Thursday, March 01, 2007

Eschatology & Cosmic Evolution - (bet you can't make THIS political!)

The poilitcal lamp is definitely OUT for this one!

Some physicists have argued that the universe is doomed to be ripped apart by runaway dark energy, while others think it is bouncing through an endless series of big bangs and big crunches. Now these two ideas are being combined to create another option, in which our universe ultimately shatters into billions of pieces, with each shard growing into a whole new universe. The model could solve the mystery of why our early universe was surprisingly well ordered. 

(Um... did any of you read Heaven’s Reach? Does any of this sound familiar? )

In the new model, dark energy becomes very dense and sets the universe expanding at such a rate that it approaches the big rip. The universe tears into small patches that rush away from each other faster than the speed of light. But the destruction is then halted, as the density of dark energy becomes equal to the density of the universe. At this point, each patch crunches in on itself. "All the patches, of which there are a huge number, will separately contract into disparate universes," says Frampton. Each patch will then bounce outwards again, creating a new universe.
This has got to be the third or fourth or eighth variation on universal reproduction and/or birth that I have seen from astrophysicists in the last decade or so, an era of profound imagination and speculation! It is starting to look pretty wild out there, in the wonderful realm of eschatology. So, let’s try to put it all in a bit of perspective.

Everyone who is not still in Kindergarten -- either literally or theologically -- knows that overwhelming evidence has proved that a Big Bang started it all - everything we see - about thirteen billion years ago. Some of our neo-cosmologies do poke about earlier, speculating about vast realms of “context” within which the Big Bang took place. See my novella “What Continues and What Fails...”

Where there is even more confusion is about the future. All right, so there was a bang. Where is it all heading?

Take the Big Bounce... under which notion the universal expansion slows down due to gravity, decelerates and stops, then reverses into a Crunch... that thereupon rebounds outward in a fresh Big Bang! This concept was in the 60s brilliantly dramatized by Poul Anderson’s epochal novel TAU ZERO. (Get it, read it!)

physics_immortalityThe Crunch view was later pursued with fantastic quasi-theological passion by Frank Tipler is his amazing THE PHYSICS OF IMMORTALITY: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead, in which he brought forward probably the most flamboyant and unabashed eschatology of all time... that the infrared radiation emitted by your own body, whenever you step outside, will someday all be collected by godlike descendants during the LAST WEEK of the universe and used to learn all about you! (And every other ancestor.) In order to resurrect you in effective (if totally subjective) immortality during the last few (objective) days of the cosmos, when computer-simulation power will supposedly be utterly limitless. Yipes!

Tipler thus vied with Freeman Dyson for the encomium of “greatest theologian of the 20th Century”... an honor that Freeman appeared to have won, when it was shown that HIS eschatology is probably more relevant, because our metagalaxy’s expansion appears to be accelerating rather than slowing, implying the existence of more than sufficient Dark Energy to keep the expansion going forever. Dyson’s quasi-theology describes how life might cope with and eventually resign itself to the final dissipation into absolute-zero nothingness. The big chill.

9780316013338_p0_v1_s260x420Only, meanwhile, Stephen Hawking and others had fixated on black holes, those marvelous, one way tunnels that may... possibly... emerge in a completely new cosmic “context” -- possibly even triggering new episodes of creation and universal inflation. And, if so, according to Lee Smolin, there may be vast cycles of “evolution” as mother universes use black holes as the eggs to parent new daughter universes whose genetic code it, in effect, the detailed set of physical parameters and laws and “gosh numbers” that get passed down the line, mutating slightly and experiencing “selection” in favor of maximum reproductive success, in probably the most mind-boggling concept of our age.

Meanwhile, OTHERS have been speculating that all of this is way, way premature. I was shocked, shocked, to learn recently that the SHAPE of the cosmos is still considered debatable, despite signs of endless expansion, and that some astronomers have re-discovered and legitimized the old notion that the “actual universe” is flat and infinite! In other words, the “Universe:” that we see may have come from a bang 13 billion years ago. but that happened in one small patch of a vastly wider expanse of already-existing spacetime that could contain vast numbers of such firecracker creations at the same time, outside of our light-cone of perception.

In other words, some are now saying that the Big Bang was really an explosion!”

