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The sources mentioned below (magazines, websites, etc.)
should be checked periodically by those who are truly
interested in physics - or perhaps subscriptions
would be more appropriate in the case of magazines.

Articles or quotes from articles shown on this website
are shown in an effort to advance understanding of science
and related subjects such as philosophy and critical thinking.
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Otherwise, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner.

Much of the material from other sources presented on this website
was found and passed on to me by a particular friend who continues to be
an advisor, scientific proofreader, and proponent of the supported
theories (as opposed the conjectures) found in Behind Light's Illusion.

Einstein Unruffled

On page 324 of the November 24, 2007, issue of Science News is a short article titled Einstein Unruffled - Relativity passes stringent new tests.

Astronomers tracked the moon's location to within one centimeter by using the time taken for a laser beam to reach and bounce back from a mirror (left by the astronauts) on the moon's surface.   Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. have now performed a new analysis of 35 years' worth of data on the moon's distance from Earth, including data they recently collected themselves with centimeter precision.   This allowed them to check several parts of Einstein's Theory of Relativity.   First, the laws of gravity appear to be the same in all frames of reference.   Second, time dilation as Einstein indicated remains intact.   And there is more in the article.

Many math derivations found via nether theory (including those tested with the experiment described above) are the same as those derived using Einstein's theory.   Consequently, the applicable parts of nether theory have also been confirmed again.

Ask the Experts

On page 114 of the October 2007 issue of Scientific American is a page called Ask the Experts.   On it is the question "What is a fictitious force?"   This question was answered by a man who is supposedly a theoretical physicist and a 2004 Nobel laureate.   It is most likely that this man also teaches as a professor at his University although I did not bother to check on this assumption.

One of the reasons I am placing his answer on this webpage is that it is such a good example of the caliber of many of our "best" instructors today in our institutions of higher learning.   Another reason I am placing his answer here is that it has probably either confused or misinformed a lot of people - and they have a right to know the truth.   It is not apparent whether he was having a bad day when he wrote his answer or whether his answer was "adjusted" by an editor.   In either case, the it is a good example of the problems we have today with professors and magazine editors in the sciences.

First, he states an example of the apparent forces that one feels in a moving car that is accelerating or turning.   He states that these forces are due to one frame of reference accelerating - which is true even though it is a rather poor answer.   He next wrote a paragraph saying that such a fictitious force is proportional to the mass upon which it acts.   This is also true.

To make his answers a bit more to the point, the forces mentioned are due to something called inertia.   In physics, inertia is the tendency of an object to continue to either move at a particular velocity or stay in place (whatever it is doing) until a force acts upon it.   When a force acts upon it, it resists and its resistance is proportional to its mass and the acceleration imposed upon it.

See Inertia on this website for more details.

In other words, inertia is not a force at all but a reaction to a force.   Therefore it is called "fictitious".   Turning a car invokes what is called centrifugal force which is merely a type of inertial reaction.   This is the same "force" that makes a planet defy the gravity of its sun by remaining in orbit.   The planet would like to keep moving in a straight line tangent to its orbit due to its inertia, but it is being accelerated toward the sun by solar gravity.   The planet's inertia opposes the acceleration and the planet's path curves into an orbit.

It is the third paragraph of the answer in the magazine which really raised my eyebrows.   He goes into Coriolis force as an example. An elegant example of these types of apparent influences is the Coriolis force, which is responsible for the stately precession (or circular rotation) of a carefully suspended pendulum's plane of swing.   If such a pendulum were directly above the North Pole, it would appear to an earthly observer to rotate 360 degrees every day.   If you viewed this pendulum from a stationary point in outer space, however, it would appear to swing in a single, fixed plane while the earth turned under it.   From the outer-space perspective, there is no sideways force (that is, perpendicular to the plane of swing) deflecting the pendulum's sway.   That is why the somewhat pejorative term "fictitious" is attached to this force.   Similarly, in a car, no real force pushes you back into your seat, your senses notwithstanding.

What is said about the pendulum in the preceding paragraph is correct.   However, it tells nothing about Coriolis force and makes one begin to believe that the paragraph is mostly an attempt to divert attention from the author's ignorance.   In fact, Coriolis force does not operate due to the earth's rotation alone, but is the result of the shape of the earth and existence of motion along its surface as well.   Coriolis force comes from meteorology (the science of atmospheric phenomena - especially weather) and is defined as The deflecting effect of earth's rotation whereby freely moving air masses are deflected to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere.

Coriolis force is caused by the fact that the circumferences of the earth along different latitudes are not equal.   At the equator, the circumference is longest, and at the poles, there is no circumference (it is zero).   In between the equator and the poles are various circumferences (so long as we are speaking of lengths of latitude lines).   Thus, as the earth turns, its linear or tangential velocity at the surface is greatest at the equator and is nothing at the poles.

This means that in a 24 hour period, a still air mass at the earth's surface moves about 24,000 miles (the length of the equator) in one earth rotation.   This means it has a velocity of about 1000 miles per hour in the direction of the earth's rotation.   A still air mass at the north pole does not move in a 24 hour period and has no velocity due the earth's rotation.

If the tangential velocity at the equator is 1000 miles per hour and an air mass is staying at the equator, there is no Coriolis force in action on the air mass and the tangential velocity of the air mass is also 1000 miles per hour.   If the same air mass moves northward, it tends to continue (due to its inertia) to move at 1000 miles per hour.   However, it is moving into an area where the tangential velocity is less than 1000 miles per hour because the circumference is less than the circumference at the equator - and that means that tangential velocity of the earth's surface is less at that latitude.   So we have air that is moving at 1000 miles per hour in the direction of the earth's rotation, and it is also moving into an area where the velocity of the earth's surface is less.   Consequently, the air mass veers to the right (in the direction of the earth's rotation) as it moves northward.

If the air mass is at the north pole and begins to move southward, it moves into an area that is moving in the direction of the earth's rotation.   Yet, the air mass has had no motion in the direction of the earth's rotation and its inertia would rather it continued to have no motion in that direction.   So it veers to the right as it moves southward.   The same effect occurs regardless of where each air mass is in the northern hemishere.   In the southern hemisphere, the effect is the same but causes veering to the left.

Coriolis force is another type of apparent force caused by inertia, but is more complex in its prerequisites than centrifugal force.

Our Nobel laureate goes on to explain about tea leaves.   He states: If a few leaves are present in a stirred cup of tea, they end up in a central pile at the bottom of the cup (and not along the edge as one might expect, as a result of the also fictitious centrifugal force).   If you imagine yourself rotating around in sync with the stirred fluid, most of the fluid would appear to be at rest while the cup counterrotates around you.   That rotating cup drags some adjacent fluid along with it.   Near the bottom , the Coriolis force on the dragged fluid pushes it - and the tea leaves - toward the center of the cup.

In reality, the stirring causes the liquid to move toward the outside of the cup (due to centrifugal force) and the depth of the fluid is greater near the cup wall.   Gravity pulls the liquid down at the cup wall because the fluid pressure due to gravity is greater where the fluid depth is greater.   At the bottom of the cup, the fluid must move to the center and then move upward again.   As it moves toward the center, it takes the tea leaves (or grounds) with it and they are usually heavier than the liquid, so they stay at the center and at the bottom of the cup.   Coriolis force has nothing to do with it and neither does the supposed relative rotation of the cup.   In fact, this type of rotary motion has been used as a means of objecting to Einstein's special relativity.

As a final means of confusing people, the man writes With general relativity, Albert Einstein managed to blur forever the distinction between real and fictitious forces.   General relativity is his theory of gravity - certainly the paradigmatic example of "real" force.   The cornerstone of Einstein's theory, however, is the proposition that gravity is itself a fictitious force (or, rather, that it is indistinguishable from a fictitious force).   Now, some 90 years later, we have innumerable and daily confirmations that his theory appears to be correct.

Those of you who are familiar with this website know what I think about gravity.   Real and fictitious are not really applicable ways to describe Einstein's thought experiment that gravity feels similar to acceleration.   In both instances, the force involved is acceleration and is real.

The mystery of the missing mass found on page 78 in Volume 171, Number 5, of Science News states that Particles inside a nucleus weigh slightly less than the same particles in free space...   The bulk of the short article explains the details of the discovery which shows that "phi" mesons [I believe that the proper term is "pi meson" or "pion"] inside a nucleus have less mass than outside.   This, of course, should not be new to those who have perused Book Six of Behind Light's Illusion.   A pion weighs less than the sum of the weights of the two quarks that compose it when the quarks are in "free space" - and pions, when encumbered by other parts of a nucleus, would have to weigh slightly less because the nether inflow that constitutes what we call "mass" is encumbered by the proximity of other vortices ("particles").

By Michael KahnTue Jul 10, 7:04 PM ET
Excerpts from and comments regarding Astronomers spot most distant galaxies ever seen.
By Michael KahnTue Jul 10, 7:04 PM ET
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.

This another example of gravity lensing in use. Considering the way it is used today, the fact that some dissidents still cling to the fiction that it does not exist is almost humorous - but then most humans have always been a source of humor.

The article states that gravity lensing has been used to find glimpses of the most distant -- and oldest -- galaxies ever seen.   A team of astronomers used the giant Keck telescope in Hawaii to look through a natural magnifying glass... made up of much closer clusters of galaxies which deflected light from the more distant bodies.   This effect of light from distant bodies bending as it passes through the gravitational field of closer objects is known as "gravitational lensing" and is based [upon] one of Einstein's early theories.

When it comes to gravity lensing, the math in nether theory is the same as that in Einstein's relativity.   Einstein almost had the right answer.   For those who still wish to quibble about the reality of gravity lensing, the article is worth reading in its entirety.

The Inelegant Universe
by George Johnson

[This article appeared in Scientific American, September 2006, on page 118.   It refers to the two books, one by Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of physics, and What Comes Next, and the other by Peter Woit, Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law.   The article is similar to one which later succeeded it - shown below - with the title   M is for messy.   The Inelegant Universe points out some of the the problems with our universities today which are keys to our lack of progress in theoretical physics as well as the other sciences.   Some excerpts from the article follow.   It is worth reading in its entirety.]

...In this grim assessment, string theory - an attempt to weave together general relativity and quantum mechanics - is not just untested but untestable, incapable of ever making predictions that can be experimentally checked...

"String theory now has such a dominant position in the academy that it is practically career suicide for young theoretical physicists not to join the field" writes Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics...   "Some young string theorists have told me that they feel constrained to work on string theory whether or not they believe in it, because it is perceived as the ticket to a professorship at a university..."

"Once one starts learning the details of ten-dimensional superstring theory, anomaly cancellation, Calabi-Yau spaces, etc., one realizes that a vibrating string and its musical notes have only a poetic relationship to the real thing at issue," writes Peter Woit, a lecturer in mathematics at Columbia University...   The contortions required to hide away seemingly nonexistent extra dimensions have resulted in structures Woit finds "exceedingly complex" and "exceedingly ugly"...

"The one thing everyone who cares about fundamental physics seems to agree on is that new ideas are needed," Smolin writes, "We are missing something big."

[Unfortunately what this last comment by Smolin actually comes to in today's restricted world of accepted physics, regardless of his personal convictions, is that the only new ideas that are acceptable must be able to fit conveniently into the box that prominent theoretical physicists have created for themselves.   It is ironic that this article appears in a magazine whose editors have wanted nothing to do with nether theory and have refused even to consider publishing the existence of such a theory.]

M is for messy
by Martin Gardner

M is for Messy

Martin Gardner

[This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25, April 2007, on page 90.   It refers to two books, one by Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of physics, and What Comes Next, and the other by Peter Woit, Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law.]

For more than thirty years, string theory has been what Murray Gell-Mann called “the only game in town.”   By this he meant that it was the only good candidate for a TOE, or Theory of Everything.   Not only does it claim to unify relativity and quantum mechanics, it also explains the existence of all fundamental particles.   Instead of being “pointlike,” they are modeled by filaments of energy so tiny that there is no known way to observe them or even to prove they are real.

A string can have two ends or be closed like a rubber band.   Of great tensile strength, strings vibrate at different frequencies.   They live in a space of ten or eleven dimensions, of which six or seven are “compacted” into inconceivably minute structures attached to every point in our four-dimensional spacetime.   The simplest vibration of a closed string produces a graviton, the quantized particle of gravity.   One of string theory’s earliest triumphs was forcing the reality of gravitons.

After an obscure, bumbling start, string theory slowly began to gain momentum until it became the hottest topic in physics.   Thousands of papers were published and thick textbooks written.   The fastest way to advance in departments of great universities was to work on strings.   Richard Feynman and Sheldon Glashow were almost alone among famous physicists who were skeptical of the trend.   Not until a few years ago did skepticism begin to surge.   Simmering doubts reached a boiling point last September when two eminent physicists published slashing attacks on string theory.   Their books may mark a dramatic turning point in the history of modern physics.

