Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Dark Black Hole Next Door

May 6, 2020

HR 6819, is a double star system, about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million kilometers, in the Constellation Telescopium. On the scale of the galaxy, it’s next door. Usually Black Holes are detected by the sparks of material furiously accelerated as it falls towards the hole (“Accretion” BH). Copious X-rays are emitted. However, this phenomenon arises typically when two stars are in close orbit, one goes supernova, then implode into a Black Hole, and material keeps transferring from the other star towards the hole.

If the stars are far enough, and one collapses into a Black Hole, there is no reason for a transfer of material. The Black Hole arises because, to our knowledge, gravity will overwhelm any force we know of, if there is enough mass M in a tight enclosure. Notice the “if”. In truth we are not absolutely sure that Black Hole equation, passed a point will behave as General Relativity supposes, because we could only be sure if we are sure we have all of physics figured out. Highly unlikely…

A basic trick used all over astronomy to evaluate the masses of stars and planets, as long as something rotates around them. Gravitational constant has been put equal to unity, to simplify.

But one thing that is clear, and it was already clear to Laplace in the Eighteenth Century, if there is enough mass concentrated, particles of light won’t come out. Laplace waxed lyrical on the subject, until he realized that, thanks to Young’s and others’ work, it looked like light was, after all, a wave, not a particle as Laplace had assumed, following Newton. It was clear how to hold a particle down, with a concentrated mass… But not a wave. So Laplace, assuming now light was a wave, removed Black Holes from late editions of his book!  We can see that the wave-particle perplexity was already causing trouble centuries ago…

The HR 6819 Black Hole can be characterized from its interaction with the two stars of HR 6819 – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

HR 6819 can be seen with just the naked eye from the southern sky. No telescope or binoculars are needed. The 2.2m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals the inner of the two visible stars to be orbiting an unseen object every 40 days.

Considering the speed of the orbiting star, and its radius, the invisible object is found to be around four solar masses, more than twice the mass at which a Black Hole is unavoidable in a dark object (a star can have up to hundreds of times the mass of the Sun, but only because raging thermonuclear fire keeps it inflated).

Stars at the end of their lives with a bit more than 1.4 solar masses will implode the Black Hole way. Some think there maybe 10^8 of them in the Milky Way… Which has an area of roughly 10^10 light years… this makes it likely there are other really black Black Holes of the same type closer than that…

Patrice Ayme


From the source:

A naked-eye triple system with a nonaccreting black hole in the inner binary,⋆⋆


Several dozen optical echelle spectra demonstrate that HR 6819 is a hierarchical triple. A classical Be star is in a wide orbit with an unconstrained period around an inner 40 d binary consisting of a B3 III star and an unseen companion in a circular orbit. The radial-velocity semi-amplitude of 61.3 km s−1 of the inner star and its minimum (probable) mass of 5.0 M (6.3 ± 0.7 M) imply a mass of the unseen object of ≥4.2 M (≥5.0 ± 0.4 M), that is, a black hole (BH). The spectroscopic time series is stunningly similar to observations of LB-1. A similar triple-star architecture of LB-1 would reduce the mass of the BH in LB-1 from ∼70 M to a level more typical of Galactic stellar remnant BHs. The BH in HR 6819 probably is the closest known BH to the Sun, and together with LB-1, suggests a population of quiet BHs. Its embedment in a hierarchical triple structure may be of interest for models of merging double BHs or BH + neutron star binaries. Other triple stars with an outer Be star but without BH are identified; through stripping, such systems may become a source of single Be stars.

Exit Big Bang? The Universe Is Anisotropic!

April 14, 2020

Of few things truly certain we are, but of many things most falsely speak…

Astronomers assumed for decades, without any proof, that the Universe was expanding at the same rate in all directions: it was simpler that way (after all some hanger-ons were claiming they were present during the “First Three Minutes”!… and thus became very famous…). A new study based on data from ESA’s XMM-Newton, NASA’s Chandra and the German-led ROSAT X-ray observatories suggests this key premise of cosmology might be wrong.

The Universe in simplified glory. However… Not as simple as expected! The blue areas expand more slowly than expected, the yellow areas faster. In isotropy, the image would be monochromatic red. Credit: © Konstantinos Nikolaos Migkas, Uni Bonn/Astronomy & Astrophysics. And the differences are not small: thirty percent! (30%!)

The isotropy hypothesis says that the Universe has, despite some local differences, the same properties in each direction on the large scale. The hypothesis has been supported by observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). An alleged direct remnant of the Big Bang, the CMB would reflect the state of the Universe as it was in its infancy, at only 380 000 years of age. The CMB’s uniform distribution in the sky suggested that in those early days the Universe must have been expanding at the same rate in all directions.

If this would still be true in more recent times, the speed of galactic clusters should average out. But significant differences were observed.

The astronomers used X-ray temperature measurements of the extremely hot gas that pervades the clusters and compared the data with how bright the clusters appear in the sky. Clusters of the same temperature and located at a similar distance should appear similarly bright. But that is not what the astronomers observed.

Clusters with the same properties, with similar temperatures, appeared to be less bright than expected in one direction of the sky, and brighter than expected in another direction. The difference was quite significant, around 30 percent. These differences are not random but have a clear pattern depending on the direction in which we observed in the sky.

Before challenging the widely accepted status quo ante, the cosmology model known as LCDM, which provides the basis for estimating the cluster distances, other possible explanations were looked at. Perhaps, there could be undetected gas or dust clouds obscuring the view and making clusters in a certain area appear dimmer. The data, however, do not support this scenario. Nor does it support that the distribution of clusters is affected by bulk flows, large-scale motions of matter caused by the gravitational pull of extremely massive structures such as large cluster groups.

The authors speculate that this uneven effect on cosmic expansion might be caused by Dark Energy, the mysterious component of the cosmos which accounts for the majority—around 69% – of its overall energy. Very little is known about dark energy today, except that it appears to have been accelerating the expansion of the Universe in the past few billion years.

Meanwhile, lots of things will have to be recomputed… And the flow of surprises from heavens doesn’t stop here… A Milky way sized Dark Matter galaxy would have been discovered…

Patrice Ayme

Sun, Violent Stars, And Their Superflares

June 17, 2019

In the Chinese blockbuster movie “Wandering Earth“, the Sun goes red giant, and then Jupiter has a gravity spike (as the Earth swings by). Could it happen? According to today’s official physics, no. According to my own Sub Quantic Physics Reality (SQPR), yes. [1] Established scientists may smirk. However, smirking by established scientists or thinkers about imaginable science or thinking, all too often just exhibit their limited understanding of their own lack of understanding, and, or, imagination

A problem for our future conquest of the galaxy is that most stars are unstable Red Dwarves. I have argued it means we should be able to find lots of planets with very primitive life, as the most sophisticated type of life would be periodically eradicated. The past is hard to predict… except now we can look at it, with powerful telescopes… and read it.

