Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

Is This Why We Are Alone?

February 22, 2016

Our giant galaxy is at least ten billion years old. It has 100 billion stars. Many of them second generation stars. It would seem most stars have planets, and many of these fall in the so-called habitable zone. All right, in multiple star systems, some planets will fly away. Still, there may be 40 billion potential Earths in the Milky Way. Yes, and no.

However, ten billion years, over (more than) 100 billion planetary systems, gives plenty of time for a civilization to expand throughout the galaxy. Yes, throughout. So aliens should have visited, but all indications are that they did not: life on Earth is indigenous to earth, or the Earth-Mars system.

Why We Are Alone: Earth Is Both Very Watery & Very Radioactive

Why We Are Alone: Earth Is Both Very Watery & Very Radioactive

How did Earth get her enormous radioactive fission core? A mystery. It seems that Venus did not. Indeed, Venus has no self-generated magnetosphere (differently from Mercury, Jupiter, or Saturn; Mars is too small to have a churning metallic core, so has no magnetosphere, thus CMEs tear the Martian atmosphere away, in particular water). Instead Venus has an induced magnetosphere. A pathetic device that could not prevent Venus from being deprived of all its hydrogen, hence water, torn by the solar wind, especially during Coronal Mass Ejections CME).

The Sort of Comet from Hell On Top Is Venus. Earth, The Blue World, Is Below. Earth, With Her Complex Magnetosphere Created By Her Churning Liquid Metal Radioactive Core: Part Of The Reason Why Venus Melts Lead, & Earth Harbors Civilization. [Courtesy ESA.]

The Sort of Comet from Hell On Top Is Venus. Earth, The Blue World, Is Below. Earth, With Her Complex Magnetosphere Created By Her Churning Liquid Metal Radioactive Core: Part Of The Reason Why Venus Melts Lead, & Earth Harbors Civilization. [Courtesy ESA.]

Travelling throughout the galaxy is already within our reach. Nuclear fission rocket engines were very successfully tested in the 1960s. They would allow us, should we decide to do so, to make spaceships going through the galaxy at 100 kilometers per second.

That’s 1/3000 of the speed of light. The galaxy is 100,000 light years across. So, with existing technology, primitive technology of the 1960s, we could cross the galaxy in 300 million years.

Now, of course, faster tech is perfectly imaginable, such as thermonuclear propulsion. (Thermonuclear propulsion may be easier to achieve than a contained nuclear fusion motor, because containment is the most major problem of controlled fusion; an uncontained engine would be half way between an H-bomb and ITER, and pure fusion is clean; actually NASA finances, all too modestly, such research.) Whereas the temperature in a fission reactor will be at most 3000 degree Centigrade, thermonuclear fusion could reach 100 million degrees, enabling an impulsion 10,000 times greater. Thus mastery of thermonuclear fusion would allow to cross the galaxy in a few million years.

So, if there was a civilization barely more advanced technologically than we are, it would have established a galactic empire in a few million years. It should have visited our blue planet, detectable from thousands of parsecs (with existing technology not deployed by the grotesque, imbecilic plutocrats who rule us through those countless obsequious greedy critters which most politicians are).

The definition of the traditional habitable zone is naive: it is only about temperature. However it takes more than temperature to keep a planet habitable. Mars had an ocean, but lost its surface water, a little bit at a time, from repeated Coronal Mass Ejections (CME). A CME consists in a super active flame jetting out from the sun. If a CME hit Earth now, much, if not most electric circuitry on Earth would fail.

Radioactive Elements, Being The Densest, Sink Towards The Star During The Planetary System Formation. (Observed So far.). Oxygen & Hydrogen, With 5% Average Nuclear Mass Migrate Out

Radioactive Elements, Being The Densest, Sink Towards The Star During The Planetary System Formation. (Observed So far.). Oxygen & Hydrogen, With 5% Average Nuclear Mass Migrate Out

Venus does not have a strong magnetic field either. Why? We don’t know. The Earth magnetic field is a shield, and it is created by the nuclear fission engine at the core of the Earth (it makes the surface of Earth’s core hotter than the surface of the sun! That makes a metallic iron ocean above churn violently, and generate the magnetic field… And also plate tectonics, which recycles carbon deep in the mantle, preventing it to sit in the atmosphere, as in the case of Venus!).

