Sunday, May 29, 2011
Astrotheology is, however, better name for Theology that deals with space exploration and its impact on our faith in God and understanding of the geocentric Bible.
This would be in line with such words derived into use from the astro word as Astronomy, Astrophysics, Astrochemistry and Astrobiology.
There are some odd uses for the term Astrotheology among people gazing the night sky but consistent use of the term for a serious discipline of Theology might by time push aside such usages.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Mysterious energy indeed!
Dark energy is not so called as some sort of Underworld thing. The name of this energy means that like the boy in that brilliant Passat video also top astrophysicists are somewhat in the dark about what is causing the lights blink.
Let us suppose that a boy jumps bravely from a board. But alas! Instead of splashing loudly to the swimming pool below he keeps flying upwards with accelerating speed and gravity is not slowing his flight or bringing him back down to Earth as it should... Surely not a nice nor natural experience to the boy and we are in dark about the reason for such flight.
Scientists have been discussing dark energy since 1990's as enough evidence had been gathered about a dark force causing Cosmic Big Bang jump board. The speed of galaxy cluster formation and patterns observed in galaxies (baryon acoustic oscillation) defy the known laws of gravity.
Should Mr Einstein's general theory of relativity be modified by adding exceptions, a bit like Ptolemaic planetary explanations, to explain the oddities. Or is there a simpler answer, an unknown force that causes the observed phenomena and kind of flattens the space?
BBC Science reporter Paul Rincon tells in today's news about soon to be published results of the WiggleZ project that began in 2006. More than 200.000 galaxies were studied by two telescopes in NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex)and Australian Siding Spring Observatory (home). Recently, also instruments in space have been used to study dark force and gravity, the Gravity B probe and the new AMS 2 spectormeter carried by Space Shuttle Endeavour to be installed in the International Space Station (ISS).
Quote "To explain why the expansion of the Universe was speeding up, astronomers had to either rewrite Albert Einstein's theory of gravity or accept that the cosmos was filled with a novel type of energy.
"The action of dark energy is as if you threw a ball up in the air, and it kept speeding upward into the sky faster and faster," said co-author Dr Chris Blake of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.
"The results tell us that dark energy is a cosmological constant, as Einstein proposed. If gravity were the culprit, then we wouldn't be seeing these constant effects of dark energy throughout time." End of quote
BBC Science news
THE TRUTH IN NOT KNOWING EVERYTHING
From a Theologian's point of view science teaches something very essential about the truth. We do not know everything! By honestly confessing our ignorance of even most central matters, such as our understanding of the creation of the cosmos or our faith in God Almighty, we are truthful. This gives us a healthy dose of humility in front of the majesty of God of Israel.
This is how modern scientists follow in the footsteps of Sir Isaac Newton, who was in his own words quite an ignoramus despite of all the knowledge and understanding of Nature he had gained, including the calculated force of gravity.
Quote While dark energy makes up about 74% of the Universe, dark matter - which does not reflect or emit detectable light - accounts for 22%. Ordinary matter - gas, stars, planets and galaxies - makes up just 4% of the cosmos.
However, despite scientists being able to infer the existence of dark energy and dark matter, these phenomena still elude a full explanation.
The professor of astrophysics at Portsmouth University, UK, added: "It's re-confirmation of dark energy, it gives us another data point to fit our theories around and it shows us the way to the future. More astronomers are going to be doing this in years to come."End of quote
BBC Science news
Let us all take a pause and think the fact that seems to diminish the materialistic point of view that matter is all that matters: "Ordinary matter - gas, stars, planets and galaxies - makes up just 4% of the cosmos."
There definitely are other forces out there besides visible light and matter!
Energy and matter... e=mc2
Albert Einstein certainly understood the KISS principle long before it was formulated by the nerds and refined by Zen Python!
News get around at great speed these days ... take a look at this video from newsy.com!
"Newsy.com uses multiple sources to analyze and synthesize news coverage for their
viewers. They present their videos online and on mobile platforms."
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Today Wednesday 18, "The crew of space shuttle Endeavour awoke at 10:56 p.m. EDT to “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, played for Pilot Greg Johnson. The song won the 2002 Grammy Rock Song of the Year and is a favorite of Johnson’s son Matt, whose birthday is tomorrow. Today is docking day in space. The terminal initiation burn at 3:38 a.m. will put the shuttle on the final course to link up with the International Space Station at about 6:16 a.m."
"The crew members for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. During the 16-day mission, Endeavour and its crew will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre."
Excerpts from NASA reports
Why this amount of money? Could it not be used to help the hungry and thirsty in Africa.
Well. It is somewhat risky mission hoping the Shuttle will do well, the training of the astronauts expensive, their equipment costs millions, there is one time burning of huge amounts of rocket fuel during the launch and lift off and other very high expenses on ground and in space.
