Posts Tagged ‘Ethan Siegel’

Perverse Logic: Saving the Multiverse with Unhinged Cosmic Inflation!

February 1, 2018

When The Unobservable Universe Is Used To Justify Various Follies, Such As The Multiverse, Civilization Is In A Bad Way:

Physics is the laboratory of reason. This where the most advanced, most subtle logics are forged (even more so than in pure mathematics, where the navel’s importance is too great). So what physicists ponder, matters to the entire civilization which nurtures them. When physics goes to the dogs, so does civilization. The follies of state of the art theoretical physics, reflect an ambient madness which pervades civilization. (If you don’t believe this, may I sell you some imaginary bitcoins for millions of dollars?)

Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel, a continual source of excellent articles in physics, wrote an interesting essay which I disagree with. His reasons are interesting, and have the merit of honesty. My answers are even more striking, and I bring the full weight of 24 centuries of history as meta-evidence for crushing the feeble, pathetic, short-sighted considerations of my fellow physicists. Ethan’s essay is entitled: “Yes, The Multiverse Is Real, But It Won’t Fix Physics
Surprisingly, the evidence points towards the existence of the unobservable multiverse. But it isn’t the answer you’re looking for.

Ethan proposes to use cosmic inflation to provide for the proliferation of Schrödinger cats and Wigner’s friends. One folly would thus provide for the other, and they would thus stay up, like two drunks falling into each other’s arms. I will instead humbly suggest to do away with madness altogether. But first a little recap.

The universe is expanding. This experimental evidence was established around 1920, by a number of astronomers in Europe and the USA, the most famous of whom was lawyer turned astronomer, Edwin Hubble. Hubble had the biggest telescope. The expansion is presumed to be looking everywhere the same, and this is what seems to be observed. That also means that, if one looks far away, galaxies will seem to be receding from us at speed ever closer to the speed of light. As the apparent speed of these galaxies approach c, their light gets shifted to lower and lower frequencies, until they become invisible (same reason as why Black Holes are blacker than black).

Where the transition to invisibility occurs is called the “event horizon”. Beyond the event horizon is the unobservable universe (we can’t detect it gravitationally, as gravity goes at the speed of light, a theoretical prediction now experimentally verified).

The observed universe is “flat” (namely there is no detected distortion in the distribution of clouds, filaments and superclusters of galaxies). That sounds unlikely, and indicates that the observed universe is a tiny portion of a much larger whole.

This unobservable universe has nothing to do with the “Multiverse” brandished recently by many theoretical physicists who have apparently run out of imagination for something more plausible. Eighty years ago, Schrödinger pointed out that Quantum Mechanics, as formalized then (and now!) was observer dependent, and filled up the universe with waves of dead and live cats (when applied to macroscopic objects). That’s called the Schrödinger Cat Paradox. Instead of calling for a re-thinking of Quantum Mechanics (as I do!), Ethan Siegel (and many other physicists and astrophysicists) embrace the dead and alive cats, settling them in “parallel universes”. So basically they reenact Solomon Judgment: instead of cutting the baby in two, they cut the universe in two. Zillions of time per second, in zillions of smaller places than you can possibly imagine… Here is a picture of Schrödinger cat: as the branches separate in that movie, two universes are created. This is what Ethan Siegel wants to justify, thanks to cosmic inflation…

Ethan’s revealing comment: “The idea of parallel Universes, as applied to Schrödinger’s cat. As fun and compelling as this idea is, without an infinitely large region of space to hold these possibilities in, even inflation won’t create enough Universes to contain all the possibilities that 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution have brought us. Image credit: Christian Schirm.”
To explain crazy, we will go more crazy, thus making the previous crazy sound more rational, relatively speaking…

The Multiverse”, with baby universes all over the universe, has more to do with the “Many Worlds Interpretation” of Quantum Mechanics, a theory so absurd that the great popes of physics ruling around 1960 rejected it outright. Wheeler was ashamed of himself for having had a PhD student, Everett, who suggested this folly(Everett couldn’t get an academic job, at a time when academic employment in physics was booming!)