Thus, to have the four billion of years needed to develop ADVANCED native life, one needs to have both a nuclear reactor inside a planet AND the planet enjoying surface water for four billion years.

A tough, and rare call. Moreover, life has to escape crashing dwarf planets, migrating Super-Jupiters, super stellar Coronal Mass Ejections (all the more frequent in Red Dwarfs), close encounters with passing stars, gamma ray bursts, supernovae, colliding black holes, super stars exploding, central galactic black hole eruption (many of these catastrophes were very recently revealed, and did not percolate yet to We The People). To let life develop over four billion years, we need an extraordinary confluence of circumstances. (And when I say four billion, that’s generous: the “Cambrian explosion” when animals appeared in a great number of types of species, was only 540 million years ago. Moreover, life on Earth may have been accelerated by being started on Mars, at a time when Earth was still way too hot for sophisticated chemistry, and then transported by meteorites (that this strange method of life transportation could still be done to this day, has been demonstrated, by carefully analyzing meteorites of Martian origin).

Life, Sustained Long Enough For Advanced Animals? Unlikely. The Milky Way Is Ours. And Oblivion Watches Over Us, Not Tenderly.

Life, Sustained Long Enough For Advanced Animals? Unlikely. The Milky Way Is Ours. And Oblivion Watches Over Us, Not Tenderly.

So expect life to be very frequent in the galaxy, and habitable planets to be many. As long as one is talking about bacterial life functioning on DNA like system (the details will be different, as post-DNA life was already synthesized in the lab!)

But little green men, Kzins and Doctor Spock? Not a chance. If they happen some day, they will be our descendants. That we are alone changes the stakes. We are not just threatening civilization, with our childish, yet lethal and atrocious antics, but we are threatening to annihilate the one and only crown of creation.

Patrice Ayme’


September 11, 2015

Feynman:”It is safe to say that no one understands Quantum Mechanics.” 

Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Nature: “That’s how the world works.”

Wilzcek (Physics Nobel Prize): “Naïveté is doing the same thing over and over, and always expecting the same result.”

Parmenides, the ancient Greek philosopher, theorized that reality is unchanging and indivisible and that movement is an illusion. Zeno, a student of Parmenides, devised four famous paradoxes to illustrate the logical difficulties in the very concept of motion. Zeno’s arrow paradox starts and ends this way:

  • If you know where an arrow is, you know everything about its physical state….
  • The arrow does not move…

Classical Mechanics found the first point to be erroneous. To know the state of a particle, one must know not only its position X, but also its velocity and mass (what’s called its momentum P). Something similar happens with Quantum Physics. To know the state of a particle, we need to know whether the state of what it has interacted with before…  exists, or not. According to old fashion metaphysics, that’s beyond weird. It’s simply incomprehensible.

The EPR Interaction: Zein Und Zeit. For Real.

The EPR Interaction: Zein Und Zeit. For Real.

[The Nazi philosopher Heidegger, an ex would-be priest, wrote a famous book “Being And Time“. However, rather than a fascist fantasy, the EPR is exactly about that level of depth: how existence and time come to be! And how those interact with our will…]

With that information, X and P, position and momentum, for each particle, classical mechanics predicts a set of particles’ future evolution completely. (Formally dynamic evolution satisfies a second order linear differential equation. That was thoroughly checked by thousands of officers of gunnery, worldwide, over the last five centuries.)

Highly predicting classical mechanics is the model of Einstein Sanity.