For years, Lee Smolin rode the string bandwagon.   After teaching at Yale and Penn State, he became a researcher at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, a think tank he helped found.   The Trouble with Physics, his third book, is a powerful indictment.   He sees string theory as not a theory - only a set of curious conjectures in search of a theory.   True, it has great explanatory power, but a viable theory must have more than that.   It must make predictions which can be falsified or confirmed.

In addition to this whopping lack of evidence, string theory has suffered other setbacks.   It has been absorbed into a richer set of conjectures called M-theory.   The M stands mainly for membranes (branes for short), or for Magic, Mystery, Mother of all theories, or any other term you like that begins with M.   In M-theory, strings are one-dimensional branes that can roam free or be attached to two-dimensional branes.   Branes may be of any dimension from 1 through 9.   One wild speculation is that our 3-brane universe floats within a monstrous higher-dimension brane.   To a mere science journalist like myself, the great mathematical beauty of early string theory has degenerated into M for Messy.   Its membranes, in Smolin’s opinion, are as ugly as the epicycles Ptolemy fabricated to describe the curious paths of planets as they seem to circle Earth.

The most troubling aspect of string/M-theory is that the compacted dimensions, known as Calabi-Yau manifolds, can take at least a hundred thousand different shapes.   This has led to the mind-boggling concept of a vast “landscape” consisting of a multiverse containing a hundred thousand, perhaps an infinity, of universes, each with its own Calabi-Yau space!   Every universe would have a random selection of physical constants, such as the velocity of light.   By anthropic reasoning, we of course live in a universe with just the right set of constants that make possible galaxies, stars, planets, and, on one small planet, such improbable creatures as you and me.

Other string/M-theory embarrassments are carefully detailed by Smolin.   Cosmologists have discovered that most of our universe consists of “dark matter,” so called because it is totally invisible.   String theorists failed to predict it and have nothing useful to say about it.   A more recent discovery is that the universe is expanding at a slightly increasing rate.   Such acceleration can only be caused by the pressure of a mysterious “dark force.”   Again, writes Smolin, dark force was not predicted by string theory, and the theory has no good explanation for it.

A chapter in Smolin’s persuasive book divides physicists into two classes: craftsmen who test theories; and seers, like Newton and Einstein, who create theories.   What physics now desperately needs, Smolin is convinced, is a new Einstein who can replace M-theory with a TOE that can be confirmed by a workable experiment.

Another chapter is devoted to lonely seers, working patiently outside the establishment on conjectures as revolutionary as string theory.   Roger Penrose, Oxford’s famous mathematical physicist, is the best known seer.   His twistor theory, alas also untestable, is M-theory’s chief rival.   Like many other seers, Penrose thinks Einstein was right to regard quantum mechanics as “incomplete.”   Other intrepid seers are starting to question even special relativity.   Because both relativity and quantum mechanics are essential to M-theory, finding either theory in need of revision would be, Smolin writes, another severe blow to string/M-theory.

In a chapter on sociology, Smolin introduces the concept of “groupthink” - the tendency of groups to share an ideology.   This creates a cultlike atmosphere in which those who disagree with the ideology are considered ignoramuses or fools.   Most physicists tied up in the string mania, Smolin believes, have become groupthinkers, blind to the possibility that they have squandered time and energy on bizarre speculations that are leading nowhere.

In spite of such criticisms Smolin, like Edward Witten, by far the most energetic and creative of the stringers, believes that even if string/M-theory is finally abandoned, portions of it will remain fruitful.   Peter Woit, a mathematical physicist at Columbia University, is less optimistic.   He sees little hope that any aspect of M-theory will survive. The harshness of his rhetoric is signaled by his book’s arresting title, Not Even Wrong.   It’s a famous quote from the great Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli. A certain theory was so bad, he said, that “it was not even wrong.”   By this he meant it was so flimsy it couldn’t be confirmed or falsified.

Most of Woit’s book is a moderately technical, equation-free survey of quantum mechanics, the standard model of particle theory, and the history of superstrings.   The prefix “super” indicates the linkage of strings to an earlier theory called supersymmetry.   Not until the last third of his book does Woit take up reasons for regarding string theory a failure, destined to give way to a testable TOE.

Although Woit sees Edward Witten as the guru of what resembles a religious cult, he has only the highest respect for Witten’s genius.   Amazingly, Witten’s early training was in economics.   He soon shifted to mathematics and physics at Princeton University.   There, he obtained his doctorate and became a professor for several years before moving to New Jersey’s Institute for Advanced Study where he has remained ever since.   He has been given a MacArthur award and a Fields medal, the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel prize.

When Woit was a graduate student at Princeton, he once followed Witten up a stairway from a library to a plaza. When he reached the plaza, Witten had mysteriously vanished.   “It crossed my mind,” Woit writes, “that a consistent explanation … was that Witten was an extraterrestrial being from a superior race who, when he thought no one was looking, had teleported back to his office.”

Woit’s main objection to string theory, of course, is that it has not, in Glashow’s words, “made even one teeny-tiny experimental prediction.”   Woit quotes Feynman: “String theorists do not make predictions, they make excuses.”

In his book Interactions, Glashow writes:

Until string people can interpret perceived properties of the real world they simply are not doing physics.   Should they be paid by universities and be permitted to pervert impressionable students?   Will young Ph.D’s, whose expertise is limited to superstring theory, be employable if, and when, the string snaps?   Are string thoughts more appropriate to departments of mathematics, or even to schools of divinity, than to physics departments?   How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?   How many dimensions are there in a compacted manifold, 30 powers of ten smaller than a pinhead?

Woit quotes from another Nobel Prize winner, the Dutch physicist Gerard ’t Hooft:

Actually, I would not even be prepared to call string theory a “theory” rather a “model” or not even that: just a hunch.   After all, a theory should come together with instructions on how to deal with it to identify the things one wishes to describe, in our case the elementary particles, and one should, at least in principle, be able to formulate the rules for calculating the properties of these particles, and how to make new predictions for them. Imagine that I give you a chair, while explaining that the legs are still missing, and that the seat, back and armrest will perhaps be delivered soon; whatever I did give you, can I still call it a chair?

Woit has only harsh things to say about the recent acceptance of an anthropic principle by several leading string theorists, notably Weinberg and David Susskind. Susskind has even written a popular book about it - The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design.   The notion that there could be millions of other universes, each with its own Calabi-Yau structure - or what amount to the same thing, with its own basic state of what physicists like to call the “vacuum” - is not one that appeals to Witten.   “I’d be happy if it is not right,”   Woit quotes from a 2004 lecture, “but there are serious arguments for it, and I don’t have any serious argument against it.”

In the nineteenth century, a conjecture called the vortex theory of the atom became extremely popular in England and America.   Proposed by the famous British physicist Lord Kelvin, it had an uncanny resemblance to string theory.   It was widely believed at the time that space was permeated by an incompressible frictionless fluid called the ether.   Atoms, Kelvin suggested, are super-small whirlpools of ether, vaguely similar to smoke rings.   They take the form of knots and links.   Point particles can’t vibrate.   Ether rings can.   Their shapes and frequencies determine all the properties of the elements.   Vortex theory isn’t mentioned by Woit, although Smolin considers it briefly.

Kelvin published two books defending his conjecture.   It was strongly championed in England by J. J. Thomson in his 1907 book The Corpuscular Theory of Matter.   Another booster of the theory was Peter Tait, an Irish mathematician.   His work, like Witten’s, led to significant advances in knot theory.   In the United States, Albert Michelson considered vortex theory so “grand” that “it ought to be true even if it is not.”   Hundreds of papers elaborated the theory.   Tait predicted it would take generations to develop its elegant mathematics.   Alas, beautiful though vortex theory was, it proved to be a glorious road that led nowhere.

Will string theory soon meet a similar fate?   Glashow wrote a clever poem that he recited at a Grand Unification Workshop in Japan.   It ends with the following lines:

Please heed our advice that you too are not smitten—

The book is not finished, the last word is not Witten.

[It is a shame that the "spin" of the electron was not known when Kelvin proposed his vortex theory.   This might have been enough for him to realize that the ether is just the opposite of incompressible, and his theory when revised could have worked - just as "nether theory" unifies physics today.   See Vortex on this website.]

Meet me at 70 degrees 50 minutes N, 56 degrees W

[In Volume 171, Number 13, March 31, 2007, of Science News, is a short article which shows that at least one other person is thinking in terms of another force creating the symptoms that have caused others to postulate the existence of dark matter. Some quotes from this article follow.]

...Scientists have long known that most stars orbit their galaxies so rapidly the gravity wouldn't be strong enough to keep them from flying away.   The mainstream explanation is that some yet-undetected, or dark, matter adds mass to galaxies, increasing their gravitational tug...

...In an alternative theory, called modified Newtonian dynamics or MOND, forces such as gravity would produce small accelerations in addition to that which standard Newtonian physics predicts.   MOND woud explain the orbits of stars without any need for dark matter...

... Alexander Melbourne, Australia, now proposes to test MOND here on Earth.   At particular times and places, he calculates, all accelerations caused by the motions of Earth and the sun cancel...out.   But if MOND were true, a small effect would remain - and state-of-the-art instruments might detect it...

...Only two spots would qualify; one in Antarctica and one in northern Greenland... the experiment could take place only during an equinox...

[Offhand, I doubt that such an experiment would work unless it is true that at the proposed places and times the weight of mass becomes essentiallly zero.   However, it is nice to know that another someone is willing to believe that dark matter is myth.   The force that creates the effect that is explained as gravity from dark matter can be proven mathematically as simply the acceleration of the expansion of the universe - which is masked by gravity until distances become such as to make gravity too small to continue to mask it.   For the math and a complete explanation, go to Constant Velocity Point on this website.]

Last-gasp test could reveal dark matter

09:00 28 January 2007 news service
Zeeya Merali

[As Don Forshag once said about another article, what follows shows how particle physicists think.   Of course, he was supposing that reflex action is actually a thought process.   The quotes that follow are from the article mentioned above.   Note the wonderful way that yet another particle can explain a particular phenomenon.]

The HERA particle accelerator in Germany is set to call it quits in June, but a lone physicist is now campaigning for HERA to have one last hurrah.   He claims it could discover a particle believed by many to account for the unseen dark matter that constitutes the bulk of the universe's mass.

The particle in question is the axion.   Proposed in 1977 to solve a problem with the strong nuclear force, these hypothetical entities have been considered as strong candidates for dark matter, because they have very little mass and barely interact with matter...

...Last July, the PVLAS team announced a slight shift in the polarisation of a laser beam fired through a strong magnetic field.   The shift was 10,000 times larger than expected by standard physics, but could be explained if a tiny fraction of photons from the laser had turned into axions (New Scientist, 15 July 2006, p 35).

However, the CERN Axions Solar Telescope (CAST) near Geneva, which searches for axions produced in the sun, has failed to corroborate the PVLAS result.   "The axion community is still excited by the PVLAS result, but it needs independent experimental verification," says CAST spokesman Konstantin Zioutas at the University of Patras in Greece.   "If someone found direct evidence for the presumed axion-like particle interpretation of the PVLAS data, both groups would deserve the Nobel prize," he says.

Now Krzysztof Piotrzkowski of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium is proposing to do just that.   What's more, it would be cheap, easy to set up, and could deliver results in a week, he says.

Piotrzkowski's idea is to exploit apparatus already in place at the Hadron-Electron Ring Accelerator in Hamburg, Germany.   At HERA, an intense beam of photons is generated as a by-product of the accelerator.   This beam passes through HERA's strong magnetic field, which runs parallel to the photons' electric field.   According to theory, if the energy of the photon beam is much larger than the equivalent mass predicted of axions, some of the photons will convert to axions, says Piotrzkowski...

...Unfortunately, HERA is due to shut down at the end of June, so it's now or never for Piotrzkowski...

...HERA's managers are examining Piotrzkowski's proposal...   "It's unfortunate that we're only hearing this proposal so close to the end of our run. It will be very, very tough to fit it into our schedule."

Piotrzkowski...says, "If they find the axion, then they could go out in a blaze of glory."

Death of "sterile neutrino" raises new spectre
23 April 2007
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
Hazel Muir
From issue 2600 of New Scientist magazine, 23 April 2007, page 10-11

Particle physics can be a bit like playing Whac-a-Mole: knock one mystery down, and another one pops right up.   True to form, a study that last week ended controversy about the sterile neutrino - a particle that shouldn't exist - also stirred up new intrigue.   The findings, if confirmed, could provide tantalising hints of extra dimensions.