Ethan wrote: “In the region that became our Universe, which may encompass a large region that goes far beyond what we can observe, inflation ended all-at-once. But beyond that region, there are even more regions where it didn’t end.”

This sort of statement, and I say this with all due respect to the divine, is equivalent to saying:”Me, Ethan, having checked all that exists, observable by simple humans, or not, thereby informs you that I am either God, or that She is an interlocutor of mine. We checked that cosmic inflation thing, and saw it all over all the possible universes. Don’t talk, just learn.”

There is no way for us humans to know, for sure, or not, what is going on beyond the observable universe (aside from having no gravitational field distortions when approaching the event horizon, as I said above when considering “flatness”).

Ethan notices that Many Worlds fanatics have tried to use cosmic inflation to save their (ridiculous) theory. (“Many Worlds” is ridiculous, as Schrödinger tried to show, long ago, because there would be as many ways to cut the universes into “Many Worlds” as there are observers. So, so to speak, the “Many World Interpretation”, call it MWI, is actually MWI ^ {Observers} (MWI to the power of the set of all possible Observers, the latter set being itself something of an uncountably infinite function of MWI.)

Ethan says: “But just because variants of the Multiverse are falsifiable, and just because the consequences of its existence are unobservable, doesn’t mean that the Multiverse isn’t real. If cosmic inflation, General Relativity, and quantum field theory are all correct, the Multiverse likely is real, and we’re living in it.

What Ethan is saying is that if a number of crazy (cosmic inflation), or incomplete (Quantum Field Theory), ideas are “all correct”, then something as useful as angels on pin heads is real.Yes, indeed, if one believes that Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on a winged horse (!), one may as well believe all the rest of the Qur’an. That is a proof by crystal balls. After Ptolemy and company had established their (half correctly) predicting “epicycles” theory, one could have used it in turn to “prove” Aristotle ridiculous theory of motion.

23 centuries ago a much saner theory existed, that of Aristarchus. It was rejected at the time, precisely because it was not insane, and even though it was used to make a nearly correct prediction of the distance of the Moon. Aristarchus underestimated the distance of the Sun, but a telescope could have changed this (by showing more precisely the angle of the terminus on the Moon). If astronomers had the time had accepted heliocentrism as a possibility, it would have led them to invent the telescope. Similarly, right now, rejecting Many Worlds and Multiverse will lead to develop instruments which don’t exist yet (I have proposed at least one).

Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel suggests that: “The Multiverse is real, but provides the answer to absolutely nothing.” My opinion is that the Multiverse is worse than useless: the unhinged mood it provides prevents to develop more fruitful avenues of research, both theoretically and experimentally.

Insanity is the rule in crowds (Nietzsche). Thus follies are the truths crowds love, at first sight, before being corrected by higher minds. Why? Follies bind, because they are so special.

In Aristarchus’ times, heliocentrism, the fact Earth and its Moon rotate around the Sun, should have been obvious. Indeed, people, let’s think for a moment: where was the Sun supposed to be, considering the phases of the Moon? If the Sun turned around Earth, the Moon’s illumination should have changed all day long! It didn’t require much geometrical analysis to discover that this source of light could only be where Aristarchus computed it to be, far away from the Earth-Moon system.

It took 19 centuries to correct that (obvious!) mistake. Interestingly, Jean Buridan, circa 1350 CE, did it in the most theoretical fashion.

Buridan first showed that Aristotle’s ridiculous theory of motion made no sense, and had to be replaced by inertia and momentum (what Buridan called “impetus”). Having done this, the motion of the planets in a heliocentric system could be explained by “circular impetus”, Buridan pointed out (then he observed sardonically that we couldn’t observe the difference between epicycles and heliocentrism, so may as well go for “Scripture”).

Similarly, nowadays, instead of arguing with the “angels on a multiverse pinhead” authorities, we better point out to the glaring inconsistencies of Quantum Mechanics.

Civilization without reason is like a chicken without a head: it can run, but not forever.

