Feb 20

Poof!

I am uncomfortable with the plans to attempt to create black holes in particle accelerators. It is believed, that if created, they will be safe because they will rapidly evaporate via Hawking radiation.

The idea behind Hawking radiation is basically this, at the event horizon pairs of virtual particles will pop into existence such that one goes inside the event horizon while the other goes out. Because the two can not re-unite within the time limit imposed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the virtual particles become real, the one outside the horizon escapes and the theory has it that the black hole decreases in mass by a corresponding amount.

Now I do understand the argument, that the black hole has to decrease in mass in order for the conservation of mass to hold true, but I don’t understand how a virtual particle outside the event horizon becomes real with mass, and the one inside subtracts from the mass of the black hole.

Given that this theory has never been tested and it seems somewhat dicey at best, it seems less than wise to gamble the entire existence of our planet and everybody on it, on this not happening.

If Hawking radiation does not manifest, but black holes do, then instead of evaporating, the black hole will suck up any particle within it’s gravitational grasp, which for the first few nanoseconds might be few, but with every particle it sucks up it’s mass, and thus it’s gravitational pull, will increase, and very shortly thereafter we’ll have a tiny black hole orbiting the Sun where the Earth and every living thing upon it a few seconds earlier, previously was.

Sometimes I wonder if alien versions of this experiment aren’t the reason the SETI radio dial is so dark. Actually though, I know it’s not. The SETI protocol is designed in such a way that it is absolutely impossible to detect and confirm the presence of an alien radio signal unless that signal is intentionally beamed at the earth for several days continuously.

This is so because SETI protocol requires the signal being received repeatedly, but the distances involved are such that even with enormous power, a signal transmitted by a distant civilization will only be received here on earth if by chance a large directional antenna on their planet is aimed directly at a large directional antenna on our planet which is aimed directly at them.

Because of the mutual spin of both planets, the mutual orbits of both planets around their parent star, the motion of the stars within the galaxy relative to each other, there is zero chance of this happening accidentally. So the fact that we have no confirmed radio signals from extraterrestrial signals is no real surprise and doesn’t rule out the existence of those civilizations.

So maybe other civilizations have survived the black hole experiment, or maybe their civilizations wisely told their scientists, if you want to try this go try it on an uninhabited planet in the outer reaches of the solar system, not on our home planet.

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Jan 26

Dark Energy

See this article regarding a torsion balance being used to test inverse square law, and the results were that down to distances of 55 nanometers the inverse square law holds and there is no indication of the existence of dark energy.

I am not surprised by these results. I’ve been of the opinion that Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Inflation, Cosmological Constant, and Dark Energy are all just fudge factors to try to make “the big bang theory” conform to observations. It’s like using a complicated lens to make a square peg look round so you can explain how it must have fit into the round hole.

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Jan 26

Dark Energy

Measurements of Voyager I and II showed an anomalous reduction in deceleration as they left the solar system. Because the Sun’s gravity acts upon them, they are expected to slowly decelerate as they leave the solar system, and they are but not quite as quickly as expected.

The mysterious force that caused this was attributed to yet another cosmological fudge factor, dark energy.

I suspect there may be a much more mundane explanation. To understand how the velocity of these craft is measured, one has to be familiar with Doppler shift. When a train blows it’s whistle as it approaches you and continues as it passes then heads away, at first you hear the whistle at a higher pitch, then as it moves past you and away, a lower pitch. The same is true for electromagnetic radiation.

The velocity of these craft is measured by measuring the Doppler shift of their transmitters. The transmitters are designed to be extremely stable to allow Doppler shift to be measured precisely.

In order to measure the Doppler shift precisely, you have to measure the frequency of the received signal precisely. This means you have to measure how many cycles occur in a specific period of time. This in turn requires that you can very accurately measure out a segment of time. That in turn requires a highly accurate clock.

The United States maintains a time standard and provides the reference to the world from the National Institute of Science and Technology, formerly the National Bureau of Standards. There, they have highly accurate atomic clocks clicking off the nanoseconds.

NASA, in order measure frequencies accurately as well as time launches and other time critical operations precisely, has to have accurate clocks, they have their own time reference.

On the other side of the country, NewNet, an IRC network I founded in 1995, was trying to get a couple of servers to link up. IRC uses a protocol known as Time Stamp Protocol, to determine after a server split, who owns a particular nick or channel if there is a conflict.

