Archive for the ‘The Universe Today’ Category

The Contracting Universe

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

  Welcome to the Autumn 2015 issue of Scifihorizons!
  For the last few years I’ve been attempting to construct an argument sufficiently strong enough to at least present a creditable challenge to the current model of the formation of the Universe. At this point, I feel like I have succeeded. When I began this series of articles, I had no idea where it would lead. If you had told me seven or eight years ago that I’d end up here, now, propounding a theory of a Contracting Universe, I would have laughed. And yet, here we are, right?
  TUT is going to take few months off (my head deserves the rest) but will be returning sometime during the first half of 2016. Our next “printing,” which should be out before the end of the year, will be a NEW issue of Scifihorizons! But for now, though, all I can say is, prepare to be amazed!!!!

The All-Conquering Darkness

  A supercomputer simulation which appeared in the January 2015 issue of National Geographic caught my attention a few months ago. It was, quite simply, a “photograph” of the Universe. If you haven’t seen this simulation yet, then I think you might want to take a look at it, because what you’ll see really is both majestic and thought provoking.
  For those of you who haven’t seen it, allow me to give a very brief description of what this simulation purports to show.
  In the foreground there are three main regions of bright dots which immediately attract the eye. One is to the middle right and slightly below the center line of the frame. The next region is to the far left of the picture, and at the same level vertically as the first. The third main region is below and slightly to the left of the second one. In each of these regions there are sparkling clouds of light spread throughout. And each cloud of light is made up of many smaller dots. But these glowing pinpricks of light are not galaxies, they are galaxy clusters. That is the type of scale we’re dealing with in this simulation. All three of the aforementioned regions are imbedded within, and connected to one another by, an immense cloud of dark matter. This titanic cloud is so incredibly huge that it seems to extend out of both the right and left sides of the frame. Stretching far above and below the roughly horizontal spire of dark matter which encloses these three regions there is a tangled spider’s web of lesser arms, which crisscross the Universe. In many places one strand joins into another, and there are junctions where three or more meet. At the heart of these junctions, just as all throughout these various dark matter strands and pools, there are tiny pinpricks of light. (This is especially true at the junctions where three or more arms meet.) In the smallest arms, (those that are only about as large in circumference as, say, the region of space occupied by our local galactic cluster) at the point where one or more galactic clusters have formed, the web-like strand appears to be dissipating, leaving the pool of dark matter where the galactic clusters formed hanging, like a balloon, at the end a slender thread of dark matter. But this is only taking place at this lowest scale. There are larger strands of dark matter here, too, and many of them appear to have circumferences so immense that they dwarf the smaller strands. Many spider-like bits of dark matter webbing are connected to these larger strands, or arms, and they show no signs of fading. As to the far background, essentially, all the empty spaces in between these dark matter webs, these are colored a pale violet grey. This wan grey backlighting is, we are told, dark energy.
  Here is what the scientific community says we are seeing. The web-like strands of dark matter exist because dark matter pushed some matter halfway (or more) across the Universe to shove it into one particular pocket. That, they say, is the reason for the myriad strands which we are seeing. Dark energy, they say, is filling in all the empty spaces, and stretching the fabric of spacetime as it does. Due to this expansion of the void, which is occurring at a pace that is faster than the speed of light, all of these galaxies and galaxy clusters are moving further away not only from us, but each other. Basically, this is how astrophysicists interpret this simulation.
  Here’s what I see.
  As anyone familiar with this site already knows, I maintain that what we call our Universe is actually what we call Matter. (Which is stars, moons, and planets, and everything else in the Universe, both great and small, that is not dark matter or dark energy. That is our Universe of Matter.) Also, I go even further and say that our Universe is surrounded by, and floats suspended in, an ocean of dark matter, whose volume is so large that to us it would literally seem to be infinite.
  So, the first thing I see when I look at this supercomputer simulation is the enormous amount of empty space. To me this is quite significant because I believe that all the dark matter contracting around our Universe of light once occupied this space, and may have done so for gulfs of time uncounted, until all the Matter which makes up our Universe was introduced into this medium. At which point dark matter began to move towards Matter, to encompass it, enclose it, and push it into pockets, then to begin to squeeze these pockets, and that it was from this interaction with Matter what we call our Universe was born. I don’t see galaxy clusters being pushed halfway across the void-instead, I see galaxy clusters forming in the midst these monstrous strands of dark matter. And as to the strands of dark matter themselves, what I see when I look at this simulation are massive feeder lines, just like those fragile tendrils that connect globes of dust to their parent nebulas. I believe the same process is going on here, as well. These gigantic tendrils are feeding additional dark matter to all the places in the Universe where large amounts of Matter are already concentrated. And they are drawing all that dark material from the near limitless ocean of dark matter that lies beyond the edges of the known Universe. And remember those smallest feeder lines, the one where galactic clusters had formed within them and the rest of the tendril appeared to be dissipating? Well, I think these tendrils were minor pipelines which once led to the larger clusters of dark matter, and when small clusters of galaxies formed within them, these galaxies began attracting all the dark matter coming down the pipe, which is why the other section of the line, the one that was connected to a greater mass of dark matter, was shut down. (Because the group of galactic clusters was using up all the dark matter that was being sent its way, there was simply nothing left to pass along down the line, and so the line collapsed.) But there’s more! Do you remember those mid-sized, and even truly massive strands of dark matter, the ones where larger galaxy clusters had formed inside them, not just at one point, but all down the line? Well, I think that all of these lines were moving whatever Matter they came into contact with as they coalesced from the boundless, placid cloud of dark matter that must have existed before Matter was introduced, and that by some process all the Matter these conduits of dark matter had picked up along the way and were carrying started to accumulate in one spot. As to how this was done-well, it seems possible that there were eddies within these gigantic pipelines of dark matter, especially in the most massive ones, and, as Matter was being swept along, it accumulated in these eddies, which led to the formation of all those groups of galactic clusters that we see imbedded within the tendrils of dark matter. Or, it could be that these strands may have originally contained multiple junctions with multiple inflows of dark matter, which led to the formation of these same groups of clusters. At some point in the past the smaller tendrils feeding these junctions no longer became necessary, and so they collapsed. Lastly, as to those junctions, great and small, where multiple lines meet and end? Well, what we are seeing here are those pockets I’ve been telling you about-pockets in space where all matter is shoved into, from every conceivable direction, and then endlessly compacted. And as to all that empty space? Well, it’s just empty space. There is no such thing as dark energy. All that dark matter that is now constricted so tightly about our Universe once had to have filled that space. And now it is drawn close around all the matter in the Universe. The thing scientists should be amazed by is how something that has so a much greater volume than the total mass of all Matter in the Universe, could be compacted into such a small space, and yet still need feeder lines to draw in even more material. (That’s the thing that really blows my mind.) So why is everything getting further and further away? It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. You see, the Universe isn’t expanding, Matter is contracting. Dark matter is busily compacting all of the Matter in the Universe, and has been doing so since the beginning of time. As to all of those galaxies out there-you don’t need to worry about them. They aren’t getting further away. They, we, and all the other Matter that makes up our Universe, is just shrinking.

The Mega Planet
How to Build a Star without even trying

  One of the biggest problems I’ve had to face during the last few years is this-how does a star form? I mean, I already had worked it out in my head, I knew how stars were born. With gravity, as soon as the first star started to form in a nebula, using the motions created by its formation and mass, then I could easily build every other star in the aforementioned nebula. But, I couldn’t build the first star. Not, at least, with gravity.
  Despite all my efforts, I kept coming up with (initially) a solid rocky core, around which hydrogen began to accumulate. Now, as to how and why only hydrogen was going there, I couldn’t make any sense of that. Anyone who has read the Life, the Universe, and Everything article which I wrote previously (located near the bottom of this page) will know that there was a lot happening in the globe of dust, and how or why just one object could receive an exclusive amount of any specific gas or solid-well, it just couldn’t.
  Then, I tried focusing on a nebula, and building a star out of it using dark matter. And not only did it work, but I was able to turn the entire nebula into stars!
  Let me show you how it’s done!
  First, we need to take a look at all those billowing clouds of stardust call Nebulae. And as we do we need to realize that there isn’t what we’d call traditional weather in space. And certainly no air pressure. So, when we see billowing clouds in space, then something funny is going on because many nebulae (probably the more freshly minted ones) don’t have these familiar, stormcloud shapes. Okay, so what’s up with that?
  What we are seeing in these billowing clouds is dark matter at work. It is taking measured portions of Matter and compressing them into globes of dust. Why does dark matter simply not take the whole nebula and make one huge star out of it? Haven’t got a clue (yet). But it is fascinating how, like some conscientious cook, dark matter leavens out enough for the basic recipe and makes a star, while right beside one slowly bulging dome another is starting to form. And that is why we see billowing starclouds, because dark energy is happily building one or more stars within each billow. In following this process, dark matter teaches us a curious fact. From the macro all the way down to almost the micro scale, dark matter apportions out Matter in smaller amounts, and begins to compact it. This is probably the reason why the entire Universe isn’t just one giant galaxy. Dark matter creates larger pockets, then fills them. Then, within these pockets dark matter divides Matter again, and starts to compact it. And then the process is repeated, over and over again; from the largest galactic cluster right down to the smallest grain of dust. So, dark matter does have rules that it plays by, and this is one of them.
  Dark matter takes a portion of nebular cloud, and begins to compact it. And as it does, the material within starts to get hotter, and hotter. And chemical reactions start to occur, creating more complex elements. Hydrogen, along with enough heavy elements to create a Moon or Earth sized body, settle into the center of the quickly forming globe of dust. The globe of dust becomes a chemical factory, creating more and more new elements and gases. At the heart of the globe of dust, the gas giant that will one day be a star continues to form. Once it begins to rotate, the planets begin to form, and once the planets have formed and they begin to rotate, they spin up moons, too.
  All of this continues right up until the star ignites, and then everything changes. Dramatically.
  (For the next bit we’re going to use our own star, Sol, as our example, to see how this relates directly to us.)
  While I hate to even entertain the idea, the most likely scenario is that the Sun exploded into life (I’d much rather the Sun smolder and slowly ignite, but the evidence we see all around us says that’s not so). The globe of dust from which we sprang still surrounded a large amount of space, and our Solar System sat right at the heart of it. But, as soon as Sol burst into life, it threw out a massive wave of heat and light. This colossal wave of energy moved out and away from the Sun in every direction, not just laterally along the center line where the planets had formed. The wave swept up all the material of a certain size and smaller (from grains of dust to asteroids) and carried this material directly out and away from the Sun. (Imagine the Sun with a great big ball expanding around it like a balloon.) This expanding wave crashed all the ring systems around the planets in the inner solar system, cratering the surfaces of every planet and moon inside the orbit of Jupiter. (Although, it should be noted that it was the moons that took the brunt of these impacts, since they were already located within said ring systems.) Whatever ring systems Mercury or Venus might have had were blown away, while the size of our Moon, plus its lover’s embrace with this planet, helped in part to hold it in place. But only partly. Although we are only out as far now as the orbit of Earth, the wave is starting to lose steam. The wave appears to be weakening noticeably by the time it reaches Mars, because two ring fragments, partially formed moons, still remain in orbit around the red planet. The fact that there are so many asteroids in the Belt (really big asteroids) also seems a strong indication that the wave was losing a lot of momentum by the time it reached that region. The most likely reason for this is that as the wave expanded and compacted more material, this bunching up of stuff began to slow its original impetus. By the time the wave reached the edge of what we consider to be the “planetary” part of the solar system, it had lost most of its energy, which is why all those objects were spat out there, and continued to drift further out into the solar system. Eventually the Sun caught most of them before they got away, and they settled into more stable orbits. Still, it can even be argued that a hot ring of dust was dumped into the Kuiper Belt, out beyond Pluto, made up mainly of leftovers from the inner solar system, and, that before that region cooled, additional dwarf planet formation may have taken place. However, that balloon like wave was still expanding. Now, along the center line where the planets were located, there was a lot of material, but that was not the case everywhere else. Once again, evidence indicates that there was a misty, opaque globe of dust at that time, which may have extended right up to the surface of the gas giant Sun. Keep in mind that until shortly after the Sun ignited, we still had a tendril of dust attached to our globe of dust, which was the tendril our globe of dust was using to draw material from our parent nebula. Bottom line is, there was still a lot of dust and gases falling into the solar system, even after the Sun exploded into life. The dust which was not on that center line, where the planets could be found, still continued to expand in a circular bubble, and apparently, this material was still carrying some heat while it did. Why? Because, by the time that misty cloud reached the outer edges of the globe of dust, that is where a globe of comets formed. (There is a globe of comets which encircles our entire solar system and it’s located about two light years out.) Simply by their presence, these comets show us the shape and size of the globe of dust within which our Solar System was born. There is no longer any question about the globe of dust. Its outlines are easy to see. Our own private little dark matter pocket.
  For those of you who understand exactly what I just said (and note that this is the first time in Human History that one of us has been able to put all this together), you’re welcome!


  I’ve been wondering for some time now about the whole speed of light thing. How dark energy can spread apart the Universe faster than light, and yet it is supposedly impossible for us to travel at such speeds. To which I say-well, it’s not polite to print what I say to such a patently ridiculous statement.
  After giving the problem much thought, I came up with what appeared to be an equitable solution. But, before I could print it here, a scientist came up with a theory that closely resembled my own. So closely, in fact, that I was forced to reconsider the issue at some length. But that may have been the best thing, after all, because I’m starting to see space travel in a whole new light.
  Before going any further, I’m going to give you a basic outline of the theory that the scientist came up with, and then tell you what I had in mind, and what I chanced upon after further consideration.
  This scientist (sorry, I didn’t catch the name-he was already well into his spiel before he caught my attention) proposed that we could partially cancel out dark matter as we traveled through space, and that this would lower the natural resistance of dark matter to the passage of matter through it at near relativistic speeds. Neat, huh? But there was more-once we had lessened the effect of the proceeding wave of dark matter, the one that was resisting us, the following wave, the one that was pushing us, would accelerate us even greater speeds. So, not only would it push the spacecraft along, but, the faster you go, then the harder the following wave would push. Using this type of approach could allow us to slice through interstellar space at what would seem to be unbelievably fantastic speeds.
  Beautiful theory, isn’t it? Truly elegant. Well done, sir!
  And almost (but not quite) what I had in mind. You see, I think that over time, and possibly within a very short span, we’re going to learn more about the true nature of dark matter and dark energy. And, as we do, we’ll also develop theories about canceling its effects. So, my idea was to take a dark matter canceling beam, wave, or whatever form it ultimately took, and place it on the forward most point of the spacecraft. Cancel (read eliminate) the dark matter directly in front of the ship, and then enter that point in space only the tiniest fraction of a second after you did. As long as you got the timing right, then you could travel so fast that you might be able to reach the other side of the galaxy in mere days, or take a trip to one of our nearest companion galaxies, Andromeda, in only a few weeks or months. Without dark matter to hold you back, the only limit on your speed is the one set by the structural integrity of your ship.
  Some of you are probably holding up your hands right now, so let me answer the question before you ask-since we’re canceling out the effects of dark matter, we don’t need to worry about running into any objects in space because, without the compression provided by dark matter, such objects will dissipate. They will cease to be, and so will not be an issue. However, what this does mean is that we will have to plot our course carefully, since we don’t want to flash through the heart of some massive star, or a living planet. Although we wouldn’t notice a thing from our vantage point inside the ship, the consequences for any object (of any appreciable size) that we encountered during our journey would be catastrophic. We might have to plan our travels in a series of jumps, just to avoid such encounters.
  To me, at least, the main benefit from having such a mode of propulsion would be the relatively small size of the engine. Since we’re canceling out dark matter, we don’t need a massive engine to push us. This would leave a lot of empty space inside our craft that we’ve never had before. Which means that while this sort of travel might never be luxurious, it could certainly be made more comfortable.
  As to the following wave pushing us along at even higher speeds, well, I missed that one entirely. As ironic as it seems, me, the guy who has be promoting this idea, first as a gravity bow wave, and then later as a circular, shield shaped wave created by a dark matter compression sphere, yet I still managed overlook the effects of the following wave completely.
  Once again, kudos to you, sir.
  All right then-he had a good idea, and so did I, but he beat me to the punch, which meant that before I could go to press, I’d have to take it a little further. So, after some additional contemplation, here’s what I came up with.
  As strange and otherworldly as dark matter seems to be, still, it has certain rules which it follows. In space the behavior of dark matter is almost akin to that of a liquid, and I think that this is how we should view that medium when we think about using it for interstellar travel.
  Now we know that once we learned to fly, we had to constantly change the shape of the craft to fly faster, just as we had to change the shapes of ships and submarines to increase their speed. So, when it comes to traveling in space, over time I believe we’re going to find that certain shapes move through the void more efficiently than others. But, simply streamlining the shape may not be the answer. In fact, it may turn out that what we might otherwise consider to be a non-Euclidean shape could be the most conducive to interstellar journeys. The composition of the spacecraft (what it’s made of) may also be critically important. Just as a specific shape and special materials can stealth a plane enough to fool radar, we may, by using some as yet undetermined construction materials, be able to “fool” dark matter, as well.
  Mathematics may solve this, or it may be accomplished through trial and error. (First we have to get out there, of course.)
  However, there is another element we have thus far ignored, and it is central to this whole discussion. And that element is time. You see, if we travel faster than light, then the whole Einstein paradox thing kicks in. Travel faster than light and, according to the most reliable estimates, you go back in time. The higher your rate of speed, the more pronounced your dislocation in time. Now, I don’t agree with the previous statement at all, and here is why. The main way which most humans perceive our world is through photons of light, and so our lives are ordered around that time frame. To go faster than light is to exceed our rate of apprehension, which seems impossible to us. Go faster than light, leave the frame of our perception, and you must be going back in time. But I don’t think you are. It is my belief that if you travel faster than the speed of light, you’re really just going very, very fast.
  But what if that isn’t the case? What if Einstein was right?
  One of the principal obstacles to traveling faster than light (other than the fact that we don’t have a suitable power source) is that the closer you get to the speed of light, the more time seems to slow. So that by the time you have attained the speed of light, time almost seems to stop. But this is only for a passenger onboard the spacecraft. Outside, in the Universe that exists beyond their slowed bubble of reality, time is still passing at its normal rate. This is why a trip to the quad Alpha Centauri system, our nearest interstellar neighbor, would take slightly over four and one half years traveling at or near the speed of light to get there, and it would require the same amount of time to return. At least, as far as the passengers on our spacecraft were concerned. Meanwhile, back here on Earth, decades would have passed during the intervening period. The family and friends which our erstwhile astronauts left behind would either be ancient by the time they returned, or dead and buried. Which means that anyone who chose to embark upon such a journey would quite literally be giving up everything, just to make the trip.
  Maybe not.
  If it is indeed possible to travel faster than light, then your journey simply becomes of matter of pacing out your speed so that you travel back in time while on the way to your destination, then slow down to just below the speed of light so that you can travel forward in time before you arrive. All we need to do is to balance out the difference between faster than light and near the speed of light travel, and you can still take that trip to Alpha Centauri, and the same amount of time will pass for you on your spacecraft, as passes here on Earth. So, as far as you and your family and friends are concerned, you will have been apart for the same amount of time. Four and one half years to get there, a year to explore the system, and four and one half years to get back-with no time dilation or dislocation. It’s all simply a matter of working out how fast you need to go, and how slow you need to go, so that everything balances out. Then, both our astronauts, and the near and dear ones they left behind, would believe that they had been apart for the same amount of time (which, technically, they would have been).
  Breaking the speed of light barrier (the SLB) would also be a boon to the communications industry. Right now the delay between here and the Moon is roughly the same as it is when talking to someone on the other side of our planet. We’ve all seen this during a news broadcast. Whenever people on one side of the Earth talk to people on the other side of the Earth, we all wait patiently, and usually a bit uncomfortably, for the response. Now, if there is such a noticeable delay between talking to someone on the far side of the Earth (or on the Moon), then you can imagine what it would be like trying to talk to a person on Mars, which is still over thirty-four million miles away even when it passes closest to Earth. Think about the lag time on that, and then remember that that is when Mars is close to us. But, if we accelerate our messages to faster than the speed of light, and the person on Mars does the same, then they can speak in what both of them would perceive as “real time.” There would be no perceptible delay (unless somebody failed to time out their communications properly).
  Not only would the ability to communicate faster than light be of great help when making contact over long distances, but it would also allow us to use robotic systems in real time, even if they were located in the outermost reaches of our solar system. The operator could give the machine instructions, and then immediately seen the results of their actions, without having to wait minutes, hours, or even days to see what happened. With faster than light communications, it would be possible to hold a conversation with someone on the far side of the galaxy with no noticeable lag.
  Sounds kinda kewl, right? But, before we can do any of this we have to get past the greatest scientific barrier of all to faster than light travel-the entrenched scientific community which says that such a thing is impossible. While privately any astrophysicist worth their salt will tell you, “when the money is there, we’ll figure out how to travel at, or faster, than the speed of light,” in public they all toe the line. They tell us that the speed of light is the limiting factor for all matter in the Universe, and that humankind will never be able to travel at or even near the speed of light, much less go any faster. Ultimately, this comes down more to politics than to science. Many scientists (but not all) suspect that the SLB can be reached, and possibly even broken. But, for a variety of reasons (which I will not detail here) they refuse to go on record with any statements that will contradict the party line. Nor will they pursue lines of investigation that could lead to faster than light travel. (It is my personal opinion that this kind of pandering seems to be more appropriate to the sly machinations of snake oil salesmen than to the efforts of earnest, hard-working scientists.)
  So, we can go to the stars, and maybe, just maybe, we can even get there very, very fast. But, before we can start making plans for such a journey, there are a few problems we have to deal with here, first. And they may be some of the most insurmountable problems of all, because, when it comes to traveling to the stars, our greatest obstacle is not the Universe, but ourselves.

Cure for the Disease

  Recently, as I perused the interactions of matter with dark matter, a curious and very unsettling notion occurred to me. In fact, of all the things that I tell you here (and all the things I don’t) this one troubles me the most. So, if you choose to read on, then remember, you were warned.
  Astrophysicists appear to be at least partially right about the whole big bang thing-originally, there was an expansion of the Universe, and when this initially took place, matter was thrown willy-nilly. But, the near infinite (by our standards, at least) cloud of dark matter that surrounds our Universe immediately begin to collapse in upon this expanding matter, and then started to compress it into pockets, which led to the formation of galactic clusters. Essentially, what this means is that, while there technically was an expansion of matter just after the big bang, and that matter did spread out over a vast amount of space in a very, very short amount of time, the mere act of its expansion triggered an opposing response, the contraction and compression of said matter by dark matter, which not only interrupted but reversed that expansion, almost as soon as it began. And that led to the formation of the galaxies, and us.
  Now, here’s the part that bothers me. Dark matter reacts to matter in almost the same way that anti-bodies react to disease in the body. Like dark ‘white’ blood cells, dark matter clusters around matter and makes it smaller and smaller, so that, like an infection, it slowly fades away. Our reality of light and love and laughter must truly be an anathema to the darkness, for it seems that dark matter is determined to erase us, and all the rest of the Universe, from existence. To what purpose, it is impossible to say. And, at the moment, dark matter is doing a great job in its self-appointed task. Even more surprisingly, this is actually a good thing, because our very existence depends on this continuing interaction of matter and the dark forces. Their combined efforts not only shape the entire Universe, but they also hold everything together. Therefore, we have no choice but to revel in our destruction, for without the contraction of matter by dark matter, we, and all that is, was, or ever will be, would simply not exist. Which means that we live because of the cure, even as it destroys us.
  Remember, I warned you.

Another Round of Applause for the Big Guy

  Albert Einstein. Think of all the images which just the mention of that name conjures in your mind. That he was one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century (or any other century, for that matter) is one of the most widely acknowledged “truths” that we, as Humankind, adhere too. Einstein, through his equations, gave us a tantalizing glimpse into the innermost workings of the Universe. (A very privileged glimpse, as Einstein saw it, into the actual mind of God.) And we honor him for all he accomplished in bringing us this revelation, as well as the many new lines of scientific investigation which he opened to all Humankind.
  That said, I’m going to do something here that I rarely ever do. I’m going to issue a partial retraction to an earlier statement made in a previous issue regarding this particular gentleman. In a previous issue I stated that Einstein had been saddled with the phantom force of gravity (not his fault, since nobody knew about the dark forces then), and, because of this, then his great theory must be seriously flawed. That statement was partially incorrect, as further mental gymnastics have shown me.
  Here’s how brilliant Einstein was, kids. Einstein, without even knowing about the existence of the dark forces, managed to describe the interactions between matter and dark matter and dark energy. He even had a name for the invisible, unseen force he had discovered, which was space/time, and he called this stuff the fabric of the Universe. Although he ultimately decided on using an expanding Universe as his model, rather than the disconcerting reality of a contracting Universe with which we are actually faced, still, this choice was a matter of personal outlook (and a hopeful one at that) more than anything else. It’s easy to see why, of course. The thought that we, as well as all other matter in the Universe, are being constantly compacted by dark matter at slightly more than half the speed of light, and that time is simultaneously accelerating at a speed commensurate with the rate of that contraction-well, the whole concept does seems rather bizarre and intimidating, doesn’t it? (And if Einstein had chosen to lay down that particular slice of reality down on the world, then it’s possible that we might not remember him with the fondness that most of us do.) But, as has already been noted, since Einstein knew nothing about the true nature of the dark forces that his equations had uncovered, much less the sheer volume of said dark forces (a volume so great that it dwarfs the known Universe), then the possibility (and the promise) of an expanding Universe must have been not only more appealing to him personally, but he must have also understood that such a concept would also be a heckuva lot easier to sell to the world at large. (Which, as reality has shown us, it quite obviously was.)
  No matter how you choose to look at it, the fact remains that this esteemed professor was able to describe, through mathematics alone, a substance (actually substances) of which he knew absolutely nothing at all. And in doing so he fired the imagination of an entire planet. This, more than anything else, is a testament to the man’s true brilliance. As we uncover more and more new data over the next few decades, I think that we are going to come to a better appreciation of just how great an intellect Einstein possessed, just how deeply he could see into ‘the mind of God.’ So, in consideration of this, how’s about another round of applause for the big guy!