Neutrinos are tiny particles that barely interact with matter.   They come in three types or "flavours" - electron, muon and tau - that can, along with their antiparticle counterparts, flip from one flavour to another, or "oscillate", as they travel.

One of the experiments to show this, the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND) at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, ran from 1993 to 1998 and suggested that some muon anti-neutrinos had flipped into electron anti-neutrinos after travelling about 30 metres.   To reconcile this result with results of other experiments, researchers had to posit the existence of at least one other type of neutrino, with about a millionth the mass of an electron.   This kind of neutrino would be "sterile", meaning it wouldn't interact with matter at all, except through gravity.

This spelled trouble, because sterile neutrinos have no place in the standard model of particle physics.   The neutrino hinted at by the LSND would also have interfered with the growth of galaxies, changing the distribution of matter in the universe in a way that we do not observe.   "The implications were staggering," says cosmologist Scott Dodelson, of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois.   "Cosmologically, there should not be a sterile neutrino, so to some extent, our butts were on the line."

With so much at stake, the LSND results had to be confirmed.   The researchers dismantled the LSND and used the parts to build a more sensitive version at Fermilab called MiniBoone, the first phase of a bigger project called Boone (Booster Neutrino Experiment).   Between 2002 and 2005, MiniBoone shot a beam of mostly muon neutrinos, and a smidgen of electron neutrinos, through nearly half a kilometre of earth towards an electron neutrino detector.

Last week, the MiniBoone team announced that the muon neutrinos did not oscillate into the electron flavour.   There is no need for a sterile neutrino.   This is consistent with other results and the standard three-neutrino picture.   "This confirms what we were saying," says Dodelson.   "It makes us believe we understand our cosmology, so that's good."

But MiniBoone had a surprise in store that may still pose a challenge to the standard model.   The electron neutrinos arriving at the detector had a range of energies, and the team saw more at low energies than expected.   In the lowest 18 per cent of the energy scale, they saw 369 electron neutrinos against a predicted 273.

Muon to electron neutrino oscillations cannot be to blame for this puzzling excess; if they were, extra electron neutrinos would have shown up at all energies.   It is possible that they are a mirage.   For instance, muon neutrinos can scatter off carbon atoms in the detector oil, leading to flashes of light that the detector could mistake for electron neutrinos.   The team believes it has accounted for this, but is keen to double-check.

If these checks don't resolve the discrepancy, physicists may have to turn to exotic explanations, such as sterile neutrinos that apparently exceed the speed of light by taking short cuts through hidden dimensions.   But until the straightforward explanations are ruled out, physicists should keep their feet firmly on the ground, warns Bill Louis of the MiniBoone group.   "We have to be really hard-nosed and not jump to conclusions."
[Too late.   "Exotic explanations" have been the stock-in-trade for so-called theoretical physicists for over a century, and "keeping their feet firmly on the ground" has become a joke.]

Neutrinos remain a favoured tool to prise open cracks in the standard model.   "So far we have not struck gold," says Dodelson.   "But I suspect there's some gold to be found."

Tiny particles baffle physicists, again

[In Volume 171, Number 16, April 21, 2007, of Science News, is a small article with the above title.   Once again, this article shows that more particles must be proposed for particle physics to exist as any kind of an excuse for those who pursue it.   Some quotes from it follow.]

An experiment on neutrinos that was meant to remove a thorn from the side of fundamental physics may instead have added a new one.

Neutrinos are some the lightest known elementary particles and among the hardest to detect, since they rarely interact with other particles.   Three types are known, each coming in both matter and antimatter forms.   Neutrinos and antineutrinos are also notorious flip-floppers - one type constantly shifting into another.

A 1995 experiment at the Los Alamos National Laboratory first showed such oscillations in a lab setting.   It also revealed a much higher rate of conversion between two types of antineutrinos than standard particle physics calculations predicted.   The simplest explanation was that in addition to direct conversions, one antineutrino could turn into another by first briefly changing into a proposed seventh type of neutrino - called sterile because it can't be detected directly...

... The researchers had assumed that neutrinos and antineutrinos would oscillate the same way... Either the Los Alamos results were wrong, or they must be explained without the sterile neutrinos...

Solutions to the dilemma that don't rest on sterile neutrinos range from a new and unforeseen difference in the behavior of matter and antimatter to the existence of additional dimensions of space.

[As many of you have discovered from reading Behind Light's Illusion, neutrinos and antineutrinos are something entirely different from the fantasies proposed by particle physicists.   Their real nature pre-supposes the difficulties that would be caused by assuming them to be particles, while the rest of us can only laugh at those who fail to even look at the truth.]

The mystery of the missing mass

In Volume 171, Number 5, February 3, 2007, of Science News, is a small story called The mystery of the missing mass.   It describes how the mass of so-called particles in the nuclei of atoms is less than the mass of such entities in "free" space.   This is not exactly news in itself because this lack of mass has been attributed to "binding energy" by theoretical physicists in the past.   It is the new method of measuring this mass loss that is news.   Those familiar with the little books of the series, Behind Light's Illusion (nether theory) know why there is a mass loss and why this loss must exist.

According to the story, Hideto En'yo and his colleagues in Tsukuba, Japan, found that decaying phi mesons within a nucleus showed 3.4% less mass than those decaying outside a nucleus.

A New Spin

In Volume 171, Number 1, January 6, 2007, of Science News, is a two-page article by Ron Cowen called A New Spin.   It describes how the rotation of black holes, as Einstein predicted, drags space-time in a circular path along with it.

This is logical according to nether theory when one realizes that it is space rather than space-time that is rotating with the black hole as it is being sucked in.   This effect is not noticed on earth where the maximum rate of linear rotation of about 1,000 miles per hour at the equator is very slight when compared to the rate of about 25,000 miles per hour of the nether inflow.   When one considers the average rate of earth rotation being much lower than the maximum, this is even more apparent.   At the poles, there is no apparent linear rotation, and in the deeper recesses where matter is more dense, the linear rotation is only a fraction of that found at the surface.

Black holes are very dense and their angular rotation exceeds that of quasars, so it is quite logical that nether (dynamic ether) being "sucked" into the black hole would have an obvious sideward vector that could be seen with the rotation of the accretion disc - which will be moving much more slowly than the actual rotation rate of the black hole.

Peer Review Under the Microscope

In Volume 170, Number 25, December 16, 2006, of Science News, is a two-page article by Christen Brownlee called Peer Review Under the Microscope.   It describes an attempt by the journal known as Nature to gain some insight into the peer review process.

According to the article, the peer review process is usually as follows.
1.   A submission is reviewed by a group of editors on the journal's staff who decide the submission's suitability for the journal.
2.   If the submitted paper passes step one, the editors select a few researchers who consider themselves to be authorities in the appropriate field of science and ask them to read the manuscript and voice their opinions.   Their identities are not revealed lest they suffer from the wrath of the author.   However, the author's name is known to them.
3.   Supposedly, the reviewers check the paper against a set of criteria such as (A) is the experiment's set-up sound?, (B) do the results make sense?, (C) are the conclusions plausible?, (D) and are the conclusions novel and significant enough to make a contribution to the scientific record?
Any negative feedback could send the paper back with either a rejection notice or suggestions for improvement.

Although the process works part of the time, according to the article, it is a two-edged sword.   First, the reviewing of a paper can take away valuable time from a reviewer and the journal's editors usually ask only two or three to act as reviewers.   Consequently, the reviewers can miss shortcomings or instances of deception.   Second, the anonymity of the viewer can allow him or her to exercise biases or grudges against the author without any fear of consequences.

Nature attempted an experiment in which the authors of papers being reviewed had the option of placing their articles on the Web so that anyone could read it.   Those who read it could post their opinions on the web.   When the review period expired, the article was removed from the Web and the comment period closed.

The experiment failed to make any significant contribution to the process, and most people who are familiar with the inadequacies of the peer review system as it is today could predict the reasons why it failed.   Nevertheless, it is an interesting article to read.   Perhaps the most apparent thing that is shown by the current practice of peer review is that the bureaucratic process has become far more important than discovering the truth.   If the author of a new idea with real merit attempts to show it to others, he is forced to use the means presented by those who control the scientific bureaucracy.

In Volume 170, Number 21, November 18, 2006, Science News, is a short article with the title Dark Fingerprints.   It explains that the Hubble Space Telescope when focused on 24 distant stellar explosions, seems to confirm that the acceleration of the expansion of the universe was present as far back as 9 billion years ago.   The oldest date that the confirming evidence indicated before this latest discovery showed that the acceleration was present only 5 billion years ago.

As new evidence is found in the future, I believe that it will be discovered that the acceleration was present from the very beginning of the universe.   The dark energy mentioned in the article is what nether (dynamic ether) theory calls "nether".   Since, according to nether theory, the universe is made of nether which came into being at the beginning, the explosion of nether from a very small point is what created the Big Bang.   The term "dark energy" was created because prominent theoretical physicists believe that the presence of a dynamic ether would upset the current-day foundation of theoretical physics.

Volume 170, number 17, of Science News, October 21, 2006,
contains a two-page article by Peter Weiss:
FIT TO BE TIED - Impatience with string theory boils over
which is largely a review of two books:
Not Even Wrong by mathematician Peter Woit of Columbia University,
The Trouble with Physics by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin
of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.

What follows is a short summary of that article with excerpts.

Our thanks to Peter Woit and Lee Smolin for their insight and their books.
May their books be read and appreciated by many throughout the world.

Our thanks to Science News and Peter Weiss for the timely book review.

According to the article, The two authors charge that string theory practitioners stifle rival theoretical approaches to fundamental physics while ignoring increasingly obvious weaknesses of their own theorizing.   Woit writes: "Any further progress toward understanding the most fundamental constituents of the universe will require physicists to abandon the now ossified ideology" of string theory.   According to Smolin: "The ethics of science have been to some degree corrupted" by both string theorists and their academic institutions.

Woit and Smolin ask "What keeps string theory afloat?"   Smolin answers "What we are dealing with is a sociological phenomenon."   Both men attribute string theory's popularity and longevity to social and financial pressures - an excess of theoretical physics graduates and stagnant research funding, for example - and a culture of arrogance, close-mindedness, and self-promotion among entrenched string theorists.

The article goes on to say: Even though string theory hasn't panned out, Woit and Smolin claim, its senior practitioners cling to increasingly far-fetched dreams and use their influence to gather the lion's share of resources.   Smolin devotes most of a chapter of his book to enumerating "seven unusual aspects of the string theory community" that have enabled its members to create their self-perpetuating enterprise.   Among those aspects are overweening self-confidence, intellectual conformity, clannishness, and disregard for the ideas of outsiders.

Near the end of the article, The backlash against string theory might hurt its public image.   Fewer musicians, artists, novelists, and other nonscientists may want to associate their creations and products with the theory.

Needless to say, the practitioners of string theory protest the conclusions of Woit and Smolin.

The following link was sent to me by Michele Bonan.   It is another confirmation
of the Big Bang theory and has some other interesting articles.
Nobel Prize Winners

Comments on Mysterious quasar casts doubt on black holes (below).

There are two things in the following article that are
relevant to nether theory.   One is that fact that black
holes are being re-examined.   The second is that the
article mentions the use of gravity lensing - one more
example that gravity lensing does occur - for those who
have been casting aspersions at those who say it exists.

In nether theory, there are shades of gray (with certain
variations due to other factors) from the nether inflow
(gravity) of celestial bodies of smaller masses to that of
celestial bodies of greater masses.   Black holes are
merely masses of subatomic entities which have come
close enough to one another due to their mutual gravity
to generate inflow of nether into a small enough radius
to prevent light from escaping.   A review of quasars
on this website will help one to better understand
the shades of gray between various celestial bodies.
A review of gravity equations on this website will explain
why both the mass and the radius of body are important.

Mysterious quasar casts doubt on black holes

* 18:21 27 July 2006
* news service
* David Shiga

A controversial alternative to black hole theory has been bolstered by observations of an object in the distant universe, researchers say.   If their interpretation is correct, it might mean black holes do not exist and are in fact bizarre and compact balls of plasma called MECOs.

Rudolph Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, led a team that observed a quasar situated 9 billion light years from Earth.   A quasar is a very bright, compact object, whose radiation is usually thought to be generated by a giant black hole devouring its surrounding matter.

A rare cosmological coincidence allowed Schild and his colleagues to probe the structure of the quasar in much finer detail than is normally possible.   Those details suggest that the central object is not a black hole.   "The structure of the quasar is not at all what had been theorised," Schild told New Scientist.

A black hole, as traditionally understood, is an object with such a powerful gravitational field that even light is not fast enough to escape it.   Anything that gets within a certain distance of the black hole's centre, called the event horizon, will be trapped.