An actual, honest-to-God explosion, taking place INSIDE a much vaster context, a truly immense “macro-universe” that is made of real distance, and boggling amounts of real space. Really? But... but... but didn’t you cosmologists yatter at us for generations about how naive that view was? How the bang was a sudden and impressive expansion of “metric” but did not explode “into” anything because it contained everything, period?

This new/old/rediscovered notion, which actually is easier to envision than the standard model of the last 50 years (a Big Bang that consists of expansion without any pre-existing setting to expand into) now seems completely boggling, simply because I thought all the big-domes had already declared it completely excluded. With many a snort of disdain.

Only now guys are talking seriously about a “meta” universe in flat space that is as much bigger than our measly teeny 13 billion light year “universe” as than universe is bigger than the solar system!

Confused yet?

TimeRebornOkay, NOW go back to the top and re-read the news article. That dark energy might drive accelerating expansion until it the metagalaxy breaks apart, then dark energy diffusion allows many long-delayed collapses, which trigger new black holes... new “bounce” creations...

Um, is this in the context-free standard Big Bang? The dimensionally separated “new universe” variation of the standard model preached by Hawking and Smolin? Or in the new/old/restored notion of a vast-flat mega context cosmos? I guess this dissipate-breakup-collapse-bounce idea could happen in any of the three!

Oh, wow, the Big Guy is really laughing now, I betcha. Smartass modernist humans.

Still, we are apprentices. Sniffing. Trying. Gotta make Him proud.

(See also: Is Theology Compatible with Science...Sci Fi and Progress?)


Nick Tarleton said...

I notice nobody mentions the frightening/depressing/humbling but inevitable consequence of an infinite universe/multiverse - that everything physically possible is happening right now, somewhere, an infinite number of times. (Corollary: you live forever, because any possible ending to your life is only POSSIBLE, and obviously you only experience those branches where you don't die. Caveat: in most of the branches where you do survive, it's only barely and quite painfully. I hope I'm wrong about this.)

Shazam McShotgunstein said...

I guess the mushrooming zoo of cosmologies, our generation's counterpart to the exploding particle zoo when particle accelerators were young, just emphasizes the underconstrained incompleteness of current fundamental theory, that comes from still having no idea how to reconcile quantum field theory and general relativity, and with no idea why neither theory gave any prediction of dark matter and dark energy.

Then again if some kind of Smolinian universe reproduction with mutations is in effect, might not all these schemes and cosmologies occur in some universes or other?

Anonymous said...

Steve Jackson Games recently published (via downloadable PDF) something of mine, a collection of role-playing-game adventure ideas called "The MacGuffin Alphabet."

One of the twenty-six ideas was for "The Zero-Zero-Zero Deed," a legendary document which gave the bearer ownership of the center of expansion of the Big Bang. Of course, it's a scam!

* * *

We may be in the "add an epicycle" phase of cosmology. That is, adding complexities and strangenesses to an existing model to keep it coherent.

Eventually, perhaps after a few more rounds of actual observational data come in and the models as a result become untenably baroque, some future Copernicus will suggest a new model that accounts for everything without the fuss and bother.

RandomSequence said...


Have you heard of Self creation cosmology. The paper ref'd is past my level of physics, but the gist is that you can replace the big bang by getting rid of energy-momentum conservation for the universe as a whole, and extend relativity. Do Barber and Dicke have legitimacy in the field?

It would be aesthetically pleasing to have an infinite universe. And there should be in there a nice supply of energy, just by sitting and waiting.

RandomSequence said...

On the flat universe with a big bang explosion: simple, the big bang is a black hole. We're just looking at it backwards (our sense of time is reversed).

Nick Tarleton said...

Then again if some kind of Smolinian universe reproduction with mutations is in effect, might not all these schemes and cosmologies occur in some universes or other?

Max Tegmark says they do.

Anonymous said...

I still think it's the republican's fault somehow.

Kelsey Gower said...

@ randomsequence

No need to say we're looking at it backwards. The big bang just has to be a white hole.

Rob Perkins said...


I wonder if you or anyone is aware of how close this all comes to the wild speculation possible by using Mormonism as a premise.