Aristotle had ignored the notion of momentum, P. For Aristotle, one needed a force to maintain motion (an objective proof of Aristotle’s stupidity; no wonder Aristotle supported, and instigated, fascist dictatorship as the best system of governance). Around 1320 CE, the Parisian genius Buridan declared that Aristotle was completely wrong and introduced momentum P, calling it “IMPETUS”.

May we be in a similar situation? Just like the Ancient Greeks had ignored P, is Quantum Wave Mechanics incomplete from an inadequate concept of what a complete description of the world is?

Einstein thought so, and demonstrated it to his satisfaction in his EPR Thought Experiment. The EPR paper basically observed that, according to the Quantum Axiomatics, two particles, after they interacted still formed JUST ONE WAVE. Einstein claimed that there had to exist hidden “elements of reality”, not yet identified in the (Copenhagen Interpretation of) quantum theory. Those heretofore hidden “elements of reality” would re-establish Einstein Sanity, Einstein feverishly hoped.

According to Einstein, following his friend Prince Louis De Broglie (to whom he had conferred the Doctorate) and maybe the philosopher Karl Popper (with whom he corresponded prior on non-locality), Quantum Mechanics appears random. But that randomness is only because of our ignorance of those “hidden variables.” Einstein’s demonstration rested on the impossibility of what he labelled “spooky action at a distance”.

That was an idea too far. The “spooky action at a distance” has been (amply) demonstrated in the meantime. Decades of experimental tests, including a “loophole-free” test published on the scientific preprint site last month, show that the world is like that: completely non-local everywhere.

In 1964, the physicist John Bell, CERN’s theory chief, working with David Bohm’s version of Einstein’s EPR thought experiment, identified an inequality obeyed by any physical theory that is both local — meaning that interactions don’t travel faster than light — and where the physical properties usually attributed to “particles” exist prior to “measurement.”

(As an interesting aside, Richard Feynman tried to steal Bell’s result, at a time when Bell was not famous, at least in the USA: a nice example of “French Theory” at work! And I love Feynman…)

Einstein’s hidden “elements of reality” probably exist, but they are NON-LOCAL. (Einstein was obsessed by locality; but that’s an error. All what can be said in favor of locality is that mathematics, and Field Theory, so far, are local: that’s the famous story of the drunk who looks for his keys under the lamp post, because that’s the only thing he sees.)

Either some physical influences travel faster than light, or some properties don’t exist before measurement. Or both

I believe both happen. Yes, both: reality is both faster than light, and it is pointwise fabricated by interactions (“measurement”). Because:

  1. The EPR Thought Experiment established the faster than light influence (and that was checked experimentally).
  2. But then some properties cannot exist prior to “EPR style influence”. Because, if they did, why do they have no influence whatsoever, once the EPR effect is launched?

Now visualize the “isolated” “particle”. It’s neither truly “isolated” nor truly a “particle”, as some of its properties have not come in existence yet. How to achieve this lack of existence elegantly? Through non-localization, as observed in the one-slit and two-slit experiments.

Why did I say that the “isolated” “particle” was not isolated? Because it interfered with some other “particle” before. Of course. Thus it’s EPR entangled with that prior “particle”. And when that “particle” is “measured” (namely INTERACTS with another “particle”), the so-called “isolated” “particle” gets changed, by the “spooky action at a distance”, at a speed much faster than light.

(This is no flight of fancy of mine, consecutive to some naïve misinterpretation; Zeilinger and Al. in Austria, back-checked the effect experimentally; Aspect in Paris and Zeilinger got the Wolf prize for their work on non-locality, so the appreciation for their art is not restricted to me!)

All these questions are extremely practical: they are at the heart of the difficulties in engineering a Quantum Computer.

Old physics is out of the window. The Quantum Computer is not here yet, because the new physics is not understood enough, yet.

