Archive for the ‘Cosmology’ Category

Fragile Earth Syndrome

February 19, 2013

Abstract: The Earth is already all too close from being getting all too hot, from its astronomical position at the interior edge of the Sun’s Habitable Zone.

The Greeks viewed Gaia, the Earth, as the Mother Goddess from whom all other gods sprang. Yet, discoveries they made later showed that this metaphysics was misleading. In truth, habitable planets, far from being all powerful, are confined to narrow zones around their stars (and these zones move, and are under continual threat, as I describe below):

Sun Like Stars Are Most Hospitable.

Vertically the masses, going up, the unit being the mass of the sun; as stars gets bigger, they get hotter, thus they change color, covering the entire black-body spectrum, from brown dwarves to blinding ultra violet hot “Blue Stragglers”.

Horizontally, the distance from the star; the graph gives only a rough idea of the notion of Habitable Zone; in truth the whole point of this essay is that Earth is at the edge of Sol’s Habitable Zone, within 1% of boiling; Habitable Zones narrow as the stars get smaller, and get much larger, far out, around bigger stars.

The life of Earth on the edge has got more dicey in the last 400 million years. Thus the risk of hyper warming is greater than in the Carboniferous Era. By pumping into the atmosphere the equivalent of 100 million tons of CO2, every single day, we are, literally, playing with fire. (A first counter-measure would be to outlaw, through regulations, those gases that warm up the air a lot, and are not indispensable; for example leaks in the pipelines of the USA allow 4% of the CH4 to escape!)

The two close calls by large space rocks were a reminder that this is a serious, not particularly friendly universe. Something to meditate carefully.

Those who play apprentice sorcerers with the climate and planetary ecology should pay attention.

For reasons having to do with the periodic table, the frequency of elements and the chemical characteristics of carbon, namely its ability to form many liaisons, it seems likely that life in the universe will have to resemble life on Earth. That is being water, carbon and oxygen based. (Believing that life does not have to be carbon-centric may sound cute, but it’s unreal.)

Thus the habitable zone is the zone around a star where it is neither to hot, nor too cold, and a planet can support water.

Not all stars can have an habitable zone: the greater the mass of a star, the more fiercely it burns. A star with five times the mass of the sun will typically have 625 times the luminosity of the sun.

Why? In small stars, the part of the core hot and dense enough to sustain thermonuclear fusion is relatively small. In large stars, it becomes enormous, and embraces much more of the thermonuclear fuel tank.

For Stars, Mass Is Everything.

For Stars, Mass Is Everything.

Thus, the larger the mass, the shorter the lifespan of the entire system orbiting the star. A star with 60 solar masses will shine only 3 million years before running out of hydrogen. At that point it will run hotter and hotter as it burns heavier elements until it explodes as a super nova. A star of five solar masses will live longer, but still only 100 million years or so. Long enough to make it a tourist destination, not long enough to evolve life (all the more as the habitable zone will migrate out fast, as the stellar furnace gets hotter, fast).

Even a star with only 50% larger mass than the Sun will live only three billion years. On Earth, after that duration, the first oxygen making organisms were appearing, and the atmosphere was going to change completely, from reducing to oxidizing. That would bring the “Snowball Earth” episodes, 600 million years ago, or so, when most of the planet froze, before enough CO2 could be generated to reach the appropriate greenhouse effect.

Clearly, for evolving advanced life, more than a billion years is needed. Thus planets with indigenous life will be restricted to red and yellow dwarves (the sun is one of the latter, with an estimated lifespan of ten billion years before turning ephemerally into a red giant).

The 2012 sci-fi (silly) movie “Battleship” has it right on that point: most of the habitability is found cuddling next to red dwarf stars, so that aliens would be blinded by our sunlight is likely. This also means that life out there has a good probability to have evolved in what, for us, would be rather dim circumstances. Indeed most stars are red dwarves and those are the longest living stars, easily going on for 15 billion years (they use their thermonuclear fuel conservatively).

Some red dwarves could have evolved life, in our Milky Way galaxy, when our sun, a mighty yellow dwarf, did not exist yet. Such stars, with their habitable planets, could still be around.

Being in the habitable zone is necessary for life, but it’s not sufficient.

For example, any planet orbiting too close to its star will lock its orbital rotation and its diurnal rotation (as the Moon has with the Earth). Thus the planet will have one side too hot for life, and the other too cold.

That means that when red dwarves become too small, their habitable zones, get too close, and would-be habitable planet lock down. (Venus, although 100 million kilometers from the Sun is nearly locked: it rotate on itself slower than it does around the Sun.)

The Earth is totally exceptional. She is endowed with a huge satellite that stabilizes her inclination on the orbital plane (Mars’ inclination on the elliptic varies wildly, causing wildly fluctuating super-seasons). This resulting, constant and mild inclination allows the poles to not get too cold, and the tropics, not too warm: it spreads the goodness of sunlight around.

Earth is also a mighty nuclear reactor, providing with the shield of a powerful magnetosphere (Venus does not have any, so its upper atmosphere is scorched by the solar wind), and plate tectonic (allowing for a complex recycling mechanism involving CO2 and long term climate stability).

The present, sort of official, habitability zone theory is 20 years old. It showed that Earth was within 5% of receiving too much warmth from her star. What has been found by the latest study is even more disturbing: Earth is within 1%, 1.5 million kilometers of inhabitability (5 times the Earth-Moon distance).

Earth is, astronomically, at risk of getting too hot, and of suffering a run-away greenhouse, as Venus did.

Long ago, Venus may have been in the habitable zone. However, general main sequence star theory, and observation, show that the Sun has warmed up. Its power output has increased by at least 25% since it got started. So the habitable zone in the Solar System has been slowly moving outward.

Why did the Earth cool over the last 100 million years, if the sun is slowly warming up? It probably has to do with non linear effects related to the geometry of the continents: the continents migrated north, and shallow tropical seas disappeared. The migration of land towards the north augmented the albedo of the Earth (as land stays frozen in summer more easily than sea, ice and snow keep reflecting more sunlight back to space, even then; that’s the core of the two centuries old glaciation theory).

So, as Earth should have warmed up, by a miracle, a sun shade, the glaciated North, was put in place, just in time!

Not all the coolness is due to ice and snow. Earth, before very recent human interference, had long been endowed with a cool climate. It seems that clouds make the difference (the effects clouds bring are too complex to be taken into account in computer programs of habitability at this point).
It’s a double edged sword. Water vapor may bring more clouds, but it is also a mighty greenhouse gas.

Still the point remains that all the objective data show that, our planet is not far, astronomically speaking, from a runaway greenhouse. By keeping on pumping a witches’ brew of greenhouse warming gases in the atmosphere, we are, literally playing with fire. Every day we add nearly 100 million tons, in CO2 alone, in our apparent urge to mimic Venus.

Pumping 450 million years of carbon into the air all of a sudden is not smart: Earth has had plate tectonics from the start, so much of this carbon was sequestered. Now we are freeing huge quantities of it… and in a geological, and biological, snap.

All other things being equal, the Earth is closer to inhabitability through warming than it was 400 million years ago (when the CO2 was very high). Having the same CO2 in the air as in the Carboniferous Era would result in a warmer planet.
To make things worse, there are no plausible technological fixes to too much CO2 in the atmosphere (with existing science and technology; and contrarily to disinformation from the fossil carbon burning fanatics).

In between the high- and low-mass stars lie stars similar to our own Sun. They make up about 15% percent of the stars in the galaxy. Such stars have reasonably-broad Habitable Zones, do not suffer from hard UV irradiation, have lifetimes of the order of 10 billion years. They are the best candidates for harboring planets with indigenous life.

Intriguingly, the three stars of the Alpha Centauri system may harbor life. The system is made of two main yellow dwarves, one slightly bigger, one slightly smaller than the sun. They come as close to each other as Saturn is from the Sun (not close enough to affect each other Habitable Zones directly).

A planet was just detected, grazing the .9 solar mass Alpha Centauri B. (We have the means to find out if the system supports life, but NASA and the Congress of the USA, shut down the projects, in an apparent fit of obscurantist anti-science rage; one of them called the Terrestrial Planet Finder; Alpha Centauri would be reachable with nuclear propulsion.)

The stability of orbits (hence of the Habitable Zones) in the Alpha Centauri system has been debated. Many a stellar system has been found where giant planets have progressively swept the entire system. And we are always one giant comet away from extinction. That could happen in 6 months. And we don’t know, because we are apparently not interested to find out. (Although the mightiest nuke could solve that problem, that would require some preparations.)

Life exists in the cosmos, everywhere, but it’s fragile. Everywhere. Including on so far invincible fortress Earth. Invincible, but still so fragile.

3,000 years after the Greeks elaborated their mythology, we find out that, contrarily to what they guessed, Earth is far from the mother of all what is divine. There are greater powers out there… The worst of them being, potentially, ourselves.

As a star goes up the main sequence, its Habitability Zone moves out. So we should be careful to think we can reconstitute the conditions of the Carboniferous Era, by pumping as much CO2 in the air as there was then, and prosper.

Everything indicates that we will punch straight trough.
Patrice Ayme

Deflating BIG BANG’s Inflation.

