Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tidbits on Extrasolar Planets and Polonium Halos

I've been busy with a number of other projects of late, both work-related, and/or relevant to this blog, which has encroached on my writing time.  I may actually miss a few posts in the coming weeks as I work through these other projects.

One project near completion is my own N-body simulation (scholarpedia) code written in Python and running on modern hardware.  It can generate several types of plots and I can even generate output through the POVray ray-tracing software to make movies.  I've been testing the code with gravitational and electromagnetic problems.  This program will be used to provide a couple of visual examples for subjects discussed on this blog and I hope to start write-ups for it soon.

A side-benefit of developing the N-body code was that I also solved an algorithm issue that aided in the development of different work-related project - a small plasma simulation using PIC (Particle-in-Cell, wikipedia) methods.

Since I don't have a full regular post, I'll update on some recent news and other activities relevant to this blog.

More Exoplanets Imaged Directly
One of the YEC claims I've covered before (Another failed creationist prediction?)
suggested we would never have direct evidence of extra-solar planets.  Flying in the face of that claim are even more images of these extra-solar planets:
Wired: Exoplanet Portraits: Direct Images of Other Worlds

The discovery methods behind these extra-solar planets are also additional examples of of how astronomy knowledge grows by expanding on our existing knowledge base.   Many of these extra-solar planets were too faint to be imaged directly by technology of the day and many were first detected by their gravitational effects.  This approach has enjoyed much success throughout the history of astronomy and is currently part of the strategy in searching for Dark Matter (On Dark Matter. I: What & Why?, On Dark Matter. II: An Exotic Hack?)

Mystical Migrating Polonium...
I've already written a fair amount on Robert Gentry's claims about polonium halos (Polonium Halos as Evidence of a Young Earth? Polonium Halos). Here's an update with some new data I've uncovered.

I recently completed reading Richard Rhodes' book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" (Barnes & Noble).  In the chapter discussing the development of the neutron initiator for the atomic bomb (pp 579-580 in the Easton Press Collector's Edition), the author mentions an interesting problem with the polonium used in the initiator:
Thomas shipped the Po on platinum foil in sealed containers, but another nasty characteristic of polonium caused shipping troubles: for reasons never satisfactorily explained by experiment, the metal migrates from place to place and can quickly contaminate large areas.  "This isotope has been observed to migrate upstream against a current of air." notes a postwar British report on polonium, "and to translocate under conditions where it would appear to be doing so of its own accord."  Chemists at Los Alamos learned to look for it embedded in the walls of shipping containers when Thomas' foils came up short.
So even outside granites and micas, polonium has a track record of moving around on its own. 

The problem is mentioned again in  "Contribution of Chemistry in Early Day Los Alamos" by Penneman and Meade.  However, the authors of this report attribute the polonium migration to the recoil of the atom due to the alpha-particle decay.  I'm a little dubious of that claimed cause as one would probably expect to see similar behavior in other alpha-decay radioisotopes near the mass of polonium.  To my knowledge, polonium is unique in this migration characteristic in this part of the isotope table.  However, the decay channel through radon is part of the polonium decay chain.  Note in my chart below:

If your polonium sample has some trace of Po-218 (half-life approximately 3 minutes) from this decay series, some fraction of the nuclei will beta-decay (two green arrows) up to Rn-218 where transition to a gas phase can allow the isotope to move.  Later, the nuclei can alpha decay (red arrows)  back to Po-214 (half-life approximately 160 microseconds) and some may decay to Po-210 (half-life approximately 138 days).  I suspect this migrated polonium is actually from traces of Po-218 in the original sample. If you only perform chemical tests to identify polonium, researchers might not notice that the isotopic composition of the sample.  The alternate branches in this decay series suggest one could test this hypothesis looking for migration of other isotopes in the Rn-218 decay.

So we see that polonium can move around in modern times WITHOUT divine assistance!

9/20/2011 update: fixed some typos.
6/7/2014 update: fixed broken link to graphic

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Electric Universe Apologetics, or, With Friends Like These...

(I had really hoped to get this out sooner, but other things kept intervening.  Sorry Jon.)

Back in May, 2011, Jon Voisey of “The Angry Astronomer”, wrote a story for Universe Today which was also picked up at

    •    Universe Today: Energizing the Filaments of NGC 1275,
    •    PhysOrg: Energizing the Filaments of NGC 1275,

As part of the article, Jon pointed out that this release would probably be exploited by the Electric Universe (EU) crowd as 'evidence' for their claims.  He was very quickly proven correct as the comment stream at became filled with comments from EU supporters.

There was one entry by a particularly long-winded commenter hiding behind the pseudonym “HannesAlfven” in the posts:
“To be clear, there will come a day when EU proponents create their own curriculum, based upon their own interpretations of observations and experimentation. Once this occurs -- and it is absolutely inevitable -- these quantitative models will be refined.”
I summarized a number of issues EU 'theorists' like to ignore in a recent post (Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists'). The problems of standard cosmology pale in comparison to the problems of EU claims which supporters repeatedly ignore.

So let's break up “HannesAlfven's” statement into smaller pieces to better explore its high density of nonsense...
“there will come a day when EU proponents create their own curriculum, based upon their own interpretations of observations and experimentation”
Science in the classroom is supposed to be well established - Newton's Laws, gravitation, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics.  Maybe a little speculative stuff is sprinkled in areas on the scientific frontier, to demonstrate that not all problems have been solved.  I suspect neutrinos were mentioned in 1940s physics classes even though not a single one had yet been detected directly. 

