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'11 - '12 SciMail

LATER Universe Truth? Lunar Anomaly? "AGW" Preferred? Lunar Message Science in Trouble
Summer School Reason? Ancient `science' Real `science' Media `science' AGW or Not?
That F.t.L Find? `New' Force? Mumbo-Jumbo Bad Science? Lactase? EARLIER


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Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2012 21:55:46 -0000
Subject: The New Philosophy Of Cosmology

Date: Sat, 21 Jan 2012 20:08:15 -0500
Subject: The New Philosophy Of Cosmology

>Source: TheAtlantic.Com

Thanks Errol,

that's (partly) the most truthful article on physics seen for a while.

First `truth' was that Hawking "doesn't know what he's talking about".

And he also said  "Standard cosmology, or what was considered standard cosmology twenty years ago, led people to the conclude that the universe that we see around us began in a big bang, or put another way, in some very hot, very dense state.  And if you think about the characteristics of that state, in order to explain the evolution of the universe, that state had to be a very low entropy state, and there's a line of thought that says that anything that is very low entropy is in some sense very improbable or unlikely."

Yup - personal reading, with hints from Smolin and Penrose, has allowed an extrapolation of Leibniz, risking a statement:  that "The principle of sufficient variety could mean that a homogeneous or zero-variety universe is unlikely or impossible" - see leibniz.html#variety

Some brave physicists have gone further, hinting that the gospel of the Big Bang has required so many subsequent fudges and fiddles - see ansci8.html#grav-t - that mainstream physics is now painted into a corner - and it's a deadend.

Hopefully that might force us to consider alternatives - see creation.html#updates

Even so was amused by his final posit:  that "[technology producing] intelligence is really not very useful.  It's not actually, in the general case, of much evolutionary value"  and his thought that it might drastically affect the alien life we might expect to find elswhere.

So, do we think the rest of the universe is only populated by beetles?

My own objection to that is backed (fortuitously) by todays sci-news, where we read that `Intelligent folk (with larger pre-frontals) have more friends" and, iirc, by much earlier research which has pointed out the bloody obvious - that intelligence (via adaptability), is the only way to avoid the evolutionary dead-ends of overspecialization, as in peacocks, tigers and spiny ant-eaters - see genes6.html#spek1

So, imho, he's only partly truthful.

Ray D

Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2012 12:42:16 -0000
Subject: Re: On the anomalous secular increase of the eccentricity of the orbit of the Moon

innpkg wrote:
> Interesting paper from Cornell University on the Eccentric orbit of the moon. David

Thanks David, the article (below) _is_ interesting.  Taking it at face value it says the eccentricity (e) of the Moon's orbit is increasing over the short term [de = change of eccentricity, so de/dt = change over time].

Maybe have to check astronomy software (have an Orrery and other stuff) because that change will presumably affect nodes (Moon's up/down crossings) and maybe even phases and syzygys (Full Moons and New Moons) slightly - because this eccentricity change probably wasn't known about when the software was written (usually using NASA or other tables). - Ray

PS - it's also interesting that the only reason given for ruling out the "trans-Plutonian massive object (Planet X/Nemesis/Tyche)" [which matches the figures], is that its size and orbit would be "completely unrealistic".  What does that mean?
On the anomalous secular increase of the eccentricity of the orbit of the Moon
Lorenzo Iorio (Submitted on 1 Feb 2011 (v1), last revised 22 Apr 2011 (this version, v6))

A recent analysis of a Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) data record spanning 38.7 yr revealed an anomalous increase of the eccentricity of the lunar orbit amounting to de/dt_meas = (9 +/- 3) 10^-12 yr^-1.

The present-day models of the dissipative phenomena occurring in the interiors of both the Earth and the Moon are not able to explain it. We examine several dynamical effects, not modeled in the data analysis, in the framework of long-range modified models of gravity and of the standard Newtonian/Einsteinian paradigm.

It turns out that none of them can accommodate de/dt_meas. Many of them do not even induce long-term changes in e; other models do, instead, yield such an effect, but the resulting magnitudes are in disagreement with de/dt_meas. In particular, the general relativistic gravitomagnetic acceleration of the Moon due to the Earth's angular momentum has the right order of magnitude, but the resulting Lense-Thirring secular effect for the eccentricity vanishes.

A potentially viable Newtonian candidate would be a trans-Plutonian massive object (Planet X/Nemesis/Tyche) since it, actually, would affect e with a non-vanishing long-term variation. On the other hand, the values for the physical and orbital parameters of such a hypothetical body required to obtain the right order of magnitude for de/dt are completely unrealistic.

Moreover, they are in neat disagreement with both the most recent theoretical scenarios envisaging the existence of a distant, planetary-sized body and with the model-independent constraints on them dynamically inferred from planetary motions.

Thus, the issue of finding a satisfactorily explanation for the anomalous behavior of the Moon's eccentricity remains open.

Subjects: General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Space Physics (

Journal reference: Mon.Not.Roy.Astron.Soc. 415:1266-1275, 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18777.x Cite as: arXiv:1102.0212v6 [gr-qc]

Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2011 16:29:47 -0000
Subject: "Florida threatened by rising sea levels

Think it's fairly obvious why `Floridians' and also Pacific islanders and Bangladeshis all opt for "man-made warming" (AGW) - because they're desperate to stop it.

