Wayward Star

There is something strangely satisfying when nature thumbs her nose at our scientific theories. This article in space.com describes a star gone super-nova too soon, just hours after a major star eruption.

I’ve never been completely comfortable with the theories of stellar evolution. The theories say that while a star is on it’s main sequence, hydrogen burning, it will increase in diameter by between 40% and 100%.

The sun is said to have increased in both size and temperature to the point where it’ s current luminosity is 25-30% more than it was four billion years ago. This would imply an increase of around 5% in the last 500 million years but there is no evidence of that.

By most accounts while our Sun won’t run out of hydrogen for another five billion years or so, they say it will swell and boil off the oceans in the next 500 million to one billion years. But given that the last 500 million years doesn’t seem to fit the models I don’t have a lot of faith that the next 500 million will. I’d hang around to check it out if I had the option but I don’t think I will.

Enter Alpha Centauri, 1.09 solar masses, 1.5 times the luminosity of the sun. I’m puzzled by this because a stars lifetime is normally estimated as 1/M2.5, in other words Alpha Centauri will only live about .81 as long as our Sun owing to the higher rate of hydrogen consumption. What I find interesting about this is that in spite of the higher mass, in spite of the higher age, Alpha Centauri’s spectral temperature is identical to our own Sun’s.

I tried to find a model that would show what to expect of our own Sun in terms of diameter and temperature throughout the main sequence. What I found, to my dismay, is that there are four or five and none of them seem to agree with observation. I also found estimations of core temperatures and density varied radically from one model to the next. I hope that this surprise stellar explosion may lead to a new and improved model.

Science Toys

Ran across a site called “sci-toys.com“, Science Toys. This site has a plethora of simple science toys you can build. For example, look at this article on building a three penny radio. I wonder if Bill knows about this site.

I’ve added it to the side bar. Lots of neat things you can build, magnetic heat engines, high voltage motors (different than Bills contraption, this one is not a Mazda), and much more.

Photon’s Presence Changes Atoms Transition Energy?

I read this article in Science Daily and kind of shook my head. I’m hoping a kind and informed reader can explain this to me.

The jest of it is this; scientists have found a way to observe the creation, life, and death of a single photon. Prior to reading this article, I was under the impression that the only way to detect a photon involved it’s being absorbed by an atom raising that atoms energy state (causing an electron to leap to a higher orbit). This article suggests that the mere presence of a photon changes, very slightly, the transition energy of atoms.

I was of the belief that electrons had fixed energy levels and could only jump between them because the “orbit” had to be an integral multiple of the electrons wavelength.

So clearly either this article is bogus, and with yesterday being April Fools, that’s always a possibility; or there is yet another thing about quantum mechanics I was unaware of or failed to grasp.

So, Dear Readers, if you understand how this can happen, please leave a comment with a brief explanation or a pointer to one.

Thank you!

Open Source Fusor Research Consortium

I’ve added a link in the sidebar to the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium. For those not familiar with a fusor, it is a simplistic device that uses electrostatic forces to fuse deuterium.

These devices are presently not capable of achieving scientific break-even (more power from fusion than required to initiate the reaction) but there are people who hope to change that. Building this device is within the reach of an amateur experimenter and many people have done so. This website covers work on this specific device as well as related devices.

The device consists of two concentric spherical grids within a vacuum chamber in which air is pumped out and a low pressure deuterium gas is present. The inner most grid is charged with a negative charge, the outer grid with a positive charge, around 40 Kv between them. This strips electrons from the deuterium atoms and then accelerates the nucleus towards the center of the sphere where they collide with sufficient energy that some of them fuse.

What limits the efficiency and power output of these devices are the grids. A significant portion of the accelerated ions collide with the grid rather than continuing on to the center of the sphere. This heats the grid and results in a current flow which consumes and wastes power.

