Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reading - Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science. Part 2..

Reading -  Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science.
by Halton Arp

Continuation from part 1.

In Part 1 of this series, I covered the claimed 'low probability' of low redshift galaxies near high redshift quasars, illustrating how considering the full 3-dimensional nature of space illustrates how the probabilities of chance alignments aren't so low.  In this part, I'll cover the apparent 'connections' reported in some of these cases.

Things Don't Look Good…

Another problem with Arp's analysis is a heavy reliance on what something 'looks like', basically relying on pareidolia (Wikipedia).  This is a common characteristic of a lot of faulty (Wikipedia: N rays) and crank science (Pseudo-Astronomy: the ziggurat on the moon).  The greatest problem with this approach is one of reproducibilty (wikipedia).  Without reproducibility, other people can insist that they see something completely different - and if looks are all you have to go on, how can you prove anything? 
  • Consider the claimed 'bridge' between 3C273 and 3C279 in Figure 5-17 of CompTEL data (pg 132) and EGRET data in Figure 5-18 (pg 134).  Arp implies some kind cover-up in the later publication of the COMPTEL data where his claimed 'bridge' between the two objects has vanished.  Both both CompTEL and EGRET obtained photon direction information in very indirect ways, by counting individual gamma-ray photons and trying to determine their initial directions based on the trajectories of electrons either scattered or pair-produced in the instrument.  The angular resolution of both of these instruments was poor but improved over time through the accumulation of more photons - real sources would accumulate significantly more counts than empty backgrounds. This reinforced the statistics at locations of real sources and decreased significance of background noise.  Artifacts between point sources would disappear.  Similar 'connections' probably vanished all through the skymaps of these instruments over time.
  • On page 173-174 we find the statement that the connection between lobes of the Einstein cross "Looks real" (STSci).  Again, we see 'blobby' things with faint 'connections' between them, especially when blown up into a severely pixelated image.  While Arp complains these 'blobs' are not shaped like the arcs predicted by gravitational lensing, it is important to note that the Hubble observations were released in 1990.  HST still suffered from the optical flaw discovered after 'first light'.  HST was not operating at its optimal resolution and extended objects looked far fuzzier than the ideal (Wikipedia).  The first Hubble Servicing mission to fix that problem would not take place for several more years (STSci).  Hubble has since taken an image where the 'connections' are less apparent.  Other observations from ground-based instruments (Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD): The Einstein Cross Gravitational LensMicrolensing of the Einstein Cross) can have resolution limits due to atmospheric effects.
  • Pages 178-180, we see the claim that the gravitational lensing arc does not look like a lensing artifact but rather an ejected shell.  I suspect there might be spectroscopic methods for distinguishing a galaxy or QSO from an ejected shell such as the Vela supernova remnant (APOD: Vela Supernova Remnant).  Actually, since gravitational lensing is often verified by a spectroscopic signature (gravity bends all wavelengths equally, so there is no dispersion), I suspect it has already been verified that this is a lensing artifact.
Arp uses these observations to argue that quasars are ejected from the centers of galaxies.  The ejected quasars eventually sprout spiral arms and grow into regular galaxies.  He seems to suggest that most (or all?) of the galaxies we see were generated by such a process (even claiming that our own Milky Way galaxy was ejected from the Andromeda galaxy, pg 69).  This is not a problem in and of itself, because we've detected things being ejected from galactic centers, particularly jets of plasma.  Here's a few images compositing the visible light optical images, which show the galaxy, with the radio emission data, which reveal the jets from the galactic center, such as the sample below of Hercules A from Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Hercules A with Radio Jets: NASA, ESA, S. Baum & C. O'Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF),
and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Here's some more examples from Astronomy Picture of the Day: Jets from Unusual Galaxy Centaurus A, Messier 106.

But note that in these composite images, it is easy to see that the central jets from these galaxies show turbulent structure, most likely due to interactions with the intergalactic medium.  The jets form blobs, irregularities, and at large distances from the center - they slow down to form blobs that emit strongly in radio wavelengths.  You can see a similar behavior using an eyedropper to force colored dye into a class of clear water.  This behavior is also observed in jet simulations.
Yet if there is an interaction with the surrounding intergalactic medium, it is barely visible with Arp's ejected quasars!  Consider the tenuous 'connection' between Markarian 205 & NGC 4319, long regarded as the strongest case for quasar-galaxy associations (pg 22, 154-156).  Markarian 205 still gets a lot of press among Arp supporters, even though it is now known that the spectrum of the foreground galaxy and redshift has been seen in Markarian 205, indicating that Markarian 205 is behind the galaxy (see The near-ultraviolet spectrum of Markarian 205, APOD: The Galaxy and the Quasar, sample below).

R. Knacke (Penn State Erie) et al., Hubble Heritage Team, NASA
Many other claimed 'connections' between the parent galaxy and 'ejected' quasars are barely distinguishable from random blobs in the galaxy such as the 'interaction' between NGC 450 & UGC 807 (pg 83, Testing for interaction between the galaxies NGC 450 and UGC 807).