This sort of thing won't be recognizable except to people like me, and probably not to most of the people in my church, but the wild "space doctrine" speculations within the folk memes of Mormonism (still very young memes) strike a similar chord. It's interesting... and I wonder how many other religious meme sets could claim compatibility like this!

I really enjoyed _Tau Zero_ myself, and I echo David's recommendation.

sociotard said...

Hey, another mormon! I always wonder if I'm the only one when I go to a new Board.

Although I don't think this new cosmology is compatible with *just* Mormonism, or even that mormonism requires the least modification to accept it. I mean, this schema actually does allow for a God that has always been, something central to many faiths. Other cosmologies made it difficult to imagine one existing prior to the big bang. Even the ones with the Crunch-bang-crunch-bang cycle required him to somehow sit outside the universe, which is frickin hard to conceptuallize.

Still, every time I read this, I do think of that Mormon hymn, if you could hie to Kolob:

If you could hie to Kolob In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever, Through all eternity,
Find out the generation Where Gods began to be?
Or see the grand beginning, Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation, Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers, "No man has found 'pure space,'
Nor seen the outside curtains, Where nothing has a place."
The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter; There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race.

It is fun to combine theology and physics, but it's important to remember that it is just speculation. Otherwise you wind up with some of the odd variations of intelligent design

sociotard said...

Heh, speaking of odd variations of intelligent design, I just went to to see what the they all thought of the subject. You can see it all here. It's amusing, if you find fighting baboons amusing. Basically, it just shows the hardcore creationists and not-creationists fighting.

TheRadicalModerate said...

If you tear a universe up into little condensing globules of dark energy, which actually explode, then doesn't that imply that you can locate the center of the explosion, thereby creating a preferred inertial frame of reference? And doesn't that in turn cause Al Einstein to start spinning in his grave?

On the other hand, if the dark energy globules cause each meta-verse to begin an inflation of its local space, doesn't that cause the globo-verse to be anisotropic? And doesn't that in turn cause everybody to start spinning, in their graves or otherwise?

B.C. said...

Hmm, that's funny. I'm also a Mormon, although not one who sees anything significant in this cosmological speculation. What are the odds...


B.C. said...

Even if the explosion was actually a physical explosion, it doesn't create a preferred frame of reference from the viewpoint of physics. Barring quantum effects, the explosion and the universe that comes from it evolve the same way whether your chosen FoR has the Big Bang's nucleus as its stationary centerpoint or a point moving nearly at the speed of light across your FoR. Einstein doesn't say you can't have a *standard* frame of reference, chosen for historical reasons. He just says the math works out the same if someone chooses a different one as their standard, which makes your choice of standard arbitrary.


Rob Perkins said...

Max, I don't see anything myself which intersects with the significant doctrines of Mormonism. Rather, I see congruencies with the "space doctrines," that being the places reason can take you from starting out with things like the lyrics sociotard posted.

The "fun" bits, if you will.

But I'm surprised to see that noone has copped to my Evil Scheme yet. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and he's running for President!

David, what did you wager when you bet one of us couldn't make this political, hmm?


sociotard said...

Yeah, David, how's your predictions registry sounding now! :)
< montypython>
"We are the knights who say 'politics'."
"NO"< /montypython>

Now, what I want to know is if a) travel would be possible between nearby universes? In which case we need an update to the Uplift series, to talk about the civilization of the Five Universes.

Oh, and one other question. I recognize that this model states that dying universes occasionaly tear appart and form new ones, like a cosmic starfish. However, under this theory, would it always happen that way? Or could expanding universes occasionally collapse and fizzle as well?

RandomSequence said...


Well, isn't a white hole a black hole with time reversed? If living systems occur/experience along a timelike curve, and there are an undenumerable number of timelike curves covering the universe (mutually invisible to the inhabitants), then ours terminates at one end in a black hole, which looks like a big bang/white hole. The rest of the black holes just look like black holes, because are timelines are spacelines to them.

Unrigorous cosmology is fun!

Anonymous said...

Rob Perkins, in theory it's coherent to us folks in the Churches of Christ as well--although admittedly as a group we're still struggling for some way out of the ID quicksand. Even so, we tend less toward the wilder speculations--they show up but rarely take hold--and our technophilia is of a more pragmatic sort (which is why ID/creationism hasn't totally incapacitated it--even a flat-earther can appreciate the wowness of broadband, no matter how delusional he is). Our eschatology is wildly open-ended, though not many people take hold of it.