Patrice Aymé


Discrepancy In Universe’s Expansion & Quantum Interaction

January 17, 2018

In “New Dark Matter Physics Could Solve The Expanding Universe Controversy“, Ethan Siegel points out that:

“Multiple teams of scientists can’t agree on how fast the Universe expands. Dark matter may unlock why.
There’s an enormous controversy in astrophysics today over how quickly the Universe is expanding. One camp of scientists, the same camp that won the Nobel Prize for discovering dark energy, measured the expansion rate to be 73 km/s/Mpc, with an uncertainty of only 2.4%. But a second method, based on the leftover relics from the Big Bang, reveals an answer that’s incompatibly lower at 67 km/s/Mpc, with an uncertainty of only 1%. It’s possible that one of the teams has an unidentified error that’s causing this discrepancy, but independent checks have failed to show any cracks in either analysis. Instead, new physics might be the culprit. If so, we just might have our first real clue to how dark matter might be detected.

20 years ago it was peer-reviewed published, by a number of teams that we were in an ever faster expanding universe (right). The Physics Nobel was given for that to a Berkeley team and to an Australian team. There are now several methods to prove this accelerating expansion, and they (roughly) agree.

Notice the striking differences between different models in the past; only a Universe with dark energy matches our observations. Possible fates of the expanding Universe which used to be considered were, ironically enough, only the three on the left, which are now excluded.  Image credit: The Cosmic Perspective / Jeffrey O. Bennett, Megan O. Donahue, Nicholas Schneider and Mark Voit.

Three main classes of possibilities for why the Universe appears to accelerate have been considered:

  1. Vacuum energy, like a cosmological constant, is energy inherent to space itself, and drives the Universe’s expansion. (This idea comes back to Einstein who introduced a “Cosmological Constant” in the basic gravitational equation… To make the universe static, a weird idea akin to crystal sphere of Ptolemaic astronomy; later Einstein realized that, had he not done that, he could have posed as real smart by predicting the expansion of the universe… So he called it, in a self-congratulating way, his “greatest mistake”… However, in the last 20 years, the “greatest mistake” has turned to be viewed as a master stroke…).
  2. Dynamical dark energy, driven by some kind of field that changes over time, could lead to differences in the Universe’s expansion rate depending on when/how you measure it. (Also called “quintessence”; not really different from 1), from my point of view!)
  3. General Relativity could be wrong, and a modification to gravity might explain what appears to us as an apparent acceleration. (However, the basic idea of the theory of gravitation is so simplest, it’s hard to see how it could be wrong, as long as one doesn’t introduce Quantum effects… Which is exactly what I do! In my own theory, said effect occur only at large cosmic distances, on the scale of large galaxies)

Ethan: “At the dawn of 2018, however, the controversy over the expanding Universe might threaten that picture. Our Universe, made up of 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter, and just 5% of all the “normal” stuff (including stars, planets, gas, dust, plasma, black holes, etc.), should be expanding at the same rate regardless of the method you use to measure it. At least, that would be the case if dark energy were truly a cosmological constant, and if dark matter were truly cold and collisionless, interacting only gravitationally. If everyone measured the same rate for the expanding Universe, there would be nothing to challenge this picture, known as standard (or “vanilla”) ΛCDM.

But everyone doesn’t measure the same rate.”

The standard, oldest, method of measuring the Hubble cosmic expansion rate is through a method known as the cosmic distance ladder. The simplest version only has three rungs. First, you measure the distances to nearby stars directly, through parallax, the variation of the angle of elevation during the year, as the Earth goes around its orbit. Most specifically you measure the distance to the long-period Cepheid stars like this. Cepheids are “standard candles”; they are stars whose luminosities vary, but their maximum power doesn’t, so we can know how far they are by looking how much they shine. Second, you then measure other properties of those same types of Cepheid stars in nearby galaxies, learning how far away those galaxies are. And lastly, in some of those galaxies, you’ll have a specific class of supernovae known as Type Ia supernovae. Those supernovae explode exactly when they accrete 1.4 solar mass, from another orbiting star (a theory of Indian Nobel Chandrasekhar, who taught at the University of Chicago). One can see these 1a supernovae all over the universe. Inside the Milky Way, as well as many of billions of light years away. With just these three steps, you can measure the expanding Universe, arriving at a result of 73.24 ± 1.74 km/s/Mpc.