Dark Worlds

  After studying those tangled, galactic cluster sized cords of dark matter, the ones which seem to stretch across the Universe, and then seeing the clusters of galaxies that had formed within some of them, a rather disturbing thought suddenly occurred to me. Since dark matter does behave like Matter, at least in some instances, then that meant that, just as galactic clusters could form in the very midst of a monstrous stream of dark matter, then it follows that not only dark planets, but entire dark planetary systems could form in the stems that connect the globes of dust to their parent nebulas.
  What this means is, that in a truly massive globe of dust, such as the one that our nearby neighbor star, Sirius, may have formed in, entire solar systems of rocky planets, and/or gas giant planets, complete with dark moons to orbit them, may have been created in much the same fashion. The difference between these smaller, planetary systems is that they have no sun, no central star. The central body in such systems is a large planet, most likely a gas giant of some size. So they are dark systems, with a gas giant, surrounded by smaller gas giants (or rocky worlds) with only the light of the distant stars to create slightly darker shadows on their surface. Such systems (or single worlds) would be difficult to pick up telescopically, even if you knew exactly where to look. With so little light falling upon them, they would be very faint, perhaps even dimmer than the glow of the most distant galaxies, making them very hard to see. The best chance of catching them (at the moment) is probably when these worlds occult stars. Of course, you’d have to be looking for them, and know what you were seeing, to interpret them properly. Otherwise, such an occultation would be simply be classified as a passing asteroid, or some much closer dark world, such as one of those beyond the orbit of Pluto, in the outer reaches of the solar system.
  A dark world, or a dark system, would form in much the same way as what we consider to be the main part of our own solar system, but with one glaring difference-no globe of dust. Without the globe of dust much of the chemicals manufactured by it would be absent. Which would mean no central star, only a dark gas giant, in many ways quite similar to Jupiter or Saturn, or even a dark rocky world that could be even larger than say, Earth and Venus combined. Just as our own planets formed around the gas giant sun, other planets would be spun into existence around this central object, and if they grew large enough, then they would spin up one or more companions of their own.
  So how, exactly, does this affect us? Well, it’s possible that such a situation as the one described above could have catastrophic consequences for our solar system, as well as for all life on Earth. How, you may ask?
  Allow me to explain.
  We know that since its birth, our planet has suffered repeated cataclysms and mass extinctions. They occur on such a regular basis that these events can be fairly accurately mapped. Roughly every thirty million years or so, the Earth undergoes a major cataclysm and/or a mass extinction. It happens like clockwork, right? And there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, except to hope we have time to prepare. (Keep in mind, the very fact that we are here shows that we, or our ancestors, have survived every previous cataclysm and mass extinction that has taken place. So we should be okay for the next one, too.)
  As those of you playing along on the home version will already know, I’ve speculated on the cause of this phenomenon in a previous issue. It was noted that the one big thing we have in our sky that runs more or less like clockwork is our Sun, and I postulated that the sun was responsible for said periodic extinctions. I still stand by that hypothesis. However, after due consideration, I am now willing to put forward another potential world killing culprit. And this one is the most sinister of all, because it is almost impossible to catch it in the act.
  Over time there has been some speculation that our Sun might have a darker companion. The belief is that a small brown dwarf star may orbit far away from our own star, and that it only passes close to our solar system every thirty million years or so. And this object is what sets the outermost parts of the solar system in motion, eventually leading to the calamities we’re subjected to here. Like the dark worlds and systems we’ve been discussing, a small and very dim brown dwarf would be difficult to detect. And, so far, no such object has been detected.
  What if it’s not a brown dwarf that’s causing all the commotion? What if it’s something even harder to detect? Like a massive dark gas giant, with attendant moons, that formed in the tendril of dust and gas that connected our globe of dust to its parent nebula? Such a massive planet (think of Jupiter, and then throw in Saturn for good measure), on a long and highly elliptical orbit, could exert profound influences on our solar system, and we would never be aware of its existence. Why? Because it lies “below” what we consider to be the plane of the solar system, which is the one place nobody would be looking for it!
  The orbit of such and object is what concerns me most. Every time I run this simulation in my head, here is what I see: the tendril of dust and gas which connects our globe of dust to the parent nebula collapses after the Sun ignites. Part of that material is still drawn sunward, into what will be our solar system. The rest falls back, down towards the dark planet that has been forming a light year or more below us. The dark planet accepts as much material as it can gather, and spins some of it up into moons. But it is not nearly as massive as the globe of dust, and so cannot continue to draw a constant flow from the nebula. Which means the tendril of dust continues to collapse, and as it does, the material closest to the dark world is added to that system, while the rest of the column falls back into the nebula.
  All right, seems pretty clear cut so far, but here’s where the whole thing starts to get tricky. No matter how many times I run this simulation in my head what happens is that as the tendril continues to fall back into the nebula, at first it actually pulls the dark world (or system) along with it. Keep in mind, while the mass of the tendril was nowhere near that of our solar system, it’s circumference was probably still larger than what we tend to think of as the planetary part of our solar system (in other words, from the center of the Sun to as far out as Pluto), which would mean that the column of dust and gas would have had a great deal of volume, and an appreciable amount of mass. This is why the dark world follows it at first, because all that mass so close by actually exerts more influence than our solar system. So the dark world follows it, but does so only slowly, very slowly. As the tendril continues to fall down and away, it gets further and further from the dark world, and its pull upon said world begins to lessen. At this point the draw of our own solar system becomes stronger, and the dark world is pulled back towards us. And here is the problem. Every time I run the simulation, the dark world falls back into our solar system. But it obviously has not (although this may explain the existence of some objects in the outermost parts of our solar system). Instead, what appears to be happening is that there is another object out there that we can’t see that is influencing the dark planet. Perhaps it is another dark world or system, or maybe even a dwarf star. But, whatever the reason behind this phenomenon, this object keeps the dark world from falling into our system and looping around the Sun. That is the only explanation I can come up with to keep it from bulldozing its way right into the heart of our solar system.
  There are two more “logical” scenarios, of course. The first is that the dark world moves on a horizontal plane identical to that which all the planets in our solar system moves on, except that it is far below our solar system. In this scenario, the dark planet goes out very, very far, then comes back and loops around the lower portion of the dark matter compression sphere which surrounds our solar system. While this does work, I have a lot of trouble maneuvering the dark world’s orbit into that configuration. It doesn’t want to occur naturally, but when I place the dark world there and then start the simulation with it in that position, it plays out just fine. In the second scenario (the only one most astrophysicists would take seriously) the dark world goes far down and away from the solar system, then loops back and passes relatively close (astronomically speaking) over the top of our solar system, and then starts back on its downward path again. It would be during this rather extended period, while it was passing over the top of our solar system, that it could play havoc with the outermost parts of the solar system, which would lead to not just one, but perhaps multiple disasters in the main portion of our system.
  So, are such dark systems possible? When one considers the volume and the mass of the dust and gas filled tendrils that connect globes of dust to their parent nebulas, I think the answer is a resounding yes. Could there be such a dark world, or system, somewhere near our own which periodically interacts with us? I think that once again, the answer is yes. Is it the sole cause for all the mass extinctions this planet has gone through during the last four and one half billion years? Probably not. I still think the Sun has an important role to play in this drama. However, a rogue dark world with moons, or an entire dark system, which had a very distant orbit of as long as thirty million years, could indeed bear some responsibility for the calamities and mass extinctions that have occurred periodically throughout the geological history of the world. While not a major player (like the Sun could be), such a dark world or worlds could still wreak havoc on all of us, just from passing by.
  Which reminds me-astronomically, as well as geologically, speaking, it’s just about time for another of those catastrophes. Guess I’d better go close the shutters.

  That’s it for this issue! Join us again, just before the turning of the year! Until then!!!


Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

  Welcome to the Spring 2015 edition of Scifi Horizons! In this issue we continue The Universe Today series of articles. My apologies for the rather abrupt ending of the previous issue. Life intervened, as it so often does. That series of articles will be completed and posted by no later than early September of this year. In this issue we’ll discuss some of the major hurdles the space program will be facing during the twenty-first century, and also some possible solutions to those problems.
Special Update! Pluto!


  It seems like only a few days ago (and as of this writing it was) that the New Horizons spacecraft flashed by tiny Pluto and sent humankind the first views of this cold and distant world. Less than a century after its discovery, the last popularly acknowledged planet in the solar system has not only been reached but also has been photographed in spectacular detail. (Not bad for Humankind, eh?)
  The world waited breathlessly for the signal that the New Horizons spacecraft had completed its main mission, and acquired all that precious data, the reams of pictures that would show us the previously veiled face of this faraway planet. And when those pictures finally started to come in science stood aghast, because what they saw was nothing like what they had expected. Now, keep in mind that, as the spacecraft approached Pluto it was already sending back a steady stream of pictures which grew more detailed with each passing day. One of the first surprises the astrophysicists got was that Pluto didn’t have just the one known moon, Charon, but also four additional smaller companions. The next surprise was that the blurred smudge which the Hubble telescope had shown us when we pointed it at Pluto was really quite accurate; it was simply lacking in detail. But then, as the spacecraft drew closer, well, that was when things really got strange.
  Scientists expected to see a heavily cratered world, much like our Moon, or the planet Mercury. This would have supported their “Grand Bombardment” theory, which says the inner and outer portions of the solar system were a stellar bowling alley during the latter stages of the formation of this system. But that was not what they got. Instead, they saw a surface not unlike the coldest and most remote places on Earth. An icy surface that wouldn’t have appeared out of place on Titan, or Europa, or even the polar caps of Mars. And only a very few craters-not nearly enough to support the “Grand Bombardment” theory.
  There was consternation, of course, and confusion. There were even mutterings that perhaps science might have to change the concept of planetary formation. There was intellectual chaos. And once again the world waited, just as breathlessly, to see what the outcome would be. Astrophysicists, as well as the entire scientific community, walked to the edge of the abyss and gazed outward, and for a moment it seemed as if anything might be possible. But then they blinked, and, suddenly overwhelmed by the prospect of all that they didn’t know, all those accomplished scientists turned as one, and ran for their intellectual safehouse, the proverbial, and totally undentable, model.
  So now, tiny Pluto, the most beloved, and most distant planet in the solar system, that precious little round world, is being beaten down into the square peg that the scientific community already had carved for it. Because nothing, and I repeat nothing, will threaten the sanctity of the model. Here is what they would have us believe:
  Pluto lacks significant cratering because it has an active environment, just like the Earth, and Titan, and Io, which means that the craters which they were looking for were all there, originally, but have been eroded away or covered up over time. That was the conclusion which astrophysicists came to, and it’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.
  Now, I could point out that Mars has, in the past, had a much more active atmosphere than Pluto could have ever dreamed of, and yet, craters on Mars (of which there are quite a few) are all easily discernible. Weather and crustal shifts have not erased any signs of this activity. But why journey so far back into the inner solar system when we can find the answer floating right next to Pluto itself? Remember Charon? The companion moon we already knew about? The one we expected to find there? Well, it doesn’t have quite the same makeup as Pluto. In fact, it’s more like what we’d think of as a true moon. But, unlike our own Moon, Charon’s craters are not only few and widely spaced, there is an almost eerie symmetry in their placement. There are no big splash marks to be seen on Charon. Nor any groupings of craters. No really large craters, no really small ones, and evidence of only one massive super volcano, large enough to create a mare, or sea. Which wasn’t anything like what the model predicted. Not at all. Instead, there were just those weird, evenly spaced craters, most of which appear rather fresh. That last bit is kind of odd because if Charon is as old as our Moon, then there should have been some more pronounced geologic erosion showing up over this amount of time. But there is nothing like that to be seen in these first pictures.
  What this means is that the “Great Bombardment” did not occur, or, at least not in the way science says it did.
  And then there are the moons-the moons of Pluto. Three of them, including Charon, are the normal round objects that we could consider to be moons; although one of them is very, very small, but still round. However, two of them are elongated cylinders, which become broader, almost, but not quite, circular, towards the center. As those of you playing along on the home version already know, this fits with the planetary formation model posited by this site. It does not fit with the accepted model of planetary formation, the “accretion” model that the scientific community is currently pushing.
  What we seem to be seeing here is a set of moons stopped in mid formation. More on that in the next issue of Scifi Horizon’s The Universe Today.
  So far, distant Pluto, that tiny, frozen world that lies at the far reaches of the acknowledged planetary portion of our solar system, has been a Pandora’s box of surprises. And that’s only for now, for today. In the weeks and months to come, as all the additional data reaches us, Pluto will offer new mysteries to confound science, and frustrate “the model.” Will these conundrums have any real and lasting effect on the way Humankind, as well as Science, views the Universe? Only time will tell.


  Good news and bad news. Since I don’t know your predilection in such matters (and since it fits the structure of this article) I’ll tell you the bad news first. (And this comes straight from NASA, kids. So these are the facts as we currently know them.)
  Remember the rotating space station in 2001? And the rotating cylinder inside the Discovery spaceship seen later on in the same movie? Those rotating bodies were supposed to provide gravity, and were the model for ‘artificial gravity’ in many movies and television shows made in the interim, also including the sequel to 2001, the equally superb 2010.
  Turns out these rotating cylinders don’t work.
  NASA has modelled this, and what they find is that you can rotate the objects and keep them stable without any problems at all-until something inside them moves-like a person, getting up and walking across the room. At that point these rotating objects lose stability, and then-well-bad things start to happen.
  Bottom line is, the concept, which looks very nice on paper, doesn’t play out in the real world. It is not, at this point, a viable option.
  That’s the bad news. Here (potentially) is the good news.
  As those of you playing along on the home version know, I’m fascinated by things that we, as a species, seem to know instinctively. I sometimes wonder if we may know much more than we think we know.
  Case in point-from the earliest days of science fiction, we see spaceships rocketing through the void, propelled forward by a roaring pillar of flame issuing from the aft section of the ship. This engine is always running, the tail of flame is constant. Then, in the late 1940’s and well into the 1960’s this view changes, and we see craft motivated by unseen forces, with no mode of propulsion readily apparent. These craft slip and slide across the sky or through space with equal ease, the only clue to their power source being a strange and otherworldly hum. And yet, by the mid 1970’s Hollywood and television both have returned to ships sporting giant rocket engines. This new generation of spaceships is powered by some mysterious blue energy that can be seen tamely glowing in the gigantic rocket nozzles located at the stern of these massive craft. These ships can move with stately grace, or can travel faster than the speed of light, and they do so with (heavily) modified rocket engines. (Neat trick, that.) This ‘modern’ view of space travel has remained essentially the same right up until present day.
  Audiences never questioned this retro approach, and, during this period, allowed it to stand side by side with a previous generation television spacecraft that had made the jump to movies, and which was using a much more advanced form of propulsion. (The fact that the audience never questioned this is a tribute to the producers, directors, and effects people associated with these films.) But there was no outcry from the public, and this retro approach has become the Hollywood standard for most recent science fiction films.
  Once again I must ask, why?
  Is there more to this than just spectacular eye candy? Does this widely accepted view of futuristic space travel have some basis in reality?
  We need to create gravity, or, at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, right? Not for short hops from here to the Moon, of course. The Moon is only three days away (with Apollo era technology), and that’s not really long enough for our astronauts to begin to physically react to a weightless environment. No, it is the longer voyages we’re concerned with here-trips to Mars, Venus, the Belt, or even beyond the orbit of Jupiter, deep into the furthest reaches of the outer solar system. Over such an extensive period of time (It takes years to get to the outer solar system, and then years to get back again, and that’s with our latest propulsion systems) the effects of prolonged weightlessness could prove catastrophic to those first explorers. Even nine months spent in a spacecraft, the time currently allotted to reach Mars, could prove physically debilitating. (NASA is actually testing this hypothesis right now. They have sent an astronaut into orbit and are going to keep him on the space station for nine months, just to see how he responds physiologically at the end of this period. This is a wise precaution. We’d hate to have our intrepid explorers land on Mars, and find themselves so weak and helpless they’d be unable to perform any of the vital tasks required to ensure their survival.) Trips of a longer duration could prove even more hazardous to an astronaut’s health. So, when it comes to trips beyond the Earth/Moon system, we really need at least a simulation of gravity, to help maintain the physical and mental health of our astronauts.
  And here is where all those splashy science fiction movies and TV shows may be of assistance.
  What if we could keep the engines on our spacecraft running all the time? And use this to induce a sense of gravity? And if we could, how would that work? Obviously we can’t load up a rocket here on Earth with enough fuel to run continuously, just from here to the Moon, much less from here to Mars. The chemical reactions initiated to blast our spacecraft into orbit use far too much fuel, far too quickly, to be of any help in this instance. So, what this means is, we won’t be roaring out into the solar system on pillars of fire. However, there may be something to be said for that mysterious blue glow stuff.
  Since the 1960’s NASA has been using inert gas in virtually all of their spacecraft’s thruster packages. You don’t need reactive fuel for thrusting maneuvers in space, just a burst of something, of anything, that is sufficiently strong enough to move the ship will work. So, NASA uses highly compressed, inert gas. (Keep in mind that inert gas in not as volatile as the chemically reactive stuff used to launch the rocket, therefore not as dangerous.) There are certain hazards associated with this system. If even the tiniest meteoroid or piece of debris punctures the tank in which the inert gas is stored, there could be an explosive release, or if the gas becomes heated, either quickly or over an extended period of time, so much so that the tank that it is stored in could no longer contain it, yes, then there could also be an explosive event. But the chances of such accidents are relatively slim, as the previous decades have shown, which is why NASA has used this system successfully for over half a century now. It is a system that has been proven time and time again, because it works.
  So, we start with a proven system, and simply re-task it. Here’s the concept:
  You have your standard spacecraft, complete with one or more large chemical rocket nozzles attached to the stern of the ship, and each of these nozzles are surrounded by banks of thrusters. Each bank of thrusters has multiple thrusters, but all face to the aft of the ship, rather than in the multi-directional way that most thruster packages are oriented. Each bank of thrusters fires only one thruster, perhaps per second or seconds, or perhaps multiple times per second. (The determining factor here is how often the thrusters need to be fired to create an appreciable sensation of gravity.) The ship would have an onboard program that kept track of movements of the astronauts inside the craft, or any shifting of the load within the craft, and, based on this, would choose which thrusters to fire for each burst. No one thruster would be firing a strong enough burst to move the ship, and some thruster banks might not be putting out as much thrust as others (remember the balancing act the computer is doing), but their combined strength would be enough to edge the ship forward incrementally faster, thereby (hopefully) inducing a sense of gravity. (If this works, of course, then the rear bulkhead becomes the floor.) You could even increase or decrease the feeling of gravity, simply by shortening or lengthening the time between thruster bursts.
  And there you have it! A way to introduce artificial gravity! But it’s more than just that. You see, with each burst, you’re also slightly increasing the speed of your spacecraft, which could cut down quite a bit on your travel time between Earth and point B, no matter where in the solar system point B is located.
  In the next article, we’ll discuss how to bring this all together and make it work.
Dashing through the Cosmos

  As was mentioned in the previous article, NASA is testing the feasibility of an astronaut being able to survive a nine months in a condition of weightlessness, and then land on Mars (which has only one third the gravity of Earth) and still be physically capable of performing the tasks necessary to their survival. After all, nine months in space can be very physically debilitating to the human body, even with regular workouts. We need to be certain before we send anyone to Mars that they will be able to survive and function once they get to the surface. This is especially important since NASA plans to leave these first true Martians on Mars for a year and a half before bringing them back.
  Now, I’m a fan of NASA, and have been since childhood. I have more faith in them than most people do. But even with that level of trust, to me the aforementioned plan seems to be nothing more than a recipe for disaster. There are simply too many unknown variables to contend with in this scenario, most of which we will not be aware of until we actually confront them. And, if the solution to any of these potentially life threatening conundrums is not readily at hand, the astronauts can’t just run out to the store and pick up whatever they need. If they didn’t bring it with them, and they can’t create it from the materials at hand, then they’re just out of luck. Even ‘Space’ mail delivery (via NASA) would take many, many months, especially if the Earth and Mars were on the opposite sides of the Sun when the problem occurred. And that is why yours truly, despite my dedication to the space program, just can’t get behind this flightplan.
  I’ve been searching for an alternative since I first heard of this scenario. A ‘fast’ way to get to Mars, and get back again, and make the round trip in no more than nine months. This would mean only a few days on the surface of Mars, of course. Maybe a week or two at the most. The astronauts don’t need to worry about surviving on the surface because they’re just visiting, and they’ve brought everything they’ll need for their short stay with them. Like the Moon missions of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, our astronauts will only be tourists, not settlers.
  In the previous article we discussed the possibility of using nearly continuous thrust (with inert gases) to simulate gravity onboard a spaceship. And we also noted that one of the unavoidable consequences of such a process would be a gradual increase in the craft’s speed. Sounds like it might work, but I can guarantee you that there are engineers all over the world pulling out their hair right now because of certain facts I’ve not yet addressed. Allow me to calm their fears by explaining how this all might play out in the real world.
  First, we need to build a sled. I mean, a booster. (Whenever I say sled, NASA types get confused.) We launch this booster with one of the new, heavy duty Atlas Rocket packages. The topmost stage of this rocket (and we might need only a one stage rocket to get it into orbit) holds the booster we’re going to use for our flight to Mars, plus it has its own booster stage to get it out of Earth’s orbit, and gravity well, and start it off on the journey to Mars. Very simple setup here. The sled, errr, booster we’re sending up has two main components. The enormous tanks of inert gas that make up roughly ninety-nine percent of its mass, and the onboard computer whose job is to navigate the booster during the earlier portion of the trip and, later, to interface with the command module. We blast the booster out of Earth orbit, and send it on its way to Venus. (Yes, Venus!) We send the booster towards Venus at a very specific angle that will allow it to slingshot around that planet and then return to the Earth/Moon system going much faster than it was when it first left. (We have been using this slingshot technique since the 1960’s, primarily to move objects from the inner solar system to the outer solar system. So much fuel is expended getting satellites, probes, and spaceships into orbit that there is very little fuel left over to maneuver with once you get them there. Which means that any time scientists can get a gravity assist from any convenient celestial body, they do.) As the booster approaches the Earth/Moon system we launch a second spacecraft. Quite possibly, it will have the same basic setup as the first rocket (trying to stay cost effective here) with the main difference being that this craft will contain the ‘command’ and ‘service’ modules, although in this instance the ‘service module’ section of the craft will mostly contain air, water, food, and additional tools and equipment needed for the mission. This second spacecraft will also carry the astronauts, as well. We blast this ship off, burn out of Earth orbit, and head for the Moon. (Yes, the Moon!)
  The reason that we’re heading for the Moon is the same reason we sent the booster to Venus. We’re looking for a gravity assist to speed us up, rather than the wasteful alternative of burning enormous amounts of fuel just to try and get going fast enough to catch the booster. So, we race off to the Moon, slingshot through its gravity well, and then come out on the other side going much, much faster than we were before. But we still may not be fast enough. So I’ve come up with a technique I call directed thrust, which we may be able to use to overcome this dilemma.
  In space, the normal aerodynamics we deal with here on Earth go out the window. While the load must be balanced, you don’t need an aerodynamic shape in the airless void. It goes even further than this! In space, once you’ve got going, you’ll continue on at that same speed, and in that same direction, until you, or some outside force, acts to change it. What this means is that, once you start moving, you can reorient the spacecraft to any angle you please, without changing the direction or speed of your flight. So, want to fly facing backwards for a while? Go ahead! You can do it. Like the side view better? Well then, whip the craft around so that it is pointed to that instead. Maybe you’d like to fly through space with the ship standing on its nose? Not a problem. You can even do that, if you like. And this is where directed thrust comes into the picture. While we’re doing the slingshot around the Moon bit, we might be able to angle the nose of our craft towards the Moon, somewhere in an arc between one and ninety degrees. In other words, we’d be tilting the nose of the spacecraft slightly towards the Moon. And that’s when we hit the thrusters. (Not the thrusters on the booster package, of course. We’re talking about the thrusters, or the main engines, attached to the service module.) The idea here is to tighten the angle of the curve that is being created as we slingshot around the Moon, while at the same time increasing our speed to a rate that is much faster than we could have achieved by natural means.
  There are added benefits here, too. By tightening the curve enough, we might be able to loop right back around the Earth, and, making us go even faster.
  After we slingshot around the Earth, we catch up to the booster between the Earth and the Moon. The reason for doing things this way is quite simple, really. Our spacecraft will be going very fast by this point and we want to make sure we have an abort window if, for some reason, we are unable to dock with the booster. This would mean going around the Moon a second time, but instead of speeding up, using the Moon and the propulsion package on our ship to perform a braking maneuver, to get us slow enough to make a safe return to the Earth.
  However, if all goes well, then the ship will dock with the booster, at which point we could possibly use the Moon one last time to get us going even faster as we race out of the Earth/Moon system and start our journey to Mars.
  Once a year, roughly, the Earth passes close to Mars. This is simply a consequence of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Of course, Mars, due to the fact that it too is racing around the Sun just like we are, can lengthen this period somewhat. (That is why NASA is envisioning a year and a half on the surface before the ship’s crew can return to Earth.)
  NASA’s plan is to wait until we’re about to pass close to Mars, then, using conventional means, to send our astronauts up to rendezvous with the Red Planet. After which they intend to wait over a year, until Mars and the Earth are passing very close again, before bringing them home again.
  My flightplan envisages us launching well before we reach that close pass phase, arriving at Mars still well before the close pass, and then leaving before we reach the close pass phase of our orbit. So that means our astronauts will be returning to Earth at the point where it passes closest to Mars. In other words, the trip out would be longer than the trip back. What I’m describing would be impossible if we were launching a conventional rocket into space. But, don’t forget that we have an enormous booster filled with inert gases attached to our spacecraft, and if we used the constant thrust concept introduced in the previous article, not only would we have ‘artificial gravity,’ but we would also be ramping up our speed (albeit incrementally) every second. If it works, this WILL get us to Mars and back, and a great deal faster than is currently planned.
  In fact, the biggest problem we’d be faced with during the trip might just be going too fast. We don’t want to overshoot Mars and go sailing off into the outer solar system. So, somewhere along the way we’d have to turn around and use all that constant thrust to start slowing us down, so we could safely insert our spacecraft into Mars’ orbit. It should be acknowledged that, as soon as we turn around and start using constant thrust to brake our ship, that rear bulkhead that we had been using as the ‘floor’ for the first part of the flight, would now become the ceiling. (Obviously, accommodations would have to be made in the craft to reflect such necessities.) But, if we devise our flightplan carefully enough, and start braking a lot sooner, then it is possible that we can even simulate Mars’ gravity while on the way out there and so get our astronauts accustomed to working in reduced gravity conditions long before they ever reach Mars.
  And there you have it. A way to go to Mars and come back again without having to become settlers in the process.
  Mars, the fast way!
  (There’s a lot more too this, of course. There is still quite a bit that could be said about the shape and basic construction of booster, the ship, docking procedures, planetary alignments-and the list goes on and on. This article could be three times as long as it is, and we still couldn’t cover all of it. What I’ve tried to do here is to lay out one potential way of getting there and coming back again, without taking up a considerable portion of a lifetime to do it. Only building and testing of models, in both the real and cyber worlds, can tell us the truth. I have neither the staff nor the resources to create such models, so I’m doing the next best thing. Giving this to NASA and the rest of the Astronomical community, in the hopes that they can turn what is currently science fiction, into science fact.)

