Posts Tagged ‘Astronomy’

Down With Tourism

March 7, 2021

I don’t do tourism… But I have LIVED, and grown up, on four continents… I have never targeted a place to tour. Right, I have visited places to make giant, somewhat foolhardy, trail or mountain runs, in the wilderness, and visited ranges to climb. But then I was not “touring”, I was running, or climbing, living on, in and off the land, which I had got to know and learn, be it only to survive… It’s good to run across real light, carrying no water, yet knowing the next valley would have a torrent in which to cool and drink. And knowing weather patterns enough to negotiate thunderstorms, torrid heat, paralyzing cold, and bug clouds impacting vision, let alone breathing and ski integrity… I was not just overlording the land mechanically, carrying my imperialism around, sheltered in a bus or helicopter with a tour guide telling me what to think, feel, and learn…

What is the idea of tourism? Let’s think about the concept itself, what it is supposed to depict, how it originated. Making a “tour” indicates that one goes around and inspect a number of locations. Like a military tour. This entails costs: land, ship or air travel, hotel, or short term rentals. This cost is borne not just by the places which are toured, and the servants making the activity possible, but also by the entire planet. Is that the best usage of finite resources? Flying a jumbo jet across an ocean causes enormous energy and pollution, equivalent to putting the same mass in orbit around the Earth. Putting a mass in orbit can serve the common good, say world communications (which reduce the need to tour). Something in orbit stays there for years, becoming ecologically efficient. How many times do tourists need to be put in orbit? (Figuratively speaking.) 

A further difficulty with tourism is the moods it fosters: instead of being conducive to the respect of the biosphere, tourism inculcates the mood of “client is king”. It is not the Natives nor the biosphere which are “kings”, but some invader, rich in money, but not consideration. Who needs kings? Why foster excess in how much a few individuals have to be served? 

Soon enough, coconut trees to be all over….

What we need to foster is respect for the planet and its biosphere. Visiting a place and living there for a while, learning what this place teaches, that’s fine. Just touring to make a mark, at great ecological and moral cost is the sort of abusive exploitative supercilious mood that should be discouraged.

There are better things for humanity to do, than to serve wealthy aliens fostering the mood that superficial vision, and authoritative pocketbooks, should be paramount. 

Humanity needs to encourage thinking, in depth, that is culture. Servitude should not be an ideal, instead the natives, wherever they are, should be encouraged to slow down tourism towards interactions giving more space to time and exchange. Hawaii should be encouraged to pursue research on how to make its economy renewable, energy independent (the ocean can help), and encourage more world-class astronomical research on Maui and the Big Island. After all, Polynesians got to Hawaii thanks to advanced technology, not by serving strangers.

***

“Got Your Back” wondered in the New York Times: “I’m sure there must be many reasons for Hawaii’s situation to be more fragile ecologically (such as it being the most isolated archipelago on earth) but I was surprised just now when I looked up another states stats. Massachusetts has almost the same landmass but hosts 2.5 – 3 times the number of tourists each year. I had assumed the numbers would be opposite since I’ve never heard about any negative tourism impact on Massachusetts. What am I missing?

PA’s answer: The ecology of Massachusetts is not special, it’s basically the same as the rest of the North-East USA, a continental, interconnected landmass. The ecology of Hawaii is very special, and full of ecological niches, from insulary isolation, various climes and altitudes. This requires leaving large expanses undeveloped. The smallest dirt road has large impacts on local species, especially birds. 

Also the question is dependency. For example Massachusetts has a massive cultural and intellectual economy, with MIT, Harvard, and a company like Moderna and its mRNA vaccine, saving the world. Whereas Hawaii has only “tourism”… But for world class astronomy: Maui detected the first extrasolar object going at an enormous speed through the solar system Oumuamua, thanks to the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakalā Observatory, Hawaii, on 19 October 2017. Optically speaking the top of the Big Island is half way to space. Instead of fostering astronomy, which guided Polynesians of old, some misled characters have been trying to block it. Block tourism instead.

Energy procurement in Hawaii is also a disaster, as it depends upon fossil fuel. Potential new energy sources exist. And first of all, Ocean Heat Pumps. 

In other words, Hawaii should develop much more science, it needs it more than Massachusetts, arguably. Moreover, most tourists in Massachusetts are short-stay, little impact. They don’t jet in. flying a day over land and ocean….

Patrice Ayme

Gravitational Waves Directly Detected

February 11, 2016

How Were Gravitational Waves detected?

By two detectors in the USA, one in Washington State, the other in Louisiana (detecting in one place would have been enough; in two places at the same time, the finding is overwhelming certain; the National Science Foundation of the USA had spent $1.1 billion, over 40 years, on that research). The detectors were simplicity themselves in concept: just a light interferometer to measure the distance between mirrors: light is split, sent in two perpendicular directions, and then re-united with itself. If one of the branches vary slightly in length relative to the other as a gravitational waves passes, an interference will show up. However mirrors hanging from pendulum hanging from pendulums five times, the whole thing in an anti-vibration machine had to be realized in half a dozen places in a chain of reflections and interference.