Stars explode. Stars do also plenty of smaller, more sustainable flares and conflagrations…. The mass extinction level kill radius of a supernova (above) is at least ten light years. But to kill life in a solar system, a star can do, with much smaller explosions: the Earth is only 8 light minutes from the Sun…

When US astronauts went to the Moon, they found traces of a scorching superflare… so dreadful an idea, nobody evokes it anymore…

Studies by the US Kepler space telescope of  solar-type (G-type main-sequence), combined with Apache Point Observatory (APO) 3.5 m telescope spectroscopic observations and the European space telescope show that stars as old and sedate as the sun undergo “superflares”. Working from a sample of about 90,000 Sun-like stars, the researchers identified more than 1,000 superflares from about 300 stars.

The researchers thought these stars would be  rotating rapidly. Quickly spinning stars tend to have strong magnetic fields that easily get tangled up, bunching up, which is thought to kick off flares. However, a fast spin is apparently not a requirement for strong eruptions. Combining their brightness data with radius estimates from the Gaia satellite, the researchers were able to determine how fast their flaring stars were spinning. As expected, stars that rotate once every few days had superflares about 20 times as powerful as more slowly spinning stars like the Sun, which rotates about once every 25 days. However, Sun-like stars were still seen producing hazardous superflares.

A superflare could destroy lots of electronic on Earth (and adversely affect space explorers). Thus, the Sun has to be studied much more.

In September 1859, a solar flare sent a wave of charged particles washing over our planet. It triggered one of the most powerful geomagnetic storms ever recorded: the Carrington Event. As the particles slammed into Earth’s protective magnetic field, they triggered beautiful aurorae that stretched as far south as Hawaii and Cuba. But the Carrington Event didn’t just produce pretty lights in the sky. It also wreaked havoc on telegraph networks spread across North America and Europe. In fact, there are reports of the cosmically overcharged telegraph lines starting fires and shocking telegraph operators during the event.

Explosive activity on sun-like stars is tied to their age, and their rotation. The older, and the slower the rotation, the less explosive. Superflares with energies 5 × 10^34 erg occur on old, slowly rotating Sun-like stars (P rot ~ 25 days) approximately once every 2000–3000 yr, while young, rapidly rotating stars with P rot ~ a few days have superflares up to 10^36 erg.

That would mean energies 500 times that of the Carrington event… which was only 10^32 ergs… and would still be devastating today…[2]

In any case, constant disasters out there in space is my solution to the “Fermi Paradox” (evoking the aliens, “Where is everybody?”, joked Enrico, once at breakfast in the 1950s…)

And the more we look, the more we see how true that seems…

Philosophically speaking, that implies life on Earth we are busy destroying is much more of a miracle than is generally felt: watch all the plastic, all over, all the fossil fuels burned, etc…

Patrice Ayme



[1] In SQPR, Dark Matter can be lumpy (also an experimental fact). Also, it influences inertia and other forces, including gravity (hence Dark Energy). So crossing a Dark Matter lump may affect all forces. A gravity spike inside the Sun would cause high mass nuclides to fuse, as happen in Red Giant, or Supernovas…


[2] Most powerful supernova found: 10^ 45 ergs per second, or 10^ 38 watts, or 30 times the energy of the entire giant Milky Way (which is larger than Andromeda). So the most powerful flares are a billion times less powerful… But they tend to be directed in a particular direction… Mars lost its atmosphere from solar flares…


Dark Matter Not Caused By Tiny Black Holes

May 25, 2019

Big, yet simple ideas is what propels physics. Always has, always will.

27 per cent of the matter in the Universe is made up of Dark Matter. Its gravitational force prevents stars in our Milky Way from flying apart.

Some proposed that DM doesn’t exist, the 1/dd law of gravitation doesn’t work (MOND theories), General Relativity is thus false, etc… I don’t believe in MOND. One reason that I don’t believe in MOND is that my own Sub Quantum theory, SQPR, predicts Dark Matter.

Attempts to detect Dark Matter particles using underground experiments, or accelerator experiments including the world’s largest accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, have failed so far.

That leaves me smirking, as my own SQPR doesn’t use particles….

Watch the entire Andromeda, and detect flickering…


The failure of the DM particle search has led some to consider Hawking’s 1974 theory of the existence of primordial black holes, born shortly after the Big Bang, and his speculation that they could make up a large fraction of the elusive Dark Matter.

An international team of researchers, led by Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe Principal Investigator Masahiro Takada, PhD candidate student Hiroko Niikura, Professor Naoki Yasuda, and including researchers from Japan, India and the US, have used gravitational lensing to look for primordial black holes between Earth and the Andromeda galaxy. Gravitational lensing is what happens when gravitation bends of light rays coming from a distant object such as a star due to the gravitational effect of an intervening massive object such as a primordial black hole. It is a prediction of Newton’s theory of light as particles, and is multiplied by a factor of two from the slowing down of local time next to a mass such as the Sun (Einstein’s prediction thereof).

In extreme cases, such light bending causes the background star to appear much brighter than it originally is.

Figure 2: As the Subaru Telescope on Earth looks at the Andromeda galaxy, a star in Andromeda will become significantly brighter if a primordial black hole passes in front of the star. As the primordial black hole continues to move out of alignment, the star will also turn dimmer (go back to its original brightness). Credit: Kavli IPMU

Gravitational lensing effects due to primordial black holes, if they existed, would be very rare events because it requires a star in the Andromeda galaxy, a primordial black hole acting as the gravitational lens, and an observer on Earth to be exactly in line with one another.

The one event which looked like a small Black Hole detection…

To maximize the chances of capturing an event, the researchers used the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru Telescope, which can capture the whole image of the Andromeda galaxy in one shot. Taking into account how fast primordial black holes are expected to move in interstellar space, the team took multiple images to be able to catch the flicker of a star as it brightens for a period of a few minutes to hours due to gravitational lensing.

Figure 3: Data from the star which showed characteristics of being magnified by a potential gravitational lens, possibly by a primordial black hole. About 4 hours after data taking on the Subaru Telescope began, one star began to shine brighter. Less than an hour later, the star reached peak brightness before becoming dimmer. Credit: Niikura et al.

From 190 consecutive images of the Andromeda galaxy taken over seven hours during one clear night, the team scoured the data for potential gravitational lensing events. If Dark Matter consists of primordial black holes of a given mass, in this case masses lighter than the moon, the researchers expected to find about 1000 events. But after careful analyses, they could only identify one case. The team’s results showed primordial black holes can contribute no more than 0.1 per cent of all Dark Matter mass. Therefore, it is unlikely that Hawking’s proposal is helps to solve the Dark Matter problem.

