Sunday, January 29, 2012

Physics, Astronomy & Other Reading Resources

One of the key things in learning to distinguish between good and bad science is that one must learn the standards that have been achieved by good science.  This means one needs a good set of references containing GOOD science.

I've wanted a list of references, ranging from popular-level to advanced, of the science relevant to the topics discussed on this site.

Towards this goal, I've listed a number of the books from my collection, and will be adding more.  Most of my introductory texts are from the 70s & 80s and probably not even available today.  I have found some free introductory texts online that actually look pretty good for someone who wants to learn some real science.

Feel free to email me with recommendations and links to similar resources.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Geocentrism vs. the Barycenter

I have often noted how, due to the interconnected nature of scientific disciplines, pseudo-sciences often have negative impacts far beyond their claimed 'goal'.  To make their pseudo-science correct, pseudo-scientists must often violate or even break principles so fundamental that it makes some modern technologies impossible (see Technomystics)

So it is with biblical geocentrism claims.

This is an additional follow-on to Mr. Martin's In Response to Dr Bridgmans “Stupid Geocentrist Tricks“. I've already made some reply in the comments to the original article.  Most of Mr. Martin's statements were rants where the same errors were being repeated and expanded upon, but one very fundamental error caught my attention.
Martin: “One of the problems found in the link above is that of the ad hoc nature of the barycenter, which produces conflicts within the Newtonian model and Kepler’s orbital laws.“
Any 'conflicts' between the Newtonian and Keplerian model stem from Mr. Martin's own misunderstanding.

The barycenter (AKA center of mass) is a consequence of Newton's laws and is perfectly consistent with them (wikipedia).  All objects with mass have a center of mass, and the barycenter can be defined for any combination of masses.  A ball has a barycenter, the center of mass of a uniform sphere is at the geometric center of the sphere.  A chair has a barycenter.  An automobile has a barycenter, as do all the parts within it.  A ship at sea has a barycenter.  A rock sitting on a hillside has a barycenter. 

The barycenter still exists even if the body (or bodies) under consideration is in motion. Imagine the differences in the motions of the moving parts, such as valves, camshafts, pistons, and belts, and their barycenters, in the interior of an automobile engine:
  1. While the car is at rest
  2. While the car is moving on the road under its own power
  3. While the car is idling on a flatbed train car while the train is moving.
All these motions are well defined mathematically and are far from ad hoc.  Automobile engineers understand them.

The barycenter allows us to analyze a system with many parts by providing a method of analyzing the system a few components at a time.

When combined with a central force law (a force that acts along a line between the two particles under consideration), the barycenter has the additional utility that the motion of a system of particles can be analyzed in two parts - the motion AROUND the center of mass, and the motion OF the center of mass.  The center of mass then provides a convienent frame of reference for analyzing the system.  Engineers and astronomers use this fact routinely.

Here are derivations, starting from Newtonian classical mechanics, deriving Kepler's laws and the center of mass from Newtonian force and gravitational laws.  These derivations illustrate how the motion of the two objects under gravity can be separated into these two separate motions.  These are presented for undergraduate physics classes.
Kepler's laws, refined by Newton, describe the motion of two bodies RELATIVE TO EACH OTHER, not relative to the barycenter, as seen in the derivations linked above.

Using my N-body code, I've actually run several simulations of how the same Keplerian 2-body system appears in different reference frames, specifically an arbitrary frame, a center-of-mass (barycenter) frame, and a reference frame centered on the more massive object where Kepler's Laws apply (see Doin' Real Science: Simulating Particles).  I have a few demonstrations of Mr. Martin's claimed problem configurations (described below) in preparation for future posts.

Mr. Martin elaborates on his nonsense, repeating many of the claims from other posts...
Invalidations of Newton's and Kepler's orbital mechanics
Here’s some simple invalidations of Newton’s and Kepler’s orbital mechanics –

1. The orbital mechanics of Newton dictates the earth orbits the sun’s center of mass in an ellipse, yet Newtonian mechanics states the earth also orbits the solar system barycenter. As the solar system barycenter is almost never at the center of mass of the sun, then the earth simply cannot be orbiting the sun in an ellipse. Therefore Newton’s principle of barycentric motion invalidates Kepler’s laws of elliptical motion.