The other methods makes all sorts of suppositions about the early universe. I view it as a miracle that it is as close as it is: 66.9 km/s/Megaparsec…

Ethan concludes that: “Currently, the fact that distance ladder measurements say the Universe expands 9% faster than the leftover relic method is one of the greatest puzzles in modern cosmology. Whether that’s because there’s a systematic error in one of the two methods used to measure the expansion rate or because there’s new physics afoot is still undetermined, but it’s vital to remain open-minded to both possibilities. As improvements are made to parallax data, as more Cepheids are found, and as we come to better understand the rungs of the distance ladder, it becomes harder and harder to justify blaming systematics. The resolution to this paradox may be new physics, after all. And if it is, it just might teach us something about the dark side of the Universe.”


My own starting point is a revision of Quantum Mechanics: I simply assume that Newton was right (that’s supposed to be a joke, but with wisdom attached). Newton described his own theory of gravitation to be absurd (the basic equation, F = M1 M2/dd. where d was the distance was from a French astronomer, Ishmael Boulliau, as Newton himself said. Actually this “Bullaldius” then spoiled his basic correct reasoning with a number of absurdities which Newton corrected).

Newton was actually insulting against his own theory. He said no one with the slightest understanding of philosophy would assume that gravitation was instantaneous.

Newton’s condemnation was resolved by Laplace, a century later. Laplace just introduced a finite speed for the propagation of the gravitational field. That implied gravitational waves, for the same reason as a whip makes waves.

We are in a similar situation now. Present Quantum Physics assumes that the Quantum Interaction (the one which carries Quantum Entanglement) is instantaneous. This is absurd for exactly the same reason Newton presented, and Laplace took seriously, for gravitation.

Supposing that the Quantum Interaction has a finite speed (it could be bigger than 10^23c, where c is the speed of light.

Supposing this implies (after a number of logical and plausible steps) both Dark Matter and Dark Energy. It is worth looking at. But let’s remember the telescope (which could have been invented in antiquity) was invented not to prove that the Moon was not a crystal ball, but simply to make money (by distinguishing first which sort of cargo was coming back from the Indies).

We see what we want to see, because that’s we have been taught to see, we search what we want to search, because that’s what we have been taught to search. Keeping an open mind is great, but a fully open mind is a most disturbing thing… 

Patrice Aymé

Super Earths Galore?

March 5, 2017

[Original research, as usual, explaining in a bit more detail the preceding essay, its allusions, and its background: I pointed out that Venus failed as a livable planet because of its different internal composition. I turn then that argument around to demonstrate habitable large “Super Earths” are perfectly plausible, because “Super-Earth” does not have to mean “Super-Gravity”. I ponder the reasons pushing some astrophysicists to be so dead set against Super-Earths, and track that to the usual submission to the present plutocratic Zeitgeist.]


Usually, among astronomers, the term “Super-Earth” denotes a ROCKY planet with a mass higher than Earth’s. This does not imply anything about the surface conditions, habitability, or the potential presence of indigenous life.

In the Solar System’s icy gas giants Uranus and Neptune are 15 and 17 Earth masses respectively. My idea behind the concept of Super-Earths is to avoid “Gas Dwarfs”, also called “Mini-Neptunes”, by keeping the mass low enough.

What matters, to determine the livability of a rocky planet, is its surface gravity, and its composition regarding water and magnetism. It’s not as simple as Huyghens had it: “How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them.” -Christiaan Huygens (17th Century; Huyghens was financed by the tyrannical Super Plutocrat Louis XIV, an intriguing twist).

3,500 planets have been found around other stars (March 2017; the High Provence observatory found the first, and then the French satellite Corot found plenty, followed by NASA’s Kepler). A great percentage of them are Super Earths in the usual sense of being more massive than Earth, but less than Uranus.

In my terminology, a large Super Earth is not necessarily a gas giant. It may well be livable. (The reason to insist on all this is that I want money for super-telescopes, which are technically feasible, now; it’s just a question of money! If one listens to Siegel/Forbes below, one would decided to only finance financiers, since they pay more…)

According to my silicate composition argument, livable Super Earths with ten times Earth's mass are imaginable, because they could have Earth-like surface gravity... Astrophysicists paid by plutocrats don't think so (thus money is best spent on their sponsors... Instead of telescope!)