In other words, let’s say you have two servers, A and B on a network and normally they communicate in real time. User “MyNick” connects to server A and is talking to people. Then a split occurs (server A temporarily looses communications with server B) and during that time another user logs into server B with the nick “MyNick”. Now, the split is resolved, both servers resume communications and there are two people on the network with the same nick. The servers use Time Stamp Protocol to determine which user had the Nick first and force the other user to change his nick.

In order for Time Stamp Protocol, both servers much agree on what time it is. This requires that the servers be synchronized to some accurate external time source. If for some reason the clocks on two servers do not agree, they will not link.

So here I am working with another site trying to link their server to mine and they will not connect. The admin of the other server says to me, “Your clock must be off because mine is sync’d to NASA”. I say to him, “Mine is sync’d to NIST so it must be yours that is off.”

We both test our servers and find that indeed our servers clocks do agree with the sources we sync’d them to. Then I checked NASA’s time server against NIST’s, there was five seconds difference.

Now getting back to Voyager I and II… If the clock you are using to measure the received frequencies of their transmitters is in accurate, then those received frequency measurements will be inaccurate. If the received measurements are accurate, then the velocities calculated to be causing the received Doppler shift is inaccurate.

Maybe it’s just me but before I would introduce a whole new fudge factor into cosmology, I’d check the clocks. Apparently that hasn’t occurred to NASA however, and I guess this explains why shuttles explode, less than half the Mars missions actually make it to Mars, etc.

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Jan 19

Hawking Radiation

There is something I haven’t been able to get regarding Hawking radiation and I think the scientific community, by trying to create black holes in a particle accelerator, might be making a serious mistake. Hawking radiation isn’t a proved phenomena, it is only theoretical, and if it turns out not to exist, or not to work as expected, then we’re potentially in a world of hurt.

Here is what I don’t get about it. Hawking radiation works like this. A virtual particle pair forms right at the event horizon. One particle in the pair is sucked into the black hole, the other escapes and becomes real. This results in radiation from the black hole and theory has it decreases the mass of the black hole.

There seems to me to be some assumptions here that I’m not so comfortable with. The first is that if a virtual particle in a virtual particle/anti-particle pair can’t unite with it’s mate, it becomes real. The second is that the other virtual particle, being sucked into the black hole, will somehow decrease the mass of the black hole.

I understand the thinking, conservation of mass, in order for that to be upheld, since radiation, matter / energy is “leaving” the black hole, it must decrease in mass. But nothing actually “left” the black hole, what left was a virtual particle created at the event horizon.

So, scientists are counting on these tiny black holes they hope to create in a particle accelerator to evaporate via Hawking radiation. But what if one of these assumptions is wrong? They don’t get smaller in mass or Hawking radiation doesn’t happen? Then they’re going to keep sucking up surrounding matter and growing in mass until the whole planet is sucked in and we’re all dead. This sounds like a pretty high risk scientific experiment to me. The kind of experiment that if we have to do it we should be doing it somewhere in deep space.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve read that when scientists set of the first hydrogen bomb, they really weren’t sure if it wouldn’t detonate all the hydrogen in the water vapor in the atmosphere. We’re all here, so apparently it didn’t. I’m all for the advancement of science, but I question the wisdom of risking the entire human race on these types of experiments.

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Jan 12

Radioactive Waste – New Problem

I have been advocating building advanced nuclear reactors capable of burning actinides to eliminate long term radioactive waste rather than attempting to store it in a national repository for 20,000 years.

Now, a new problem emerges. It has been found that radiation given off by radioactive waste materials breaks down minerals containing them much faster than originally believed. This makes long term storage essentially not viable. Glassification of waste won’t work for the long term because the alpha particles emitted by decaying radioactive elements break it down in just a few hundred years.

Follow this link for an article that details this process. This means that the radioactive waste will not be contained at the site for more than a few hundred years. If we store radioactive waste instead of destroying it, we are creating a huge mess for future generations.

Building actinide burning reactors to fission actinides not only will eliminate long-term radioactive waste leaving only fission products that will be save in several hundred years rather than 20,000, it will also provide 20-30x as much energy as the initial Uranium or Plutonium did when it was first used in a fission reactor. Given our energy situation this also is a good reason to build these.

If we don’t build them, then commercial reactors will continue to fission Uranium and generate Plutonium which is the most problematic element in nuclear waste. Other actinides, elements heavier than Uranium, also are long term waste problems. Plutonium-239 can be used as fuel in conventional thermal reactors (neutrons moderated to thermal speeds), but most of the other actinides can only be fissioned by fast neutrons, and this is why special reactors are needed to destroy them.