2. Newton’s orbital mechanics dictates the earth orbits the sun’s center of mass in an ellipse. Newton’s orbital mechanics dictates the earth orbits the earth-moon barycenter ever month. Now if the earth is fixed in its elliptical orbit around the sun, then both the earth-moon barycenter and the moon orbit the earth every month, to maintain the earths elliptical orbit shape around the earth every year. Yet if this occurs, Newton’s notion of the barycenter as the center of mass about which the masses orbit as affirmed in the sun-earth motion and then denied in the earth-moon motion. As Newton’s center of mass concludes to a contradiction with more than two bodies in motion, the theory of the center of mass and with it, mass as a cause of gravity, is invalidated.

3. Newton’s orbital mechanics dictates the earth orbits the solar system’s center of mass in an ellipse. Yet, Newton’s orbital mechanics dictates the earth orbits the earth-moon barycenter every month. To properly account for the Earth’s monthly motion around the earth-moon barycenter and the motion of the earth around the solar system barycenter, the earth cannot be orbiting the solar system barycenter in an ellipse as demonstrated above, so the other options available to explain the sun-earth-moon orbits are –

A- The earth-moon barycenter orbits the solar system barycenter in an ellipse. But this option is not in accord with Newton’s notion of a barycenter, where it is a stationary point, relative to the motion of bodies. Furthermore, if the earth-moon barycenter orbits the solar system barycenter, then the earth’s yearly orbit does not conform to Kepler’s orbital laws.

B- The Earth-moon barycentric motion is independent of the earth-solar system barycentric motion. But such movements are never independent in the real, indicating Newton’s notion of the barycenter is not a reflection of the real.

C- The earth does not orbit in the Earth-moon barycentric motion, nor does it move around the solar system barycenter, but is stationary at the barycenter of the universe. This solution gives some respectability to Newton’s notion of the barycenter, but is normally denied by modern science out of blind prejudice.
All of these statements demonstrate the same conceptual failure, that Mr. Martin regards the barycenter (center of gravity, center of mass) and/or the focus of planetary orbits, as if they must be a FIXED point in space.

But that is wrong.  I can define a reference frame attached to any object, or point in space, that I choose.  All the frames are equivalent.  It is a fact that some reference frames are more convenient for calculation than others (which makes the Earth a preferred frame ONLY when we are near the Earth).

The barycenter of the Earth moves around the Earth-Moon barycenter.  The barycenter of Earth-Moon system moves around the barycenter of the Solar System (and the Sun).  The barycenter of the solar system moves around the barycenter of the Galaxy.  There is no conflict in these nested motions, just as there are no conflicts for the moving parts of the engine inside a moving car.

Thanks to Newton's laws, and this can be proven with mathematical rigor, the barycenter provides a point where, in the case of NO EXTERNAL forces, a body can be treated as point moving along the trajectory of the barycenter.  It is a useful principle to understand for anyone designing or building mechanical systems as noted in Q4 of Geocentrism: Failing More Basic Physics...

To believe the Geocentrist claim of a problem with barycentric and Keplerian motion is to believe that the past 300 years of the development of mechanics (and all the inventions developed from that knowledge) is incorrect.  Perhaps Mr. Martin thinks these developments were some kind of fluke, unrelated to the mathematics that guided the way?

Mr. Martin repeatedly implies that mathematical models have no actual connection to reality, arguing that a condition that exists mathematically does not exist 'in the real'.  If the fact that engineers and scientists use these concepts to build real things doesn't make it 'real', then what does make these concepts, and the larger concepts we derive from them, real?  Once in this Geocentrist fantasy-land, one's only choice is to believe that all space flight is a hoax.  To maintain such a delusion, you have to avoid watching satellites go overhead (Wikipedia, Hobby Space: Satellite Watching).