Another question is if galaxies form by this ejection process and grow these spiral arms outward as they move through the intergalactic medium, why aren't these spiral arms dragging behind the galactic center, pulled back by the drag from their relative motion in the intergalactic medium?  The intergalactic medium is certainly dense enough to alter the plasma jets in the images above.  How can this process create such beautiful, FLAT, disk galaxies that we see such as these samples on Astronomy Picture of the Day (NGC 4945, NGC 891, NGC 2683, NGC 3628, NGC 4452)?

I wonder how successful Arp and his supporters would be in identifying these disruptions in galaxy images in a double blind test (Wikipedia), where a nearby quasar has not been identified.  If these disruptions were actually unique to 'ejecting' quasars, one would think you could use them to look for the quasar from the galaxy image.  This is an example where double-blind testing of these would probably reveal observer bias.

The Universe According to Arp

Arp presents a summary of the cosmological model derived by Jayant Narlikar, Fred Hoyle and others.  One of the greatest problems I have with this description is the apparent 'Rube Goldberg machine' (wikipedia) nature of the cosmos in this model.  To make this cosmology work, Arp invokes all kinds of additional phenomena, only some of which have any chance of being testable. 

With this model, Arp claims for his data, the universe must be large and old (pg 250) compared to the Big Bang's 13.7 billion years. 

Yet consider this in the context of the 3-dimension problem discussed in part 1.  If the universe is large and full of galaxies, you EXPECT to see plenty of background objects, which means alignments with foreground objects are very probable.  For the these types of alignments to be rare, the universe must be small and finite or have a very pathological distribution of galaxies to prevent foreground-background alignments.  This may be one of the unspoken reasons why Arp's claims have been adopted by so many Young-Earth Creationists and Biblical Geocentrists - it reduces the light-travel time problem for their cosmologies.

Arp supports the notion that cosmological redshifts are quantized (pg 63), but in some strange ways which I have yet to find consistently explained.  He does devote an entire chapter to the many different ways this is supposed to work (pg 195-224).    Arp invokes a 'machion' particle to explain this quantization (pg 200-201).

In the Narlikar model, mass becomes a particle property that varies with the age of the particle, specifically m = a* t^2 (pg 108-109), where t is the time since the matter was created.  Narlikar claims that the change of the mass scale with time is such that objects 'look' like they are redshifted.  The first problem that comes to mind is that we should measure such a process in particle accelerators, where we can actually destroy and create new particles, but we do not.  Arp makes a strange dismissal of this issue on page 234 where he devotes two paragraphs to wiggle out of this problem.  The second problem that comes to mind is how such a mass change would affect atomic energy levels as well as atomic sizes, which impacts chemistry and loads of other processes.  These distant galaxies shouldn't just be redshifted, they should exhibit signficantly different chemistry.  I covered a great many of these types of issues in my rebuttal to Barry Setterfield's c-decay claims (see "A Changing Speed of Light?"). 

Arp tries to describe the QSO ejection mechanism as a 'superfluid' coming out of galactic centers (pg 247-248).  This superfluid has some rather strange properties.  It is ejected from the galactic nucleus at the speed of light, but slows and gains mass by conservation of momentum, becoming a self-gravitating object.  One problem with this scenario, acknowledged by Arp, is that hot material can't collapse under gravity.  When reading this, I couldn't help but think of the Red Matter of the 2009 Star Trek movie (Memory Alpha, See also Wikipedia: List of fictional elements, materials, isotopes and atomic particles, and Cosmic Variance: A Mystery Box Full of Red Matter).

Arp includes a plethora of additional odds-n-ends statements 'supporting' this model...
    1. As part of the quantization, he reports on galaxies that are spaced at intervals of 128 Megaparsecs (pg 203). Yet he fails to explain how this is consistent with the claimed quantization at velocities of 72 km/s or 37.5 km/s. If the Hubble constant is about 70 km/s/Mpc, then the gaps should appear about a Megaparsec apart. How are these two claims consistent?
    2. Arp suggests the electron spin defines an elemental time unit, but I don't find any actual time unit defined (pg 217-218).
    3. Arp includes quantization of planetary orbits with factor of 1.228^n and manages to tie this to his cosmological quantization (pg 220-221). This is apparently the claimed orbit quantization which I tried to address in an earlier post (see Geocentrism's "Quantized Planetary Orbits") before I was informed of the origin and details of the claim. There is no clear explanation of why this applies to the planets.  However, one question would be what about all the other objects like asteroids and comets that occupy orbits of intermediate size that clearly violate this 'quantization'?
    4. On page 229, Arp seems to have a distorted understanding of accretion, suggesting that the jets we observed from galactic centers (such as in the earlier images of galactic jets, see Wikipedia: Active Galactic Nucleus) are a property of black holes. He apparently does not understand that these jets are not an aspect of a black hole, but rather an aspect of accretion disks (wikipedia). We observe similar jets from proto-stars (wikipedia) where the accretion disk generates a magnetic field that can collimate the plasma outflows into the jet.
    5. Arp mentions the claimed 50K temperature prediction in 1961 by George Gamow (pg 237) which was in a POPULARIZATION on cosmology, NOT a peer-reviewed publication. I'm preparing a post on this, as I've found what appears to be the source of the original claim.
    6. Arp claims that cosmological physics that assumes masses are constant in time are not valid (pg 249), calling it a 'dubious assumption'. First, we have no laboratory evidence that particle masses changing like this could be true. Arp also does not consider how such things as the fine-structure constant must change if particle masses are changing and the impact this would have on spectra beyond any redshift.
    7. Arp claims that the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) must come from a thin shell at the edge of space (pg 236-237).   A schematic model of Arp's cosmology on pg 251 tries to tie this all together. Yet if this is the case, it doesn't explain why this radiation has such a uniform temperature all across the sky. It brings us back to the Horizon Problem (wikipedia), which was a problem for Big Bang cosmology before the discovery of inflation.
    This cosmology has a hodge-podge of problems which I have been unable to find addressed by its supporters beyond very weak hand-waving arguments.  There are not even any viable experiments to back it up!  Dark energy at least has some laboratory evidence via vacuum energy (wikipedia).

