Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cosmology: We have now identified the evil universe. Stand by to open fire.

And just when I thought cosmology could not get any sillier, ... Stuart Fox of PopSci (10.16.2009) assures us that "Physicists Calculate Exact Number of Alternate Universes There are 10^10^16 of them (but #1,000,443,163,313,125,343,132 is the evil one)"
For some time, physicists have theorized about the existence of alternate universes. In fact, some models of physics require multiple universes, to explain some rarely observed phenomena. But, other than obvious ones like The Man In The High Castle Universe where the Nazis won WWII, the Earth-295 Age of Apocalypse Universe, and the Terran Empire "Mirror Mirror" Universe, just how many alternate universes are there? Well, some Stanford University physicists have answered that question, and the magic number is: 10^10^16 other realities.
Glad someone else has a sense of humour about all this nonsense.

Large Hadron Collider: If this "backwards time travel" is not a joke, it should be

Woes of God particle physics

Here's a fun piece on the large Hadron Collider's woes, when a passing bird dropped a piece of bread on it, via Commentary Magazine - "Big Bang Machine Felled by Frenchman from the Future" by Anthony Sacramone (11/16/09):
So efforts by scientists to re-create the big bang — that moment, if one can speak of a moment, as in time, before there was time, or at least a decent wristwatch, when energy, or some hot gooey primordial stuff, spewed out a burgeoning universe, eventuating in the birth of galaxies, the advent of life, and the eventual cancellation of Charles in Charge — have failed once again.

It seems that the quixotic quest to find Higgs Boson, once thought to be the front man for an Air Supply tribute band, but which turns out to be the “God” particle,” has come to a crumbling halt.

First, about a year ago, the Large Hadron Collider (not to be confused with the Medium Hadron Collider and Omnidirectional Shower Head) went phffffff when, shortly upon whiz-banging, hydrogen began to leak from its cooling thingee, ruining a good pair of chinos and an autographed picture of Carol Channing.
Go here for more. The funny part is the explanation offered:
As the narrator of this CNN piece relates:

According to two physicists, the culprit could be the Higgs-Boson Particle traveling back in time to destroy itself.
Hey, I do that all the time, but I generally try to defuse embarrassing social situations and documents, and do not drop bread on anyone. Succeed or fail, I have an advantage over the Higgs Boson particle. I definitely exist.

Golly, I can remember the days when science was not ridiculous. Here's another interesting comment.

Coffee!! Bird drops piece of bread: Adds to Large Hadron Collider (God Machine) woes

A friend sends me this note about the woes of the Large Hadron Collider, with the caution that one couldn't make this stuff up:
The Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed some of the magnets that guide the energy beam. Then LHC officials postponed the restart of the machine to add additional safety features. Now, a bird dropping a piece of bread on a section of the accelerator has, according to the Register, shut down the whole operation.
Hey, Hey, I feel the physicists' pain. Neighbours feed pigeons, squirrels, and feral cats - and guess what? They become a nuisance.
It's one of the most expensive and technologically-complex machines in the world, but that didn't prevent the Large Hadron Collider from coming a cropper thanks to our feathered friends.

The £4.4 billion 'God Machine' overheated after a passing bird dropped a piece of bread into a high voltage installation which was powering a cooling unit.

Scientists looking into a failure of the cryogenic cooling plant found a piece of baguette had caused the malfunction.

You gotta see the bird here with a mouth crammed with - I would say - too much bread. But birds don't have teeth or shopping bags and - Collider? - I guess the bird would only be interested in getting the bread back or maybe getting a whole baguette.

Exoplanets: The recent pilgrimage to Darwin's shrine

At Britain's Telegraph (November 04, 2009), Tom Chivers advises that "Darwinian evolutionary theory will help find alien life, says Nasa scientist."
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution may give pointers in the search for alien life, says a Nasa astrobiologist. Here, we learn two competing views:
And so the limits of Darwinian evolution will define the range of planets that can support life – at least Earth-like life."
... alien life may not be entirely Earth-like. Dr Baross said: "I'd like to point out there are many different ways for non-Earth-like life to not use light or chemical energy but use some other form like radiation energy, wave energy, or ultraviolet energy."
. And then how can we know that the way they proceed is by Darwinian evolution?

We also learn
"I think all of us really believe that rocky planets, like Earth, are going to be found at some point," said Baross.
Well, lots of people have really believed lots of things that never happened. I happen to agree with him re rocky planets, because in a galaxy the size of ours, we will doubtless find lots of things, possibly extraterrestrial life ...

I am a little more concerned about the underlying agenda in some cases. NASA could be undermining its chances via Darwin worship.

Some more exoplanet stories:

Does our solar system occupy a unique position in the universe or just an ordinary one?

Rare? Solar systems like ours are rare?

Astronomer argues that we can test whether Earth is fine-tuned as a science lab

Serious push to find more exoplanets

Exoplanets: Will intelligence be common or rare?

Hat tip The Mustard Seed.

Cosmology: If you needn't worry about paying the rent Friday, you can worry about this stuff

In "Seven questions that keep physicists up at night" (New Scientist, 23 October 2009) Ivan Semeniuk reports from the Quantum to Cosmos Festival at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario:

Here are the seven questions:

1. Why this universe?

2. What is everything made of?
... But the discovery of dark energy, which appears to be speeding up the expansion of the universe, has created a vast new set of puzzles for which there are no immediate answers in sight. This includes the nature of the dark energy itself and the question of why it has a value that is so extraordinarily small, allowing for the formation of galaxies, stars and the emergence of life.

3. How does complexity happen?

4. Will string theory ever be proved correct?

5. What is the singularity?

6. What is reality really?

7. How far can physics take us?

It strikes me that these questions vary in levels of worth. How complexity happens (3) is an important puzzle; whether string theory is ever proved correct is of interest only to string theorists and skeptics (4). As to how far physics can take us (7), I am not Madam Rosa the psychic, so do not pretend to predict the future.

The "Quantum to Cosmos" festival is online here.

Other cosmology stories at Colliding Universes:

Cosmology: Science's leader in things that don't make sense

Cosmology: Crisis of the month: gravitation

Cosmology: Multiverse - getting comfortable with a zillion of everything that is unique.

Cosmology: I seem to have yanked particle physicist Lawrence Krauss's chain

Cosmology: Wow. It takes guts to wage warwith Stephen Hawking. He appeared in Star Trek

Cosmology: Arguments against flatness (plus exposing sloppy science writing)

Cosmology: If the universe has free will, where do I go to file a claim for damages?

(Note: I wasn't able to keep this blog up recently, due to various projects, but am now back. )