March 25, 2012


Abstract: The Big Bang cosmological model is possibly completely false. It depends alarmingly upon the speed of expansion of the universe, assuming that, for reason and mechanism unknown, it was, at some point, for some convenient duration, trillions of trillions of times the speed of light. Or maybe not.

I give also a few other reasons to throw cold water on the Big Bang.

Geometrically the Big Bang assumes that it is “turtles all the way down”. Yet, Quantum Physics, properly interpreted, gives us reasons to think otherwise. Especially after integrating the latest experimental results on the apparent singularization of Quantum waves (2011). (If that gets confirmed, singularization is the greatest discovery in Quantum Physics since 1924: Louis De Broglie would be right, and Niels Bohr, wrong. I have always believed in singularization.)

It is unfortunate that this activity, Big Bang physics, has been all too much celebrated as the greatest success of the human spirit, and scientific rigor. I will try to show below that it is closer to mythology than to proper science. Although my reasons below are deep and cogent, it is clear that even the masses have some intuitive doubts about scientists who seem all too sure about the grandest scheme of things. Having Hawking telling us about “A Short History of Time“, when nobody knows what time is, is not conducive to respect.

No wonder that, with such a model as the Big Bang brandished all the time as science much to admire, and presumably to emulate, all too many people feel that with science, anything goes. And thus, as often found in the USA, in a further identification, that anything goes is science. So to each its own. And next thing you know, fundamentalists pop up in every backyard.

On the positive side, Big Bang madness gives an opportunity to illustrate the fact that the topology of the space of all theories is not connected (if a single one of a few hypotheses Big Bangists make casually, is false, the Big Bang theory will completely implode into the nothingness it claims the universe arises from!)

[The essay is technical in parts; readers are invited to imitate Big Bang physicists, and jump over any part they don’t understand, to get a feeling for the overall message, which is that Big Bang physics is not science according to the most exacting standards of science… Paradoxically enough for an area with such pretense!]



A physicist relates in “Turtles all The Way Down?” that he got an interesting email about the Big Bang. Basically the writer said it was obvious mythology, and the physicist insisted it was not so: “The writer said she didn’t see how you could make something out of nothing. She collects creation myths and thought that, no matter how you sliced it, it’s always “turtles all the way down.” This is a reference to creation myths where the world is poised on top of a turtle, which is itself poised on top of something else, but raises the issue: Is there any firm ground?

This is worth addressing because it illustrates the gulf between the understandings in people’s minds about the Big Bang on one hand, and how physicists deal with it on the other. To be clear – we have a wealth of observations that support the Big Bang, but you have to be careful. We can only look back into the universe to a moment 300,000 years after the ‘start,’ as best we can discern it. At this early moment, the universe went from being opaque to transparent… The remnant photons from this time are seen as the so-called cosmic microwave radiation “

The later pontificating affirmation depends upon the common wisdom interpretation of the 3 degree Kelvin Cosmic Microwave Radiation as photons from the Big Bang explosion. Well, that’s mostly an hypothesis. For example, if photons, just as neutrinos (long thought to be massless), turn out to have a non zero rest mass, that hypothesis will be out of the window.

Those cosmic microwave photons are supposed to be cosmically distended, and thus weakened, by the expansion of their wave packets from the cosmic expansion of space, the later itself depending upon the Big Bang model. This is just a supposition, albeit a crucial one. In other words, the Big Bang model is eerily reminiscent of a house of cards of mutually supporting assertions: turtles all the way down in a mutually supporting circle.

I will argue that it looks all too much as a vicious circle to be used as a way to illustrate what science is. Science is about establishing iron clad proofs, not wishful thinking with proofs depending upon what they want to demonstrate (which is all what the interpretation of cosmic photons as big bangers is).

Reconciling models with data sounds reasonable. That is what is done in most of science. However it is not scientific, if the models have nothing to do with reality to start with. If the model is angels on a pinhead, no amount of tweaking of the model, will get it right.

This is related to a much more general problem, that of the distance between systems of thought (which is all what “models” are). If models are too far from each other, they cannot morphed into each other.

When Darwinian style models were unable to explain ultra fast adaptative evolution, epigenetics had to be invented.

The greatest discovery in cosmology since the discovery of the expansion has been the fact that it proceeded at an accelerating pace. That was not predicted by the main stream cosmology.

It was pointed out by De Sitter (1917), Friedman (1924) and Lemaître (1927) that the Einstein gravity equation described an expanding universe (none of these scientists were American).

The work of a number of astronomers, culminating with Hubble, confirmed the expansion later: the visible universe was dynamic. As an homage to American hegemony, Lemaître’s law came to be known as Hubble Law. Never mind that Hubble himself as late as 1936, did not believe in the Big Bang finding weird the “anomaly of a curiously small and dense and… suspiciously young universe”. Besides the injustice, it introduces a flaw in the logical flow of discovery.

When it became obviously confirmed that distant galaxies were receding, and the further, the faster, Einstein proclaimed his “greatest blunder”, that of having introduced a “Cosmological Constant”, precisely to imply a static universe.

The Einstein gravity field equation was built to reflect Riemann’s 1854 idea on the nature of force. That came out of his  Habilitationsschrift entitled Über die Hypothesen welche der Geometrie zu Grunde liegen (“On the hypotheses which underlie geometry“), a remarkable essay that contained just one equation (if that). Riemann observed that acceleration could be described by geodesics behavior, whether they came together, or separated. Thus force could be so described.

Basically, applied to gravity, that meant the gravity equation ought to be: curvature of spacetime = mass-energy of spacetime.

However Quantum Physics was discovered meanwhile. It says that energy travels in packets (Planck 1900-Einstein 1905). Yet, those packets are computed by waves (De Broglie 1923).

In other words, it was not turtles all the way down. At some point, the turtles turn into waves.

Einstein’s gravity equations did not incorporate matter, in a detailed way, that is, Quantum Physics. When some Quantum Field Theory ideas were introduced a bit (Zeldovich, before 1973, “Hawking radiation“, 1974), it turned out that, after all, Black Holes evaporated (contrarily to what Michell (1784) and Laplace (1796), discoverers of the idea of Black Holes would have expected to be ever possible in the slightest way).

But much more needs to be done: except when wave packets have collapsed, matter is all waves. The exact nature of these waves is unknown. Recent Quantum experiments, using “weak measurements” apparently exhibit waves-with-singularities, the picture De Broglie himself had proposed to go further than the Copenhagen Interpretation of de Broglie’s work.

Should something like the Big Bang make sense, the exact mathematical nature of the matter waves, and how to accommodate those singularities would have to become paramount. (As the purported  confirmation of the singularities was published on June 2, 2011 in Science magazine, the depth of these considerations will take some time to reach the society of cosmologists… After all it took more than 40 years to realize that the time-energy uncertainty implied Black Hole evaporation, which should have been immediately obvious!)

Back to our cosmological theory timeline. Time passed. Gamow made fun of the notion of everything coming out of a point, calling it the “Big Bang“. However, the Cosmological Cosmic Background was found at 3 Kelvin, a remnant, it was suggested of said explosion.

That ruled out the Steady State Cosmology, it seemed.

Yet, when regions distant by more than light can travel, they were found to be the same, as if the universe had always been there.

So some physicists postulated that the universe had expanded faster than light by an enormous factor. That was called inflation, caused by a non observedinflaton field“.

Indecipherable reasonings were rolled out to claim that the mass-energy uncertainty inequality could be made to fabricate matter and energy, as needed. Indecipherable: indeed, a point of infinite density does not make sense in Quantum Physics (which basically insists that there are no points). And never mind that the new Big Bang, cosmological inflation looked exactly like Hoyle’s Steady State theory, after all (as Hoyle himself pointed out to a frosty reception in 1994).

The Big Bang reasonings are full of major assumptions whose proofs are justified by the end, namely the Big Bang, truly a beginning (as found in the Bible?).

For example, how do we know that cosmological photons do not, in some sense, simply age, producing thus the 3 Kelvin background? How do we know that, if the universe can expand so incredibly fast at some point, it could not expand incredibly slow, at some other point? Or even shrink for a while, in a recession, before resuming inflation?

For that matter we do not know why, at this point, the universe is expanding ever faster. Or is it just here?

And what is the evidence that a universe can be created out of nothing? Stanford’ s professor Linde, one of the originator of the inflation cosmology, has been writing articles where he creates universes all over, all the time. There is zero evidence for that.

(There was a whole school of Soviet physicists who, for philosophical reasons, were highly critical of “General Relativity”, starting, correctly with its absurd name; they followed Vladimir Fock 1955 book… which I own. Zeldovich and Linde were among them, they basically discovered much of what was attributed later to Western physicists, to emphasize the glory of plutocratically connected universities!)

Big bang specialists will snarl that I did not mentioned that GUTs (Grand Unified Theories)fit the Big Bang like a glove, so my objection that the Quantum is not integrated in the Big Bang is uninformed.

However, we talk of different things, at different scales. The Big Bang ultimately makes assertions, unsupported assertions, I added, about what is called the Trans-Planckian scale, where Quantum Field Theory breaks down. Conventional Big Bang theory uses basically Riemann’s mathematics from 1854 CE that ignores the waves-with-singularities that the universe is probably made of. That’s fine as a classroom project, it’s not fine as an example of what science can do, or, a fortiori, of what science is.