Now to be sure there are safety issues associated with fast flux reactors, and in general maintaining stability is more difficult than with a thermal reactor. This is because in a thermal reactor, neutrons have to be moderated (slowed) before they can be absorbed by another nucleus and cause a fission. Thus there is a built-in delay that limits the rate a reaction can ramp up. This built-in delay is not present in a fast-flux design.

There are other methods of providing stability in a fast-flux design. Fast flux reactors generally have negative temperature coefficients. That is, as the temperature rises, the reaction rate slows. This has the effect of providing negative feedback on the reaction rate thus stabilizing it.

However, we can mitigate these dangers to a large degree by building a fast-flux reactor form in the Yucca Mountain facility intended for waste storage.

The bigger problems aren’t safety, they’re economic. It is simply cheaper to build conventional thermal reactors and keep running Uranium through them one-pass and generating huge amounts of waste. Uranium is cheap and since the waste isn’t being dealt with, nobody is presently bearing that expense in real terms.

If we are realistic about expense, we must build these reactors and burn these actinide wastes because there simply is no safe way to store them long term.

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Jan 07

Solar Activity, Earth Warming

I think it is undeniable that the carbon dioxide that we are pumping into our atmosphere is having a warming effect on our planet. However, I do not believe it is the only cause. I do believe we should stop screwing our atmosphere up and not add to the natural warming.

The other planets are heating up as well, Pluto (well it used to be a planet.. poor Pluto) is heating even though it’s on a portion of it’s elliptical orbit taking it further from our Sun. Mars is warming up. Jupiter is warming up. Some regions of Saturn (polar just like earth) appear to be warming. Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, is warming up. Neptune herself is warming up but it’s spring on Neptune so that’s to be expected. Uranus is warming up but it’s also spring on Uranus. So all the planets farther from the sun than Earth are also warming.

This last solar cycle was the most active in recorded history. We know from the past that solar minimums, extended periods of no sunspots, produce a substantial cooling effect. Is it then not reasonable to expect a highly active cycle to produce substantial warming? This next solar cycle is projected to be even stronger than the last.

Now, I have an idea what is causing all of this, and I’m not speaking of Richard Hoagland’s hyper-dimensional physics which I do not discount either since I do not at all understand Mr. Hoagland’s theory. No my theory is much less complex. It goes like this…

Neutrinos it turns out aren’t massless after all. They have a small mass and thus are affected by gravity. In the galactic plain, one would expect a higher neutrino flux both because there are more stars and other nuclear actions taking place in a parallel line than above or below the ecliptic and because gravity would affect neutrinos to some small degree as well.

Richard Feynman said that all nuclear reactions are reversible. You can fuse four hydrogen atoms into helium, get some energy in the form of gamma rays and neutrinos in the process. Or you can add energy, neutrinos, and split a helium atom up into hydrogens again, at least theoretically. The important point here is that neutrinos, in addition to being produced by nuclear reactions, should also be able to catalyze them.

The sun (and it’s planets) are nearing the galactic plane presently. The sun bobs up and down through the galactic plane and with every crossing it crosses a higher flux of neutrinos and other high energy particles.

These particles in turn influence the rate of fission reactions in the earth and fusion reactions in the sun causing general heating of the entire solar system.

There seems to be some general debate with respect to how often this happens, every 62 million years, every 65 million years, different sources give different figures, but whatever the cycle is, we’re approaching the galactic plane now and this could be part of the reason for solar system wide heating.

I’m not saying we should go out and burn more dead dinosaurs, not unless we like the climate on Venus, and while I like it warm, when lead melts, that is too warm.

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Jan 06

Trying To Grock Relativity

A long long time ago in a place far far away, well maybe not so far away but it was a long time ago, I read a book entitled, “Understanding Einstein”, I don’t remember who the author was but it was a very interesting book because it went through Einsteins various thought experiments and how they lead to his theory of general relativity.

After reading the book, and I had at least thought I had comprehended it, I thought to myself, this is the same logic that lead people to believe that faster than sound travel was impossible, until we did it.

Moreover, things appeared to be mainly a perspective problem. That is, if you were able to watch the clock of someone receding from you of course their clock would appear to be running shorter, because the time it takes the light to travel from the clock back to you is getting ever longer because they are traveling away.