According to my silicate composition argument, livable Super Earths with ten times Earth’s mass are imaginable, because they could have Earth-like surface gravity… Astrophysicists paid by plutocrats don’t think so (thus money is best spent on their sponsors… Instead of telescope!)


Ethan Siegel, a celebrity astrophysicist who writes for Forbes magazine, disagrees with the whole mood behind the concept of “Super Earth”.

Siegel claims that Super Earths are never habitable, let alone earthly: “There’s no such thing as a ‘habitable Super-Earth’. Earth is pretty much the limit of how large you can get and still be rocky. Anything much larger, and you’re a gas giant.

Bemoans Siegel: “For a long time, we thought our Solar System was the template for the planets we’d find in the Universe. Inner, rocky worlds dominate the hottest part of the Solar System, with large, gaseous planets orbiting much farther out. The largest rocky planet was Earth; the smallest gas giant was Uranus; the mass difference between the two was a factor of 17, with Uranus having four times Earth’s radius. So it was quite a surprise when exoplanet discoveries started rolling in. Not only can planets of various sizes and masses appear anywhere in a solar system’s orbit, but of all the mass-and-size combinations out there, the most common type of planet is one we don’t have at all: a Super-Earth.

May these worlds be home to the realizations of our extraterrestrial dreams? Ethan Siegel arrogantly nix the idea: “… a cold, hard look at the scientific facts — and at the physics behind planetary science — puts the kibosh on that in no uncertain terms. In fact, the most up-to-date science tells us that the very idea that there is such a thing as a “Super-Earth” is a failing on our part.

Imagining What's On The Left, Kepler 22 b as a livable Super Earth is a "failing on our part" say Forbes employed astrophysicists. Massive wealth inequality caused by lack of infrastructure, though is, presumably not a "failing on our part".

Imagining What’s On The Left, Kepler 22 b as a livable Super Earth is a “failing on our part” says Forbes employed astrophysicist. Massive wealth inequality caused by lack of infrastructure, though is, presumably not a “failing on our part”.

Ethan Siegel again:

“The planets that we’re searching for, ostensibly, are the ones that are the most Earth-like: with similar compositions, atmospheres, masses, temperatures and other conditions to our world. But until we actually find life on another world — or learn a whole lot more about these planets we’re only beginning to discover — we can’t be sure which conditions are mandatory for intelligent life and which ones are mere happenstance. When we classify worlds as Earth-like, we look to their radius and how much energy they receive from their star.

In the past, we’ve typically said that if these worlds are approximately the size of Earth and receiving approximately as much energy-per-square-meter as Earth, these are likely Earth-like worlds. But this was an assumption that we made prior to having enough data to draw a conclusion… thanks to follow-up observations of their pull on their parent star, we’ve obtained the mass for hundreds of these worlds. And the conclusion they point to is damning.”

The basic argument Ethan (and others from MIT, etc.) hint to is that Super Earths have such a high surface gravity, they hang onto considerable amounts of hydrogen and helium. Then the atmosphere becomes crushing, life can’t develop.

Professor Ethan claims, without iron-clad evidence that:

… the transition from “rocky” world to “gaseous” world occurs at just twice the Earth’s mass. If you’re more that twice the mass of Earth and you receive the same amount of energy from your star, you’ll be able to hold onto a substantial hydrogen-and-helium envelope of gas, creating an atmospheric pressure that’s hundreds or even thousands of times as great as what we have on Earth’s surface. The hope that Super-Earth worlds would be Earth-like is shattered, and we can safely put Super-Earths, Mini-Neptunes and Neptune-like worlds into the same overall category… it’s important to remember that even calling a world a “Super-Earth” is evidence of our bias. “


All too many scientists tend to be biased about bias. Why the hysteria?

But I repeat myself: Ethan Siegel works for Forbes.