A particularly promising approach invented by Dr. Robert Bussard has produced fusion levels 100,000 times that of the original Farnsworth Fusor’s best run. It achieves this by eliminating the physical grid and using magnetic fields to steer electrons to create virtual grids.

Electrons are much lighter than deuterium nuclei but have the same magnitude charge (but opposite polarity). This allows a much weaker magnetic field to steer electrons into a desired configuration than is required to confine a plasma in thermal approaches to fusion.

Dr. Bussard’s research was funded by the US Navy for a number of years, but funding had run out in 2005. By that time the scaling laws of these devices had been determined and Dr. Bussard is confident that a device can be made that produces power.

Dr. Bussard, at 78 and with health issues, may never have the opportunity to bring his device to it’s potential. That is a shame because unlike thermal fusion, this device has the potential for fusing aneutronic fuels such as boron with hydrogen producing power without radiation. And such a device may be made small enough to power trains, ships, or large airplanes.

Take a look at the site, it’s a good site to follow if you want to know what is happening in the world of small scale amateur fusion devices.


Bill Beaty who runs the Science Hobbyst site amasci.com told me about this video showing a Searl Effect Generator in operation.

If you look at the video you see only one ring, not the three mentioned on the website and the copper roller that does, once set in motion, continue to circle the device.

However, it’s clear from the sound that a “frictionless magnetic bearing” is definitely not in effect here. You can definitely hear the metal is touching as it rolls around the device.

The furthermore it is surrounded by a group of electromagnets, not shown in their animation on the website, which appear to be powered. This to me appears more like a motor than a generator, perhaps a shaded pole motor with a moving pole. If they unplug all the external power and it still goes around then I’ll be impressed.

I ran across this Searl Proof of Concept website which explains the “input power” required to make the roller roll around. Ok, just a magnet motor. No over-unity anything, not even any output.

Now if they get one of these that they do draw output from AND if the output is sufficient that it can also provide the input power requirements such that NO external connection or energy source is required to make this thing keep going, then I will find much more interest in it.

Perhaps I’m just not understanding the concept correctly. If something can provide significant free energy, I fail to see the necessity of zero friction magnetic bearings.

I do believe there are some interesting aspects of electromagnetism and how it relates to gravity and time that are not well understood. I don’t see these mock-up devices as tapping that in any way.

Take a look at the video, don’t be shy, use the comments and tell me what you think.

Piezoelectric Effect and LED’s

White light emitting diodes in general are not bright enough to be used for general room lighting. There are two general approaches to making visibly white light from LED’s today.

The least expensive and more common method of making white light from an LED is to combine a gallium nitride UV LED with a fluorescent material that converts the UV into visible light. This approach basically replaces an electric arc through mercury vapor as the source of UV with an LED that produces UV light. The efficiency of this approach is very similar to fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lamps achieve around 18% efficiency, while incandescents achieve around 3%, so fluorescent lamps offer about a five fold efficiency increase over incandescent.

Single color super efficient light emitting diodes can approach 100% efficiency, presently this is most true for red and blue LED’s. To produce what appears as white light to us, green light is also necessary.

The human eye contains receptors for red, green, and blue light, as well as receptors that are receptive to a broader spectrum that are largely used for dark vision. Color televisions produce the visible range of colors that we see with only red, green, and blue light. A combination of red, green, and blue can appear white, or any other color in the spectrum except violet.

You may think you see violet on television but actually what you see is purple, and there is a subtle difference that you will only see if the violet is extremely saturated. Purple consists of a mixture of red and blue light. It appears similar to violet because of the way our visual system processes color.

The red receptor in our retina has a secondary response peak in the violet range. The blue receptor is also still sensitive in this range. So when our brain sees a signal from red and blue together, it “sees” violet. Where red and blue light fail to reproduce this is that the green receptor is also somewhat sensitive to blue light, so red and blue light together activate the red and blue sensors strongly but also somewhat activate the green giving the reproduced color a less saturated or washed out appearance that we call purple.

