Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time Troubles

"Time Troubles"
by Dale Bryant
  I just calculated something out and the result is rather bleak.... The nearest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri (one of three stars in the Alpha Centauri system). Proxima is 4.3 light-years away. There are 5.8 trillion miles in one light-year (or 5.8 thousand billion, if you prefer), so we're dealing with about 25 trillion miles. That's bad enough. Let's say we decide to send an astronaut to Proxima Centauri in the fastest rocket at the fastest manned-flight speed we've been able to attain (that would be the Saturn V booster for the Apollo missions - a top speed of 26,000MPH).
  Now even if we could send that astronaut at the speed of light (roughly 186,282 miles per second), it would take him or her 4.3 years to complete the trip as measured by an observer on Earth (because of time-dilation, only a few days will have passed as judged by the astronaut - but that's another story).
  Here's the sad part; at 26,000MPH, which is 0.000037% the speed of light, the trip would take 116,000 years - one-way! The duration would be about the same for the astronaut. The effects of time-dilation at such low speeds are negligible so we can dismiss them here. The nearest star with a known planetary system is in the 15 light-year range. So, if we have cosmic relatives somewhere out there, the chances of meeting up with them are about nil. These distances and times involved are the main reason most astronomers don't believe we're being visited by extraterrestrials. They do believe they exist but not that we're being visited by them on a regular basis. The situation isn't much better with radio communications. Even though radio waves travel at the speed of light, a one-way transmission to those hypothetical beings will take 15 years - telepathy would prove much more economical! Another plausible answer would be travel through worm-holes to beat the clock, but that is, at this point, pure speculation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Little Einstein. Anyone?

"A Little Einstein, Anyone?"
by Dale Bryant

  When someone hits on an idea - I mean REALLY gets it right, there is no way to disprove that idea because it is intrinsically correct. In fact the antitheses of such situations are known as "intrinsically impossible" situations in the scientific world - like an object being both cold and hot at the same time. Now this makes sense to most people but believe me, there will be those who will try to refute even that. You can't stop from happening something that has already happened. It's along the same lines as not being able to go slower than stop, or getting colder than absolute zero. It can't be done. That's what makes absolutes absolutes. This is the case with Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity. As hard as some have tried, no one has ever proven it to be in error. In fact, the only error about it in history was Einstein's once thinking that he was in error and was persuaded by a fellow physicist to include a formula known as the "Cosmological Constant" - which itself turned out to be in error! (Einstein referred to that persuasion as "the biggest blunder of my life" - some people try to remember him as referring to his theory of relativity in general as the "blunder" - that is not the case - a little ignorance goes a long way).
  A little light needs to be shed on the word "theory". Most people use the word to mean something "less than" or "just a guess" and use it interchangeably with "hypothesis". But something is left out here. For every "truth" or every "law" - and I'm talking "real" truths and "real" laws (like that it doesn't get "warmer" as the temperature drops, for those of you who are just dying to split hairs) there is the theory behind that truth or law. Who of us would doubt the existence of germs, viruses, etc.? Yet the explanation of these microbes is still called the "germ theory" of medicine. A theory is just that - an explanation of a given set of circumstances. It is not a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a different animal; it is a best guess. But it almost invariably gets confused with theory. To say that "germ theory" is just a theory or the "theory of evolution" is just a theory makes you wrong from the get-go. Of course, this used to be the case for these ideas before they were proven (for the first time in history, evolution is being observed "as it happens" in a certain cave lizard species in northern Madagascar. The original species has changed so much over just two generations that its descendants can no longer breed with the original line, making the descendants a new species in their own right) - and some people find it hard to let go or are simply unaware of the facts or intentionally "ignore" the facts (a little "ignorance" goes a long way). But rest assured, the "Big Bang" theory isn't far behind in the list of natural laws.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Here are some images I took with the Harvard Center for Astrophysics Robotic Telescope, located in the Arizona desert:

The top image is of galay M-51, the "Whirlpool" galaxy, an interaction of two galaxies in the constellation Canes Venatici just southwest of the Big Dipper.

The next image is of M-1, the "Crab Nebula", a supernova event remnant in the constellation Taurus.

Below that is expolding galaxy M-82, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major.

Lastly, is galaxy NGC 253, a nearly edge-on spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor.

All of these objects are visible with even a modest backyard telescope.