Big Bang cosmology is not science in the usual meaning of the term. It’s not molecular biology, geology, or material science. Nor mathematics. It’s all too much a bunch of assumptions piled up on top of each other, covered up by ironclad naïve certainty, a contagious illness probably contacted from the Standard Model of particle physics.

Real science demonstrates why Sea Lions and Seals, although they look the same, at first sight, are actually very different, since they evolved from very different ancestors. That illustrates well convergent evolution, when the same mathematics in the environment lead to the same solutions.

Real science demonstrates how stars evolve, going through many stages according to their masses and the nature of the various successive thermonuclear reactions in their core.

Real science explains why life is carbon based, thanks to the wealth of complexities carbon chemistry lends itself to.

Real science explains what happens to cause a tsunami (confirming what Greek philosophers suspected it was, 25 centuries ago).

Big Bang cosmology uses all too finely tuned reasonings unsupported by firm logic or experimental certainty, all over its theoretical landscape. Possibly, it’s completely false. It is unfortunate that this possible complete falsehood is depicted by physicists eager for cheap fame or book sales as the ultimate in science. In its present state, it is the best creation mythology we have, or an amusing project, but little more than that.

Inflated science is poetry, or metaphor. It is not science. Real science is truth. Real science is what’s left when everything else has been exposed as lies. In the case of the Big Bang, among other things, all other possibilities besides the common interpretation of Cosmic Microwave Background, have not been examined in detail, and thus

Real science is what allows planes to fly, not a bunch of lies and exaggerations held together by the thin veneer of self glorification. Scientific poetry, such as the Big Bang, is closer to science fiction, or mythology.

John Huth concludes his essay reasonably with: “We [Big bang cosmologists]fully realize that our models will extrapolate to conditions that raise difficult issues, like infinite densities. More often than not, the difficult conditions are something we avoid talking about, because, largely, we cannot really test or measure these. If it is inaccessible, it is inaccessible. The work can be perhaps more likened to the work of explorers. Our job is to map new territories, and, if anything, we can only report on territories we’ve explored. What lies beyond the horizon is a matter of speculation.
Responses? Questions? Contact me on Twitter @John Huth”

One would wish cosmologists would be that reasonable, all the time, for all to read and hear. How well one has explored, that is the question. For the longest time, explorers reported the strangest things and monsters they had absolutely seen (an exasperated Aristotle dispatched students to go out and faithfully report on all the biology they could rigorously observe). To claim one has seen light from a big boom may be true, but it is not scientifically demonstrated. Yet.

(And that photons do not age seems unlikely to me for reasons I have mentioned in older essays of mine. I am happy to report that Feynman, no less, approved of my considerations when I evoked them.)

One interest of science is to teach how the faith we have in models can be reconciled with evidence. That the distance between models can be insurmountable is an important lesson in the history of thought. No amount of tweaking could bring the geocentric theory close to the correct one, the heliocentric theory. One had to shatter the faith, to realize that yes, quite possibly, planets were turning around the sun: that is what Buridan and his students concluded around 1300 CE, after rolling over Aristotle’s erroneous physics, and introducing the concept of inertia. However, of course, they added perfidiously, ‘scripture‘ said the sun turned around the Earth, so we may as well believe that, since we cannot tell at this point, for sure.

If the distance between models with scientific pretense can be insurmountable, so can it be, for the distances between mentalities (and, in particular, civilizations). That is the core justification of the crackdown secularism had to implement upon murderous superstitions. (The obvious example being the outlawing of the Celtic or Carthagenese religions, to put it intemporally, not wanting to allude to anything having to do with the sects of Abraham… At least today.)

It’s not turtles all the way down, or turtles everywhere. Genuinely different thought systems and mentalities exist. And the way to explore that is by excluding all other possibilities, the way real science does, and the way that, precisely cosmology of the origins does, and cannot do.

Some will cynically argue that, to get funding to launch satellites and other big science projects, one needs pretty stories to charm the infantile minds of politicians. But I will not go down that slippery slope.

The main interest of science is to teach to the obscure masses how to learn to distinguish  truth from fiction. Everything else, however useful, is secondary. To pass a charming fiction such as the Big Bang for a certainty is just the sort of masquerade of the scientific method that genuine scientist will want to eschew.


Patrice Ayme

Science Better Accelerate With The Universe

October 6, 2011


Abstract: The Accelerating Universe is one of the greatest discovery in physics for more than 70 years. It requires new physics to explain it, some sort of anti-gravitation at a very large scale. First established with supernovas, it seems to have been confirmed independently by a galactic survey. “Dark Acceleration” would be a better way to call it than “Dark Energy” (for two reasons: it expands the dark, and we don’t know for sure that it is caused by “energy” in the conventional sense).

This astounding discovery of that the universe is taking off, is typical of how revolutionary science is created. Checking supernovae was just supposed to be routine, a sort of boring science anti-scientists condemn. It was supposed to confirm what the Big Bangists all knew so well: the universe was expanding less fast than in the past, as the Big Bang theory had proven it.

Helas, it was not so! We are faced with something not just unpredicted, but thoroughly unpredictable by conventional physics.

[Some embryonic theories predicted the accelerating expansion, as those I call Dimensional Leakage (they have no official name I know of) and TOW.] 

Revolutionary science is all about finding out the unexpected. Revolutionary science keeps on being found, so we  have faith, we the faithful, the scientists, that much more revoltuionary science has to be found. The Accelerating Universe further bolsters our faith that the present physics with its Standard Model, a noble, useful, fruitful, but naïve and feeble attempt, missed one or more dimensions in the needed logic of what is going on.

How does one find the unexpected? Well, by using the most corrosive logic, propped by the most drastic imagination, and the most careful observations.

The supernova surveys belong to the later, extreme experimental care, and so does the OPERA experiment on neutrinos, and other efforts at CERN. Lesson? All of science has to be funded, if we want to find the unexpectable. Don’t just listen to the fashionable ones. Actually fashionable physics has rigorously not scored for several decades now. It’s not “Not even wrong!“, as physicist pointed out (Their millions of “predictions” are all over the place, so, whatever happened, they said so! Besides, none can be checked!)

Interestingly, the Nobel committee emphasized the point by offering the chemistry Nobel to an Israeli, “for the discovery of quasi-crystals“.

Intelligence is the only thing which can save Israel, and its neighbors, so it is a good indication that the 62 year old nation of seven million got ten Nobel prize winners. This is all the more striking that quasiperiodic patterns are a discovery made by the Islam led civilization, which long controlled Israel and Palestine.

Surviving in this universe we created for ourselves we require us to master the unexpected. So finance the most profitable activity of the government: fundamental research.

When the regime in the USA (the monneyed Congress) cancelled the Super Conducting Super Collider, it saved less than 10% of the bonuses it paid with public money to Wall Street in the first year after the 2008 collapse of deregulated finance.

And what did the Wall Street pirates spent their money on? $40,000 Champagne bottles? Whereas the ever better telescopes use ever better technology which no other human activity requires at this point. $40,000 Champagne has no future, but the new technology used in astronomy does. It could even save our lives (two small asteroids bracketed the Earth this summer, and one of them so close it was severely deflected; the silly ones will say that it does not matter, but if the 1908 bolide had exploded over Wall Street rather than over a desolated part of the Siberian forest, there would have been no more New York).

Let alone all the medical research, say on cancer, which was not financed, because it is $40,000 Champagne which got funded instead. The Medecine Nobel Prize honored progress in immunology. One of the recipients died of pancreatic cancer before the announcement. He had been using his discovery, dentritic immune cells, to activate his own defenses against his cancer. A few days later, the artistic technology integrator of Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, died of the same cancer, after 7 years of a long battle. Some claimed that Jobs got a liver transplant in 2009 that the average job seeker would never have got. So money is never far from it all. There is clearly need for more biomedical research, for those who prefer their lives and those of their loved ones. But who are they, those who care about life? Who are they relative to those, the immense majority, who prefer, by far, seeing 20 something traders  buy a $40,000 Champagne bottle and then cause with it another $50,000 in damage to a restaurant? (That happened in Paris.)




I was a bit surprised that the physics Nobel was given for the faster-than-expected expansion of the universe. Not that the discovery was not important. Just the opposite extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. Clearly the committee decided to encourage research in the area, by making it more prestigious. Inasmuch as our leading politicians seem cowardly, unable to decide anything important, the Nobel committee has adopted the opposite strategy, bold, fully appropriate.

The Accelerating Universe is the most stunning discovery in experimental physics since, perhaps, the accidental confirmation of De Broglie’s matter waves by two American experimentalists. In the case of matter waves, theory (from De Broglie, in conceptual depths never touched before or since) preceded the discovery. Same thing with antimatter (Dirac predicted it).

But the Accelerating Universe was predicted by no prominent theory. It was an experimental find completely outside of standard theory, just as it was the case with neutrinos.

Neutrinos were also very important, because they meant that there was a new interaction at work, the weak force. Before the neutrinos and their weak force, Einstein knew of only two forces: gravitation and electromagnetism. So he said lots of things about space, and time, trying to tie both of the latter, with the preceding two. As if they could have eyes only for each other. Cute. Romantic. (An integrated 5 dimensional theory, Kaluza-Klein integrated both).

