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Saturday, February 02, 2019

Same as it ever was

So, I haven't blogged at all since the 2016 US Presidential election.  And, nothing has changed.

Well, that isn't entirely true.  Trump has been unique in my experience: a politician who does in office exactly what he promised on the campaign trail.  And because he actually had to produce results in the real world for decades before becoming a politician, he has been running rings around the "professional" politicians. 

But what I wrote in my last post two years ago, well, that hasn't changed at all.  The vast majority of reporters and entertainers are still extremely political, and all on one side.  Open the New York Times or watch CNN, if you've got some Ipecac handy.  Every story about Trump is negative.  They'll inject negative comments about Trump in stories that have nothing to do with him.  Day after day, pounding on Trump and the people who voted for him.

But events have a way of disrupting the narrative.  It's like the old joke about going broke.  Hey journalists, how did you lose all credibility with the public? "Slowly, then all at once."

There is a reason that advertising revenue is way down across the board for these major news organizations: they've been insulting and lying to over half their potential audience, and the audience has thus left them behind.  And it's finally hitting the bottom line, resulting in massive layoffs at BuzzFeed and Huffington Post and McClatchy and other "news" sites.

And they still haven't learned their lesson.  If you're going to be a news site, then just tell us the news.  Leave your personal opinions out of it.  Be professional.

Either do that, or learn to code.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why should we care what you have to say?

Hello, CNN.  Hi, New York Times, Take a seat, Oprah, there's one for you right next to Michael Moore and Leo DiCaprio. All the rest of you in the legacy media, there's some folding chairs in the back, go ahead, make yourselves comfortable.  Sorry, Amy Schumer, either stand or just sit on the floor.

OK, looks like everyone's here, may as well get this started.  It's been a week since Trump won.  Look, admit it, it's over, he won.  And he has a pen and a phone, and all the demonstrations in the streets are not going to change the fact that he is going to be the President in January.  It's done.

Look, Amy, this is a closed meeting, not a rally.  Put the sign down and stop chanting.  There's no cameras here.  And he is your President.

Anyhow, that's not why I called you all here today.  I wanted to talk to you about something more important.

Have you noticed the ratings are down?  Not just CNN and ABC and CBS and NBC either.  Print circulation is down across the board.  Times, how much is your advertising revenue down this year?  And not just the legacy media either.  Hollywood, have you noticed that Bollywood is breathing down your necks?  What are domestic ticket sales looking like, year over year?

This year, the whole lot of you went all-in for Hillary Clinton.  Sure, some of you paid some lip service to Feeling the Bern, but we all knew the fix was in after what happened to Hillary in 2008.  It was her turn and she was a woman and Republicans are stupid and evil to stand in the way of progress amirite?

Pay attention, Leo, this is important.  You all pulled as hard as you could for Hillary, didn't you?  Didn't you pass her debate questions in the primaries and stab Bernie in the back?  Didn't you hush up all mention of her crimes and paint the FBI as incompetent meddlers?  Didn't you skew your polling samples as far to the Democrat side as you could get away with?  Didn't you make pariahs out of anyone who suggested Trump might have a chance?

You all tried your very best and used all the influence you had, didn't you?

And what happened?  She lost.

Stop blubbering, Amy.  Can you get over the fact that she lost long enough to connect those sentences together in your head?  You tried everything you had and used all the pull you could and the American people didn't buy it.  At least, enough of them didn't buy it they either stayed home or voted for Trump.

So what does that tell you about your actual influence over elections, AP?  Still think you guys are worth 15 points at the polls?  Here's a scary thought - what if you are worth 15 points and you still lost?

Are you even worth those 15 points at the polls anymore?  70 million people read Matt Drudge every day, what's your audience CBS News?

Julian Assange by himself now has more credibility than all of you put together.  That's an important word, credibility.  It's the only thing a news organization really has to sell.  When the National Enquirer has a better long-term track record in their political reporting than you do, what does that say about your credibility?

Once your credibility is gone, what do you have left to sell?  How are you different from the Weekly World News?  And why should anyone pay attention to what you have to say now?
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Making Space Great Again

With a new President, and this President in particular, coming into office in January, there has never been a better time to correct the aimless path NASA has been treading since Apollo 11.