That the math works might be mysterious to some, but the simple fact is the math does provide accurate predictions of reality (see Mathematics, the Language of Science).  The power of that description has made modern technology possible.  Mr. Martin and his co-horts have provided no such capability.

The math Works.  Geocentrist pseudo-science does not.

Some other interesting resources on the topic:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Big Bang Prediction Confirmed. More Headaches for the Infinite Age Cosmologies

One of the major predictions of the Big Bang cosmology is the abundance of the chemical elements immediately after the expansion cooled to the point that nuclear reactions could no longer take place. This would create a time between the Big Bang itself (Wikipedia), and star formation, where the universe would be filled with nothing but H, D, He, and trace amounts of lithium.

Eventually stars will form and nucleosynthesis will begin again, 'cooking' these initial elements into heavier elements such as carbon, oxygen and others (Wikipedia).  We've detected a great deal of evidence for this process.  Older, lower mass (and therefore longer lived) stars tend to have lower amounts of the elements heavier than helium (low metallicity).

But this element formation process will not be uniformly distributed.  Regions with stars will form these heavier elements at higher rates, and supernovae and other explosive events will expel them back into the interstellar medium.  We expect regions such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies to have a higher fraction of these heavier elements leaving the regions between galaxies with a lower fraction of heavy elements.  This non-uniformity in mixing means that there might still be some regions of the cosmos where unprocessed 'pristine' material from the original nucleosynthesis might be found.

We now have news that some of this left-over material may have indeed been found.
Here's a press report: Pristine Big Bang Gas Found

And here is a link to the paper published in Science magazine:
Science: Detection of Pristine Gas Two Billion Years After the Big Bang

Most cosmological alternatives to the Big Bang are either much younger (such as those advocated by young-Earth creationists) or of infinite age (advocated by Plasma Cosmology and Electric Universe, among others).

But infinite age cosmologies have a host of problems, rarely acknowledged by their advocates.
  • In a universe of infinite age, everything has had enough time to reach its equilibrium configuration, which means there is no free energy left which can be liberated.  Basically, an infinite age universe is a dead universe and there is no energy available for even life to function.
  • Most infinite age cosmologies try to avoid the problem described above by advocating some mechanism for matter to be spontaneously created.  While such a process would violate conservation of energy (COE), there are known quantum processes which can violate COE for very short intervals, therefore, we can't rule this possibility out at 100% confidence (but the difference with 100% would very, very, VERY tiny).  Conservation of energy could be violated on a level below our current ability to detect it.
However, if material were created spontaneously, it would most likely be distributed roughly uniformly throughout the cosmos and pristine material would constantly be mixed with highly-processed material.  Anyone advocating an infinite-age cosmos would have a difficult time extracting a region of hydrogen and helium, at high purity, out of a mixture that includes heavy elements.

Here's some references that address some of the questions that get raised by energy issues in Big Bang cosmology: Machines Like Us: Does the Big Bang violate Conservation of Energy?

These discussions always generate confusion because General Relativity does define conserved quantities that we equate to energy defined on a cosmological time scale, but the definition does not map cleanly to small times scales, such as looking at the entire cosmos vs. energy conservation on the Earth.  Sean Carroll gives a variation of the explanation here:  Cosmic Variance: Energy is not Conserved.

This confusion has allowed various cranks to exploit the terminology to promote bad science. 
Machines Like Us: Does the Big Bang violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics?

For a description of how we learned that symmetry principles are behind the conservation laws, see this chapter from the online text "Conceptual Physics".

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Are You Smarter Than a 17th-Century Geocentrist"

This little goodie came through recently on one of the many mailing lists I'm on, from the Louisville (Kentucky) Area Skeptics:

January 11, 2012

Jan Science Cafe- Chris Graney "Are You Smarter Than a 17th-Century Geocentrist?"