However, with the discovery of the weak force, it looked as if adding one, or more, dimensions was lurking in the distance. Einstein was unable to pursue his dream, and it would be taken again, long after his death, by adding dimensions frantically, using the mathematical theory of fiber bundles.

The basic idea of the Einstein gravitational field equation is:

[Curvature of spacetime = Energy (in) spacetime].

(The idea was spawned by Riemann, a generation before Einstein’s birth.) Both curvature and energy are locally defined, so this is an equation at every point, and it has to be integrated to give a geometry of the universe over a sizable bit.)

Just as it is, even in this grossest of approximations, there are a lot of problems with this would-be equation (the right hand side is not well defined, as Einstein himself remarked, and depends upon the left hand side, as I would perfidiously add).

A problem Einstein saw was that, as his equation was, the curvature would be unstable in time: it would either collapse the universe, or then the universe would have to expand. But Einstein came out at night he saw that the stars were not moving: Einstein believed that the universe was static. So Einstein added a little constant on the left hand side of his equation, the Cosmological Constant, k, to prevent the universe to move.

This was a singular example of lack of imagination, because proper motions were first demonstrated by Edmund Halley in 1718 for the three bright stars: Sirius, Aldebaran, and Arcturus. Halley compared his measurements of their positions to those made by Hipparchus of Rhodes (300 BCE). In 2000 years the motions built up to the point that they became apparent to naked eye observers.

One should have suspected galaxies also moved. Not just that, but Hubble, operating with the Hooker telescope at Mt Wilson, next to Los Angeles, then the largest in the world (until 1948, with its 2.5 meters, just 10 centimeters larger than the Hubble Space telescope), soon discovered that distant galaxies were going away from us wherever he looked, and the further they were, the faster they went. [Speed Galaxy = (Constant) (distance galaxy)].

Einstein coquettishly proclaimed his recourse to k, the cosmological constant, the “greatest blunder of his life“. Because otherwise, he pointed out, he would have been able to predict what Hubble found. (I rather think that the greatest blunder of his life was to abandon his family, but that’s just me.)

I am giving all these sordid details to show that scientific inventions are not always what they are cracked up to be, even from the best and brightest. It was a sort-of-a-prediction, because, in all intellectual honesty, Einstein did not know whether the cosmological constant was zero or not, one way or another.

Actually, if he had been really crafty, the way he liked to be crafty, he could have said:”It is possible, considering my cosmological constant can vary all over the place, that the universe will be found to accelerate more or less, like Hubble saw, or even shrink, on an even larger distance, here or there”. So Einstein made the biggest blunder in his life, twice, with his own cosmological constant, by his own weatherwane standards, depending how the cosmic wind was blowing through his brain.

Because an Accelerating Universe was found: type 1a Supernovas at large cosmological distance flee faster and faster from us.



Of course installing an Einstein’s Cosmological Constant in Einstein gravitational equation is purely descriptive.  Nobody has any certainty about its source. The Cosmological Constant depicts DARK ACCELERATION. I call expansion beyond the Hubble prediction, Dark Acceleration, because we don’t know what it is due to.

People use interchangeably “Dark Energy” and what I call Dark Expansion, but the concepts are different. Dark Expansion is a fact, but it is not necessarily due to “Dark Energy”.

So “Dark Energy” is an abuse of language. Actually there are at least two imaginable mechanisms where Dark Acceleration is not caused by Dark Energy.

The DARK ENERGY idea proposes that somehow energy is injected in space which allows it to expand faster. Imaginable explanations for Dark Energy could be:

VACUUM ENERGY, which has been brandished as the source of the Dark Expansion. In Quantum Field Theory, the vacuum is full of energy. Nobody knows how much. All we know is that there is some energy in the vacuum (we have some indirect theoretical-experimental proofs, and direct measurements such as the Casimir effect). Evocations of “Vacuum Energy” are generally not accompanied of suggestions for a mechanism to expand the universe with it.

What do we observe though? A faster expansion. It could be due to a weakening of gravity at large distances (interestingly, inside galaxies and galactic clusters, gathering of the mysterious Dark Matter makes gravity stronger).

A mechanism to weaken gravity has been proposed by suggesting that space has more than three dimensions, and that gravity, somehow, would be leaking in one or more of these dimensions. One could call it DIMENSIONAL LEAKAGE. Dimensional leakage has also been proposed to explain the possible supraluminal speed of the very high energy neutrinos coming out of CERN (high energy neutrinos would jump into an extra dimension which shortens their trajectory through the “bulk“).

A final explanation for accelerated expansion could be TOW (Totally Objective wave), the author’s pet theory. TOW rests on the idea that its (hypothetic) Quantum Interaction proceeds at absolute speed TAU (more than ten billion times the speed of light!) Even though, the Quantum Interaction is overwhelmed by large cosmological distances: when a graviton, coming from way too far, singularizes itself, it loses part of its energy. Thus, according to TOW, gravity should weaken at large distances (just as light does).

The fact that there is no ready explanation for the Dark Acceleration shows that the hubristic crowd sing-songing on the rooftops about the “end of physics” a while ago, did not have much imagination. (Feynman was told about TOW, and was very appreciative, by the way.) 



When Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman claimed to have stumbled upon a new type of crystalline structure that seemed to violate the then known of the laws of nature, his “peers” and some giants of chemistry (Pauling) mocked him, insulted him and exiled him from his research group (“Danny, go away!“). “I was thrown out of my research group. They said I brought shame on them with what I was saying, I never took it personally. I knew I was right and they were wrong.”

Indeed, he just received the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

The lesson? “A good scientist is a humble and listening scientist and not one that is sure 100 percent in what he read in the textbooks” Shechtman said. I would add that the greater the thoughts, the fewer the peers.

The shy, 70-year-old Shechtman said he never doubted his findings and considered himself merely the latest in a long line of scientists who advanced their fields by challenging the conventional wisdom and were shunned by the establishment because of it. And the greater the idea, the greater the shunning.

In 1982, “Metallic Phase with Long-Range Orientational Order and No Translational Symmetry” by Dan Shechtman et al. demonstrated “Order with No Translational Symmetry”, the key here. Translational symmetry is what Pauling wanted to see, because he learned it in his kindergarten, way back when. That, or no symmetry at all, namely a glass, as Shechtman had expected to find. But Shechtman had serendipitously discovered what are now called “quasicrystals” – atoms arranged in patterns that seemed forbidden by nature…

Although they were clearly authorized in Islamic art since the Middle Ages… which should have been enough of an hint: if even the Islamists allowed them, assuredly their existence could not be denied. True, at that point Islam was very open minded, and early in that “Golden Age”, most of the thinkers were actually not Muslims, but Jews, Zoroastrians, with probably a vast complement of atheist Neoplatonists. Theocratic fascism, as among the Franks, would grow later (and simultaneously with the Franks, as fascists, on both sides, realized that the Bible was an inspirational celebration of holocausts and other injustices that kept on being rewarded in high places, and thus provided business opportunities).

Quasiperiodicity was recorded from an Al-Mn alloy which has been rapidly cooled after melting (which probably means the quasi periodicity is higher energy than full periodicity).

The art in Isfahan (a fantastic city I highly recommend, by the way, not just artistically speaking, but for the presence of immensely old wisdom breathing through the stupendous beauty displayed in mosques and other buildings) showed that quasicrystals were logically permissible. They preceded the work of the British mathematician Penrose by nine centuries, and, definitively constitute the original discovery.

It seems pretty obvious to me that the mere possibility of these, as exhibited in the mosques, did most of the conceptual work. And how could not chemical bonds glue all the atoms all together, once we had showed the quasiperiodic pattern was possible? It’s not quasicrystals which were surprising, but how people could think they could not exist. 

The discovery “fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. It redefined the notion of crystal in textbooks. Previously, a crystal had “a regularly ordered, repeating three-dimensional pattern,” according to the International Union of Crystallography. The new definition, adopted in 1992, states that a crystal is any solid with a “discrete diffraction diagram — that is, something that produces patterns, whatever a pattern is, just as Shechtman saw.

Quasiperiodic tiling, Masjid-e-Jameh
Quasiperiodic tiling,
Masjid-e-Jameh, Isfahan

Since Shechtman’s discovery, more quasicrystals have been found. A Swedish company found them in most durable steel, used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery, the academy said. Quasicrystals are studied for use in new materials converting heat to electricity.

They have also been discovered in nature, in a Siberian river. As it seems obvious that they will prevent the propagation of fractures, one may expect to see plenty of quasicrystals in a future near us, except of course, if the banksters devour our civilization first, like they tried last time and the time before that, with their dangerous marionettes.

Quasi periodic structures are all over nature. They depict the subquantum world. Indeed the waves produced by dropping four or more stones into a pond always form a quasicrystal (or more exactly a quasiperiodic pattern), because there is a mathematical theorem saying this. Schechtman was aware of the  theorem, and when he saw the 10 fold quasiperiodicity, he knew.

Matter waves continually interfere, creating quasi periodic existence waves all over.



We are living in a scientific civilization, whether we like it or not, whether we are superstitious or not. The French ministry of ecology (headed by an experienced politician, a young and charging polytechnicienne who is piling up elected offices) just forbid by decree (executive order) fracking all over France (the National Assembly had already voted in that direction). The reason? Existing techniques have not demonstrated that they were ecologically sound, in the fullness of time. In other words, it was a purely scientific decision.