The more plausible conventional theories fail, the more SQPR looks good. I believe in SQPR, because it’s so simple, and in line with the sort of physics Buridan, Newton and Laplace approved of. It also makes sense of Quantum Mechanics by introducing the notion of Quantum Interaction, and then giving it a finite speed.[1]

Patrice Ayme



[1] Kepler is the first I know of who mention the planets been held to the sun by a force (1/d). Boulliau, aka Bullialdus, corrected that into 1/dd, by analogy with light. Newton was baffled by the absurdity of it all, but Laplace introduced the simple trick of making gravity go at a finite speed… and predicted black holes! Then Lorentz and Poincaré introduced local time. Anyway the SQPR interaction duplicates Kepler’s work, in a sense. Then DM becomes a prediction a bit similar to Laplace’s gravitational waves… (That is, energy consideration… with observable consequences. Then waves, for Laplace, now DM, with SQPR…)

Black Hole For Dummies: An Old Illuminating Story

April 11, 2019

Black Hole Seen At Core Of Galaxy Messier 87 

Black Holes were predicted at the end of the Eighteenth Century. I am not here campaigning for justice or historical precision, by giving Michell and Laplace the honor due to them. I am also defending physics, and promoting understanding. The guy with the bushy hairdo didn’t launch understanding of Black Holes. That means Black Hole theory arose for DEEPER reasons than in Einstein’s theory of gravitation. Deeper reasons is what science is all about.

Black Holes are indeed an effect of the most basic theory of gravity which was elaborated in the 1560-1800 CE period by Tycho, Kepler, Galileo, Bullialdus, Hookes, Newton, and finally Laplace. That basic theory of gravitation is the first order of the present theory of gravitation. The Black Hole effect, per se, has nothing to do with Jules Henri Poincaré’s Theory of Relativity (translated into German by Einstein).

In 1796 marquis Pierre-Simon de Laplace,mathematician, physicist, astronomer and philosopher (of course) rediscovered the idea of John Michell, a cleric and independent scholar. Michell has noticed that a body falling from far away onto something big enough, would exceed the speed of light. Thus, supposing that light would be made of particles, those particles would lose as much speed, trying to escape that big body, and thus, would fall back onto that body.  Laplace wrote:

Un astre lumineux, de la même densité que la Terre, et dont le diamètre serait 250 fois plus grand que le Soleil, ne permettrait, en vertu de son attraction, à aucun de ses rayons de parvenir jusqu’à nous. Il est dès lors possible que les plus grands corps lumineux de l’univers puissent, par cette cause, être invisibles.

(...because of this, it’s possible that the greatest luminous bodies of the universe would be invisible.)

Here I will follow Laplace’s proof.

Laplace on top. Don’t pay much attention to the text (not from me) which is a bit confusing

The Black Hole effect comes from the fact that the gravitational attraction is proportional upon the mass of an object, but also inversely proportional to the distance of said object, while the energy of an object necessary to escape the gravitation, is simply proportional to its mass. So, if too close, the gravitation will overwhelm any escape energy.  

Here is a bit more detailed reasoning  Supposing a particle of light has mass m, 1/2 mvv is its kinetic energy. If situated at x from the gravitational center, the energy to bring it to infinity is Gm/x. (G is aM, where a is some constant and M the central mass.)

Equating, we get 1/2 mvv = Gm/x

Thus, cancelling m, changing the constant: v^2= bM/x

But now, as early as the late 17C, the speed of light became known, by observing carefully Jupiter’s satellites.  It’s c, a constant. So we get: x= bM/cc.

Hence, if x is smaller than bM/cc, the potential gravitational energy Gm/x is TOO BIG to become 1/2 mcc.

Let’s put it in words only. Suppose light is a particle of mass m.  

OK, let me wait for the laughter of professional physicists to die off… Indeed, those simple souls will object that I neglected Relativity and its guru, Einstein. Well, my reply is that I know very well what I am doing, and they don’t. Meanwhile, here is the Black Hole:

Matter Falling into the Black Hole or running crazy orbits around it at relativistic speeds generate lots of heat, by collision and sheer acceleration (like a super enormously incredibly humongously giant circular particle accelerator, CERN on unimaginable steroids…). With 6.5 BILLION Solar Masses, this is one the largest Black Holes known.

OK, this reasoning was in Laplace. The incredibly famous Laplace, after whom Laplacians are named, made gravitation into a field theory, predicting thus gravitational waves (said waves were relativized by Jules Henri Poincaré… Modern Quantum Field Theory is all about manipulating Laplacians…

So is light a particle? Einstein said so (following Newton) [I have my doubts: SQPR changes the game!] Does light have mass? Definitely yes, according to E = mcc, a relation first demonstrated and taught by Jules Henri Poincaré in 1899 at the Sorbonne (the Einstein cult omits this little detail). There is a simple reasoning for that… simple once one knows Maxwell equations, or observe light momentum…

Here is the simplest proof of E = mcc. Light pushes, it has momentum. So light acts as if it had what’s called “inertial mass”. Now the “Equivalence Principle”  says that inertial mass = gravitational mass. Thus, light behaves as if it were endowed with a gravitational mass m, as used above.  

(The EP is truly an experimental observations, last checked excruciatingly a year ago, in a French satellite launched for that purpose)

So what’s the next problem in my hare brain derivation of Black Hole? None, really. The modern gravitation theory (aka General Relativity) integrates the LOCAL TIME theory of Lorentz-Jules Henri Poincaré into the gravitation theory of Newton. Local time runs slow in a gravitational field, and the deeper the gravitational well, the slower the time. Thus, if I wanted to ameliorate the hare brain Black Hole theory, I would have to add that….

The full Einstein gravitation theory simply says that: Ricci Tensor = Mass-Energy Tensor.

The Italian Ricci, starting in 1890, simplified the full Riemann Curvature tensor. It’s applied to the spacetime metric g. We see immediately that, the more mass-energy, the more curvature. In the limiti of small masses, this is Newton’s equation…

The preceding is very simple, thus ironclad.  

So here it is: physics is not that complicated.


Many scientists present science as more complicated than it is, so they appear to be great sorcerers or shamans. An example is the claim made by Darwin that man arose in East Africa (then a UK dominion). There was evidence for this, as the Brits digged in East Africa. When the Chinese digged in China, they begged to differ. Humans had originated in China too, they insisted.

Now another human species was just discovered, in the Philippines… ‘Homo luzonensis’ boasted an eclectic mix of features comparable to, but distinct from, different species of hominins. So this is another human species which lived 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. We now have five. It’s clearly a different species as they have three root teeth where we have just two.

Contemporary humans have genetic material from three human species: ancestral Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans…

Science is both simple, and complex. Often the lack of simplicity, and the grandiloquent style in exposition, is just an attempt to hide ignorance, and leveraging said ignorance in awe for the perpetrators of pseudo-scientific obscurantism.  