Shields Up

  Once we start to travel outside the Earth/Moon system, we will immediately find ourselves face to face with a potentially deadly foe, one which we are currently ill-equipped to fight. That sinister opponent is our own Sun, the star that resides at the center of our solar system and is the nurturing element of most life on Earth.
  How can the Sun be dangerous, you ask?
  Well, here is the simple answer. Massive, violent magnetic quakes occur with some frequency on the surface of the Sun. These quakes, and various resulting phenomena that both precede and follow them, throw plumes and sheets of plasma up and away from the Sun, some of which ends up jetting towards the Earth. Fortunately for us, our magnetic field absorbs these blasts, and, when it becomes saturated, then the outer magnetic field starts to bleed the excess energy off into the Earth’s core. Some of this energy is then converted into heat, helping to maintain the Earth’s magnetic field, and any remaining energy is then redistributed from the Earth’s core to the outer layers of the field via the process of lightning/sprites and other associated phenomena.
  Lucky us, right?
  But what about the astronauts who, by delving into deep space, suddenly find themselves far beyond the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field? What about them? How can they protect themselves?
  When it comes to the solution to such a conundrum, I think that perhaps we can draw some inspiration from the Earth’s magnetic field. If it works here, then why can’t it work out there, too? Ideally, we could put a magnetic field around the entire spacecraft, so that no matter where the astronaut was, as long as that location was somewhere within the confines of the ship, they would be safe. Granted, something as elaborate as a protective magnetic field that encompasses the entire ship may prove impractical, but even so, there should still be one compartment in the spacecraft that is large enough to hold every member of the crew, and also well shielded enough that it can provide at least a modicum of protection against solar blasts. (We already have some idea of how to do this, using only the materials currently at hand.) This could be accomplished by placing as much mass as possible around this compartment, and then complimenting that with the added benefits of a smaller magnetic field which has been designed to encompass the outermost surfaces of this one compartment. Ideally, of course, we’d like to surround this compartment with an intense magnetic field (don’t worry too much about physiological effects-we live inside a much stronger magnetic field than any other that we could currently generate artificially for our spacecraft). You see, the more intense the field, the more protection for the astronauts inside it.
  So, wow! We’ve got a force field! Kewl, right?
  Yes and no. Yes, because if it works it could prove a real boon to stellar space travel. No because there are one or two issues that we’re going to have to deal with first before we can get everything to gel.
  Remember how the Earth’s magnetic field works? The outer layers of the magnetic field absorb as much energy as they can, and when they are saturated, they start bleeding the excess off into the core of the Earth? Well, there’s problem number one. When the field becomes saturated, how do we bleed off the excess energy? Do we build field lines to conduct that excess energy from outside the ship to the machine inside the ship that is generating the field? And if we do, then what do we do with all that energy when it gets there? Channel it right back out again? Divert it into the ships power grid? Where does it go? And what about the strength of the field? Keep in mind that no matter how powerful the field is, it will be required to handle blasts of heat and radiation that could potentially be far stronger than the field itself. Our field will have to absorb and bleed off this energy, possibly for extended periods of time. Then there are also more practical considerations. How large would the machine that generates the field have to be and how much power would be needed to operate it?
  These issues must to be overcome before we can safely venture beyond the narrow confines of the Earth/Moon system. We have to find some way to protect our astronauts from the vagaries of our Sun while they travel through vast gaps of space that lie between the planets. And, if it does, then our future astronauts, no matter how far away from home they might find themselves, could go to sleep each night comforted by the knowledge that their genetic material (as well as their lives) was safe from harm.
  And that’s what it’s really all about, right?

Up! Up! And Awaaaayyyy!

  Gather around, ladies and gents, boys and girls! I’ve got a secret I’m gonna’ share with each and every one of you! You see those stars, glittering in the night sky overhead? Well, my friends, there’s gold in them thar’ hills. Enough to make a person fabulously wealthy for the rest of their days! Go up, young man, go up!
  As a recent flyby of the asteroid Vespa proved, there really is gold in them thar hills, errr, asteroids. The estimate I heard placed the value of Vespa at roughly ninety-six trillion dollars. And that is just one of four major asteroids we know of floating around out there in the belt. Truly a fortune waiting for the first person who can get out there and claim it. (And I think it would have to be a person. Simply landing a probe on an asteroid and then saying it’s yours might not hold up in International Courts. If that were the case then the United States could lay claim to half the planetary type bodies in the solar system. Because of this, I think you’d have to physically occupy the spot before being able to legally lay claim to it.) There’s just one problem, of course, when it comes to getting out there to lay claim to all those riches. No friendly space port that you can walk down to and, from there, board a ship that’s heading for the frontier. And all the people who would have gone are instead stuck here. Which leaves the ball in the hands of the mining concerns, who not only have the money, but the impetus ($96 trillion dollars’ worth of it) to go. Even if they were to spend five to ten billion designing, building, and then putting into space a viable mining spacecraft, the amount of return that they could expect from just that one craft would dwarf their initial investment.
  So, the next question obviously is, where do they go?
  Vespa is one of four major asteroids in the Asteroid Belt. That puts it out beyond the orbit of Mars. Not exactly a hop, skip, and jump away from Earth, right? To even attempt to mine such objects at that distance would require a lot of highly technical, fully automated machinery, and a human presence on hand to deal with any problems that arose. And, of course, there are other problems, natural to that particular environment, to take into account. Wouldn’t it be nicer if there was somewhere else we could go? Somewhere a bit closer to home?
  Well, maybe there is.
  Both the Apollo and Trojan Asteroids, are only three million miles out. The Apollo Asteroids precede the Earth, and the Trojans follow it. Technically, they are part of the Earth/Moon system. They’re so close, cosmologically speaking, that they are actually in our front and back yards.
  As those of you who are playing along on the home version already know, I’ve been advocating a visit to both sets of these asteroids for some time now. I think it would provide a real world background to test out our deep space capability before committing everything on a very, very long journey to Mars. And, it would also give us a chance to examine what could be some of the primal building blocks of the very Earth itself.
  So, NASA has a reason to go. And now the mining concerns have a reason for NASA to go, as well.
  While both sets of asteroids may be nothing more than ancient rocks tumbling along in space, if one, just one of them is made up of valuable ores, even if it’s only a trillion dollars’ worth, then this will more than justify investing in celestial ore extraction. And the nice thing about it is, with both sets of asteroids only about three million miles out, then it is quite possible that this closer setting will not require onsite maintenance as would a more distant site like Vespa. By using telepresence technology a mine could be run for the most part from right here on the Earth, without having to maintain a human presence onsite. There would be a transmission delay, of course. It takes light one and a half seconds to travel from the Earth to the Moon and the same amount of time for it to return here. That’s three seconds, round trip. With the Moon being roughly two hundred and forty miles away, we can round up to two hundred and fifty. This gives us a rough figure of six light seconds per every million miles (remember, though, we rounded up). Three million miles to get there means roughly eighteen to twenty seconds for the transmissions to reach those asteroids, and eighteen to twenty seconds to receive a response. While this may seem to some to be an intolerably long interval, keep in mind that the first gamers that went online to play games were doing so at a screaming 2400 baud, and were constantly plagued by delays in response time that could be as long as ten seconds. And yet, despite this they were able to play games and socialize with one another without any noticeable problems. While the delay between Earth and the Apollo and Trojans asteroids would be over three times as large, it is still safe to assume that human operators could adapt to such delays between action and reaction without much difficulty. Besides, the most plausible scenarios have autonomous machines, rather than humans, doing most of the work. Human presence, or telepresence, would probably be needed only when something broke down, or when the work was simply too delicate to leave to the current generation of machines.
  Okay, so we’ve found the ore, mined it, now, how do we get it back to the Earth?
  Well, we could attach a booster to ore, light it, and let the booster fly the ore back into Earth orbit. It would require some very precise calculations but it could be done. Having a catapult in the form of a magnetic railgun would be nice, but, without anything to brace it against, there could be complications. (You know, Newton’s laws and such.) Or, a special craft could be built that would transport a load from the site to Earth orbit, disgorge the load there, then return to the site for another load. This transport could also be fully automated.
  At this point, there’s only one thing left to do.
  Now that we have all that sweet, sweet money floating around up there in orbit, ready to be smelted, we only have one remaining question-how do we get it from there to here?

Getting From There to Here

  A few years ago I saw something rather extraordinary, and it set me to thinking about certain and very surprising possibilities. You see, I’m beginning to believe that we can move solid objects from orbit to the ground without any special equipment. Hard land them with little or no degradation of mass. Allow me to elaborate.
  The incident that aroused my curiosity was associated with a spacecraft that had been launched from Earth and sent into the path of a comet. The spacecraft had special panels mounted on it that, when opened, exposed layers of the new wonder element, aerogel, to the debris in the comet’s tail. The idea was to have all the various sized particles impact and be caught in the aerogel, then brought back to Earth and parachuted down, where the spacecraft, as it drifted back to the ground, would then be caught by a specially equipped helicopter and brought safely back to earth. Unfortunately, in practice it did not work out this way.
  The parachute failed to open, and so the spacecraft plummeted back to earth. Well, not exactly plummeted, more like fell. You see, the spacecraft had been constructed using a ‘lifting body’ design, which, while important for re-entry, also functioned to stabilize the craft before the parachute opened. This lifting body design kept stabilizing the object, sometimes for a few hundred feet at a time, as it fell. Inevitably, the craft would begin to wobble again, and then tumble, only to right itself once more. This process continued during the entire descent, right up until the spacecraft struck the ground.
  Within minutes of the crash, the recovery team arrived, and to their amazement found that the lifting body was dented, and that one section had cracked open, but otherwise, the spacecraft appeared to be intact. So much so that a lot of the data (cometary particles and such), while slightly contaminated, was recoverable.
  And that was what intrigued me. I tend to believe that if the load had been more evenly distributed, the spacecraft might have made it back down in even better shape than it did. The implications of such a feat are rather fantastic.
  While it would be impractical to attempt to drop people or scientific packages using this procedure, when it comes to other larger and more solid objects, such as minerals mined from asteroids, or even entire meteoroids, the possibilities are endless. It could be as simple as jockeying the object into the right point in orbit to allow for a slow descent, then giving it a little push. You might have to make some alterations first, at the foremost section of the object, to give it more of a lifting body shape, which should lead to a smoother re-entry. You might even need to add an ablative heat shield. Or, you may have to go as far as to encase the mined ores in a lifting body shaped container prior to re-entry. Either way, we’re talking about moving things from orbit to the ground without bringing them down in some sort of expensive transport craft, which, once down, has to be sent back into orbit again. As to the earthbound mining concerns that are just beginning to realize the amount of wealth that is so close at hand in our solar system, well, for them this approach could provide a cost effective manner to deliver their raw materials earthside.
  As to where to drop them, well, that’s another issue. My first thought is anywhere in the Sahara desert which is far enough away from any established human habitation to be considered safe, and yet not so remote as to make it inaccessible. The advantage here is that you have the Med, the Atlantic, and the Indian Oceans close at hand, and there are one or more major rivers leading to them. However, political concerns may not make this a viable alternative. Which leaves us with at least three other candidates to consider. Russia, anywhere east of the Ural Mountains and sufficiently remote is one, and the deserts of western China is another. However, the lack of ready and reliable access to an ocean would be the main problem here, of course. Antarctica would be another spot open for consideration, being so centrally located at the bottom of the world, except that tides and weather would probably make this impractical, as well as the howl that would arise from well-meaning conservationists when mining concerns starting “bombing” the pristine ice fields of the land that’s really down under.
  No matter how we choose to do bring these minerals down, or where we choose to drop them, if the failed spacecraft is any indication of reality, then it is possible to bring solid objects down from orbit with very little degradation of mass, and little or no damage at all. And if this can be done, and we were to suddenly find ourselves in possession of large amounts of both common and precious metals, then the benefits to Humankind in the decades that lay just ahead of us (as well as profits to the various mining concerns) will be substantial.

Just Sayin

  As a man, I sometimes feel the need to climb up on a rock and beat my chest. It’s a man thing. After you read the following bit, I think you’ll see why I currently feel justified in doing so…
  Recently, it was acknowledged that heat plays a key role in creating and maintaining the Earth’s magnetic field. If you aren’t sure what I’m going on about, then thumb back a few issues and you’ll see why I’m so excited.
  But that’s not all…
  Just a few days ago I was watching a new bit on one of the science channels-an informative show that was purportedly describing the ultimate fate of the earth. As I watched, our friendly white star, Sol, started to turn orange. Then, it slowly began to grow, and as it did, it became redder, and more diffuse. As it continued to swell first Mercury, then Venus, were engulfed, but when it reached the Earth, a funny thing happened. As the burnt out Earth grazed along the outer surface of red giant Sol, the narrator said something along the lines of “whether the Earth is destroyed, or merely displaced…”
  For those of you playing along on the home version, well, you know why I’m feeling a little hyped!
  And we won’t even mention the guys who stole my model of the formation of the solar system and ran it, along with a word for word quote from an article in the same issue. (According to my friends ‘on the coast’ you know you’re getting somewhere when they start stealing from you.)
  Pardon me now while I go climb up on that rock and beat my chest. I may even yodel like Tarzan! This time I think I’ve earned it.

That Said-

  With that said, there’s something else that needs to be addressed now. I get the impression that, when it comes to this series of articles, that the scientific community thinks I’m trying to somehow or other discredit them. Let me state here and now, that is not my intention. What I’m actually trying to do here is to point out to the scientific community that the same smoothing codes that our brains use to accommodate our day to day existence can (and do) extend into the mental landscape, as well. (These “smoothing codes” allow us to see only as much as we need to see to accomplish our day to day tasks. In other words, much of what is going on around us is filtered out, so that the brain can focus on the job at hand. Remember how many times you’ve become so engrossed in what you were doing that the rest of the world just faded away. Well, that’s an extreme example of how these “smoothing codes” work. But, even in much less extreme circumstance, where you are driving down the street, say, or walking through a store, even here, the brain is actively editing out material objects and people, so as to keep from overloading you with too much information. This can lead to some interesting consequences. Because of these “smoothing codes” multiple witnesses can see the same incident, and each one come away with their own unique interpretation of what has just occurred. They saw only what their brain’s smoothing codes allowed them to see.) The way these smoothing codes function in the case of science in general (based solely upon my own personal observations of their interpretations of the available data) is to either blind them to the inconsistencies exhibited in the reams of photographs that they themselves have commissioned, or else to press them to find ways to make these noted inconsistencies fit within their sacrosanct model. (Both interesting and ominous that, with the continued passage of time, these people become more and more a reflection of those that they sought to supplant.) The holy model is their explanation for the creation, existence, and ultimate fate of all that was, is, or ever will be, and so it is therefore immutable.
  Because the model is so all powerful that it cannot be questioned, meaningful exploration of alternate theories, even entirely new modes of thinking, is not only discouraged, it can be career threatening. Oh, there are those who buck the trend, and these lone wolves are acknowledged by the general community as mavericks, or even crackpots. Other scientists will point to them and say, “Look, they’re working on a competing theory!” (And then try to hide their indulgent smiles.) Nothing to worry about here though, folks, because no matter what these rebels might discover, the scientific community is certain that this new data can (and will) be folded into the existing model. What this means is, quite literally, that no matter what theory you may gamble on, the house will always win. Which makes it much easier not to gamble at all, and instead spend your entire professional career accumulating reams of dry data to support the holy model. So, despite their protests to the contrary, the scientific community does not entertain or encourage (or fund) competing lines of thought. Therefore, (and this also despite their protests to the contrary) the model is sacrosanct.
  What this means to the rest of us is that, even now, some of the most highly respected scientists in the world are following just one lone train of thought, to the exclusion of all else. And, as far as they are concerned, there are no inconsistencies in this line of thought, only hidden facets of the holy model that haven’t been glimpsed yet. However, their own data reveals the model has serious flaws. These flaws (often glaring) leave their conclusions open to question. Yet, despite this, the community literally cannot see them, (even with those aforementioned reams of photographs) because the smoothing codes that handle every other facet of their lives are at work here, too.
  The only way to break this endless cycle is to encourage and endorse competing theories, and new and unique lines of thought. This should force those selfsame “smoothing codes” to adapt by opening up their users minds to new possibilities, new lines of inquiry, thereby breaking the monotonous cycle they are currently trapped within. (Remember, we can’t eliminate these “smoothing codes.” They literally help us to manage our day to day existence and we need them. All that we can hope to do is to modify their behavior.) Sadly, the scientific community has shown no signs of embracing anything resembling such a broader outlook, and it appears it will be some time before they do.
  And that is why it is left to me to tweak their noses, or slap them on the wrists-not to be mean to them, just to get their attention. They’ve been daydreaming. Time to wake up.
Why This Matters

  Why, you may ask, do I keep harping on this subject? Well, the answer is actually quite simple. We have over seven and a half billion minds currently in existence, and it is impossible to say what they might discover if unleashed, but, instead, they are chained. Mired in a miasma of “you can’t do this” and “that can’t be done.” And the sad thing is, most people tend to trust implicitly such statements, never questioning their validity. After all, Science says it can’t be done.
  Let’s consider two recent examples that contradict such programming.
  A few decades ago a farmer in one of the drier parts of Africa began to plant trees and bushes around his plot of land, and to use part of his precious water supply to keep them healthy. His neighbors called him a fool. He was acknowledged as the village idiot. Why waste good water on what could at best be described as ornamentation? And yet he persevered.
  After a few decades had passed, his trees and bushes had grown. Now, they not only provided shade, and some measure of protection from the dry desert winds, their presence was also helping to fix water into the ground.
  Suddenly, the village idiot had farming concerns and conservationists from all around the world coming to see what he had done, and to learn from him. And he found himself one of the most honored men in the village.
  This is a man who was determined to fly in the face of adversity, no matter what it cost him. He had a vision and he was going to see it through. Very few people in this world have that kind of courage, which makes him quite unique.
  The second example is the more common one, in that this is usually the way such things happen.
  A few years ago, shortly after the turn of the century, a man retired from the work force and came home. After spending only a few days around the house he realized just how boring home can be if you don’t have something to occupy yourself with at least part of every day. So, he decided he was going to invent a fireproof substance. He took certain chemicals, minerals, and such, and started mixing them together. No scientists were there to tell him that you couldn’t mix those ingredients together like that, because that was impossible, they just didn’t mix. Not knowing this salient fact, he kept tinkering around with the mix, and in roughly six months he had developed a new and very effective, fireproof substance. And he did this simply because he was unaware that it couldn’t be done.
  And that, sadly, is how many discoveries which fly in the face of scientific fact are made. By people who literally didn’t know that such things were impossible.
  Who can say how much we might accomplish, with access to the largest mind bank in the history of our species, if we weren’t constantly being told that so many things are “impossible?”
  It is one thing to have ‘the prevailing theory,’ and some viable alternatives to compete with or at least at some points contradict it, but it is another thing entirely to say that this is what is possible and this is what is impossible. We simply don’t have a broad enough pool of data to make such statements. All we really know about is here, on the Earth, and, despite protests to the contrary, there is still a lot we don’t know about here, much less what lies beyond this planet. Once we have travelled not only through this solar system, but to all the nearest stars, then, even then, we will only be beginning to learn about this vast and wondrous universe that surrounds us. So why anyone would go and chain so many minds, and thereby inhibit their innate creativity and problem solving abilities, is quite beyond my comprehension.
  That is why this matters.

  Well, that’s for this issue! Check back with us in late August or early September for the next installment! Until then!!!!

ScifiHorizons 10th Anniversary Edition

Thursday, August 21st, 2014


The Universe Today

 Persus Cluster

Arrogance is a means to its own end


  Welcome to yet another ScifiHorizons special edition of The Universe Today! As readers familiar to this site already know, the goal of TUT is to provide thought provoking alternatives to current scientific theories, using real world data! This issue certainly qualifies that statement. While the articles contained herein may not be the grand finale’ of this series, they should be considered as the culmination of all that has been discussed in the previous articles. In this issue of TUT we will slay a metaphorical dragon that has been confounding astrophysicists for the last few centuries, and in doing so we’ll also demolish one of the central cornerstones of scientific thought. By the time we’re finished here, you’re going to have an entirely new appreciation of the Universe. If, anywhere along the way, you start feeling a little light headed, a bit woozy, perhaps, maybe because you’re no longer sure as to the true nature of the Universe, and your place in it, then just remember this simple phrase: “There is no spoon. There is no spoon. There is no spoon.” Repeating this “mantra” over and over again will not only help to calm you down, it may also lead you to the truth.