Shazam McShotgunstein said...

Geez, how many Mormons are on here? As an ex-Mormon and a graduate in physics and astronomy from BYU, a Mormon theological connection did not even occur to me when I read this post. Mormon physical sciences students and professors can and do shoehorn pretty much any cosmological theory or speculation into Mormon doctrine, always to the detriment of any cogent scientific thought. The BYU religion professor and former astronomy professor Michael Rhodes is about as skeptical and clever as anyone on the faculty other than the two non-Mormon BYU physics professors who are grandfathered in from before they stopped hiring non-Mormons - Rhodes actually wrote a paper, which he asked me to review before submitting it for publication (in the FARMS journal I suppose), in which he went through the evidence from astronomy to conclude that there are no scientific findings that correlate with the doctrinal description of Kolob. But even he, last I talked to him a few months ago, is now trying to revise special relativity because he decided the absence of simultaneity outside of a defined reference frame would restrict god's omnipotence and so must be wrong. What clearer example can there be that any accomodation with faith destroys the essence of science.

Though I guess in Max Tegmark's infiniverse, there are even some universes with beings who are apparently omnipotent and who command their believers to marry several wives at a time and to teach that postmortal exaltation is contingent on skin color until those doctrines become politically embarrassing.

RandomSequence said...

But Bryan, would those Mormon universes be self-consistent? Can't have PE without ME, and can't have ME without self-consistency.

gg said...

An infinite universe constantly reinventing itself just makes so much sense. Reminds me of body shedding dead cells while constantly replacing them with live cells.

The turtle that supports all of existence just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Forgot to ask my other question: If you have dark energy explosions instead of inflation, don't they generate a constant speed for matter at all scales, or at least a narrow gaussian distribution of speeds? How would this get reconciled with known red-shift data?

Anonymous said...

The Universe will probably wind up contracting and collapsing thanks to the Bush Administration's mismanagement of the cosmic energy budget.

(Come on, any topic can be politicized, if you're sufficiently determined!) :-)

David Brin said...

Sociotard, I have long found that Mormons have the same lovely mishmash of contradictions that you see in Judaism and Catholicism. Encouraging some members to be flamboyantly intellectually exploratory while also making home for extreme conservatism. (In the older meaning of that term.) Hence, I have found some mormons who know very little about the “science fictional” aspects of their faith.

That Hymn you copied us was wonderful! Note, folks that “Kolob” is very similar to “Kobol”... the purported first home of humanity in Battlestar Galactica. Glen Larson, the originator of the series, back in the 70s, unabashedly incorporated Morman theological elements.

Of course, all of this is grist for the religion book I would write, if I could make three ebony dittos every day.

Re creationism, some of you may not have seen my essay on the topic at:

It also relates to eschatology, of course.

One of the problems is that I have put off doing my MAIN uplift book in search of a grand theme that would be bigger and more cosmic even than the hideously cosmic ending of Heaven’s Reach. All this new stuff really opens up some possibilities. But first I have a dozen projects to finish.

For example the comedy serial on Baen’s UNIVERSE Magazine that I have been urging you all to subscribe to. I need some very awful humor junkies to get in that magazine, read past issues and send me suggestions of awful stuff that could make good hars. For example, if you were a lycanthrope (werewolf) family on vacation at a Las Vega style resort CASINO EVIL, what T Shirt slogans would you wear?

So far I have :


A film crew is here so I am typing in part at their behest, for b-roll footage.
Gotta look busy. So. Anything else?

The notion of an endless stream of micro-creations creating large amounts of dispered metric all across the macro cosmos is highly reminiscent of Fred Hoyle’s long ago notion of continuous creation in the Steady State cosmology. Only he saw it happening in the steady creation of minuscule bits of metric at the planck/quantum level. These new theories seem to be suggesting the same thing is happening, only at the opposite end of scale. Lots of Big Bangs, inflating stuff all the time. Ouch. My head.

Anonymous said...