Physicists are particularly culprit of this in recent decades. Consider titles such as: “The First Three Minutes”, “The Theory of Everything”, “A Universe Out Of Nothing”, “The God Particle”, etc… The more fatuous physicists became, the less the theory progressed. Now, right, they couldn’t probably have done better. Fortunately, experimental physics, and especially astronomy has kept on advancing, ever more spectacularly… cornering the fatuous ones, even when adorned with Nobel Prizes, into irrelevance…

Decades ago, I caused a scandal at an integrated physics-mathematics seminar at Stanford by exposing the shortcoming of Black Hole Theory… I was coming from the mathematical, hyper-logical side, unearthing all the little problems, which weren’t so little… Namely I claimed it didn’t take into account enough Quantum Theory. (Following my generously provided orientation, has brought a cottage industry of quantized “Black Holes” theory… Some not really black, just frozen…)

Many surprises await… Stay tuned…

Patrice Ayme


New Definition Of A Planet Makes Pluto A Planet

March 5, 2019

In the past, one distinguished among three sorts of bodies in the Solar System: planets, satellites, asteroids. However, it turned out that Pluto, once thought to be Earth sized, is much smaller… Although its atmosphere extends way out, it’s nearly extended as far as the diameter of Earth! Yet, some smart ass astronomer, greedy for fame as academic types tend to be, their feeding depends upon their renown, then made his claim to fame by demoting Pluto. He even sold T-shirts, I have one.

Planet means “wanderer”, in greek. Because the planets wander across the stars without reason which prehistoric men, or even the Greeks, could discern. Upon closer inspection (astronomer Tycho and his pupil Kepler), planets turned out to follow slowly changing ellipses.

The modern scientific sense of planet as “world that orbits a star” was prominent in Giordano Bruno’s cosmology, giving the sadists in the Vatican a reason to torture him to death for seven years (Catholic sadistic abusers are persistent, they have been around for nearly two millennia).

Very round, and very blue. Don’t tell me that’s not a planet. Real picture of Pluto from nuclear energized New Horizon Spacecraft, as it left the planet behind….

Pluto was loudly demoted, officially speaking, because it was argued that “Pluto didn’t clear its orbit”. The statement sounds superficially impressively scientific. But, as always in science, the devil lurks in a more careful examination of the situation. Actually, Pluto, as far as I can see, does clear its orbit. So this was an example of the “Big Lie Technique” dear to Hitler: the bigger the lie, the more it convinces people… Just like Obama fixing healthcare with “Romneycare“…

Pluto clears it so well it is accompanied by an entire cortege of satellites, including the relatively enormous Charon, a companion so large Pluto and Charon orbit around a common point exterior to Pluto.

Pluto is usually farthest from the Sun. However, its orbit is closer than Neptune’s orbit for 20 years out of every 248 years. Pluto got closer than Neptune on February 7, 1979, temporarily becoming the 8th planet from the Sun. Pluto crossed back over Neptune’s orbit again on February 11, 1999, resuming its place as the 9th planet from the Sun for the next 228 years. 

In truth (see Note), Pluto overflies Neptune orbit, when at closest point to the Sun. So the two orbits never intersect. One could introduce the notion of orbit disk (the part of the planetary plane of a planet inside the orbit). The intersection of the planetary disks of Pluto and Neptune have planar measure zero! (First Objection to the “clearing” notion).

Anyway, one may as well say that Neptune didn’t clear its own orbit (as Pluto occupies it sometimes, according to those who aren’t smart enough to understand the First Objection, namely that the orbits don’t cross).

Pluto could be more colorful than expected… Charon hanging through the blue haze, which is bue for the same exact reason as Earth atmosphere (Rayleigh scattering….) Mountains are made of water ice with very different properties than terrestrial ice (it’s much harder).

To satisfy all, it was decreed that Pluto was a “Dwarf Planet”… Other Pluto-sized objects have been found since, further out. But some have weird shapes… Some expected Pluto’s atmosphere to freeze down… But the New Horizon robot found it alive and well. The Pluto system has turned out to be very complex.

As one finds exoplanets, the possibility exists that Earth-sized satellites will be found in orbit around giant planets. As in the movie Avatar. Actually one may have been discovered (there is a controversy, as with all new scientific discoveries).

One will want to call Earth sized moons orbiting giant planets “planets”.

So what would be a planet? One can still use the official criterion brandished by the International Astronomical Union. And then I would add the following NEW criterion:

Worlds around giant planets do exist, and one may have already been found. (from variation of the light of the local sun, with slow downs and accelerations similar to those observed in Jupiter’s satellites in the 17C…)

An object large enough, and round enough, to hold an atmosphere all around its entire surface should be called a planet. That would make the giant asteroid Ceres NOT a planet: it doesn’t hold an atmosphere, and didn’t clear its orbit (it’s part of the asteroid belt). According to that definition Ganymede, which has an oxygen atmosphere, and a diameter of 5262 kms, is a planet, so is Titan (very thick atmosphere; 5150 kms diameter). Mercury, clearly a planet, has a diameter of 4880 kms, a tiny bit larger than Callisto, Jupiter second largest satellite… which also has a tenuous atmosphere.

Whether one wants to call large moons equipped with atmospheres planets is a matter of taste.

But, “Pandora” like world would be planets (Ganymede is 4.5 billion years old, at least as old as Earth… Plenty of time to evolve life…)

So what’s a planet? As Giordano Bruno said, a world. And certainly an atmosphere all around, especially if propitious to life, makes it a world. Pandora is a world, that is, a planet. It doesn’t matter that, as it turns around its sun, Pandora also turns around a hyper giant planet.

And certainly, Pluto is a world, too. A much smaller one, but still a world.

Worlds, here we come!

Patrice Ayme



Note 1;

Pluto has cleared its orbit. That’s why it’s so full of satellites….

Diagram of Pluto’s and Neptune’s orbit, on a distance scale in AUs.

Pluto and Neptune will never collide. You can see this in the image below, which shows a view as seen from the side as the planets orbit around the Sun.

Neptune is cleared of Pluto’s orbit, and reciprocally

Most planets only make small excursions in the vertical and radial directions, but Pluto makes large ones. Pluto at times will move closer to the Sun than Neptune, but it is always well “below” the orbit of Neptune when this happens. The orbits never actually cross the same point in space. Simulations have shown this is stable for the next 4 billion years.


Note 2:

Could one have an irregular shaped body with an atmosphere only in some basins? Probably, but unlikely to be naturally sustainable (one would need to make computer simulations taking into account the Roche limit, and Quantum effects on geological stress… Atmospheric pressure varies significantly on parts of Mars… which has giant high mountains, but also deep basins…)


Most Habitable Exoplanets Found By NASA’s Kepler Aren’t So, Hints Gaia

October 30, 2018

Yes, before science becomes straightforward, it’s made of crooked timber: something we held as sure, and a great discovery of the last few years, is often revealed, on second examination, as in need of serious tweaking: the initial breakthrough survives, but transmogrified. As an interlude between aspects of the civilization bandwagon, with more lofty essays, let’s look at the future… space. Yes, the future is space: it is to us what the savannah, was to the genus Homo. The savanna, in combination with necessity, will, and the Élan vital of colonization, evolved us. The same Élan vital spurs space colonization. Élan vital, popularized by Nobel laureate philosopher Henri Bergson,was central to Lucretius-Epicurus philosophy of 23 centuries ago (philosophy which Christianism eradicated by burning its books, and killing its practitioners and defenders).  