Standing on the backs of turtles

  Anyone who is familiar with Western mythology will know something of the story of Atlas, the Titan whose job it was to hold up the world. While this incredible feat was simply part of accepted Greek mythology, the Greeks of that era, possessing some of the keenest minds of the classical period, still had a few questions. So, Atlas was holding up the world, and they were okay with that, but what was he standing on? Titan or not, he had to be standing on something, right? And the answer they received was that he was standing on the back of a turtle (in some versions it’s an elephant, but since I heard the turtle one first, for the purposes of this exercise it’s a turtle). Which opened the door to the next logical query, which was, what was the turtle standing on? The answer-the back of another turtle. And that turtle was standing on the back of another turtle. Well, that wouldn’t do, of course, since you can’t have an infinite number of turtles, so eventually it was concluded that the bottom turtle was floating in a sea of pure white milk. This begged the question of where the milk came from and how was it contained in this space? The answer was that the sea of milk was infinite and bottomless. Which made the Greeks wonder why the turtle on the bottom, weighted down by the stack of turtles on top of it, plus Atlas and the world too boot, didn’t sink into the infinite sea of pure milk and so drown in its cold white depths, thereby creating a cascade effect that would upset the entire equation. Faced with this final conundrum, the Greeks chose to punt.
  Recently, I became aware of a new, pre-big bang theory that is currently making the rounds. (This is the latest fad-explaining how and why the big bang occurred.) It was postulated that prior to the big bang there were very small waves or pulses of energy circulating around, and, over time they came into contact with one another. Each time that they did, both individual waves were strengthened by the encounter and, occasionally, the contact would produce one or more new waves. Building in power and number with each new collision, they rose towards a crescendo. At some point the density and energy of these waves was such that it led to the big bang. (Interesting, isn’t it, that so many theories of this nature always have some sort of pseudo sexual element?)
  Keep in mind that all of the above took place prior to the formation of the Universe. Since both time and the laws of physics began with the big bang, they cannot be applied to any theories of the pre-big bang period. There was no time as we know it before the big bang, nor were there any laws of physics. Which means we can’t apply what we know about the Universe to any pre-big bang theory.
  Let’s start with those waves of energy-where did they come from? According to some of the latest theories matter can simply appear in the midst of an empty void (which tells me scientists are a long way from determining the true nature of existence). This same rationale was applied to the pre-big bang theory. But, as we have already noted, the laws of this Universe come into being at the same time the Universe was created, so we cannot reasonably apply them to any pre-big bang scenario without some more concrete proof of their existence. So, I ask again, where did these energy waves come from?
  And even more important question is, if the space they were circulating in was infinite, then what kept them from wandering off on their own solitary journeys into infinity. The implication here is that they were apparently in some sort of enclosed space, or else the rest of the theory simply doesn’t work. Okay, then, so how large was that space? What created it and held it together? Was there something beyond that space, or was it an entire dimension unto itself?
  Lastly, why did this only happen once? Were the multitude of waves exhausted, completely used up by the big bang, or are they building again? Could another big bang suddenly flash into being in the middle of our own Universe?
  Okay, I’m not saying that I would discourage such speculations as the aforementioned, as I think musings of this nature are part of a healthy and stimulating scientific discourse. However, these types of theories should be taken, as well as delivered, with the proverbial grain of salt. The truth is we don’t and cannot know about such things until we have some very real, and very solid evidence to go on.
  And when it comes to exercises like trying to apply complex mathematical formulas using the known laws of physics when describing a period about which we have absolutely no information at all-well, it should at best, be done with tongue and cheek.
  Otherwise, you might find yourself standing on the backs of turtles.

How to Fry Your Noodle

  Recently, as I’ve explored the foundations of existence, something has come to my attention that both troubles and fascinates me, something I just can’t explain. But it is there, and quite real, and though it is not accompanied by any sturm and drang or even a peal of trumpets and a release of white doves, it is stultifying due to the very fact that it exists. You see, somehow or other, we seem to have an instinctual sense of the greater reality of which we are a part.
  Allow me to illustrate:
  Matter and dark energy/matter are involved in a Universe wide war that, according to scientists, dark e/m will ultimately win. Matter, which is the Sun, the Moon, the Oceans, the Continents, and everything else we know, even ourselves, plus all those glittering points of light that we see when we gaze out into the night sky, can and must be quantified as “light.” Dark Energy and Matter, on the other hand, scatters this “light” as it pushes apart the components of the “big bang.” Through such actions Dark Energy and Matter will eventually push the various galaxy clusters into isolated pockets, and each one of these will become increasingly further and further away from its brethren. Therefore, Dark Energy/Matter can be seen as a destroyer, and quite literally the “darkness.” For, in truth, given enough time, it will smother all light.
  Now, consider if you will the concepts of good and evil, most often typified as light and darkness. Good seeks to build, not destroy. Good works for the welfare of all, and the exclusion of none. Good does not love war or seek it, but, when war is thrust upon it, valiantly opposes evil. Good is everything we think of as the “best” in our lives, be it people, things, places, or moments. But, most importantly of all, Good is an ideal that all of Humankind can ascribe too. Evil, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite of Good. Evil seeks to sully or destroy all that is good. Evil is the epitome of greed and narcissism, the fount of bigotry and prejudice. Evil seeks out war eagerly, and wages it without conscience. Evil is all that we detest and abhor, and we write and then enforce laws to quell the spread of its influence.
  Good and Evil. Light and Darkness. Order and Chaos. Simple enough, eh? Kind of an eerie coincidence, but I guess that’s it, right?
  Well, not exactly.
  It all comes down to a matter of scale, really. In this Universe there is the atomic level of existence (protons, neutrons, electrons and all that sub-atomic stuff), cellular life (either single cell creatures or the individual cells of plants and animals), and complex life forms (the actual plants and animals themselves). And while these three categories can be broken down and expanded into a nearly infinite number of sub categories, for the sake of this exercise we are going to concentrate exclusively on just the three aforementioned basic forms.
  At the atomic level or below, there is merely existence, and some interaction with the surrounding atoms, and, occasionally, a changing of form by either gaining or losing mass. But an atom cannot be aware even of the thing of which it is a part, much less be aware of the Universe.
  The same can be said of life at the cellular level. Single celled animals have some dim awareness of their surroundings, they may, if they live outdoors or in the seas, even have a concept of the Sun and the Moon (if not the objects themselves, at least an acknowledgement of their effects when they are overhead, the heat and energy provided by the sun, of course, and the light of the moon, which has profound effects on life at the cellular level). And, while the cells that make up the organs of your body may be interacting with one another, is it possible that they can have any concept that they are part of you? Much less any awareness of the Universe?
  Which brings us, of course, to complex life forms, and these are the various plants and animals that inhabit our world. At the top, as we so readily acknowledge, is Humankind. (Nothing greater than us, right?) Not only can we see the Universe, but we can attempt to comprehend it! We, perhaps alone of all creatures on this planet, have some primitive understanding of the greater reality of which we are all a part! And that places us firmly at the top of the hierarchal knowledge pyramid. We have an awareness that “lesser” life forms lack. Nowhere to go from here, then, is there?
  Is there?
  And now we get to the part that troubles me most-because I’m beginning to think the answer to that question is yes.
  What if the Universe and all of existence is merely the next step up on the ladder? What if the entire Universe is part of some vaster reality that is literally beyond our comprehension? Something so mind bogglingly large that our own Universe would seem miniscule in comparison?
  If true, then this concept might go a long way in explaining not only formation of our Universe, but also its ultimate dissolution. It might even explain why dark energy and dark matter exist, and why they are interacting with matter in the way that they currently are-and too what end. (The meaning of life and all that jazz, right?)
  All we need to know is the true shape of the Universe, and all will become clear. Maybe not. Because, even if we know the position of every atom and wave in the Universe, and from that can discern its true form, we still may find ourselves clueless. (Imagine an atom trying to conceive of the Universe.) If we could see the whole Universe at once, the shape that was revealed might not make any sense to us because there was no parallel to it in our existence. (Remember how different atoms are to cells, and how different cells are to more complex life forms.) Gaining even the most fleeting glimpse of the larger reality of which we may be a part could prove to be impossible, or incomprehensible.
  Maybe though, just knowing it is there will allow this concept to be factored into our equations, and through this lead to a greater understanding of Existence.
  Oh yeah-there’s just one more thing we need to discuss before I log this article. You see, if we are part of some greater reality, then all of our actions and interactions with one another may have more far reaching implications than we currently realize. In other words, some or all of our actions could be having effects that we cannot see in this Universe, but that may be manifesting themselves instead on some higher level of reality. If so, then the true purpose of our existence might be quite unlike anything that we can reasonably postulate or even conceive.
  So, let’s take the first supposition, the one we discussed earlier, that there is a “war” between light and darkness occurring in our Universe, and that somehow humans have instinctively been aware of it throughout recorded history, and then add to that the supposition that there is a higher reality of which we are a part, and which we once again appear to have always been instinctively aware of, and then put those two suppositions together, and suddenly you have the foundations of all religion and philosophy that Humankind has thus far produced.
More than just a coincidence? I think not. But it leaves me wondering, what else do we instinctively “know”?
  And that, my friends, is how to fry your noodle.

The Fault in Our Stars

  When it comes to things like cars, refrigerators, aircraft, and a wide assortment of various other things, building upon the existing model is a good thing. With each successive generation, the models become more efficient, easier to operate, and more reliable. And all of us benefit from this ongoing process. Oh, there are some things, like hammers, brooms, and doors, whose design has changed very little since their invention. Today they may be made of newer, more durable and/or effective materials, but their basic design has changed little over the intervening centuries. The bottom line is, that once Humankind invents something, as long as it is useful, we continue to improve upon its design. And this works quite well in almost every circumstance.
  (Yes, you’re right, kids! Time to slay the dragon!)
  Astrophysics is the exception to this rule. Allow me to demonstrate.
  A few centuries ago, a professor named Newton saw an apple fall and drew a certain conclusions from this event. Turns out that he was right, and he was also wrong. Very wrong.
  Based on this most basic misinterpretation, a man named Einstein built a beautiful series of equations that described matter’s interaction with the Universe. In many ways, he was absolutely right, but the phantom that he was chasing meant he was also wrong, too. This basic error, which can be traced back to Newton, kept Einstein from achieving his lifelong goal, The Unified Field Theory.
  Stephen Hawking, in describing his theory of a static universe of dust, in which a few denser pockets of dust began the formation of all that now is, came so close to the truth that he almost nailed it. But, once again, that same nagging error was there to mislead him, just as it had misled Einstein, and also Newton before him.
  This belief in a phantasm, a jabberwocky, a myth, has cost humankind uncounted sweat and treasure and brain cells, and all of it has been expended on the greatest snipe hunt in history.
  To further illustrate this point, let’s do a little experiment. Take an object (preferably one that can survive what comes next) and place it in the palm of your hand, palm up. Now extend your arm, then turn your hand over so that it is palm down. We all know what happens, and we think we know why it happens, but that’s where we’re wrong. We’ve misinterpreted the force that is in action here, just like Newton did. The information we are drawing upon is based upon his observations, but that information was drawn from an erroneous conclusion. Newton, of course, did not have that excuse. In fact, he really had the best excuse of all, because he was missing a key piece of information, which was why that he misunderstood the force he was seeing in action.
  You see, Newton, and Einstein, and Hawking, all believed what you believe, and, until a few short days ago, I believed, too. Gravity was pulling that object down. Well, it wasn’t. There is a force at work here, but it isn’t gravity. Gravity, like centrifugal force, is a myth. Gravity, does not exist.
  (There is no spoon! There is no spoon! There is no spoon!)
  Let’s allow Einstein to explain…
  Albert Einstein understood the physical nature of the Universe better than any other human in recorded history. Had it not been for the myth of gravity, he would have gotten the whole thing right, and achieved his goal of a Unified Field Theory.
  Einstein postulated that all objects in space distort the fabric of space, which he called “spacetime.” (Of course there’s a lot more to spacetime than that, but I’m not going to go into it here.) So, objects that had mass and density, would distort spacetime, because they exerted gravity, with the amount of gravity exerted depending on the size and density of the mass. Well, take out every reference to gravity in the previous sentence, and Einstein is absolutely correct.
  There is an invisible bubble around the Earth, as there is around every object in space. Einstein described this bubble as a distortion in space time. And he was right, sort of, but that bubble was not created by gravity. What Einstein thought of as spacetime is actually the medium of dark energy and dark matter. And that bubble, that distortion in what is otherwise the “smooth” fabric space, which is the mass of dark energy and dark matter that permeates our Universe, that bubble is actually like a pressure wave, pressing everything down, applying equal pressure on all sides, to give shape to this planet and every other planet, moon, and star in the Universe.
  The Higgs-Boson is a Unicorn. It is dark matter and dark energy, interacting with matter, which gives shape and form to the Universe. We know that dark matter and dark energy expand, and that they like to collect matter into pockets, where they inevitably attempt to mold said matter into a sphere. Science is willing to acknowledge that much. But there is more. Dark matter and dark energy combined together are the force that allows us, and every other object in the Universe, to maintain its shape. Remove the effects of dark energy and dark matter from the Universe, even for an instant, and matter would no longer be forced to maintain its current form. We, along with the rest of the Universe, might dissolve away into atoms.
  Time for a quick review of what we’ve learned so far…
  The Earth, along with every other object in the Universe, is suspended in a near limitless sea of dark matter and dark energy. In its normal form, dark matter and dark energy are at rest, making the fabric of space appear smooth and undisturbed. However, if you introduce matter into that placid black ocean, dark matter and dark energy surround said matter and began to compress it. If they are successful, they shape the matter into a sphere (adding rotation is what makes it oblate-more on that later) and from that point on they continue to compress the matter together and force it to hold its shape. Any new matter that is sufficiently small enough, and which strays close enough to the object, and isn’t moving fast enough to get away, is compressed into the object. (Remember, we’ve already discussed the undisputed fact that the Earth is actually getting heavier each year.)
  The mass, density, and shape of the object determines how great the level of compression the object will receive. When it is done correctly, the object will attain a spherical shape, because dark energy and dark matter are applying an equal amount of pressure in all directions at once. This is not as easy as it may sound, because some parts of the object will be denser than other parts. To counter this, dark energy and dark matter must press harder, while in other much less dense parts, the exact opposite is true. If you’d like to see all of the above effects in action, then just look at the Voyager and Cassini photographs of Saturn’s rings. The effects of these various types of compression waves are clearly expressed there.
  Since mass, density, and shape appear to affect the size of the compression bubble, and how much force it uses to compress the object, then it follows that the larger and more dense the object in question, then the greater the size of the compression bubble, and also the greater the force of compression. For an object like the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the compression bubble is so gargantuan, and the force that it exerts so massive, that it compresses all that densely packed matter which the SMBH has been able to gather up, thus far, into a region that is smaller than a basketball. (Impressive, eh?) The SMBH compression bubble is literally so immense that the entire galaxy floats within it, which is why solar systems at the edge of the galaxy simply don’t go sailing off into space. (Unless, of course, they’re moving incredibly fast. Even then, they’d really have to have a good head of steam on for them to actually get away.) While dark matter and dark energy are pressing in on us, holding us down on this planet, forcing us to maintain our current form, they are also trying to compress every last bit of matter in this galaxy into the supermassive black hole at its center. Eventually, barring outside intervention, dark matter and dark energy will succeed in this endeavor.
  In essence, what we have learned so far is that there is no such thing as gravity. We have simply been misinterpreting the interactions between the matter that forms the visible Universe and the near infinite ocean of dark matter and dark energy in which it swims. And the truth, as we have just seen, while proving to be more bizarre than anything we have yet conceived, fits the facts as we know them much better than any phantom force called gravity. (You guys kept wondering why you couldn’t find gravity, eh? Kept saying that the greater part of the effects of gravity must be felt in some other dimension, because they weren’t being expressed in our own Universe, right? Well, now you know why.)
  When you put all this together, it ultimately leads us to the third great luminary, our own Stephen Hawking; one of the greatest intellects of this, or any, age. I said that his model of a static, dust filled Universe, with some regions where the dust was slightly denser than others, which led to the formation of the first stars, was almost bang on, right? And it was. (Although he was wrong about the scale. It’s not the formation of stars he’s actually describing, its galaxies!) From the available evidence, the earliest form of matter was not dust, but instead, were atoms, or even subatomic particles. The Universe existed in this static state, with only the most basic atoms on the periodic table in existence (and maybe not even that), until, by some mechanism that is as yet not understood, dark matter and dark energy were introduced into the medium. Immediately upon the introduction of dark energy and dark matter into the unformed universe of atoms, the aforementioned elements combined and began to compress the atoms or subatomic particles into pockets. This forced the simple atoms to combine into much more complex ones. Over time this compression led to the formation matter itself, and the rest occurred much as expressed in the esteemed Mister Hawking’s hypothesis. The difference is that the combined force of dark matter and dark energy was already well on its way to tidying up the Universe long before matter as we know it reached the state where it could be called dust. From the very beginning, dark matter and dark energy were doing what they do whenever they encounter matter of any sort. They were exerting as much force as needed to shepherd all that matter into a pocket, and then to compress it into the shape of a sphere. And it is this constant interaction between the matter that forms our Universe, and the dark matter and dark energy which compresses it, that has created everything we know.
  So now we come to the fault in our stars…
  To the scientific community in general, and to astrophysicists specifically, I say that the fault is not in our stars, and never was. A very basic mistake, made by the person who is least to blame, led to an erroneous line of thought that has concealed the true nature of the Universe from humankind for generations. Members of the scientific community must resolve themselves to the fact that there are no immutable rules in this or any other Universe. No model is or can be sacrosanct. Whenever evidence is encountered that calls the model into question, instead of searching until you find some mathematical trick which allows you to fold it into the model, or, if you can’t, then ignoring it, try exploring the anomaly, and find out why it seems to unbalance the equation.
  Scientific thinking has become too rigid, and questioning the established models now borders on blasphemy. This mindset has stifled scientific thought, and, because of that, progress and innovation, as well. Such rigidity in thinking must not be allowed to continue to dominate the various scientific fields because it will ultimately strangle them. Whenever sufficient evidence arises that calls any model into question, you must be willing to discard the established scientific model, in whole or in part, in light of the new evidence. The benefits of such flexibility are easy to see. Freedom of thought leads to imagination, and imagination leads to new horizons of scientific inquiry.
  What all this actually means is that any time one of your fellow scientists says that something doesn’t add up, instead of immediately smacking that person down and metaphorically burning them at the stake, you should ask them “Why?,” and then listen patiently to their response. Carefully consider everything they have to say, and don’t waste too much time defending the model. Chances are, they’re probably on to something.
  (Bet your equations start balancing out now, eh?)

The No Bang Theory

  The Big Bang theory. Quite literally it is a road map to the formation of all matter in the Universe because it explains how everything came into existence. The explanation makes for quite a show. There are a lot of flashing lights, and expanding clouds of matter, and it can really create quite a spectacle, especially when placed in the hands of Hollywood’s best CG types. Unfortunately, the BB is not a perfect theory. There are a few nagging problems yet to be resolved-like what caused it-and when it comes to this endeavor there are places that even science is willing to admit base ten mathematics will not take us. (As in the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang.) And there are other anomalies, of course. Nasty inconsistencies that do not fit, no matter how scientists try to fold them into the model. Such anomalies are ultimately either ignored, or “special cases” are created to allow for their existence. But it doesn’t end there. Many of the models physicists have created, including the esteemed Professor Hawking’s static dust theory, do not take into account the motions that would have begun with the Big Bang and continued right on through to today. Despite all these inconsistencies, the Big Bang theory still provides the best explanation for how all matter came into being.
  Right. Knowing what we now know, let’s take a look at what really happened.
  Originally, the Universe consisted of bits stuff so far below the sub-atomic that we have not yet discovered them. There is no question that these bits exist, and proof of that existence will be provided before we reach the end of this article. Suffice it to say, these bits probably had no motion, nor were they inclined to bond with one another, and this state of affairs continued until dark matter and dark energy were introduced into the Universe.
  Which brings us to the tricky part. At some point in the far distant past dark matter and dark energy were introduced into this pre-atomic medium everywhere in the Universe at precisely the same time. And, while we cannot at this juncture conceive how such a thing could be possible, we can trace the chain of events that must have followed such an introduction.
  Those tiniest bits of basic matter were compressed, first becoming structures below the sub-atomic, then progressing to the sub-atomic, and from there to electrons, protons, and neutrons. This achieved, dark matter and dark energy began to compress these basic building blocks together to form the first atoms (the lowest ones on the atomic scale).
  (Scientists have often wondered why the neutron is part of an atomic nucleus. Maybe the neutron wonders the same thing. All it knows is that first it wasn’t, and then it was, and immediately thereafter it found itself shoved in with all those other neutron, protons, and electrons, and it’s been there ever since. Neutrons are an ingredient of atomic structure, whether they like it or not. They may be nothing more than a byproduct of the formation of atomic particles, but dark matter and dark energy will still find a place for them.)
  Now that the most basic atoms had been created, they were compressed again. This caused some atoms to shed part of their atomic weight (protons and electrons) while other atoms gained that lost atomic weight, thereby transforming themselves into the heavier atoms that can be found further down the chart of atomic weights.
  The scary thing is, this process could have continued until every atom in the Universe had combined and recombined endlessly, leaving only the heaviest and most unstable elements on the chart, which would, over time, have left us with a Universe made mostly of lead. And this would have been the fate of the Universe, if not for a foreseeable consequence of all this compression. Because, somewhere along the line, individual atoms began to combine into the first bits of tangible matter.
  They were tiny, of course, these first bits of matter-roughly the size of dust motes, which is in essence what they were anyway. Since atoms appear to be selective in the company they keep, some of these tiny motes were made up of individual flecks of iron, while the vast majority of motes were made up of other basic forms of matter.
  This immense cloud of dust, which occupied the entire Universe, was then compressed again into patches of nebulae that were larger than many galaxies piled together (because, that’s exactly what they were). These earliest structures must have been truly titanic. Of course, dark matter and dark energy continued to mold them, to attempt to round them. And as they did, they filled in all the gaps from which that stray matter had been pulled, until eventually, all that was left were these titanic, irregularly shaped nebulae, and the stems that connected each nebula to the ones closest to it. (We see globes of dust maintaining a lifeline to their parent nebula, from which they continue to draw material for the globe. Same thing going on here, except these massive nebulae were trying to steal material from each other.) Over time the various nebulae sorted themselves out into groupings of galaxy sized spheres, and their constant contraction led to the formation of galaxies. As to the stems or straws that connected the titanic, irregular patches of nebulae to one another, well, compression forces from each end of the stem pulled them in such a way that they formed their own galaxy sized spheres, and thus their own galaxy.
  With this information, we can now understand the shape of the present day Universe.
  As to that proof I mentioned earlier-well, we’re going to hand the ball to the scientists for this one.
  Recently it was announced that scientists had concluded that matter could form out of nothing. That there could be nothing there and suddenly, matter would appear. Now, most of us, the first time we heard that statement, probably thought something like, “Gee, the D&D game must have run a bit long that night!” or, “Wow! I didn’t realize a room full of scientists could drink a full keg of beer in just one night!” (They can, and it’s a terrible sight to behold.) Thing is, though, as patently outrageous as this claim sounds, it’s absolutely true.
  Here’s what is happening: Those undetected bits of pre-atomic matter we were discussing earlier, well, they do exist, and not all of them have been corralled by dark matter and dark energy yet. Many of these pre-atomic bits of matter still inhabit what we consider to be empty space. They go through the same compression, the same assembly process we’ve just discussed and suddenly-Voila-matter seems to appear out of nowhere.
  According to the Big Bang Theory, some thirteen billion years ago all the matter in the Universe was packed into one tiny ball smaller than a pin head, and from here, and for reasons still not yet clear, that matter expanded to fill the Universe. Over time, denser portions of matter, which had more gravity than their surrounding components, drew in the rest of the matter closest to them, and using this formed the first stars. The central pillar of this theory is that the Universe is expanding.
  The No Bang Theory, on the other hand, presents us with a Universe in which all matter is being endlessly compressed. And the formation of stars, planets, moons, and even galaxies is merely a consequence of an ongoing process. Which leads us to a shocking, but unavoidable, conclusion: While dark matter and dark energy may be expanding, we, and everything else in this Universe that we consider to be tangible matter, are shrinking.

Let’s Get Small

  Dark matter and dark energy-they are the twin forces which are responsible for the creation of the Universe, and yet the very action that led to that creation, will also lead to its (and our) ultimate destruction. You see, dark matter and dark energy, the “negative force” (cosmologically speaking), are slowly but surely taking all matter in the Universe and crushing it. Yes, all matter in the Universe, and us along with it, is shrinking. It makes no difference how big any of us think we may be, in reality we’re actually getting smaller. Every single day. Since this effect appears to be taking place at a consistent rate, from the subatomic through the macro level, and seems to be happening simultaneously all throughout the Universe, we are, for the most part, unaware of its existence. In fact, the only way we can confirm this hypothesis is to note that dark matter and dark energy appear to be pushing all the galaxies away from us. This is not the case, of course. The rest of the galaxies really aren’t getting further away-they, and we, are just getting smaller. And, according to astrophysicists, this rate of shrinkage is accelerating.
  Yes, I know, your perception of reality tells you otherwise, but trust me, kids, this is really happening. The amazing thing is that even as far down as the subatomic level, everything appears to be shrinking at a consistent rate. So much so that we don’t even notice it. Each day the world looks the same, as though nothing has changed. But it has.
  Look, if this bothers you, consider that the rate at which we are shrinking may be as little as a billionth of a percent every day. So miniscule a rate that, if we could freeze the compression process-just for ourselves and not our surroundings- then half a lifetime or more might pass before we could detect any real changes in our environment. On the other hand, the pace of miniaturization could be faster than this (much faster). Either way, we would be unable to detect its progress. Ironically enough, because our instrumentality is shrinking right along with us, it may be impossible for us to physically measure the speed at which this diminution is taking place. However, some very bright person might be able to use the rate of the “expansion” of the Universe to figure out just how fast we’re actually getting small.
  As has already been noted, there is nothing to worry about here, because as far as we’re concerned, nothing has changed, or will change. Since this phenomenon is occurring throughout the Universe at every level and at a constant rate, there is probably no short (or long) term danger. But, if you’re still worried, then consider this: the entire Universe has been shrinking since the beginning of what we would call time, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt us (or anything else) so far. So we’re good for now.
  However, if you must insist on being paranoid about this, then you do have a point. Due to the ongoing compression of the Universe by dark matter and dark energy, we’re all fractionally smaller now than we were at the beginning of this article. Small world, huh?