    Thought I could fit this review in two parts (actually, I originally thought I could finish it in one part!) but there's a little more to go.  Stay tuned for Part 3.

    Update April 1, 2013: Corrected the references on the Einstein cross and found a more recent HST image.

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    Reading - Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science. Part 1.

    Reading -  "Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology & Academic Science"

    I came across Halton Arp's book some months ago while perusing my local technical library.  Since  Arp's work is referenced by virtually every crank claim (often in way contradictory to what the crank claim is trying to support!), I thought maybe it was time I finally read this book.  I had read a number of Arp's papers over the years and been repeatedly frustrated by the number of questions left unanswered by Arp and others claiming that quasar redshifts were not due to cosmological expansion.

    The nature of the redshifts of extragalactic objects has been a source of controversy since their discovery in the early part of the 20th century.  Our understanding of the distant cosmos depends very strongly on an accurate understanding of the distance scale from which many other cosmic parameters depend.  The amount of energy we detect at the Earth emitted by an object is dependent on its intrinsic luminosity and the distance.  This is critical to understanding other aspects of the phenomenon.

    While the Hubble Law (Wikipedia) has reigned as the dominant explanation that fit the great majority of the data, occasional discovery of a new class of objects would almost always present some challenges.   Numerous alternative explanations for the redshift have been explored.  When quasars (Wikipedia) were discovered in the 1960s, the distances inferred from their red-shifts and the Hubble law suggested that they must be incredible sources of energy.  The difficulting explaining such energy output generated some concern that perhaps for this class of objects, the redshift was not a reliable indicator of distances.

    When Arp and others first brought attention to quasars very close to regular galaxies on the sky, there was a flurry of interest.  Arp (wikipedia), Geoffrey Burbidge (wikipedia), Jayant Narlikar (wikipedia), Fred Hoyle (wikipedia) and others developed a cosmological model derived from Hoyle's earlier steady-state cosmology. Arp pursued the idea that quasars were actually ejected objects from the nearby galaxy and that much of the redshift observed was intrinsic to the quasar and not due to distance.  For a time, Arp's observations suggesting that the red-shift might not apply the quasars received a lot of attention. 

    Eventually, it was realized that these 'alignments' were not actual associations, but due to chance placements on the sky.  The great majority of the astronomical community found the cosmological redshift had far more successful predictions than Arp's model.

    Beyond the scientific issues, of my greatest complaints about this book is it's somewhat chaotic organization.  It is not organized historically or by objects, or even thematically.  Each chapter seems to drift into discussions that might be better served collected together.  It reads almost like a set of essays originally written as separate pieces which were subsequently published together.  I'll attempt to consolidate some of the themes, which better illustrates some of the errors.

    Arp often discusses how ideas changed - what we used to believe, vs what is believed now.  However, he fails to mention that these new ideas often had associated problems which had to be solved before the idea became accepted.  Arp's ideas failed to solve many of their problems.

    The Chapters:
    Chapter 1: X-ray observations confirm intrinsic redshifts
    Chapter 2: Seyfert Galaxies as Quasar Factories
    Chapter 3: Excess Redshifts all the Way Down
    Chapter 4: Intrinsic redshifts in stars
    Chapter 5: The Local Supercluster
    Chapter 6: Clusters of Galaxies
    Chapter 7: Gravitational Lenses
    Chapter 8: Quantization of redshifts
    Chapter 9: Cosmology
    Chapter 10: Academia


    The Odds Must be Crazy (with apologies to the Website & Podcast)

    One of the greatest potential pitfalls of Arp's hypothesis was that these alignments could be perfectly ordinary chance alignments between bright foreground galaxies and more distant, but brighter, background objects.  Arp and supporters were always very quick to quote some small probablity (usually < 1 in 100) that the alignments were chance.  When I first started reading these papers, I was often frustrated that many of these authors did not publish just what assumptions went into the probability calculation or did not provide clear direct references to the papers that did.  I eventually found the methodologies, but it took quite a bit of digging.

    Humans have a lousy sense of probabilities.  If they understood probabilities well, Las Vegas would be a ghost town and lotteries would fold for lack-of-interest.  Yet a huge part of Arp's evidence is based on his computations of these probabilities, claiming that the odds of any two or more of these objects being so close by chance is very low. 