It’s pretty clear that humanity, barring a deplorable accident, will be able to spawn across the galaxy: there are plenty of habitable planets out there, and, thanks to NASA, Elon Musk and his ilk, cheap access to space will come very soon.

However, the complementary technology we need for mass space colonization, compact controlled thermonuclear technology, has not yet arrived… Indeed, “habitable planet” doesn’t mean life appeared there, let alone advanced life, or civilization. So planets will be found, ripe for colonization, yet life-less. Colonizing Europa, for example, is feasible: there is plenty of water. Yet it will necessitate to harness fusion power (except if battery tech leaps ahead, and photovoltaics could be used after all…).

Nearly 4,000 exoplanets have been found by 2018.

Artist’s illustration of how rocky, potentially habitable worlds elsewhere in our galaxy might appear (from data found so far). Data gathered by telescopes in space and on the ground suggest that small, rocky planets are common (some system as Trappist, have many, close together… although not as close as here, ha ha ha.)
Credit: R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Supposedly, NASA’s prolific Kepler space telescope has discovered about 30 roughly Earth-size exoplanets in their host stars’ “habitable zone” — the range of orbital distances at which liquid water can likely exist on a world’s surface.

One doesn’t want planets to be too large: they would crush life as we know it, and retain light gases, making them “mini-Neptunes”.

However observations by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia spacecraft suggest that the actual number of habitable planets among them is probably only between two and 12, NASA officials said today. Ooops.

Before the scoffing starts, let me observe that this means, mostly, that the habitable zones have to be computed again: so planets in systems viewed as inhabitable, maybe, actually habitable, after all. And vice versa. So may be only a couple of habitable Kepler planets are habitable, but others may be.

Gaia launched in December of 2013 to create an ultraprecise 3D map of our giant galaxy, the Milky Way. So far, this map includes position information for about 1.7 billion stars and distance data for about 1.3 billion stars.

Gaia’s observations suggest that some of the Kepler host stars are brighter and bigger than previously believed. Planets orbiting such stars are therefore likely larger and hotter than previously thought. questions complete

A larger, brighter star releases more light, hence more heat. The “larger” correlation is a consequence of that. Kepler uses the “transit method.”

Kepler records the brightness dips caused when a planet crosses its parent star’s face from the Kepler telescope’s perspective. Estimates of such planets’ sizes are derived from the percentage of the stellar disk they block during these “transits.” So, if the stars’ diameter is revised upward, because it’s brighter, so is the size of the planet.

Astronomers, astrobiologists and planetary scientists still have a lot to learn about exoplanet habitability. So philosophers can strike: I pointed out that life may be common in the galaxy, but not so advanced life.

I pointed out too that the Earth nuclear reactor enables plate tectonic, and that the latter, hence the former, may be necessary for life. So may have to consider a radioactive belt, not just a water belt…

And in more details:

“We’re still trying to figure out how big a planet can be and still be rocky,” declared Jessie Dotson, astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Dotson is the project scientist for Kepler’s current, extended mission, known as K2. That will depend in part upon the nature of the planet’s rock, especially its density.

As I have pointed out, The concept of the habitable zone can’t be based solely on water and orbital size relative to the star’s output. That would ignore important planetary characteristics, such as mass, which influences a world’s ability to hold onto an atmosphere, and which sort of atmosphere it holds. Then, there’s atmospheric composition, which greatly affects a planet’s temperature, and depends upon the planet’s gravity.

Life may not require liquid water on the surface. A number of frozen-over moons outside our own solar system’s habitable zone, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, have giant buried oceans that may be capable of having evolved life as we know it: at first sight, they seem to have had warm, liquid water, for even longer than Earth. Indeed their heat is gravitationally generated, from massaging the moon with the giant planet’s gravity.

(An old consideration has also been life as we don’t know it, which would depend on something other than water as a solvent; however, the combination water-carbon seems impossible to beat in the wealth of possibilities…)

The $600 million Kepler mission launched in March 2009, following a successful pioneering French satellite, named after another astronomer, Corot. The first confirmed exoplanet was discovered at the French Observatoire de Haute Provence.  As of 1 October 2018, there are 3,851 confirmed exoplanets in 2,871 stellar systems, with 636 systems having more than one planet.

Further philosophy out of all this?

Of course!

Next: the related, and philosophically as deep as it gets Big Silence From Necessary Malevolence?

Patrice Ayme



Will Starburst Galaxies Explode the Big Bang?

June 11, 2018


I have proposed that the Big Bang Model is wrong, and that the universe could be much older, of the order of 100 billion years old, not 13.8 billion years; my iconoclastic and inconsiderate reasoning was philosophical: we have one expansion mechanism, DARK ENERGY. That expansion, Dark Energy, was directly observed, it exists, it’s not a figment of imagination. Many a physicist made a sour face, as Dark Energy was not expected at all: hundreds of arrogant  claims to explain the whole universe, talk to the media and the gullible as if one were god, and then, next thing one knows, one’s theories don’t explain 95% of the universe…

So an insolent philosophy asked: ‘Why would we need another cosmic expansion mechanism?’ Especially one expansion mechanism NOT directly observed, a figment of the imagination, the so-called Inflaton Field, necessary to make the Big Bang theory work (because of arcane complications: basically the universe as observed is around 100 billion light years across, and can have got that big only if it expanded at 10^10 times the speed of light, or something like this… Confusing enough? I have explained what is going on here and there, such as the locality of the speed of light, and the embedding theorem of Lorentzian manifolds. Stay tuned…)

A (Non Spectacular) Starburst galaxy, the Cigar, 12 million light year away. Full starburst galaxies are very blue, from the giant extremely hot (thus blue) stars in their midst. How much do we know about Helium formation in such super giant stars? Philosophers want to know!

So why is the Big Bang necessary? Besides making some people more puffed up than god itself?

Inspired by the H bombs they were thoroughly familiar with, Gamow, Alpher and Herman proposed the hot Big Bang as a means to produce all of the elements: extreme heat caused collisions and the nuclei fused (from the “STRONG FORCE”).

The lightest elements (hydrogen, helium, deuterium, lithium) were produced in the Big Bang nucleosynthesis

Ms. Burbidge, Mr. Burbidge, Fowler and Hoyle worked out the nucleosynthesis processes that go on in stars, where the much greater density and longer time scales allow the triple-alpha process (He+He+He –>> C) to proceed and make the elements heavier than helium.

But BBFH could not produce enough helium. The solution, which Hoyle didn’t like at all, was to make the Helium in the Big Bang. Now we think we know that both processes occur: most helium is produced in the Big Bang but carbon and everything heavier is produced in stars. Most lithium and beryllium is produced by cosmic ray collisions breaking up some of the carbon produced in stars.

In a pirouette, Helium abundance is now viewed the observation which makes the Big Bang necessary… Yet, all this rests on an ironclad understanding of stellar physics… which we assume we have, although we don’t.

Astronomers at the gigantic, high altitude Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile investigated intense bouts of star formation in four distant, gas-rich starburst galaxies, where new stars are formed 100 or more times faster than they are in the Milky Way.