Faster than Light

  Time. It is a concept that most flora and fauna on this planet can obviously comprehend. Plants, animals, and even some single celled creatures orient their lives by the changing of the seasons, and the phases of the Moon. Humans are also aware of the passage of time. One rotation of our planet, a period of light, followed by a period of darkness, then by the return of light, equals one day. Three hundred and sixty-five days equals one year. Ten years a decade, ten decades a century, ten centuries a millennium-and millennia become ages, many ages become eons, and eons-well, you get the picture. The past is all that came before us, the future is all that is yet to be, and the present is the elusive moment that we currently occupy.
  But we can break time down just as easily as we build it up. Days are broken down to hours, and minutes, and seconds. (All of these conveniently tied to the aforementioned rotation of our planet.) Because of the demands of science and industry, time has even been reduced to the merest fractions of a second. Yet even the smallest pulse of a second, be it a billionth, or even a trillionth, is still what we humans would call “real time.” As far as we are concerned, our lives, and all of what we refer to as existence, are occurring in “real time.”
Well, not exactly. You see, there is a factor that limits our perception of time. This roadblock in our time sense is known as the speed of light.
  (Remember, there is no spoon.)
  Most, but unfortunately not all (not yet), humans perceive the world primarily through impulses transmitted from their eyes to their visual cortex. These impulses originate when photons of light strike our eyes. So, we literally see the world at the speed of light. Scientists would argue that there is a very small delay between the time photons of light strike the object and are reflected back to you, and the short period (on average about one eighth of a second) while your brain interprets what you are seeing, which means that you aren’t seeing any event in “real time.” However, since all of this is taking place in little more than a blink of an eye, we’ll call it “real time” for now.
  The fastest thing we can see is a flash of light, because our eyes are geared to perceive photons of light. But a bullet fired from a weapon, which travels at a snails speed compared to light, is invisible to us. We need special cameras to slow the action down enough for us to even see the bullet. The same is true when it comes to the atom smashers, the great colliders like Cern and Fermi. If we could actually see into one of those chambers where the atoms collide, we would see a flash of light and some sparks, and, sadly, that would be about it. During that same interval, though, banks of high speed cameras will have taken millions of pictures, and what they show is very different than what we saw. A lot was taking place in that instant that was literally beyond our ability to perceive. So, even though we can see light moving at the speed of light, and this is what gives us our sense of “real time,” we actually are unable to see most objects that moving as fast as or faster than a bullet.
  Take television, movies, or video as an example…
  The human eye perceives our surroundings at seventy-two frames per second. Most TV, film, or video is shot, and/or displayed at a frame rate of roughly thirty-six frames per second (in television and video this empty frame is used to draw, line by line, starting at the top line and ending at the bottom line of the screen, the next frame to be displayed). Your brain fills in the gaps in between these empty frames so that you never notice their absence (or see the screen or monitor stutter or flicker as it redraws the entire next frame). Broadcasters call this phenomenon “persistence of vision.”
  Let’s do a little experiment. This one is so simple you can actually perform it in the real world without much fear of getting hurt. You’ll need one television set or monitor. Turn it on, and find a program you like to watch. Then, while carefully checking behind you as you do so, back away from the set until you reach a point where you can see both the monitor and what is behind and around it. Notice that your brain is receiving input that is occurring in two different time frames, and resolving it into the same time frame. Now, turn sideways, so that you can only see the monitor out of the periphery of your vision. Even from this angle, you won’t see a flicker or a gap. Your brain is still busily resolving the discrepancies between the two time frames, even though you are no longer looking directly at the monitor.
  Now, let’s take a walk through the downtown of any major city in the world, just after sunset (may want to go back to your imagination for this one). Note how many active monitors and video screens you see around you. Also, note that your brain is busily accounting for each and every one of these screens, viewing them in such a way so that each screen appears to be displaying their images in real time, whether you’re paying any attention to them or not.
  The main lesson you should take from this is that while the speed of light may limit our perception of time, the Human brain has the ability to manipulate images in real time so as to create a “smooth and constant” perception of reality, even if the images the brain is viewing are not all taking place in “real time.” What this means is that our perception of time as a product of the speed of light is as artificial as our perception of the video images on the screen. They are simply handy constructs, smoothing codes that the brain uses to construct an overall impression of our surroundings which it presents to us and calls reality. This constant interpretation of reality, which we perform during every waking moment of our lives, is what we choose to call “the present.” But, as you can see, reality, like time, is merely a point of view.
  When we supercharge an impulse, and then send it through a loop so quickly that it appears to arrive a millisecond before it was sent; as far as we are concerned, the impulse has defied time as we know it. The impulse, of course, did nothing of the sort. It simply traveled faster than light, and therefore, the impulse moved out of our frame of reference and remained so until it slowed to the speed of light again. Since the impulse was traveling faster than the speed of light, it re-emerged into our time frame at a point slightly earlier than it was sent. This is simply a consequence of the speed at which the impulse was traveling. It didn’t defy Universal time, only OUR concept of time.
  Now, if this is indeed the case (and the existence of neutrinos seems to indicate it may be) then the speed of light is not the limiting factor we thought it was. Keep in mind that Einstein uncovered this anomaly in his famous Theory of Relativity; there seems to be evidence that objects (within our frame of reference) which accelerate beyond the speed of light will, to all intents and purposes, seem to go back in time. But this is based solely on our perception of time, which is an artificial construct created by our brains to help give some semblance of order to our existence. The sad truth is that our perception of time may not be a true reflection of how time is actually flowing in the cosmos.
  As we noted before, when viewing objects here on Earth, the speed of light works quite well. But as soon as we look up, the whole scenario changes. Look at the Moon and we’re seeing reflected sunlight that left barely more than a second ago. Look at the Sun, we see light that left eight minutes ago. Look at the stars and you see light that has been traveling for decades, centuries, even thousands of years. Real time? To look at the night sky is to look far back into the past, not the present. By now, the entire galaxy could have changed, and we would have no clue about it. Not for the next hundred, or even the next thousand, years.
  While the speed of light as a time scale might work well on Earth, the size of the Universe is such that it is impossible for light to give us a real time view of even just the nearest planets and stars, much less the Universe. This is why what we perceive as time, as dictated by the speed of light and by our perception of its passage, is a handy construct, but should not be considered as a reliable measure of actual Universal time, which obviously exists at a scale much faster than the speed of light.
  And this leads us to one inescapable conclusion: According to scientists, even with the discovery of dark matter and dark energy, a significant portion of the Universe is still unaccounted for. Well, maybe it isn’t. Perhaps all that missing matter is right here, right now, all around us, and we can’t see it because it isn’t moving slow enough to be visible within what we consider as our time frame. (Remember, within what we consider as our time frame, such objects would be traveling backwards in time. And it is also quite possible that objects moving faster than light might not reflect light, making them devilishly hard to detect.)
  Keep in mind that the gravity Unicorn has led some of the greatest minds in history astray. When we recognize that what we thought of as “gravity” is really the interactions of tangible matter and dark matter and dark energy, then we began to realize that the “speed of light” is probably not the limiting factor we of which we’ve been led to believe. In fact, there appear to be ways around this cosmic speed limit, especially now that we know what has been holding us up. (As we will see in the next article.)
  Okay, one more time and I’ll let it rest. Our perception of time is limited to the speed of light. Anything traveling faster than that moves out of our time frame, and can no longer be perceived by us, until it slows to the speed of light and thereby re-enters our frame of reference. The speed of light as the ultimate speed of the Universe is a faulty conclusion based upon a misinterpretation of the interactions between the tangible matter that makes up the Universe, and dark matter and dark energy. As such, the speed of light is not the fastest speed an object can travel in space, and is most likely not the time frame upon which Universal time, the actual pace at which time is unfolding in the Universe, is based. Also, there may be objects moving faster than light, but since they are, by our standards, traveling backwards in time, we are unable to detect them.
  So, if it may indeed be possible to travel faster than light, then there are two principle questions that inevitably will arise: How will the brain react to the consequences of faster than light travel? And, once we attain such speeds, will we be the only objects in the Universe that are doing so?

When, Where, and Why

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013


The Universe Today


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     Winter has passed (mostly) into Spring, soooo, Welcome to the Spring edition of Scifi Horizons!!! In this extended edition we will wrap up the speculations on the formation of the Solar System! Enjoy!!!
     As always, it is the goal of this site to challenge the prevailing theories, and to provide thought provoking alternatives. To base conclusions not on equations, but on what is really out there. What really can be observed and measured. I believe that these current articles, and the earlier ones on the formation of the galaxy, and the Universe, will do just that. See what you think.

The Universe Today Challenge for Astronomers and Astrophysicists

  Hi kids! Just saw the piece “Swallowed by a Black Hole” and I have a couple of comments I’d like you to consider. These comments are in response to the spectacular central galaxy in the Perseus Cluster that was displayed near the end of the piece.
  First, the viewer was shown a visual view of this galaxy, which was extraordinary. In all my years of perusing such photographs, I’ve never encountered this one. Amazing stuff and well worth seeing!
  While I was studying the photograph I noted that there was one, or possibly two major ejections of material from the supermassive black hole. The first and more energetic one formed an outer halo of “rays” that had obviously escaped the gravity of the supermassive black hole, and were now well on their way to forming clouds of stars (like the greater and lesser ones visible in the southern hemisphere); and then there was a second burst of material which had formed an inner halo of rays and these inner rays or jets were obviously falling back into the SMBH. That inner star burst of rays did also have one very curious quality-all of those various jets were falling back towards the SMBH in the same direction. Interesting that, eh? Keep it in mind, we’ll be coming back to it shortly.
  Then the view proceeded to the radio “photograph” of the same region. There was a huge, bubble shaped region on the “upper” side of the SMBH that was canted slightly left from top center, and another, nearly identical bubble on the opposite side canted slightly right from bottom center. It was explained to the viewer that these were two galaxy sized bubbles of intense heat being blown by the SMBH. These two bubbling cauldrons of heat and radiation kept star formation from taking place (this last sentence is unquestionably correct).
  These two galaxy sized bubbles met at the SMBH, and a torrent of nebular material was flowing into the SMBH in between them (from the right and the left sides of the screen as seen by the viewer). And the immense heat and radiation generated by all this material as it entered the event horizon was blowing the bubbles.
  That’s about it, right? Or at least close to it, in layman’s terms.
  Well, allow me to offer a different interpretation.
  What were are actually seeing here are the crescent shaped “gravity” bow waves that both precede and follow the SMBH and its attendant matter through intergalactic space (exactly as described in this and previous issues of The Universe Today). I maintain that these two regions are created by these “gravity” waves and that they do not allow material of any sort to approach from the “front” or the “back” of the object in question. Instead, the incoming material, especially dust, gases, and smaller objects, is forced to enter from the “sides” of the object, and this is how accretion occurs. Which means that these so-called “bubbles” are the interior regions of the twin gravity waves. The reason that heat accumulates in these regions is because the inflow of material from the sides is so great that the heat and radiation can’t escape from those two directions, and are therefore trapped between the two “gravity” waves and so are forced to “pool” in the two bubble shaped regions and then radiate off more slowly.
  The most important thing we are seeing here (other than proof for everything I’ve been pushing in this series of articles) is, not only can we see an outline of the crescent shaped “gravity” bow waves (which actually appear to be more hemispherical in the photo) clearly depicted in the radio “photograph,” but we can go a step further and, by using both photographs, we can also determine the direction of travel for this galaxy. Evidence present in both photographs indicates the SMBH is moving towards the “top” of the screen, in a direction just slightly left of center. If you are willing to consider that what you are seeing here are actually the ‘fore’ and ‘aft’ gravity bow waves generated by the SMBH and its attendant matter, then the radio “photograph” clearly indicates this orientation. Further proof of this can be found in the visual photograph that shows the inner jets or rays of material falling back in the same direction on both the “right” and “left” sides of the galaxy. (They curl back and downwards, like the petals of a flower, and their “tips” point towards the bottom of the screen.) You know the math on this as well as I do (you know it a lot better than I do) and so you know why this is happening. The “rays” lose speed as they shoot outward, as the SMBH tries to pull them back, just as they also lose “forward” momentum as they move away from the object, once again, due mostly to gravity and the velocity of the SMBH as it moves through intergalactic space. (As long as the jets are close to the object they are moving forward with it, but when they get far enough away and gravity starts to drag them back they began to lose their forward momentum, and this makes them appear to curl backwards, away from the direction of travel. Which is not surprising when you consider that the object has moved out from underneath them in the interim.)
  So, my friends, there you have it! For the first time in the history of Humankind we can map the path of another galaxy through space, and do so with a high degree of confidence! Kewl, huh?
  Once the rest of you fine folks understand the implications of this, then we can really make it hap’n Cap’n! Locate the Sun’s fore and aft “gravity” bow waves and we can determine our precise direction of travel in galactic space. Then we can apply the same methods used to locate the Sun’s bow waves on the nearest large stars, using what we have learned to calculate those star trajectories, as well. Over time and with refinements it is possible that this method could even be applied to smaller and/or more distant objects.
  Just one thing, though-if you decide that you’d rather dispute the claims made here, don’t send this site a series of mathematical equations and say this proves you’re right. Because I’ll just pull out the two aforementioned photographs, plus some more from the rings of Saturn, and then we’ll look at some photographs of asteroids, and afterwards I’ll say that the weight of visually verifiable evidence clearly shows that I’m right. So, to forestall such an impasse, it is requested that any answer which you give must not only have an intellectual, but also a physical, counterpart that demonstrates, supports, and/or proves your argument, and which can also be replicated by any scientist, anywhere in the world. (Fair enough?)
  Work it through, check out the articles in this issue so you can see where I’m at on this whole “gravity” bow wave thing, and see what you come up with! Prove TUT wrong on this one, if you can!

  (Oh yeah, and one other thing-if your response to this is flippant, nonsensical, or half-baked, then don’t bother sending it. I’m very serious about this. I’ve laid my cards on the table-well, some of them. Now, let’s see yours.)

We’re Back! Scifi Horizons/The Universe Today is back on the air!

     We’ll continue with the line of inquiry we were pursuing before my hard drive crash. The next article in the series is Order in the Solar Court. By now, I guess that some of you are seeing why I didn’t do this as one unified theory of solar system formation. The entire article would have run in excess of thirty pages. By breaking it down into smaller, more digestible bites, it’s easier for you to understand and integrate all the pieces. I still have to reconstitute the article on the magnetic field, and there will be at least one or two more articles before I do the one on planetary formation (although the Order in the Solar Court piece will show the lines I’m thinking along).
     From this point onward, anything you see in these following articles that contradicts the original piece on the Globe of Dust, you should consider that new information to supersede whatever was stated in the original article. (I’ll have to go back and rewrite that article again once we’re finished here.)
     I’ve gotten some very interesting and rewarding feedback from these series of articles. One even noted how I was doing all this for free. Well, it is my belief that knowledge should be free to all, and you are free to discuss and debate anything you see here, with my blessing. However, all original content that you see here does fall under the original Scifi Horizons copyright. So, it’s free for you to read and to contemplate, discuss and disseminate, but not to reprint or any of that other blah, blah stuff.
     Besides, who says it’s for free? I’m still waiting for my Nobel Prize.
     The article on the magnetic field is now online! Rather than simply reconstituting the original article I employed an entirely new approach. The new piece is now only half as long, but I believe it is much more informative. See what you think! You’ll find it near the end of this current issue. The title of the article is, “Magnetic Planetality.”
     The Article on Planetary Formation is now online! It is the last article in this extended issue of The Universe Today. The summer issue of Scifi Horizons will be out at the end of July or the beginning of August, 2013. See you then!
Where It All Came From

    I first sat down to write this article in Sept. of ’12. Roughly a third of the way through the phone rang-it was a homebound friend of mine who needed me to give him a ride to the grocery store. I did, of course, but the upshot was that I completely lost my train of thought, and so was forced to start over. I mulled it around for the next six weeks, then I sat down to write the article again, from the start, and just as I was well into it, the phone rang. Guess who? As I’m writing this, the phone is ringing again (for real).
    However, there was a certain benefit to the interruption of my thought processes, that being that I had more time to consider the subject, and to realize the larger implications of what I had stumbled upon. It literally gave me time to think it all through, and see the whole picture. I present that portrait to you now. There are a number of holes in it, which I will duly make note of, but, that aside, I believe this presents the most comprehensive model of the formation of the solar system to date. It takes into account all the variables that have been puzzling scientists for the last couple of centuries, and (in most cases) gives rational explanations for them which can be illustrated using visual astronomy (in other words, by taking what is known, and then looking at the photographs that have been made, thousands, even millions of them, and seeing the same patterns repeated over and over again). All you have to do is ignore the given explanations and let the universe tell the story. Then, the truth becomes self-evident. Voila!
    Between five and one half and six billion years ago, a denser patch of dust formed in the spot our sun now occupies. Other dense patches of dust were forming, or already formed, four and one half light years away, and eight light years away (the Alpha Centauri quad system and Sirius, respectively). Gravity immediately went to work and began to draw in more dust, and to compact it together. More and more was drawn in, and, because of heat and pressure, the dust patch at the center of the nebula cloud began to fuse into molten gobs of rock and metal. The growing size of the mass, plus its magnetic field, now caused it to begin to rotate. Variations in the objects gravity field caused it to have points where gravity was greater, and other points where the gravity field was weaker. As the mass rotated, the dust in a center line around it was caught up in this gravity field and began to move with the mass as it turned. The variations in the gravity field caused this captured dust to periodically speed up and slow down, and, in time, this began to form other, smaller masses, orbiting the original object. And all the while the central mass is pulling in more dust, pulling it into one huge globe, possibly as large as a light year across, and slowly drawing all that dust inward. By now, the motion of the central object, and the smaller objects that it has spawned, is being communicated to the entire cloud, causing it to slowly begin to rotate, too. (It is difficult to imagine just how much dust our solar system pulled in at this time. I believe it is possible that we pulled in nebula material from as far away as two light years. And while that seems like and enormous amount of mass, just think how much must have went into the blue super giant Sirius, only eight light years away. It must have pulled material from as far out as six light years, which, of course, ultimately limited the growth of our own system, and the quad star Alpha Centauri System located a little over four light years away from us.)
    For more than a billion years the proto solar system drew in that dust, drew it into one huge, slowly rotating, slowly compressing globe. Eventually space around outer parts of this globe became relatively empty, there was little or no nebula dust left. Our own solar system, or Sirius, or Alpha Centauri had consumed it all. In fact, all that remained were tenuous streamers of dust, being pulled from the closest point of the nebula that spawned us. This was because the rotation of the globe of dust had variations in it’s gravity as well (for all the aforementioned reasons plus the size of the globe itself and it’s rotation) and it also had a central plane upon which it’s gravity was focused, just like the objects within. That last is why the globe of dust was pulling one tendril of dust from the nebula, rather than a huge, sheet like cloud reaching out towards it, as it would have been if gravity had been equally distributed throughout the globe.


    And always gravity drew the dust in closer, tighter, until it brushed together, creating friction, heat, and static electricity. The mass in the center of the solar system was a huge gas giant by now, with a planet sized core of molten rock and metal. And it was growing ever larger. The smaller objects it had spawned were all now planet sized objects as well, and all of them were surrounded by clouds of gases (mostly hydrogen, but whatever else they could grab, or create, too). So, a huge central gas giant was surrounded by a series of smaller gas giants; that’s what the early solar system looked like. And still gravity pulled the dust ever inward, and the rotating globe of dust with the gas giants at its center grew ever hotter, and massive charges of static electricity arced through it. Meanwhile, further out, beyond the realm of the gas giants, additional dense patches of dust started to form. These formed in roughly a globe shape pattern around the outer reaches of the solar system. Like an earthbound reef, they form a loosely knit shield around the inner solar system. Because of where and how they are formed, these moon sized and smaller, and larger (much larger) objects, most of which were then also miniature gas giants, formed in a simpatico type of orbit that they maintain to this very day. (Which works out very nicely for us-we wouldn’t want one of those rocky or ice bound moons or moonlets to come hurling through the inner solar system every couple of centuries now, would we?)
    The rotating globe of dust continued to draw in upon itself. From a light year, to half a light year, to a quarter of a light year, to smaller still, and as it did the heat and pressure continue to build within, and static electric charges grew to immense proportions. The central gas giant and the multitude of smaller progeny it spawned continued to draw in more mass, also. The heat and pressure were so great that all throughout the globe of dust small patches of dust were compressed and fused into molten rock; this occurred on a scale ranging from tiny pebbles and grains of sand to immense, mountain sized objects. All that heat and pressure had another effect too; it began to “cook” the central gas giant, and its smaller companions. Temperatures in these objects, which were already boiling at the core, where the planetary balls of molten rock and metal were constantly roiling, now rapidly begin to rise in the clouds of gases that surrounded them, and they, along with the entire globe of dust, became very, very hot.
    It is important to note at this point that the majority of gas being drawn in by our proto sun and gas giant proto planets is mostly hydrogen. This is the main component our sun burns, and it is also one of the two components of water. Water, which is found on this planet, and may have also been found on Mars, and traces of which have been found on Mercury and the Moon, and, of course, is also found on all of those moons in the inner and outer solar system that are covered in ice. Somehow, during this “cooking” process, and let me stress, I’m not yet clear on the particulars, oxygen was created, and, along with all that hydrogen, formed the necessary ingredients needed to create water, not only on earth, but all over the solar system (which is one of the reasons we can tell that it was equally hot everywhere, otherwise, only the inner planets and moons would have water, or ice). It may even be possible that, with all the electricity, and all the chemical reactions going on, that some of the earliest forms of life may have begun taking shape within the globe of dust at this time. Whether life formed then or later, independently in the clouds of the various gas giants, or within the globe of dust itself, can only be confirmed with additional, and much more detailed, information from the inner and outer planets.
    At this point somebody is going to say, “Yeah, guy, but what about the outer gas giants? I don’t see any oceans around them.” And they would be right, of course. Well, after due consideration, I have concluded that because of their chemical composition, the outer gas giants Jupiter and Saturn were unable to transform from the gas giant phase into water covered planets. (When we finally dropped a probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere, it turned out that it was ten times drier than predicted. Scientists explained this by saying that we had simply hit a “dry” area in the clouds.) Also, as to those moons that formed without any trace of water, I would postulate that they formed in what were essentially “dry” areas, regions within the globe of dust that lacked the gases needed to create water. (This would explain the presence of gas giants located in orbits very close to their parent suns, where scientists “know” that they shouldn’t be found.)
    By now, the central gas giant, the proto sun that is giving birth to an entire solar system, has become immensely hot. From the core outward, the heat is rising, hotter and hotter, and meanwhile, more dust, more mass, therefore more weight, and thus more gravity, is still piling on. Water forms on this central gas giant, too, but it forms high in the clouds. During this period there are thunder storms, and cloud formations brimming with water, existing below the cloud tops of the proto sun’s atmosphere. At a certain moment, the heat, the mass, the pressure from the tightly bound, rotating globe of dust, all combine and WHOOSH the gas giant implodes upon itself, and a star is born. This miniature nova remnant expands around the sun, and, as it does, it takes away a large amount of the dust remaining in the inner solar system. This process continues until the compressing cloud of dust expands into the outermost portions of the solar system.
    With all the dust removed from the inner solar system, the worlds began to cool down rapidly. This is most likely the point when water condensed on the Earth, Mars, Venus, and even little Mercury. Somehow or other (and I’m not completely clear on this), as they cooled the gases in the miniature gas giants, now the inner planets, combined and formed water. A great deal of the various gases which cloaked the inner planets was consumed in this process, but enough of their atmosphere was left over so that water could condense into liquid on the surface. (Without a sufficiently thick atmosphere, this could not have happened.) The super-heated, roiling cloud of dust blown into the outer solar system was gobbled up by all the moons and moonlets forming there, and whatever was left over was claimed by some planet, moon, comet, or asteroid, or eventually fell into the sun. Once those moons and moonlets in the outer reaches of the solar system gobbled up all of the remaining dust and thereafter cooled, the ones which had an atmosphere and liquid water immediately froze over. That is the reason we find ice covered moons and moonlets in the outer solar system.
    And there you have it! The Solar System is born! Within less than a billion years the globe of dust will thin out, until visually, at least, it seems to disappear completely. But it is still there (countless micro meteorites burn up in our atmosphere each day, adding tons of material to the weight of our planet yearly). The reason we know that the globe of dust is still there, and still pressing inward, is because that there is a region of space near the sun where temperatures soar to levels far beyond those found even in the very heart of our star. The super heated region of space that surrounds our sun is only a pale remnant of the heat wave that once encompassed the entire globe of dust.
    I know how difficult this subject can be, and I’ve had to boil a lot of things down into highly condensed versions to get this into a semi readable article. I hope that it is semi understandable, as well.
    That’s it, then. Guess I’d better answer the phone.



