Yesterday (Sep 5, 2019), the Breakthrough Prize Foundation awarded $21.6 million US dollars to the scientists behind a stunning achievement. They imaged a black hole. Although the image was announced and released 5 months ago, the story is still unfolding.
Yesterday (Sep 5, 2019), the Breakthrough Prize Foundation awarded $21.6 million US dollars to the scientists behind a stunning achievement. They imaged a black hole. Although the image was announced and released 5 months ago, the story is still unfolding.
The Breakthrough Prize is funded by Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner. It is the highest-paying science prize for researchers in life science, math, and physics.
There are many black holes in our galaxy and some small ones in our own galactic “neighborhood” . Yet the EHT team* focused on M87, a black hole in the center of another Galaxy, 55 million light years from our solar system.
This is pretty far, but it is a massive black hole with a bright accretion disk (stuff around the event horizon), and it is orthogonal to our vantage point. How big is the M87 black hole? It is bigger than our entire solar system!
At this unfathomable distance, it is difficult to image anything smaller than an entire galaxy. But by combining data from instruments and math teams around the world, scientists released in April an actual photograph. To be precise, it is the shadow of a black hole, but it clearly shows the accretion disk, event horizon and a hole in the middle. In fact, it shows a perfect, glowing donut.
* The EHT = Event Horizon Telescope
To achieve the implausible, scientists combined data from 8 radio telescopes around the world, including two operated by the European Southern Observatory in Chile (producer of the first video, below). Although data was captured as radio waves, a team of 347 scientists pieced the information together into an actual image. What you see in the paragraph above is not an illustration based on data. It is a genuine photograph.
As you view the 1st video below, you may not feel that it is new. Even with the Big Bang in question, black holes are certain fact, and images have been circulating for years. But—until now—those were all artist’s renderings. There has never been an actual photo of a black hole. This is a first.
A web search turns up many videos about the achievement. Some are less than 2 minutes, and some are 2 hour documentaries. I like these two videos:  a 17 minute video documenting the effort to achieve this milestone and clearly explaining the result—and  an 11½ minute Ted Talk:
CERN has revealed plans for a gigantic successor of the giant atom smasher LHC, the biggest machine ever built. Particle physicists will never stop to ask for ever larger big bang machines. But where are the limits for the ordinary society concerning costs and existential risks?
CERN boffins are already conducting a mega experiment at the LHC, a 27km circular particle collider, at the cost of several billion Euros to study conditions of matter as it existed fractions of a second after the big bang and to find the smallest particle possible – but the question is how could they ever know? Now, they pretend to be a little bit upset because they could not find any particles beyond the standard model, which means something they would not expect. To achieve that, particle physicists would like to build an even larger “Future Circular Collider” (FCC) near Geneva, where CERN enjoys extraterritorial status, with a ring of 100km – for about 24 billion Euros.
Experts point out that this research could be as limitless as the universe itself. The UK’s former Chief Scientific Advisor, Prof Sir David King told BBC: “We have to draw a line somewhere otherwise we end up with a collider that is so large that it goes around the equator. And if it doesn’t end there perhaps there will be a request for one that goes to the Moon and back.”
“There is always going to be more deep physics to be conducted with larger and larger colliders. My question is to what extent will the knowledge that we already have be extended to benefit humanity?”
There have been broad discussions about whether high energy nuclear experiments could pose an existential risk sooner or later, for example by producing micro black holes (mBH) or strange matter (strangelets) that could convert ordinary matter into strange matter and that eventually could start an infinite chain reaction from the moment it was stable – theoretically at a mass of around 1000 protons.
CERN has argued that micro black holes eventually could be produced, but they would not be stable and evaporate immediately due to „Hawking radiation“, a theoretical process that has never been observed.
Furthermore, CERN argues that similar high energy particle collisions occur naturally in the universe and in the Earth’s atmosphere, so they could not be dangerous. However, such natural high energy collisions are seldom and they have only been measured rather indirectly. Basically, nature does not set up LHC experiments: For example, the density of such artificial particle collisions never occurs in Earth’s atmosphere. Even if the cosmic ray argument was legitimate: CERN produces as many high energy collisions in an artificial narrow space as occur naturally in more than hundred thousand years in the atmosphere. Physicists look quite puzzled when they recalculate it.
Others argue that a particle collider ring would have to be bigger than the Earth to be dangerous.