By looking at isotopes ratio in Inter Stellar Medium (ISM) Carbon Monoxide CO, one can see if it has been generated in light, or heavy stars. To quote from the original article in Nature: “

Oxygen, carbon and their stable isotopes are produced solely by nucleosynthesis in stars. The minor isotopes, 13C and 18O, are released mainly by low- and intermediate-mass stars (those with stellar mass less than eight solar masses, M* < 8M⊙) and massive stars (M* > 8M⊙), respectively, owing to their differing energy barriers in nuclear  reactions and evolution of stars. These isotopes then mix with the interstellar medium (ISM) such that the 13C/18O abundance ratio measured in the ISM becomes a ‘fossil’, imprinted by evolutionary history and the stellar initial mass function (IMF). The abundances of the 13CO and C18O isotopologues in the molecular ISM, whose measurements are immune to the pernicious effects of dust, are therefore a very sensitive index of the IMF in galaxies.


Conclusion of the Nature article:

Classical ideas about the evolutionary tracks of galaxies and our understanding of cosmic star-formation history are challenged. Fundamental parameters governing galaxy formation and evolution—star-formation rates, stellar masses, gas-depletion and dust-formation timescales, dust extinction laws, and more—must be re-addressed, exploiting recent advances in stellar physics.

This doesn’t prove my ideas about the universe are right. Yet the article mention star formation rates have to be lowered by a factor of… seven. (I will resist multiplying 13.8 billions by 7, which is… not making this up, very close to 98 billions…)

This doesn’t prove my ideas about the universe are right… But it goes my way… Ok, let a professional concludes:

Our findings lead us to question our understanding of cosmic history,” Rob Ivison, co-author of the study and director for science at European Southern Observatory, said in the statement. “Astronomers building models of the universe must now go back to the drawing board, with yet more sophistication required.

Moods, in science cannot change until evidence contrary to the old visions one had of things, accumulate. Before that, a change of paradigm can’t be hoped for. Long ago, when I used to be all too human, I communicated with a director at ESO. Delighted by the change of tone, not to say mood… (Another guy I knew was so arrogant that he posited one was not really a scientist until one was the director of a lab, which he happened to be… in astrophysics, the field at hand, where it turns out the big picture was missed…)

But, ladies and gentlemen, remember this: wisdom, even scientific wisdom, doesn’t always triumph in a timely manner. We have examples in science, and mathematics, where wisdom was delayed and defeated for 24 centuries… by the greatest stupidity

Patrice Ayme



Examples of delayed wisdom: a) The Atomic Theory, of course, complete with eternal motion in the small (which the Greeks had observed and is strikingly described by Lucretius). The theory was then forgotten until the 19C.

b) The Archimedean Axiom in arithmetic/theory of infinity, undetected until 1950, when the US logician/mathematician Robinson detected it.

c) Non-Euclidean geometry found 24 centuries ago, and then lost until 1830 CE…

d) Biological evolution theory, lost between Anaximander and Lamarck… Although practiced by all serious breeders (especially Greek).

e) Computers, lost for 17 centuries… we have one proof the Antikyra mechanism (and various written description) until Blaise Pascal… Hence the computer language “Pascal”

f) Heliocentric theory of Aristarchus of Samos lost between Archimedes and Buridan (and buried again by Catholicism) Heliocentrism was of course obvious, except if one is a caveman, and not to observant…

g) And of course that Earth was round and how big, established and measured first by the great scientist and explorer Pytheas of Massalia (Pytheas de Marseilles), circa 320 BCE. Pytheas even related the tides to the Moon, and got the explanation roughly right (whereas Galileo Galilei, 19 centuries later, got the explanation of the tides completely wrong, and not just that but got a near lethal fight with his friend the Pope, who he brushed off as an ignorant… when the Pope was actually less wrong than Galileo…)

Super Earths, Or How The Exponential Function Can Matter

April 23, 2018

We live in the times where exponentials have come to rule, as they never ruled before. Ignore at the risk of everything we claim to hold dear. As mathematically challenged Silicon Valley nerds put it, all too simplistically, the coming “singularity” looms. Simple minds do not much understanding create, though, so here a little elaboration…

An example of exponentials in action, is graciously offered by so-called “Super Earths“, giant versions of Earths, hundreds of which have been discovered in our neighborhood.

Before I get into this, a short lesson on the exponential.

The Ancient Greeks thought they knew mathematics, but they were prisoners of linear thinking (especially after the top intellectuals spurned non-Euclidean geometry and arithmetic). The exponential is the most obvious, most crucial to understand, most vital to handle example of nonlinear thinking.

An exponential is any function which grows proportionally to itself.

Our present “leaders” (Putin, Trump, Xi, Macron, etc.), and their underlings have no idea what an exponential is, and that it feeds on itself.

Civilizations get ambushed by exponentials. This is why they so often irresistibly decay: the effect is blatant, be it the Late Roman empire, Tang China, the Maya…  


Socrates:The unexamined life is not worth living“. That was HIS (wise) feeling. His own feeling. Others don’t have to share it. Actually vain, self-admiring, erroneous, hateful people detest nothing more than self-examination. They deeply dislike, hinder those, and what, promotes self-examination.

And tell me, Socrates, you who didn’t like knowledge you didn’t already have, and you thought everybody had, when did you learn about the exponential function? How can you know something that important you never even suspected existed? And, absent that tool of the spirit, you thought you could examine everything? How stupid was that? And you, out there, the ignorant admirers of Socrates and his ilk: you don’t even have the excuse to have been dead for 24 centuries! To extract you from the gutter, seize the exponential!


After discovering a few thousands exoplanets, Super Earths are, so far, more frequent than simple Earths (it may be a bias from our present telescopes, but I don’t think so…). If the Super Earth is slightly bigger than Earth, depending upon the nature of its core, its surface gravity doesn’t have to be much higher than Earth (I computed). However, the present article considers Super Earths were the gravity is much higher than on Earth…

“Super-Earth” planets are gigantic versions of Earth. In some ways, they are more likely to be habitable than Earth-size worlds: their thicker atmospheres protect them better from radiations, either from their parent stars, supernovae, gamma ray bursts, galactic core explosions, etc.. However, it would be difficult for any inhabitants on these exoplanets to access to space. At least with known, or imaginable technologies.

To launch a vehicle as light as the Apollo moon mission capsule, a rocket on a super-Earth such as (potentially inhabitable) Kepler 20b would require more than double the escape velocity.

To leave Earth (“⊕”)’s gravitational influence, a rocket needs to achieve at minimum the escape velocity vesc = s 2GM⊕ R⊕ ∼ 11.2 km s−1 (2) for Earth, and vesc ∼ 27.1 km s−1 for a 10 M⊕, 1.7 R⊕ Super-Earth similar to Kepler-20 b. Computation shows one would need a mass of about 400,000 metric tons, mostly due to the exponential demand of fuel. That’s 5% of the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt (still by far the Earth’s most massive monument, excluding utilitarian walls and dams).  

