Archive for the ‘physics’ category: Page 186

Jan 17, 2012

Artifacts in the Solar System

Posted by in categories: philosophy, physics, space

One way that astronomers and astrobiologists search for life in the galaxy is observation of rocky planets orbiting other stars. Such planets may contain an atmosphere, liquid water, and other ingredients that are required for biological life on Earth. Once a number of these potentially inhabited planets have been identified, the next logical step in exploration is to send remote exploratory probes to make direct observations of these planets. Present-day study of other planetary systems is so far limited to remote observation with telescopes, but future plans for exploration include the design and deployment of small robotic exploratory spacecraft toward other star systems.

If intelligent, technological extraterrestrial life exists in the galaxy, then it is conceivable that such a civilization might embark on a similar exploration strategy. Extraterrestrial intelligent (ETI) civilizations may choose to pursue astronomy and search for planets orbiting other star systems and may also choose to follow-up on some of these targets by deploying their own remote exploratory spacecraft. If nearby ETI have observed the Solar System and decided to pursue further exploration, then evidence of ETI technology may be present in the form of such exploratory probes. We refer to this ETI technology as “non-terrestrial artifacts”, in part to distinguish these plausible exploratory spacecraft from the flying saucers of science fiction.

In a recent paper titled “On the likelihood of non-terrestrial artifacts in the Solar System”, published in the journal Acta Astronautica (and available on as a preprint), Jacob Haqq-Misra and Ravi Kopparapu discuss the likelihood that human exploration of the Solar System would have uncovered any non-terrestrial artifacts. Exploratory probes destined for another star system are likely to be relatively small (less than ten meters in diameter), so any non-terrestrial artifacts present in the Solar System have probably remained undetected. The surface and atmosphere of Earth are probably the most comprehensively searched volumes in the Solar System and can probably be considered absent of non-terrestrial artifacts. Likewise, the surface of the moon and portions of Mars have been searched at a sufficient resolution to have uncovered any non-terrestrial artifacts that could have been present. However, the deep oceans of Earth and the subsurface of the Moon are largely unexplored territory, while regions such as the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt, and stable orbits around other Solar System planets could also contain non-terrestrial artifacts that have so far escaped human observation. Because of this plenitude of nearby unexplored territory, it would be premature to conclude that the Solar System is absent of non-terrestrial artifacts.

Although the chances of finding non-terrestrial artifacts might be low, the discovery of ETI technology, even if broken and non-functioning, would provide evidence that ETI exist elsewhere in the galaxy and have a profound impact on humankind. This is not to suggest that the search for non-terrestrial technology should be given priority over other astronomical missions; however, as human exploration into the Solar System continues, we may as well keep our eyes open for ETI technology, just in case.

Jan 16, 2012

Electro-magnetic Vortex phenomena & Industrial Implications…

Posted by in categories: engineering, existential risks, fun, humor, physics

I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the following topic except for the article appearing in an otherwise credible international news agency (MINA).

Whilst electro-magnetic disturbances occur naturally — all the time, the suggestion that one in particular has allegedly arose through industrial practices (ionospheric research, wormhole research(??)) lends to curiosity. If anyone on one of the advisory boards for the various science disciplines has a strong knowledge of electro-magnetic vortex type features that can occur in nature, please explain the phenomena, whether there are any implications of these and whether industry of any sort (in particular directed ionospheric heating) can cause such anomalies to appear from time to time.

I understand that there can be certain fluctuations and weakening in build up to magnetic pole reversals, for example (though please correct me if I’m wrong here). That besides one may enjoy the alleged reaction of certain defense forces (surely spoof) which is at least good satire on how leaders of men can often fear the unknown.

Jan 13, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, space

I am taking the advice of a reader of this blog and devoting part 2 to examples of old school and modern movies and the visionary science they portray.