I ran into a bit of a logical non sequitur, because as I understand it, Einsteins theory of general relativity just specifies the motion relative to you, it doesn’t matter if it’s coming or going, the clock still goes slower as observed from your frame of reference. Trying to visualize it the way I was would have the clock going faster if someone was speeding to me at a significant fraction of the speed of light.

So I concluded I really couldn’t make sense of things at all. I read a bunch of physics books and they all made interesting implications as well.

You see, as I understood general relativity, based upon my reading Understanding Einstein, I was under the impression that if I watched someone moving relative to me at .87c, then I would see their clock run at half speed, their ruler become half as short, etc. But, from their perspective, their clock would be running at the normal speed, their ruler would be the correct length, but my clock would appear to be running slow and my ruler short.

I read various physics books, and articles like Alice in Quantum Land, and they give the impression that the moving person experiences their own clock running slow and their own ruler short. If I was running into a non sequitur before, now I’m really lost. That makes no sense at all because then everybody’s clocks would be out of whack equally and it would be as if nothing had happened. Alice in Quantum Land also makes the assertion that one second of time is equal to 186,000 miles of physical space. I don’t understand how that logic follows anymore more than one second of time is equal to 761 miles of physical space based upon the speed of sound.

Think about the classical example, someone takes a trip to a distant star system at a significant fraction of the speed of light, they get there in the expected time frame for them, let’s say Alpha Centauri at 4.3 light-years at .99c so the traveler would experience a trip duration of just over 4.3 years, but when they returned to earth, hundreds of years would have gone by, because relative to us their clock was going way slow.

But wait a minute, motion is relative, there is no absolute frame of reference. So someone traveling to Alpha Centauri at .99c, that’s exactly equivalent to them remaining stationary and the Earth, and Alpha Centauri and the rest of the stars moving towards the traveler at .99c, and then in that case, their clocks, all the clocks on earth would be running slow compared to the same traveler.

So if that is the case, if there is no absolute frame of reference, and I was under the impression that the Michelson-Morley experiment proved that, then from each others perspective, each others clocks ran slow, and so everyone is really still in sync and nothing magical happened in terms of time going bonkers. Most of his friends and relatives would still be alive and hundreds of years would not have passed.

You see none of this really is making good sense to me right now. My latest physics read, “The Dancing Wu-Li Masters“, it gets me back into the “the person in motion relative to me, their clock is going to appear to run slow to me, their ruler short, their mass heavy”, but to them everything is normal. And since everything is relative, likewise my clock, ruler, and mass will be affected in the same manner from their perspective.

Can someone help me make sense of this? I’m going to have a hard time sleeping now.

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Jan 01

Aurora Borealis

Auroral displays are natures multi-gigawatt plasma globe. There is a multitude of reasons I find them fascinating. The aspect that probably holds the greatest fascination for me is that they are prominently featured in many of my dreams involving the future.

Their complexity exposes the complexity of the interaction between the earth’s magnetic field, the solar wind, and the upper atmosphere.

I am fascinated by the anecdotal reports I’ve read ranging from descriptions of aurora related events, particularly descriptions of auroras at tree top levels or reaching the ground such as describe here, and by descriptions of sounds accompanying an aurora such as described here. Take a look at this page concerning auroras.

The reports of sounds associated with auroras are so numerous that it’s impossible to believe people do not experience this, however I am not sure that the sounds are acoustic in nature. The reason I make this conjecture is because nobody has succeeded in recording these sounds acoustically, although they can be recorded using VLF receiving equipment which records audio frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Also, the sounds are usually perceived as being in step with the lights although the distances involved would require minutes for the sound to transverse if it were acoustic in nature.

I have personally had the experience of hearing lightning strikes instantly. That is, I have heard crackling noises at the exact time I see the lightning strike followed later by thunder. When I experience this I hear the crackling at the exact same time I see the lightning flash. I do not know the nature of this phenomena but I suspect it is the same mechanism by which people hear auroras.

I’ve heard about something some people experienced on a polar air flight. During the flight, everything became charged as with static electricity, hair stood up on end, people smelled ozone, some felt ill. Following the flight they had what resembled sunburn.

I’ve seen auroral displays here in the greater Seattle area half a dozen times and each time they’ve been substantially qualitatively different and I am very puzzled by some of the phenomena I’ve seen displayed in auroral displays.