Personally think much larger, much longer term forces are at work and that any human tinkering could make things catastrophically worse (in the short term - don't think the long term can be significantly changed) - Ray
Florida threatened by rising sea levels

Scientists say effects of global warming will have catastrophic consequences for US state.

Many scientists believe rising sea levels could create irreversible damage to most of the world's coastal cities.

One of the most vulnerable places in the world is Florida in the US, where there is near consensus that the problems are man-made.

Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher reports from Miami. ---

Date: Sat, 24 Dec 2011 13:00:52 -0000
Subject: Ha! - "When the moon is full ...

Ha!  Since first publicly commenting on "Full Moon Effects" (mostly physical - quakes etc - but also some physiological and even `mental' effects),  I've been reading and hearing `debunking' articles in the mainstream press and media (inc. BBC and Wiki).  Now it appears that some folk knew the truth more than two decades ago - and it was published in the BMJ (below), although members of the medical profession were foremost in the queue of noisy `debunkers' - who should have done some real research first.

Note - as my opinion was based on basic physics principles (but not - directly - to do with "gravity"), the `debunking' had no effect on me other than to make me wonder why so many folk are determined to lie for the `status quo' - and found out why much later - see

(BTW link to interesting stuff at foot of article)
When the moon is full, sink your teeth into a p-value
Are crime rates really higher when there's a full moon? That's a question for the statistical werewolves among you

Nathan Green, Friday 23 December 2011 12.23 GMT

I was a particularly cowardly child. I'm not such a brave adult either, but the subjects of my cowardice have changed somewhat. As an adult I'm more scared of losing my job in a recession or having my identity stolen on the internet. As a child, I was terrified of werewolves. Every full moon I would worry about being on the wrong end of gnashing, razor-sharp teeth.

Of course I shouldn't have been any more worried when there was a full moon than on any other night. Or should I? A classic article in the British Medical Journal (* below) sought to answer a similar question: are crime rates higher when there's a full moon?

Science is all about formulating and testing hypotheses. In this case the hypothesis would be: "Crime rates are higher when there's a full moon." Often, scientists set out to test the "null hypothesis": the default statement that, if true, would indicate that their experiment had not detected any real effect. In the case in question, the null hypothesis could be expressed as: "There is no difference in crime rates when there is a full moon compared with other nights."

The problem with data like crime rates is that it contains random noise - patterns can appear and disappear by chance alone. So we first need to ask ourselves how sure we want to be that there is a real difference between crime rates on a full moon and those on any other night. Quite sure? Fairly sure? Almost certain?

In other words, how high are we going to set the bar? Statisticians quantify the degree of certainty they want to achieve as the significance level: a threshold between 0 and 1 where the closer you get to 0, the more certain you can be that there's a genuine difference between two sets of numbers. This is what scientists mean when they talk about how "significant" their results are.

The significance level can also be expressed as a percentage between 0 and 100. For example, if we want to be at least 95% sure there's a real difference between sets of figures, this is called a 5% significance level (0.05). In other words, if we compared the number of crimes on lots of full moon and non-full moon nights, the numbers would be different at least 95% of the time.

To recap, we've formally described the hypothesis we want to test - that more crimes occur on nights when the moon is full - and we've said how certain we want to be that there's a genuine difference in these crime rates - the significance level.

Now we just need to find out how likely it is that the null hypothesis is true. This number is called a p-value and is a form of probability. If this probability is smaller than the significance level we've chosen then we can reject the null hypothesis (at least for now).

And that's it. Now you have the tools to answer the original question, because when the p-value is smaller than the significance level, we can say with some statistical confidence that crime rates go up when there's a full moon.

Applying these methods to their data, the researchers found there was a significant difference between the number of crimes committed when there was a full moon and the number of crimes on other nights: their p-value was much smaller than 0.001 (usually written as p<0.001). This means there was less than a 0.1% chance of the full moon and non-full moon crime rates actually being the same, despite the numbers that were observed in this particular analysis.

In other words, the researchers showed that if they were to repeat this analysis over and over again, say every year, they'd expect to get a difference in the number of crimes between nights with a full moon and non-full moon most of the time.

The strict statistical interpretation of what a significance test tells us is actually a little more subtle and is often misunderstood, but for now this explanation is just fine. (I'll cover "confidence intervals" in a later post.)

The scientists in this particular study did not claim to be able to explain their result. However, they speculated that it could be something to do with biochemical changes in the body under the influence of the moon's gravity. I'm sure there will be a number of more convincing explanations, on which I am not qualified to comment. After all, I'm a statistician not a criminologist.

(The number of crimes on equinox and solstice days did not differ significantly from those on other days, the authors reported, "suggesting that the sun probably does not influence the incidence of crime".)

This story just goes to show it's often harder to explain a statistical finding than to calculate it.  Somehow I doubt that much crime is carried out by werewolves, but I'm going to keep my door firmly locked just the same on the night of Monday 9 January - the next full moon.
Full moon and crime.
BMJ 1984; 289 doi: 10.1136/bmj.289.6460.1789 (Published 22 December 1984)
Cite this as: BMJ 1984;289:1789
Full Text [PDF]

C P Thakur, D Sharma

The incidence of crimes reported to three police stations in different towns (one rural, one urban, one industrial) was studied to see if it varied with the day of the lunar cycle.  The period of the study covered 1978-82.Crime and Lunar Phase

The incidence of crimes committed on full moon days was much higher than on all other days, new moon days, and seventh days after the full moon and new moon.