That means a chemical rocket there should have one hundred times the mass of one here (Apollo’s Saturn V launcher was 3,000 tons). However, that’s not a show stopper: our largest ocean-going ships are more massive than that, and a massive rocket is imaginable. So Hippke is not correct when he says that:

“On more-massive planets, spaceflight would be exponentially more expensive,” said study author Michael Hippke, an independent researcher affiliated with the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany. “Such civilizations would not have satellite TV, a moon mission or a Hubble Space Telescope.

This is of great practical interest. Research has revealed that Super Earths are abundant, and obvious targets for human colonization. They can reach up to 10 times the mass of our own Earth (after that, they retain light gases, and turn into mini Neptunes, unsuitable for direct colonization, although Pandora like scenarios are highly plausible). Many super-Earths apparently lie in the habitable zones of their stars, where temperatures can theoretically support liquid water on the planetary surface and thus, potentially, life as it is known on Earth. Although I have had reservations about this: I view the presence of a nuclear reactor inside the planet as necessary for life, since it provides with a magnetic shield, and the recycling of the atmosphere through plate tectonic, let alone continents… (Being in the water belt and the nuclear belt simultaneously is a miracle Earth’s biosphere profits from.)

This being said, it is true that some ways to access space that we potentially have, won’t happen on Super Earths. Rockets work better in the vacuum of space than in an atmosphere: super-Earthlings might want to launch from a mountaintop. However, the strong gravitational pull of super-Earths would squash down super Alps (it’s a pure application of Quantum mechanics). Super towers won’t be be feasible, either…

Using space elevators traveling on giant cables rising out of the atmosphere depends upon the strength of the cable material. The strongest (per unit of mass) material known today, carbon nanotubes, is just barely strong enough for Earth’s gravity (it is not at this point possible to imagine stronger materials, putting in doubt the feasibility of space elevators on super-Earths). Here is Michael Hippke (Submitted on 12 Apr 2018):

Spaceflight from Super-Earths is difficult:


Many rocky exoplanets are heavier and larger than the Earth, and have higher surface gravity. This makes space-flight on these worlds very challenging, because the required fuel mass for a given payload is an exponential function of planetary surface gravity, ∼3.3exp(g0). We find that chemical rockets still allow for escape velocities on Super-Earths up to 10 times Earth mass. More massive rocky worlds, if they exist, would require other means to leave the planet, such as nuclear propulsion.

Comments: Serious version of the April Fool’s idea (arXiv:1803.11384). Submitted on April 4th 2018
Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1804.04727 [physics.pop-ph]
(or arXiv:1804.04727v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)
  1. INTRODUCTION Do we inhabit the best of all possible worlds (Leibnitz 1710)? From a variety of habitable worlds that may exist, Earth might well turn out as one that is marginally habitable. Other, more habitable (“superhabitable”) worlds might exist (Heller & Armstrong 2014). Planets more massive than Earth can have a higher surface gravity, which can hold a thicker atmosphere, and thus better shielding for life on the surface against harmful cosmic rays. Increased surface erosion and flatter topography could result in an “archipelago planet” of shallow oceans ideally suited for biodiversity. There is apparently no limit for habitability as a function of surface gravity as such (Dorn et al. 2017). Size limits arise from the transition between Terran and Neptunian worlds around 2 ± 0.6 R⊕ (Chen & Kipping 2017). The largest rocky planets known so far are ∼ 1.87 R⊕, ∼ 9.7 M⊕ (Kepler-20 b, Buchhave et al. 2016). When such planets are in the habitable zone, they may be inhabited. Can “Super-Earthlings” still use chemical rockets to leave their planet? This question is relevant for SETI and space colonization (Lingam 2016; Forgan 2016, 2017).


Pessimistically, Hippke considered another possibility, a staple of science-fiction which originated in the very serious “Orion” project of the 1950s, an apocalyptic period: nuclear pulse propulsion. It works by detonating thousands of atom bombs below a shield cum shock absorber attached to the vehicle, hurling it through space. This explosive propulsion has much more lifting power than chemical rockets, and might be the only way for a civilization to leave a planet more than 10 times Earth’s mass, Hippke (naively) said.

However, slaying the radioactive dragon he himself brought up, such a nuclear-powered spacecraft would pose not only technical challenges but political ones as well, he said: “A launch failure, which typically happens with a 1 percent risk, could cause dramatic effects on the environment. I could only imagine that a society takes these risks in a flagship project where no other options are available, but the desire is strong — for example, one single mission to leave their planet and visit a moon.”

Unwittingly, Hippke then demonstrates the danger of the single mind (in this case, his!) Indeed the most obvious way to use nuclear propulsion is simply to run a liquid, even water, through the core of a nuclear fission reactor. That was tested, and it works extremely well… and very safely! It’s much less prone to failure than a chemical rocket.  On a planet with ten times the Earth’s surface, there would be plenty of space to do such dirty launches by the thousands.

Besides, it may possible to engineer absolutely giant thermonuclear PROPULSION reactors (thermonuclear fusion is easier, the larger the reactor: the exponential at work again; if we just made a fusion reactor that was large enough, it would certainly work). The radioactivity generated would be neglectable.

So we don’t have to worry about colonizing Super Earths… We just have to worry about weight (that is, surface gravity)….

But, here, now, we have to worry about all those exponentials going crazy. Last I checked, the Arctic ice was running one million square miles below its old minimum: at some point the so-far linear decrease of Arctic ice is going to decrease exponentially, as warming there is highly self-feeding (that’s why it runs already at twice the rate of the rest of the planet…).

And as usual, let’s remember what the arrogant, stupid imperial Romans never learned, and the Maya never reached: inventing completely new, liberating, energizing technologies is how, and the only way how, to break the strangulation from the ecological, political, economical and moral exponentials which smother civilizations. A most recent example is diffuse, dim light solar cells, dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), a tech already in full deployment, which has just made spectacular progress in the lab.

Even language acquisition is exponential… Let alone thought system acquisition. You want to examine life, in ultimate depth? Learn to think exponentially!

The coming “singularity” looms. How to manage it? First by understanding what makes it tick, exponentials.

Patrice Aymé


We Are No Dinosaurs: H Bombs Potentially Save Lives, Whereas PC kills

March 18, 2018

I long advocated comet and asteroid defense. The subject is intricate, with high stakes, even more interesting as the very strange reactions it brought.

Years ago, I claimed that H bombs were the ultimate, and necessary tool to achieve security. At the time, “experts” were ruling out nukes. Contemporaneously, I had a major fight with a (decorated) geophysicist about my claim that the Earth functions as a nuclear reactor, thus driving the Earth magnetic field, which protects the upper atmosphere from stripping by the solar wind during Coronal Mass Ejections (which is, we now know the way Mars’ atmosphere was stripped). In my opinion both experts’ opinions were the fruit, not of science, but of the Political Correctness which fed them (they got to their expert position not thanks to their smarts, but thanks to being PC).