I have seen the classic greenish curtains and red kind of blob displays that are so commonly shown in photographs from higher latitudes. It is not difficult for me to visualize the physics involved in these displays, charged particles following the earth’s magnetic lines interacting with molecules in the upper atmosphere.

I have seen a display where there is a white narrow rope of light stretching across the sky that appears very thin, like a neon tube, and it moves, wriggles, and drifts. When I saw this display it lasted only about ten minutes. I have never seen a photograph of a display like this. The other night my wife saw a very similar display. It was bright enough to be seen even with an almost full moon in the sky. I do not understand what possible configuration of magnetic field lines and solar wind could produce such a display. I am very curious as to how this plasma could be confined to such a narrow path across the sky.

Another display that I saw was accompanied by the green curtain and red blob type of displays farther north, but immediately over our location it appeared as if someone had taken a giant point source of light, shined it on the ocean, and then the wave pattern reflected upon a giant projection screen in the sky. The waves moved in real time as waves in water do. The enormity of this display was overwhelming. I would like to understand the basis for these wave patterns and motions.

Auroras have affected telegraph lines in the past, inducing currents in the lines first of one polarity, and then of the reverse polarity. Take a look at these accounts.

One aspect of auroras that does puzzle me, I went the first three decades of my life without having seen one in this area, in spite of the fact that when I was younger I usually slept outside during the summer in a sleeping back looking up at the sky and stars before falling asleep, yet, in the last decade I’ve seen them on half a dozen occasions now.

I am wondering if this increase is just the result of an unusually active solar cycle (and the next is predicted to be even more active) or if there are other factors.

As I mentioned, I’ve had these dreams that often feature very intense auroras. In these dreams I see auroras that are so intense that they are visible during dusk and dawn. Also in these dreams they seem to be visible most often about 1-2 hours after sunset or before sunrise, this is different than the current pattern which tends to have them be strongest between about 11pm-3am.

I’ve also noticed changes in radio propagation lately. I have a shortwave receiver that covers pretty much from about 3 Mhz up to 30 Mhz. Those of you familiar with shortwave propagation will know about the term “maximum usable frequency”. The higher the radio frequency, the less it is refracted by the ionosphere back to the earth. At any given time, above some frequency the radio waves can not be refracted back. The highest frequency that can be refracted back is known as the maximum usable frequency.

This frequency varies with the degree of ionization in the ionosphere. That in turn varies with the level of solar activity. The higher the solar activity, the higher the ionization and by extension, the higher the maximum usable frequency. Higher levels of ionization also cause higher levels of absorption at lower frequencies and so high solar activity ruins radio propagation at lower frequencies.

The ionization is much stronger on the day side of the earth since it is receiving ultraviolet and other solar radiation that ionizes the upper atmosphere. There is also, for reasons I do not understand, seasonal variation, and summer months see stronger ionization and a higher maximum usable frequency. This might be because the solar radiation is more direct on and not at an obtuse angle, really I do not know. It is interesting that auroral activity is actually strongest in the spring and fall but this is not the time of the strongest ionization of the ionosphere.

When I was younger, with the exception of peak solar activity years, it would be rare to see significant shortwave propagation above about 18 Mhz in the daytime and 9 Mhz at night during the summer. During the winter months, even daytime propagation often didn’t get much about 10 Mhz.

I also used to do television DXing, this most often when the maximum usable frequency got high enough to propagate television frequencies. When I first got interested in this hobby, it was something that would “open up” maybe several times a year, usually during the late summer months and early afternoon time frame, usually only affecting channels 2 and 3, the lowest channels on the VHF television bands in the United States (some other countries have a channel 1 at 45 Mhz).

In recent years however, even in the winter I am frequently seeing the maximum usable frequency go up to 21 Mhz, occasionally up at 28 Mhz which is about the highest frequency I can generally receive anything on my shortwave receiver. Even at night I am seeing the maximum usable frequency still often around 15 Mhz.

At the same time I’ve been seeing these increases in high frequency propagation, I’ve noticed that night time propagation on the AM broadcast band seems to be very poor compared to what it used to be and even day time propagation over paths of a hundred miles or so seems substantially degraded.

I used to be able to receive CKLG 730 and CFUN 1410 from Vancouver BC quite well here in Shoreline, now they are both marginal under the best of conditions. I’ve also heard ham operators that like to work the 80 meter and 160 meter ham bands complain about poor propagation on those frequencies (about 3.6 Mhz and 1.8 Mhz respectively).