A small peak in the incidence of crimes was observed on new moon days, but this was not significant when compared with crimes committed on other days.  The incidence of crimes on equinox and solstice days did not differ significantly from those on other days, suggesting that the sun probably does not influence the incidence of crime.

[Collection of data -
The number of crimes reported on each day during 1978-82 was noted by one of us.  Data from all three police stations were pooled and the crimes coded and analysed by computer using a basic programming method.  The numbers of full moon days, non-full moon days, new moon days, third days before the new moon, third days after the new moon, seventh days after the new moon, seventh days after the full moon, third days before the full moon, third days after the full moon, all days minus full and new moon days, solstices, and equinoxes were calculated from the Gregorian calendar and the number of crimes committed on these days recorded.  To determine the trend in each police station the crimes committed on full moon and non-full moon days in these areas were also analysed and evaluated statistically.

Statistical analysis -
Frequency distributions were calculated to show the numbers of crimes committed on each day. Appropriate statistical analysis was done and significance assessed by x2 test26 and a confidence interval.

Results -
Crimes committed on 5478 days from January 1978 to December 1982 were studied.  One hundred and eighty three full moon days occurred during the period and 256 crimes were committed on those days.  On 186 new moon days 94 crimes were committed, on 5295 all minus full moon days 2878 were committed, on 186 seventh days after the full moon 75 were committed, and on 5109 all minus full and new moon days 2784 were committed; on 186 seventh days after the new moon 84 were committed, and on the 30 equinox and 30 solstice days nine and 22 crimes were committed.]

The increased incidence of crimes on full moon days may be due to "human tidal waves" caused by the gravitational pull of the moon.

[BTW - maybe see summary of much more `Perceptions' Full Moon data]

Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2011 17:54:53 -0000
Subject: Like we've been saying - "need for new physics
Published online 18 December 2011

Higgs boson: The need for new physics
Regardless of whether CERN's tentative Higgs detection is confirmed, the standard model of particle physics is incomplete, says physicist John Ellis in a Comment piece published in Nature this week.


Ha!  The problem's been known for a long time - but `big-sci' (the career establishment scientists who control Gov't spend _and_ the peer-review process) has painted itself into a corner and are now in denial - RD

Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 16:18:02 -0600
Subject: Wolfram Science Summer School 2012

We are pleased to announced the 10th annual Wolfram Science Summer School (formerly the NKS Summer School), and would like to invite you to apply to the three-week, tuition-free program, which runs June 25 through July 13 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Wolfram Science Summer School is hosted by Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica and the computational knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha, and Stephen Wolfram, world-renowned author of A New Kind of Science (NKS).

We are looking for highly motivated individuals who want to get involved with original research at the frontiers of science.  Our participants come from many diverse backgrounds, but share a common passion to discover and explore cutting-edge ideas.  Over the past 10 years, they have included graduate students, undergraduates, professors, industry professionals, artists and even a few exceptional high school students.

If accepted to the Summer School, you will work directly with others in the Wolfram Science community, including Stephen Wolfram and a staff of instructors who have made significant contributions to NKS and Wolfram|Alpha.  You will develop your own original project that could become the foundation of published papers or your thesis.

Take a look at the lecture notes from previous years to get a sense of what topics will be covered:

If you're serious about getting involved with innovative ideas at the core of Wolfram Science and NKS, you should consider applying as soon as possible.

Apply online at:

Todd Rowland, PhD
Wolfram Science Summer School Academic Director

Catherine Boucher, PhD
Wolfram Science Summer School Program Director

Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2011 17:13:07 -0000
Subject: Good/Evil/Consciousness - was Re: The EVIL that is happening

Hi Choong,
by coincidence, last night fell asleep reading a rather deep book (sci-fi) which was mentioning some aspects of bad-good / harm-evil etc - so woke up today with a ladder of concepts which needed writing down and ended up expanding them a little - here they are:

life / qualia / intent / awareness / sentience / consciouness / self-consciouness - self-awareness / intelligence / reason? / transhumanism? / ability?? / singularity?? - transcendence??? / understanding????

nb, the definitions are a bit subjective, but that `qualia' is used for basic raw feelings like cold/heat, pain/hunger; the "?"s indicate the degree of uncertainty of humans actually possessing or commanding a trait; and that `singularity-transcendence' is Ray Kurzweil's, _not_ any of the religious ones.

Personally think that humans are generally spread in mid-spectrum from `consciouness' to `intelligence' but am not sure if _any_ can actually command `reason' (consistently).


Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2011 11:36:42 -0000
Subject: Ha! - The wonders of Big-science

Having read some tomes on folk-lore, know that for many past generations people `knew' that the environment of a pregnant woman could affect the yet unborn child's development.

Then, as `big-science' (the new State-religion of the West) began flexing its dogmatic muscles during the 19th & 20th Cents, they dismissed all such wisdom as "old wives tales" - (you can find their arrogant dismissals in even recent medical texts).

And now, as with so many other `superstitions' or `old wives tales' about medicine/psychology and more, the "scientists" are finding that peoples of the ancient past were right after all.
Nov. 17, 2011
Courtesy of the Association for Psychological Science and World Science staff
"Depression in a pregnant woman can change how the baby develops after birth, new research suggests - but the effect is far from simple."

Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 11:44:49 +0100 Subject: The "Laws of Physics"?

Having gotten a bit irritated by folk who think - from their text-book reading - that there's a set of immutable `Laws of Physics' (rather than `Rules of Thumb' which are always having to be amended), decided to research a little into the opinions of the really _great_ thinkers about physical reality. First checked with Max Planck.

"The entire world we apprehend through our senses is no more than a tiny fragment in the vastness of Nature."

and, in the same publication -

"How do we discover the individual laws of Physics, and what is their nature?  It should be remarked, to begin with, that we have no right to assume that any physical law exists, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.  It is perfectly conceivable that one fine day Nature should cause an unexpected event to occur which would baffle us all; and if this were to happen we would be powerless to make any objection, even if the result would be that, in spite of our endeavors, we should fail to introduce order into the resulting confusion.  In such an event, the only course open to science would be to declare itself bankrupt.  For this reason, science is compelled to begin by the general assumption that a general rule of law dominates throughout Nature."
- `The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics' (1931)

Which seems truthful enough, although rather sweeping for the general reader, so then turned to Einstein.

He's not an obvious choice, for as a `successful' physicist he for a while became almost dogmatic about `physical laws', but later, recognizing the non-compatibility of Quantum with his Relativity theories (which are based on the assumption of `spherical force-field(s)' holding matter together as permanent objects or `structures'), he forced himself to think the unthinkable -

"I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, i.e. on continuous structures.  In that case, nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, [and of] the rest of modern physics."
- Albert Einstein 1954 (letter to Michael Besso)

That's a more precise appreciation of the problems facing modern physics, although, maybe due to his proximity to the experimental puzzles that Quantum was posing for all of his thinking, he went no further in trying to foresee future developments - at least not in print (so far as I know).

Likewise with most other thinkers in the field (not counting band-wagon riders / text-book parrots), until we come to the present decade and Penrose -

"I hope it is clear, from the discussion given in the preceding sections that our road to the understanding the nature of the real world is still a long way from its goal.  Perhaps this goal will never be reached, or perhaps there will eventually emerge some ultimate theory, in terms of which what we call `reality' can in principle be understood.  If so, the nature of that theory must differ enormously from what we have seen in physical theories so far."
- p. 1033 `The Road to Reality' by Roger Penrose (2004)

Which backs up my own tentative ideas on the subject and ironically, since we might have hoped this modern generation would be further advanced, also confirms Alfred Russel Wallace's prescient thoughts (many, but these two in particular) -
"matter is essentially force, and nothing but force" - - - "there is no law of nature yet known to us but may be apparently contravened by the action of more recondite laws or forces". [ref]

Which, even more ironically, in their turn support Leibniz -
"Reality cannot be found except in One single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another. ... I maintain also that substances, whether material or immaterial, cannot be conceived in their bare essence without any activity, activity being of the essence of substance in general." - Gottfried Leibniz, 1670 [ref]

It seems that others of the present generation share that irony, although maybe a bit sadly.  Here's Lee Smolin :
"We know no more than we did in 1975 - and that's not good". [ref]

Ray D

PS - Reason? - Trying to get the Phys-Edu folk off their backsides.

Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2011 14:24:19 +0100
Subject: Ha! "Explain the big bang ... unscramble some of the universe's mysteries"

Quite funny - in a sad way.  The media, esp. the BBC, select "stars" of science for the dumbed-down public to idolise - on the strength of TV appearances with lots of scenery and `effects' - but with very little [real] science - because it hurts down-market viewers' or listeners' [or journos' & hacks'] brains?

As you can read, this piece seems to promise a lot - complete explanations for almost everything.  So did the two stars deliver?  Nope - as you can see they double-talked and havered on all the big questions posed:  i.e. Big-bang? - no idea;  Black-holes? - no idea;  Infinity? - no idea;  FTL particles? - no idea;  Higgs Boson? - no idea.

Eventually they only sounded half-way confident on mundane questions we all know about (or can find out) like the `shape of the Milky Way'.
BTW - like many others they made the mistake of claiming the economic virtues of `science' when they mostly meant `technology' - something a bit different, which is usually done on a trial and error basis.
Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw explain the big bang What is infinity? Is the Milky Way omelette-shaped? Readers ask particle physicists Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw to unscramble some of the universe's mysteries

It was a scientific match made if not in heaven, then in manmade conditions approaching the big bang: Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw first met at a particle collider in Hamburg 15 years ago. They have collaborated on various scientific projects ever since and are now both professors at Manchester University's Particle Physics Group and are involved in research projects at Large Hadron Collider at Cern, Geneva.

Jeff explains their relationship thus: "Apart from Brian's pretty face, it's the fact that we both have this very direct, visceral love of physics, so we both really love what we're doing."

Their second book together, The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen, is published by Allen Lane on Thursday. It's as breezily a written accessible account of the theory of quantum mechanics as you could wish for - from the Planck constant to the Higgs particle and everything theoretically in between. Observers looking for evidence that science is the new rock'n'roll should note that the book jacket is designed by Peter Saville of Factory Records fame.