The answer to all this spending is largely in those three letters AMS.
The AMS is a high profile space-based particle physics experiment that is led by Nobel laureate Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)."
"APOD Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 (AMS), a detector that over the next few years could detect a significant abundance of specific types of dark matter, charged antimatter, and even a strangely possible variation of familiar matter called strangelets."
This matter is where the money is. And power.
If US Army was able to put together only one kg of antimatter and one kilo of matter the exploding energy of antimatter bomb would have the power equivalent of a 20 megaton thermonuclear bomb. Theory, true, but such numbers get the interest of generals and politicians - who will be the first one to get there, the rich Chinese or the USA in deep debts, India or Russia?
It has been estimated that at 1996 rates of electricity it would cost 2.5 million dollars to produce only one gram of antimatter. But what is this for an aspiring nation? Manhattan project was 20 billion dollars and had some significant implications to the Second World War and to the history of mankind.
Of course, AMS is fascinating to all of us because of the study of strangelets where matter is not up and down quarks but also have a strange quark.
The award winning interactive tour by Particle Data Group of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is an adventure that teaches even dummies like me such things in very attractive and interesting way (here).
So - Bon voyage Endeavour and Happy landings!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Space research is generally concerned with rather big distances and objects. For learning more Astrophysicists and other scientists need applied mathematics, physics, chemistry and are totally dependent on those very small things, photons.
Although we have learned much about Creation there is much more to be figured out. Like the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton, who built his Newtonian Telescope and found out much about visible light once said
"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
The wisdom visible in God's orderly creation gets even more amazing when we look at the little things and stretch our computer assisted minds to figure them out. One of the big surprises of modern physics has been the similarities observed between macro cosmos, the Universe, and micro cosmos. Studying quarks and atoms relating to matter and energy we also learn about supernovas and galaxies and their interactions. Kind of simplicity in modularity. As Newton noticed about the Nature: "Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things."
The key to progress in the extreme areas of research beyond our five or six senses where empirical study is not possible or practical or affordable is in the brain activity of humans. Democritus was thinking about atoms he could not possibly see and modern men think about quarks and strings. For this thinking new mathematical tools have been developed or are under development in order to adequately process new theories.
"Divine mathematics" would be a great expression because God of Israel is a great mathematician. But for the fear that theological words would corrupt the most exact of exact sciences has left such expressions out from serious scientific talk. On the basis of Nature and its laws Newton noted "God created everything by number, weight and measure" and this is indeed what most modern science is finding - not the chaos assumed by Democritus but the order admired by Newton.
"What is there in places empty of matter? and Whence is it that the sun and planets gravitate toward one another without dense matter between them? Whence is it that Nature doth nothing in vain? and Whence arises all that order and beauty which we see in the world? To what end are comets? and Whence is it that planets move all one and the same way in orbs concentrick, while comets move all manner of ways in orbs very excentrick? and What hinders the fixed stars from falling upon one another?"
Sir Isaac Newton
Such matters concern us very much also today. In more modern words, how does gravity, first recognized as such by Newton and ingeniously explained by Einstein later on, fit together with quantum physics?
For the human race this is one the great mysteries of Creation. Solution would be Theory of Everything (TOE).
Well, at least everything theoretical physicists are talking about today but not necessarily everything biologists are concerned with - or theologians!
Wikipedia introduces Gabrielo Veneziano (1944) in pleasantly humble way telling about his studies in Leonardo da Vinci lyceo in Florence, then at the University of Florence and finally about his three years of doctoral studies in the Promised Land, Weitzmann Institute in Rehovot. Since 2004 he has held the Chair of Elementary Particles, Gravitation and Cosmology at the Collège de France in Paris:
"He completed his PhD studies in under three years, getting his degree at the end of 1967. The PhD thesis was largely based on his research with his advisor, Hector Rubinstein and on work done in collaboration with Marco Ademollo (a professor in Florence) and Miguel Virasoro. That work developed important ideas initiated by Sergio Fubini and collaborators on a string approach to strong interactions based on “superconvergence”."
This is quite controlled description of the studies of a man who has revolutionized our understanding of the most fundamental structures in the Universe!
String theory did not immediately take the scientific world by storm and there was a time when some expected it to be left in the dustbin of the History of Science. However, it took off again and we are currently living in the midst of the second revolution of string theory and nobody knows where it will lead. There is no going back and the Large Hadron Collider and other very expensive machines are hard at work banging particles together to find out more about them.