Jeff Foust spoke to former Congressman Robert Walker, Trump's space advisor, who presented the skeleton of a Trump administration space policy:
1. A “commitment to global space leadership” that Walker said would produce the “technology, security and jobs” needed for the United States in the 21st century.
2. A reinstitution of the National Space Council, headed by the vice president, to oversee all government space efforts to seek efficiencies and eliminate redundancies. The council was last in operation during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
3. A goal of “human exploration of the solar system by the end of the century,” which Walker said would serve as a “stretch goal” to drive technology developments to a stronger degree than simply a goal of humans to Mars.
4. Shifting NASA budgets to “deep space achievements” rather than Earth science and climate research. Walker said that some, unspecified NASA Earth science missions might be better handled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but “there would have to be some budget adjustments” to transfer those missions from NASA to NOAA.
5. Development of small satellite technologies that in particular can provide resiliency for the military, and also develop satellite servicing technologies.
6. Seek world leadership in hypersonics technology, including for military applications.
7. Hand over access to and operations in low Earth orbit to the commercial sector.
8. Start discussions about including more “private and public partners” in operations and financing of the International Space Station, including extending the station’s lifetime. Walker also left open the possibility of including China as one of those new partners.
9. Require that all federal agencies develop plans for how they would use “space assets and space developments” to carry out their missions.
This is a good start. However, what's missing from the above?

The unstated assumption to the above list is, "we have a space program, here's how we're going to change how it does things."  But it misses the point.

Why?  Why should the US have humans merely "explore" the entire solar system by the end of the century?  To what end beyond exploration for exploration's sake?

Why does the US have a space program?  And we're not just talking about NASA here, either.  There are satellites operated by the NOAA, USGS, and other agencies, the Air Force provides satellite tracking, and the myriad spy agencies all have their fingers in the pie.

This is not a single coherent space program operating in unison.  In fact, such a creature is not even possible.  Instead, what America has today is the result of a slow accretion process over decades, where any given agency's or department's budget for the current year is commensurate with its expenditure the previous year.

Simple math and the explosion in the US National Debt over the last eight years dictate that this is a situation that cannot last indefinitely.  It will either happen later with a very hard crash, or sooner with a difficult yet absorb-able blow.  The election of President Trump presents an opportunity for the "sooner" option.

To do this for space policy, it is possible to both cut the total expenditure on all space-related activities in the federal government, while getting better results.

But to be able to objectively measure whether results are improving or not, they must be measured against some target.  Which brings us back to the missing "why".

In his 2011 ISDC Keynote speech, Jeff Greason laid out the differences between goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics, using World War II as an example.  In that case, the Goal was the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan.  Strategies included surrounding Germany and cutting off supply lines, and island hopping in the Pacific to cut off Japanese supply lines.  Objectives are things like "storm Normandy and hold the beach".  Tactics are things like deciding between daytime bombing and nighttime bombing, using tanks or using infantry, that sort of thing.

In that light, something like specifying a Space Launch System right down to the diameter of the rocket doesn't even rise to the level of Tactics.  It's only when you've already got the Goal, Strategy, Objectives, and Tactics laid out that you decide what assets are required to perform the task.

And NASA, indeed the entire space industry, has been avoiding clearly stating the Goal behind US human spaceflight for six decades.  It really wasn't until Greason's speech that it was actually laid out.

The goal of US human spaceflight is settlement.  It's been the goal all along, left half-stated and between the lines in commission report after commission report.  It hasn't been stated plainly because nobody (other than Jeff Greason) had the balls to come right out and say it.  And they've been afraid to say it because we don't know if we can actually do it.  And in turn, we don't know if we can do it because we haven't made a concerted effort, with a goal and strategies and objectives and tactics all laid out.

We knew why the US was involved in space in the 1960s.  The US was apparently falling behind the Russians technologically; if they could launch Sputnik to orbit, they can launch a nuke to Washington.  Then the Russians launched the first man to orbit and America lost its shit: the Russians were going to take over the whole solar system!  The only way to demonstrate American superiority, indeed the superiority of the Free Market economy to Communism, was to do something that the nascent American space program bigwigs thought they could accomplish before 1970 and that the Russians couldn't do in that time frame: get a man to the surface of the moon and back, alive.  It  was a clear-cut goal with clear strategies and objectives and tactics before the first line was drawn on the Saturn design.

Once the Apollo 11 astronauts came back home alive, the entire "why" of NASA was gone.  Ever since then, the goal of settlement has always been there, bubbling under the surface, popping up here as Space Station Freedom and there as the Vision for Space Exploration and so forth.  And ever since Apollo 11 it seems like NASA has been mainly about keeping NASA going until they can get to work on the real job.