Brian's frequent TV appearances, handsome features and drainpipes have led to him being described as "something of a sex symbol" by the Daily Mail, a spoof column in New Scientist and satirical YouTube clips. Jeff, however, cuts a more conservative jib.

We asked readers to send in questions via email, and Twitter and you responded magnificently with queries both theoretical and practical, covering subjects from the subatomic to the infinite. Here is a selection of their replies.

Is there a centre of the universe?
Marjorie Ainsworth, via email

JF: It's a common misunderstanding of the big bang that the universe exploded into something, like a firework went off or something like that, and there was a centre that spewed out into something.

BC: That seems to imply that everything is flying away from us and we're therefore somehow in a privileged position; that isn't true. The way it's often described is if you imagine some bread with raisins in it that you're baking in the oven and as you heat it, it expands. On any particular raisin, if you look, you can see all the other raisins receding from it. So it's space that stretching, it's not that everything's flying away.

JF: It's the big stretch, not the big bang.

If everything came from a singularity, what created it?
bbmatt, via web

JF: What created the singularity? No idea. But that doesn't mean that some people haven't tried to come up with ideas. Anyway, everything coming from a singularity is a confusing line of questioning because the universe was probably infinite at the time of the big bang so it didn't really come from a singularity. It came from a singularity in the density, but I expect that the person who's asked that question imagined that the universe came from a point.

... but that's very unlikely. We don't know what happens deep inside a black hole, so when the density of the universe gets very, very large then our calculations cease to work, so the honest answer is that before we reach the singularity, our ability to calculate fails. But that's not to undermine how accurately we can calculate, because we claim to understand the behaviour of the entire visible universe winding back through the big bang to a time when it was the size of a beach ball. So that's all the billions of galaxies and all the billions of stars in the galaxies compressed to about the size of a beach ball, which is pretty impressive.

BC: General relativity, quantum mechanics, those things break down in there, so the idea that there is such a thing as a singularity in nature is unlikely. A lot of people think that if you have a proper theory of gravity that works smaller than the beach ball metaphor then you don't have these issues, but it's not known.

JF: Another misunderstanding, which stems from that question, is the idea that the universe was small at the big bang. What was small at the time of the big bang was the entire visible universe, so everything we can see now, which is about 14bn light years away, all of that was compressed to the size of a pinhead. But it was one pinhead in an infinite space, so there's an infinite amount of stuff, as far as we can tell, outside our universe. So it's right to say that it's 14bn years old, but it's wrong to say that it's 14bn light years in size because it's probably infinitely big.

However, the question that's probably been asked is what happened before the beginning and the answer to that is that nobody has a clue - so that's the honest answer.

If there exists some particle that can travel faster than light, then surely there should be a way of sending information into the past?
jamma88 via web

BC: Yes, that's true. If you don't modify Einstein's theory of relativity and you take it at face value and send something faster than light, then yes, you can send messages into the past. So, if the current result is shown to be correct, then probably what you're saying is that you want a new theory of space and time, and then, who knows?

JF: In a nutshell, if Einstein is right, then yes is the answer to the question. But you'd be very hard pressed to find a physicist who thought that Einstein is right if you find a particle travelling faster than the speed of light. What that means is that Einstein is wrong because you can't travel back into the past and so there's some new theory that comes into play, which protects the law of cause and effect. It's very hard to conceive of a logical universe in which cause and effect doesn't hold.

What does no Higgs mean for physics? What are the other theories?
Jason Mickler via email

JF: No Higgs would be very exciting.

BC: It could be more exciting than finding it. The favoured candidate for the something new that we know must exist at the Large Hadron Collider is the Higgs, but it could be something else.

We've written several papers together and our most cited one is what would happen if there isn't a Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider and how we might explore the physics that must be there if there isn't one. It's very rare that you get to build an experiment in science where you're guaranteed to discover something new. The Large Hadron Collider is such an experiment, in that the standard model of particle physics predicts that there's going to be a Higgs particle. But it's not necessarily going to be there and if you take away the Higgs particle out of our standard theory, you take away all the maths and throw it in the bin and see what's left ... and what's left is a theory that doesn't make sense.

JF: Something will show up sooner rather than later. If the Higgs particle is relatively light, there's a range of masses we expect it to have and we should see it very soon, we could even see it before Christmas. If it's heavy or if the alternative to it is heavy, then it could take a few more years before we find it. We're closing in on it fast now though - the machine is working absolutely wonderfully, it really is.

How do you feel about scientists who blog their research rather than waiting to publish their final results? Stephen Marks via email

BC: The peer review process works and I'm an enormous supporter of it. If you try to circumvent the process, that's a recipe for disaster. Often, it's based on a suspicion of the scientific community and the scientific method. They often see themselves as the hero outside of science, cutting through the jungle of bureaucracy. That's nonsense: science is a very open pursuit, but peer review is there to ensure some kind of minimal standard of professionalism.

JF: I think it's unfair for people to blog. People have overstepped the mark and leaked results, and that's just not fair on their collaborators who are working to get the result into a publishable form.