Things to Come 1936 — Event Horizon 1997
Things to Come was a disappointment to Wells and Event Horizon was no less a disappointment to audiences. I found them both very interesting as a showcase for some technology and social challenges.… to come- but a little off the mark in regards to the exact technology and explicit social issues. In the final scene of Things to Come, Raymond Massey asks if mankind will choose the stars. What will we choose? I find this moment very powerful- perhaps the example; the most eloguent expression of the whole genre of science fiction. Event Horizon was a complete counterpoint; a horror movie set in space with a starship modeled after a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon had a rescue crew put in stasis for a high G several month journey to Neptune on a fusion powered spaceship. High accelleration and fusion brings H-bombs to mind, and though not portrayed, this propulsion system is in fact a most probable future. Fusion “engines” are old hat in sci-fi despite the near certainty the only places fusion will ever work as advertised are in a bomb or a star. The Event Horizon, haunted and consigned to hell, used a “gravity drive” to achieve star travel by “folding space.” Interestingly, a recent concept for a black hole powered starship is probably the most accurate forecast of the technology that will be used for interstellar travel in the next century. While ripping a hole in the fabric of space time may be strictly science fantasy, for the next thousand years at least, small singularity propulsion using Hawking radiation to achieve a high fraction of the speed of light is mathematically sound and the most obvious future.

That is, if humanity avoids an outbreak of engineered pathogens or any one of several other threats to our existence in that time frame.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2” »

Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1” »

Nov 18, 2011

Femtotechnology: AB-Needles Fantastic properties and Applications

Posted by in categories: cosmology, ethics, nanotechnology, physics

Femtotechnology: AB-Needles. Fantastic properties and Applications

after posting this on and seeing its shared on I was a bit shocked by the community of reads in their disregard for these thoughts on Femtotechnology. One reader was quoted to say

I don’t understand why people bother talking about femtotech when we barely even have nanotech…

Continue reading “Femtotechnology: AB-Needles Fantastic properties and Applications” »

Nov 11, 2011

Eminent physicists who dismiss LHC conspiracy theories — 2

Posted by in category: physics

I thought I would offer a series of quotes to counter the codswallop frequently expressed here — suggesting that mainstream physicists have genuine concerns about the safety of the LHC.

“To think that LHC particle collisions at high energies can lead to dangerous black holes is rubbish. Such rumors were spread by unqualified people seeking sensation or publicity.

Academician Vitaly Ginzburg, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Lebedev Institute, Moscow, and Russian Academy of Sciences


Continue reading “Eminent physicists who dismiss LHC conspiracy theories — 2” »

Nov 6, 2011

Eminent physicists who dismiss LHC conspiracy theories — 1

Posted by in category: physics

I thought I would offer a series of quotes to counter the codswallop frequently expressed here — suggesting that mainstream physicists have genuine concerns about the safety of the LHC.

So, here’s one:

“The operation of the LHC is safe, not only in the old sense of that word, but in the more general sense that our most qualified scientists have thoroughly considered and analyzed the risks involved in the operation of the LHC. [Any concerns] are merely hypothetical and speculative, and contradicted by much evidence and scientific analysis.

Prof. Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Boston University,

Continue reading “Eminent physicists who dismiss LHC conspiracy theories — 1” »

Nov 2, 2011

Why the LHC won’t kill you — the podcast

Posted by in categories: education, particle physics, physics

With some help from colleagues, I recently produced a 365 Days of Astronomy podcast on why anti-CERN conspiracy theories about the LHC creating Earth-swallowing black holes really don’t make much sense.

The transcript is also available for reading on the 365 Days site if you are not a podcast fan.


Steve Nerlich (Space Settlement Board member and Death-by-LHC skeptic)

Oct 4, 2011

Astronomers Win 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics

Posted by in categories: physics, space

Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess will share the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 has been awarded “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae” acknowledging the amazing discovery announced in 1998 that — based on the measured velocities of Type 1a supernovae — the rate of the universe’s expansion is increasing over time. The prize will be shared by three astronomers, now officially ‘outstanding in their field’, Saul Perlmutter of UC Berkeley, Brian P. Schmidt of the Australian National University and Adam G. Riess of Johns Hopkins University. (more…)

Oct 1, 2011

The neutrino faster-than-light kerfuffle

Posted by in category: physics

Hi folks,

Given the interest of this blog in all things CERN, here’s my take on the recent OPERA/CGNS beam findings — where neutrinos were measured as travelling faster than light (FTL). My article is published on Universe Today — a moderated science blog.

Like LHC-will-destroy-the-Earth theories, the FTL finding is probably a load of old bollocks since it conflicts with core principles of modern physics - but the science team has provided a detailed paper with all their data, assumptions and calculations available for public scrutiny and comment - to enable everyone to get to the bottom of the problem. Very professional and appropriate practice — they are CERN scientists after all.

I hope this may be of interest.

Steve Nerlich (Space Settlement Board member and death-by-LHC skeptic)