A well accepted property of black holes is that they cannot sustain a magnetic field of their own.   But observations of quasar Q0957+561 indicate that the object powering it does have a magnetic field, Schild's team says.   For this reason, they believe that rather than a black hole, this quasar contains something called a magnetospheric eternally collapsing object (MECO).   If so, it would be best evidence yet for such an object.

Flickering clues

The researchers used gravitational lensing to make their close observation of the quasar.   This technique exploits rare coincidences that can occur when a galaxy sits directly between a distant object and observers on Earth.

The gravity of the intervening galaxy acts like a lens.   As the intervening galaxy's individual stars pass in front of the quasar, this bending varies, making the quasar appear to flicker.   Carefully scrutinising this flickering allowed the researchers to probe fine details of the quasar's structure that are normally far too small to be resolved by even the most powerful telescopes.

Magnetic sweep

The researchers found that the disc of material surrounding the central object has a hole in it with a width of about 4000 Astronomical Units (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun).   This gap suggests that material has been swept out by magnetic forces from the central object, the researchers say, and must therefore be a MECO, not a black hole.

"I believe this is the first evidence that the whole black hole paradigm is incorrect," says Darryl Leiter of the Marwood Astrophysics Research Center in Charottesville, Virginia, US, who co-authored the study.   He says that where astronomers think they see black holes, they are actually looking at MECOs.

According to the MECO theory, objects in our universe can never actually collapse to form black holes.   When an object gets very dense and hot, subatomic particles start popping in and out of existence inside it in huge numbers, producing copious amounts of radiation.   Outward pressure from this radiation halts the collapse so the object remains a hot ball of plasma rather than becoming a black hole.

Extremely complex

But Chris Reynolds of the University of Maryland, in Baltimore, US, says the evidence for a MECO inside this quasar is not convincing.   The apparent hole in the disc could be filled with very hot, tenuous gas, which would not radiate much and would be hard to see, he says.   "Especially if you're looking with an optical telescope, which is how these observations were made, you wouldn't see that gas at all," he told New Scientist.

Leiter says this scenario would leave other things unexplained, however.   The observations show that a small ring at the inner edge of the disc is glowing, which is a sign that it has been heated by a strong magnetic field, he says.   In Reynolds's scenario, one would expect a much broader section of the disc to be heated, he says.

In any case, says Reynolds, it is difficult to draw conclusions from the team's detailed comparisons of their observations with models of black holes because those models are far from definitive.   "We know the accretion of gas into black holes is an extremely complex phenomenon," he says.   "We don't know precisely what that would look like."

"It would be truly exciting if there was compelling evidence found for a non-black-hole object in these quasars," Reynolds adds.   "I just don't think that this fits."

Journal reference: The Astronomical Journal (vol 132, p 420)

Added April 21, 2006.
When astronomers first discovered what appeared to be evidence that the expansion of the universe was accelerating, there was much controversy and it was some time before sufficient verification was discovered to change the minds of the majority of those involved.   This acceleration is a form of verification of nether theory which states that it is the nether (dynamic ether) of which the universe is composed that is expanding into empty space after the Big Bang (or its equivalent) happened.   On page 53 of the first edition of Book Four - Light of the series Behind Light's Illusion (published in 1999), are the statements: The universe is expanding at a non-uniform rate that has been growing since the last big bang.   Consequently, the age of the universe is greater than previously thought, and the Hubble constant is not really a constant.

In the December 17, 2005, issue of Science News is several paragraphs with the title Cosmic Expansion - Supernovas shed light on dark energy.   Some of the statements within these paragraphs follow.

Eight years ago, astronomers made an astonishing discovery: The rate at which the universe is expanding... is in fact speeding up.   The entity revving up cosmic expansion remains elusive, but scientists have dubbed it dark energy.   This week a team reported gains in its efforts to understand and describe it...

The work provides new hints that dark energy might be distributed uniformly throughout space and time... suggests that [it] closely resembles the cosmological constant that Albert Einstein introduced into his theory of gravity in 1917 but quickly abandoned...

...the new study relies on light detected from... elderly stars that die explosive deaths... [The study took 5 years and used 71 supernovas.]

[This is one more example of evidence for nether theory.   For study purposes, the team assumed that the composition of dark energy does not vary with time.   Nether theory states that the nether will decrease in density over time and that the rate of acceleration of the expansion will slowly decrease as is the case with any explosion in which the medium expands into a volume that is less dense or a complete vacuum.   Nether theory also states that the nether is less dense at the fringes of the universe than further toward the center which means that the rate of acceleration of expansion will vary slightly with the direction as viewed from Earth.]

Added March 24, 2006.
The phenomenon of gravity lensing is considered a consequence of Einstein's theory of gravity in accepted physics today.   But more importantly, it is a consequence of nether theory because the inflowing nether (dynamic ether) causes gravity lensing - and answers to the same equation that Einstein used.   Indeed, two of the major differences between relativity and nether theory is that nether theory provides a good visual image of what is happening and does not attempt to make time a part of space.

In spite of what detractors of Einstein's theories say, gravity lensing is real and has been used numerous times to magnify celestial objects which happen to be behind objects that have sufficient gravity to act as magnifying lenses.   The magnification can be sufficient to allow astronomers to see more detail of the objects being magnified, so there is a practical side to this lensing in which one may use it much like a reader uses a magnifying glass to read fine print.   Most of the time these examples are not placed here as they would tend to clutter the website.   However, there is an article in the January 21 issue of Science News titled Gravity at Play which is too spectacular an example to miss.   Some quotes from it follow.

Astronomers are delighted to have found 19 galaxies that appear to be bent out of shape.   The distorted images are cosmic... arcs or rings of light created when the gravity of a massive foreground object bends and magnifies the light from a galaxy lying behind it.   Abert Einstein predicted the effect, known as gravitational lensing in 1936, but telescopes at the time weren't powerful enough to discern it.

In the study, Adam Bolton... combined the power of the Hubble space telescope with the breadth of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.   ...the team picked out large elliptical galaxies capable of acting as gravitational lenses.   When they pointed Hubble at 28 of these... they found arcs and rings close to 19 of them, indicating that they were indeed distorting the images of more-distant galaxies.

Eight of the 19 have had their light bent into a circle called an Einstein ring...

Comments on Dark energy: Was Einstein right all along?

The following article is being placed on this website to show
some of the ways that are used to determine that the universe
is expanding, that the expansion of the universe is accelerating,
and that so far the cosmologists haven't any idea as to why.
Of course, the cosmological constant (called "dark energy") is
only the nether (dynamic ether) expanding into emptiness after
it came into being in concentrated form (called the Big Bang).

Dark energy: Was Einstein right all along?

      03 December 2005
      From New Scientist Print Edition.
      Stephen Battersby

THE world's most powerful telescopes are being turned on distant supernovae to close in on dark energy, the mysterious stuff that is thought to be pulling the universe apart. And the results so far suggest that dark energy resembles the "cosmological constant", which Einstein proposed before anyone even knew that the universe was expanding.
Astronomers first discovered dark energy in the 1990s, while studying type 1a supernovae - exploding stars that act as useful markers for time and distance in the universe. It's known that these supernovae always shine with about the same peak brightness, so by measuring how bright one appears from Earth, you can work out how far away it was and how much time has passed since the star exploded.

Because the supernova's light has travelled through an expanding universe, its wavelength has stretched and shifted towards the red end of the spectrum - so the greater the red shift, the more the expansion since the supernova explosion. Put the ages of different supernovae and their red shifts together, and you know how the expansion rate of the universe has changed over time.

From observations of tens of type 1a supernovae, astronomers concluded in 1998 that the expansion of the universe is accelerating and they gave the unknown cause a name: dark energy. What it is and how it works is a complete mystery, but there are a few rival theories.

To narrow them down, the Supernova Legacy Survey (SNLS) team aims to study hundreds of type 1a supernovae and use them to plot as precisely as possible the history of the universe's expansion. The international team is using the 3.6-metre Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (CFHT), atop the 4200-metre Hawaiian mountain Mauna Kea, to monitor large chunks of the sky at a time. The survey has already seen about 200 supernovae, says team member Isobel Hook of the University of Oxford.

Once a supernova is picked up by the CFHT and its brightness measured, an even larger telescope swings into action to record the red shift of the faint supernova. The project is using most of the world's biggest telescopes - the four 8.2-metre instruments of the Very Large Telescope in Chile, the two 8.1-metre Gemini telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and the two 10-metre Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

The team's preliminary conclusion, based on an analysis of 70 supernovae, fits the most conservative theory of dark energy: that space itself has some inherent energy. Einstein showed that if the vacuum of space has a fixed energy - which he called the cosmological constant - it would produce a force that would counter gravity. The latest SNLS findings show that the expansion rate of the universe is changing with time in just the way you would expect if there is a cosmological constant. More precisely, the observations show that dark energy's repulsive force has not changed by more than about 20 per cent since 8 billion years ago, when the universe was half its current size.

“The findings show the expansion rate of the universe is changing with time just as it would if there was a cosmological constant”

This finding seems to rule out some alternative theories. For instance, one idea is that the repulsion comes from fractures in the fabric of space-time that formed as the universe cooled down after the big bang. Another arises out of a version of supergravity, which is an attempt to describe gravity as a quantum force carried by particles known as gravitons and gravitinos. According to both these theories, the density of dark energy should have faded faster with time than the new observations suggest it has.

But not everyone is convinced that the SNLS findings constrain the nature of dark energy any better than other projects so far. "Their pace of discovery is faster than anyone else's," says cosmologist Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "But I could point to half a dozen papers that have the same constraint."

However, the studies he refers to have all relied on combining several different data sets. The SNLS data is uniform. "That gives us improved confidence in the result," says SNLS team member Saul Perlmutter of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California.

From issue 2528 of New Scientist magazine, 03 December 2005, page 18

Comments on Newborn Black Holes (below)

This "hiccuping" as a black hole is born appears to be very similar
to the "burping" of a Seyfert galaxy.   What is the Little Bang?

It seems that when a black hole is formed, parts of it are spasmodically
under severe enough pressure that the nether (ether) vortices that
constitute matter are disrupted, causing the "holes" to close and the
matter to be immediately converted to energy in the form of gamma radiation.
  This is logical since two gamma rays colliding may form an electron/positron pair.
Electron/Positron Creation

Sent: Thursday, August 18, 2005 11:50 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:

Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington August 18, 2005
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

William Steigerwald
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
(Phone: 301/286-5017)

RELEASE: 05-229


Scientists using NASA's Swift satellite say they have found newborn black holes, just seconds old, in a confused state of existence. The holes are consuming material falling into them while somehow propelling other material away at great speeds.

These black holes are born in massive star explosions. An initial blast obliterates the star, yet the chaotic black hole activity appears to re-energize the explosion several times in just a few minutes. This is a dramatically different view of star death, one that entails multiple explosive outbursts and not just a single bang, as previously thought.

"Stars are exploding two, three and sometimes four times in the first minutes following the initial explosion," said Prof. David Burrows of Penn State, University Park, Pa. "First comes a blast of gamma rays followed by intense pulses of X-rays. The energies involved are much greater than anyone expected," he added.

Scientists have seen this phenomenon in nearly half of the longer gamma-ray bursts detected by Swift. These gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known. They are forerunners of a massive star explosion called a hypernova, which is bigger than a supernova. Using Swift, scientists are finally able to see gamma-ray bursts within minutes after the trigger, instead of hours or days, and are privy to newborn black hole activity.

Until this latest Swift discovery, scientists assumed a simple scenario of a single explosion followed by a graceful afterglow of the dying embers. The new scenario of a blast followed by a series of powerful "hiccups" is particularly evident in a gamma-ray burst from May 2, 2005, named GRB 050502B. This burst lasted 17 seconds during the early morning hours in the constellation Leo. About 500 seconds later, Swift detected a spike in X-ray light about 100 times brighter than anything seen before.

Previously there had been hints of an "X-ray bump" between the burst and afterglow in previous gamma-ray bursts, coming a minute or so after the burst. Swift has seen more than one dozen clear cases of multiple explosions. There are several theories to describe this newly discovered phenomenon and most point to the presence of a newborn black hole.

"The newly formed black hole immediately gets to work," said Prof. Peter Meszaros of Penn State, head of the Swift theory team. "We aren't clear on the details yet, but it appears to be messy. Matter is falling into the black hole, which releases a great amount of energy. Other matter gets blasted away from the black hole and flies out into the interstellar medium. This is by no means a smooth operation," he added.

Another theory is the jet of material shooting away from the dead star starts to fall back onto itself, creating shockwaves in the jet core that ram together blobs of gas and produce X-ray light.