Scientists use supernova explosions to measure how far away supernovas are. The distance depends on how bright they appear against how bright they really are. How do scientists know how bright the supernova explosions should be?
Bas Bouma via email

JF: When stars explode in a particular way (called Type Ia supernovae) they do so in a remarkably consistent manner - that is to say one such explosion looks pretty much the same as any other. That means that if we can measure the distance to a "nearby" supernova using some other method (and not its brightness) then we can use that to calibrate things and determine the distance to more distant supernovae using only their brightness. Incidentally, these supernovae are remarkable events. White dwarf stars are small dead stars and they survive purely as a consequence of quantum mechanics but only if they weigh less than 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. If this thing accretes matter and sneaks past the magic 1.4 solar masses then the electrons within the star start to move close to the speed of light and that triggers a catastrophic collapse - the supernova.

If question-asking is so fundamental to science, why has there been no research into how we might improve question-asking for learners in our places of education?
Laurence Smith via email

BC: I think, for example, quantum mechanics should be taught in schools for this reason. One of the reasons is that it's a great way of seeing how the data from experiments can drive you to a rather counterintuitive picture of the world. For example, the rules of quantum physics are not by themselves complicated, but they are philosophically challenging. I think the scientific method is more important to teach than facts. I'm not that bothered if people know about the structure of the atom or whatever but I want people to understand how you get to these conclusions about the world.

My question is: I cannot perceive or understand infinity. For man, everything has a beginning and an end. Answer, please!
Harry, via web

JF: The reality is that we don't know for certain what's outside the 14 billion years' worth of what we can see, so there could be an edge to the universe, it's possible, but there's no evidence in any of the data.

BC: The universe was opaque about 380,000 years after the big bang and at that point became diffuse enough that light could travel through it. And we can see that light, people measure it in great detail, and you could see if the universe had an edge in that data, but there's no sign of it.

The physics behind the current understanding of the universe isn't complete, but do you think that a new kind of mathematics will be needed, and what kind of mathematics might that be?
John Read, via email

JF: There isn't a Nobel prize for mathematics, its equivalent is called the Fields Medal and people who are working on fundamental questions in physics, string theory in particular, have won that prize in recent times, so it already is the case that physicists are breaking new ground within mathematics. People are trying to understand the universe at its birth - the behaviour of phenomena down to mind-bogglingly small scales - we're talking like 10-40cm. So new mathematics may well be needed and people are inventing new mathematics.

But it should be stressed that the known physics, the physics that we've measured in experiments, none of that really has mandated in any particularly significant way our theories of mathematics. There are exceptions, such as the idea that numbers have the property of commutativity, which means that 2x3 is equal to 3x2, but the theory of elementary particles used, for example, at the Large Hadron Collider utilises a mathematics where in the product of two numbers the order matters, so X times Y doesn't equal Y times X.

How do we know what shape the Milky Way is? I've seen many illustrations of our galaxy as a spiral, but how can we tell what it looks like when we're deeply embedded inside it?
Chris Muggleton, via email

JF: If you lived in an omelette, and you lived on the edge of that omelette, you could measure the distance between all the pieces of mushroom in the omelette. If you were clever enough to work out how far it was to all the different parts of the omelette, you'd be able to reconstruct it. So it's all a question of measuring the distance between the stars. Because they don't move any significant distance in the time you're measuring them [relatively speaking], to get the shape of it, all you need to know is the distance.

How do you feel about amateur astronomers, in today's hi-tech society?
Duncan Jones, via email

JF: Years ago, amateurs played a big part in the understanding of the cosmos, with observations and the recording of events. Unfortunately, with the advent of modern technology, the role of the amateur has been left far behind.

BC: In things such as astronomy, there's always been a place for amateur observers because there's a lot of sky. Certainly in searching for things such as new comets, they do make a contribution.

In particle physics, it's impossible for amateurs to be involved in the data because there's too much infrastructure required. In theoretical physics, Jeff might want to comment, and in theory the amateur could make a contribution because you don't have to be an academic to submit to a academic journal. If the paper makes sense then it can be published.

JF: I get a lot of papers sent to me by amateur scientists. But they've usually not got the scientific background or the training to make a contribution in theoretical physics, so it's very hard unless you've got that training.

Politics and economics
How likely is it that we'll be able to harness fusion power before we run out of fossil fuels?
@craighitchings via Twitter

BC: If we were to invest in it properly, then I'd say very likely, because the technology has been proved. In fact, the most effective fusion reactor at the moment is still in Oxford, which is where it's been for more than 30 years - and it works.

The problem is that it's not a very good commercial option at the moment because no one's demonstrated that you can build a commercially viable reactor. That's why government money has always been needed - because it's a 20 to 30 year investment. That's not the way you do things in private companies but governments can certainly help; we're talking single-figure billions, not going to the moon. So in my view, the technology has been demonstrated and it's simply a question of working out how to build industrial-scale plants that can return profit.

The real problem is that you have to contain plasma that's at a very high temperature - dismembered gas, basically. So it's very difficult to model and there are real engineering challenges. We need to understand what happens to this plasma.

Is the 75bn euros spent on the Large Hadron Collider worth the investment?
Oliver Gerrard via email

BC: The UK spends about 70m a year on the LHC. We spend less in Britain each year on Cern than we do on peanuts, literally, so it's a very tiny amount of money. A lot of that money funds PhD students and a lot of it pays for academics in universities - the bulk of the money actually stays in Britain. So breaking it down, it costs very little.