The Asteroids

    The Earth was created by asteroids, at first just a few, then more, then gravity kicks in, they really start piling on, and suddenly, the Earth is born!
The Age of the Dinosaurs was ended by an enormous asteroid strike just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. We know this because of the famous boundary below which you find dinosaurs, and above which you don’t. A famous boundary that is rich in iridium, an element that is rare on Earth.
    (For anybody who missed it, if the Earth was made by a massive accretion of asteroids, then iridium would be the most common element on the planet. It is not. Ergo, the Earth was not built by asteroids.)
    Ceres and Vespa, the two largest asteroids in the Belt, are perhaps the best examples of this fallacy. Both are large (Ceres is large enough so that gravity has already “rounded” it) and so should be steadily accumulating new material. But, while they show evidence of a number of strikes, there seems to be no creditable accretion, even after four and one half billion years. Since, according to scientific models, the Earth and the other planets and moons formed in little over half a billion years, that certainly seems like a long time to go with nothing to show for it.
    Allow me to offer a prediction about what scientists will find when our probe reaches Ceres. They will find an ancient object, left over from the creation of the solar system. This object will be mostly iron, possibly coated with a layer of ice, and an outermost layer of rock and dust. (There may also be a very tiny amount of gold, as well as a few radioactive elements, located at or near the core.) Taking into account however many additional asteroid strikes Ceres has suffered since its creation, the object will otherwise be pristine. It will be exactly what it is-a base model for moon and planetary creation. A blank or a broken mold-simply a failed attempt at building a moon or a planet. (Jupiter and Mars are to blame for this state of affairs, but more on that later.)
    After the dust was blown out of the inner solar system, objects rapidly cooled. So, globs of molten hot rock and metal congealed, and became asteroids. Most of the asteroids that were in the paths of the planets and moons were soon swept up and consumed. This is the “great bombardment” that has puzzled scientists for so long. Because there was no planet in the region we refer to as the Asteroid Belt, there was nothing to gobble them up. That is why the Asteroid Belt exists, even to this very day. The scientific value inherent in its existence is that it shows us just how crowded the tracks the planets now follow once were, after the inner solar system cooled.
    It is worth pointing out here that the number of hits on Earth, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and possibly Venus, do not bear out the number of asteroids in the Belt. There could be upwards of millions, or even billions of asteroids out there, but no where near that many struck the Earth. (Remember the iridium thingie?) It seems possible then, that many of the asteroids currently occupying the Belt may have been pushed there by the planets. After all, it is the one place in the solar system where asteroids can be out of the way of everything else.
    What then, is the ultimate purpose of the Asteroid Belt? Nothing! The Belt is simply just there; merely a debris strewn leftover from the creation of the solar system. So, if you are waiting for the Asteroid Belt to build some new moons or planets, well-don’t hold your breath.
    And, as to all those stars the scientists have found that have huge belts of asteroids that extend outward from the star to the edge of their solar systems-if there are not planetary sized masses already existing within those belts, then there never will be. Those solar systems lacked the mass, as well as the gases, required to build “rocky” planets or gas giants (remember, basic elements, as well as amounts of dust, are not going to be equally distributed throughout a nebula-some areas will have more, while others areas will have substantially less). So those stars contain “dead” solar systems. They have no planet now, and they never will.

(Postscript: Some of you who have been playing along on the home version will note that I have contradicted myself with the publishing of the previous article, The Asteroids. I will now officially retract the statement I made in an earlier edition of TUT to the effect of “the Asteroid Belt is even now busily attempting to build a planet.” I was wrong. It is not. I had accepted the model of planetary formation that had been handed to me by the scientific community, and I was trying to build upon it. Since it was flawed, so were my conclusions. As you can tell, I’ve adopted a new mode of thinking. I stand by everything else that I’ve said in The Universe Today series of articles.)



    Okay, I’ve had an epiphany. Don’t worry, I’m not freaking out, I REALLY have had an epiphany; one of epic proportions. Since the publication of the above articles I have spent the intervening time pacing back and forth, back and forth, and I’ve done it for so long now that my legs and the bottoms of my feet are sore. During this time I only ate three or four real meals, resorting instead to tossing a frozen waffle in the toaster oven and eating it like a cookie when it came out, or having half a bowl of cereal, or some soup-that has been my diet for the last few days. During the process of conceiving this theory I actually created new pathways in my brain, to the point that the top of my head literally hurts right now. When the whole thing came together, it actually felt for a moment like I was about to enter a new state of being. (I know, still sounds a little crazy, but trust me, kids, it’s not.)
     The problem is that if I write it out as one piece, the article would simply contain too much information for you to assimilate at one time (wouldn’t want you translating to a higher state of being if you did, right?). So, to this end I have decided to break down the information into two distinct sections. The first section, the one which follows, will deal with some basic concepts that are central to this new theory of the formation of the solar system. These are important concepts, and each one should be understood individually before moving on to the main theory. I will be adding these smaller articles, alone, or in groups, over the new few days, after which I will publish the full theory of the formation of the solar system.
     This is real science, kids, and it’s going to turn the current cosmology upside down. Hold on, this is going to be a bumpy ride.


Einstein’s Proof

    Albert Einstein theorized in his famous Theory of Relativity that objects of sufficient mass would warp space/time. Basically, even if a cell phone, for instance, was tossed out into the solar system, because it had mass, and a small amount of gravity, it would warp reality slightly. The way Einstein visualized this was to ask you to imagine a blanket on a bed. If the bed is smoothed over, the blanket lies flat. However, if you set down lead balls of varying weights on the blanket, then it becomes deformed. The depressions created in the blanket by those lead weights correspond to what mass and gravity are doing to space, except that they are doing it in three dimensions, rather than just one.
     Using a battery of highly technical instruments, scientists have travelled to the far ends of the Earth, seeking effects only visible during total eclipses, in attempts to bolster this claim. And all the while, the most tangible evidence for the confirmation of this theory has been right in front of (and behind) them, and fully realized models are floating around out there in our solar system, with a multitude of cameras and sensors currently pointing at them, ready to be studied.
     For more on this, first, we need to return to the rings of Saturn.
     Anyone who has looked at a picture of Saturn has noted that, rather than being one ring, there are actually a number of major and easily discernible rings snuggled up against each other, with some glaring gaps in the system near the outer edges. As to how this state of affairs came to be, and what it means, that will be discussed later. For now, we must turn our focus to the hundreds of smaller ringlets that actually make up each section of these rings.
     Within these ringlets, scientists have found something a bit puzzling. Clumps of ice and rock and dust that would first form then grow for a while, only to be eventually broken up by Saturn’s gravity. Scientists theorized that this happened because variations in Saturn’s gravity field (which, like the planet, is always rotating) alternately speeds up and slows down matter in the rings, first building and then destroying these clumps. The problem was not how these clumps were formed, but, instead, the effect they seemed to be having on the ringlet they formed in. Just to the front, and just behind, each of these various clumps, scientists saw what appeared to be a crescent shaped bow wave. They couldn’t explain this bow wave. Gravity seemed to be pushing matter in the wave in front of the clump, and to be pulling matter along in the wave that followed. This was a great mystery to them.
     Allow me to offer to attempt to do that now. The bow waves that precede and follow these clumps are actually visual representations of the warping of space/time; detectable and measureable warps in the fabric of reality. Apparently, these clumps of material, barely large enough to even be called proto-moons, are still dense enough, and have enough mass, to noticeably warp space/time in the area around them. Even better, we have the video to prove it. Additional study of the bow waves in the rings of Saturn should give us a better idea of the minimum amount of mass that is required to create such a profound and intriguing manifestation of this principle.
     Another equally important field of study presents itself here: Why does this warping of space and time only become visible in the direct line of travel? Why do we not see a three hundred and sixty degree ring? If we could physically stop the rotation of Saturn and its rings, would these bow waves disappear, or would they simply be replaced with a more circular wave? There is much to be learned from the rings of Saturn.
     (Before we go any further, I want to be completely clear on this. Scientists maintain that the bow waves are created by gravity, while I’m saying they are a physical manifestation of the mass of the object distorting normal space time. The actual gravity field of these clumps, or any larger object, extends far beyond these bow waves.)
     Hey, that’s great then, right? We know we already have one or two active probes in the Saturn system, and now we know what too look for, so let’s get to it! Kewl! However, if you recall, I did mention something about evidence a bit closer to home. Well, let’s bring things closer to home.
     As the Earth/Moon system twirls around the sun like two ballroom dancers, this couple is preceded by a group of asteroids called the Apollo Asteroids, and followed by another group known as the Trojan Asteroids. Just as with the clumps of rock, ice, and dust in the Saturn system, our bow wave, which, in reality, is the warping of time and space caused by the Earth (not the Earth and Moon-Earth is much bigger) is once again being visually manifested. Both groups, the Apollo and Trojan asteroids, which are about two to three million miles away, are being respectively pushed and pulled by the Earth’s warping of space/time.
     But maybe that still isn’t close enough for you? Okay, then, let’s bring it all the way home.
     We are taught in grade school that the Moon controls the tides, and this is quite true. It really does this, and has since the formation of the seas (more on this later). There’s just one thing, though, one nagging little problem that has kept scientists guessing. According to the way gravity works, high tide should occur directly beneath the Moon, and also take place at the same time on the opposite side of the Earth-which would then place the low tides on each horizon, of course. The thing that confounds scientists is that the reality is just the opposite. Low tide takes place at the spot roughly “beneath” the Moon (and on the opposite side of the world, too), while high tides occur on the east and west horizons. (In case you aren’t clear, the Earth is literally rotating under the tides. They move with the Moon, not the Earth.)
     How can this reversal of the laws of gravity be? Simple. Remember the Apollo and Trojan Asteroids, the ones that are somewhere between two and three million miles out in front of and behind us? Well, if we apply the same basic principles to the Moon, taking into account that it is one tenth the size of the Earth, and slightly less dense, then we add in the distance between the Earth and the Moon, which is roughly two hundred and forty thousand miles, or one tenth of the distance between the Earth and the Apollo and Trojan asteroids, suddenly the answer becomes crystal clear. Just as both sets of asteroids are riding our bow wave, the Earth is currently perched upon the boundary of the Moon’s tiny bow wave. That’s right; we’re hanging just on the edge of where the Moon’s mass warps space/time. We appear to spend most of our time riding off to the side of the main wave; in the region which invisibly connects the front and back sections of the waves that we see in Saturn’s Rings (although twice a month we should pass through the middle of the Moon’s front and back bow waves; extreme high and low tides each month may mark these two events). And yet, even at the sides, where there is no visible bow wave, this warping of space/time is so strong that it overcomes the weaker gravity of the Moon and physically pushes the tides to the eastern and western horizons of whatever hemisphere of the Earth the Moon is currently facing. And, because our ancestors never, in all of human history, reported a sudden and profound change in the tides (remember, we are talking worldwide here and we’re talking tides, not water level) we can also be certain that the Moon’s “bow wave” has been affecting the tides in this manner since the beginning of recorded history.
     How’s that for close?
     Einstein was right-any object of sufficient weight and mass will warp space/time. The great thing is that you don’t need a degree in mathematics to see his proof demonstrated. All you need is a sunny day at the beach.

Order in the Solar Court

     How and when the planets formed has been hotly debated over the years. We have been amazed by the CGI results of some of these speculations-planets rolling around the solar system like bowling balls, careening and smashing into one another with wild abandon. Science shows have delighted in giving us detail light explanations of how this will occur, and backing up such random musings with dazzling CGI vistas of our entire planet in turmoil. And while this may play well, it has very little to do with the basic reality that confronts us. So, as we delve into the order in which the planets formed, we will attempt to also dispense with a few of the more spectacular modern myths that have been fostered on the public during the last score of years.
     Since the best place to start is usually the beginning, we might as well open there-
Seven or eight billion years ago the region that all the stars in our local group occupy was a vast, sheet like nebula, which, although it stretched many light years across, was still probably less than a kilometer thick at its densest points. The super massive black hole that spins at the center of our galaxy, and turns the entire galaxy with it, had then, and still has now, stronger and weaker areas of gravity, just like every other object in the universe. This alternately led to first the dust and gases, and later the solar systems that they spawned, to sometimes move faster and sometimes move slower. (Ultimately, it was these inconsistencies that merged the dust and gases together to create the multitude of stars and planets that now inhabit our galaxy.) This speeding up and slowing down caused ripples to appear the in vast, flat nebular cloud. In accordion like fashion the sprawling cloud of dust and gas began to fold in upon itself, to become denser, more opaque. Eventually, the vast, sheet like nebula began to resemble a towering thunderhead, and all that dust, and those gases, contained within, were pressed together, and heated to incredible temperatures by titanic surges of static electricity washing over them. Within the heart of the nebula, at the most dense points, objects began to form, thick and tightly woven balls of gas and dust. Sculpted by gravity, both theirs, and the weight of the mass of all that dust and gas that made up the nebula in which they resided, these objects formed gradually, over time. (For more on this, check out the first article in this current issue.)
     (Which brings us to our first popular fallacy-stars, or clusters of stars, are created either by supernovae or by solar winds from supergiant stars. While both of the aforementioned do occasionally play a part in stellar creation, they are neither the sole reason for, nor even a necessary element of, such a process. As we have already noted, it is most often humble gravity that is responsible for the creation of new solar systems. Although, I will admit, the reality just doesn’t look half as exciting in a video.)
     In the center of what would be our solar system, one of these masses formed, the proto-star that we would one day know as Sol, our sun. It sat there, perhaps for millions of years, accumulating mass, and rotating, and growing to an incredible size. Over time, a second mass began to form, very close into the first. Smaller than the sun, but made up of the same basic mixture of gases, this smaller gas giant started to grow, too. (This really isn’t that unusual. Most star systems are actually binary systems, consisting of a large star, and often, but not always, also a smaller companion; although occasionally both stars are of similar size. Some star systems, much like our closest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, even consist of four or more stars.) As the smaller proto-star continued to grow, mainly through the acquisition of gases, it too started to rotate. Over time, this led to the formation of hundreds, or even thousands, of rings, which looked very much like the rings of Saturn, but with one major difference. This debris in these rings was made up of handfuls of particles of rock and metal, cemented together by high intensity waves of static electric discharge. Over time they began to form moons and moonlets around the tiny proto star. This smaller gas giant, which we know today as Jupiter, was well on the way to becoming a star itself when something unexpected happened.
     (Now we come to three more fallacies-first that the planets only began to take shape after the sun was fully formed and functional, second that all moons in orbit around all the planets are captures, and third that all the planets came into being either in or somewhere near their present orbits. As to that last bit, even though I’ve run this simulation in my head over and over again, I still can’t get the planets to form in their current locations. More on this in a moment.)
     A change was definitely occurring. Maybe it was because of all that heat, part of it caused by the proto sun and part by the scraping together of all those trillions and trillions of particles of dust, but some of that furnace blast must also have been created by those titanic sheets of static electricity, as they sizzled through folds of the globe of dust. Perhaps too, so much time had passed that new chemicals had been compounded, through physical mixing and/or being influenced by all the aforementioned effects that were present in the early solar system. But no matter what was responsible for the change, the effect was remarkable. A new element had formed in the midst of the globe of dust, and this element would eventually come to dominate virtually the entire solar system.
     Saturn, which has a chemical content quite unlike most of the other bodies in the solar system, could have been formed during this transition phase. (This is just the first point at which Saturn could have formed. There are still two more to come. While it is worth mentioning here, this is probably the least likely point for Saturn’s formation.)
     Now, just like Jupiter, the Sun, while still a gas giant, had, because of stronger and weaker points in its field of gravity, and because of its rotation, also spawned rings of metal and stone. But unlike Jupiter, the rings around our proto-sun did not number in the hundreds, or even the thousands, but instead were somewhere upwards of a million or more. (Keep in mind that, at this time, the Sun was still a big ball of hot, but not incandescent, gases, and that, despite the number of these rings, they may not have extended out any further than the orbit of Mercury. And within this astronomically tiny space all but a handful of moons, and perhaps one planet, formed.) As more dust and gas were drawn into the inner solar system, and either directly into the Sun, or into the million or more rings, Jupiter gradually moved further out, away from the gas giant Sun. That change which was mentioned previously, which was the introduction of water into the mix, now created a radically new pattern of planet and moon formation. While some moons and moonlets had already formed and moved out past Jupiter, now, the majority of moons and moonlets being created were surrounded not only by an envelope of gas, but also by one of water and/or ice, as well. It was at this time that two icy, massive gas giants, Uranus and Neptune, were born. As these two immense planets formed, Jupiter was once again obliged to move outward, from somewhere between the orbits of Earth and Venus, to a point between Mars and the Asteroid Belt. (As to Jupiter’s exact location during the aforementioned events, I can’t be certain. Those are only rough estimates.) As incredible as it may sound, it seems not only possible, but perhaps even likely that both Uranus and Neptune formed at, or near, the same time. That two bodies of such impressive size could form in such a relatively small area, and do so without seriously impeding one another, seems almost unbelievable, and yet what we see in the rings of Saturn indicates that this is a distinct possibility. The two icy gas giants formed near the Sun, then managed to spin up a few satellites, using exactly the same process that the Sun had used to create them, and when they were done both of these massive worlds then migrated outward, and assumed orbits beyond Jupiter. And yet, how can this be? We know from the rings of Saturn that moons have formed inside the rings, and then left gaps when they moved out of them, into “higher” orbits. The amazing this is that, not only did these new moons manage to leave the rings without colliding with any of the other moons orbiting Saturn, they also accomplished this feat without destroying the rings in the process. (I’m still working on the nuts and bolts of this last bit, but I know that the space time distortion ring, the one discussed in the previous article, “Einstein’s Proof,” is directly related to this conundrum.) Apparently, once a moon, or in this case a planet, reaches a certain size, it is able to migrate outward past everything that should be in its way, and then settle into a stable orbit. That this has happened in the rings of Saturn, and on more than one occasion, is generally acknowledged by the majority of the scientific community. It is the how of it that is still open to question.
     (Which leads us to two of my favorite fallacies-that the planets spent the early ages of the solar system smashing into and obliterating one another, and that the formula for water is virtually the same all over the solar system so comets must have bombarded everything. As to the first, the rings of Saturn give lie to the smash and bash theory-I mean, the one tiny moon which scientists found that had been smashed and reassembled definitely showed the damage. And it did so in a way that no other moon or planet in the solar system has yet exhibited. So, we are then forced to conclude that if a planet or moon actually did smash into your world, the world would not perfectly reshape itself, despite all scientific yearnings to the contrary. And, as to water, the region in which the planets were forming was relatively small, and all the elements within it were heavily concentrated, so then it is not surprising that, except for any local flavoring provided by the body upon which it condensed, the recipe for water is pretty much the same across the whole solar system. It should be-most all the water in the solar system formed in the same place.)
     Shortly after the appearance of water, it seems that most of the available gases in the solar system had been either exhausted or else converted into heavier elements. At this point, the rocky planets began to take shape. Most of the ice moons of the inner and outer solar system came into being at this time. This is also when the major inner planets formed.
     First among these was the Earth. The reason we know this is because not only did the Earth get enough material to sustain its own creation, but also accumulated so much that it was able to spin up our Moon. Once the Earth/Moon system became large enough, it too migrated outward, forcing Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and all those smaller moons and moonlets that had already moved out beyond the gas giants, to move out again. Ultimately, though, all the aforementioned celestial bodies pinned the Earth in, and kept it from moving any further out into the solar system. As confusing as this may seem, this really is a property of gravity, or possibly a result of the interaction between gravity and dark energy/matter, but either way, the Earth/Moon system, while it was able to move away from the Sun, did not migrate out any further, as had the gas giants, and the smaller moons and moonlets. Even as Earth settled into its orbit, other smaller bodies, moons and moonlets buried in gaseous envelopes, were moving out past our planet and the gas giants, on their way to the outer reaches of the solar system.
     The next inner planet to take shape was Venus, which may have begun forming even as the Earth was spinning up the Moon. While Venus did manage to attain a size comparable to the Earth, there was apparently insufficient mass left over for it to create its own moon. Like the Earth/Moon system, Venus moved out, away from the Sun, and every major and minor body in the solar system moved with it.
     At some point during this process, Saturn may have begun to form, either just sunward of Jupiter, or else in the spot it currently occupies in the solar lineup, if not actually the same physical spot in space. (Remember, Saturn probably got moved around a bit while the inner planets were forming and moving into their orbits.) The reason for Saturn forming at this point would be interactions between Jupiter and Uranus and Neptune and this creation scenario would also help to explain Saturn’s unusual chemical content. This would mean too that Saturn, alone of all the planets, did actually form somewhere near the orbit it currently follows.
     After Venus formed, then came Mars, which was small enough to move out past Venus and the Earth, but large enough not to get past Jupiter and the outer planets and moons. By now there was so much mass pressing inward, so many moons and planets, that when tiny Mercury formed it moved outward, beyond the edges of the Sun’s rings, and then it stopped.
     And here, finally, is the last spot where Saturn may have formed. In this scenario Saturn forms in close to the Sun, when most of the material in the Sun’s rings has already been used. The gas giant picks up whatever odd gases are left over, and has not only enough ice, but also enough solid material forming in rings around it to spin up the moon Titan, and some other smaller companions. Once it reaches a certain size, Saturn breaks the Sun’s grip, migrates past the inner planets, then past Jupiter, and finally settles into its current orbit.
     (Now we can confront the most spectacular and oft repeated fallacy of them all-that when (and if) the Sun actually does one day swell up into a red giant star, it will consume the Earth and all the rest of the inner planets during its fiery expansion. As we have seen, the more likely outcome is that the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets, will all simply move farther out into new, more distant orbits when the Sun starts to grow larger.)
     A short time later, universally speaking, the Sun bursts into life, and all the ice floating around in the Sun’s rings is thrown into the outer solar system. The debris left over from all those failed attempts at moon or planet creation, from the tiniest pebbles to mountain sized pieces of rock, including whatever nascent planets or moons were currently forming (Ceres comes to mind), begins to migrate outwards. Most of this material ends up in the Asteroid Belt, pinned between the Sun and the inner planets on the one side, and Jupiter and the outer gas giants on the other.
So, what lesson can we draw from all of this?
Gravity, although an insentient force of nature, appears to crave harmony, and is constantly striving to achieve it.
(Okay, I admit, this scenario is not half as spectacular as all those planets smashing into each other, but, given the available evidence, it does seem much more likely. While I’d love to see this concept play out in a computer simulation, the truth is that we simply don’t have any software sophisticated enough to run it. If computer code can’t create a simulation of Saturn’s Rings that allows for moons to form and then progress into higher orbits, and do this without destroying the entire ring system and a couple of other moons along the way, then the simulation isn’t nearly as all inclusive as it would have to be to accurately recreate such motions. And until scientists are finally willing to drop the calculator and start using the standard issue Mark I eyeball to further their investigations of the universe, this sad state of affairs will continue.)