In the USA, fracking is practiced massively: whether the technique will lead to corruption of the aquifers is of no import, because, as Suskind’s book “Confidence Men” demonstrates, corruption is of the essence, and, now that it owns the White House, it may as well own the dark underground.

The essentiality of serious science is funded by states, as there is no monetary profit in it (learn, Tea Party!). But the science we have is not enough: we will soon be using several times this planet sustainable productivity, so we need to become much more efficient. This can be achieved only by considerable scientific progress, in all domains, from plate tectonics, to material science, to the most esoteric biology, to quantum algorithms, to whatever.

I say “to whatever” because there is no telling where the scientifically and, or, socially important breakthrough will occur.

For example nobody would have guessed that surveying supernovas would smash the hubristic certainty of those prestigious scientists who recited their new religion, the Theory Of Everything, the claim that they, the glorious ones, had figured out the entire universe (just like the proverbial god, before he got to know man). Not by coincidence, the peak of their hubris was around 1998, just when the accelerating universe started to make its presence known.

We are in scientific civilization, thus those who are anti-science are actually anti civilization. This is true even in the fossil fuel industry.

Even that fossil pursuit, trying to keep the fire going, as Homo Erectus already did, a million years ago, is scientific. Ever more primitively scientific, but still scientific, and involving many scientific issues, some potentially disastrous. Hydrocarbon burning is a massive scientific bet that the recombining with oxygen in the air of much of the hydrocarbons buried over 400 million years, will have no serious adverse consequence(s).

The evolving scientific evidence is that the consequences are many, and potentially extremely cataclysmically adverse. But as too many people in the leading countries are trained for superstitious, or sport analogy reasoning rather than scientific reasoning, especially in the USA, nothing much is done: other countries cannot afford to become uncompetitive with the USA and its 10,000 Chinese factories.  

Those who are not pro-science, being anticivilizational, are actually pro-world war, and pro-holocaust.

Should science not jump ahead, very soon, the coming holocaust is easy to compute: soon, on present trends, we will be using more than two sustainable earths, with eight billion people gnawing the shrinking resources (we are 7 billion now). Thus, if we do not augment our science considerably, we will have to cut the world population by half. 

Let’s insist on that point: we are exhausting the existing resources. For example we are well post easy-to-extract peak oil. The only reason we are not past vulgar peak oil, is that we are using increasing energetically expensive (energy is the only currency that counts by itself) and technologically expensive means.

The Romans did the same in their mines, with ever more slaves pushing ever more their primitive digging technology, to its bitter end, devastating the ecology for millennia. And they persisted, until they could not anymore. Exhausted, the mines closed for nearly 2,000 years. The Romans had no plans for that event. Nor did they have plan B.

Rome had been most technologically inventive as a republic. That’s how it vanquished everybody.

Having captured a Carthaginian ship, they, those Roman peasants, reverse engineered it, and made invincible fleets of ships. However as Rome progressively degenerated in the fascist dictatorship known as the Roman empire, innovation was the first victim, as proven by the fact that the Germans and Hellenized Persians became increasingly hard to beat on the open battlefield… because they had superior weapons (in particular, composite bows the arrows of which penetrated Roman armor).

Plutocratic, fascist imperial Rome did not want to understand that it was running out of science, considering the problems it faced. Plutocracy want the people to owe them, and the last thing it wants is to owe the people, and especially ideas! The official line in Rome was just to whine that the “world was getting old“. Rome was running out of resources, among other problems, its ore mines exhausted. When the Muslim army invaded, Rome needed to melt the metallic roofs of Rome to make weapons.

The master problem was of course that Rome was running out of moral, and thus intellectual, supremacy. When one treats one’s engineers, and engineering, badly, one runs out of engineering badly. (Something one can observe nowadays in the USA.) 

A similar shock between the demands of society and insufficient science and technology happened, roughly at the same time, to the Mayas (who confronted a dreadful drought). The Mayan ecology, construction technology, hydrology, agriculture and forestry science, although all sophisticated, and established for centuries, if not millennia, all came all too short, considering the crisis. Plutocracy got all enraged, and fought against itself, the way sharks do when they run out of food, and Mayan civilization imploded.

Science is about what really is, and why. With (more or less great) certainty. Thus science creates models and theories of great explanatory power, which can be emulated in other domains (sometimes simply as metaphors). Science transforms confusion and, or, phenomenological wealth into an harmonious explanatory whole. In other words, it can be inspirational, a leader to democracy, sociology, economy, even literature, poetry, etc.

It would be a dark future without new, really revolutionary science. Quasicrystals and the accelerating universe tell us, with certainty, that much revolutionary science is still to be discovered. Science has to pursue its dark expansion in the unknown, emulating the universe which harbors it. No choice.


Patrice Ayme


January 26, 2011



Abstract: A spotted recapitulation of gravitation and basic cosmology is offered, as an historical progression, using the occasion to show that the history of ideas meanders, and why. Dark Energy is presented.

In combination with the non locality of Quantum Physics, Dark Energy leads us to believe that the universe we know could be animated (so to speak) by a universe we cannot see. (Whereas most of the essay is standard fare, its last few paragraphs constitute some new physics.)




Dark Energy is a paradigm shattering discovery in physics. It’s blowing the universe apart, and that has various consequences.

What is the basic story? Dark Energy is a mysterious force, a form of anti-gravity, which pervades the universe. One has to go back a bit to understand the novelty of the situation. The ancients believed the universe was more or less fixed. Then, following Giordano Bruno, it was realized that the universe was full of distant stars.

The theocrats tortured and burned Bruno alive for this insight, because they wanted everybody to cling to the metaprinciple that all old beliefs and ways are correct… the safest way to insure that the masses would not suspect that Christianity was just a myth. Clinging to old beliefs, and old ways, as if they were always correct, always serves the oligarchies in power. (A picturesque manifestation of clinging to the past, hence of an oligarchic mental clamp down, is that the USA, is clinging to antique measuring units, that nobody else uses anymore, an indication that the USA is losing its grip on the cliff of reason.)

The French astronomer Ismaël Boulliau suggested that Kepler was wrong about the gravitational force. Kepler had declared that the gravitational force holding the planets in place decreased inversely to distance. Boulliau held instead that the force decreased as an inverse square law. He deduced this in analogy to light. This is interesting in two ways: Isaac Newton acknowledged Boulliau’s discovery of the inverse square law, using it as an argument that his adversary Hooke was lying, about having had the idea first. Thus Isaac was less chauvinistic than many to be born in centuries since, who have insisted Newton invented everything, including the principle of inertia (due to Buridan, circa 1320 CE), and the inverse square law.

I do not make such snide remarks out of base feelings. It is just the opposite. It is important to understand how ideas appear, grow, and morph. Or how they get suppressed. The body of knowledge gathered by Buridan was a victim of the an eruption of fascist theocracy, a full century after his death (which soon caused two centuries of religious wars and terror).

It is important to understand that intellectual fascism is frequent, a master driver of history, and thus a clear and present danger. When there are masters, and they decide that some knowledge is dangerous, they can, not only suppress it, but suppress loudly all and any knowledge beyond the task at hand their slaves are ordered to do.


This suppression of spontaneous intellectual activity, and general curiosity, often replaced by an obnubilation with team sports (as Juvenal smirked 19 centuries ago) makes “We The People” closer in intellectual temperament to sheep. It’s primordial to teach them to bleat and enjoy nothing more than herd mentality and being fleeced now and then. Thus, the insistence on the exceptionalism of the USA: “We Are The United States Of America”, a form of bleating. Right now some in the USA want to resurrect the espionage Act of 1917, which basically punished free speech (although, of course, the Supreme Court of the USA found that it did not.)

Another important point in exposing an accurate history of ideas is that really new ideas are hard to come by. Because of a weird seduction of the fascist instinct, the tendency to elevate heroes one can adulate, those who write history have the misleading habit to make it into mythology, a bit like Homer. They pile up most of the creation of ideas on a few characters, the super heroes. It is handy for hero worship, and it facilitates memory, but it does not reflect the real creative process, which is more diffuse and democratic.

To realize how new ideas truly arise, not from The One, but out of a more democratic process, has implications for the growth and maintenance of civilization: looking for a small elite of patented geniuses is not the way to do it. But then, of course, when power becomes fascist, it enjoys, and needs, to show to the masses, that superlative thinking is highly elitist, in a way fully compatible with the grandeur of the fascist leaders. Newton having invented it all was a perfect reason to trust the other geniuses leading the Anglo-Saxon empires.

Notice also that Boulliau made an analogy to light: that analogy is one of the main ingredients in Einstein’s gravitation. It is also one of the key ingredient of “Quantum Gravity”. This highly speculative theory argues that because light is made of particles, the photons, and they carry the electromagnetic force, so should gravity be carried by its own particles, the gravitons. Science does not exclude simplicity, in first approach.

The question of why the universe was not collapsing upon itself ought to have been already blatant in conventional astronomy, but nobody paid any attention to it. Instead stability of the universe was viewed as God-given, to the point that Einstein, the sacred genius, contrived an anti-gravity term in his gravitational equation, just so that the universe would stay suspended, like the rock islands of the planet Pandora in the movie “Avatar”. It was about as pretty, and as justified.