"None of this was realized before simply because we couldn't get to the scene of the explosion fast enough," said Dr. Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Swift principal investigator. "Swift has the unique ability to detect bursts and turn its X-ray and ultraviolet-optical telescopes to the explosion's embers within minutes. As such, Swift is detecting new burst details that might rewrite theory," Gehrels said.

Swift carries three main instruments: the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT); X-ray Telescope (XRT); and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT). Today's announcement is based largely on XRT data. The XRT was built at Penn State with partners at the Brera Astronomical Observatory in Italy and the University of Leicester in England.

Swift was launched in November 2004. It is a NASA mission in partnership with the Italian Space Agency and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, United Kingdom. Swift is managed by Goddard. Penn State controls science and flight operations from the Mission Operations Center in University Park, Pa. The spacecraft was built in collaboration with national laboratories, universities and international partners.

A paper discussing these findings appears online today on Science Express and in the September 9 issue of Science. Burrows is lead author of the paper.

Comments on Moonbeans (below)

This is being shown here for those who have found ways to belittle the
mass-energy equation, the work of Galileo, and the gravitational constant.
It is also for those who seek to discredit America by publishing material
that supposedly shows that there was no moon landing.

Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Date Posted: 2005-03-07
Web Address:


Thirty-five years after Moon-walking astronauts placed special reflectors on the lunar surface, scientists have used these devices to test Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity to unprecedented accuracy. The findings, which also confirm theories from Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, may help to explain physical laws of the universe and benefit future space missions.

"Our research with the Lunar Laser Ranging experiment probes the equivalence principle, a foundation of Einstein's general theory of relativity, with extreme accuracy," said Dr. James Williams, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Galileo established this principle in 1604 when he dropped objects of various weights and composition from Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa. All the objects were affected equally by gravity, so they fell at the same rate.

Newton published a supporting explanation in 1687 in his Principia, and Einstein extended the principle nearly 100 years ago. Einstein's premise, called the strong equivalence principle, holds that all forms of matter accelerate at the same rate in response to gravity. This principle became a foundation of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The Lunar Laser Ranging experiment confirms that the Moon and Earth "fall toward" the Sun at the same rate, even though Earth has a large iron core below its rocky mantle, while the Moon is mostly rocky with a much smaller core. The findings by Williams and Drs. Slava Turyshev and Dale Boggs, also of JPL, have been published in the Physical Review Letters.

"Lunar laser ranging can conduct very accurate tests of gravity and fundamental physics," said Williams, who pointed out that small variations in gravity are difficult to study because the force is weak, unless very large masses are used. The new results of this experiment provide a bonanza for modern physics.

"An important property of gravity is its universal effect on massive objects, despite their size and composition. This is why, as we understand more about gravity in the solar system, we learn a lot about gravitational and cosmological processes in the entire universe," said Turyshev.

"In addition to providing the most accurate test yet of the strong equivalence principle, our experiment also limits any possible changes in Newton's gravitational constant," said Turyshev. The gravitational constant deals with the attraction between objects in space, and some theories suggest that this attraction would change over time. If so, the general theory of relativity would need modification.

"This latest research shows no evidence of such a change. Both findings -- about the strong equivalence principle and the gravitational constant -- boost Einstein's theory," added Turyshev.

Great strides have been made over the past decade in refining the theories of Einstein, Galileo and Newton. The latest findings are twice as accurate as any previous results on the strong equivalence principle, and 10 times as accurate as anything previously published on the variation of Newton's gravitational constant

The JPL team tested the theories by beaming laser pulses to four Moon reflectors from McDonald Observatory in western Texas, and an observatory in southern France. The lunar reflectors bounced the laser beams straight back to Earth, where the roundtrip travel time was measured. Three of the reflectors were installed by the Apollo 11, 14 and 15 astronauts, and one built by France was carried on the unmanned Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover.

The current Moon reflectors require no power and still work perfectly after 35 years. As NASA pursues the vision of taking humans back to the Moon, and eventually to Mars and beyond, new, more precise laser ranging devices could be placed first on the Moon and then on Mars. To guide a spacecraft to a precise location on the Moon and to navigate trips on its surface, the Moon's orbit, rotation and orientation must be accurately known. Lunar laser ranging measurements are helping future human and robotic missions to the Moon.

More information about the research is available online at or

The research was conducted under NASA's Astronomy and Physics Research and Analysis program, part of the agency's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL, is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Comments on Did the Big Bang Really Happen? (below)

Did the Big Bang Really Happen?
has been added here to show several avenues of thought which
mimic some that are found in Behind Light's Illusion and
on my website. This is also one of a number of examples of the
confusion found today due to apparent inadequacies in the standard model.

Problems with redshift, the accepted age of the universe, the shape of the
universe, the nature of the cosmic background radiation, the reality behind
dark matter, the fact that the universe has a directional bias - all of these
are addressed in the article below.

The answers or conjectures given in the article are not exactly
what I have found to be true. However, they are not very far off.

Home| News| Solar System| Space Technology| Human Spaceflight| Astronomy|
Special Reports
Did the big bang really happen?
02 July 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Marcus Chown

WHAT if the big bang never happened? Ask cosmologists this and they'll usually tell you it is a stupid question. The evidence, after all, is written in the heavens. Take the way galaxies are scattered across the sky, or witness the fading afterglow of the big bang fireball. Even the way the atoms in your body have come into being over the eons. They are all smoking guns that point to the existence 13.7 billion years ago of an ultra-hot, ultra-dense state known as the big bang.

Or are they? A small band of researchers is starting to ask the question no one is supposed to ask. Last week the dissidents met to review the evidence at the first ever Crisis in Cosmology conference in Monção, Portugal. There they argued that cosmologists' most cherished theory of the universe fails to explain certain crucial observations. If they are right, the universe could be a lot weirder than anyone imagined. But before venturing that idea, say the dissidents, it is time for some serious investigation into the big bang's validity and its alternatives.

"Look at the facts," says Riccardo Scarpa of the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile. "The basic big bang model fails to predict what we observe in the universe in three major ways." The temperature of today's universe, the expansion of the cosmos, and even the presence of galaxies, have all had cosmologists scrambling for fixes. "Every time the basic big bang model has failed to predict what we see, the solution has been to bolt on something new - inflation, dark matter and dark energy," Scarpa says.

For Scarpa and his fellow dissidents, the tinkering has reached an unacceptable level. All for the sake of saving the notion that the universe flickered into being as a hot, dense state. "This isn't science," says Eric Lerner who is president of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics in West Orange, New Jersey, and one of the conference organisers. "Big bang predictions are consistently wrong and are being fixed after the event." So much so, that today's "standard model" of cosmology has become an ugly mishmash comprising the basic big bang theory, inflation and a generous helping of dark matter and dark energy.

The fact that the conference went ahead at all is an important step forward, say its organisers. Last year they wrote an open letter warning that failure to fund research into big bang alternatives was suppressing free debate in the field of cosmology (New Scientist, 22 May 2004, p 20).

The trouble, says Lerner, who headed the list of more than 30 signatories, is that cosmology is bankrolled by just a few sources, and the committees that control those purse strings are dominated by supporters of the big bang. Critics of the standard model of cosmology are not just uncomfortable about the way they feel it has been cobbled together. They also point to specific observations that they believe cast doubt on cosmology's standard model.

Take the most distant galaxies ever spotted, for example. According to the accepted view, when we observe ultra-distant galaxies we should see them in their youth, full of stars not long spawned from gas clouds. This is because light from these faraway galaxies has taken billions of years to reach us, and so the galaxies must appear as they were shortly after the big bang. But there is a problem. "We don't see young galaxies," says Lerner. "We see old ones."

He cites recent observations of high-red-shift galaxies from NASA's Spitzer space telescope. A galaxy's red shift is a measure of how much the universe has expanded since it emitted its light. As the light travels through an expanding universe, its wavelength gets stretched, as if the light wave were drawn on a piece of elastic. The increase in wavelength corresponds to a shift towards the red end of the spectrum.

The Spitzer galaxies have red shifts that correspond to a time when the universe was between about 600 million and 1 billion years old. Galaxies this young should be full of newborn stars that emit blue light because they are so hot. The galaxies should not contain many older stars that are cool and red. "But they do," says Lerner.

Spitzer is the first telescope able to detect red stars in faraway galaxies because it is sensitive to infrared light. This means it can detect red light from stars in high-red-shift galaxies that has been pushed deep into the infrared during its journey to Earth. "It turns out these galaxies aren't young at all," says Lerner. "They have pretty much the same range of stars as present-day galaxies."

And that is bad news for the big bang. Among the stars in today's galaxies are red giants that have taken billions of years to burn all their hydrogen and reach this bloated phase. So the Spitzer observations suggest that some of the stars in ultra-distant galaxies are older than the galaxies themselves, which plunges the standard model of cosmology into crisis. Fog-filled universe

Not surprisingly, cosmologists have panned Lerner's theories. They put the discrepancy down to large uncertainties in estimating the ages of galaxies. But Lerner has a reply. He points to other distant objects that appear much older than they ought to be. "At high red shift, we also observe clusters and huge superclusters of galaxies," he says, arguing that it would have taken far longer than a billion years for galaxies to clump together to form such giant structures.

His solution to the puzzle is extreme. Rather than being caused by the expanding universe, he believes that the red shift is down to some other mechanism. But at this stage it is only a guess. "I admit I don't know what that mechanism might be," Lerner says, "though I believe it is intrinsic to light."

To test his idea, he would like to see sensitive experiments on Earth capable of detecting minute changes in light. One possibility would be to modify the LIGO detector in Hanford, Washington state. LIGO is designed to detect gravitational waves, the warps in space-time created by events such as neutron star collisions. To do this it bounces perpendicular beams of laser light hundreds of times between mirrors 4 kilometres apart, looking for subtle shifts in the beams' lengths. With a few tweaks, Lerner believes that LIGO could be modified to measure any intrinsic red-shifting that light might undergo.

If the experiment ever gets the go-ahead and Lerner is proved right, the implications would be immense, not least because the tapestry of cosmology as we know it would unravel. Without an expanding universe, there would be no need to invoke dark energy to account for the apparent acceleration of that expansion. Nor would there be any reason to suppose the big bang was the ultimate beginning. "I can prove that the universe wasn't born 13.7 billion years ago," says Lerner. "The big bang never happened."

However, Lerner's claims leave plenty of awkward questions. Among them is the matter of the cosmic microwave background. First detected in 1965, the vast majority of cosmologists believe that this faint, all-pervading soup of microwaves is the dying glow of the big bang, and proof of the ultimate beginning. According to big bang theory, the hot radiation that filled space after the birth of the universe has been trapped inside ever since because it has nowhere else to go. As the universe expanded over the past 13.7 billion years, the radiation has cooled to today's temperature of less than 3 kelvin above absolute zero.

So if there was no big bang, where did the cosmic microwave background come from? Lerner believes that cosmologists have got the origin of the microwave glow all wrong. "If you wake up in a tent and everything around you is white, you don't conclude you've seen the start of the universe," he says. "You conclude you're in fog."

Rather than coming from the big bang, Lerner believes that the cosmic background radiation is really starlight that has been absorbed and re-radiated. It is an old idea that was widely promoted by the late cosmologist and well-known big bang sceptic Fred Hoyle. He believed that starlight was absorbed by needle-like grains of iron ejected by supernovae and then radiated as microwaves. But Hoyle never found any evidence to back up his ideas and many cosmologists dismissed them.

Lerner's idea is similar, though he thinks that threads of electrically charged gas called plasma are responsible, rather than iron whiskers. Jets of plasma are squirted into intergalactic space by highly energetic galaxies known as quasars, and Lerner believes that such plasma filaments continually fragmented until they filled the universe like fog. This fog then scattered the infrared light radiated by dust that had in turn absorbed starlight. By doing so, Lerner believes, the infrared radiation became uniform in all directions, just as the cosmic microwave background appears to be.

All this is possible, he argues, because standard cosmology theory has overlooked processes involving plasmas. "All astronomers know that 99.99 per cent of matter in the universe is in the form of plasma, which is controlled by electromagnetic forces," he says. "Yet all astronomers insist on believing that gravity is the only important force in the universe. It is like oceanographers ignoring hydrodynamics." To make progress, Lerner is calling for theories that include plasma phenomena as well as gravity, and for more rigorous testing of theory against observations.

Of course, Lerner's ideas are extremely controversial and few people are convinced, but that doesn't stop other researchers questioning the standard theory too. They have their own ideas about what is wrong with it. In Scarpa's case, the mysterious dark matter is at fault.