A study on “Methodological Challenges for Risks with Low Probabilities and High Stakes” was provided by Lifeboat member Prof Raffaela Hillerbrand et al. Prof Eric Johnson submitted a paper discussing juridical difficulties (lawsuits were not successful or were not accepted respectively) but also the problem of groupthink within scientific communities. More of important contributions to the existential risk debate came from risk assessment experts Wolfgang Kromp and Mark Leggett, from R. Plaga, Eric Penrose, Walter Wagner, Otto Roessler, James Blodgett, Tom Kerwick and many more.
Since these discussions can become very sophisticated, there is also a more general approach (see video): According to present research, there are around 10 billion Earth-like planets alone in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Intelligent life might send radio waves, because they are extremely long lasting, though we have not received any (“Fermi paradox”). Theory postulates that there could be a ”great filter“, something that wipes out intelligent civilizations at a rather early state of their technical development. Let that sink in.
All technical civilizations would start to build particle smashers to find out how the universe works, to get as close as possible to the big bang and to hunt for the smallest particle at bigger and bigger machines. But maybe there is a very unexpected effect lurking at a certain threshold that nobody would ever think of and that theory does not provide. Indeed, this could be a logical candidate for the “great filter”, an explanation for the Fermi paradox. If it was, a disastrous big bang machine eventually is not that big at all. Because if civilizations were to construct a collider of epic dimensions, a lack of resources would have stopped them in most cases.
Finally, the CERN member states will have to decide on the budget and the future course.
The political question behind is: How far are the ordinary citizens paying for that willing to go?
LHC-Critique / LHC-Kritik
Network to discuss the risks at experimental subnuclear particle accelerators
Particle collider safety newsgroup at Facebook:
“The Future: A Very Short Introduction” (OUP, 2017) by Dr. Jennifer M Gidley.
Oxford University Press has just released a wonderful little animation video centring on my book “The Future: A Very Short Introduction” published in 2017. In an entertaining way it shows how the concept of the future or futures is central to so many other concepts — many of which are the subject of other OUP Very Short Introductions. The VSI Series now has well over 500 titles, with ‘The Future’ being number 516.
To watch the video click here.
You can read a full sample chapter of the Introduction. The abstracts can be read for all of the other chapters at the links below.
List of Illustrations
Further Reading & Websites
Appendix: Global Futures Timeline
The book is available to purchase at OUP.
‘The Future’ has been very well received globally and an Arabic translation has recently been released by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquity.
The Arabic translation of ‘The Future’ will be available in all book fairs in the Arab region and the distributor covers the important libraries in all Arab countries and Saqi books/UK and Jarir book store/USA . It can also be purchased through the following:
A Chinese translation has been licensed and is underway, and discussions are in process for translations into German, Turkish, Italian and French.
Ironically, my more popular posts are ones furthest from my passion and core interests. They are larks—never intended to go viral. This is about one of them…
Apart from family, I typically steer clear of religious topics. I identify with a mainstream religion, but it is completely beside the purpose of Lifeboat Foundation, and it is a personal affair.
Yet, here we discuss a religious topic, after all. Let’s get started…
Do atheists agree that the fact that we can’t understand
quantum physics is at least somewhat evidence of Allah?
An Objective Answer
Do you assert that a failure to understand something is evidence of God?
I don’t fully understand a triple-Lutz (ice skating) or the Jessica stitch (needlepoint)—and I certainly don’t get why an electric dryer leaves moisture on light weight linens, when a gas dryer gets them bone-dry before the plush towels.
Is my inability to solve these mysteries evidence of Allah (or Yahweh, haShem or Y’Shewa)? Of course, not! It has nothing to do with God or religion. The fact that I don’t quite grasp every complex task or unexplained science is not evidence of God, it is evidence of my own ignorance.
On the other hand, I am fortunate to understand quantum physics—both academically and from an innate perspective. That is, behavior of waves and matter on a subatomic scale make perfect sense to me.
You would be correct to point out that certain quantum behavior seems to violate common sense:
- Probabilistic behavior. (i.e. Schrödinger’s cat is both dead and alive at once)
- Measure photons or electrons as a wave, and it no longer behaves like particles
- Entangled electrons (Einstein called it ‘Spooky action at a distance’)
- (entanglement experiment demonstrates causality based on future knowledge. It seems profoundly unbelievable!)
But these things only seem strange, because we do not experience them first hand given our size and our senses. As the math and the mechanisms are understood through research and experimentation, the behavior begins to fit within physical laws as we understand them. Then, we can extrapolate (predict) other behaviors.