I am with Stephan Jones

"We may be in the "add an epicycle" phase of cosmology. That is, adding complexities and strangeness to an existing model to keep it coherent."

I think the notion of "dark matter" is bogus. Because the "gravity only" paradigm in astronomy fails to account for the observed evidence you create something out of your imagination that out weighs the observable universe by a factor of 10 in order to save your paradigm. Can anyone show me even one instance of Dark Matter or Dark Energy being observed in a laboratory? I don't mean some observed phenomenon from a telescope were Dark Matter or Dark Energy is used as "epicycle" to save a failing perspective. But a genuine Dark Energy "antenna" or Dark Matter detector.

Is it possible that is some other known force in addition to gravity that could be acting on stars and galaxies?

Can electricity play a much larger role than is currently assumed?
You find electrons and protons separated (naked) in space, correct?
Electrons and protons have opposite charges and very weights therefor will be differentially accelerated in electric and magnetic fields.

Charged particles are attracted or repulsed based on the charge and the LINEAR DISTANCE between the two points. Gravity attracts based on the mass and the SQUARE OF THE DISTANCE between the points.

How much of the observable universe is in a plasma (charged) state?

Have astronomers made errors in fundamental assumptions about the universe?

just asking (for it ;^)

Occam's Comic

Rob Perkins said...

Mormons have the same lovely mishmash of contradictions that you see in Judaism and Catholicism.

I hope you won't mind my saying so, but it's one of the facets of Mormonism which attracts me to it.

For myself at least, I'm as easygoing as possible with regard to the interface between faith and science. I don't believe, as Bryan claimed, that accommodating faith destroys the essence of science.

Whatever Rhodes wrote in his paper is based fundamentally on five sentences in many hundreds of pages of Mormon scripture, and it can't be possible to correlate scientific observations (from *our* point of view) with the Book of Abraham (putatively God's point of view, expressed in a mutable human language), without simply getting it wrong 100% of the time.

That has much more to do with my rejecting Aristotlean essence/substance dichotomies, than anything else, though! I don't buy into the context!

Hence, I have found some mormons who know very little about the “science fictional” aspects of their faith.

Two forces in Mormonism work against a member of the Church knowing about the "science fictional" aspects possible from the core doctrines. The first and most controlling is that most have not been members of the church very long. Half the membership, I think, is in its first generation after conversion. (Though, the population in the U.S. appears to be stable this decade.)

The second is that the overarching Church doesn't preach anything for or against the "science fiction" doctrines, or even takes a stand politically on much of anything, aside from a few hot-button issues. So, people without an interest in "space doctrine" will never be required to take an interest.

I'm actually very surprised to see four people with a lot of familiarity with Mormonism, aside perhaps from David, whose point of view is virtually accurate and always fair.

Even so, and all, I just thought it was fun gedankenversuch, and little else. And I like fun!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Werewolf t-shirts?

"Party Animal"?

B.C. said...

"Two forces in Mormonism work against a member of the Church knowing about the 'science fictional' aspects possible from the core doctrines."

The thing that, for me, works against speculating on the "science fictional" aspects is that I know too much about science fiction. Somebody says, "Hey, these expanding universes sound a lot like the infinite worlds that existed before this one," and I raise my eyebrows and wonder why other universes should need to be spatially contiguous with this one. Basically I see trying to tie cosmology to Latter-day Saint doctrine as (almost invariably) sloppy thinking, kind of like Carl Sagan's ideas about pi. Pi wasn't created, ever, and imagining that there are messages built into it by the universe's creator is silly.


Rob Perkins said...

'course it's silly!

I thought that was the point...

Anonymous said...

A baby werewolf might wear a shirt reading LEAKER OF THE PACK.



A raunchy teen boy might wear GOT HEAT?

A chatty teen girl's shirt might sport WANT ME PEE MAIL ADDRESS?

Anonymous said...

T-Shirts for Werewolves...

"Furry and Proud!"

"2B1, Bite1"

"Got Fur?"

"The Alpha Male went to Las Vegas and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt"

"Lon Chaney Rules"

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm crazy...
Crazy Lycanthrope!

My parents ate a gift shop lady in Vegas, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt

Circus Circus Escapee

What's eaten in Vegas, stays in vegas

Wolf - bane there, done that

Bark > Bite

Unknown said...