Patrice Ayme’

Juicy Planets

August 15, 2015

This is the one thousandth essay on this site. Let’s celebrate with a whiff of optimism. We found, for sure, three habitable planets. Close-by. And maybe four. Or five. Europa, Callisto, Ganymede, and Enceladus. They are all in the Solar System. Why habitable? Because they all have liquid water.

And massive quantities of it. Europa’s ocean seems greater in volume than Earth’s… by a long shot. Ganymede’s ocean maybe 800 kilometers deep… This is astronomy, in full, with its proverbial astronomical numbers.

Juicy Planets In The Habitable Zone

Juicy Planets In The Habitable Zone

The total land area of Earth’s continents is 148,647,000 square kilometers (57,393,000 sq mi), or 29.1% of Earth’s surface. This is just a tiny bit larger than Mars’ total area (145 million square kilometers). Mars has lots of water. However, except for (rock covered) glaciers and ice caps, most of it is ice mixed with the soil.

It is welcome news that planetary bodies close-by have plenty of water, and land. Europa’s land area is 30 million square kilometers. Ganymede is 87, and Callisto 73 million square kilometers. Thus the total land area of water loaded Jupiter satellites is 190 million square kilometers, much larger than the grand total of Earth’s continents. That’s plenty of room for human civilization to expand into.

As I related, civilizations come and go, and one of the main mechanisms, if not the main mechanism, has to do with the entangled exhaustion of increasingly impotent technology and waning resources. This is fully in evidence now in our case: although not all resources are exhausted, yet, others are exhausting: the CO2 pollution, and similar, entangled crises, have reached the stage of a mass extinction.

A race is engaged between the deployment of more renewable energy and multiple singularities from pollution and resource exhaustion.

Once, when still a child, I met a poet and philosopher from a family of poets and philosophers. He read some poems. I was impressed. The conversation, though, turned to space exploration. My youthful enthusiasm was quickly dashed. The poet told me that space would not help humanity’s problems. Actually throwing money at space prevented to feed children, he opined. Walking on the Moon was mostly a folly darkly connected to imperialism, colonialism, materialism, nihilism.

As a teen, but a teen experienced from having lived in Africa most of my life, who had endured through wars and coups d’état, I doubted the wisdom of the poet. (When I was 11 years old, I made a sing-song about a coup d’état enfolding in the African country in which I lived. Retrospectively strange…)

I knew very well that there are monsters out there. But then, again, I also knew monsters, properly handled, could learn to behave properly. A leopard entered an open hut I was sleeping in, and walked out (don’t ask me about what I view as my parents’ irresponsibility: there was just another child in that hut, smack dab in the center of a national park, full of panthers). I once walked around a bend on a dirt road, in the same national park, to find a lion spread all across said road, looking at me calmly. I did not panic, and respected away.  

Differently from the European poet, I knew the world was richer than just a zero sum (where what you put in is what you get out). I knew starvation was entirely due to war. If you don’t want children to starve, the first thing needed is a strong stater, with a constitution centered on human rights (instead of the Catholic or Islamist creeds).

As it turned out, in its rush to the Moon, and Mars, as ordered by its Guide (USA president JFK), NASA and its Nazi engineers, helped develop plenty of new technologies, from fuel cells to solar panels. Now Photo Voltaic Solar energy is, with wind turbines, the cheapest, safest form of energy (fossil fuels get more than 5 trillion dollars of subsidies, each year). In a way PV solar energy is feeding the world, and saving it too, being non polluting. Solar PV arose in space, to feed satellites with electricity.

To this day PV energy panels used in space are much more efficient than any used on the ground (but also much more expensive, as they use different very expensive materials). The research goes on: the requirements of space did not just bring Teflon.  The technological push impelled by space exploration keeps on going. The giant infrared telescope NASA wants to launch (with an Ariane V rocket!) has been delayed for years by setbacks while developing new technology to make it possible. Engineers have perfected the efficiency of space probes and solar PV, to do away with plutonium to energize them.

Far from being weird and unusual, expanding human civilization throughout the Solar System is the most conservative behavior to behold.