In the summer, television skip has become common, and I have seen it active all the way up to channel 12, (and we have a local station on 13) one occasion, and up to channel 6 and into the FM band on multiple occasions, and I have seen channel 2 and 3 active frequently, almost daily in late July and early August. I have also seen openings on these frequencies at night.

The increase in my observation of aurora phenomena and of high frequency radio propagation may be related to solar activity or to changes in the earth. The sun has been unusually active recently, but at the same time the earth’s magnetic field has been weakening and minor magnetic poles strengthening. This may be allowing more of the solar wind to interact with the earth’s atmosphere. I also wonder how the increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere affects things. It’s a very small percentage of the atmosphere still, but perhaps it has a significant effect on the electrical properties of the atmosphere even at low concentrations.

I know that some gases ionize very easily, argon for example, a relatively low voltage will produce long arcs in argon at atmospheric pressures, but even a small amount of nitrogen will stop those long arcs, so a very small percentage of one gas can greatly impact the electrical characteristics of the mixture.

I am curious if anyone else has seen the “neon tube” type of auroral display that I described earlier? It’s really difficult for me to envision any configuration of magnetic field lines that can account for this type of display.

The “water wave” display that I saw, seemed positively organic. This might seem really far-fetched, but I wonder if the increasing population of the earth is not perhaps directly responsible for the increase in these phenomena, if it doesn’t some how relate to the life force, qi, orgone energy, whatever label you might like to give it.

I’d be very interested in hearing from anyone with reports of anomalous aurora sightings (down to the ground, hearing them, radiation burns, etc), or radio conditions, or other anomalous geophysical phenomena.

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Dec 31

Genetic Inheritance

Most of us have been lead to believe we are the product of two things, genetics and our environment. Now it seems things have gotten a bit more complicated.

We learned about Darwinian evolution in school. We learned that random mutations occur and when they increase the ability of the individual to survive and reproduce, they are propagated into future generations, and by this mechanism, over many generations a species adapts to it’s environment.

Now it seems evidence exists that environmental influences in our lives actually influence our children and their children. For example, if men endure a food shortage during their lives, especially between the ages of nine and twelve, then their grandsons will live longer. A father enduring a food shortage does not confer a longer life expectancy this his granddaughters.

A woman enduring a food shortage during her life will confer a longer life expectancy to her granddaughters, but rather than the age of 9-12 having the most impact, a food shortage during the fetal stage has the most effect. A woman enduring a food shortage will not confer any longer life expectancy to her grandsons.

If men smoke before age 11, their grandsons will be larger. Their daughters will not be affected. Somehow, something in the environment can affect the mens sperm in such as way that it alters only the men in future generations. Environmental influences affect womens eggs in such a way that it affects women in future generations. The mechanism is not presently understood.

It is interesting that environmental effects on men only affect male descendants and environmental effects on women only affect female descendants. Most genetic changes affect both sexes of future generations except those specifically linked to the sex chromosomes.

How environmental influences could affect germ cell genetics in such a way that the modified traits are relevant and effect only the same sex as the germ cell carrier is hard to contemplate. It is clear that there is much about genetics and particularly as applied to sexual reproduction that we do not understand.

One factor that can affect expression of various genetic instructions during ones lifetime is a process known as methylization. it is this mechanism that prevents junk DNA from being expressed. Methyl groups are attached to sites on our DNA preventing their expression but there is no known mechanism for these changes to be inherited, nor is there any reason that it would only affect individuals of the same sex.

I’m falling asleep at the keyboard, need to continue this at another time…

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Dec 28

Where does Physics cross over to Metaphysics?

Uri Geller intrigues me because he is one individual with telekinetic capabilities that have been repeatedly examined under close scientific scrutiny. It happens that a friend also met him when he was on the Laura Lee show and he actually taught them how to bend metal objects through mental power alone.

I believe real physical properties of matter that make this possible. It’s really a mix of beliefs regarding both spirituality and physics and I really don’t believe that at the deepest level the two are separable.

Consider that as we look into smaller and smaller realms, the fundamental nature of reality changes. An everyday world macro object, a baseball, a car, a train, certain laws apply to them very consistently. If we apply a specific amount of force to a specific mass, it will produce a specific amount of acceleration, every time, not a function of probability.

When we start to look at what things are made of, atoms, we can not see them directly. We can detect their presence via special devices such as a scanning tip microscope in which a very fine tip is positioned within nanometers of an object and a small current flows between the tip and the object. That current is used to control the position so that it remains a constant distance from the object, and by this method the topography of the object can be mapped. This device can detect and even manipulate individual atoms.