Knowing why the US is involved in space, knowing that settlement is the ultimate goal, changes what gets done (strategies and objectives) and how it gets done (tactics).  And it is only once you get down to that tactical level that you decide whether you really need a rocket that can lift 135 tonnes of payload to orbit all at once, or whether you're better off doing something else with the budget you've got.

Knowing settlement is the goal means we need to develop technologies like nearly-completely enclosed life support systems so settlers can resupply themselves with provisions; and using the centrifuge currently gathering dust in a Japanese warehouse to test whether mammals (mice) can produce healthy offspring in lower or no gravity; and building experimental long-term propellant depots and developing spacecraft refueling technology.

Knowing that the goal is settlement means that you're not just sending humans to Titan to explore.  They'd be going there instead to take advantage of literal seas of rocket fuel, and setting up the fuel stop of the outer solar system.  Knowing settlement is the goal means we'd be sending people to Phobos not merely to explore but to set up a Mars Orbit refueling station.  Knowing settlement is the goal means sending people to our moon to operate and repair the robots that mine water and Titanium.  Knowing settlement is the goal means that we'd be sending people to the moons of Jupiter (except Europa, attempt no landing there) to mine them for their mineral wealth.

And knowing that settlement is the ultimate goal means we wouldn't necessarily be bringing these people back.  They would be staying and having children.

And knowing that you're talking about a large-scale migration into the harshest of environments, with lots of experimentation still to do before that is even possible, means accepting losses.  It means that Safe Is Not An Option.  It means accepting that people are going to die and assets will be lost.  It means that all US space activity cannot have a single point of failure on the critical path.  The Shuttle fleet became that single point of failure, and twice brought all US human space activity to a screeching halt.

Farmers die on the job.  Cops die on the job.  Soldiers die on the job.  Miners die on the job.  Fishermen die on the job.  Firefighters die on the job.  Stop whining about astronauts.  If settling the solar system isn't worth risking a single human life to do it, then it really isn't worth doing and we should just end the whole space program now.

Instead of approaching space from the perspective of randomly exploring in all directions, it's time to start from the Goal and work down through the Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics.  Once that is worked out, then one can decide whether the space program is correctly configured to accomplish the necessary tasks and how to most productively change the system.

The strategy Greason offered is similar to island hopping.  The idea is to slowly spread outwards, with each destination becoming a propellant production facility that enables spreading even further out.  This leverages and complements the work being done by asteroid mining companies (currently two, soon to be many more).


NASA as it is currently constituted cannot, by itself, accomplish the goal.  Settlement implies large numbers of people not only traveling to space but staying and raising families, for generations.  They can't all be NASA employees.

Nor should they.  As it stands, NASA is an agency with a split mandate operating at cross-purposes.  It is a cutting-edge research and development agency, creating the newest prototypes of space technology.  But it is also an operational agency, forced to use those same prototypes for operational purposes.  The Space Shuttle remained an "experimental" vehicle right up to its last flight.

Under the goal of settlement, NASA's role must change dramatically.  NASA cannot be wasting its time and resources on routine operations.  Instead, it must return to a role that it originally had as NACA and again in the early years of NASA's existence.  It must become solely a cutting-edge research and exploration agency, taking on the experimental tasks that are too long-term and expensive for any one member of industry but useful to all.  Where once NACA designed airfoils, NASA needs to be developing orbital propellant transfer and storage.  And as a purely R&D agency NASA could then focus on things like small satellites and hypersonics.

That means closing down a few operational centers (and transferring some to a new agency, which I'll talk about later), and changing the remainder of them into Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers.  Currently the only FFRDC within NASA is the Jet Propulsion Lab, not coincidentally by far the most successful of all NASA centers in terms of technology development and exploration.

And it means changing the way NASA handles exploration,   When NASA sends a satellite to orbit, say, Neptune, is it really important that NASA build the rocket?  Or that NASA be the one to build the satellite?  Or that NASA even own the satellite?  What is valuable to NASA for exploration purposes would not be the satellite orbiting Neptune itself, but the data that such a satellite sent back.  Instead of building satellites, launching and operating them, NASA really only needs to pay for the data.  Whether done through a prize structure or a bounty system or a strict price schedule, the federal government could accomplish a double win by getting the exploration data NASA wants at a fraction of the price while stimulating American industry.