Fun with Science

     Want to try a couple of simple (very simple) science experiments? It’s really very easy, just wait and see!
     The indoor sport of Basketball is becoming very common around the world, so by this point most folks know what a basketball is, and may even own or have access to one themselves. And, our first science experiment will require one grade A basketball, inflated to its normal capacity.
     Once you have the basketball, the next thing you need is a smooth, flat surface. Place the basketball on this surface, and when it is secure, then sit on it. Carefully, of course, because you don’t want to hurt or damage yourself doing this little experiment. (Best rule of thumb is, use your imagination in lieu of any hospital stays.)
     Now that you’re sitting on the basketball, you’ll note that the bottom of the ball, the part that is in contact with the smooth, flat surface, is looking a bit flatter-as is the top of the ball, the part that you happen to be sitting on at the moment. And the middle of the ball, the centerline or the waist, seems noticeably rounder, fatter.
     This shape is called oblate. Virtually every star, planet, and moon that we know of is shaped this way. All classical Greek beliefs aside, the celestial spheres are not perfectly round. They are oblate.
     There is a reason for this state of affairs, and that will be discussed in the final article in this current series, the one on planetary formation. For now, though, the important thing to understand is that it exists.
     The second experiment is just as simple, though we’ll use it to explain some very complex concepts.
     For this experiment you’ll need a strong piece of string or rope, and a weight of some sort that can be securely fashioned to one end of the aforementioned string or rope.
     Start by letting out the rope with the weighted end until you are only holding onto the opposite end of the rope. Make sure you have a firm grip. Then, hold your arm up over your head and began to whirl the rope round and around. (Keep in mind the precautions advised in the previous experiment and just use your imagination instead.) At first, depending on how much weight you have tied to the end of the rope, either one of two things will occur-if it is a light weight, then it will spin around your head at somewhere between a fifteen to forty-five degree angle above you-or if it is a heavier weight it will spin at a lower angle, more level with your head.
     Now, start to spin the rope faster (make sure you have a firm grip). If you can spin the weighted rope fast enough, at a certain point, it will began to spin in a flat trajectory, and the rope will form a right angle where it parts with your grip.
     Planets and moons are much the same way as the weight on the end of the rope. They are travelling as fast as they can, trying desperately to escape their parent suns, but their star’s gravity, and the mass of the other planets in the system, keep them from escaping (even so, the Moon moves a centimeter or two further away from us each year). This also holds true for stars-the stars in our galaxy stack their gravity wells together like mounds of soap bubbles or sea foam. And though all of these stars are trying to escape the galaxy, the gravity wells of all the other stars around them pull and press inwards, while dark e/m pushes in from the outside, and this is, ultimately, what holds galaxies together. Despite this immense amount of pressure, stars are going so fast that, just like planets, they try to get as far away from the center point as possible. So globe shaped galaxies can spin out into flattened spirals, and the planets of our solar system all tend to orbit along an invisible plane. An orbit formed around the most oblate part of our Sun, the middle. Which equates to the point furthest away from the central object. You know, that waist or the more fattened part of the basketball we were discussing in the first experiment.
     Maybe gravity not only seeks harmony, but enforces it.
     Okay, so now we know why all the major planets tend to rest on the same plane, rather than orbiting the Sun in any and every direction, like electrons orbiting atoms. And we also know why the pinwheel that is our spiral galaxy doesn’t shed all of its attendant stars as it spins. You can sleep better tonight knowing that the Earth or the Sun isn’t suddenly going to go tumbling off into the cosmos (I know I do). All of this thanks to a couple of very easy experiments.
     Science-easier than it looks.
Magnetic Planetality

     When it comes to the Earth’s magnetic field there are a number of things most scientists will agree upon-that it exists, and that it performs functions vital to the continuance of life on Earth-but that is about as far as the scientific community is willing to go. Everything else is speculation.
     Despite their best efforts, scientist still cannot conduct precise scans of the core of our planet. We know more about the surfaces of planets and moons millions, or even billions, of miles away, than we know about the core of our own world, only some few thousand miles below us. What we do know is that the magnetic field which surrounds this planet, and protects all life here from the lethal radiations of the sun, is somehow generated by the inner core of the Earth, what we’re not sure about is exactly how this is accomplished.
     Current theory suggests that the innermost portion of the Earth is a huge ball of iron (possibly molten) that is spinning so fast that it is generating its own magnetic field. This theory, or one similar to it, has been in vogue since the topic was first given serious consideration. Using observational astronomy alone I will offer a new explanation for the existence of the Earth’s magnetic field, based on what is actually out there, not what my ten little fingers tell me might be out there.
     (It should be noted here that I’m not going to attempt to explain the origin of the magnetic field in this article. Instead, this article will concentrate on what generates the Earth’s magnetic field and why it has continued to function long after the magnetic fields of the rest of the inner planets have collapsed. As to the details of how the current state of affairs came into being, I refer you to the article which will soon follow this one, the piece on Planetary Formation.)
     To begin with, let’s go to the Asteroid Belt. Here, we find the four and one half billion year old leftovers of planetary formation. Though there are asteroids of virtually every imaginable shape, they can be broken down into three basic types: Boulders and Mountains (formed mostly of nickel/iron, although some are made of stone), rock piles (both great and small), and elongated, or “potato shaped,” cylinders of nickel/iron, often many miles long. Each one of these common types of asteroids played a vital role in forming all the planets, moons, and moonlets in our solar system. And though they are only smashed and broken leftovers, if we piece them together using our knowledge of what is going on in the rings of Saturn, then their various shapes suddenly make sense.
     What lies at the core of our planet? What is the engine that motivates our world and maintains all the conditions that are prerequisites to life on Earth? What?
     Floating weightless in the core of the Earth, and spinning so fast that the human eye would perceive it as just a blur, is a magnetized, potato shaped asteroid of nickel/iron, which is x number of miles long. (X is the variable here-since we can’t measure the inner core accurately, we have no idea just how long the asteroid actually might be.) This madly spinning asteroid, although weightless because it is at the very core of our planet, is surrounded, swimming, in a pool of magnetic, superheated liquid metal. As to the specific contents of this pool, suffice it to say, if there are any significant sources of iridium to be found on the Earth, then they will be found here, at the core, possibly coexisting with a few metals and even stone that are so dense that they have never been thrust up onto the surface of our world. It should also be noted that radioactive materials, being for the most part quite dense, should be found here in liquid form, as well.
     This “heart” of the inner core is encapsulated by what scientist acknowledge as the “inner core.” It is a casing formed of nickel/iron, copper, and many other ferrous metals, that is perhaps as large as or larger than the moon or planet wanna be, Ceres. This outer surface of the inner core, while very dense, doesn’t appear to be molten. According to accepted scientific theory, the reason that, even though it is very, very hot down there, the outer surface of the core remains solid is because of the enormous amount of pressure being exerted upon it by the weight of all the mass above it. (In other words, everything you see around you, and everything else between here and the core of the Earth.) But that is only half of the story, because, as previously noted in the piece on the globe of dust, billions of years ago, while the Earth was just beginning to form, the surface of the core was flash fried by successive waves of titanic static electric discharges. These immense waves of energy may have contributed somewhat to the hard outer, and inner, shell of the Earth’s core.
     At this point some of you fine folks will be saying, “Wait a minute! What you’re describing is just a big electric motor!” To which I would respond, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The inner core of the Earth is a massive, planetary sized electric motor. Hence, it is the source, and the motivating force, of the Earth’s magnetic field.”
     (If scientists wish to gain real, working knowledge of the Earth’s core, they need to focus their efforts on Ceres, and send more comprehensive probes, or even a human presence, to that tiny world. If you have been playing along on the home version of this little exercise, then you already know why this should be done. Although ancient and long dead, Ceres could reveal a great deal to us, not only about the core of the Earth, but the core of every other moon and planet in our solar system.)
     Okay, so we’ve accounted for two of the three most common asteroid types in the belt now. Potato shaped nickel/iron asteroids first, the ‘magnetized iron bar’ at the center of the Earth, then the boulders and mountains of the same substance, which formed the outer shell of the core. That only leave us with the piles of rock. Rock is created when iron ore is heated to a high enough temperature for the rock and iron to separate. A recent television program claimed this process led to the formation of the crust, or surface, of the Earth. If this is true then it leads us to an inevitable conclusion-a great many, but not all, of the rock piles in the Asteroid Belt were once part of the crust of a failed moon or planet. Sometime between five and four and half billion years ago, these aspiring moons or planets formed in one of the million plus rings stretching out and away from the Sun, and then, for whatever reason (and there are multitudes) they later broke up again.
     All right, so now we have some idea of why we have such a powerful magnetic field. Because we have an asteroid sized bar of magnetized iron whirling away at the core, surrounded by a flash fried casing of ferrous metal and stone. Without it, the surface of the Earth would be just as dead and lifeless as that of Mercury, Venus, and possibly even Mars. Why is it, then, that we are so special? That our magnetic field, and along with it all life on our planet, thrives, while these other rocky worlds, which are virtually the same age as our own, exhibit little or no magnetic field, and their outer surfaces appear to be totally devoid of life?
     The answer to that question is as simple, and yet as elegant, as the Universe itself.
     The Moon and the Tides are responsible for the continued existence of the Earth’s powerful magnetic field, and are therefore the benefactors to all life on the surface of the Earth. Without the interaction between these two key elements, our world would be as barren and lifeless as the face of Mars. (If any life did exist on the Earth under those conditions, it would most likely be microbial, and would live far beneath the surface of the planet.)
     Four times each day the tides rise and fall at virtually every point on the planet. Twice each day those higher tides roll across the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Ocean basins. And twice each day a lower volume of water follows the higher one, with a period of only a little over six hours between the higher and the lower volume of water. As you may imagine, this leads to a certain level of stress being applied to the sea floor, and the crust beneath, which is first being pushed down, then bobbing back up again, every six hours. And this constant sinking and rising is taking place on seventy percent of the surface of the planet every day.
     No wonder the crust of the Earth is only twenty miles thick. Imagine how much heat and kinetic energy must be generated by this endless rolling of the crust. Of course it’s hot down there, at the core. Very, very hot-and that is why the magnetized nickel/iron asteroid at the heart of our planet keeps spinning merrily away.
     So now we know why we have a magnetic field, and how it is maintained, but there is another external factor that needs to be taken into account here-one which will not only demonstrate the usefulness of our magnetic field, but also illuminate a less obvious source from which it draws energy.
     One of the major functions of the magnetic field is to fend off massive bursts of destructive energy tossed at us by our Sun. Our magnetic field catches these bursts of energy and bleeds most of them off into space, but it does transfer some of them into the Earth, as well. Guess where that energy ends up? Yes, you’re right, that magnetized asteroid at the heart of our planet becomes the beneficiary of all that excess energy, too.
     And so the process continues, eon after eon-next to the Sun, this is the closest we can come to a true perpetual motion machine. As prosaic as it may seem to be, the heart of our world is also the source of all life on Earth, and the Sun and the Moon and the Tides work in cosmic harmony together to protect and maintain it.
Planetary Formation

     If you’ve made it this far then this is it, the Holy Grail. Here is where it all comes together.
     For this article we will first revisit (for one last time) the rings of Saturn, and use the actual model of planetary formation that is taking place there as you read this article, and then compare and contrast it to what occurred during the formation of the early solar system.
     Ready? Then, let’s go!
     In the rings of Saturn we see numerous moons in various stages of formation. Some of these moons are just elongated asteroids of rock, and ice, and dust, many miles long, that have a crescent shaped bow wave that both proceeds and follows them along in their orbits. One “end” or “pole” of these asteroids is always pointed towards Saturn, while the opposite one points directly outward into space. The frontal wave that precedes these asteroids catches incoming material and it slips down along the crescent then around it and so approaches the asteroid from the side, rather than head on. This is what accounts for the rod like shape of these curious bodies. Other bodies in the rings are much larger and have more familiar oblate shapes; actual moons and moonlets. Where the largest of these objects form there are distinct gaps in the rings. If the larger moons and moonlets are very, very lucky, they will gain enough speed to escape the inner ring system, and move into a “higher” orbit with all the other moons that already inhabit the Saturn system. If not, then they will eventually be smashed to pieces by Saturn’s gravity, and a gap in the rings will suddenly be refilled. Considering that Saturn’s rings still exist four and one half billion years after the formation of the solar system, and that if they weren’t being constantly replenished that they would have dissipated long ago, we must conclude that this is an ongoing process that has been constantly repeating itself for the last few billion years, and will continue to do so not only for the foreseeable future, but long after Humankind is just a memory.
     It is a slow process, taking millions, and sometimes tens of millions of years to complete. And after all that effort to build one of these icy moons, within the passage of just a few million more years, that same moon has been ground back down into just another ring of rock, and ice, and dust. Then, it starts all over again.
     The rings of Saturn have great value to us, because they demonstrate the true (no guessing) model of planetary formation. This is not some mathematical construct we’re seeing, what is going on in space just a few billion kilometers away from us is the real thing, the precise way in which all moons (and ultimately planets) are formed.
     But there are startling contrasts between the early solar system and the rings of Saturn, and these contrasts are what has led to so much confusion in the scientific community. This bemusement created a flurry of theories on solar and planetary formation, all of which calculated what must have happened, rather than taking into account the reams of space photographs that have been taken by high powered telescopes during the last century. To many of these scientists, the only photographs of any value were those which proved, or at least gave credence, to their theories. This state of mind eventually gave way to the current narrative, the “accepted” theory on planetary formation-you know the one-where planets and moons careen around the solar system and smash into and obliterate one another, and then reform again. It really looks spectacular, even awe-inspiring, especially when depicted with the current visual media, but these momentous scenes of destruction are not what those libraries of space photographs show us. The picture which they provide (while much more sedate) clearly illustrates the basic outline of solar system formation, from beginning to end.
     In the first article in this Winter/Spring edition, we discussed the Globe of Dust from which our solar system was formed, and in the articles that followed we explored and expanded on this concept, and introduced many new elements to the equation. With that information as our guide, we will now focus our attention on just one small cog in the overall process: the formation of the Earth/Moon system. (Keep in mind that the model being postulated here works no matter where the planets actually formed, either nearer the Sun as was earlier theorized, or else in the orbits they currently occupy.)
     The Earth begins its life as a tiny flake of iron, the size of a mote of dust. It is only one of countless dust mote sized flakes of iron embedded in the globe of dust; in fact, there are so many of these flakes of iron present at this time that we simply don’t have numeric equivalents large enough to express their true number. And the mote that will be the seed of the Earth, upon which our entire planet will be built, is just one of them.
     A wave of static electric discharge, created by heat and the brushing together of countless dust mote sized flakes, ripples through the region of the solar system occupied by the flake of iron, and that flake is magnetized. It begins to attract other flakes of iron, and these adhere to it. Hours, or days, or weeks later another wave passes over the conglomeration of iron flakes, and it is so powerful it turns them into a molten mass. Zero G conditions, combined with micro-gravity, rounds out the tiny molten mass, turning it into a small glass marble, or ball bearing shaped object. With each successive wave of static electric energy that wafts by, the marble shaped object is magnetized again, and the magnetic charge grows stronger, wave after wave. Soon it is strong enough to attract other balls of iron that have formed nearby, and these together form a roughly globe shaped object.
     At this point, the object is now large enough to produce a weak gravity field, and this field causes dust motes of every description (not just the ferrous ones) to be drawn towards it. The dust coalesces around the crude ball of iron and it forms a globe shaped layer over this inner core. In time, maybe a few hours, days, weeks, or months, yet another wave of static electricity sweeps through the region and as it does this surface of dust is flash hardened. Once the wave has passed, the process starts all over again.
     Over perhaps as much as a million years, this endlessly repeated sequence of the gathering of dust and subsequent flash hardening forms an object large enough to create its own crescent shaped gravity bow wave. And when it does, something very curious begins to happen-the object no longer accumulates mass equally on all sides. Instead, it starts to take on a more rod like shape.
     The reason for this is really quite simple: the bow wave that precedes the object pushes all the dust, and any other material that has formed, away from the front of the object, while the following wave does the same for material approaching from the rear. Now unable to attach itself directly to the object, incoming material is forced to slide down the crescent shaped bow waves and enter from the sunward or spaceward sides, where it then accumulates. (This is why we have elongated, “Idaho Potato” shaped nickel/iron asteroids scattered around the Asteroid Belt and elsewhere throughout our solar system. All of these objects represent the first stage in attempts at moon or planetary formation.)
     There is a prodigious amount of material being pulled into the globe of dust-all the nebula gas and dust within a distance of as much as two light years away, plus any additional material the globe of dust can drag in from the tenuous cord it maintains to its parent nebula, and all of that material is slowing being compressed into an area less than half a light year round. And the globe is still continuing to deflate, to draw in upon itself, tighter and tighter as it spins.
     And all this material, all this dust, these gases, chemicals, even water, is spiraling in towards the inner solar system, and the gas giant proto sun that lies at its center.
     But the proto Sun does not benefit from this inflow. Oh, some of the gases still reach it, but most of the heavier material ends up in the million (or millions) rings and ringlets that encircle it and stretch far out into the solar system. Of all the planets in the inner solar system, the Earth is the greatest beneficiary of this nebular bounty. This massive inflow has a very pronounced effect on the rod shaped nickel/iron asteroid that will be the heart of our planet, it causes that miles long bar of magnetized, semi molten nickel/iron, to begin to spin. The inflow becomes heavier at one pole, while remaining the same at the other pole. Gradually, the object becomes unbalanced, with more material accumulating at one end than at the other. To relieve this imbalance, and propelled by the heavier inflow, the object begins to spin. This does correct the imbalance, although it also appears to leave most of these potato shaped asteroids slightly “bent” at one end. This spin, which was originally caused by a heavier inflow of material at one pole than at the other, is the primary source of the Earth’s rotation.
     Let’s do a quick recap. What we have, at this point, is an asteroid some miles long and as much as a mile or more in circumference, that is made of semi molten nickel/iron which has been magnetized and flash hardened repeatedly by thousands of massive static electric discharges. Basically, despite its size this is really just a large electric magnet. This asteroid sized bar magnet is travelling through a dense cloud formed of all the various materials we’ve already discussed. It has a gravity bow wave that precedes it, and a gravity bow wave that follows along behind it. And now, due to the ever growing amount of material sliding down the crescent shaped gravity bow wave, and then approaching the central object from the “sides,” this bar magnet has started spinning like a propeller.
     The resulting effect is spectacular, if understated. Dust is drawn into “orbit” around the spinning asteroid. Most of the flakes drawn in this way are ferrous metals, although any other motes of nebular dust that are attached to them through static electricity (the same way your clothes stick together if you don’t use an anti-static sheet in the dryer) are drawn along with them as well. This causes huge sheets of dust to wrap themselves around the whirling asteroid, encasing the object in a mostly ferrous metallic shell. Because of the way that the material accumulates, coming in only from the sunward or spaceward sides, more material is deposited along the centerline of the metallic shell than at the top or the bottom, resulting in a slightly oblate shape. Since it is mostly formed of ferrous metals, the shell rotates along with the bar magnet at its center (though not as rapidly as the asteroid). And yet, no matter how much material the proto Earth accumulates, the speed of this rotation will remain coordinated, from the inner core all the way to the outer surface. (In other words, if not for the vestigial, but constant movement of the various land masses of the Earth, you could pick a spot somewhere on the planet and go and stand there each day, and the location that corresponded to the same spot on the inner core would always be directly beneath you. With the movement of the continents this position will change over the years, although, in truth, the variation over a lifetime would only be a few meters.) The outer surface of the Earth always rotates fast enough to keep pace with the inner core.
     Now the familiar globe shape of the Earth is revealed. The object grows larger, is flash hardened, then grows and is flash hardened again. Over and over, this occurs. At a certain point the Earth grows large enough to start creating its own ring system, just as the Sun did before it. And, the same thing happens to the Earth as happened to the Sun-the rings around the Earth begin to catch the inflowing material, and the Earth receives less mass, although many of the gases still reach the planet. And just as in the rings of Saturn, or the rings around the Sun, moons and moonlets attempt to form. Eventually, one of them is successful. Now the Moon catches most of the incoming material, even a healthy share of the primitive gases the miniature gas giant Earth has been absorbing. So great is the inflow that the Moon grows large enough to create its own small ring system.
     This same process is taking place around every planet and large moon in the solar system. They all have rings around them during this period (in the past few years traces of such rings have been found around all the outer gas/ice giants-the remnants of these rings exist in a region outside the orbits of the gas giants outermost moons). Remember, too, at this point every object of any appreciable size in the solar system also has an envelope of nebular gases around it. This even includes objects as small as asteroids.
     The precise mechanism which sets the Sun into motion is still unclear-it could be that once it accumulated a sufficient amount of mass, the Sun simply imploded on itself. Alternately, it is possible that one of those massive waves of static electricity was responsible. Either way, our Sun blazed into life and a number of things then occurred. Most of the dust in the inner solar system was actually converted to slightly larger particles (millions of pea, pebble, and pin head sized objects which still bombard our planet each year, adding tons of additional weight) or that dust was blown towards the outer reaches of the solar system. The outer surface gases that had formed around the Sun, those that contained the most water, were also blown away from the surface of the Sun during its ignition. As they travelled outward, they began coalescing as balls of ice, while at the same time picking up an outer layer of nebular dust. We know these objects today as comets.
     But something else truly puzzling also occurred during or shortly after the ignition of the Sun. The ring systems of all the planets and major and minor moons collapsed. Most of them ended up crashing into the planets or moons they were orbiting, while others went rogue, sailing off into the blackest reaches of the solar system, only to periodically return to threaten their mother worlds.
     Why did this happen? What were the conditions that led to the crash of every ring system, save one, in our solar system? Did the Sun smolder for a few hundred million years before fully catching fire? Or, did it start and initially run in a very erratic fashion, perhaps even producing one or more truly cataclysmic outbursts? It’s difficult to say, especially without more precise information. What we do know is that this “great bombardment” did take place, even if the reasons behind it are still a mystery.
     The Earth and Moon suffer through this great bombardment, though the Moon takes the brunt of it, shielding the Earth somewhat from what would have otherwise been the full effects. (Perhaps this is because the Moon formed in these rings.) The great bombardment consumes virtually every object in orbit around the planets of the inner solar system. When it ends, the only ring objects left in the inner solar system are the Moon, and the two potato shaped asteroids that orbit Mars.
     Although the Moon, just like the Earth, is surrounded by an envelope of nebular gases, it quickly sheds these as it cools. This is because the Moon loses its spin. Its rotation slows, until it only rotates once every twenty-nine days (which is how it can always keep the same face towards Earth). The slowing of this rotation, combined with the fact that the Moon blows a large amount of its core material out onto the hemisphere that faces the Earth, causes its core to cool rapidly, which also leads to the collapse of its magnetic field. Without this shield, the Moon is incapable of fending off the predations of the Sun, and cosmic rays disperse the Moon’s atmosphere in short order. Though the Moon will retain heat in its core, even to this very day, it will never be enough to bring this grey and nearly airless world back to life again. Over time the Moon will vent quite a large portion of the water and gas it accumulated during formation through its North and South Polar Regions. Our probes have detected evidence of traces of water at the Moon’s poles, while probes in the outer solar system, in orbit around Saturn, have seen one of the moons on the outer edges of the ring system venting sprays of water hundreds of kilometers into the air on an almost daily basis. Doubtless the Moon once did the same, but that ended hundreds of millions, if not billions, of years ago.
     While all this is happening, the Earth’s own cloak of nebular gases is coalescing too. And, as it does, it mixes with all the gases our planet is producing as the crust begins to cool and shrink. (Our atmosphere could not have formed without an envelope of nebular gas already in place. As real world experience has shown us in probe after probe, gases exposed to a surface with no atmosphere dissipate.) The Oceans also form at this time. One of the most plentiful gases during this period is carbon dioxide, and the first primitive forms of life take advantage of this by using carbon dioxide and/or sunlight for food and energy, and producing, as they do, a curious byproduct-oxygen.
     And you know the rest of the story from here…
     Well, that’s it. From a single flake of iron to an entire planet, in just a few short paragraphs. (The real process, of course, took place over half a billion years or more.) Sorry I couldn’t make it a bit more eye catching for the graphics guys, but that’s simply how it is. Like most things in the mundane world, the most plausible scenario is not quite as flashy or spectacular as a big budget movie, or a well written novel. The real world rarely is.
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The Universe Today

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Welcome to this special edition of
The Universe Today.

In this issue we explore and explain the Big Bang Theory,
and add a whole new dimension to our existence.

(Special note: Not quite a year ago I realized that dark matter was taking an active part in the formation of our Universe. That it was literally pushing galaxies apart and had also been involved in the formation of the first galaxies. Obviously, I was very excited by this line of conjecture, and began to work things out, with the idea of committing it to paper as quickly as possible. Then, I saw something on television about some guys who were about to win the Nobel Prize for their work on this subject. I asked Charlie to look it up on the net, then I told him the direction my thoughts were moving in, how dark matter was interacting with matter-and he confirmed that that was exactly what these guys had come up with, and why they were winning the Nobel Prize. I was crestfallen, as you might well imagine.

For the last year I have isolated myself away from all print, visual, and electronic media as it pertains to astronomy and astrophysics, while I considered what follows. Because of my isolation, I have no real idea about what has been published in the previous year. But, since nobody has claimed to have solved the mystery of the Big Bang yet, then I feel safe in tossing this particular set of ideas into the ring. Read on for the bigger picture.)



Life, the Universe, and Everything

By Steven Michael Witt

So, you want to know the greatest secret of the Universe? The arcane knowledge that binds together the very fabric of reality, which explains the Big Bang, and introduces even deeper and more intriguing questions about the very nature of our existence-Is that all you want to know? Well, here it is…

In the beginning, the Universe ended. And then it began all over again. And then it ended. And then it began once more. And ended…and began…and ended…again and again and again. This process continued through countless reiterations, until our present Universe was born. And this same state of affairs will repeat itself over and over again for what we mere mortals would conceive of as Eternity.

There it is! Now you know. To gain a better understanding of exactly what it is that you know, read on.

First, we need to start with the very nature of reality itself.

Once upon a time, before I knew about dark matter/energy, I believed that Time and Space together formed what we know as reality. The Universe. On a micro scale, the current environs you occupy as you peruse this article. On a macro scale, the entire universe-the whole shebang-all that is and all that we know. Reality.

I also believed that reality was literally created by the outer most edges of the expanding universe as it, well, expanded. That beyond those outermost edges lay nothing-and I mean literally nothing. The Universe was not expanding into anything. There was no reality for it to expand into until the outer most edges of the Universe created it.

And then I learned about dark matter/energy. And I realized that our entire universe of matter must be suspended in a cloud of dark matter/energy of incalculable dimensions. And suddenly, everything made sense.

In our iteration of the Universe, first, there was the big bang. Cold matter expanded into the cloud of dark matter/energy, and was compressed by it, creating pockets of cold matter that, with the passive effect of gravity, eventually resolved themselves into galaxy sized clouds which later gave birth to the first massive stars. Understand that dark matter did not have to be present in every instance to create those first galaxies, and those first stars. Merely the pressure exerted by dark matter/energy upon the expanding cloud of dust released by the big bang was enough to nudge gravity into motion. In fact, it is those two forces in combination-humble gravity, and the massive cloud of dark matter/energy that our universe is expanding into, that created all we know.

Yet, even as these first clouds of dust were coalescing, into all the newly created empty spaces dark matter and dark energy was seeping. Because, that appears to be what dark matter and dark energy do, they expand. You would think that their mass would compress them, draw them in upon themselves to form some immense, dark anti-galaxy, but that isn’t what seems to be happening. Instead, just the opposite seems to be occurring. Which leaves us with only one logical conclusion: the greater the mass of dark matter and dark energy, the more it expands. While this seems contrary to the known laws of physics, it might be worth noting that dark matter/energy may not technically be part of the universe but may instead be an intruder from outside, which would mean that it need not be bound by the laws of our Universe.