    Perhaps the simplest problem to illustrate part of Arp's probability errors is the Birthday Problem (Wikipedia).  In this problem, the probability that YOU share a birthday with anyone in a roomful of some number, N, other people is significantly lower than the probability that any two people in that same room will share a birthday.  Yet most people think these two probabilities should be equal.  If you were searching a room of 23 people for matching birthdays, you'd express suprise if you found two people that matched, yet the real probability is about 50% that you would find two matching birthdays in the room.

    Arp continued to draw attentions to correlations he finds while ignoring the far larger quantities of uncorrelated galaxies, which made his probabilities seem more significant than they actually were.  If a probability of an alignment is 1%, then in a catalog of 100 randomly distributed objects, you would expect one or even two alignments.  If you went looking for alignments, any one you found would be significant.  As galaxy catalogs grew significantly larger than a few hundred, it was becoming clear that chance alignments were a significant probability.  Arp attempts to dismiss these by arguing that you can turn any alignment into a chance correlation if you go to sufficiently deep magnitudes, a tactic which Arp calls the 'Pleiadies maneuver' (pg 103). 

    There was also this apparent correlation that the closer the quasar was to the galaxy, the larger it's redshift.  Arp argued that if galaxies were truly spread randomly on the sky, there should be no correlation between these two quantities.  That these two quantities should have this interesting correlation was strong evidence to Arp that the quasar-galaxy association was real. 

    But Arp never really properly tested this against the cosmological redshift interpretation.  This is only strictly true for a 2-dimensional sky - as if Earth were inside a sphere an all the universe were on the surface of that sphere.  It would fall to Noerdlinger (ADS) to give a surprisingly simple, GEOMETRIC, explanation of this correlation for a 3-dimensional universe where redshift was proportional to the radial distance.  Below I've generated a view of a few degrees of sky from one of my simple cosmology models illustrating what you would see.
    Click to Enlarge
    Click the plot to look at a larger version.  In this simulation, each dot represents a galaxy sampled from a volume of randomly distributed points.  The colors are assigned based on distance from the observer, with blue being nearest, and red being furthest.  Size of the dot is also based on distance, with the closer dots being larger.  One characteristic we immediately notice is that the bluer dots tend to be larger but fewer, while the orange and red dots are consistently smaller and far more numerous.  It turns out that the mean angular distance we see between the galaxies gets smaller the further away they are.  This is the origin of the angular distance-redshift relationship - a simple example of visual perspective (wikipedia).

    My simulation above was generated with a uniform poisson distribution in space of the same mean density, no there is no clumping of galaxies due to gravity.  Yet how many close associations can you find, in this one sample plot, of a (large, blue) foreground galaxy with a more distant (small, red) background galaxies?  What about objects in a line of three or more?  The Noerdlinger paper was an interesting discovery which I will explore  more in a future post.

    But while Arp tried to make a point that is was the nearness of quasars to galaxies, measures of a few arc-minutes and less, that was the important characteristic (Table 1-1, 1-2, figure 1-5, 1-9, 1-11, 1-20, 2-3, 2-4, ), he also claimed associations for quasars and galaxies a degree or more apart.  Many of fields of view in Arp's book are 1-3 degrees wide to show the association (Figures 1-6, 1-17, 2-5, 2-6, 2-10, 2-20).  What's up with that?

    Arp's statistical computations were subjected to continual scrutiny (1977ApJ…211..311R, 1978ApJ…223..747S, 1978A&A….70..219N, 1980ApJ…237..326W), but even when legitimate biases were pointed out which dramatically increased the probabilities of chance alignments significanlty larger than Arp's estimates, Arp continued to ignore these corrections.  There are very few papers where these issues are actually addressed.  As more of these errors were pointed out to him, it seemed that Arp began adjusting his probability calculations with a smaller a priori probabilities which were used to drive his alignment probabilities to even lower (1981ApJ…250…31A), and more dubious values (1982ApJ…263L…7B).

    Numerous additional researchers questioned Arp's probability computations for associations (1983ApL….23..155P, 1983MNRAS.204..675Z) and claimed quasar alignments (1982MNRAS.200P..47W, 1982MNRAS.201..179W). 

    And Arp and a few of his supporters continued to ignore these results. 

    But as the galaxy and quasar surveys grew larger with more complete coverage of the sky, more problems were found with Arp's interpretation.  We were also finding regular galaxies near quasars of the same redshift (1972ApJ...171L..83R, 1972ApJ...176L..47O).  It was becoming clear to the rest of the astronomical community that the alignments were due to chance.

    Distances vs. Brightness
    One of the more annoying claims in the book was Arp stating that the redshift-distance relationship implies a strict redshift-apparent magnitude relationship (pg 153-154).  This is only strictly true when the objects in question are reasonably 'standard candles' (Hyperphysics).  As a population, galaxies can range in brightness over several magnitudes which can create significant spread in the result.  Below is a plot from one of my model universes with just a few galaxies.  The model has a gaussian distribution of galaxies in absolute magnitude with a half-width of 1.2 magnitudes.  What kind of correlation can you see?  I've plotted more galaxies in this sample than Arp does in his book.