An LED lighting system based upon red, green, and blue, will produce a light that appears white and natural except that it can’t illuminate violet in a way that will make it appear violet and not purpose. For the most part this isn’t something people would notice. However, violet gallium nitride light emitting diodes exist so that could be addressed with a 4-color LED if it was really important.

A much more efficient lighting system can be created using super efficient single color LED’s. They will actually be more efficient because super efficient single color LED’s exist. Because each LED is producing light at the peak of one of our eyes receptors sensitivity they will be effectively even more efficient.

At present no super-efficient high output green LED exists. Researchers are trying to find a way to make super-efficient high output green LEDs. If they can then a new lighting device that will be as much of an improvement over compact fluorescent as compact fluorescent is over incandescent, will become available. Also, because of the small form factor of LED’s it will be possible to design these basically into any form factor.

Given this one can understand why it is desirable to find a way to make such high output super efficient green LEDs. Thus this article on physorg.com caught my attention. It describes an approach one researcher is pursuing to utilize the piezoelectric affect but gives no details.

The piezoelectric effect is that if you stress certain crystalline materials, an electric charge is produced on the crystal. Conversely, if you apply an electric charge to the surface of the crystal, it will twist or deform. In short, it converts electricity into mechanical energy or vice versa. I fail to see how this has any application to LEDs. If someone out there is familiar with this research I would welcome enlightenment.

Physics Website

I really want to understand aspects of relativity and aspects of quantum mechanics that don’t totally make sense to me, but so far I just can’t wrap my mind around them.

I did stumble across an interesting website that does attempt to explain some of these complex concepts in physics in an easy to understand way and thought it might be of interest to others.

The website is called Physics 2000 and it was created by the University of Colorado.

General Relativity Quandary

I’m just having a hard time getting my mind around some science concepts today. Maybe it’s my new drugs (methylphenidate, generic Ritalin), but things which I only used to have mild discomfort trying to grasp are now screaming out, help I’m not making sense!

Yea, I know what Einstein said about “common sense” being things which are drilled into your head before eighteen and how if we had spent the first eighteen years of our lives flying about the universe in close to light velocity spacecraft common sense might actually make sense.

Still, anytime something seems paradoxical or contradictory it says to me, either my understanding of the model is incomplete or the model itself is flawed. So I post these things hoping someone who thinks they understand it can explain it to me.

Here is my current general relativity quandary… As I understand general relativity, the underlying principal is that all reference points are equally valid.

The Hafele-Keating experiment put atomic clocks on commercial airlines and compared them to clocks on the ground in the US naval observatory. I first heard of this vaguely and the way I heard it was they flew one clock around the world, they kept the other on the ground, and the one flown around the world and when they landed the time was different, and the way I heard it, the flown clock was slightly slower.

Now actually there are two issues here. There is gravitational time dilation and that one I’m only a little uncomfortable with (but I’m still uncomfortable) and there is kinematic time dilation that I am a lot uncomfortable with.

The reason I am uncomfortable with the kinematic time dilation component is this; if all frames of reference are equally valid, then it is equally valid to say the plane went up and then circled around the earth, as it is to say the plane went up and the earth circled underneath the plane and it came back down. In other words, what moved relative to what?

The moving clocks are moving relative to each other so I don’t see how one can gain and one can lose time relative to one another. It seems terribly arbitrary deciding which clock should go slower than the other because both should appear to go faster relative to the other from the others point of view. But when they’re back together stationary seems to me like that ought to cancel and they should stay the same but of coarse they don’t.

Now the gravitational time dilation, at least I can see what is different in terms of the reference points, one is in a gravitational well, one is to a lesser degree, and time flows at different rates within that well.

But the time dilation one I’m having problems grasping, especially when it matters if it’s east-west or west-east. Yea, I know it’s a different velocity but it’s a relative velocity either way. Why should one frame of reference be favored?