Month – March 2007

Titan

You have probably heard or read about the lakes on Titan and thought perhaps Titan also might harbor life. Lakes on Titan are not water lakes, but rather liquid methane and ethane. Titan’s surface temperature is about -290F (-178C) and any water would be frozen solid.

Radar Image of Titan's Ethane / Methane Lakes
Click Image For Nasa Article

Titan’s atmosphere also hints at something that might be hospitable to life in that like earth, it is about 90% nitrogen plus about 10% hydrocarbon compounds. Titan has an atmospheric pressure of 1.6 bar (60% greater than Earth’s). But there again the temperatures are far too cold for liquid water to exist.

There is an article in the Christian Science Monitor that posits the possibility of life with methane serving as the solvent rather than water. If such life existed, I would expect it’s functioning to be very slow given the temperatures involved but I suppose not entirely impossible.

We used to think it impossible for life to exist above the boiling point of water, but now we know there is a whole class of life that we’ve come to call thermophiles that exist near the black smoker mid-ocean rift vents that thrives in temperatures above the point of water at the surface (the great pressure at the depths involved prevent water from boiling at those temperatures).

So who really knows for sure. We really don’t know just how adaptable life actually is.

Way Out

For me there is no question about the existence of intelligent life elsewhere. I sometimes do wonder about the existence of intelligent life here on earth. A conversation I had with my father over the weekend did highlight the fact that for others it is very much a question.

I’ve related my experience but, those who haven’t experienced something similar only take that to mean that I’m out of touch with reality. I don’t understand why some people have such a touch time with the possibility of life from elsewhere occasionally visiting earth.

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich provides an estimate of 7 x 1022 stars in the universe. That’s 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

In our galaxy we’ve surveyed a number of stars in the local vicinity looking for planets. Planets are so small and so dim compared to a star that we are unable to detect them directly because they are lost in the glare of the parent star. Since we can’t see them directly, we look for the wobble their gravity creates in the parent star. We can detect this by looking at the spectral lines shift in frequency in a periodic rate (as the planet orbits the star). One other method we can occasionally use is detecting momentary dimming of a stars light by a planetary transit.

The former method only works well if the plane of the orbit of the planet around the star is somewhat in our direction so the star gets pulled towards us and away from us. If it is not close to edge on the star gets pulled back and forth or up and down relative to us and we can’t see that in a Doppler shift.

Additionally, our detection method only works well for massive planets orbiting relatively close to the star. So called “hot Jupiters” that are generally Jupiters mass or heavier orbiting close to the star.

If the orbit of a stars planet is exactly edge on relative to us and transits the star, we can detect somewhat smaller planets that way and planets that orbit more distant from the star but it is extremely rare for such an orbital configuration to line up just right for us to be able to detect a planet transiting a star.

We would not be able to detect any of the planets in our own solar system from another star with our current technology.

Even given these limitations in our ability to detect planets, half of the stars we look at have planetary systems. If our technology were advanced enough see smaller objects, earth sized planets, then there is a high probability we would see a planetary system around virtually every star around which a stable orbit exists.

Many of these stars may have multiple habitable planets. In our own solar system we know of only one planet that has life, but we know of others that may.

In particular, both methane and formaldehyde have been detected in Mars atmosphere. Methane, being the simplest hydrocarbon, is widely found in nature and can be produced by many abiotic processes. Formaldehyde can also be created by abiotic processes but is less common. However, on Mars it is particularly significant because the conditions in the Martian atmosphere gives formaldehyde a half-life measured in hours, so something has to be continuously replenishing it.

The probability that some bacteria or other primitive life forms, possibly lichens, existing on Mars today is fairly high. In addition to the fact that something is producing substantial quantities of methane and formaldehyde on an ongoing basis, the original experiments to look for life in the soil done by Vikings actually had some positive results that were dismissed as chemical reactions.

What we know about the Martian environment now suggests the tests were designed to look for the wrong kind of life and a new life seeking experiment will be launched towards Mars later this year.

We used to believe that life required oxygen. Then we discovered sulfur reducing bacteria that are in fact poisoned by oxygen. Then we discovered whole food chains based upon sulfur reduction around the so called black smokers, volcanic vents at the sea floor rifts.

The life forms we discovered around the black smokers also not only tolerated but actually thrived at temperatures considerably above the surface boiling point of water.