    With small numbers of data points, sampled over a short range, it is easy to make the correlation undetectable.  In Figure 6-14, Arp plots a handful of galaxies over a very narrow range of redshift, making the plot look almost random.  Arp says that such a broad range of brightness for galaxies (4 magnitudes, or a factor of 40) is unrealistic.  However, an even broader magnitude range exists for stars, a factor of about 10^10 =10^(0.4*25) or 25 magnitudes! 

    What makes galaxies exempt from a broad range of brightness? Is Arp just dismissing this possibility because of the problem it creates for his particular interpretation of the data?

    2-Dimensional Thinking
    "He is intelligent, but not experienced.  His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking" -- Capt. Spock, ST: TWOK
    I had this suspicion some years ago when I was reading Arp's papers individually, but seeing Arp's arguments in his book, while exploring the papers, reinforced my suspicions. 

    I can find none of Arp's probablility calculations that treat the sky as a 3-dimensional volume with the viewer's proper perspective.

    Most of Arp's arguments treat the universe as if it were a 2-dimensional spherical surface centered on the Earth.  His probability calculations are strictly for random points scattered on a 2-dimensional sphere.  This error is intimately related to the error pointed out by Noerdlinger in paper mentioned above and which I will cover more in a future post. 

    When Arp tries to argue for redshift 'quantization', he treats the sky as 1-dimensional, but this time in redshift space.  This is a problem with many advocates of redshift-quantization.  These researchers who simply run a histogram of number of galaxies as a function of redshift (actually a 3-d dataset) through a simple 1-dimensional Fast Fourier Transform.  This is not a true 3-D power spectrum.  If the quantization were real, why do the power spectra of individual separate catalogs peak at different frequencies?  (see Quantized Redshifts. VII. Common Power Spectral Density "Bloopers")

    If you keep these three dimensions separate, all kinds of strangeness can be found.  Yet, a consistent picture emerges when redshift is proxy for third dimension and you treat space as a full 3-D structure.

    I've been assembling this writeup for a number of months now and it just seems to keep getting longer.  I'll have more about Arp's book, and his cosmological & quasar model, in part II.

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Thinking About the Future of Exposing Pseudo-Science in Astronomy

    In addition to trying to work a real job, maintain a home and family and maintain regular posting to this blog, I've been trying to develop some material to move the site, and the overall effort dealing with pseudo-science in astronomy, into the future.

    Thinking About the Future of Exposing Pseudo-Science in Astronomy

    Leading-edge physics is quickly approaching the time when the cost vs. benefits of pushing the frontier of subatomic physics, or distant astronomy, will be more than the taxpayers are willing to bear.  But without regular constraints from experimental and observational science, frontier sciences will probably become more speculative, and even the legitimate ideas will seem more detached from reality.

    Meanwhile, increasing computing power will enable us to do more and more powerful forecasting and design with the existing established physics.  In this type of environment, where science seems more distant in time and space, where complex computer programs will forecast weather and design and build products, medicines, etc, people will probably be more willing to accept pseudo-sciences that promise 'simpler' explanations and solutions whether or not these solutions can be rigorously demonstrated (see Wikipedia:Idiocracy).

    In the future, dealing with pseudo-science will probably be more important than ever.

    The pseudo-science that presents itself as the NEW idea today, will be classic 'knowledge' in a hundred years, and will try to sell itself as 'traditional'.  I had long suspected there had been an earlier iteration of Electric Universe, and I may have found it in the early 1900s works of George Woodward Warder (Wikipedia).

    Work that was developed in the past, and today, in dealing with pseudo-science, needs to be propagated to the future so that we don't keep re-inventing the wheel and can leverage the work of predecessors. Sites such as TalkOrigins.org have a rich content that we need to find ways that its content can be preserved and available far into the future.

    Some of the things I see as important to move towards this goal:
    • Develop coordination of efforts between the professionals, and science-literate amateurs, doing this kind of work.  This enables more of us to play to our strengths instead of everyone trying to become an expert across a wide variety of sub-fields in physics and astronomy.
    • With collaboration comes peer-review opportunities.  I've had one major blooper in keeping this blog which I had to retract.  Having a review by more people reduces the chance of these problems.
    • One of my other projects in active development is converting the material at crankastronomy.org into a wikipedia-like format.  My hope is that in developing collaborations, the wiki-type pages will be easier to revise, re-organize, and preserve.  It will also provide a familiar format for use by teachers and informal education.  I want to develop a group of collaborators who are willing to update and edit the content.  I see standardizing the data format as a way for this content eventually merging into a larger library.
    • I've handled a lot of the basic stuff, and now I find the need to develop more sophisticated rebuttals (beyond a written or audio rebuttal).  This requires a more complex effort, such as developing scientifically accurate simulations or other data-driven visualizations.  But developing such products takes a significant amount of time.
    • In conjunction with the wiki effort, the development of classroom-level exercises.  Many of the analyses I've developed in response to Creationism & Electric Universe can be integrated into classrooms with a minimum of effort.  These exercises illustrate how what one learns in the Physics 100 and 200-level courses are actually applied, especially when it comes to astronomy & astrophysics.  I've already written up a version of Thornhill's Z-pinch powered Sun for high-school physics classes (see The Classroom Astronomer: Crank Astronomy as a Teaching Tool). 
    I invite additional comments and suggestions on how to improve the quality and accessibility of resources for dealing with pseudo-science in astronomy.