Unfortunately, it's a little farther away than I'm able to travel on short notice, but it looks like fun.  Hopefully I'll hear some reports about it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons

Dr. Donald Scott, whose Electric Universe promotional activites have been discussed on this site before has published an (alledged) update to his Electric Sun model:

Thunderbolts: Voyager 1 Updates Solar Electron Flux

Dr. Scott claims to use Voyager data to update his incoming electron flux to 10^7 electrons per cubic meter, a 100 times increase over his previous estimate.  He subsequently uses this to downgrade the estimate of the Sun-heliopause voltage drop to 6.25 million volts.
“NASA’s observation (#3 above) that the direction of the solar wind actually reverses (begins to flow sunward) out near the heliopause is further confirmation that the analogy between the behavior of the Sun’s surrounding plasma and what is observed in laboratory “gas” (plasma) discharge tubes is a valid one.”
Note that we still get NO information on the voltage system actually driving this claimed discharge tube.  Since we detect no synchrotron emission from the current stream (detectable at radio wavelengths), it's existence is as mystical as the diety that makes the Sun rise each day.

This continued failure on the part of EU 'theorists' places their 'model' in a far weaker position than the standard heliospheric bow-shock model, where particles moving out from the Sun eventually reach a distance where the outflow balances with the interstellar medium flowing around the Sun.  We've observed this around other stars (see Hubble Finds Stars That 'Go Ballistic', Wikipedia: Bow Shock).  We observe these bow-shock structures under many conditions where there clearly are no large-scale electric fields controlling their structure.

For a closer look, here's the original Voyager press release:

NASA/JPL: NASA's Voyager Hits New Region at Solar System Edge

Note that the JPL article says that Voyager reports a 100-fold increase in the electron intensity (flux) from elsewhere in the galaxy, but does not actually report a value.  Also note that this is the flux of energetic electrons from the rest of the galaxy, NOT the relatively low-energy free electrons in the interstellar medium.  But these inconvenient distinctions do not deter Dr. Scott.  He just multiplies his original numbers (apparently from some estimate made around 1979) by 100.  These values Dr. Scott is using are not necessarily the ones Voyager was actually reporting (I actually have a query pending to get the actual numbers.  I had hoped I would have heard back on this by now). 

But beyond that, nothing's really changed.  EU still requires mystical properties for charged particles, much of which I covered in my earlier posts on this particular EU solar model (which is very different from Wal Thornhill's model):

The Solar Capacitor Model. I.
The Solar Capacitor Model. II.
The Solar Capacitor Model. III.

I can re-run the simulations from these past articles with Dr. Scott's revised numbers, but it doesn't improve the comparison to actual data much.  The general effects are:
  • Increasing the electron density to lower the voltage drop increases all the particle densities. This still creates a problem for the radiation environment to which satellites and astronauts are exposed.
  • Reducing the voltage drop lowers the particles speeds.  This is still HARD radiation, dangerous to satellites and astronauts.
Here's some more issues raised by Dr. Scott's 'interpretation' of the JPL release:
  • If inbound electrons are now being measured by Voyager in the heliopause region, why weren't they detected closer to the Sun? How do the electrons deliver their energy to the Sun if they don't travel the remaining 100 AUs to the Sun? Again, EU must invoke some magical property for electrons.  According to the standard heliosphere model, the number of inbound electrons are increasing because the flux of outbound electrons has decreased sufficiently that the inbound electrons are not being scattered off their trajectory.
  • What happens to electrons moving through a 10 billion volt drop, or even a 6.25 million volt drop?  How is their energy transferred when they impact the Sun?  We've been able to generate electron beams of this energy, and higher, for DECADES.  See SLAC’s Electron Beam Gets Astrophysical.  We know exactly how these electron beams behave. We know what happens when they hit matter, like the surface of the Sun, or the dark side of a planet, or a satellite, or an astronaut in a space suit.  This detail is also something that designers of everything from discharge tubes to CRTs MUST know, but EU 'theorists' apparently do not.
Most electrical engineers I've worked with understand the concept of an energy budget - you don't attach appliances to your generator if the generator can't support your load.  You must understand the energy budget of your equipment, whether it be your home, or a satellite or a spacecraft, or your physical system.

This very basic fact is apparently not understood by Electric Universe 'theorists'.