Robert Walker is correct that the private sector must take over the launch and LEO sector.  Such regimes are quite evidently well enough understood and characterized - a company which did not exist fifteen years ago is currently delivering supplies to the international space station on a regular basis.  And the public-private partnerships are a good idea.  There is currently a privately-owned expandable module being tested on the ISS right now, and a private company launching nanosatellites from the ISS as well.

As a bonus, any dollar spent by industry on space is a dollar that doesn't have to come out of the Federal budget.  The partnerships that NASA developed with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences over the Obama administration have been one of the few bright spots of the last eight years, and this new procurement method (fixed-price rather than cost-plus) is a process that should be continued.

The downsized and reoriented NASA I proposed above would also have to work closely with industry, doing the basic research too expensive and long-term for any company to afford but useful to and shared with all.  But NASA doesn't need to be launching operational rockets, or indeed necessarily launching rockets at all.

However, there is still a place in the federal government for space operations that a streamlined NASA would not be performing.  This brings me to James C. Bennett's proposal for the founding of a Space Guard, modeled after the Coast Guard.  This is an idea that Vice President Pence and the revitalized National Space Council should look at very closely.

The Space Guard proposal dovetails nicely with Walker's proposal to move Earth science missions from NASA to the NOAA.  In a nutshell, the Space Guard (which would be part of the Department of Transportation or the Department of Commerce) would handle all federal space-related operational tasks (as opposed to experimental). It would take over the operational part of NASA.  For instance, the Space Guard would operate the launch complex at Kennedy Space Center, but they would not be developing payloads.  And the Space Guard would absorb space related activities from other government agencies, taking over most of the satellite tracking from the Air Force (bonus: can be viewed as a reduction in Defense spending without losing any capability), the operation of satellites from the NOAA and USGS and other government agencies.

Establishing a new agency like the Space Guard as a way of streamlining NASA and other agencies allows NASA to concentrate solely on the cutting edge research that can then be shared with US industry.  This should save each player in the industry from having to start from scratch and work its way up to operational space hardware.

Probably more importantly, however, it becomes an institution.  If the US is serious about an over-riding purpose extending to the end of the century, then that's a project that has to survive 20 more presidential elections and 41 Congressional elections.  Since Apollo, every President (with the possible exception of Ford) has introduced some kind of Bold Vision Of The Future Of The Space Program, only to be superseded by the next New Improved Bold Vision..  For any new plan to take hold for more than one or two Presidential terms, NASA must be radically restructured and the Space Guard must become an institution, in the same way the Coast Guard is an institution.

So, as NASA pushes out the edge of the envelope, the Space Guard must fill in behind it with any routine government space operations which are not yet ready or appropriate to be taken over by the private sector.  It is appropriate for companies like SpaceX and many more to be launching payloads and soon people to low earth orbit, now that the technology is maturing. Operating the launch complex, not yet. But any purposes the federal government has in space that is operational rather than research oriented and which cannot yet be performed by the private sector (under government contracts) would be handled by the Space Guard rather than NASA.
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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Quantized Space part 2: the Big Bang

In part 1 of this series I asked the questions
So what would be the behavior of the universe if space was in fact quantized? How would it differ from a universe in which the three dimensions of space were a continuum?
and then proceeded to describe a single quantum of space, a minimal volume. In particular, I asserted that there is no such thing as a singularity: there is a maximum energy that can fit in a minimal volume. I further postulated that these quanta of space are exclusionary: no two quanta of space could occupy the same volume.

These quanta of space would not be reacting to the whole universe.  Each quanta of space would only interact with its immediate neighbors.  In three dimensions of space, each could have a maximum of twelve immediate neighbors - but only if they are packed together as tightly as possible.  In that special case, these quanta of space would be lined up in neat rows familiar to anyone who has seen a stack of oranges or cannonballs.


Before I go further: I keep using the phrase "quanta of space" over and over.  I want to include the term "space" to differentiate it from the word "spacetime", which I will cover later.  However, "quanta of space", while accurate, is unwieldy to write (and read) over and over.  Therefore I will substitute another term which means the same thing, and use iota instead henceforth.  The plural of iota is iotas.

This fully-packed arrangement of iotas is very low entropy.  If any one iota is even just slightly out of place, the arrangement loses symmetry, and several iotas will have eleven neighbors instead of twelve.