At the atomic level, individual atoms do not have the same properties as the bulk material that they constitute. The concept of color or brightness does not apply at this level. Individual atoms can absorb or emit specific wavelengths of light based upon their electrons orbitals, but this is as close to color as it gets on this scale. The same is true of many other familiar properties of macro objects.

We can go further and look at the particles that constitute the atoms. At this level, the whole concept of matter as we know it gets extremely fuzzy. On this scale we are no longer able to measure both the exact position and exact velocity of a particle. We can measure one or the other with great precision but the more we know about one the less we can know about the other.

The traditional Newtonian view of an atom has electrons orbiting a nucleus just as planets orbit the Sun. However, at this scale we don’t have such a neat picture, instead we have a “cloud” of electrons around the atom and we can only predict the probability of one being in a particular place at a particular time.

Probabilities are the best you can do with subatomic processes. Take for example the decay of radium. If we lock it away in a vault for 1600 years, when we open the vault half of the original sample will be there. If we wait another 1600 years, half of that half. Every 1600 years, half of all the radium atoms in the universe decay. We can know with great precision the bulk statistical properties but we can not know which atoms will undergo decay or when an atom will decay. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is that, for any given atom, it is pure chance. We can only predict the state of the system, not of an individual atom.

When you look at these particles, they aren’t exactly like a particle at all, they don’t seem to be solid with defined edges, rather we determine what is known as a nuclear cross-section by firing other particles and look at how things bounce to deduce the effective size of the particles. Their actual boundaries seem rather fuzzy and undefined.

In reality particles might not be physical at all, possibly some sort of standing wave. Then you have to ask yourselves waves of what. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics says they are probability waves. Matter doesn’t really exist until we observe it under this interpretation. Some people have taken this to the extreme and suggest that nothing in our reality exists until we observe it.

So what you have then is not really matter at all, but more of an idea or thought. A potential for something to exist, not something. At one point I had become convinced that an intelligent consciousness was an elementary property of matter, just as mass, charge, and spin. I have changed my view on this however to where I now believe matter is consciousness. Everything is thought.

“In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The word wasn’t spoken for in the beginning there was no air to propagate sound. The word could have only been thought. The thought didn’t bring the universe into existence, it is the universe. God, in this interpretation isn’t something that is separate from the universe, God is the all that is.

We are part of that, a drop of water from the ocean, a tiny fraction of God’s thought. When the Bible speaks of God creating man in his image, this is really what I think is meant, we are droplet’s pinches off from the vast ocean of thought that appears as matter and energy and all that is.

The keyboard I am typing on, it’s a consortium of thought, of ideas. So are we. And because we are part of that same ocean of thought, albeit an infinitesimally small part, we share the qualities of that ocean, we can think thoughts and from those thoughts and intentions we can create reality.

I think there is an additional quality of this vast ocean of God thought that is everything that is, and that quality is that it must be self consistent. This forces everything to relate to each other in a specific way like pieces of an infinitely complex jigsaw puzzle, and this is God’s plan, God thought of the universe this way and so it is.

So getting back to quantum mechanics, on a subatomic scale we can only determine probabilities and in the Copenhagen interpretation an individual event is a function of chance. Where exactly an electron is around an atom, we can determine the probability of it being in a given location but we can not know exactly where it is at any given time.

However, I don’t believe chance is strictly that. I believe that what appears to be random events are in fact the way God directs the evolution of the universe. The event isn’t truly random because all the pieces must fit.

One radium atom might decay and the resultant ionizing radiation might not encounter any biological organism and have no effect on evolution. Another radium atom might decay and the ionizing radiation produced might cause a mutation in DNA, such as the one that delayed the development of the brain in a particular line of primates that became us. The delayed development lead to a far more plastic brain that could adapt and learn much more. It also meant that the infant was helpless for much longer. It turns out the long term intellectual advantages outweighed the handicap of requiring greater parental care for a longer period of time.

Traditional evolutionists would argue that this event was a random event and those events that created favorable mutations in terms of an organisms ability to survive and reproduce were thus selected for.

Creationists take the opposite extreme suggesting that the planet has only been around for six thousand years or so and that everything that exists is the result of direct intervention by God.