    Sunday, March 10, 2013

    Research mode again...

    In spite of the suspicions of many cranks and crackpots, I do not spend all my time on this blog or perusing forums. 

    Unlike some of the cranks that comment on or otherwise complain about this blog, I've not only read the papers I cite, but a few of the follow-ons and source references as well.  I've just found a new dataset which will cause more grief for some crank science recently discussed on this site.  Assembling these more complex posts can take days, even weeks, to research, run simulations, and generate graphics to support the eventual writing (and I actually have logs and backups to verify it should anyone try to claim otherwise).  I have noted this fact many times before…(see Projects and Progress..., Winter Hiatus: November-December 2012).

    So while I continue this research, I'll post some other recent goodies of possible interest.

    In Entertainment News...
    I went to a science comedy show last Friday - Dr. Pete's "Feel the Power of the Dork Side".  A very good, and humorous, look at science and science education.

    Rumors of the Big Bang's death have been greatly exaggerated
    Peter of Eye on the ICR takes on the issue of the recently discovered large quasar group in a very good article, pointing out how this is not the first time creationists have claimed the 'Big Bang is Dead'.

    On the flip side of this, there are those who want to claim the Big Bang itself is a creationist cosmology, one aspect of which I deal with in Is Big Bang Cosmology a 'Creationist' Model?

    Galloping onward…
    Duane T. Gish dies (NCSE).  Gish's debate tactic of dumping large numbers of arguments on an opponent in an attempt to keep them always on the defensive became known as the Gish Gallop (RationalWiki).  It is a tactic used by crank sciences beyond creationism.

    For when it's not a rhetorical question - you want to do the Math!
    I try to do simpler demonstrations of the power of physics and mathematics in ruling out various crank claims.  This capability also extends to explaining everyday things.  There is a version of the popular XKCD cartoon that stretches the idea to some not so everyday things.  Check out What-if @ XKCD.  Just some of the recent thought-provoking questions:  How much would the sea level fall if every ship were removed all at once from the Earth's waters?  If the Hubble telescope were aimed at the Earth, how detailed would the images be?  Every now and then we have to insert a leap second because the Earth’s rotation is slowing down. Could we speed up Earth’s rotation, so that we do not need Leap Seconds?

    Death from the Skies
    After the 2012 Doomsday debacle (see If you believe the World is going to end on December 21…), Dr. David Morrison takes on the chronic doomsayers at Cosmophobia: An unreasoning fear of the Cosmos.

    Sunday, March 3, 2013

    The Surface Of The Sun (TSOTS): The Strange Solar Claims of Mike Mozina. III.

    It appears Mr. Mozina has already begun revising part of his site in an attempt to obscure his blatant errors documented in earlier posts in this series (The Surface Of The Sun (TSOTS): The Strange Solar Claims of Michael Mozina. I., The Surface Of The Sun (TSOTS): The Strange Solar Claims of Michael Mozina. II.).  It seems that the broader implications of the total collapse of the claimed 'proofs' of his 'model' of solar structure has not deterred him one bit, but that is no surprise.

    As for Mr. Mozina's new whine posted at his site:
    This site is my project developed on my schedule. While I am a member and occasional participant in a few forums, I limit my activity since forums have proven to consume a lot of time and often don't have the kinds of capabilities I need to present a complete response.  My site is built to be a reference for others so they don't need to mine the results from the high-noise environment of a forum.

    Mr. Mozina is upset that I cached his comments to my blog for later release.  This is my standard policy as noted on the comment link page (note that Mr. Mozina does not allow comments on his blog).  If I want to do research to generate a response, that might take some time to assemble the needed components depending on other projects on my plate.  If Mr. Mozina expects immediate feedback, then it suggests he is more interested in receiving attention rather than the science.

    False Dichotomy

    As in many cases of poor or pseudo-science, the advocate relies on a false dichotomy, or false dilemma (wikipedia), thinking that any scientific result that creates a problem for the standard model is automatically evidence in favor of their model as in this claim from the comments
    FYI, I'm looking forward to your critique of my website, particularly in light of recent SDO findings of walking speed convection rates, and an overall shape that is much more congruent with a solid surface:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816150801.htm
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-unexpectedly-motions-sun-surface.html
    The stories linked above describe a relatively new helioseismological technique which tries to use the motions of the solar surface to determine not just the density profile of the Sun (more on that below), but plasma flow speeds below the photosphere, in the solar convection zone.  The result was surprising since the technique yielded convective speeds far lower than predicted by the simpler solar convection models. 

    The technique uses 'dopplergrams' which are created from the SDO/HMI instrument and measure the velocity of the solar photosphere (Sounding the Sun: Helioseismology).   Heliosesimology has provided enough information to determine the density profile of the Sun and use it to constrain various solar models.  These results also exclude solar models with a high fraction of heavy elements such as those advocated by Mozina and others.

    Helioseismology is sufficiently accurate that we can use it to obtain 'images' the far side of the Sun, helping us see where active regions are forming before they rotate to the Earth-facing side of the Sun.  This is an important technique for space weather forecasting since it takes only two weeks for an active sunspot to cross from the farside to facing the Earth and risk launching flares and CMEs at the Earth.  See Magnetic maps of theWHOLE Sun as well as NSO/GONG Farside Images.