Cosmologies have certainly come on hot and heavy after the verification of dark matter and the discovery of dark energy in the late 90s.
It's amusing, though, to realize that Vesto Slipher was the first astronomer to suggest dark matter -- back in the 1940s. He did some simple back-of-the-envlope calculations with Kepler's Laws and determined that other galaxies were rotating too slowly for the amount of mass visually observed.
More recently, string theorists have suggested that black holes aren't black. Einstein's classic theory views a black hole as a singularity punched right through space-time. The supersymmetry description of a black hole is apparently quite different:

So far there's no confirmation of string "theory" since it isn't actually even a theory yet. String "theory" doesn't even make predictions. Instead, it's got a "landscape" with something like 10^500 possible universes depending on which values you chosoe for all the fudge factors.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the current string/brane/etc. theories in my mind are kind of like population genetics back in the day. They were handy mathematical frameworks that could be used to bolt on theories and explanations, then run through the calculations and see if things fit.

I think it was the math that enabled evolutionary researchers to start understanding relative roles between randomness (mutation and drift) and directionality (selection).

sociotard said...

If people knew I was a Lycantherope, I might get one that said"
I think you know the rest."

Oh, and not to bring politics into the discussion, but since many here are interested in transparency and accountability:
D.C. Madame to Sell 10,000 Phone Records of High-End Washington Clients

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin averred "I bet you can't make THIS one political," but oddly enough, it's easy to politicize.

As I've pointed out many times, the lunatic fringe right wing (which now controls virtually all the levers of power in America) is engaged not just in a war of belief, but a war against rationality itself.

This makes the very practice of objective science inherently political. In fact, I expect that cosmology and mathematics and other heretofore exotically abstract realms of science will become virulently politicized because the right wing will see their ability to get these researchers to renounce logic itself as a supreme test of the right wing's ability to successfully crush rationality itself.

Put it this way: if you're a political hack and you can get a pro-abortion activist to recant by torturing him, that's not a very big deal. After all, political opinions are just opinions. But if you're a right-wing political hack and you can get a cosmologist to recant and publicly announce with tears in hi/r eyes that the universe is only 6,000 years old and there was no Big Bang and God created all the fossils to look that old to fool us... Why, that's a major achievement. Because now you've succeeded in bullying and threatening a scientist into contradicting observed facts.

Getting someone to change a political opinion is a minor accomplishment. But getting people to look right at the observable world and deny it exists? That's a fantastic achievement! Imagine the thrill of power a right-wing apparatchik would feel by getting a PhD in mathematics to admit tearfully that 2 + 2 = 5 after being tortured for a few weeks. That's the sort of adreniline rush the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the world live for.

The rest of our society is gradually starting to wake up to the realization that the right wing is indeed engaged in a war against logic, a war against observed facts, a war against rationality itself:

Bruce Sterling has been on top of this issue for a long time:

As far as politicization of cosmology goes...I'll just leave you with the disturbing rumour that the Hubble space telescope was allowed to die because orders came down from the White House. The Hubble was showing people that the universe is older than 6,000 years, and that was not a good thing to the drunk driving C student in the Oval Office.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Hey, since we're we're talking about cosmology (see how good I'm being at not rising to the political bait?), I thought you'd all like this little tidbit on anomalies found in the Pioneer 10 and 11 trajectories.

David Brin said...

I want to ask a few OPEN QUESTIUONS TO THE COMMUNITY just in case one of you knows someone who can answer.

* Anyone have a better-than-rumor idea when Mac/Apple OS Leopard will come out? I was thinking toward my daughter's birthday in just over a month.

* Is anyone out there an EXPERT ON BATTERIES? Or related lore? My wife has been first-drafting a HISTORY OF THE BATTERY and is looking for reality-checker readers.

* Likewise anyone an expert or known one, re: salt water marshes and lagoons?

* Any childrens' book publishers?

Seems worth asking. Get in touch either here on-blog or via Thanks!

Joel said...

I did research on lithium-ion batteries a few years ago, so I know that system pretty well, and I know something about most other ones. Papers by Goodenough are good primary sources on Li-ion.

I have friends who are still working in that field who are verifiable experts, but I could probably spot anything glaringly inaccurate.