The other thing to understand is that the LHC is often portrayed as the search for another esoteric particle and that's nonsense. It's been built to solve a specific problem in our understanding of three of the four forces of nature. And there are all sorts of theories about how that might work, the Higgs being one of them. To portray it as some kind of esoteric hunt for an elusive particle is nonsense: it's the mainline of physics, which has arguably created wealth beyond anyone's wildest dreams and will continue to do so.

Can science save the economy?
Andrea via email

Both: Yes!

BC: It's the foundation of the economy for a start, so it'll have to! Nothing else will save it. The modern world is based on science, so that's it - there is nothing else.

JF: Yes, I'd be that definitive. For example, a significant fraction of the global economy relies upon the existence of a transistor - the world has been revolutionised by fundamental research into quantum physics done 60 years ago and now there are billions of transistors inside very home computer. They are a key ingredient of the microchip.

BC: It's science and engineering, you've got to put them together. Science and engineering together are the economy. Earlier this month, George Osborne announced the funding for science projects, including 50m for research into graphene, a material that has the potential to revolutionise the 21st century. More powerful electronics, stronger aeroplanes ... pretty much anything you can think of, graphene can improve.

We are one of the world's leading scientific nations and it's my view that we should aspire to be the best.

Actually, George Osborne and this government are beginning to show signs of believing that. I think a lot of credit goes to the science minister, David Willetts, for making his point over and over again. I think it's beginning to bear fruit and we're starting to invest even at this difficult time - in fact especially at this difficult time, as that's what you need to do.

Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2011 17:23:11 -0400
Subject: Re: Climate study confirms what skeptics scoffed at: global warming is real

Hi Dave,
the biggest problem for the AGW lobby (who all stand to gain from tax-payers money if AGW is accepted), is that Warming happens regularly and naturally _without_ human `causes' -

I.e. when Erik the Red was in Greenland it was forested and had ample pasture-lands:

due to the Medieval Warm Period

(followed by the Little Ice Age

and all that happened _before_ the industrial age.

[maybe check the scientific evidence?]

Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2011 15:32:25 +0100
Subject: Q&A on _that_ F.t.L discovery (maybe)

Interesting Q&A on the `big discovery' (maybe) - to me the vital part is that `cause and effect' are still valid _if_ Special Relativity is wrong.  (I.e. - no time travel).  Deep down I don't believe cause and effect _can_ be reversed - Ray

[here's a small sample from the Q&A]
So why can't something go faster than the speed of light?

Because it would violate the laws of cause and effect. Something could go back in time and witness the moment of its own creation.

But these neutrinos have only gone a little bit faster than the speed of light. Wouldn't you have to go a lot faster to do that?

No, not strictly, no. It would take a long time to get there, because you're only going that little bit faster. You might well die of old age before you did. But the idea is that, as soon as you start travelling faster than the speed of light, you are moving through time.

The idea that you could get into a rocket and go back in time is a long way off: it is merely the theoretical possibility that there is something that can move faster than it. We don't really have any option but to accept that this is not possible. It's sewn in to the theory of the universe. If special relativity is true and something can travel faster than the speed of light, then you can go back in time.

Does it make time travel possible?

Well it makes it possible for those neutrinos. They are the most elusive particles in the universe. The fact that there is something in space time that has this feature is enough to upset the theory.

Are there any practical implications?

Well not now, but if it is true, then the law of cause and effect is no longer sacrosanct. If you insist that cause and effect must be true, then Einstein's theory of space and time is wrong. The idea that anything can go back and violate the law of cause and effect is so repugnant to scientists that they would have to ditch Einstein's theory and find something else that makes it sacrosanct again.

Einstein completely overturned Newton's ideas. This discovery, if true, would be to Einstein's theory of relativity what Einstein's theory was to Newton.
... (more at page)

Date: Sat, 17 Sep 2011 13:03:59 +0100
Subject: You might like this Choong

Was just searching for a long-ago post and accidentally found this, coincidentally linked to our recent conversation (BTW that query re "Motion should be damped?" is relevant - and it might be true but we can't travel fast enough - many times lightspeed - to find out) - Ray
From: Ray Dickenson
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 21:53:28 +0100
Fwd Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 07:56:46 -0400
Subject: Re: UFOs Gravity & Inertia

> From: Martin Shough
> Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 19:48:28 +0100

>> From: Bill Hamilton
>> Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 05:13:23 -0700

>>> From: Eugene Frison
>>> Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2005 22:54:58 -0300

< snip>

> There was also an old theory of gravity based on filling space with a field of particles that exert pressure from every direction, and you could explain inverse square "attraction" in a crude way because the angular area of objects that shadow one another from the particle flow would vary as the inverse square of separation. I don't know if anyone seriously worked this up but I've seen it mentioned. Feynman discusses it somewhere. This is similar to your proposal.

Hello Martin & All

Yes, Feynman considered that theory and, for same reason that Michelson-Morley experiment was considered a failure, he dismissed it because he, and everyone else was considering a *slow universal pressure (*slow - i.e. light speed or below). At a *slow speed such a force would be obvious, giving you extra gravitational effects when you moved, even uniformly: which doesn't happen [we don't detect uniform motion'].

But if the universal force were incoming at many, many multiples of light speed then we wouldn't be able to detect it by movement because our movement wouldn't be able to make more than a tiny, undetectable difference. That's also real reason why the Michelson - Morley experiment has not been correctly evaluated. But we *could* detect a small effect at relativistic speeds - and NASA has been detecting such a mystery force for about seven years or more (check "LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY NEWS RELEASE - September 24, 1998" in Google").