    In recent years, the STEREO mission currently has two spacecraft viewing the far side of the Sun. These satellites are being used to check and improve the helioseismology models used to do this map construction (Comparison with GONG and HMI farside maps).

    If the solar interior were as different as Mr. Mozina claims, these techniques would not work!

    If a press release stated "Seismology result places theory of Round Earth in Doubt", most people would regard it as nonsense.  Yet that is essentially what Mr. Mozina's is claiming with his 'interpretation' of this result.  There are three unpleasant facts which Mr. Mozina chooses to ignore.
    1. The technique used in no way invalidates earlier helioseismology results using different techniques.  The solar density profile is the same as it was before.  This technique just tries to extract velocity information from the same data.  If Mr. Mozina wants to use this result as evidence of his model, then he is also stuck with the fact that helioseismology proves his claimed solar composition profile is false.  Note that Mr. Mozina's claim about the onion-skin structure of different elements has been a standard component of stellar models for evolved high-mass stars for several decades now (Wikipedia).  This happens for higher mass stars near the time they go supernova.  The Sun does not have enough mass to reach this stage and helioseismology results described above prove it does not have this structure.  There are even publicly available stellar evolution codes so you can see this process on your own computer.
    2. Even the anomalously slow convection paper described at least two options, in work done by earlier researchers, which would create flows that would be undetectable by the techniques used, all consistent with refinements of the standard model and not a radical change in composition which Mr. Mozina advocates.
    3. There are a number of physical issues where the interpretation of the results may be questioned.  The analysis described in the press release included the thin layer near the solar surface where the density change is significantly larger than the bulk volume of the Sun (see
      Structure and Evolution of Giant Cells in Global Models of Solar Convection, Seismic Constraints on Interior Solar Convection
      ).  The finite spatial resolution of the technique cannot detect smaller-scale flows or distinguish 'cross-talk' between meridional and radial flows (see Inversions for Average Supergranular Flows Using Finite-frequency Kernels), which may mean the technique used has other difficulties not yet identified which might impact the interpretation of the results.
    The bottom line is this technique is in the early stages of development and will probably be improved as tests with more controlled datasets are performed.

    The Challenges of Leading-Edge Techniques

    Early use of new techniques invariably reveals some unexpected limitations on the technique and/or the interpretation of the results.  Often, these limitations are more precisely quantified or fixed over time.   There is a very good example of this from the history of helioseismology. 

    First helioseismology studies in the 1970s from ground-based telescopes generated some surprising results.   Most notably, these first analyses detected a solar oscillation with a period of 160 minutes that suggested the structure of the Sun had to be very different from what the standard models predicted at that time.  Many papers were written suggesting novel solutions and the idea was picked up by various cranks and pseudo-scientists promoting their own more bizarre models.  It was soon recognized that the oscillation could be a harmonic created by the fact that the solar data was only collectable during the daytime and this regular gap in the data was responsible.  This is a common problem with Fourier analysis techniques - a gap in the data is still treated as data.  Since the advent of space-based doppler imaging where solar coverage is 24/7, as well as a network of observatories around the world which can collect a more continuous run of data, the 160 minute oscillation vanished (wikipedia).

    In spite of this fact, the 160 minute solar observation survives today in a number of crank science circles.

    Will more observations require us to make adjustments to our models of the Sun?  Certainly.  But those revisions will be on the level of a percent here or there on the composition of some element, or the density at some region.

    If solar structure was a different from the standard model as Mr. Mozina wants to imply, then it falls to HIM to demonstrate that such a different solar structure can generate the same, or better results, than the current model.

    Seismology Results Jeopardize Theory of Solid Earth!

    More from Mr. Mozina's comments:
    The problem Tom is that the mainstream's "magnetic reconnection" theories are entirely dependent upon jet speed convection. Without fast convection, standard solar theory is falsified. You seem to not have addressed that SDO heliosceismology data with respect to the failures of your mathematical models. If math is king, how come you're not concerned about the falsified quantification aspects of your own theory? Whereas Birkeland's cathode sun was in no way dependent upon convection as a source of energy to explain the 'electrical discharges' in the solar atmosphere, that revelation of slow convection speeds is *devastating* to mainstream mathematical models.
    Considering the number of great successes Mr. Mozina has claimed for his model based on total misreading of images (The Surface Of The Sun (TSOTS): The Strange Solar Claims of Michael Mozina. I.) and even bad selection of data (The Surface Of The Sun (TSOTS): The Strange Solar Claims of Michael Mozina. II.), it is clear that Mr. Mozina's model has reached the point of total failure.
    Unlike Birkeland, the mainstream does *not* recognize the presence of charge separation between the surface of the sun and the heliosphere. That is in fact a *fundamental* difference between standard theory and Birkeland's cathode sun. Birkeland's model "predicts" the presence of "electrical discharges" in the solar atmosphere that are powered by a charge separation that exists between the sun and space, not simply internally changing magnetic fields. We do at least have to acknowledge some fundamental differences between mainstream solar theory and Birkeland's cathode solar model. When you say that you "know" about the electrical fields in space, do you also agree with Birkeland that the sun acts as a cathode with respect to (interstellar) space?
    Birkeland's ideas about the aurora are now well established (see The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere).