Dark matter has become an essential ingredient in cosmology's standard model. That's because the big bang on its own fails to describe how galaxies could have congealed from the matter forged shortly after the birth of the universe. The problem is that gas and dust made from normal matter were spread too evenly for galaxies to clump together in just 13.7 billion years. Cosmologists fix this problem by adding to their brew a vast amount of invisible dark matter which provides the extra tug needed to speed up galaxy formation.

The same gravitational top-up helps to explain the rapid motion of outlying stars in galaxies. Astronomers have measured stars orbiting their galactic centres so fast that they ought to fly off into intergalactic space. But dark matter's extra gravity would explain how the galaxies hold onto their speeding stars. Similarly, dark matter is needed to explain how clusters of galaxies can hold on to galaxies that are orbiting the cluster's centre so fast they ought to be flung away.

But dark matter may not be the cure-all it seems, warns Scarpa. What worries him are inconsistencies with the theory. "If you believe in dark matter, you discover there is too much of it," he says. In particular, his observations point to dark matter in places cosmologists say it shouldn't exist. One place no one expects to see it is in globular clusters, tight knots of stars that orbit the Milky Way and many other galaxies. Unlike normal matter, the dark stuff is completely incapable of emitting light or any other form of electromagnetic radiation. This means a cloud of the stuff cannot radiate away its internal heat, a process vital for gravitational contraction, so dark matter cannot easily clump together at scales as small as those of globular clusters.

Scarpa's observations tell a different story, however. He and his colleagues have found evidence that the stars in globular clusters are moving faster than the gravity of visible matter can explain, just as they do in larger galaxies. They have studied three globular clusters, including the Milky Way's biggest, Omega Centauri, which contains about a million stars. In all three, they find the same wayward behaviour. So if isn't dark matter, what is going on?

Scarpa's team believes the answer might be a breakdown of Newton's law of gravity, which says an object's gravitational tug is inversely proportional to the square of your distance from it. Their observations of globular clusters suggest that Newton's inverse square law holds true only above some critical acceleration. Below this threshold strength, gravity appears to dissipate more slowly than Newton predicts.

Exactly the same effect has been spotted in spiral galaxies and galaxy-rich clusters. It was identified more than 20 years ago by Mordehai Milgrom at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, who proposed a theory known as modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) to explain it. Scarpa points out that the critical acceleration of 10-10 metres per second per second that was identified for galaxies appears to hold for globular clusters too. And his work has led him to the same conclusion as Milgrom: "There is no need for dark matter in the universe," says Scarpa.

It is a bold claim to make. And not surprisingly, MOND has had plenty of critics over the years. One of cosmologists' biggest gripes is that MOND is not compatible with Einstein's theory of relativity, so it is not valid for objects travelling close to the speed of light or in very strong gravitational fields. In practice, this means MOND has been powerless to make predictions about pulsars, black holes and, most importantly, the big bang. But this has now been fixed by Jacob Bekenstein at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Bekenstein's relativistic version of the theory already appears to be bearing fruit. In May a team led by Constantinos Skordis of the University of Oxford showed that relativistic MOND can make cosmological predictions. The researchers have reproduced both the observed properties of the cosmic microwave background and the distribution of galaxies throughout the universe ( ). Gravity in crisis

Scarpa believes that MOND is a crucial body blow for the big bang. "It means that the law of gravity from which we derive the big bang is wrong," he says. He insists that cosmologists are interpreting astronomical observations using the wrong framework. And he urges them to go back to the drawing board and derive a cosmological model based on MOND.

For now, his plea seems to be falling mostly on deaf ears. Yet there is more evidence that there could be something wrong with the standard model of cosmology. And it is evidence that many cosmologists are finding harder to dismiss because it comes from the jewel in the crown of cosmology instruments, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. "It could be telling us something fundamental about our universe, maybe even that the simplest big bang model is wrong," says João Magueijo of Imperial College London.

Since its launch in 2001, WMAP has been quietly taking the temperature of the universe from its vantage point 1.5 million kilometres out in space. The probe measures the way the temperature of the cosmic microwave background varies across the sky. Cosmologists believe that the tiny variations from one place to another are an imprint of the state of the universe about 300,000 years after the big bang, when matter began to clump together under gravity. Hotter patches correspond to denser regions, and cooler patches reflect less dense areas. These density variations began life as quantum fluctuations in the vacuum in the first split second of the universe's existence, and were subsequently amplified by a brief period of phenomenally fast expansion called inflation.

Because the quantum fluctuations popped up at random, the hot and cold spots we see in one part of the sky should look much like those in any other part. And because the cosmic background radiation is a feature of the universe as a whole rather than any single object in it, none of the hot or cold regions should be aligned with structures in our corner of the cosmos. Yet this is exactly what some researchers are claiming from the WMAP results.

Earlier this year, Magueijo and his Imperial College colleague Kate Land reported that they had found a bizarre alignment in the cosmic microwave background. At first glance, the pattern of hot and cold spots appeared random, as expected. But when they looked more closely, they found something unexpected. It is as if you were listening to an anarchic orchestra playing some random cacophony, and yet when you picked out the violins, trombones and clarinets separately, you discovered that they are playing the same tune.

Like an orchestral movement, the WMAP results can be analysed as a blend of patterns of different spatial frequencies. When Magueijo and Land looked at the hot and cold spots this way, they noticed a striking similarity between the individual patterns. Rather than being spattered randomly across the sky, the spots in each pattern seemed to line up along the same direction. With a good eye for a newspaper headline, Magueijo dubbed this alignment the axis of evil. "If it is true, this is an astonishing discovery," he says.

That's because the result flies in the face of big bang theory, which rules out any such special or preferred direction. So could the weird effect be down to something more mundane, such as a problem with the WMAP satellite? Charles Bennett, who leads the WMAP mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, discounts that possibility. "I have no reason to think that any anomaly is an artefact of the instrument," he says.

Another suggestion is that heat given off by the Milky Way's dusty disk has not been properly subtracted from the WMAP signals and mimics the axis of evil. "Certainly there are some sloppy papers where insufficient attention has been paid to the signals from the Milky Way," warns Bennett. Others point out that the conclusions are based on only one year's worth of WMAP signals. And researchers are eagerly awaiting the next batch, rumoured to be released in September.

Yet Magueijo and Land are convinced that the alignment in the patterns does exist. "The big question is: what could have caused it," asks Magueijo. One possibility, he says, is that the universe is shaped like a slab, with space extending to infinity in two dimensions but spanning only about 20 billion light years in the third dimension. Or the universe might be shaped like a bagel. Another way to create a preferred direction would be to have a rotating universe, because this singles out the axis of rotation as different from all other directions.

Bennett admits he is excited by the possibility that WMAP has stumbled on something so important and fundamental about the universe. His hunch, though, is that the alignment is a fluke. "However, it's always possible the universe is trying to tell us something," he says.

Clearly, such a universe would flout a fundamental assumption of all big bang models: that the universe is the same in all places and in all directions. "People made these assumptions because, without them, it was impossible to simplify Einstein's equations enough to solve them for the universe," says Magueijo. And if those assumptions are wrong, it could be curtains for the standard model of cosmology.

That may not be a bad thing, according to Magueijo. "The standard model is ugly and embarrassing," he says. "I hope it will soon come to breaking point." But whatever replaced it would of course have to predict all the things the standard model predicts. "This would be very hard indeed," concedes Magueijo.

Meanwhile the axis of evil is peculiar enough that Bennett and his colleague Gary Hinshaw have obtained money from NASA to carry out a five-year exhaustive examination of the WMAP signals. That should exclude the possibilities of the instrumental error and contamination once and for all. "The alignment is probably just a fluke but I really feel compelled to investigate it," he says. "Who knows what we will find."

Lerner and his fellow sceptics are in little doubt: "What we may find is a universe that is very different than the increasingly bizarre one of the big bang theory." Marcus Chown is the author of The Universe Next Door published by Headline


Editorial: Big bang doubts fuel cosmology boom
02 July 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.

COSMOLOGY has come a long way. Once upon a time it was akin to theology, and models in which the universe rested on the back of a giant turtle were as plausible as any other. Now we have a sophisticated mathematical model backed up by hard observations. The universe, it says, exploded into existence 13.7 billion years ago, and entities such as dark matter and dark energy are orchestrating its evolution.

Yet there remains something disquieting about this model. It contains a huge array of variables that can be changed pretty much at will. So flexible is it that some claim the model can be stretched to fit any observation. It also makes the highly unsatisfying prediction that only 4 per cent of all matter is accounted for by ordinary, familiar atoms. The rest is made up of utterly mysterious forms of dark matter and dark energy.

Cosmologists' unease is increasing following a host of recent observations that are testing the standard model and, arguably, finding it wanting. Measurements from space experiments such as NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and the Spitzer infrared telescope are constraining the model, showing us where our thinking may be flawed and forcing us to ask new questions (see "End of the beginning"). To accommodate the new findings, some scientists speculate that not just gravity but also electrical forces may play a role in shaping the universe at large scales. Others argue that Einstein's theory of gravity is wrong. Some even suggest that the big bang never happened.

Calling for a wholesale rethink of the big bang model is still an extreme view, but even mainstream cosmologists would accept that we may be missing a "big idea". They are just unwilling to venture what that idea might be.

This may all sound like bad news for cosmology - an indication that it is falling apart. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are exciting times, bursting with ideas that will be put to the test by the next generation of data-gathering instruments. The European Space Agency's Planck probe will confirm or dispel some surprising anomalies in the WMAP's readings of relic radiation from the big bang. And by observing how dark energy has evolved over time, NASA's Supernova/Accelerator Probe (SNAP) may finally shed light on what exactly it is.

Cosmology has moved on from the realm of theological speculation. It is well and truly an experimental science, complete with its own turmoil of testable theories. It has entered a golden age.

Comments on Whirling Atoms (below)

Whirling Atoms Dance into Physics Textbooks
has been added here because some people have scoffed
at the idea of frictionlessness. This is one of a number
of examples where lack of friction has proven to be a reality.

J.D. Harrington/Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington June 24, 2005
(Phone: 202/358-5241/1979)

Jane Platt
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
(Phone: 818/354-0880)

RELEASE: 05-163


NASA-funded researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., have created a new form of superfluid matter. This research may lead to improved superconducting materials, useful for energy-efficient electricity transport and better medical diagnostic tools.

The research marks the first time scientists have positively created a friction-free superfluid using a gas of fermionic atoms, atoms with an odd number of electrons, protons and neutrons. The breakthrough happened on the night of April 13.

"It's a night I won't forget. It was overwhelming to watch on our computers as the lithium atoms behaved in a way that no one had ever seen before," said Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel prize-winning physics professor at MIT who led the team of researchers.

To accomplish this experiment, Ketterle's team cooled a gas cloud of lithium atoms to nearly absolute zero (about minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit). They used an infrared laser beam to trap the gas, then a green laser to spin it.

A normal gas simply spins, but a superfluid can rotate only by forming quantum whirlpools. A rotating superfluid looks like Swiss cheese; the holes are the cores of the whirlpools. This is exactly what the MIT physicists observed that night.

In 1995, Ketterle and his team were among the first to create a Bose-Einstein condensate, composed of bosonic atoms that have an even number of electrons, neutrons and protons. In Bose-Einstein condensates, particles act as one big wave, a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein in 1925. That discovery earned Ketterle a shared Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001. Bose-Einstein condensates were later shown to be superfluids.

The new frontier became fermions. Fermions must pair up to have an even number of electrons, neutrons and protons, which allows them to form a Bose-Einstein condensate. Breakthroughs at MIT and several other institutions, including Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, produced Bose-Einstein condensation of fermion pairs loosely bound as molecules, but found no concrete evidence of superfluidity.

Over the past two years researchers have been looking for the "smoking gun" for fermionic superfluidity. Despite some hints and indirect evidence, it was not found until this research team's discovery.

Superconductivity is superfluidity for charged particles instead of atoms. High-temperature superconductivity is not fully understood, but the MIT observations open up opportunities to study the microscopic mechanisms behind this phenomenon.

"Pairing electrons in the same way as our fermionic atoms would result in room-temperature superconductors," Ketterle explained. "It is a long way to go, but room-temperature superconductors would find many real-world applications, from medical diagnostics to energy transport," he added. Superfluid Fermi gas might also help scientists test ideas about other Fermi systems, like spinning neutron stars and the primordial soup of the early universe.

The MIT research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office, and NASA's Fundamental Physics in Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, in support of the Vision for Space Exploration. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Pasadena, manages the Fundamental Physics program.

The research was published in the June 23 issue of Nature. Ketterle's co-authors include grad students Schirotzek, Schunck and Zwierlein, and former grad student Abo-Shaeer. They are all members of the NSF-funded MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms.

Taking snapshots of a light wave
09 April 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Eugenie Samuel Reich

See article and pictures below. This seems to prove that light
is a series of waves and not particulate in nature.