His preceding conclusion is, In My Not So Humble Opinion (IMNSHO), flawed: it depends upon surface gravity, hence hypotheses about a planet’s internal composition. Basically, those scientists scale up the composition of Earth to Super-Earth”. But we have no proof of that. Quite the opposite, we have indication to the contrary.  

I already talked about Venus. Venus is nearly Earth-size is Venus’ magnetic field is weak, and make the planet appear like a comet (observing with some instrumentation).

Venus shows us a probably different composition: it is less massive because it does have Earth’s heavy radioactive iron core:


Primitive Mathematics & Geology Show Surface Gravity Can Be Low On A Super Earth:

The argument is that a Super Earth will have such a high surface gravity that it will trap an excess of hydrogen. Indeed, a planet with twice the radius of Earth will have eight times the mass of Earth. However this multiplication by 8 of its mass m is  true if, and only if, the Super Earth has the same density as Earth. Earth has density 5.5, due to a heavy iron core with density 10. Silicate rocks have only density 3.

If a Super Earth had the same exact composition as Earth, doubling the radius r would change the surface gravity, which is proportional to: m/rr. If m is multiplied by 8 and r by 2, one sees that the surface gravity is multiplied by 2.

However, if the Super Earth is mostly made of Silicates, its mass will just be multiplied by 5, not 8. Thus its surface gravity will only augment by 25%.

If now one considers a super Earth with radius three times Earth, one sees it’s volume will be 27 times greater, but, if made mostly of silicates, its mass will be no more than 15 times greater. Meanwhile 1/rr is roughly 1/10. So the surface gravity, would be only 50% greater.

Thus one sees that Super Earths with surface areas roughly ten times Earth are imaginable.

One could argue that a huge metallic iron core is necessary to create a large magnetic field protecting against radiation, in particular solar storms which may strip the atmosphere (as happened on Mars). And thus one could insist that the preceding is unrealistic that way. But we are sitting next to a mighty yellow star. Red Dwarves, although subject to flares, thus capable of ejecting radiation, may, overall, be less corrosive than Sol (as their energy output is relatively tiny).

The best way to make sure that we cannot have habitable Super Earth is to construct huge telescopes… That means high taxes in the financial sector, that useless vampire (Reminder: Obama brought in all the guys who had deregulated FDR’s financial safeguards, under Clinton in the 1990s; FDR had put those safeguards in roughly 48 hours after becoming president in March 1933!)


A grander perspective: Why Is The Anti-Super Earth Crowd So Vociferous?

Ethan Siegel: “But if you insist on calling these worlds Super-Earths, the conclusion is inescapable: whether gaseous or rocky, a Super-Earth is no place for a human.”

I hope that considering my own logic, geophysical logic, Venus, Mars, the stridency of that conclusion is perceived to be unwarranted. Actually  Laura Schaefer of Harvard thinks that surfing on Super Earths is definitively a possibility. According to her computer simulations, it’s easier to have oceans and they last longer (ten billion years) on Super Earths with 3 to 4 times the mass of Earths…

Let’s comeback to the strident enemies of livable Super Earths: they suffer from a known malady. This is the usual problem: to become stars, or super-stars, super-scientists jump to unwarranted super-conclusions which are bound to becoming “trending” on the “social networks”. There is little difference between that general mood of people sure of “The First Three Minutes” (who was measuring time, then? “God”, Dog, or super-physicists?) and “Allahu Akbar” (who told them Dog was great, Dog Himself? A friend of theirs?)

This is the moral flaw of (super) tribalism, the “Will To Power”, hubris unbounded, the ardent desire to become top primate, Super Baboon: it flushes, with neurohormones any other worries, makes one feel as if one were god. They all want to be like Obama, get it all, presidency, right of life and death onto the world, multi-billionaire friends, Nobel, etc. Just to forget their pathetic little condition on the Third Rock from Sol.

Well, the deepest thinkers are made of sturdier stuff. Build those telescope, and search for livable Super-Earths. They are out there. Tax those financiers behind Forbes and all plutocrats. Or, rather, tax their robots: most orders in the financial markets are passed by robots which trade in a way that leads the markets: 90% of the robotic orders to buy or sell are cancelled before being enacted.

Build telescopes, not cynicism!

Patrice Ayme’