For example, as we begin to understand quantum mechanics, we can design a computer, an encryption mechanism—and eventually a teleportation system—that exploits the physical properties and laws.
1 I do not appreciate the outreach of evangelism. In my opinion, religious discussion is best amongst a like-minded community.
An argument against Evangelism
This isn’t a rant against personal faith. It is a rant against the idea that you should ‘push’ your views on unrelated individuals, especially strangers—even if you believe that your view offers salvation.
Anyone who has lived in a home or apartment, dormed at a college or housed in the military has been approached by well-intentioned Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptists, Hari Krishna or other evangelicals. I hold nothing against such missionaries. They are marketing conscience and faith in what they see as an act of love. Unfortunately, society is worse off for this type of love. They are horribly misguided. They mean well and they may have the inside track on creation, but their understanding of equality and civil liberties is naïve.
Is this a position of Intolerance? — Quite the opposite!
Even in far off lands, instant communication, air travel and nuclear weapons render our fiefdoms meaningless beyond the realms of taxation, defense, and road repair. We live in a pluralistic melting pot. The shrinking planet demands that we coexist. I have always felt that the only thing of which we can be intolerant is intolerance itself.
So, why do I shun religious outreach? Because, arguing that your book is better than mine can only be won on faith—and faith is both personal and unprovable. Sure, tolerance is often built on religious ideals. To function as a society without killing each other, tolerance is a necessity. But, tolerance and humanity are also built into the Golden Rule and every democratic constitution. Any attempt to persuade others to adopt your core beliefs about origin, doctrine or blasphemy is pointless and an affront to everyone elses’ beliefs.
Whew! It took courage to get that off my chest. I hope that my friend, Hiawatha Bray forgives me.
What about the contradiction between science and religion?
I have never seen any contradiction. Only someone who believes that the Earth was created in the past 6,000 years ago sees a contradiction. That belief is as goofy as the sun orbitting the earth.
If there is a God, then I suppose it explains the energy and matter that surrounds us. And if this is the case, he followed up by proclaiming the finely tuned natural laws of physics and biochemistry, and set everything in motion. Oh rejoice in his splendor! Because, after billions of years, life arose—and we are the interim products of an expanding universe. It’s awe-inspiring, but it certainly presents no contradiction.
I don’t consider myself an atheist. And despite offering an agnostic explanation of the universe, my religion is my business and not yours. But, I certainly believe in science! I side with Bill Nye and the late Carl Sagan (he was my former professor). No one with a sense of their surroundings and an appreciation for facts can ignore that the Earth and the universe have existed for billions of years.
We may be the product of an intelligent God, but if we are, we will never know. We lack to tools to discern the question that predates all other questions. Pointing to ancient scripture is nonsense. The scripture was written by men, seeking to explain everything that they observed in their times. Yet, these men had fewer facts about the universe than we have now. The faith that most believers associate with scripture is based on respect for the practices and beliefs of their parents.
Moreover, the men who created these book (the bibles of any religion), also created God. Why? To deal with mortality, explain tragedy, control the masses—or perhaps as a mental exercise. It may even be a byproduct of what they were ingesting and smoking.
Do you remember all the hoopla last year when the Higgs Boson was confirmed by physicists at the Large Hadron Collider? That’s the one called the ‘God particle’, because it was touted as helping to resolve the forces of nature into one elegant theory. Well—Not so fast, bucko!…
First, some credit where credit is due: The LHC is a 27-kilometer ring of superconducting magnets interspersed by accelerators that boost the energy of the particles as they whip around and smash into each other. For physicists—and anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of what goes into everything—it certainly inspires awe.
Existence of the Higgs Boson (aka, The God Particle) was predicted. Physicists were fairly certain that it would be observed. But its discovery is a ‘worst case’ scenario for the Standard Model of particle physics. It points to shortcomings in our ability to model and predict things. Chemists have long had a master blueprint of atoms in the Periodic Table. It charts all the elements in their basic states. But, physicists are a long way from building something analogous. That’s because we know a lot more about atomic elements than the fundamental building blocks of matter and energy. [continue below image]
So, what do we know about fundamental particles the forces that bind them? HINT: There are 61 that we know of or have predicted and at least two about which we don’t yet have any clue: The pull of Gravity and dark matter / dark energy.