Comments as of February 23, 2005
There have been so many articles written on confirmations of what theoretical physicists call "dark energy" and "dark matter" (two separate things) that I am no longer keeping track. To date, the mainline physicists have no idea what either is and are placing more and more band-aids on their theories. Nothing has been found that refutes the theory on this website - in fact, everything to date merely provides more proof that this theory is correct.

According to articles written on the latest experiments regarding the equations of relativity the equations of relativity still work. These same equations have been derived from the foundations of the theory found on this website. Therefore, the new data confirms what is here as well as relativity, although relativity has been found to be incorrect in some instances while nether theory is still intact.

National Science Foundation - Posted January 9, 2004.
Astronomers See Era of Rapid Galaxy Formation, New Findings a Pose Challenge for Cold Dark Matter Theory
This is one step in ridding us of the erroneous Dark Matter theory.
See Constant Velocity Point (Dark Matter Solution) on this website.

Science News, January 3, 2004.
Topsy Turvy - In neutrons and protons quarks take wrong turn.
1. The down quark in the neutron and the positron can have most of the energy in the nucleon.
2. The down quark spins in the opposite direction to that of the nucleon.
These findings are in accord with the model of the proton shown on page 40 of Book Six of Behind Light's Illusion.



Taking snapshots of a light wave
09 April 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Eugenie Samuel Reich

More About the Electron
Wiggly light

FERENC KRAUSZ'S picture looks just the way you might draw a light wave - a brief wiggle on a dark background, with an ethereal, transient quality to it. But it becomes all the more impressive when you realise it isn't a drawing of a light wave. It is the first ever photograph of one.

The photo was published last August to surprisingly little fanfare, considering that Hungarian-born Krausz is already a scientific celebrity for work on ultra-fast lasers. Yet he says this picture probably represents the most profound scientific achievement of his life, for one simple reason: "This is the most direct experimental evidence for light being an electromagnetic wave," he says.

Until now evidence for the wave nature of light has been circumstantial. In 1801, Thomas Young carried out his famous double-slit experiment in an attempt to find out if light was made of waves or particles. He saw that passing a beam of sunlight through two parallel narrow slits casts a pattern of light and dark stripes. His findings were taken as evidence that light is made of waves - the stripes are caused by light waves spreading out from each slit and interfering with each other, in the same way that ripples in a pond create swells and troughs when they cross. Sixty years later, James Clerk Maxwell proposed that light consists of oscillating electric and magnetic fields travelling through space.

Despite this understanding, no one has ever tried to capture the quivering wave motion of light because it is simply too fast. A beam of visible light completes a cycle of oscillation in about a millionth of a billionth (10-15) of a second. This means the electromagnetic field imaged by Krausz's group changes direction one million billion times each second.

It's a bit like trying to take a picture of a friend sprinting on the football field. They come out blurred in the pictures because they move appreciably in the time that the shutter on your camera stays open. Krausz, however, has the ultimate in sports photography at his disposal: an attosecond photographic shutter, developed in 2003. It opens and closes every few hundred billion billionths of a second - one-tenth the length of a light cycle (New Scientist, 6 November 2004, p 34).

Of course, Krausz's shutter is no ordinary camera aperture. He uses a laser that creates identical short X-ray pulses that last just a few hundred attoseconds (10-18 seconds). "A couple of groups worldwide can make attosecond pulses, but we were the only ones to have them come out one pulse at a time," says Reinhard Kienberger who is a member of the team.

This was an important step in creating the picture, which was published in the journal Science last year (vol 305, p 1267). Eleftherios Goulielmakis and others in Krausz's group at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria and the University of Bielefeld in Germany sent a light wave into a chamber of neon gas. Along with the light wave, they sent in an attosecond X-ray pulse to image it. To be sure which part of the wave they were imaging, the pulse was synchronised to the light.

The X-rays knock electrons from the atoms in the gas, which then move towards a detector. But the electric field of the passing light beam either slows or speeds up the motion of these electrons, depending on its direction and intensity (see Diagram). So each electron's arrival time at the detector provides an instantaneous picture of the light beam on its journey through the chamber.

Many readings have to be added together to create an image of the whole light wave. So just as celebrities posing for photographs in the 19th century had to stand still for several minutes, Goulielmakis and Kienberger ran the laser pulses for as long as an hour. The final picture was made of about 6 million independent exposures of identical passing light waves.

"When we first saw the trace it was a very special moment, because it had never been done before," says Kienberger. "In basic physics class you learn about the waveform of light, but you only measure its intensity. You never actually capture the trace in such a beautiful way."

Sandu Popescu at the University of Bristol in the UK points out that such oscillations have been imaged for electromagnetic waves with longer wavelengths, such as radio waves, but this is a first for visible light. "It's a nice way of seeing a wave as a wave," says Tony Short, also at Bristol. "To actually see it waving is as direct as we've got so far."

Physicists, of course, knew in advance exactly what the shape of a light wave would be, but they still got a kick out of actually seeing it take shape. "It's like when you get a present and you know what's inside the box, but then you open the box and hold it in your hands," says Kienberger.

It is that power that has researchers excited. Being able to capture the quivering field of light means they might also be able to capture atomic processes on the same timescale, many of which are not as well understood as light waves. By changing the conditions in the chamber - for example by filling it with atoms undergoing various physical processes - they can see the effect of those processes written onto their light pulse (see "From light to matter").

For now, though, imaging light beams is bringing other rewards. Krausz has co-founded a company based in Vienna called Femtolasers to sell his synchronised lasers, at around half a million dollars a pop. There is interest from scientists who want to take their own photos of fleeting light beams, and those who want to try their hand at imaging other quivering fields. "It's impressive," says Stephen Leone, a laser chemist at the University of California in Berkeley. "We're buying them."

From light to matter

What could possibly top taking a picture of a light wave? Well, Krausz's group has already used their attosecond photographic shutter to image neon atoms immediately after electrons had been kicked out of their inner shells (Nature, vol 427, p 817).

The process of kicking an electron out of a shell is inherently quantum in nature - one photon of light is absorbed by an atom. But Krausz's group is able to take freeze frames of the excited atoms just as an electron is being emitted and those that are left behind change electronic shells to take its place. These quantum processes are not instantaneous - they take about 150 attoseconds - but with enough freeze frames, the researchers begin to get a picture of the excitement and relaxation of the atom.

Apart from excited neon atoms, there are many other short-lived atoms and molecules whose exact lifetimes and interactions with photons are poorly understood. The prospect of being able to take pictures of them in action is exciting for Stephen Leone, a laser chemist at the University of California in Berkeley. "There's a lot of potential there in terms of learning about light fields and learning something new about atoms and molecules," he says.

Far-flung galaxy breaks record

18:34 01 March 04 news service

A small, faint galaxy may claim the title of the most distant object known - breaking a record that was set just two weeks ago.

The new find appears to lie 13.2 billion light-years away from Earth and reveals what the earliest galaxies looked like.

Light from this galaxy may have formed a mere 460 million years after the Big Bang, which formed the Universe 13.7 billion years ago, say its discoverers.

The previous record-holder, reported in February 2004, dates back to 750 million years after the birth of the Universe.

"We are approaching the youngest ages of galaxies," says Roser Pelló, an astronomer at the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées in France and co-leader of the discovery team.

Astronomers have been steadily probing further back in time and space to see when and how the first stars and galaxies formed from dense gas clouds. This murky period was known as the Dark Ages and lasted about one billion years. The radiation from these first stellar objects may have broken apart the clouds' atomic hydrogen into ions - a process known as re-ionisation - to make space transparent.

So far only 30 or so objects have been found that date to the universe's first billion years. But Pelló believes observations such as hers show early galaxies "could be one of the main sources of re-ionisation if they are numerous".

Bent and magnified

The far-flung galaxy was discovered using one of the four 8.2-metre telescopes comprising the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. Focusing on a single region of sky for an average of three to six hours at a time, the international team used an infrared imager and spectrograph called ISAAC to detect a single telling emission line that appeared to arise from hydrogen.

But the distant galaxy was only visible because of a chance geometric alignment. A massive galaxy cluster called Abell 1835 lies between the new galaxy and Earth. Abell 1835's gravity bent and magnified the distant galaxy's light, making it between 25 and 100 times brighter.

Early galaxies actively form stars, producing a telltale spike of ultraviolet radiation from hydrogen. But the light from distant objects gets stretched by the expansion of the Universe, which allows astronomers to calculate vast distances using a measure called redshift.

This galaxy appears to lie at a redshift of 10.0. The previous record holder for the most distant object is a galaxy at redshift 7.0, reported just two weeks ago by a team led by one of the researchers in this study.

This result is "very exciting," says Andrew Bunker, an astronomer at the University of Exeter, UK. "A jump to redshift ten from redshift six is significant and unprecedented."

Researchers also urge caution in interpreting the result. "The authors are to be congratulated on their approach and observational technique," says Donald Schneider, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, US. But he says the redshift of 10.0 is "not ironclad" and points out that some previous claims of high-redshift discoveries have been "retracted when additional observations were obtained."

Building blocks

The researchers themselves acknowledge the galaxy might lie closer than redshift 10.0. That could occur if the emission line arises not from hydrogen but from other elements, such as oxygen or nitrogen. A star-forming galaxy at redshift 2.5, for example, could account for the observed emission - but this would be unlikely to reveal the distinctive spectra seen, they say.

The researchers have requested observing time on the Hubble Space Telescope to confirm their result.

Named Abell 1835 IR1916, the new galaxy appears to form stars at the rate of between one and five suns per year and contains ten thousand times less matter than our Milky Way. Such small, star-forming galaxies are expected in the early Universe as they are thought to be the building blocks of the large galaxies seen today.

Journal reference: Astronomy & Astrophysics (vol 416, p L35)

Maggie McKee

Science News

Week of Jan. 3, 2004; Vol. 165, No. 1

Topsy Turvy: In neutrons and protons, quarks take wrong turns

Peter Weiss

Physicists peering inside the neutron are seeing glimmers of what appears to be an impossible situation. The vexing findings pertain to quarks, which are the main components of neutrons and protons. The quarks, in essence, spin like tops, as do the neutrons and protons themselves.

Now, experimenters at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., have found hints that a single quark can briefly hog most of the energy residing in a neutron, yet spin in the direction opposite to that of the neutron itself.

"That's very disturbing," comments theoretical physicist Xiangdong Ji of the University of Maryland at College Park.

The finding suggests that scientists may have erred in calculations using fundamental theory to predict quark behavior within neutrons, he says. It might also indicate that orbital motions of particles within neutrons, in addition to those particles' spins, are more important than previously recognized. Those motions might be akin to the moon's rotation around Earth as the satellite also spins about its own axis.

Given that neutrons and protons are sister particles, called nucleons, the new findings apply to both, says Xiaochao Zheng, a member of the experimental team who's now at Argonne (Ill.) National Laboratory.

Nucleons are the building blocks of atomic nuclei. A typical nucleon includes three quarks: two down quarks and one up quark for a neutron; two up quarks and one down quark for a proton. In addition to those so-called valence quarks, each nucleon contains multitudes of gluons-particles that bind quarks-and of short-lived quark-antiquark pairs, known collectively as the quark sea.

Each of these constituents of a nucleon carries some share of the nucleon's energy, although the distribution of that energy among the constituents constantly shifts, Ji explains.

From previous experiments, scientists knew that only valence quarks can grab major portions of a nucleon's total energy content, says Jian-Ping Chen of the Jefferson lab, a coleader of the experiment. The new spin-detecting experiment is the first to measure the state of the neutron when most of its energy momentarily resides in a single quark.

Calculations based on the prevailing theory of quark behavior predict that any quark holding more than about half the energy of a nucleon should spin in the same direction as the nucleon. However, when the new experiment probed valence quarks temporarily laden with up to 60 percent of a neutron's energy, it revealed that only the up quarks behaved as expected. The down quarks somehow carried most of the energy yet rotated in a direction opposite to that of the neutron as a whole.

Electrons and entire atoms also have spins. To arrive at the new findings, the experimenters made a target of helium gas in which nearly all atoms were forced to spin in the same direction and bombarded it with a beam of high-energy electrons, whose spins were also forced to have uniform orientations.

The researchers determined the spin orientations of the quarks in the helium atoms by placing detectors in specific positions where they are more likely to make detections when the orientations of the electron's spin and the quark's spin are opposite, Zheng says. She and her colleagues present their results in the Jan. 9 Physical Review Letters.

Since the late 1980s, experiments have revealed that no more than 20 to 30 percent of a nucleon's spin comes from the spin of its valence quarks. Physicists have been struggling to identify which of the nucleon's other constituents contribute to nucleon spin and how much-a puzzle known as the proton-spin crisis (SN: 9/6/97, p. 158).