Tony Fisk said...

steady state, big bang, big crunch, birth by black hole, birth by ceasarian big rip.

Could it be... they're all right?

Different mechanisms competing for the right to exist! (Hmmm! There could be a story in that ;-)

Rather like the
simple experiment to observe wave and particle quantum behaviour simultaneously

Meanwhile, a cosmic chuckle and a fading murmur...
'number *them* beasties, dudes!'

Speaking of beasties:

- Wolf [.][.] Eyes
- (with a few red spatters) Someone lost their shirt in Vegas
- Prowlin' for a howlin'
- Chasing Craps in Casino E
- Gnawing the Bones in Vegas
- Drink an' hope/for a lycanthrope/ in Vegas
- (Front)I'm just a pussy cat...(Back)not!
- Call me 'Jack'
- (with a nod to Aardman...) Who're you calling 'rabbit'?
- and on that note, this cartoon, which really requires no further comment!

RandomSequence said...


One of the reasons I'd like to see some analysis on the self-creation cosmology (posted upthread). The tweaks would explain the Pioneer cosmology. Either bad luck or bad gravity explains that one - and if bad gravity, we've got a major physical problem on our hands.

Anonymous said...

The Pioneer thing is definitely fascinating.

I mean, after all, how many physicists get to conduct an experiment with an entire *solar system* to gather data :)

And from experience of working with aerospace codes from the 70's ... I truly feel for the guy that wrote the interpreters for the sensor data.

Hank Fox said...

As an absolute physics duffer, here’s my wild, unsupported conjecture about how it all started:

All matter is actually, down at the ultimately-small level, nothing but multi-dimensional loci of TURBULENCE. The turbulence forms virtual elementary particles which build up into the matter we see.

As the material part of our universe expands across infinite space, that turbulence gradually flattens out. The virtual matter begins to disappear back into the de-energized vacuum. It simply evaporates into nothingness. Even the black holes bleed out, over billions and billions of years. Eventually, there is nothing but infinitely hard vacuum at absolute zero.

At some point, the vacuum is so hard, cold and flat, the pressure/energy differential from an adjacent universe of infinite energy is overcome, and the interface pops a bubble of that energy into this one at some random point.

The massive turbulence of that event – a Big Bang – eventually resolves into more elementary particles, and more matter.

There is no Big Crunch. It’s just Big Bang after Big Bang, with time in between each for a Big Bleed.

Lather, rinse, repeat ... indefinitely.

Blake Stacey said...

The New Scientist article about the "simple experiment to observe wave and particle behavior simultaneously" is behind a subscription wall, so I can't get at it, but New Scientist has had a pretty bad track record, so I would not be surprised at all if it were a meaningless exaggeration.

"Complementarity", as pop science often explains it, is not valid. Even in the classic two-slit experiment, we can see photons or electrons "behaving like waves" (interference between the slits) and "behaving like particles" (making discrete clicks at the detector). I've read about experiments much older than 2004 which demonstrate the same thing in a more definitive way: saying that in a given experiment, a quantum entity must behave as a particle or as a wave is just not valid. To channel Richard Feynman's Character of Physical Law: Quantum things do not behave like particles; they do not behave like waves, or like clouds, or like masses on springs. They behave in their own charming, inimitable way.

David Brin said...

Joel, please get in touch if you are interested in critiquing that HISTORY OF THE BATTERY! Thanks so much
david brin

Unknown said...

Reading minds technologically is scary enough -- now researchers claim they can predict intentions using brain scans:

Patrick said...

Man, I waited too long to read this post, now there are all kinds of interesting threads I want to comment on.

First, Dave
- For salt marshes you might want to try Hank Bart at Tulane University. He was my prof for Ichthyology and runs the worlds largest preserved fish museum. At worst he can refer you to someone in the gulf coast who can help.
- Great article at, it raises some great points about alternatives. I am reminded of the Simpsons episode on evolution:

Ned Flanders: "We want you to teach alternative theories to Darwinian evolution."
Principal Skinner: "You mean Lamarckian evolution?"

Of course the best thing about Lamarck theory was that it was easily tested.

Occam's comic -
The skeptic in you might like this article at New Scientist.