A middle ground exists in which the initial universe was set in motion with laws that govern it’s development, but that what we view as random events are actually influenced by God to direct the outcome within in the confines of the laws governing the universe. If God is taken to be the all that is and self-consistency is required, then the selection just becomes the necessary shape of a puzzle piece.

Since we’re a drop of the God ocean, a drop of God thought, we too can affect random events, and this has been scientifically proven. There is a mathematical machine used to demonstrate the bell distribution curve in which balls are dropped into the top, hit a peg and either are deflected to the left or right. Below the first peg there are two pegs that the balls can hit, depending upon whether they went left or right with the first peg, and again they can go left or right. Typically in these machines there will be about eight levels of these pegs and then below all the pegs there are columns the balls can collect in.

When the machine is first started, the pattern at the bottom looks fairly random, but over the run, after all the balls are dropped, a curve is formed by the height of balls stacked up in all the columns that forms the standard bell curve.

People, through intention alone, can influence these machines and produce deviations from the standard bell curve. The degree to which a person can do this varies from person to person, some can make a substantial change in the curve, some very modest changes. The strength of the intent seems to play a role, and there seems to be some differences between the sexes.

Men, almost always, to the degree they alter the curve, will alter it in the direction of their intent, and the stronger their intent the more they will alter it.

Women, on the whole, tend to affect the distribution curve more strongly than men, and the interesting thing is that if they have strong intent they will generally affect it in the direction of that intent more so than men. However, if they have weak intent they may actually affect the curve in the direction opposite of their intent. This is generally not the case for men.

Now I’ve read about a number of these studies using this device and other devices, including such things as white noise based random number generators, and all of these can be affected by intention. Here is an interesting thing though, even computer programs using pseudo-random number generators can be thusly affected. The obvious question is, since a pseudo-random number generator is complete deterministic, how can someone influence it’s output? Since the string of output is determined by some initial condition, it can only be affected by affecting those initial conditions, usually some seed based upon clock, keystrokes, and other sources of entropy is initially used to seed such a generator. So it would seem that intent has the capability of actually going back in time and selecting the proper initial conditions for the desired present day outcome.

I am not entirely surprised, and I’ll tell you why shortly, but first I want to relate something. Having read about a number of these experiments I wanted to try for myself. It happens that in Seattle, in the mathematics are of the Pacific Science Center, there exists such a machine that runs continuously, dropping balls onto a series of pegs to form a random distribution curve, then it drops all the balls from the columns and starts over again.

I went to the center with the intent of trying to influence the curve this machine produced. It was an experiment I felt was worth the price of admission. When I had no intention the machine always produced the standard curve. When I tried to influence it, I did, however, always in the direction opposite of my intentions. If I tried to get clever and say I really wanted to influence it to be biased to the right but since I know my intention has the opposite effect, I’ll instead will it to be biased to the left when I really want it to go to the right. This inversed logic didn’t work, it still would go to the left.

When I was standing there alone, this was pretty reproducible. When I went and got someone to stand with me because I wanted to demonstrate, then nothing happened, I could no longer have any effect. I’m not sure what exactly to make of this. Scientists have been able to have individuals demonstrate this ability while observed.

At any rate, suffice it to say that I don’t really believe in metaphysics, I believe we just don’t have a full grasp of physics, the nature of reality, if we did, nothing would be metaphysics it would all just be physics and no longer mysterious. However, I do not know that this level of knowledge is obtainable by us. Can an infinitesimally small bit of God thought possibly hope to understand all that is, God? In totality no, I don’t think so.

I do think over time we can hope to understand more. One prerequisite for this is to accept the fact that we do not presently know everything there is to know about reality. This, I believe, is a major stumbling block to progress. Many mainstream scientists today are so convinced they know everything there is to know they won’t consider any alternative to their preconceived notions even if experimental evidence supports an alternative interpretation.

I don’t think we can ever know absolutely how nature works, what we can hope to do is to create more and more accurate models that more accurately predict outcomes of natural events.

I did promise to elaborate as to why I wasn’t really surprised that intent seemed to even be able to reach back in time to alter past events to create a desired present outcome. I have had a number of lucid dreams as well as waking out of body experiences in which I can go anywhere and any time, just by thinking about it, and it is instantaneous or nearly so. Since out of body I seem to be able to transverse time as easily as physical space, and since this seems to be an aspect of consciousness as does intent, I’m not surprised that intent also has this capability. In fact, I believe both are intent.

For more on my dreams, lucid or otherwise, and out of body experiences and visions, please see my Dreams and Visions blog.

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