Archive for the ‘Putative Brilliance’ category

Observation Log 7/20/09: ISS & STS-127

July 20, 2009

The International Space Station, currently docked with Space Shuttle Endeavour, just made a nice pass overhead. Although I have broken clouds at the moment, I managed to get a very nice view.

In the process, I tested a valuable new technique (for me, at least) for spotting ISS passes. I have an iPhone 3GS, which has a built-in clock and a built-in compass. So, I set up several alarms for the sighting (start, highest elevation, and end), noting from Heavens Above what the compass direction would be and putting that number in each alarm. When the alarms go off, I can quickly pull up the compass and know where to look.

This might seem a bit of overkill, except that my attempt to spot the ISS about a week ago failed! I’ve never completely missed it before. The pass was low in the sky and went through skyglow from the city to the north, but I think I should have been able to see it. Anyway, this little trick should help.

If I had unlimited energy and resources, I would love to write an iPhone application that would use the GPS, compass, the timers, and the inclinometers in the iPhone to allow a user to find any sky object (satellites especially) just by pointing the phone at the sky. Words or sounds could indicate which way to adjust the pointing angle (up, down, left, right) to find what you’re looking for. Real fanatics fans like myself could even hold a laser pointer with the phone, to make spotting even easier! Hopefully someone will do that some day soon!

Dark Energy? Fuhgetaboutitt…

February 8, 2008

OK, so we know from Edwin Hubble’s research that the universe is expanding; the farther things are from Earth, the faster they are racing away; and that the universe’s expansion is accelerating.

There are three problems with explaining this away with Dark Energy, the imaginary force that supposedly accounts for about 50% of the stuff in the universe.

One, which some cosmologists have begun to consider in recent years, is that perhaps gravity works differently at astronomical distances than, say, within a galaxy. Case in point: the galaxy Andromeda, 2.5 million light years away, and the Milky away are drawing each other gravitationally. Compare this with the strong nuclear force, which is impotent beyond atomic distances. Perhaps we’ve dismissed gravity as the weakest force a bit hastily.

Two, hasn’t light from distant galaxies been transiting the expanding intergalactic medium for vastly more time, and so is more redshifted by that alone? How do we tease out speed from distance on astronomical scales? After all, if that light has been traveling for 13 billion years, only the nearest billion light years have the maximum redshift. The farther back we travel toward the source, the less light has been affected by the expanding universe, in part because the photons haven’t been in space for as long. Lacking a standard candle at those distances like a Type 1a supernova, how do we know the difference?

For the big finale, I think our view of the universe is too limited to conclude that forces within it are pushing outward at an increasing rate. I think there’s a vast region beyond the boundaries of the universe that dwarfs the universe itself. It is so profound a void it doesn’t yet contain space and time, yet it exists, and like a spacetime vacuum is drawing the universe outward. Imagine being able to observe the big bang–since all of time and space are within the boundary of the explosion, where are you viewing it from? I see it as a five-dimensional bubble, and our universe is a tiny speck on it. As nature abhors a vacuum, so does the pan-universal bubble abhor the absence of space, so space is pulled outward toward equilibrium.

This tends to support the “Big Rip” conjecture.

“Putative Brilliance” is an attempt to encourage leaps of intuition in the world of formalized scientific thought. The author claims no expertise in these areas, only an open mind with an affinity for new perspectives. While these ideas were once original to the author, others may well have had them separately. No ownership of intellectual property is implied or asserted. Besides, this might be complete nonsense. Or, maybe not.

Scientists get results from a Quantum Computer by NOT running the program. Really.

February 24, 2006

Think Outside The BoxIt sounds impossible, but it’s true. This article at tells the story, and has one of the best lines I’ve read in a while, “A non-running computer produces fewer errors.” Seriously, though, quantum physics, string theory, and the like are giving us abstract thinkers almost too much conflicting information to contemplate. I’m sure someone has said, “The more we know, the less we know,” I just don’t know whom. QED.