Political Correctness, in this case “nukes are evil” was so great at the time that “experts”, to achieve astronomical moral superiority over the moral turpitude of the ilk of yours truly, the moral turpitude of those who tell the truth, pontificated idiotically that H-bombs would be inefficient, unsuitable, inappropriate, and that, to promote their usage, was, besides criminal, the mark of a lack of scientific culture. Moreover, they added, impacts were impossible in the foreseeable future.

Here is an update: the old “experts” were wrong, like 100% wrong, peer-review journal and the US government recognize, it is my pleasure to reveal.

Siding Springs comet, the smallest one is even more dangerous, because of its speed. Europe landed, and orbited with Rosetta the bigger one… which is a tenth of the largest comet known. As comets fly by, they can destabilize others, or asteroids.


A new generation of expert has arisen, who say exactly what I used to say, the obvious. The latest study, in a Russian lab, mimicked nuclear blasts, using lasers (whose energy, just as a nuclear bomb is mostly photons, initially). A US study, on project Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER), concluded the same. New facts have come to the surface.


The probability of impacts, as I said in the past, was underestimated:

As demonstrated in the Tunguska impact in Siberia, “impacts” of a less than 200 meters across bolide has a high probability to end as an airburst. Tunguska flattened 2,150 square kilometers of forest, destroying 80 million trees. That’s a circle with a diameter of 50 kilometers. In other words, exploding above some of the largest city on Earth, it could kill up to 30 million people, annihilating Tokyo-Yokohama, Mexico City, New York, Moscow, the greater Paris, etc… Initially it was thought the explosion was up to 30 megatons TNT, but then it was realized one should take into account the momentum of the disintegrating bolide, just as in the case of a hollow charge to penetrate armor. That lowered the yield to no more than 5 megatons!

A stony asteroid of about 10 m (33 ft) in diameter can produce an explosion of around 20 kilotons, similar to that of the Fat Man plutonium implosion bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Data released by the US Air Force’s Defense Support Program indicate that such explosions occur high in the upper atmosphere more than once a year.

The 1930 Curuçá River event in Brazil, observed by many, was an explosion of a superbolide that left no clear evidence of an impact crater. A smaller air burst occurred over a populated area in Russia on 15 February 2013, at Chelyabinsk in the Ural district of Russia. The exploding meteoroid was an asteroid that measured about 17 to 20 metres across, with an estimated initial mass of 11,000 tonnes, and inflicted over 1,200 injuries (mostly from flying glass, like a nuclear blast)… It would have been worse, had it streaked closer to the city.


ATLAS, the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System:

So now the good news, thanks to our old friends at NASA, ATLAS is running, with one telescope on top of Maui at 3,000 meters, and the other on top of Mauna Loa, 100 miles away, at 4,200 meters.    

ATLAS is an asteroid impact early warning system developed by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA. It consists of two telescopes, 100 miles apart, which automatically scan the whole sky several times every night looking for moving objects. On the side it has already detected several comets, and 1,200 Supernova, mostly type 1a, among other scientific prowesses. It has also discovered 17 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids…

Second good news, a new generation of experts, American and now Russian, has established that nuclear bombs would be safe and effective to dispose of a dangerous impactor detected too late to nudge it away… Besides, they would be the only way (as I used to say).   


Blowing off skeptics with the Hypervelocity Siding Springs Comet:

Some fanatics, outwardly humanistic, inwardly the opposite, will sneer that my desire to find some use to thermonuclear fusion is pathetic: who cares if a given city has non negligible probability to be vaporized by heavens in the next 100,000 years?

However, the probability is much higher than Conventional Wisdom has it. And a new reasoning will be deployed below, not found in the scientific literature, to my knowledge.

An example was the Siding Spring comet. Nobody expected this sort of comet. It zoomed on what looked like a straight line through the Solar System, passing Mars at 56 kilometers per second. A typical speed for a meteorite (and probably Tungunska) is 11 kilometers per second.

As really great, although female, physicist Émilie Du Châtelet demonstrated in the Eighteenth Century, the energy of body of mass m going at speed v is ½ mvv. So energy per unit of mass augments as the square of the speed. Thus one kilogram of the Siding Spring Comet had 25 times the energy of one kilogram of Tunguska bolide. Add to this the fact Siding Spring was much smaller than its big tail advertised: only 400 to 700 meters across. Siding Spring passed very close to Mars (140,000 kilometers, half the Earth-Moon distance). If Siding Springs had hit Earth, that would have been probably at an angle, and it would have liberated an amazing amount of energy

Computer simulation show that a 200 meters diameter comet going at 11km/s would explode with an energy of 30 megatons. If the comet were 650 meters: 30 x 40 megatons, say: 1,000 megatons (Siding Springs diameter: 400-700 meters). Multiply by 25, from the v^2 factor of Émilie Du Châtelet: 25,000 megatons of TNT. The average penetration angle would be 45 degrees, giving an average trajectory of hundreds of kilometers by hypersonic surfing of the shock wave on the upper atmosphere, say 600 kilometers over 10 seconds. Acceleration: 56,000 meters/sec/10 seconds, in other words 5,600 gs, more than 5,000 the acceleration of earth’s gravity.

These are orders of magnitude. Maybe the comet would surf the atmosphere over a minute, etc. In any case, no solid body, a fortiori a fragile comet, can withstand thousands of gs. It will disintegrate. As it does, it would fry everything in its path. If it surfs two minutes, it could leave a trail of devastation hundreds of kilometers wide, over thousands of kilometers. And guess what? No impact!


Some mysterious degradations of living conditions in recorded history are so far unexplained. Volcanoes, of course are generally the prime culprit, as I long suspected, and explained, with dinosaurs:

Chinese and Romans records indicate a spectacular deterioration of conditions in the Sixth Century. Volcano, or impact? It seems two distinct eruptions were culpritRecently, mainly from the work of some researchers in France, mass deaths in Europe from starvation in 1257 CE, were explained by the explosion of a giant volcano on the island of Lombok, bringing down the kingdom there. The explosion of Thera/Santorin brought down Cretan civilization, thanks to tsunamis, ash, quakes, etc…  

If an impact was found to have occurred in recorded history, with catastrophic consequences, instead of still another crazy volcano, the probability of those extraterrestrial events would be jacked up. In the scenario I gave, the impact from a fast-moving, small comet, there would be no traces on the ground.

In any case, the pollution of questions of life and death by Political Correctness can be utterly grotesque: it was clear all along that, in some configurations, we would have to nuke asteroids or comets. To pretend otherwise was idiotic, corrupt.

Having to use nuclear energy to save ourselves is very good. And ultimately, we need controlled, sustained thermonuclear fusion. If we had it now, the CO2 catastrophe (and many other catastrophes) would be avoided. Nuclear is our friend, if, and only if, well done.

What’s never our friend is any notion that it is philosophically correct to believe that fancy and corrupt notions of so-called Political Correctness trump the truth. It’s not just that nothing trumps reality. By faking reality, we reject altruism. 

Patrice Aymé