This video produced by the BBC Earth project is an actors’ portrayal of a news interviewer and a particle physicist. If we were to simply watch these two guys talk in front of a camera, it would be pretty boring (unless, of course, the physicist has charm and panache, like the late Richard Feynman or my own Cornell professor, Carl Sagan). So, to spice it up a bit, BBC has added a corny animation of two guys talking with an anthropomorphic illustration of cartoon particles. Corny? Yes! But it helps to keep a viewer captivated. And, for any armchair physicist, the story is really exciting!
See the video here. It takes a moment to load—but for me, the wait is worthwhile.
A Primer for Deterministic Thermodynamics and Cryodynamics
Dedicated to the Founder of Synergetics, Hermann Haken
Otto E. Rossler, Frank Kuske, Dieter Fröhlich, Hans H. Diebner, Thimo Bo¨ hl, Demetris T. Christopoulos, Christophe Letellier
Abstract The basic laws of deterministic many-body systems are summarized in the footsteps of the deterministic approach pioneered by Yakov Sinai. Two fundamental cases, repulsive and attractive, are distinguished. To facilitate comparison, long-range potentials are assumed both in the repulsive case and in the new attractive case. In Part I, thermodynamics – including the thermodynamics of irreversible processes along with chemical and biological evolution – is presented without paying special attention to the ad hoc constraint of long-range repulsion. In Part II, the recently established new fundamental discipline of cryodynamics, based on long-range attraction, is described in a parallel format. In Part III finally, the combination (“dilute hot-plasma dynamics”) is described as a composite third sister discipline with its still largely unknown properties. The latter include the prediction of a paradoxical “double-temperature equilibrium” or at least quasi-equilibrium existing which has a promising technological application in the proposed interactive local control of hot-plasma fusion reactors. The discussion section puts everything into a larger perspective which even touches on cosmology.
Keywords: Sinai gas, chaos theory, heat death, dissipative structures, second arrow, Point Omega, Super Life, paradoxical cooling, antifriction, paradoxical acceleration, Sonnleitner numerical instability, dilute-plasma paradigm, two-temperature equilibrium, ITER, MHD, interactive plasma cooling, McGuire reactor, Hubble law, Zwicky rehabilitated, Perlmutter-Schmidt-Riess wiggle, mean cosmic temperature, van Helmont, Lavoisier, Kant, Poincaré, double-faced Sonnleitner map. (August 26, 2016)
Otto E. Rossler, Frank Kuske, Dieter Fro¨ hlich, Thimo Bo¨ hl
Division of Theoretical Chemistry, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 18, 72076 Tu¨ bingen, Germany
Hans H. Diebner
Department of Medical Informatics, Technical University Dresden, Blasewitzerstr. 86,
01307 Dresden, Germany
Demetris T. Christopoulos
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Department of Economics, Sofokleous 1 str.,
10509 Athens, Greece
Physics Department, University of Rouen CORIA, Avenue de l’Université, 76801 Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France
In one of my first articles for Lifeboat,* I provided an experimental methodology for demonstrating (or proving) the instantaneous ‘communication’ between quantum entangled particles. Even though changes to one particle can be provably demonstrated at its far away twin, the very strange experimental results suggested by quantum theory also demonstrate that you cannot use the simultaneity for any purpose. That is, you can provably pass information instantly, but you cannot study the ‘message’ (a change in state at the recipient), until such time as it could have been transmit by a classical radio wave.
Now, scientists have conducted an experiment proving that objects can instantaneously affect each other, regardless o the distance between them. [continue below]
[From The New York Times—Oct 21, 2015]:
Quantum Study Suggests ‘Spooky Action’ is Real
In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior.
The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as “locality,” which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated “spooky action at a distance,” and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion.
[Read John Markoff’s full article in The New York Times]
* The original Lifeboat article—in which I describe an experimental apparatus in lay terms—was reprinted from my Blog, A Wild Duck.
In 2014, I submitted my paper “A Universal Approach to Forces” to the journal Foundations of Physics. The 1999 Noble Laureate, Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft, editor of this journal, had suggested that I submit this paper to the journal Physics Essays.
My previous 2009 submission “Gravitational acceleration without mass and noninertia fields” to Physics Essays, had taken 1.5 years to review and be accepted. Therefore, I decided against Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft’s recommendation as I estimated that the entire 6 papers (now published as Super Physics for Super Technologies) would take up to 10 years and/or $20,000 to publish in peer reviewed journals.
Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft had brought up something interesting in his 2008 paper “A locally finite model for gravity” that “… absence of matter now no longer guarantees local flatness…” meaning that accelerations can be present in spacetime without the presence of mass. Wow! Isn’t this a precursor to propulsion physics, or the ability to modify spacetime without the use of mass?
As far as I could determine, he didn’t pursue this from the perspective of propulsion physics. A year earlier in 2007, I had just discovered the massless formula for gravitational acceleration g=τc^2, published in the Physics Essays paper referred above. In effect, g=τc^2 was the mathematical solution to Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft’s “… absence of matter now no longer guarantees local flatness…”
Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft used string theory to arrive at his inference. Could he empirically prove it? No, not with strings. It took a different approach, numerical modeling within the context of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (STR) to derive a mathematic solution to Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft’s inference.
In 2013, I attended Dr. Brian Greens’s Gamow Memorial Lecture, held at the University of Colorado Boulder. If I had heard him correctly, the number of strings or string states being discovered has been increasing, and were now in the 10500 range.
I find these two encounters telling. While not rigorously proved, I infer that (i) string theories are unable to take us down a path the can be empirically proven, and (ii) they are opened ended i.e. they can be used to propose any specific set of outcomes based on any specific set of inputs. The problem with this is that you now have to find a theory for why a specific set of inputs. I would have thought that this would be heartbreaking for theoretical physicists.
In 2013, I presented the paper “Empirical Evidence Suggest A Need For A Different Gravitational Theory,” at the American Physical Society’s April conference held in Denver, CO. There I met some young physicists and asked them about working on gravity modification. One of them summarized it very well, “Do you want me to commit career suicide?” This explains why many of our young physicists continue to seek employment in the field of string theories where unfortunately, the hope of empirically testable findings, i.e. winning the Noble Prize, are next to nothing.
I think string theories are wrong.
Two transformations or contractions are present with motion, Lorentz-FitzGerald Transformation (LFT) in linear motion and Newtonian Gravitational Transformations (NGT) in gravitational fields.
The fundamental assumption or axiom of strings is that they expand when their energy (velocity) increases. This axiom (let’s name it the Tidal Axiom) appears to have its origins in tidal gravity attributed to Prof. Roger Penrose. That is, macro bodies elongate as the body falls into a gravitational field. To be consistent with NGT the atoms and elementary particles would contract in the direction of this fall. However, to be consistent with tidal gravity’s elongation, the distances between atoms in this macro body would increase at a rate consistent with the acceleration and velocities experienced by the various parts of this macro body. That is, as the atoms get flatter, the distances apart get longer. Therefore, for a string to be consistent with LFT and NGT it would have to contract, not expand. One suspects that this Tidal Axiom’s inconsistency with LFT and NGT has led to an explosion of string theories, each trying to explain Nature with no joy. See my peer-reviewed 2013 paper New Evidence, Conditions, Instruments & Experiments for Gravitational Theories published in the Journal of Modern Physics, for more.
The vindication of this contraction is the discovery of the massless formula for gravitational acceleration g=τc^2 using Newtonian Gravitational Transformations (NGT) to contract an elementary particle in a gravitational field. Neither quantum nor string theories have been able to achieve this, as quantum theories require point-like inelastic particles, while strings expand.
What worries me is that it takes about 70 to 100 years for a theory to evolve into commercially viable consumer products. Laser are good examples. So, if we are tying up our brightest scientific minds with theories that cannot lead to empirical validations, can we be the primary technological superpower a 100 years from now?
The massless formula for gravitational acceleration g=τc^2, shows us that new theories on gravity and force fields will be similar to General Relativity, which is only a gravity theory. The mass source in these new theories will be replaced by field and particle motions, not mass or momentum exchange. See my Journal of Modern Physics paper referred above on how to approach this and Super Physics for Super Technologies on how to accomplish this.
Therefore, given that the primary axiom, the Tidal Axiom, of string theories is incorrect it is vital that we recognize that any mathematical work derived from string theories is invalidated. And given that string theories are particle based theories, this mathematical work is not transferable to the new relativity type force field theories.
I forecast that both string and quantum gravity theories will be dead by 2017.
When I was seeking funding for my work, I looked at the Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) for a category that includes gravity modification or interstellar propulsion. To my surprise, I could not find this category in any of our research organizations, including DARPA, NASA, National Science Foundation (NSF), Air Force Research Lab, Naval Research Lab, Sandia National Lab or the Missile Defense Agency.
So what are we going to do when our young graduates do not want to or cannot be employed in string theory disciplines?
(Originally published in the Huffington Post)