Atheism poster

Is your understanding of the Universe so complete that you can rule this hypothetical situation out?
Don't knock what you may not understand... this poster doesn't have it quite right, which, of course, is intentional. The idea of something being created from nothing might not make sense, but neither does the existence of God. Where else could something come from but from nothing? There are no other sources. Just because that doesn't make any sense to our (I am so often reminded by Christians) finite minds - ("We just don't understand the mind of God") doesn't make it any less plausible. Take a good look at quantum physics or relativity. Do they make any sense to you? Yet they are true. No scientist worth his salt would rule out the possibility of the implications of this misguided poster. Good scientists don't let their hearts do their thinking for them.

Still need proof for Darwin’s theory? Read on. The fact that new species develop according to adaptation and inheritance is known as the Theory of Selection, whether it be naturally or artificially induced. It was proposed by naturalist Charles Darwin in the mid-1800’s and is known as “Darwinism”. It’s a common misconception that Darwin was the originator of the Theory of Descent. Actually, the idea of the formation of new species by descent was proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 50 years earlier and is called “Lamarckism”. It was even suspected by Aristotle. Darwin only explained the descent of organisms by means of Natural Selection, in his book, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. In fact, this theory was independently developed by Alfred Wallace at about the same time. Darwin actually put off publishing the results from his observations in his book for 21 years until he was convinced that there was no other explanation possible.

The fact that breeders of dogs, cats, horses, tomatoes or strawberries breed their stock to achieve a desired result – whether the result be a tastier strawberry, a smaller dog or whatever, is proof that the Theory of Selection holds water. You may say that it is only a theory but that doesn’t make it improvable. All scientific ideas and natural laws are backed by theories. The Theory of Selection is a mathematical consequence of the relationship of available space for an organism to exist and the excessive number of organisms competing for that existence. Obviously, some organisms thrive while most others die off. It’s called Survival of the Fittest, or, the struggle for existence. The fittest, according to adaptation and inheritance tend towards survival while the least fit tend towards extinction. Very sensible, is it not? In fact, the seemingly endless variety of organisms, still very much in transitional states today, as can be seen in the existence of rudimentary limbs such as the remnant hind legs of whales, or the now defunct internal organs of many species, including the appendix of man, can only be explained by the Theory of Selection – otherwise it is left to the unfathomable realm of “miracles”.
The Theory of Selection is a self-evident law of nature and requires no further proof any more than you require further proof that more than one breed of dog exists. The fact that people from other parts of the world look differently, or that there are German Shepherds, Chihuahua’s, Beagles and Irish Setters, etc., is all the proof of the Theory of Selection you should require. These breeds, or, sub-species, were intentionally created – bred from a common ancestor of the genus Canis (dog) which was bred from Canis Lupus (wolf). In fact, some breeds of dog are so distantly related that they cannot reproduce together – although they belong to the same genus, they have, through Artificial Selection (selection induced by man, or, intentional breeding) become distinctly separate species. Selection induced by nature is called Natural Selection and works in exactly the same way, only much more slowly.  
Darwin also provided proof of another weighty philosophical question when he explained Natural Selection; that is, the question of how arrangements serving a purpose can arise mechanically without causes acting for a purpose. If that sounds a bit convoluted, just stop for a minute and think about it. If you’re at all familiar with some simple math and statistics, you’ll see the logic in it right away. If you still require proof, you either don’t thoroughly understand the theory or are not sufficiently acquainted with the fundamentals of biology – and if that is the case, you really should familiarize yourself before making any judgments on the subject.
I’ll end here with my favorite quotation on ‘obviousness’ as it applies to biology: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.”
  Oh, just one more thing... I realize this little essay of mine smacks of sacrilege but that is not my intention at all. Like most of my writings, it was only meant to spark a little controversy; to bring people’s blood to near boiling, get them thinking and get them out of their heads for a bit (contrary to popular belief, I like to have a little fun too!) And unfortunately, like the rest of us, I was not present at The Creation (though I feel I could have given the Creator a few pointers) but alas, the truth is, I have an agreement with God – I don’t tell Him how to create Universes – and He doesn’t tell me how to interpret facts.

A Christian Message

Here's a wonderful, loving message from one our Christian friends, the same group of people who took from the year 1610 until the mid 1990's to finally admit - and begrudgingly at that - ("Google" it to find this out for yourself) that a certain Dr. Galileo Galilei, was correct in his view that the Earth was not the center of the Cosmos...