Unfortunately for Einstein, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble in Los Angeles discovered in the 1920’s, using what was then the world’s most powerful telescope, that galaxies receded from us the faster, the further they were (another astronomer had already discovered the Doppler shifts, in Arizona).

So the far universe was far from static. It was as if there had been a big explosion, and the debris were galaxies flying away from each other. When one looks at galaxies further and further away from us they move away faster and faster, closer and closer to the speed of light. From the Doppler effect, galaxies appear redder and redder (it’s called the cosmological redshift), until they fade away because they move too fast (the distance at which they disappear from sight is called the event horizon). Parts of the universe far enough from us could move away at more than the speed of light (at least if the expansion is everywhere true and we can’t see the whole universe). That the speed of light is constant in Relativity ought to be taken with a grain of salt, as Einstein himself pointed out. (Or he uttered words to that effect, more exactly.) More precisely, constancy of light speed is a local phenomenon in space, which puts no limit on the speed of space, a global phenomenon.

Einstein whined that he would have predicted the expansion of the universe, if not for that anti-gravity that he added on because he had believed, with all very serious people, in the universe’s stability (the anti gravity term that Einstein had added in his gravitational equation is known by honorable people as the “Cosmological Constant“).

Einstein called this failure of his guesswork his “greatest blunder”. Whatever. The instability of the universe ought to have been already clear, well before that. Any philosopher could have suggested it, let alone an astronomer. And maybe some thought about it. However, nobody had dared to suggest it before Hubble, and he came up with the proof. The hard work was done by Hubble.

As it is turning out, anti-gravity seems to exist, indeed, and it is Dark Energy.

Science is about indomitable facts, not just the flights of fancy that allows us to guess more facts than we already have. Einstein introduced, and then removed, his cosmological constant. Now it has been re-introduced, to describe what is seen. But it’s all about tweaking an equation so that it is not blatantly contradicted by the observed facts.

The initial discovery of anti-gravity, so called Dark Energy, came when it was observed that supernovae (and the local pieces of universe they were attached to) were accelerating away from each other faster than standard cosmology held to be true.

This has an interesting physical and philosophical consequence: in the fullness of time far away galaxies will recede away from our local group of galaxies (which are in tight orbits around each other). Hence, after dozens of billions of years, they will get out of sight. Of course, by then the sun will have exhausted its thermonuclear fuel, collapsed, blown apart as a red giant, and collapsed again, crushing itself into a white dwarf. But let’s suppose, for the sake of the argument, that a race of astronomers appear, 50 billion years in the future. They will observe that the universe reduces to the local galactic group. They will have no idea of its true size.

At least the little scenario above is conventional wisdom, as faithfully depicted by Brian Greene in the New York Times. Notwithstanding, watch it, because here I come… I am a specialist of hidden conspiracies, and how to detect them nevertheless. If the Nazis and their plutocratic collaborators in the USA did not escape, nor will the universe.

So I am going to focus on a conspiracy in physics, non-locality. Conventional physics assumed that the physical universe was made of points, and finite bits (atoms). The idea came from the Greco-Romans. Perhaps the main subtlety of Quantum Physics is that it is not so. Philosophically, it’s not too surprising: how to define points if physical objects are made of bits? If points are the ultimate bit of reality, what are they made of? Intimately related to this is the nature of space.

Quantum Physics changed the conceptual game completely, by acknowledging that these concepts are related. It remains to be seen whether they transmogrify into each other, as I believe.

After a quantum interaction (or, as Feynman put it, a “fundamental process“), the products of the interaction are ENTANGLED. (To be precise the probability waves representing the products have merged into a single probability wave; I prefer “Quantum Interaction”, because some fundamental processes, such as planets crashing into each other, have nothing Quantum about them, so Feynman’s semantics is imprecise.)

Where does this come from? OK, to simplify the discourse, to bring it to a higher level of abstraction, I will identify particles and the probability waves describing them to each other. That’s what abstraction does: identifying differences, from a common essence.

When propagating, particles are waves. When they crash somewhere, though, the whatever-was-propagating crash as a point, not as a wave. This is the mystery of so called “wave-particle duality“. There is no contradiction: propagation = waves, and end of propagation = particles. But there is a mystery: how does the wave becomes a particle, and conversely? This used to be called the “collapse of the wave packet“, and caused most geniuses of physics serious headaches. So now the expression has been replaced by the more nebulous wording of “decoherence“. However, this metamorphosis [wave <-> particle] is the central practical notion, and difficulty, in constructing a quantum computer, and also the deepest problem in physics.

So let’s suppose an interaction is such that it will give two particles, A & B, in the end (the most basic type of interaction, if we ignore the possibility of self interaction). After the interaction, when the products are in flight (so to speak), they are represented by one wave. Just one single wave. That wave has NO notion of physical distance. So this math, or, rather, this absence of math, tells us immediately that we are inside a physical point. (Warning: in my own theory, this is not exactly what happens; but this is what the standard formalism of Quantum Physics says, although most physicists are too afraid for their neurons, to contemplate the notion; another way to phrase the absence of distance is by saying that time is only a one parameter group of transformation.)

One says (loosely) that the “particles A and B” are entangled. Then if one interacts with A (say), one destroys that single wave which entangled A and B. Thus one destroys it for B too. Even if B is twenty galaxies away. That effect, known as the EPR (Einstein Podolski Rosen), frustrated Einstein deeply. He called it a “spooky interaction at a distance“. Einstein, following Newton, hated interactions at a distance. Faraday’s field theory, with a help from Maxwell, had removed that difficulty for electromagnetism, and Einstein’s gravitation theory tried to mimic it.

Entangled particles are common in classical physics, and they are no problem: two billiard balls which have hit each other are the arch typical example. In classical physics, if one knew the position and speed of the two balls before collision, and of one of them after the collision, one can tell what the position and speed of the other are, and that all along.

In Quantum physics, the situation is seriously different. This is related to the fact that one cannot know the position and moment of a (small enough) particle simultaneously. In that case, if one measures either, it affects the other. And it’s like that all over Quantum Physics. To make it worse, as Niels Bohr correctly insisted, in Quantum Physics, the experimental device changes what it measures. .

Now imagine again that interaction creating two entangled particles. If one measures A, one has to use experimental device X. For example we force A through a polarizer X. Results will differ according to which direction X is pointing.

Initially we had just one wave, Wave (A,B). Then we interact with A, using X. So what we have now is no more Wave (A,B), but [Wave (A,B) + Wave (A, X)]. The wave has changed! It has changed for B! And B maybe two million parsecs away! (That’s further than our sister giant galaxy, Andromeda.)

So let’s recapitulate. Entanglement is the greatest mystery of physics. After interacting, two particles, A and B, will often share properties as just one probability wave. Thus measuring one of these properties on A will immediately have an EPR effect on B (by the way, biology uses this EPR to transport energy cleverly and effortlessly! So although I talk galaxies here, to make some aspects of the situation more obvious, non-locality in Quantum physics is central to life itself… and obviously central to consciousness many of the apparent features of which it shares.)

Now let’s suppose A and B interacted, and billions of years passed by. Suppose they end up in different places in cosmological space which separated from each other according to Hubble, and even more so, according to Dark Energy. Then suppose finally, after all these eons, that a little green monkey interacts with A. It will have an effect on B, in a part of the universe, that little green monkey does not even know exist.

Physics progresses a lot by thought experiments. Aristarchus’ (320 BCE) and Buridan’s (1320 CE) speculations about the heliocentric theory are famous. More generally most of theoretical physics is a set of mathematically assisted thought experiments. Maxwell is famous (among other things) for “Maxwell Demon”, a tiny creature selecting fast particles, and thus creating a hot container (heat is speed). It’s a cute picture, and Maxwell wanted to use it to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics That law says that entropy, that is disorder, always augments.

However, one had to be careful to consider the entire system… and to include the demon, though, who heats up, and generally blows up, so Maxwell’s idea was incorrect, although it has led, ever since, to a lot of refinement in thinking on the whole subject.

I have my own demon, and it’s not tiny, but cosmic, as the true devil of course is. So suppose a lot of Dark Energy operated for a long time, blowing the universe apart, and our galactic group is isolated in an apparently empty universe: nothing else can be seen. So we started from our present universe (call it U15, for 15 billion, a concession for Big Bang naivety). And now we are contemplating U100, the universe 100 billion years later, restricted, in appearance, to our local group.

Now suppose super intelligent little blue crabs starting from Neo Earth, have colonized the entire local galactic group. Could they tell their apparently isolated U100 universe is a small part of a much larger universe, for example U15, most of which is completely out of sight?

Enters Tyranosopher’s demon. That demon measures all the particles of the local group (how to do that? Ask Maxwell!). In the Quantum sense (so there are still indeterminacies). At that point the evolution of the local group is fully predictable (up to Quantum indeterminacies).

Meanwhile, let the little green monkey, who is out of sight, somewhere in the rest of U15, act on A. Then B, in turn, acts up. There is no limit on how much that could be scaled up: zillions of A and B pairs could be involved. So the green monkey could make zillions of Bs act up.

Would that be detectable? Yes. Once the Tyranosopher demon has catalogued the entire local group, if the action of green monkey is large enough, Tyranosopher demon will find more indeterminacy than normal physics would predict.