In 1968 Gabriele Veneziano proposed something called a dual resonance model. This is the starting point of the first string theory revolution. I am not capable even to explain what it includes. Those of you who know are aware that "it was based upon the observation that the amplitudes for the s-channel scatterings matched exactly with the amplitudes for the t-channel scatterings among mesons and also the Regge trajectory." Note especially the Regge trajectory!
However a great cheat sheet for dummies like me says that "1970 String theory is created when physicists interpret Veneziano’s model as describing a universe of vibrating strings."
In short, we are all essentially vibrating strings. Great.
Looking at the smallest things
This drawing taken from a wikipedia article nicely shows the level of detail. This is also by large the order of how things have been noted by us humans since the invention of microscopes and telescopes in early 17th century Netherlands.
Levels of magnification:
1. Macroscopic level – Matter
2. Molecular level
3. Atomic level – Protons, neutrons, and electrons
4. Subatomic level – Electron
5. Subatomic level – Quarks
6. String level
Orion and Men in Black II
So we are told that there are many theories
Bosonic string theory
Superstring theory (or Supersymmetric string theory)
Type I, Type IIA, Type IIB, Heterotic string theories (Type HE, Type HO)
Brane world scenarios
Randall-Sundrum models (or RS1 and RS2)
What interests me here as a theologian is, among others, M-theory which requires that there are eleven dimensions, not more and not less. Space-time is commonly understood as length, width, height and time, so that a physical object is an event in this continuum. That makes sense. As basically used to 3D we cannot see what a four-dimensional object looks like but we can project it as a three dimensional model. Nice.
(Scientists have taken this a bit further with the holographic principle. "The holographic principle is a property of quantum gravity and string theories which states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a boundary to the region—preferably a light-like boundary like a gravitational horizon...string theory admits a lower dimensional description in which gravity emerges from it in what would now be called a holographic way." or whatever).
11 dimensions cannot be easily imagined even in the holographic way. Luckily forus, M-theorists say that these higher dimensions are in the micro-cosmos and therefore do not bother us that much in our normal way of life.
Or who knows what is there!
Friday, May 6, 2011
Not only is the subject esoteric, the impact of large objects like planet Earth on space-time continuity, but the tools created for this impressive physical experiment are absolutely amazing. Humans build better tools for more accurate observation - but this approaches the ridiculous - measuring axis shifts in perfectly spherical quartz gyroscopes coated with niobium and swimming in super-fluid helium in giant vacuum flask at almost absolute zero temperature. What a feat of engineering!
I quote from the article: "A milliarcsecond is the width of a human hair seen at a distance of 10 miles. It really is a rather small angle, and this is the accuracy Gravity Probe B had to achieve," explained Professor Everitt.
"For the geodetic effect, the predicted relativity effect is 6,606.1 of these milliarcseconds, and the measured result is [to within] a little over a quarter of a percent of that. The frame-dragging we've measured to a little better than 20%."
From theological point of view this amazing feast of measuring changes in space-time continuum and thereby giving credence to Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity focuses our attention to two things, humans and God of Israel.
When Einstein published his theory in 1916 the best tools for observations of such cosmic things was the 100 inch Hooker and other telescopes at Mt Wilson Observatory. (He actually went there to have a chat with Edwin Hubble.) There was no space travel, no CERN and not accelerators and nothing. T-Ford had been released 1908 and was already a great commercial success. First World War was about to start next year but no human on this planet knew what it would turn out to be.
Einstein effect is not the direct result of anykind of empirical research. It is the product of a brilliant human mind figuring out matters of cosmic importance. Of course there is preceding research, there are previous experiments, much learning, theories and counter-theories.
But the fact is that Einstein effect was figured out by a single person in his mind. By thinking and searching for beautiful explanations.
Well, that sounds more like praising the human mind.
If such things can be understood by thinking - and we have the fabulous examples of Leucippus and Demoritus before Einstein with even less concrete evidence to help the mind - so why it is so difficult to accept that everything has been made by someone thinking, someone slightly deeper and more original than Einstein?
Is it because God is hidden and cannot be studied by scientific methods?
Actually, Bible does not say that God created the word by "thinking" but a step forward from this, by "saying" - and God said, let there be light.
We would not know anything about what was moving in Einstein's head if he did not say it in English or German or some other humanly understood language.
The language of creation seems to be superior mathematics, but not only that.
back to the celebrated experiment with gravity - I quote:
"If Einstein had been wrong in his ideas then the gyros should have spun unperturbed.
But given the physicist has taught us that local space-time around the Earth is curved and frame-dragging then a deviation in their behaviour ought to be expected and measurable - albeit with great difficulty.
Over the course of a year, the anticipated drift in the spin axes of the balls due to the geodetic effect was calculated to reveal itself on the scale of just a few thousand milliarcseconds. The frame-dragging effect was predicted to be even smaller."
Jonathan Amos BBC science news