These long-awaited neutron-spin data indicate that, under some conditions, the previously overlooked orbital motions of valence quarks make a major contribution to nucleon spin, comments theorist Gerald A. Miller of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 14:30:40 -0500 (EST)

NASA today released the best "baby picture" of the Universe ever taken; the image contains such stunning detail that it may be one of the most important scientific results of recent years.

Scientists using NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), during a sweeping 12-month observation of the entire sky, captured the new cosmic portrait, capturing the afterglow of the big bang, called the cosmic microwave background.

"We've captured the infant universe in sharp focus, and from this portrait we can now describe the universe with unprecedented accuracy," said Dr. Charles L. Bennett of the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt Md., and the WMAP Principal Investigator. "The data are solid, a real gold mine," he said.

One of the biggest surprises revealed in the data is the first generation of stars to shine in the universe first ignited only 200 million years after the big bang, much earlier than many scientists had expected.

In addition, the new portrait precisely pegs the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years old, with a remarkably small one percent margin of error.

The WMAP team found that the big bang and Inflation theories continue to ring true. The contents of the universe include 4 percent atoms (ordinary matter), 23 percent of an unknown type of dark matter, and 73 percent of a mysterious dark energy. The new measurements even shed light on the nature of the dark energy, which acts as a sort of an anti-gravity.

"These numbers represent a milestone in how we view our universe," said Dr. Anne Kinney, NASA director for astronomy and physics. "This is a true turning point for cosmology."

The light we see today, as the cosmic microwave background, has traveled over 13 billion years to reach us. Within this light are infinitesimal patterns that mark the seeds of what later grew into clusters of galaxies and the vast structure we see all around us.

Patterns in the big bang afterglow were frozen in place only 380,000 years after the big bang, a number nailed down by this latest observation. These patterns are tiny temperature differences within this extraordinarily evenly dispersed microwave light bathing the universe, which now averages a frigid 2.73 degrees above absolute zero temperature. WMAP resolves slight temperature fluctuations, which vary by only millionths of a degree.

Theories about the evolution of the universe make specific predictions about the extent of these temperature patterns. Like a detective, the WMAP team compared the unique "fingerprint" of patterns imprinted on this ancient light with fingerprints predicted by various cosmic theories and found a match.

WMAP will continue to observe the cosmic microwave background for an additional three years, and its data will reveal new insights into the theory of Inflation and the nature of the dark energy.

"This is a beginning of a new stage in our study of the early universe," said WMAP team member Prof. David N. Spergel of Princeton University, N.J. "We can use this portrait not only to predict the properties of the nearby universe, but can also use it to understand the first moments of the big bang," he said.

WMAP is named in honor of David Wilkinson of Princeton University, a world-renown cosmologist and WMAP team member who died in September 2002.

Launched on June 30, 2001, WMAP maintains a distant orbit about the second Lagrange Point, or "L2," a million miles from Earth.

WMAP is the result of a partnership between the GSFC and Princeton University. Additional Science Team members are located at Brown University, Providence R.I., the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Los Angeles. WMAP is part of the Explorer program, managed by GSFC.

For more information, including high-quality images, videos and press products, refer to:


Nancy Neal
Headquarters, Washington July 2, 2003
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Bill Steigerwald
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
(Phone: 301/286-5017)

RELEASE: 03-224


Gravitational radiation, ripples in the fabric of space predicted by Albert Einstein, may serve as a cosmic traffic enforcer, protecting reckless pulsars from spinning too fast and blowing apart, according to a report published in the July 3 issue of Nature.

Pulsars, the fastest spinning stars in the Universe, are the core remains of exploded stars, containing the mass of our Sun compressed into a sphere about 10 miles across. Some pulsars gain speed by pulling in gas from a neighboring star, reaching spin rates of nearly one revolution per millisecond, or almost 20 percent light speed. These "millisecond" pulsars would fly apart if they gained much more speed. Using NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, scientists have found a limit to how fast a pulsar spins and speculate that the cause is gravitational radiation: The faster a pulsar spins, the more gravitational radiation it might release, as its exquisite spherical shape becomes slightly deformed. This may restrain the pulsar's rotation and save it from obliteration.

"Nature has set a speed limit for pulsar spins," said Prof. Deepto Chakrabarty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, lead author on the journal article. "Just like cars speeding on a highway, the fastest- spinning pulsars could technically go twice as fast, but something stops them before they break apart. It may be gravitational radiation that prevents pulsars from destroying themselves."

Chakrabarty's co-authors are Drs. Edward Morgan, Michael Muno, and Duncan Galloway of MIT; Rudy Wijnands, University of St. Andrews, Scotland; Michiel van der Klis, University of Amsterdam; and Craig Markwardt, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Wijnands also leads a second Nature letter complementing this finding.

Gravitational waves, analogous to waves upon an ocean, are ripples in four-dimensional spacetime. These exotic waves, predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity, are produced by massive objects in motion and have not yet been directly detected.

Created in a star explosion, a pulsar is born spinning, perhaps 30 times per second, and slows down over millions of years. Yet if the dense pulsar, with its strong gravitational potential, is in a binary system, it can pull in material from its companion star. This influx can spin up the pulsar to the millisecond range, rotating hundreds of times per second.

In some pulsars, the accumulating material on the surface occasionally is consumed in a massive thermonuclear explosion, emitting a burst of X-ray light lasting only a few seconds. In this fury lies a brief opportunity to measure the spin of otherwise faint pulsars. Scientists report in Nature that a type of flickering found in these X-ray bursts, called "burst oscillations," serves as a direct measure of the pulsars' spin rate. Studying the burst oscillations from 11 pulsars, they found none spinning faster than 619 times per second.

The Rossi Explorer is capable of detecting pulsars spinning as fast as 4,000 times per second. Pulsar breakup is predicted to occur at 1,000 to 3,000 revolutions per second. Yet scientists have found none that fast. From statistical analysis of 11 pulsars, they concluded that the maximum speed seen in nature must be below 760 revolutions per second.

This observation supports the theory of a feedback mechanism involving gravitational radiation limiting pulsar speeds, proposed by Prof. Lars Bildsten of the University of California, Santa Barbara. As the pulsar picks up speed through accretion, any slight distortion in the star's dense, half-mile-thick crust of crystalline metal will allow the pulsar to radiate gravitational waves. (Envision a spinning, oblong rugby ball in water, which would cause more ripples than a spinning, spherical basketball.) An equilibrium rotation rate is eventually reached where the angular momentum shed by emitting gravitational radiation matches the angular momentum being added to the pulsar by its companion star.

Bildsten said that accreting millisecond pulsars could eventually be studied in greater detail in an entirely new way, through the direct detection of their gravitational radiation. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory now in operation in Hanford, Wash. and in Livingston, La., will eventually be tunable to the frequency at which millisecond pulsars are expected to emit gravitational waves.

"The waves are subtle, altering spacetime and the distance between objects as far apart as the Earth and the Moon by much less than the width of an atom," said Prof. Barry Barish, LIGO director from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "As such, gravitational radiation has not been directly detected yet. We hope to change that soon." For animation, images and more information, visit the Internet at:


Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1727) September 9, 2003

Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256/544-6535)

Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Observatory Center, CfA, Cambridge, Mass.
(Phone: 617/496-7998)

RELEASE: 03-284


NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected sound waves, for the first time, from a super-massive black hole. The "note" is the deepest ever detected from an object in the universe. The tremendous amounts of energy carried by these sound waves may solve a longstanding problem in astrophysics.

The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster, located 250 million light years from Earth. In 2002, astronomers obtained a deep Chandra observation that shows ripples in the gas filling the cluster. These ripples are evidence for sound waves that have traveled hundreds of thousands of light years away from the cluster's central black hole.

"We have observed the prodigious amounts of light and heat created by black holes, now we have detected the sound," said Andrew Fabian of the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) in Cambridge, England, and leader of the study.

In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance, because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C (by comparison a typical piano contains only about seven octaves). At a frequency over a million, billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, this is the deepest note ever detected from an object in the universe.

"The Perseus sound waves are much more than just an interesting form of black hole acoustics," said Steve Allen, also of the IoA and a co-investigator in the research. "These sound waves may be the key in figuring out how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe, grow," Allen said.

For years astronomers have tried to understand why there is so much hot gas in galaxy clusters and so little cool gas. Hot gas glowing with X-rays should cool, and the dense central gas should cool the fastest. The pressure in this cool central gas should then fall, causing gas further out to sink in towards the galaxy, forming trillions of stars along the way. Scant evidence has been found for such a flow of cool gas or star formation. This forced astronomers to invent several different ways to explain why the gas contained in clusters remained hot, and, until now, none of them was satisfactory.

Heating caused by a central black hole has long been considered a good way to prevent cluster gas from cooling. Although jets have been observed at radio wavelengths, their effect on cluster gas was unclear since this gas is only detectable in X-rays, and early X-ray observations did not have Chandra's ability to find detailed structure.

Previous Chandra observations of the Perseus cluster showed two vast, bubble-shaped cavities in the cluster gas extending away from the central black hole. Jets of material pushing back the cluster gas have formed these X-ray cavities, which are bright sources of radio waves. They have long been suspected of heating the surrounding gas, but the mechanism was unknown. The sound waves, seen spreading out from the cavities in the recent Chandra observation, could provide this heating mechanism.

A tremendous amount of energy is needed to generate the cavities, as much as the combined energy from 100 million supernovae. Much of this energy is carried by the sound waves and should dissipate in the cluster gas, keeping the gas warm and possibly preventing a cooling flow. If so, the B-flat pitch of the sound wave, 57 octaves below middle-C, would have remained roughly constant for about 2.5 billion years.

Perseus is the brightest cluster of galaxies in X-rays, and therefore was a perfect Chandra target for finding sound waves rippling through the hot cluster gas. Other clusters show X-ray cavities, and future Chandra observations may yet detect sound waves in these objects.

For images and additional information on the Internet, visit:


Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 12:59:16 -0500 (EST)

Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington January 7, 2003
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Mark Hess
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
(Phone: 301/286-8982)

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore
(Phone: 410/338-4514)

RELEASE: 03-003


The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, has used a natural "zoom lens" in space to boost its view of the distant universe. Besides offering an unprecedented and dramatic new view of the cosmos, the results promise to shed light on galaxy evolution and dark matter in space.

Hubble peered straight through the center of one of the most massive known galaxy clusters, called Abell 1689. This required Hubble to gaze at the distant cluster, located more than 2.2 billion light-years away, for more than 13 hours. The gravity of the cluster's trillion stars, plus dark matter, acts as a 2-million-light-year-wide "lens" in space. This "gravitational lens" bends and magnifies the light of the galaxies located far behind it.

The Advanced Camera's IMAX movie-quality sharpness, combined with the behemoth lens, reveals remote galaxies previously beyond even Hubble's reach. A few may be twice as faint as those photographed in the Hubble Deep Field, which previously pushed the telescope to its sensitivity limits. Though much more analysis is needed, Hubble astronomers speculate that some of the faintest objects in the picture are probably over 13 billion light-years away.

In the image, hundreds of galaxies, many billions of light- years away, are smeared by the gravitational bending of light into a spider-web tracing of blue and red arcs of light. Though gravitational lensing has been studied previously, with Hubble and ground-based telescopes, this phenomenon has never been seen in such detail.

The Advanced Camera picture reveals 10 times more arcs than would be seen by a ground-based telescope. The ACS is five times more sensitive, and provides pictures that are twice as sharp, as the previous workhorse Hubble cameras. It can see the very faintest arcs with greater clarity. The picture presents an immense jigsaw puzzle for Hubble astronomers to spend months untangling. Interspersed with the foreground cluster are thousands of galaxies, which are lensed images of the galaxies in the background universe.

Detailed analysis of the images promises to shed light on the mystery of dark matter. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter. It is the source of most of the gravity in the universe, because it is much more abundant than the "normal matter" that makes up planets, stars and galaxies. The lensing allows astronomers to map the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters. This should offer new clues to the nature of dark matter. By studying the lensed distant galaxies, astronomers expect to better trace the history of star formation in the universe over the past 13 billion years.

The picture is an exquisite demonstration of Albert Einstein's prediction that gravity warps space and therefore distorts a beam of light, like a rippled shower curtain. When the laws of relativity were formulated in the early 20th century, scientists did not know that stars were organized into galaxies beyond our own Milky Way. Great clusters of galaxies are massive enough to warp space and deflect light in a way that is detectable from Earth. The Abell cluster is the ideal target because it is so massive. The more massive a cluster is, the larger the effects of gravitational lensing.

Electronic image files and additional information are available at:

The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency.


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