> Some properties of mass could be produced by your particle-resistance. But one main problem with an idea like this would be explaining why Newton's First Law is valid. Why do objects keep moving? Inertia isn't just about them sitting still of course, but about them needing a reason not to just keep on going. Motion ought to be damped out.

Right Martin, and Feynman spoke on that - "The reason why things coast for ever has never been found out. The law of inertia has no known origin" (Lecture published as "The Character of Physical Law" p. 19). I.e. exactly as you went on to say:-

> But GR itself doesn't explain inertia; it describes how the spacetime metric responds locally to the presence of mass but I personally think some way is needed of implementing Mach's principle non-locally to explain inertia. > Intriguing stuff though.

Right again, but now we've got a force that _will_ explain the "extra" inertia you get by spinning something: a coin, a bucket of water (Newton) or water filled balloon (Einstein); it's _got_to_ come from surrounding space and, by Occam, it's the same force that confers both mass and "ordinary" inertia (only one force - because mass & inertia are always exactly proportional).

Which means there's a likely "Inertia Drive" and an "Inertia Shield" just around the corner from now.

Ray D

UPDATE 18 Sep. '11 - in light of failures/admissions (background here) maybe we should check the unknown force in the Universe [ post de 2004] referred to below - RD

Date: 15 September 2011 14:45
Subject: Modern Mumbo-Jumbo

For quite a while we've been critical of UK (+ western) science / physics education - see ed4.html [+ some background]

And now, just yesterday, the `experts' are finally agreeing, maybe reluctantly - see reports of lack of experiment, obsolete teaching etc, [below]

We have a shock / surprise for both `experts' and unis / educationalists:
the biggest mysteries in the universe can be displayed on a kitchen table, using nothing more than the contents of your pocket or purse!

But the `science establishment' doesn't want to talk about that (maybe here's their motives - badsci.txt).

Why?  Because the biggest mystery of physics is INERTIA (see inertfey.txt), which almost certainly also contains the mystery of MASS (what the LHC is looking for - only they use the "God" word), and of GRAVITY and maybe even that QUANTUM mystery (see - twoslit.txt).

Here's the experiment:  take a coin (or a small regular object - like a `spinning-top') and spin it on the kitchen table.
Result:  it stands upright while it spins strongly, then wobbles a while and finally falls flat.

I.e - the coin has has somehow captured extra inertia by spinning - and that extra inertia came from the substance of the universe - which scientists are afraid to even think about, never mind discuss.

That is the mystery - and big science can't explain it!  All the science pundits can do is waffle, using phrases like `gyroscopic principle' as if that "explains" it - but it doesn't!

[Saying that the `gyroscipic principle' is the cause of a coin spinning upright is exactly the same as saying "It happens because it happens" - i.e it's a circular argument ("begging the question" - see begged.txt)]

It almost looks like our politicos and sci-experts don't want any more real science done;  solely to maintain the `status quo' and keep people in powerful positions - based on mumbo-jumbo:  rubbish science.

Ray D

UPDATE 18 Sep. '11 - in light of failures/admissions (background here) maybe we should check the unknown force in the Universe [ post de 2004] referred to below - RD

Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2011 11:18:24 +0100
Subject: UK's science schooling - obsolete crap. Why?

Wow! - a half-hearted confession that UK's science schooling is too often lazy & incompetent, ignorant (and always out-of-date).  [As we'd said here]

Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2011 17:01:08 +0100
Subject: Item on "tolerance + intolerance of MILK

Saw the first `news item' which says `Europeans amd Indians have same mutation to tolerate milk as adults', and did a little searching - then found that peoples in N China have a _different_ mutation for milk tolerance. Interesting - Ray
The vast majority of lactase persistent Europeans carry a mutation -13910T, that has been shown to have been strongly favoured by natural selection among people with supplies of milk to hand. It seems to have originated somewhere in Europe around 7,500 years ago. The mutation seems to be absent from samples of early central European farmer's skeletons who lived around the time that domestic cattle, sheep and goats arrived there.
"To our surprise we found that the -13910T mutation was also common in India - especially in those populations with a tradition of milk drinking," said Dr Toomas Kivisild of Cambridge University, senior author of the study.
"Not only that, but by looking at nearby genetic regions we could show that the Indian -13910T has the same origin as that found in Europeans; that it could lead back to the same few people who may have migrated between Europe and India."
The lactase gene -13910T allele can not predict the lactase-persistence phenotype in north China.
Sun HM, Qiao YD, Chen F, Xu LD, Bai J, Fu SB. The frequency of lactase persistence varies widely in human populations. Study showed that the T allele of a C/T transition 13910bp upstream from exon 1 of lactase gene (LCT) was completely associated with lactase persistence in a Finnish population. To evaluate if the frequency of -13910T allele was in concordance with the lactase persistence in northern Chinese populations, in this study, we used Polymerase Chain Reaction-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) to detect the lactase -13910T allelic frequency in 5 northern Chinese populations for the first time. Results showed that the T allele frequency was low in these populations and that it did not match the lactase persistence phenotype in these populations. Therefore the -13910T allelic frequency can not serve as a predictor of the lactase persistence in these populations and this suggests the existence of other possible mechanisms of lactose tolerance in Chinese populations.

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