In a fully packed arrangement, the volume of space inside the iotas accounts for just under 75% of the total volume.  In this arrangement, each iota is constrained in place by its neighbors.  Less-full packings of spheres which still constrain each sphere in all directions can cover as little as 65% of the available volume.


These less-full arrangements are also low-entropy in a different way than the fully-packed arrangement.  In the less-full arrangement, if one iota is even slightly out of place, then that can open up enough contiguous volume that a new iota can fit inside the pack.

So to the properties of a single iota that I outlined above, add this new postulate: if enough contiguous volume becomes available between iotas for one Planck time, a new iota will be incorporated into the universe at that location.

We know our universe is expanding.  If the above postulate is right, then it means that new iota are being incorporated into the universe all the time, everywhere.  However, they are not being incorporated into the universe at the same rate everywhere.  Volumes where the iota are tightly packed would incorporate new iota at a slower rate than volumes where they are more loosely-packed.  In fact, as long as a region of space remained fully-packed with iota, new iota could not be incorporated at all.

Let's imagine the universe at the moment of the Big Bang if space is quantized.  All of the mass/energy of the whole universe, all 10^53 kg of it, would be packed into about 10^61 or so iota in a fully-packed cluster about 10^-20 m across. To any iota inside that cluster, there would be an indeterminate period of time where absolutely nothing happened.  No energy could move from one iota to any of its neighbors, because each is already as full as it can get, and none of them can move because they are all completely constrained in position by their neighbors.  Any iota on the periphery of that cluster that was not completely full of energy would not be able to move any energy to any of its neighbors inside the cluster, as they are already full, nor could they move energy to any empty neighbors outside the cluster either, as it is in the ultimate gravitational crunch.  Neither are any iota further out interacting in any way with the cluster, as all the energy available for any interaction is already inside the cluster.

To any iota, the only other things that exist are its neighbors. To those iota inside the cluster, there are only identical full neighbors; from the point of view of each of those iotas, each one can legitimately be considered the center of the universe; there's no way to tell, and no differences between any of these iotas.  For those on the periphery, there are only those neighbors with energy.  Any iota outside that periphery cannot interact with anything inside (no information can ever pass from them to the inside as there is none available outside), so from the point of view of the cluster those exterior iotas are irrelevant and may as well not exist at all.

This arrangement of all the mass/energy in the universe in a tiny cluster of iotas is simultaneously stable and low-entropy.  It is stable because there would be no way to observe the passage of time; nothing would change.  The only way it becomes unstable in any way is if there is some intrinsic property of iotas causing them to jiggle and jostle with their neighbors at a scale smaller than the iotas themselves, which in turn causes the very unlikely event that enough volume opens up between iotas for one Planck time for a new iota to be incorporated into the cluster.

Although that event is extremely unlikely under those conditions, once it does happen after an indeterminate time, everything changes.  The new iota is empty of energy, and does not necessarily have 12 neighbors.  With its incorporation into the universe, symmetry is broken, energy can flow from its neighbors into the new iota, and the iotas are not as fully constrained.  This opens up new gaps into which more new iotas can be incorporated into the universe.  This becomes a runaway process as the symmetry breaks all over the entire cluster of iotas.  Bang.

The first new iotas to appear also happen to be the most loosely-packed of all the iotas in the cluster.  It thus becomes easier for new iotas to be incorporated into the universe close to where the original symmetry-breaking iotas appeared.  These would be the start of the great voids which dominate most of the volume of the universe.  However, this incorporation process was happening all over the entire cluster the moment the symmetry was broken.

This symmetry breaking was not an information signal, limited to the speed of light.  It wasn't like the new iota shoved the old iotas out of the way and the shove was transferred from iota to iota.  The iotas were already full of energy, and no information could pass from one full iota to another full iota.  Instead, the shape of the universe itself changed.  It expanded.  However, for any location where no new iotas appeared, nothing changed at all.  If an iota didn't get any new neighbors, then from its perspective it didn't move at all, even as the universe as a whole expanded.  The universe couldn't collapse back on itself because it was no longer tightly packed and new iota were being incorporated too quickly, everywhere in all directions.  The less tightly-packed it became, the faster new iota could be incorporated.  It is this period of time in the early universe that Alan Guth called Inflation.

One of the main ideas of the Big Bang theory is that the universe started out as a single point.  I am arguing that there is no such thing as a singularity, and as a result the universe started as a small object of roughly spherical shape about 10^-20 meters across.  Guth proposed Inflation as a way to get around having gravity immediately slamming the universe back into a singularity immediately after the Big Bang.