Another potential place where life may exist is on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa’s surface is covered with water ice and it is cracked and deformed in a way that suggests a liquid ocean underneath. The density of Europa suggests that an ocean approximately 800 miles deep may exist. Tidal energy resulting from Jupiter’s deformation of Europa’s crust, provides the heat that melts Europa’s ice into an ocean. If liquid water is present, the potential for life forms which obtain their energy chemically as with the life forms surrounding the black smokers on earth, may exist there.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus has water geysers on the south pole which were recently observed by the Cassini space craft. There is speculation that heat is provided by tidal forces and another group speculates by the decay of radioactive elements. Whatever the source, there is liquid water present and organic chemicals present which are necessary for life as we know it.

And then there is Jupiter’s moon Calisto. Long thought to be dead with a surface a billion years old; measurement of Calisto’s magnetic field shows that it changes as Jupiter rotates. The favored explanation is that a current is flowing within Calisto, and the surface ice is too poor of a conductor to allow for such a flow, but a liquid salt-water ocean underneath the ice would do the trick.

So in this Solar system you have one body that definitely has life, might have intelligent life (that’s still open to debate in my book), and four bodies that may have life.

Now multiply that by 7 x 1022 stars or even half that, and you’ve got a lot of potential life harboring planets out there. How many of those will go on to develop tool using intelligent life? That’s a harder question. In this solar system, only one planet has done so and it took it nearly 4.5 billion years. It took several billion just to get around to multi-cellular life.

What if it’s one-in-one-billion? That’s still 7 x 1012 intelligent tool using life forms that will come into existence on various planets throughout the universe or an average of about 70 intelligent tool using species per average galaxy (the Milky Way is larger than average although there are giant ellipticals 1000 times larger).

I suspect the odds are likely to be better than 1-in-1 billion but even with those remote odds this universe is teaming with intelligent life. Then we get down to are they physically able to get here and if so would they come here, after all there are a lot of places they could go, they may be out there but Earth may just not be terribly interesting.

Right now our understanding of science isn’t sufficient to know for sure one way or the other. I know, but my experience isn’t enough to convince many people, so how can it be approached scientifically? Einsteins theory of general relativity makes it appear to be impossible to go faster than light. On the surface this makes it sound impossible because as you accelerate mass towards the speed of light, it’s mass increases towards infinity thus requiring ever increasing amounts of energy. The bottom line is that taking the direct approach it appears that we can not do it.

However, there are several ways know to physicists to cheat, instead of traveling faster than light, compress space in front of you and expand it behind. And scientists know how to do this but it requires something known as exotic matter, and a tremendous supply of energy. Wormholes might be another way to cheat but we neither know how to create on that is stable for get to one that exists, so for us now that method is moot, but perhaps not for other civilizations.

This is one of my areas of interest, given the laws of physics, how might it be possible? The solution to this problem would not only allow us to become a truly space faring race but also solve many domestic problems. But this is a problem that is not solved yet.

And then why would they come here? Many people have speculated on this, the explosions of atomic weapons give off certain signatures such as gamma ray burst, that may have attracted attention. There are reports of UFO like sightings well before the explosion of the first atomic bomb.

Some people speculate that the Earth is a galactic watering hole. I see that is unlikely however because water is not uncommon in interstellar space.

I don’t really know what their motive for coming here might be. I wonder if ants wonder why we do what we do, occasionally coming into their world.

Nasa Tether Experiment

In 1996, NASA performed an experiment with a tether attached to the shuttle. At the altitude the Shuttle flies at, the air is extremely rarefied but it is not a perfect vacuum. There is a voltage gradient with altitude and in addition, the shuttle is flying through Earth’s magnetic field.

The combination of these two effects was expected to generate electricity. Now I will admit to not fully understanding the theory here because my understanding of electricity is that it requires a completed circuit for current to flow. Now on the other end of the tether there was a small satellite but still I don’t understand what completes the circuit. If the circuit completed by ionic conduction in this rarefied atmosphere, then it’s cutting across the same magnetic field lines and so no net voltage should be generated.

The only way I can see this working is by tapping the voltage gradient present in the atmosphere, but if that were the case, I’m surprised that enough current was generated to actually sever the tether given the rarefied nature of the atmosphere at that altitude.

Also it was theorized that electricity could be sent into the tether and act as a motor increasing the orbital height of as satellite without having to expend propellant. There again, without a completed circuit I don’t understand how this would work.

O—————o
Shuttle Satellite

At any rate; somehow this was supposed to generate electricity, and apparently generated a lot more electricity than expected severing the tether.