But since EU theories, such as the Electric Sun and galaxy-generating currents, have numerous problems, it cannot be considered as well-established so it does not belong in the classroom.

“HannesAlfven” proceeds to arrogantly claim that EU adoption “ is absolutely inevitable”.

While the standard model of the Sun has great (but not perfect) success, EU supporters have yet to demonstrate that their model can do things as simple as predict solar wind particle densities and speeds, issues vital for the safety of satellites and astronauts.  This is something the standard model does quite well.  Without this basic capability, EU will have a hard time designing radiation shielding for space flight.  How will anyone adopting EU 'theories' maintain a presence in space if they don't know how to shield their satellites?  EU's 'inevitable' adoption spells death for the space-faring capability of the adopter.

And finally, there's the really ROTFL close “...these quantitative models will be refined.” 

Huh?  Which quantitative models are those?  WHERE are they? 

Of course, the really funny part of this statement is the claim that the EU models just need to be 'refined'.

Astronomical models off by a factor of 2, or even a factor of 10, need 'refinement'.  When a model's predictions are off by factors of thousands or more, as EU models are (see Electric Cosmos: The Solar Resistor Model, Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. III., etc.), saying the models will be 'refined' is a joke more akin to a self-delusion.

But even more interesting about “HannesAlfven's” statement and attitude is how similar it is to the stated tactics and goals of Creationism and Intelligent Design movement - they want to push their material into the classroom first - and THEN they'll refine their 'scientific support'.

This same tactic was used in Dover PA by ID supporters.  This was the reason for the Dover 'Intelligent Design' Trial (wikipedia). 

EU supporters constantly try to promote their cause, not with actual scientific facts and testable hypotheses (like real scientists) but as a conflict of worldviews or a 'culture war', a tactic used in religion or politics. 

The fact is that science works regardless of your worldview or culture.  A cell phone or satellite works based on the quality of the science, and quality of the construction and maintenance, independent of whether you 'believe' it will work. 

However, one's worldview or culture can strongly impact whether one can actually build the technologies that science enables - those who don't understand the science behind a cell phone or satellite will never be able to design it or build one from the fundamentals.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Geocentrism's "Quantized Planetary Orbits"

Mr. Martin responds to "Stupid Geocentrist Tricks" with In Response to Dr Bridgmans "Stupid Geocentrist Tricks". I've already made some reply in the comments to the previous article.

One of the statements in Martin's response that really caught my attention was
Martin: "6. Quantized planetary orbits – a law of planetary distances matches the preferred redshift of quasars with a ratio of 1:1.23."
I conducted several searches to find more details about this claim, but only found it quoted in a number of online locations with no details of its justification.  I could find nothing describing details of the ill-defined 'law of planetary distances'.

But that wasn't too severe a problem.  After all, information on planetary distances in the solar system are readily available.  I collected some values from, Appendix 1a: Solar System Data. 
I included the values for the asteroid Ceres and even Pluto to increase the number of possible data points.

In the table below, I present the data and the analysis.  For each planet, I have the distance (actually the length of the orbit's semi-major axis) from the Sun (heliocentric distance) in kilometers, which is often designated with the letter a (column 2).  I then compute the ratio of the distance of the planet (n) and the distance of the planet immediately before it (n-1) (column 3).  Since there is no prior planet, we can't set the value of this ratio for Mercury.  We then compare this result to the claimed value (column 4) and report the percent error, 100.0*(actual-predicted)/predicted (column 5).

 Planetsemi-major axis
% error
Venus108,200,000 1.87 1.23 52%
Earth149,600,000 1.38 1.23 12%
Mars227,940,000 1.52 1.23 24%
Ceres446,000,000 1.96 1.23 59%
Jupiter778,330,000 1.75 1.23 42%
Saturn1,429,400,000 1.84 1.23 49%
Uranus2,870,990,000 2.01 1.23 63%
Neptune4,504,300,000 1.57 1.23 28%
Pluto5,913,520,000 1.31 1.23 7%
Note that not only is there significant deviation from the claimed value, but the claimed value of 1.23 isn't even a mean or median value of the actual data.  In fact, the claimed value is smaller than all the actual values.

As an additional check, I also constructed some plots using a planetary ephemeris file available at the JPL Solar System Dynamics web site.  The distance ratios are again computed based on the orbital semi-major axes.  The error bars are computed using the range of heliocentric distances driven by the orbital eccentricities.
Click to enlarge
We can also plot the ratio connecting the inner planet on the horizontal axis and the outer planet on the vertical axis and compare to the claimed ratio.
Click to enlarge
Again, the agreement with the claimed 'quantization' ratio is very poor.  But for Pluto (and it is no longer considered a planet so can that apply?), the error bars do not even overlap with the line marking the 1.23 ratio.

So what gives?  This poor fit agreement between actual data and the predicted line do not coincide with any generally agreed definition of quantization (wikipedia).  The scatter in the actual data points suggests that even some modification of the claimed 'quantization rule' would not improve the situation.  Again, it appears the Geocentrists are incapable of doing even basic math.  Or could it be that the Geocentrists know their statement is false and think their supporters are too ignorant to do basic math to check them?

If Mr. Martin or other Geocentrist supporter wishes to clarify this claim with a link to a specific analysis, I will allow them to post a link with more details OF JUST THIS PARTICULAR CLAIM OF QUANTIZED PLANETARY ORBITS.  Anything else will be rejected.