Using R=cT as a formula for the radius of the universe, with c the speed of light and T the age of the universe, and V=(pi/3)*R^3, it is easy to see that a doubling in the age of the universe means an increase in the number of iota by a factor of 8; as the universe doubles in age, for every iota at the start there are seven more at the end. The roughly 10^61 iotas present at the moment of the Big Bang would have become roughly 10^62 iotas one Planck time later.  Expressed in Planck times, the universe is roughly 8x10^60 Planck times old; that's only 202 doublings in age since the first Planck time. The inflation at the start does not require a new force, just the available gaps between now no-longer-aligned iota.

Under this scenario, it is possible to have a cyclic universe; a Big Crunch would, after some indeterminable passage of time, eventually become a Big Bang.

This idea also implies that the Big Bang was not a singular event 13.8 billion years ago or so.  Instead, the Big Bang is a continuous process, occurring even now, still incorporating new iotas into iota-sized gaps in the volume of the universe.  As the universe expands, if an iota does not acquire a new neighbor than from its perspective it has not moved at all.  If it does get a new neighbor, there is no way for that iota to tell if the neighbor is new to the universe or if one of its old neighbors shifted position slightly, and again from that iota's perspective it has not itself moved at all.  The expansion of the universe thus does not require energy.  We have been calling this process Dark Energy, but it is the ultimate free lunch.

A new iota is empty.  It has no mass.  It only defines a volume that had not been defined by prior iota.  It is only the pre-existing iotas which can contain energy. And since the new iotas are being produced more quickly in volumes where they are not packed as tightly, it is clear that iotas will be most tightly packed around iotas which contain mass/energy.  This is what we observe as the warping of space by mass.

Which brings me to a possible test for the idea of quantized space.  The red-shift of light from distant galaxies depends on their radial velocity relative to the observer (us).  This follows a fairly predictable relationship, with the most distant galaxies moving away from us the fastest.  It works out to about 70 kilometers per second of relative velocity per megaparsec of distance (about 3.26 million light years).   That value is the Hubble Constant.

Most of the volume of the universe is great voids.  These can be thought of sort of like the bubbles in a bubble bath.  The soapy film that marks the boundaries of the bubbles would be galaxies.  Where four bubbles meet, you have the highest concentration of galaxies, but where only three bubbles meet the galaxies form long strings.  And it is these long strings of galaxies that could provide the test of the theory.  We can measure the velocities of these galaxies relative to us by looking at their red shift.  What we need to calculate is the velocities of these galaxies relative to each other and see if they too follow that 70km/sMPc rule.

If space is quantized and volumes where iota are loosely packed gain new iotas more quickly than more densely packed volumes, then the great voids should be expanding faster than the rest of the universe as a whole.  If so, then the long strings of galaxies where three voids meet should exhibit a much higher velocity relative to each other than the Hubble rule would dictate.  If that is the case, then the Great Attractor may not be an attractor at all, but a consequence of new iotas being produced faster in voids than in galaxies, so that space would appear to be expanding faster in one direction than another for our local group of galaxies.

To be continued in part 3.
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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Breaking radio silence

Eight years ago, it was clear that whomever the Democrats nominated was going to become President.  The public had grown tired of Bush, the media was in a full-on push to get a Democrat elected, the usual cyclical stuff.  As the campaign season wore on, to my surprise in June 2008 Obama locked up the nomination. (Markets tanked the next day, no surprise.)

That's it I thought. America has finally lost its mind.

Prior to that I used to weigh in on politics quite a lot on this blog. After that, well, my blogging has lagged considerably. I just lost heart. Why play chess with pigeons? Since then I have seen the same foolishness repeated here in Alberta and again in Canada as a whole. More than half the population has lost their freakin' minds.

But today's news conference by FBI director James Comey has forced me to speak up.

Hillary Clinton should face prosecution. Comey spent several minutes detailing her offenses, which start with having her non-secure private server for conducting government business. That right there is enough to disqualify her from ever holding elected office in the United States for the rest of her life. He went on to detail at least three instances where an item was classified as Secret or Top Secret when it was sent and/or received to/from her server. These are felonies.

And then, in his conclusion, Comey stated that "no reasonable prosecutor" would file charges. I suppose his definition of "reasonable" must mean "one who doesn't want himself or a loved one to end up dead".