Bring that logic to bear on our present universe. Suppose that, however hard we tried, however meticulous our own demon was, cataloguing all the interactions leading to decoherence, we could not fully account for all the decoherence we observe. What would that tell us? That the part of the universe we cannot see is interacting with us. (Notice in passing that the situation is analogous with Black Holes, which are pretty much defined, conceptually speaking, by their event horizon.)

Can one apply the idea to Dark Energy? Yes. According to the (loose) philosophy of Quantum Field Theory, interaction are associated to particles. In the case of Dark energy we have an interaction out of nowhere, just space. Exactly what we would expect if EPR interactions were creating particles at a distance, from somewhere else in the universe.


Patrice Ayme


Technical note: Simplicio: “OK, so the demon catalogues everything, and then a particle shows up, call it C. How do you know that it comes from the action of the forever invisible Green Monkey, and is not simply due to a local entanglement, which, as such, would not have showed up in the prior classification by the demon?” Tyranosopher: “Because then the demon, during the classification which discovered C, would find a particle D, which was not there before (D is entangled with C).  Simplicio: “What if D has been taken away by Dark Energy too?” Tyranosopher:”Impossible if the demon cataloguing is frequent enough, as the particle D could not have escaped (it’s roughly limited by the speed of light, c). Simplicio: “And what of single particle diffracting?” Tyranosopher:”Well, this is a thought experiment. By waiting long enough for  light to cross the local group, one should be able to exclude those.”


P/S: Out Of The Window with Causality, Light Speed, etc: It should be pretty obvious that the preceding has bearing on the various superstitions, and first order mistakes, surrounding relativity, in particular pertaining speed of light and causality (both independently, or as they relate with each other).


November 17, 2010



Theme: Is there extraterrestrial life? Extraterrestrial intelligence? A related question: how big is the universe? On all these subjects considerable and very surprising progress is in the making. I describe some of the new ideas and facts in plain language, from Plate Tectonics to Cosmic Inflation.

Facing the enormity of it all, honest minds will find honor and pleasure in telling the truth, and nothing but the truth (carefully distinguishing it from hope we can believe in). Some physicists, searching for the limelight, have presented some science fiction, or some science fantasy, or let’s say scientific working hypotheses, philosophically grounded, as real, established science. This is misleading and dangerous: science is truth, and that is why the public supports it. Let’s keep it that way.

Sometimes all that science does, but that is fundamental, is to find new uncertainties we did not previously suspect. A basic humility that needs to be taught to people and politicians is that knowledge is not just about learning what we know, but also about learning that there are new dimensions to what we don’t know.

One certainty: our Earth is rare and fragile. Earth was a primordial deity of the Greeks, Gaia, viewed as female, nourishing humankind. Gaia is an on-going miracle, of self regulation, with extremely complicated biology and physics entangled. The more we observe the cosmos, the more we see that’s hell out there. Gaia is a rare deity, Pluto is the rule. Here are some inklings.



Many planets have been discovered around many stars. Solar systems (= several planets orbiting the same star) have also been discovered. In one of these systems three planets around a dwarf red star are all in the inhabitable zone (= neither too cold nor too hot, so that liquid water exists on a planet there). One of them is smack in the middle of the balmy zone. It seems clear that most stars will be found to have planets (we are above 30%, and our present detection methods are very crude).

Still there does not seem to be many civilizations out there. As Enrico Fermi put it:”Where is everybody?”

Far enough from the dangerous galactic center, with its zooming stars, high radiation, and gigantic black hole, but not far enough to miss the full wealth of the periodic table, with its many elements, there is a narrow band all around the galaxy, the inhabitable zone, with at least 50 billion suns (within the trillion suns of the Milky Way).

Everything indicates that there are billions of colonizable planets in the inhabitable zone of our galaxy: colonialism has a great future (once we find how to get there). Life could have started on many of these planets. But on most of these, it was quickly annihilated: hellish, incandescent “super-earths” (rocky planet with masses up to 10 times Earth) ready to fall into their star, abound.



The obvious candidate for the start of life is next door. It is Mars (Venus may have qualified too, the early Sun being 25% weaker; but Venus has long turned into hell, destroying all biological remnants). Everything indicates that life started on Mars. It would be very surprising that it did not.

Probably even OUR life started there. Impacts of asteroids and comets would have thrown living material from Mars to Earth. Mars meteorites have been found in Antarctica, lying on the ice. It has been observed that the temperatures within a Mars meteorite could stay very low: no more than around 40 Celsius, during the entire Mars-Earth transfer.

The Earth stayed too hot for life much longer than Mars, due to its much greater thermal inertia, large, intense radioactive core, greater number of impacts, and having thoroughly melted after the giant impact which created our life fostering Moon.

But then, after an auspicious start, Mars lost most of most of its atmosphere (probably within a billion years or so). Why? Mars is a bit small, its gravitational attraction is weaker than Earth (it’s only 40%). But, mostly, Mars has not enough a magnetic field. During Coronal Mass Ejections, CMEs, the Sun can throw out billions of tons of material at speeds up to and above 3200 kilometers per seconds. It’s mostly electrons and protons, but helium, oxygen and even iron can be in the mix.

The worst CME known happened during the Nineteenth Century, before the rise of the electromagnetic civilization we presently enjoy. Should one such ejection reoccur now, the electromagnetic aspect of our civilization would be wiped out. It goes without saying that we are totally unprepared, and would be very surprised. Among other things, all transformers would blow up, and they take months to rebuild. we would be left with old books in paper, the old fashion way. A CME can rush to Earth in just one day. (Fortunately the Sun seems to be quieting down presently, a bit as it did during the Little Ice Age.)

When a CME strikes a planet, the upper atmosphere is hit by a giant shotgun blast. Except a shotgun blast goes around 300 meters per second, 10,000 times slower than a CME. So, per unit of mass, the kinetic energy of a powerful CME is at least ten billion times more powerful than a shotgun blast. Since the liberation speed is going to be around ten kilometers per second, on an average life supporting planet, to be hit by projectiles going at 3,000 kilometers per second is going to knock all too much of the upper air atoms into space. That’s how Mars lost most of its atmosphere. And thus its ocean and much of its greenhouse. So now Mars is desperately airless, dry, and cold.



A cluster of new stars forming in the Serpens South cloud


Both Mars and Venus are at the limit of the inhabitable zone. But Venus does not have a magnetic field worth this name. Thus Venus lost a lot of its hydrogen (hence water; the rest is tied up in sulfuric acid, H2SO4).

It is known that the Earth’s strong magnetic field originates from the motion of huge masses of liquid metal within.

So a solar wind shield, a magnetosphere, is tied to the plate tectonic of a very dynamical planet with a powerful nuclear reactor deep inside. Whereas Venus and Mars are tectonically inert, at least, most of the time; maybe they wake up every half a billion years or so, for a big eruption. If Mars and Venus had been very tectonically active planets, may be they would be teeming with life (but that depends upon the distribution of heavy radioactive nuclei in a gathering solar system, an unknown subject, obviously non trivial, since Earth got them, and not the other two).

In any case the Earth’s magnetic shield protects life from the worst abuse of the Sun, as it deflects most of the CMEs out and around (they sneak back meekly as Aurora Borealis).

Another factor in the stable environment Earth provides for life is the Moon. The Earth-Moon system divides its angular momentum, between each other and the orbital motion of the Moon. This prevents the Earth to lay its rotation axis on its side: such a wobbling could not be compensated by the rest of the system. So it does not happen.

Mars, though, not being so impaired, wobbles between 15 and 35 degrees (causing weird, pronounced super-seasonal variations).

In any case, everything indicates that extremely primitive life appears quickly. But complex life needs time, lots of time, to evolve. Animal life and intelligence needs even more time. However, what strikes me in the new solar systems discovered so far, is how alien and unstable they are (this is partly a bias of the present detection methods).

Many of these systems have huge Jupiter styles planets in low orbit around their stars. It’s pretty clear that they fell down there, destroying the entire inner system in their path.

Other notions threaten life; gamma ray explosions, supernovas, and simply passing next to another star, throwing a solar system into chaos, and some Jupiters down into a fatal spiral. Our Sun, though, is pretty much cruising far from any star, in a cosmic void right now, perhaps left by a supernova explosion. Maybe we have been lucky for 4 billion years.



Many a physicist, or cosmologist, talks about the beginning of time, and other various notions pertaining to the grandest imagined machinery of the universe, as if they had found God, and it was themselves they were looking for (as Obama would put it). They claim to know their garden, the universe, pretty well (having apparently being there, at the moment of creation).

Verily, what we know for sure is what we see in pictures, and that’s plenty:

Hubble Ultra Deep Field: 10,000 galaxies. How many men?

Notions such as the “edge of the universe” are much less scientifically robust than some scientists claim. When some talk about the “First Three Minutes”, one can only laugh, even if countless Nobel Prizes in physics subscribe to the notion. Physics is relative, the search for glory, absolute. At least so do monkeys behave.

The concept of time in Quantum Mechanics and Relativity are in complete contradiction. One is absolute, the other relative. So nobody knows for sure what time is, and what is truly its relation to space (nor do we know what space is, much beyond the pretty pictures given by the telescopes). Speaking of the history of time is completely meaningless, except as poetry. Or scientific sounding poetry. Too many holes in the logic.

