriorated into a series of questions that read more like homework problems for an undergraduate physics class.  When questions like this would appear in the USENET physics forums, the popular response was “we don't do your homework problems for you.  Learn the physics.”

    Mr. Martin relativity 'problems' are set up trying to measure all the velocities relative to some cosmological reference frame, even though such a construction violates the principle of relativity.  This is an apparent attempt to claim these effects have only been measured relative to the Earth, but the fact is we have measured aberration effects from high-precision astrometric spacecraft such as Hipparcos (wikipedia) in a highly-elliptical orbit where the velocity is significantly different from the Earth.   Star-trackers flown on many spacecraft must include the effect of stellar aberration for precision navigation.  We HAVE measured stellar aberrations from locations other than the Earth (more goodies on this for a future post!).

    Apparently Mr. Martin couldn't type “Planetary aberration” into Google (wikipedia). 

    Like most advocates of pseudoscience, they often come up with ideas where they think that THEY are the first to think of it and then never do any actual research as to what others have done.  That is usually a bad bet for any science that has been developed for over 50 years (see Doin' Astronomy (and Science in General)...).

    Some of the queries above, and most of the remaining queries, will be added to my collection of similar items for sorting into topics where I can deal with them in a more consolidated manner.

    Some Relevant Resources

        •    "Spherical Astronomy" by Robin Green.  Particularly check out pg 193, “Planetary aberration”. 
        •    The best source I've used on introductory relativity that has problems like Mr. Martin describes is “Spacetime Physics” by Edwin F Taylor, John Archibald Wheeler.  This book is an excellent resource for understanding the nuances of special relativity.
        •    Good Math, Bad Math: Relativistic Crap from an IDist
        •    "Achieving better than 1 minute accuracy in the Heliocentric and Barycentric Julian Dates"