It’s revolutionary in the sense of evolving again, as we used to.

Indeed, how did our species arise? Our family, hominidae, arose from a separation from chimpanzee like ancestors. Basically, our distant ancestors were motivated enough to come down from the trees and imitate baboons (giant or not), and conquer the savanna. Giant baboons, who could weigh up to 200 kilograms, and stand two meter tall, besides being extremely dangerous, were probably an inspiration, as they dominated the savanna-park.

Conquering new land, and new environments, is what our species does. Our species shipped to Australia in prehistoric times, and conquered the Americas, and the Arctic, also in prehistoric times.

Now the juicy planets of Jupiter beckon. This summer, Europe attributed to Airbus the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE), to launch in 2022, and NASA announced that its “Europa Clipper” mission was feasible. It will “clip” Europa’s atmosphere 45 times, to analyze it for organic materials.

Some may object that, before we conquer space, we could conquer the oceans. It seems an obvious extension from swimming. However, going to space means a difference of one atmosphere of pressure, just as going down ten meters in water. Going down in the ocean at its average depth, 6,000 meters, means 600 atmospheres of pressure, a much greater challenge than the one and only one of pressure difference space requires.

With present technology, extrapolated a bit, Earth’s life could be implanted in these icy moons of Jupiter, one way, or another. It’s imaginable that present day life, recently discovered 850 kilometers from the lighted ocean, under Antarctica’s ice shelves, could survive in Europa’s ocean.

And it will need to. It’s not just a question of our nature, and respecting it. Or of our tradition, Charles Quint’s “Plus Oultre”, and respecting them. It’s a precaution. We are using Earth far beyond sustainability. Yet, out there, in proximal space, lays in waiting another 230% worth of the entire land area of Earth, complete with abundant water.

After 1,000 essays on this site (and more on, what’s the obvious verdict?

If you want to be popular, write about simple things, for simple people, in the most simple fashion. Cats, witchcraft, celebrities, flowers, home remedies, and logic for the mentally underperforming. People want to forget about their condition: those who are going to die do not salute me.

Another dismal conclusion is that censorship is strong, out there: the New York Times boast of having censored hundreds of my comments (they sent me an email about that). It’s more like thousands. The Guardian, a British daily supposedly on the left, just informed me I my comments were censored, because I am culprit of “blogging the Qur’an“. So the Guardian has decreed that Patrice Ayme, is a well-known… Jihadist? Complain about something will get you accused of it: one of the logics of the vicious.

The New York ran a long article on Islam Rape Kit, but systematically censored any direct quote from the Qur’an supporting that criminal habit. To blare as a subtitle that:

“ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape. Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool.” is alright. Claiming that ISIS claims the “Quran’s support” is fine. Demonstrating it is presumably “Islamophobia” (thus racism, thus censored).

Meanwhile, pretty much unfazed, I have been trying to think, as honestly as I can, precisely, and beyond (“plus oultre“) what has been said, on the most difficult problems, trying to find possible issues to them. Escapism, if you will, the hard way. As Montaigne caustically preempted, in the introduction to his “Essays”, paraphrasing:”Passant passes ton chemin, there is nothing for you here, Adieu.” (Amusingly, Montaigne, who was familiar with the most powerful, such as the future king Henri IV, was actually seriously manipulative in his essays, as demonstrated by the fact that he spent lots of pages crawling on his belly, singing the praises of most plutocrats… This is not the case here, as witness the evidence that I should have antagonized everybody by now.) 

Ultimately, I write just for my little girl, who has called me (with a slight twinge of irony perceptible) “the One Who Knows Everything”. That’s good enough, it’s the greatest honor, and all the meaning one needs in the world. Camus claimed one must find a meaning to rock and roll. Silly. Those who love a child do not need to impose meaning onto themselves. They have found it already.

One day, human children will bathe on Europa.

Patrice Ayme’