Hillary at the very least is guilty of gross negligence in her handling of classified Top Secret information. Comey laid out the case for that in his press conference. That is all that is required for prosecution. Add to it the evasion of FOIA, and the conspiracy required to get Top Secret information off of secure servers and onto the open internet, and a prosecution is a slam-dunk.

If more than half the population doesn't care, and they elect her anyway, then America has indeed fundamentally transformed.  It will have become a place where laws apply based on who you are, not objectively applied to everyone equally.  That is very dangerous.  It is particularly dangerous when the lawless majority is also dependent on the taxes paid by the lawful minority, which also happens to include most of the military veterans.  It is a recipe for civil war, in the only remaining superpower.  No way that gets confined to America's borders - who defends Hawaii during a civil war?

America, it is time to pull your heads out of your asses.
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Quantized Space part 1

John Kulick has developed a theory which he calls the Snowflake Universe.  The gist of the theory is that space itself is quantized.  For the universe to increase in size, it must therefore be gaining new quanta of space.  If the observable universe is itself moving relative to some larger background, then the addition of new quanta and subsequent expansion of space must force each quanta of space to follow a curved path through the larger background, imparting a centripetal acceleration on every quanta of space in the universe.  He suggests dark matter is not necessary to explain the motion of stars in the outer rim of a galaxy, and that this centripetal acceleration completely accounts for what we have been interpreting as dark matter.  Kulick also distinguishes between two types of Time: one which is experienced in the universe, and a different Time which Kulick calls Absolute Time, time as measured in the background external to the universe.

I regarded the idea as interesting and read through his PDF.  As I looked through his equations, one popped out:

k = c T0^(1/3) (eq 3-2,7)

In this formula, k is a constant which appears throughout Kulick's other formulae, c is the speed of light, and T0 is the age of the universe.

Taking the cube of both sides gives

k^3 = T0 c^3

Note that the left side of the equation is a constant, and the right side is a variable multiplied by the speed of light cubed.  For this equation to work, the speed of light must be changing as the universe ages.

Readers of Louise Riofrio's blog will recognize the form of that last formula.  Riofrio got there following a different path.  Taking the Planck equations

L_Pl = (h_bar.G.c^-3)^(1/2) ~ 10^-35 m
T_Pl = (h_bar.G.c^-5)^(1/2) ~ 10^-43 s
M_Pl = (h_bar.c/G)^(1/2) ~ 10^-8 kg

and rearranging them so that the h_bar term drops out, then substituting the mass and age of the universe gives

GM = t c^3

It is worth noting that since we know the values of G, t, and c, we can calculate the mass of the universe: M = t c^3/G = (13.7x10^9yr x3.16x10^7 s/yr)(3x10^8)^3/(6.67x10^-11) ~ 10^53 kg

Now, Kulick's T0 and Riofrios t are the exact same quantity: the age of the universe.  Therefore

k^3 = GM

and both Kulick and Riofrio are saying the same thing: the speed of light slows down, and every time the universe doubles in age the speed of light slows by a factor of 8.

Upon realizing that they were reaching the same destination from different paths, I introduced Kulick's work to Riofrio in a comment on her blog last September.

So what would be the behavior of the universe if space was in fact quantized?  How would it differ from a universe in which the three dimensions of space were a continuum?

One Quantum

Let's suppose that the properties of a quantum of space are intimately tied to the Planck formulae, that in fact the formulae have meaning precisely because they are properties of these smallest units of space.

note: the following section has been edited to correct a glaring error in my math.  Nice to get that out of the way right off the bat, no?

For instance, if the Planck length has a physical meaning corresponding to the properties of a quantum of space, then it must be that a quantum of space is a sphere whose diameter radius is one Planck length.  The impossibility of measuring anything smaller than one Planck length means that any features of this quantum smaller than its diameter radius are unknowable; a dodecahedral or torus-shaped quantum of space would occupy the same spherical volume, no more or less, and would appear to us as a sphere.  A similar line of reasoning shows that a quantum of space could be no larger or smaller in diameter radius than one Planck length.

This implies that the surface area of the quantum of space would be 4 pi times the Planck length squared, and a volume of 4pi/3 times the Planck length cubed.

V = (4pi/3)(h_bar.G.c^-3)^(3/2) ~ 1.77 x 10^-104 m^3

Note that this is a different volume than the Planck volume normally found in textbooks, since it is a sphere one Planck length in radius rather than a cube one Planck length on a side.