What are these Gravitational Waves?

As far as existing gravitation theory has it, distortion in space (and, thus time: time and space are related by the speed of light, c).

A Field Carries Away A Wave Just As A Whip Does

A Field Carries Away A Wave Just As A Whip Does

What Was Detected:

Einstein’s Gravitation Theory says that gravitation “is” the deformation of space(time) it brings. It is this deformation which was directly detected: a part of space in one direction was made shorter than in another direction. That meant a huge gravitational wave had passed.

The formidable event that caused it was the crash and collapse of two black holes into each other, each around 30 solar masses (much more details are known).

Gravitational Waves Were Certain Theoretically, & Already Detected:

We already had evidence for the existence of gravitational waves, both theoretical and experimental. Einstein’s name was rolled out, naturally enough. Because Einstein contributed to the present Theory of Gravitation (I am not anti-Einstein, far from it, but he closely worked with a number of other people, including the towering mathematician David Hilbert, who published his own approach to gravity within weeks of Einstein).

Einstein tends to appear as the cherry on many a cake. Those who celebrate the photogenic cherry, and ignore the cake, will go hungry.

WAVES ARE PREDICTED BY FINITE SPEED FIELD THEORY:

Actually, once one has hypothesized that gravitation is a field propagating at a finite speed, the apparition of waves is automatic.

The reasoning was made first by British and French Eighteenth Century physicists, in the framework of electromagnetic force; the mathematics is exactly the same with gravitation, as both fields vary with the inverse square of the distance. This is what happens in a radio antenna, with electrons going back and forth: the electric field that those electrons create is deformed in such a way that it moves other electron at a distance, back and forth.

The Gravitational Energy Loss Detection Method:

Thus, how do the waves show up? By shaking things at a distance. Using conservation of energy, it means that the field creating system, by moving just so, loses energy to its waves. An obvious case is two neutron stars (“pulsars”) rotating around each other: as they move back and forth, because of said rotation, they create gravitational waves which carry energy away from their system, As this happens, their system loses energy, the two stars should spiral into each other, thus rotate ever faster, and this should be observable, and computable exactly. This, indeed, was thoroughly observed, so we knew the waves were there.

Einstein’s Gravitation Theory is a sleight of hand:

It affects to identify space(time) deformations with gravitation. The idea actually originated with the awesome German mathematician Bernard Riemann, who invented manifold theory in part to point out that any force could be viewed as convergence, or divergence of geodesics (this is an idea that physics has been milking ever since).

This, though, does not answer Newton’s deeper query about the nature of gravitation (see below). It’s a bit as if a creature asked:’What is an arm?’ And one answered:’An arm is what pushes things, and we can detect the deformation the arm brought.’

What is the discovery good for?

Well, first, one has to make sure. Science is about making 100% sure. The present experiment improved some technology far out what anything else required (but then it does open some possibilities!) Just an importantly, now we will be able to check the details of the Gravitation Theory (the big picture was not in doubt; the details are). Ultimately it may be possible to communicate through gravitational waves, etc (although right now the deformation are only of the size of the fraction of a nucleus, and we could detect them!)

Who were the originators of that idea? First Newton himself pointed out that his own theory of gravitation was grotesque (I am paraphrasing). Newton:

“that one body may act upon another at a distance thro’ a Vacuum, without the Mediation of any thing else, by and through which their Action and Force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an Absurdity that I believe no Man who has in philosophical Matters a competent Faculty of thinking can ever fall into it.”

There were actually two problems: that the action was instantaneous, and that it was at a distance without intermediaries. Newton paid attention to the second one, physics, in the last two centuries, solved the first (which was implicit in Newton’s observations).

As I mentioned in passing above, part of Newton’s worries were addressed by the invention of the concept of field. And then by the realization that fields carried energy away in waves. At that point, gravitational waves were automatic… Riemann’s introduction of manifolds, and how to conceptualize forces in them gave the manifestation of its nature to gravitation we presently have, a distortion of space metric (once again, time follows automatically).

It’s important to know who invented what, and contributed most. Because it unveils how ideas appear and evolve. Then, in turn, one can make theories of that, accelerating innovation (don’t forget there is a horse race between innovation and oblivion, on the scale of the entire biosphere!)

Curiously, this is all very useful; GPS with a precision of 30 centimeters has allowed to find out that baboon society is more democratic than ours, in fundamental ways. “General Relativistic” effects (the fact clocks run slow in a gravitational field) make crucial corrections to the GPS computations (otherwise GPS would be pretty useless). So this is not all academic. GPS will soon allow robotic agriculture… among other things.

We still don’t know what gravitation is. However, we can predict more things than Newton did… Even if he did not suspect they were there. This is just the beginning of what could be revealed, if our satanic impulses are kept in check.

Patrice Ayme’


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www.grrrgraphics.com

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