Stefan Jones -
I agree there is a good chance we are missing something big. Too many anomalies, too few cleaned slates.

Finally - (And I bring up Creationism because someone else broke trump) Has anyone seen a list of common items that don't work if you discount most evidence of evolution? For example: If carbon dating is inaccurate: smoke detectors are unreliable (both rely on decay rates). If there isn't one, I'd be interested in writing one up.

sociotard said...

Well, Smoke detectors don't necessarily make the same assumptions as carbon dating. With smoke detectors, we know how much radioactive material was in the sample at the time of manufacture. with carbon dating, we have to assume that the object contained a standard ratio of radioactive and stable isotopes.

That's a pretty good assumption, because the ratio of c-14 to c-12 is held constant by cosmic radiation, and that shouldn't vary too much. However, it can be fooled, as was done by the infamous "Mormon Bomber", Mark Hoffman. He made forgeries that passed carbon dating by finding paper from appropriate points in history (from the blank pages in the back of old books) and making his own paper from them.

Anonymous said...

Department of Accountability:

The verdict is in on the Scooter Libby trial: Guilty on 4 of 5 counts.

Guilty on count 1 (obstruction of justice).

Guilty on count 2 (false statement).

Not guilty on count 3 (false statement).

Guilty on count 4 (perjury)

Guilty on count 5 (perjury)

His sentence will be a maximum of the day before Bush leaves office.

Also, in the realms of accountability, the Senate is holding hearings on the recent purge of DoJ prosecutors for political reasons:

Looks like a few cracks are finally starting to show.

Anonymous said...


Just, cripes:

Wes was a Marine, to be exact, a member of the United States Marine Corps. As an eighteen year old he got wet on the beaches of Iwo Jima, Saipan and several other unfriendly islands during WWII, and came home, much to his surprise, without a wound, well not a wound anyone could see, but one he would carry up to the present.


I asked him what was wrong, a question that I immediately knew was kinda dumb, I mean the guy is dying. He pointed to the TV which was looping video of young Marines in some city in Iraq kicking in doors and tearing up civilian homes. Women and children, frightened into silence stood by as these young Marines tore their homes apart and arrested their men. In a barely audible voice he said, "What have they done to my corps? What have they done?"

David Brin said...

We did this. By letting a gulf yawn open between urban/liberal America and the professionals we count on to manage the violent side of civilization. When northern colleges banish ROTC, where will the military get its officers? When "professionalization" means there is no longer any contact at all between these kids and mainstream American life. When the end of the draft means we don't have a sense of connection with the front. When more and more of military life is being farmed out to commercial and even mercenary services.

True, it is the loony right that sent our military into a quagmire in order to destroy it. And it is the Ostrich-Right of decent but myopic salty-Earth types who cannot see that destruction, as it occurs right before their eyes. Still, we bear some of the blame...


A completely ancillary nnouncement:

olaris: A Celebration of Polar Science, edited by Julie E. Czerneda, illustrated by Jean-Pierre Normand, Star Ink Books, Red Deer Press,
Ontario Canada ISBN-10: 0889953724 ISBN-13: 978-0889953727 Reading level: Ages 9-12

Polaris, the fifth Tales from the Wonder Zone, celebrates the International Polar Year 2007-2009.

The IPY "year" extends from March 1, 2007, until March 1, 2009, to allow researchers to conduct two annual observing cycles in each polar region, particularly in the isolated parts that are prohibitively cold and dark for roughly six months of the year.

Tales from the Wonder Zone, the science fiction anthology series, uses science procedures involving strong, young protagonists
resolving situations.

sociotard said...

[ Scooter Libby's] sentence will be a maximum of the day before Bush leaves office.

heh. I just found out an odd thing about Scooter Libby.

"Now that he is looking at jailtime, everybody is discussing presidential pardons, going back to the last minute pardons of Bill Clinton which stirred up a lot of controversy in the right-wing media. The posterboy for Bill Clinton's controversal pardons was Marc Rich, who fled the US for Switzerland while being prosecuted for tax evasion and illegally trading with Iran."

"While Marc Rich was in Switzerland, from 1985 to 2000, he had a private defense lawyer attempting to secure his safe passage back into America, and representing him here; that defense lawyer was Scooter Libby."