Even as you read this, dark m/e and gravity are pushing and pulling galaxies into pools, called clusters, leaving trailing behind them glowing tendrils of errant galaxies stretching out like lifelines from each pool to all the other pools nearest to it. Like some monstrous, invisible hand, these two forces, working in tandem, are compressing all the matter that expanded from the big bang. Ultimately, these various galaxy clusters, many of which contain spiral galaxies and their attendant super massive black holes, will be pressed together, until finally only one massive spiral galaxy remains where once there was a cluster. Even this last, titanic galaxy will be compressed until it is swallowed by its own super massive black hole. And when the last of these titanic galaxies is gobbled up, then the Universe will go dark. But that won’t be the end.

Dark matter and dark energy, which, as we noted earlier, like to expand, will, using the incalculable mass of the cloud of dark m/e that lies beyond the expanding cloud of matter that we call our universe, continue to press inward, not only halting, but eventually even reversing the expansion of matter. Then, as the hundreds of billions of super massive black holes are pushed inward, these singularities will began to ingest their companions, and this process will continue until at last there is only one truly super massive black hole left. This smbh will contain the shreds of all the particles of the stars, planets, asteroids, and dust clouds that formed our known Universe. This will be an object so gravitationally massive that super just doesn’t do it justice, so let’s refer to it as an ultra massive black hole.

The ultra massive black hole, which will be pulled inward by its own immense gravity, will also continue to be compressed from without by that unfathomable cloud of dark matter and dark energy which surrounds our universe. But this won’t go on forever, as the existence of our own Universe proves. Apparently, you can compress the fragments of the all particles of matter of hundreds of billions of galaxies only so far, and then, at a certain point, they push back. When that happens, then another big bang takes place. And another Universe is born.

And now you know why you know what you know, and the true nature of the Universe stands revealed. Welcome to reality.


But Wait, There’s More!

Until about halfway through the previous article, you probably thought the Universe was a very big place. Well, now that we’ve brought it down a notch or two, let’s bring it down by degrees.

Since there is currently no way we can accurately measure the dimensions of the cloud of dark matter and energy that surrounds the Universe, then that leaves us free to engage in unsupported speculation.

To wit, let us imagine that this region is so massive that to compare our universe to it is to compare a grain of sand to the sun. Or, we can go even further and imagine that it is infinite; extending outward in every direction, forever and ever, without end.

Now, if this is indeed the case, and if the rest of existence, like our own Universe, is based on a series of endlessly repeating fractals, then there may not be just one, not just a hundred, or even thousands, but possibly hundreds of billions of other Universes out there, and all of them in various stages of expansion or contraction. Of course, it should be noted that even the closest of those pocket universes is so far away from us that no number has yet been created that could be expressed to it’s highest power to describe the distance.

But this is all just idle speculation. The truth is that we currently lack the instrumentality needed to actually prove the existence of other universes outside our own. And, if dark m/e dampens waves of gravity over distance, or is unaffected by them, then, even with the most precise machines, we may not be able to detect other universes at all.

We could travel there, perhaps. But, with no reliable means of ascertaining the location of such extra-universal objects, we’d be shooting in the dark. (And we’d also have to have a very, very fast means of travel, if we wanted to get anywhere before our Universe ended.) Besides, what if we’re out there just blundering about and stumble into an ultra black hole? We could inadvertently contribute an infinitesimal part of our own matter to another universe.

We may not know the answers to these questions in our lifetimes, or in many lifetimes to come. We may never know. But it’s nice to think about it.


Thought Food

What follows are a few things to consider-some of those deeper implications that were mentioned in the first article. This piece is not presented as a coherent article, per se, but rather as a series of one or two paragraph musings. If there is any coherence at all, I hope it is in the ideas themselves. Enjoy.

While time and space may be infinite, the Universe is not. It has boundaries. Therefore, the Universe is a finite object.

Time. What meaning can time have in the face of the finite lifespan of our Universe? It may simply be impossible to determine just how many times previously that the Universe has gone through this sequence of expansion and contraction, and, if this is true, then any time scale we assign to the past, present, and future that have existed or will exist beyond the lifespan our Universe, would be, in the least, arbitrary, and, at the best, simply a good guess.

However, this does not apply to time as it is measured within the lifespan of our current Universe. Any calculations that are made within that context should bear out, or at least be as strong as the data which generated them.

And as to contiguous, uninterrupted time, it is taking place-in the cloud of dark matter and dark energy that surrounds our Universe.

While the search for the Hubble Constant may now seem a bit Quixotic, in view of what we now know (perhaps the fact that the number was 42 should have been a clue), it may still have value when combined with an even more essential one-the dark matter constant. As to the second number, it may be centuries before we can even begin to guess at it. But it is a very important number. In fact, the most important number ever calculated. You see, that’s the number that tells us at what point outward pressure from the cloud of dark matter and energy that surrounds our Universe will halt, and then reverse, the expansion of matter. Taking and combining that number with the Hubble Constant will give us the full lifespan of this Universe. This will allow us to make calculations not only about our own Universe, but all those that preceded it and all those that will follow.

It may be fruitless to search for the moment that this endless series of contractions and expansions began, because it may not exist. As humans, with a finite lifespan, we tend to view the rest of existence within those terms. As such, it is virtually impossible for us to imagine anything that exists without beginning or end. But, that simply does not mean that such a thing cannot be. The truth is that we may be caught within an infinite loop, with no beginning or end.

Life and death take on a whole new context within the broad new parameters that have been described herein. We already knew that the atoms which make up our bodies have been circulating around since the beginning of this current cycle of expansion (some 13 to 14 billions years ago). Now we also know that the fragments which first formed the sub atomic particles that gave birth to those atoms came from a previous version of this very Universe. And from how many other previous renditions, just like this one? How many times have the basest elements in your body blazed in the heart of stars, cooled on the surface of a moon, or gazed out upon some fantastic alien landscape? Each successive Universe has used, and will continue to use, the same batch of ingredients, over and over again.

Don’t believe in reincarnation? You’re living proof of it!

Well, that’s it for this special edition of Scifi Horizons
The Universe Today!
Tune in for our next full issue, coming in late Spring of ’12!!!


Sunday, March 25th, 2012


Episode 12: The Universe Today

Friday, September 10th, 2010

    Topics for exploration in this issue are Gravity, and getting out there from here. Be sure and check the Clarifications entries at the end of this section for further information.

Spirals and Rings

    Okay, there’s one thing about the current big bang model that really bothers me. It’s a minor discrepancy, to be sure, but galling all the same. You see, according to all the available visual evidence (and I want to emphasize VISUAL) our galaxy, along with every other spiral galaxy we’ve thus far seen, had to go through a very specific process to achieve this particular shape. And it’s that unique sequence of events which the current models seem to ignore.

    For a galaxy to become a spiral, it needs an engine at its heart to churn the galaxy into shape. We now know that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. And we have visual evidence, as well as radio, x-ray, gamma, etc, which shows that supermassive black holes can be found at the center of many other spiral galaxies, too. (hint: try all of them)

    So, how does it work? Well, when the Saturn guys at JPL started getting really hi-res photos back from that cold, distant world, they noticed something unexpected. There were clumps of ring material floating around in the various ring bands. These weren’t exactly moons, of course, or even far enough along to be called proto-moons. They were more like incredibly dense concentrations of ring stuff. After some long and dedicated head scratching, the good folks at JPL concluded that variations in Saturn’s field of gravity caused the ring material to alternately speed up or slow down, which caused it to clump together. Gravity being what it is (The Constant Force) if these balls of dust and rock and ice survived long enough, they might eventually become moons. (This explains the some-what pronounced gaps in Saturn’s ring system.) Usually, though, if visual evidence is any indication, most of these moon wannabes break up before they get that far. However, this wasn’t really the weird part (though it did clue them in on how our own solar system was formed). The really weird part was that at a certain distance in front of, and in back of, each of these would be moons, was another, smaller, bow shaped clump of material, a ‘wave’ that proceeded and followed each proto-moon. This wave was created by the gravity field of the clump of matter. It pushed whatever was in front of it, and pulled along whatever was behind it. (At this point it’s probably worth noting that the Earth has a group of asteroids called the Apollo asteroids that precede our orbital path, and another group of asteroids, called the Trojans, that follows along behind us.)

    What exactly do the rings of Saturn have to do with our spiral galaxy, you ask? Well, it’s like this: the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy spins, and variations in its field of gravity serve to speed up and slow down the stars closest to it. The gravity fields of these stars interact with other nearby stars, both pushing and pulling them along, and, over time, this motion is imparted to our entire galaxy. The fact that the Milky Way is just so large, and filled with so many stars and nebulae, would provide one easy answer for why our galaxy, and billions of others like it, are spirals. Because of the mass involved, it simply took a long time to get the whole thing moving, and it had to be done from the inside out. Which would mean that the stars nearer the center of the galaxy would move faster (they do) than those further out (which tend to move slower, too). Over time, (possibly a billion years or more) gravity would tend to draws clumps of stars and nebulae along behind it, and these would fold into arms, thus creating the unique spiral shape. (If you have any questions about this one, just plug the drain in the sink, run about 5mm of water, pour in a few drops of liquid soap and stir frenetically. Once you have some suds, unplug the drain, and watch the galaxy spin).

    But this still leaves us with one burning question-How did the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy come into being in the first place? Okay, before we go any further, I want to say I’m getting a little leery about the whole big bang thing. I know, it’s been all the rage, but what we’re seeing out there isn’t always bearing it out. Once again, visual evidence has shown a three dimensional latticework of galaxies stretching off in all different directions. Even when taking dark energy into account, it still seems rather implausible that a single source detonation could create such a unique shape. At this point, I’m kinda leaning towards the collision of two universes thing. If true, it would certainly explain much about the nature of not only our universe, but our very existence.

    So, the two Universes collide, and VOILA!-we have a Universe all our own. Dark energy presses against matter (our stuff) and gravity (The Constant Force) does its thing from the micro level right on up. Suddenly (give or take a few hundred million years), the heart of a galaxy sized ball of dust coalesces into sphere. As soon as this happens, the almost unimaginable mass of this gargantuan object immediately creates a supermassive black hole at its very center, and the supermassive black hole starts to spin. (And it’s spinning very, very fast.) The immense gravity field generated by the supermassive black hole affects all the matter nearest to it, spinning the galactic sphere into a pudgy disk, while leaving a doughnut shaped halo of matter floating above and below the central part of the galaxy. The very act of spinning the galactic sphere into a disk builds the nascent arms of the spiral, and irregularities in the supermassive black hole’s gravity field alternately speed up and slow down the galaxy sized clouds of dust, causing them to clump together. Boom, a proto star flares and the stellar wind blows away the tiny particles of dust that gave it life, while the planets that circle it (which are already formed) pick up whatever solid matter remains. (Guess how the planets formed.) Meanwhile, those clouds of dust hanging above and below the center of the galaxy are being affected not only by the powerful gravity field of the aforementioned supermassive black hole, but also by the very motions of the galaxy itself. These complex forces shape the halos into immense, tightly packed clusters of stars. (This must have been a gradual process; otherwise, each one of these clusters should have a black hole at its center.) Over time, the Milky Way as we now know it takes shape.

    From here on in I’m down with the rest of what is already accepted as cannon in the whole post big bang galaxy/star formation thing.

    In closing, let me emphasize this again. The hypothesis presented here is based purely on the visual evidence at hand. It’s not some elegant mathematical theory; it’s simply the way things appear to be.

Spaceship N.G.

    Bearing in mind the demands of the new budget, I would like to propose a design for a multipurpose, reusable spacecraft that I first discussed during a closed circuit televised NASA panel held in Atlanta during August of ’09. Simplicity and reusability are the keys. Rather than continuing to design and deploy the astronomically expensive, single mission rocket designs of the past; why not build one multipurpose spacecraft in orbit? Construct the various sections of the spacecraft on Earth, then send them into orbit via two stage booster rockets and assemble them near the space station. (Using the ISS as a base of operations during the initial construction phase has obvious benefits.)

    Below is one possible blueprint for such a craft:

    The primary spacecraft would consist of three modules; the forward, central, and stern sections. The forward section would (of course) be the command module. This module should be dedicated to systems that monitor and control all functions of the spacecraft. Galley and living quarters would not be located in this module.

    The second, or central section, would be the core module. It would link the forward and stern sections of the ship, as well as provide space for additional, mission specific support modules. Basically, this central section would consist of a hexagonal shaped shaft which would be a minimum of seventy-five feet long. The interior of this section would have to be large enough to allow more than one crewman at a time to pass easily from the forward to stern section of the spacecraft. The exterior would have a series of docking rings strategically located on its surface, which would allow for smaller support modules to be attached and secured to the central section. Consider the potential benefits of such a system; Crew’s Quarters, the Galley, various Science Labs, Excursion and Landing Vehicles, Cargo holds, a Gym, even Fruit and Vegetable Gardens can all be built as individual support modules right here on Earth, then lifted into orbit by two stage booster rockets and attached to the central section in space. This would give the craft a level of flexibility unrivaled even by the ISS.

    The third section would be the propulsion module. Since we really are talking about going where no man has gone before, I also have a novel suggestion about how we get there; a combination of both chemical fuel and ion engines. Liquid fuel engines would be used initially to propel the spacecraft out of orbit. Once underway, the ion engines would be activated. Over time, the gentle, but ever increasing push of these engines would give the spacecraft a perceptible increase in momentum (which could prove vital for trips to Mars and other, deeper space objectives). At a certain point during the journey, the spacecraft would be turned one hundred and eighty degrees, and the ion engines would then be used to gradually brake the craft as it neared its objective. Use of the chemical fuel engines will probably be required during the latter stages of this maneuver, as well. While in the mission area, the chemical fuel engines may need to be used to change the craft’s position. And once the mission is complete, the chemical fuel engines will also be needed to start the journey back to Earth (or wherever).

    Until an alternative is presented, these engines will provide the initial thrust when moving the spacecraft from point A to point B. (As to fueling these engines, there are two schools of thought. One is that you send up some sort of fuel shuttle that will transfer fuel to the spacecraft, and then return to Earth when done. Two is you send up fuel tanks and attach them directly to the engine module. No matter which system you decide upon, there will be obvious benefits and equally obvious pitfalls.)

    When not in use, the spacecraft could be parked in orbit near the ISS. By placing it here, the spacecraft can be more easily maintained, and even boarded and moved in case of imminent collision with another object in orbit. However, a second, more attractive option would be to park the craft in orbit around this or any other nearby astronomical body, and have it function as a second manned space station. The craft could also serve as a deep space shuttle, moving crews and cargo to and from destinations beyond Earth orbit. As for the modules that have been removed from the central shaft and are no longer in use, they too can be parked in orbit around this or any other nearby astronomical body until needed. It is quite likely that, given budget constraints, other uses will be found for them.

    The spacecraft I have proposed has everything that NASA is currently looking for; it’s versatile, practical, and it’s also a good sell. With this design there is only the one time expense of building the primary spacecraft. Additional expenses incurred, such as one and two stage boosters to lift modules and supplies, and a support craft to ferry crews into orbit and then return to Earth, will seem minor when compared to the enormous cost of building an entirely new vehicle for each mission. Like its predecessor, the shuttle, this spacecraft will be reusable, and, by adding and subtracting various support modules, the craft can be totally reconfigured for each new mission it undertakes. Combining both chemical fuel and ion engines will also give this craft unparalleled deep space capability, which will be absolutely necessary for NASA is to advance to the next stage of manned interplanetary exploration. Most important of all, this will be the first true spacecraft built by any nation on the Earth; a ship that is constructed in space, and functions exclusively within that medium. Well, there you have it. This concludes my proposal.

    Now, as to where you’re going next, and why, I’ve got some ideas on that, too. Call me.

Molehills Out of Mountains

    Scientists were surprised to discover (note this phrase is becoming cliché) that many of the asteroids in our solar system, rather than being solid chunks of rock, were actually loosely packed mounds of dust and pebbles. And while they’ve successfully worked out the basic nature of the processes involved, they’ve also managed to overlook some of the more obvious conclusions that can be drawn from what we have so far learned. That being the case, allow me to introduce those conclusions here.
    On a recent shuttle mission a novel experiment was conducted to study the effects of micro-gravity. Small grains were placed in a confined space, and then monitored to see how they would react. Almost immediately, the grains began to form into clumps and chains. This was micro-gravity at work. Each individual grain had its own gravity field. Just like miniature magnets, micro-gravity served to draw all the nearest grains together, shaping them into whatever form was most easily achieved, based upon their distribution within the confined space.
    Now, if you understood that last paragraph, and I mean, really understood it, you can skip to the rings part a couple of paragraphs down.
    Okay, here’s how it all works. During the formation of the solar system, you’ve got all these masses of rock and dust, which were created by variations in the rotating gravity fields of the proto-sun and proto-planets. These fields of asteroids surround the sun in a series of rings, and it is from within these rings that the inner, rocky proto-planets are forming. Out beyond the orbit of present day Mars, a series of proto-planets forms and are torn apart by the interaction of the proto-sun and proto-Jupiter. Even as our star blazes into life, and blows away the cloud of interstellar dust in which our solar system formed, the planets are cleaning out the asteroid rings, pulling in everything they can assimilate (a process which continues to this very day).
    With most of the dust now pushed out of the solar system by the solar wind, only the proto-planets, proto-moons, comets, and the asteroids remained. Billions of years passed, and during that time gravity, from micro to planetary scales, did its work. A few particles of dust would cling together, and their combined gravity would attract anything that got close enough and was smaller than them, while they in turn would be attracted to objects larger than them. Multiply this by a few billion years and you’ll understand why so many of the asteroids are just piles of rock, pebbles, and dust, and also why even the solid asteroids haves layers of dust on them, and are pockmarked with craters. Which leads us to our first conclusion: Our Asteroid Belt is a midlife object. Since the Asteroid Belt is not a scattering of dust and rock, but rather a desert in which the occasional mountain comes hurtling by, then it must be at a well advanced stage of planet building (more on this in the Rings section). And, despite the predictions of certain scientists to the contrary, the Asteroid Belt is even now busily attempting to build a proto-planet. Knowing what we now know, it should be possible to create more precise computer models of what is really going on out there in the Asteroid Belt. Such models would have to take into account not only the gravity fields of the sun, Jupiter, and the inner and outer planets, but, and most especially in the case of Jupiter and the sun, variations in those fields, and how they speed up and slow down the individual bodies in the Belt. Once we have a model that is complex enough to simulate these processes, we will gain a more complete understanding of just how planets are formed (always a handy thing to know).
    The rings of Saturn hold the key. Understand what is happening there, and you know one of the secrets of the Universe.
    When Voyager did its Saturn flyby over a quarter of a century ago, scientists were surprised to discover that the famous segments of the Rings of Saturn were actually broken down into myriad subringlets. Stranger still, these ringlets had variations in their density that were visible even to the untrained eye. An entire region, encompassing many rings and ringlets, would be less dense than the rest of the ring system. So much less dense, in fact, that you could almost see right through it. This wasn’t exactly what they’d expected. After many sleepless nights scientists eventually concluded that variations in Saturn’s gravity field were creating these anomalous regions, and from then on all was right with the world-until new probes showed something even more bizarre taking place within the ringlets. Clumps were forming there. Not asteroids, nor even proto-asteroids, but just clumps of ring material. More intriguing than that was the smaller, bow shaped wave that preceded and followed each of these clumps. This one really had them going for a while, until they remembered the variations in gravity thing and realized that Saturn was alternately speeding up and slowing down the material within the rings, and this was causing it to clump together. Once the individual grains of dust and ice got close enough, gravity was simply doing its thing. This also explained the noticeable gaps between some of Saturn’s Rings; these were sections where moons had successfully formed and then broken away from the ring system before Saturn’s gravity could tear them apart again. Which leads us to our second conclusion: Every ringlet in Saturn’s Rings is a failed moon, and every major division of the rings was originally a much larger scale attempt at moon formation.
    Before closing, there is one other little anomaly that no one seems to have clued on that I’d like to mention here. I mean, they’ve seen this, but just haven’t had time to work out the implications yet. You see, the ringlets aren’t identical. Some appear to be made up of grain sized bits of dust and ice, while others consist of much larger pieces of material. This is perfectly logical, and it leads us to our third conclusion: By measuring particle size within the ringlets, we can reach a rough determination on their age (Keeping in mind, of course, that the ringlets with the smallest particles will be the newest rings and those which are made up of larger pieces of material the more mature groups).
    Okay, if you understand what is happening in the rings of Saturn, then you understand how the solar system was formed. And if you understand that, then you know how the entire group of stars which makes up the local stellar neighborhood was formed. And if you read the Spirals and Rings thing then you know how the galaxy was formed. And if you know all that, and can see how it fits together, then you know one of the secrets of the Universe.


Spirals and Rings

Gravity, the constant force: Okay, it’s like this. Gravity was the same at the beginning of the Universe, and it will be the same at the end. The force that gravity exerts will always remain the same, no matter how the expansion of the universe may distort the shape or size of an object. That is why I refer to gravity as the constant force.
    Gravity is the most fundamental force in the universe. Subtract gravity, and nothing else is possible. Regions of greater and lesser density within an object of sufficient size chase after one another, like the highs and lows that pass over the face of our planet, and this causes objects even as small as asteroids to rotate. Variations in the gravity field of the object, created by the same greater and lesser regions of density, affect other nearby objects, and cause them to move, often in circular or elliptical orbits around the larger objects that sent them into motion. These are the mechanics of our Universe. All of what we perceive as reality, from the radiant lattice works of galaxies, right down to the tiniest grain of sand, can be directly attributed to gravity.
    As to just how powerful gravity actually is, well, any sufficient clumping of matter creates a field of gravity strong enough to retard the expansion of the matter that it is holding together. Because of this, matter is expanding much more slowly than the spaces in between. Since the stars in our own galaxy are not racing away from us, then we can assume that the combined mass of our galaxy is actually retarding the growth of local space. So our local group of stars remains comfortably close, while galaxies race away from us at unimaginable speeds.

    Recently, I saw a video by S Hawking, in which he postulated that after the big bang there was a static, almost evenly layered cloud of dust that stretched out over the known universe. (Keeping in mind, of course, that at this point you could have held the universe in your hand, but it was still infinite, and it still took light years to travel from one point to another.) According to him, small irregularities in this unimaginably vast dust cloud created gravity, and the rest, if you’ve been following along, is history.
Well, he’s Stephen Hawking, and I’m not. But, I still have to disagree.
    You see, one thing that our current picture of the Universe has shown us, is that there is more darkness, more yawning gaps of nothingness, than there are clusters and lattice works of galaxies. Judging strictly from the visual evidence, it seems that Dark Energy was already at work during the formation of the Universe. Dark Energy appears to have segregated matter into dense pockets very early in the process. Perhaps it was this very action that first shaped, and then triggered galaxy formation.

    When I was describing the formation of supermassive black holes at the heart of galaxies, I’m fairly certain I heard somebody shout Quasar! Yes, it is quite possible that these galactic scale attempts at star formation could very well be the source of Quasars.

    Okay, I brought this up at the NASA thingie last August. I thought I made it clear, but from their reaction, things still seem a little up in the air. Allow me to explain. Every time I mention what’s going on in the rings of Saturn, I always follow that with a comment on the Apollo and Trojan Asteroids. There’s a reason for that.
    Two schools of thought here: One-both sets of asteroids consist of random wanderers that Earth has picked up over the last four and a half billion years. This is the accepted theory.
    However-it seems obvious that the sun was surrounded by the same rings and ringlets as Saturn; which means that some of those asteroids could have been picked up by the Earth while it was still nothing more than a large clump of matter, long before it ever reached proto-planet stage. Think of it. The very building blocks of this planet, the progenitors of everything we are or ever will be. That is something worth examining. That is something worth bringing back and studying. It would also be a short mission into deep space, only a few million miles; an opportunity to test our deep space capability, in preparation for longer journeys to more distant objects.

Molehills Out of Mountains

    While the impression I may have given was that the asteroid belt formed in a leisurely fashion, over billions of years, it was not quite as laid back as all that. During the last four or five billion years, one or more proto-planets have been created in the asteroid belt, and then captured or consumed by one of the inner or outer planets, or by the sun. Much of the rest of the material was either siphoned off by Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Mars, or the sun. Considering the size of Venus and Earth, our two planets apparently got more than their fair share of material in the inner solar system, leaving Mars and Mercury to go wanting. Still, Mars is much closer to the Asteroid belt than we are, and so the red planet should be larger than it is. But, it’s not. So, then Earth and Jupiter should have gotten most of the material-except, Earth and Venus are almost identical in size, which means they stole equally from Mars, Mercury, and each other. (With the sun or Jupiter getting whatever was left over.) Taking all of this into account, the picture that gradually emerges seems to indicate that at least one other proto-planet formed somewhere between Mars and the asteroid belt, and that planet gobbled up most of what was left over in the belt after one or more proto-planets were formed there. (As to that planet’s fate, it’s hard to say. If it had broken up, most of the material would still be there. So, it was either assimilated by another body in the solar system, or is currently orbiting one of them. Any of the proto-planets that took shape in the belt probably shared the same fate.) After these and many other cataclysms, the asteroid belt took what it had left, and, over time, did what it could with it; ultimately, leaving us with the desiccated, widely scattered belt of mountains that we have hurtling around out there today.
    But, that’s not the end of the story. Within another few billion years, there won’t be any belt at all. The sun and planets will have consumed it. That’s what happens in a healthy, mature solar system.