    The transient reconnections of magnetic field lines between the Sun and the Earth, which allow solar wind to reach directly to the ionosphere, have been observed by missions like Cluster (NASA, ESA) and THEMIS (NASA).

    There are electric fields in the solar environment, known since the early 1900s, many of which I have documented (see 365 Days of Astronomy: The Electric Universe) and which Electric Universe supporters ignore, or try to mine and claim as their own.  Modern kinetic solar wind models give the Sun a net positive charge giving a potential difference of about 1000 volts relative to the Earth.

    But calling solar flares 'discharges' has annoying problems with the definition of 'discharge'.  In the context of human experiences with processes like arc furnaces to lightning, a discharge corresponds to a dielectric breakdown in a neutral gas under an applied electric field.  The solar atmosphere is completely ionized and therefore almost immediately shorts any strong electric field.  Such a 'discharge'  cannot occur.

    One of the few methods which can generate an electric field and current in a predominantly neutral plasma is a null-point in a magnetic field - AKA, an X-point or "magnetic reconnection" (Wikipedia, from Plasma Physics Lectures at UT, Scholarpedia)

    Cafeteria Science

    With Mr. Mozina's main 'proofs' totally discredited, he will be forced to rely even more on cobbling together bits-n-pieces from mainstream solar theory and mangling it into some form he can try to claim is evidence for his model.  He's already started this with the revision of his site.  Yet, the more of the standard model Mr. Mozina tries to integrate into his, the less relevant his 'model' becomes.  Why?

    - Because Mr. Mozina wants to accept helioseismology results where he thinks it is convenient for his model, but denies the same science where it is inconvenient.

    - Because Mr. Mozina appropriates many graphics generated from simulations of mainstream solar models, not informing the reader that these models are generated using a very different solar structure than advocated by Mozina.  Changing the composition of the solar plasma changes the particle masses and ionization levels which can dramatically alter the results of these simulations and make them inapplicable.

    Scientific results, especially things as well established as solar and stellar physics, is not something where you can pick-and-choose your science as if from a menu.

    Mr. Mozina has never presented a rigorous demonstration that any of the results he has lifted from standard solar theory would even apply in his model.

    Scientific Misconduct
    Some quotes from:
    TB>>1) Astronomers do know about electric fields in space. I have written much on this topic.
    (Electric Universe: Whither the Electric Currents?). EUers avoid acknowledging these facts probably because it would make their rally cry that astronomers ignore electric fields a clear lie.

    You know...

    I'd rather we at least *try* to keep the conversation a little friendly and devoid of all the "loaded language* (lie, fraud, yada, yada yada). Clearly we have a lot of things to discuss on this topic, and clearly we have disagreements of opinions, but I'm not suggesting that you're a 'liar' due to those honest differences of opinion.
    and (link)
    FYI, it might behoove us to at least "try" to make this a friendly conversation. It might be easier to "hear" one another if we at least attempt to keep things civil between us. I'd certainly rather we focus on the science and keep the emotional trash talking to a minimum. I'll try to at least attempt to understand your ideas clearly before brushing them off, and I would appreciate it if you would afford me that same courtesy.
    If Mr. Mozina wants to be treated like a professional, he should act like a professional.  Again, his responses suggest he is more interested in receiving attention than the science.

    Mr. Mozina evades the fact that he has treated the scientific community poorly for many years now.

    Mr. Mozina's entire site is constructed around the idea that solar researchers, satellite engineers, plasma physicists and loads of others who actually work with space data (myself included) and do real experiments are incompetent, based on nothing more than his 'looking at' and his 'reinterpretation' of other peoples work.
    Relevant Quote: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Wikipedia: Golden Rule)
    Many of Mr. Mozina's many errors have been pointed out to him in forums such as Universe Today (now CosmoQuest) and the JREF.  Attempts to get Mr. Mozina to demonstrate he has any competence in electromagnetism or radiation physics to discuss these topics, or provide any objectively testable evidence for his claims have been met with evasions and excuses and he has been banned from these forums for this behavior.  Mr. Mozina's behavior has been going on for YEARS, as summarized in this post by Phil Plait from 2006 banning Mr. Mozina from that forum.

    Mr. Mozina did not bother to learn anything about HOW we know these things.  It's not from just 'looking at *years* of images and movies'.  It seems he has done nothing to actually learn about these things.
    Relevant Quote: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." QuotationsPage
    How the Sun and other stars work is not the result of 'opinion' or 'worldview' any more than how we use Newton's laws and gravity enables us to travel between planets is a matter of 'opinion' or 'worldview'.

    If a professional scientist were to use the tactics of evasion and avoidance of the problems with their claims as Mr. Mozina has done, they would quickly find themselves ignored.  A number of (former) professionals have chosen this route and the mere mention of their names invites groans and eye-rolls.

    I followed a number of Mr. Mozina's posts at Universe Today and JREF over the years.  There is no evidence that Mr. Mozina has learned anything over this time so any dialog with him is pointless.

    This concludes this series for now.  Comments for the full series are now open.