An interesting aspect of this video is that the astronaut explains the floating things as debris from the shuttle in the foreground, but if you watch these floating things you can clearly see them go behind the tether.

There are a number of things I find interesting about this video. The tether remains taught even when it’s broken. I am unclear as to what force would keep it tight. I would have expected it to recoil when it broke, but clearly that is not the case in this video.

Then there is the question of the discrepancy between the amount of electricity expected and that actually generated. It would have made more sense to me to be measuring the current as you real the tether out so that if it expectantly approaches dangerous levels, you can stop before something catastrophic happens.

It is interesting to note that in eleven years they have not chosen to repeat this experiment.

What Is This?

What are we seeing in this attached video? The person making the recording initially assumes the bright object is Venus, until it fragments. Are we seeing a satellite re-enter? Whatever it is can’t be too large or two far away for it to occur this rapidly.

T. Townsend Brown

I have decided to include a link on the sidebar to a website that revolves around T. Townsend Brown and the subject of controlling gravity. I don’t know if there is any information of scientific merit on the site but at the very least it’s interesting from a historical perspective.

I have related before my experience and details of the apparatus I saw. It is my believe that there exists some relationship between the electromagnetic force, inertia, gravity, and time. I’m always looking for clues that might help me to understand this relationship.

It is my belief that understanding the relationship between electromagnetism, inertia, gravity, and time would allow us to provide for our energy needs without creating global warming, producing nuclear waste, or releasing toxic substance into our environment. It would provide the means to eliminate poverty globally and allow us to become a space faring race.

T. Townsend Brown attempted to explore this relationship, however, I am at this point not certain whether he explored anything beyond simple ion wind.

If you take an asymmetrical capacitor, one in which one electrode is large and one is small, and you place a high voltage charge on this capacitor such that the positive charge is applied to the small electrode, and the voltage is around 10kv / cm, just short of breaking down the air between them, the device will generate thrust in the direction of the positive electrode.

This effect may be explained by simple ion wind. There is a high voltage gradient at the positive electrode. This causes electrons to be stripped from the atoms of air and makes them into positive ions. Given that they are now ions, they are attracted to the negative electrode and accelerated in that direction. The law of equal and opposite reactions then accelerates the device, the asymmetrical capacitor towards the positive electrode.

Certainly ion wind at least plays a part in the operation of this device. The question is whether or not it is the only source of thrust. There are at least two ways to test this. One is to enclose the entire apparatus in a plastic bag so that one can then determine if there is any net thrust on the entire system. The other method would be to test the device in a vacuum.

Many people have done both tests and the results of both have been inconclusive, there are people who claim successful operation in a vacuum and in a plastic bag. There are people who claim a plastic bag or a vacuum negates the effect. I haven’t been able to find any solid credible references to either.

Was T. Townsend Brown on to anything important? I don’t know. I do know he spent much of his life doing secret government research. Whether or not that involved any sort of gravity manipulation I do not know.

If anyone has been involved in any work that attempts to scientifically examine the Biefeld-Brown effect, I would be very much interested in hearing from you.

Strange E-Mail

I have started receiving e-mail from strange people and places at an address I don’t normally give out that is centered around the topics of anti-gravity, time travel, and that sort of thing, and area in which I do have an intense interest.

I am particularly interested in understanding the principal behind the operation of the device I saw in my encounter when I was ten. It was presented in such a simple minimal form that I have to believe that was the intent.

So far what I’ve received has run the gamut between trying to affect space-time using high intensity light, to an experiment that attempts to prove the principal of retro-causality (and there the experiment was planned last November at the U-of-W by a professor Cramer there but I have not been able to find any word of the results), to more off the wall information suggesting that for some reason mold spores can have a gravity shielding effect similar to superconductors. Because of my allergies to half the known universe the latter is one that I am not going to try to reproduce.

I am not sure why I started receiving this e-mail or who is sending it. Mail headers are trivial to forge on the Internet.

I personally am convinced there is some relationship between electro-magnetism or perhaps more broadly between the electro-weak force and gravity in as much as diamagnetic materials and magnetic effects seem to be a common aspect of many UFO reports or crash debris and coincidentally many fringe science devices revolve around this subject, and some documented effects such as the Biefeld-Brown effects. Townsend Brown referred to them as “controlling gravity” rather than “anti-gravity”.

At any rate; I don’t know where it is going to lead if anywhere, but it’s interesting, I’ve always wanted to be able to travel and interstellar travel has a particular appeal.