Even using standard science to buttress one’s reflection, the size of the universe could well be at least a 1,000 bigger than the 14 billion light year piece that we presently observe. In truth, we have literally no idea. Even when sticking to conventional theory, which predicts only one thing in that respect, namely that the universe is bigger than what we see (it predicts it by requiring it actually, see below).

Another thing is sure: it’s incredibly immense out there, and not just in physical size, but also in conceptual size. We know lower bounds for the universe in size and complexity, but have no idea whatsoever about the upper bounds. Dark Energy is a perfect example. Fifteen years ago, Dark Energy was unknown. Now it makes up 74% of the mass of the universe.



It is not a good thing when highly uncertain science is presented as certain, just as much as really true parts of science. It is not just immodest. It undermines, and threatens, science deeply.

Because presenting as certain what is not so is just a lie. But science is truth, and that is why society supports it.

To present as true what is not so ridiculizes the notion of certainty. When, ultimately, the ineluctable collapse of immodest pseudo-certainty occurs, all of science gets slashed with doubt. American witches can run as republican candidates for the US Senate on completely crazed platforms, mumbling about mice with human brains (this happened in the last USA election). Scientists ought not to make craziness respectable by leveraging it themselves. Crazy is crazy, especially when a scientist does it. It’s craziness squared.

Make no mistake: speculation is central to science and even more to philosophy. Just speculation ought to be labeled as such. When I talk about my own TOW theory, I do not present it as fact and certitude.

Most of recent (last 120 years) physics was totally unexpected. A lot of it is true, no doubt, in some sense. Some of it is completely false, too, most probably, in the most fundamental sense. The more fundamental science gets, the more it gets subjected to representations which can be misleading. Thus when some physiology or solid state physics gets established, it will not be shattered. Not so for Quantum Field Theory (most of which being an extrapolation over an energy domain where it has not been tested).

Science, like philosophy, is not just a body of knowledge, but also a method. Both have to use common sense as much as possible. Philosophy uses the external edge of knowledge, the first inklings, the first warnings, the smallest indices, the irreproducible experiments. Thus any scientist searching for really shattering new science will pass through the philosophical method, as a mandatory passage to greater certainty.

When science is proclaimed, it has to be certain. Science is truth in which one can have faith. A lot of the most glitzy cosmology comes short of that. (Thus the adventures of the alleged Big Bang should not be used as an argument to fund expensive accelerators: there are enough good reasons to fund them, not to use the bad ones!) The surest part of cosmology is actually its pretty pictures.



All of recent conventional cosmology’s biggest and noisiest concepts rest on something called the Inflaton Field. One could say that it is just as much a rabbit out of a hat as in the best circus acts. There is no justification for it, except to explain what we see: something very big, very homogeneous, apparently contradicting relativity. The universe in its entirity.

The mystery that Cosmic Inflation tries to explain was this: as new regions of the universe come into view (at the speed of light!), it is observed that the new regions are exactly as the region we already know; same aspect, same background temperature, etc. How did they know how to look the same? They could not have talked to each other! Light did not have time to go from one to the other!

According to standard Einsteinian relativity, our region, and those regions, some on the opposite side of the universe from each other, have no common history! (Those new regions which appear are NOT within our past light cone… To use relativity lingo.)

In the USSR, Einstein’s work was criticized in minutia, for ideological reasons (Note1). So the great astrophysicist Zeldovitch came up in 1965 with the idea of inflation (the discovery is attributed to Guth, 1980, in the USA, because the USA buried the USSR, and America is a super power blessed by God, as the resident of the White House reminds his flock every day).

Einstein’s Relativity speaks of the speed of light within space, but not of the speed of space (so to speak). Speed of light is limited within space, speed of space is not limited. So it was breezingly supposed space had inflated at a gigantic speed, before slowing down. So the new regions coming into view had a sort of common history, after all.

From a philosophical perspective, to invent an explanation to explain a specific effect is called an ad hoc hypothesis. It can be a correct way to advance science, if it has predictive power (But differently from the neutrino, or the W, or the Higgs, how do you check for it? Finding the Inflaton particle? The Inflaton is supposed to have given birth to most other particles). In the meantime, it provides some hand waving to explai away an otherwise obvious contradiction with Relativity.

But it is not enough that some of the best theories in physics are weird, with the logical consistency of gruyere.

The apparent discovery of Dark Matter and especially Dark Energy, have brought a new twist. Dark Energy is completely unexplainable.

Dark Energy attracted attention to the fact that Quantum field theory is both the most precise and the most false theory ever contemplated (QFT is off in its prediction of vacuum energy by a factor of ten to the power 120, or so, the greatest mistake in theory, in the entire history of hominids… it would make even baboons scream in dismay.)


Billions of galaxies can be seen when we look as far as we can see. Here is a tiny detail, as far as we can see, without using a gravitational lens. [NASA-ESA Hubble]. Baffling. We are going to need a bigger imagination.

It’s hard for me to escape the feeling that the universe is much older than what standard cosmology believes, as I look at these very ancient, but very diverse galaxies in a piece of sky (Note 2).

Dark energy was discovered when it was realized, in super novae studies, that the universe’s expansion was accelerating (so energy is injected).

A natural question, though is this:”If, as it turned out, the expansion is accelerating now, maybe it was at standstill much earlier?” Then the universe, even the small piece we can see, would be older and bigger than we have imagined so far. Don’t be afraid of the simple questions. Einstein asked himself at 16 what would happen if he looked at a mirror when going at the speed of light (Note 1).

Time will tell, as long as astronomy gets massively funded. Astronomy (astrophysics, cosmology, etc.) is one of the fields of science where fabulous progress is certain if it gets funded enough (the breakthroughs it made and will make in basic technology, to design the new instruments are very useful to the rest of society too).

In any case, the national debt is secure: it has a long way to go, before it can fill up the entire universe…


Patrice Ayme


Note 1: Einstein’s views on space and time came under the label “Theory of Relativity”. That incorporated Lorentz’s work on the correct space-time transformation group compatible with Maxwell equations.

That is why looking at a mirror will not work, at the speed of light, if the conventional addition of speed used by Galileo was really true, because light could not catch up: light could not be seen at the speed of light (just as sound cannot be heard if one goes away from it at the speed of sound). So Galilean Relativity did not work (the first scientists who pointed that out were not Einstein, but Lorentz, Fitzgerald, and Poincare’, among others; Lorentz got the Nobel Prize for it).

Soviet scientists were irritated by the exaggeratedly sounding “Relativity” (since only Marx was absolute). They pointed out that the “Theory of General Relativity” should be called the “Theory of Gravitation”, and then they made more pointed critiques.

Ideology is important in science. The “multiverse” theory, a support of string theory, is a case in point. The multiverse ideology exists, because string theory has nothing to say about the measurement process, so it sweeps that inconvenient truth below an infinity of rugs. The multiverse cannot be fought scientifically, because it is not science. But it is philosophically grotesque, since it consists in claiming that all lies are true, somewhere else.


Note 2: The oldest galaxy was detected by Europeans at the Very Large Telescope in the high Chilean desert, in 2004, using a galactic super cluster as a lens (giving the VLT an aperture between 40 and 80 meters), had a redshift of 10, with an apparent age of more than 13 billion years.


Note on the notes: What did Einstein do in Relativity? He used an axiomatic method, with two axioms only (Principle of modern Relativity and Constancy of Light Speed).

Both axioms had been proclaimed by Poincare’, as Einstein knew, but Poincare’ had not realized that, with these two axioms only, all the known formulas could be derived in a few pages, as Einstein did (after doing away with the “Ether”, the substance in which waves were supposed to be waving). Einstein said he was influenced by empiricist philosophy from Hume and Mach.

The final story has not been written yet: and if the waves made the space? (TOW.)

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SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

Where The Eagles Fly . . . . Art Science Poetry Music & Ideas

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Patterns of Meaning

Exploring the patterns of meaning that shape our world

Sean Carroll

in truth, only atoms and the void

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

Skulls in the Stars

The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction

Footnotes to Plato

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

Striving For Ever Better Thinking. Humanism Is Intelligence Unleashed. From Intelligence All Ways, Instincts & Values Flow, Even Happiness. History and Science Teach Us Not Just Humility, But Power, Smarts, And The Ways We Should Embrace. Naturam Primum Cognoscere Rerum

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.


Smile! You’re at the best site ever

Defense Issues

Military and general security

Polyhedra, tessellations, and more.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

Donna Swarthout

Writer, Editor, Berliner


Defending Scientism

SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

Where The Eagles Fly . . . . Art Science Poetry Music & Ideas

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Patterns of Meaning

Exploring the patterns of meaning that shape our world

Sean Carroll

in truth, only atoms and the void

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

Skulls in the Stars

The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction

Footnotes to Plato

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

Striving For Ever Better Thinking. Humanism Is Intelligence Unleashed. From Intelligence All Ways, Instincts & Values Flow, Even Happiness. History and Science Teach Us Not Just Humility, But Power, Smarts, And The Ways We Should Embrace. Naturam Primum Cognoscere Rerum

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.


Smile! You’re at the best site ever

Defense Issues

Military and general security

Polyhedra, tessellations, and more.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

Donna Swarthout

Writer, Editor, Berliner


Defending Scientism