If the Planck mass (or equivalently, the Planck energy) has a physical meaning tied to the fundamental properties of a quantum of space, then it must be that there is a maximum amount of energy that may be contained within a single quantum of space, and that the maximum energy density is the Planck energy divided by the volume of a quantum of space:

rho_M_max = (hc/2*pi*G)^(1/2)/[(4pi/3)(hG/2pi*c^3)^(3/2)] = 3c^5/2hG^2 ~ 1.23 x 10^96 kg/m^3 maximum mass density
rho_E_max = rho_M_max*c^2 ~ 10^113 J/m^3 maximum energy density

{note the use of h, the Planck constant, rather than h_bar, which is h/(2pi)}

For this completely filled quantum of space, the mass is one Planck mass and the radius is one Planck length; the Schwarzchild radius of a black hole with one Planck mass is one Planck length, so this can be viewed as a quantum black hole.  The Compton wavelength of this object is

λ = h/mc = (2*pi*h*G*c^-3)^(1/2) = 2pi times the Planck length
so the Compton wavelength is the circumference of the completely full quantum of space.

This would imply that there is no such thing as a Singularity, no point of infinite density at the center of a black hole.  It can't get any smaller than the quantum of space.  If it got any smaller, it would be like a photon moving in a circle with the leading edge of the wave overtaking the trailing edge.

If quanta of space obey a sort of exclusionary principle, such that no two quanta could occupy the same volume of space at the same time, then the structure of space is a vast number of quanta packed together, each quantum having at most twelve neighbors (if and only if they are packed as tightly as possible).  For something to be in this universe, it would have to be contained within these quanta.

Thus, the mass of a black hole would be contained in many quanta of space packed tightly together, each filled to the brim with the maximum amount of energy possible.  A black hole with a mass of five solar masses (~10^31 kg), rather than being packed into a point of infinite density, would instead be contained in on the order of 10^39 quanta of space, in a total volume of about 10^-65 m^3.  It is very small, but it isn't a point, and the density is not infinite.

If the black hole was the mass of the entire universe (derived above as ~10^53 kg), all packed into quanta of space to maximum energy density, then rather than being a point of infinite density it would be a cluster of quanta measuring about 10^-20 meters across, one one hundred millionth of a nanometer.

For the Planck time to have physical meaning based on the properties of a quantum of space, it is clear that at the speed of light in a vacuum it would take one Planck time for a signal such as energy to traverse the distance from the surface of a quantum of space, through its center, and to the surface on the opposite side of the quantum.

However, since we can never measure a distance smaller than one Planck length, and that is the diameter of a quantum of space, such distinctions as center and surface become impossible for us to distinguish. Therefore, a second way of looking at a Planck time is better: at the speed of light in a vacuum it would take one Planck time for a signal such as energy to travel from the center of a quantum of space to the center of any of its neighbors; it takes one Planck time for a signal to move from one quanta of space to the next.

To be continued in part 2
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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Canada needs The Bomb

Canada is a peace-loving nation. We welcome people from all over the world, of all different faiths.

We also, throughout our history, have punched well above our weight on the world stage militarily. In the first world war, Canada had a military of a million people, out of a total population of 11 million. Canada has fought in both world wars, the Korean war, numerous peacekeeping operations, the 1991 Iraq war, Afghanistan, we have planes fighting ISIS today.

We have been a staunch ally of Britain and the United States (when we weren't burning down the White House, like in 1812). Since World War Two, the USSR was defeated without a nuclear exchange by the efforts of the United States with its allies Canada, Great Britain, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, and Israel.

But that alliance is breaking down. For six years, the Obama administration has confused friends for enemies and enemies for friends. Obama is basically giving Iran the bomb. He sat back and watched, time and again: as his own ambassador was slaughtered in Libya, as Russia invaded Crimea. Even as US special forces had finally tracked down Osama bin Laden, he dithered for months before giving the go-ahead, and then sat back and watched.

Canada's two closest neighbors are America and, across the oil fields of the Arctic ocean, Russia. Would Obama sit back and watch if Russia took a few Canadian islands? Putin is doing the calculations.

Canada is capable of producing nuclear weapons right now. We're a Uranium-exporting nation. We also export nuclear reactors, which means we already have most of the equipment necessary to make nuclear weapons. We also have long range heavy lift aircraft and can launch rockets of our own. We could have a test weapon built in a matter of months. And we could have a deterrent arsenal within a year. And then Canada wouldn't have to depend on a fickle US president.
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