Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Cosmological Principle may not hold

January 13, 2013

A new paper describes the discovery of the largest known Large Quasar Group – with a longest dimension of some 1200 Megaparsecs and a typical dimension of about 500 Mpc. (One parsec is about 3.3 light years). This LQG is thus some 1600 times longer than the distance between the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy. The research team – led by Dr Roger Clowes from UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute – has identified the LQG which is so significant in size that it also challenges the Cosmological Principle. As Dr. Clowes remarks:

“While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe. This is hugely exciting – not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe.

“Even travelling at the speed of light, it would take 4 billion years to cross. This is significant not just because of its size but also because it challenges the Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein. Our team has been looking at similar cases which add further weight to this challenge and we will be continuing to investigate these fascinating phenomena.”

And if the Cosmological Principle does not hold it means that the fundamental constants of the known Universe may no longer be so fundamental or so constant.  The list of such constants is long but the most fundamental of these on which we build our understanding of the Universe – which we take as being  immutable – are the speed of light in a vacuum, the gravitational constant and the Planck constant. This opens up the possibility that the physical constants may take different values in different parts of the Universe. They may be a function of space and time. They may change over cosmological time – and of course this could mean that the passage of time itself is not uniform. So perhaps the “arrow of time” is really a “boomerang of time”? Or it could be that what starts out as an arrow may be morphing into a boomerang or something else as time progresses (or not). The concept of time – and not only the passage of time – may vary. What if the trajectory of time could loop on itself? or proceed in the form of a double spiral? Even if the Universe is still a non-static Universe – that itself makes a static Universe – Stasis – possible. The possibilities are legion – and not only for science fiction.

Stardate would no longer be uniform – but this could explain the variation between the different series of Star Trek!

Quasar - atists impression NASA-AFP

Quasar – artists impression NASA-AFP

A structure in the early universe at z ~ 1.3 that exceeds the homogeneity scale of the R-W concordance cosmology byRoger G. Clowes, Kathryn A. Harris, Srinivasan Raghunathan, Luis E. Campusano, Ilona K. Soechting, Matthew J. Graham, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, http://arxiv.org/abs/1211.6256

Hope still alive for faster than light travel as Einsteinian physics is challenged (maybe)

September 23, 2011

The news is packed today with reports about the CERN measurements which apparently show that some neutrinos have travelled at faster than the speed of light. Since the conclusions are crucially dependent upon a time difference of 60 nanoseconds in a total travel time of 2.43 milliseconds the conclusion may well be found to be in error.

But I hope not.

Wired News: If it’s true, it will mark the biggest discovery in physics in the past half-century: Elusive, nearly massless subatomic particles called neutrinos appear to travel just faster than light, a team of physicists in Europe reports. If so, the observation would wreck Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which demands that nothing can travel faster than light. …. 

Over three years, OPERA researchers timed the roughly 16,000 neutrinos that started at CERN and registered a hit in the detector. They found that, on average, the neutrinos made the 730-kilometer, 2.43-millisecond trip roughly 60 nanoseconds faster than expected if they were traveling at light speed. “It’s a straightforward time-of-flight measurement,” says Antonio Ereditato, a physicist at the University of Bern and spokesperson for the 160-member OPERA collaboration. “We measure the distance and we measure the time, and we take the ratio to get the velocity, just as you learned to do in high school.” Ereditato says the uncertainty in the measurement is 10 nanoseconds. However, even Ereditato says it’s way too early to declare relativity wrong. “I would never say that,” he says. Rather, OPERA researchers are simply presenting a curious result that they cannot explain and asking the community to scrutinize it. “We are forced to say something,” he says. “We could not sweep it under the carpet because that would be dishonest.” The results will be presented at a seminar tomorrow at CERN.

The concept of light having a maximum speed is acceptable but that nothing can exceed this speed is somehow depressing and lacks elegance and it kills hope. It is even more confining and depressing if the universe is expanding. It “settles” science when science needs to be unsettled.

For the sake of wonder and discovery and challenge I hope that the measurements are correct and that some part of Einsteinian physics is turned on its head and that the dream of FTL travel remains alive.

“Make it so” – Star Trek

The Guardian: Faster than light particles found, claim scientists

Wall Street Journal: Roll over Einstein: Law of physics challenged

 

“You left spacedock without a tractor beam?”: Mysterious force holds back NASA probes

September 19, 2010

Star Trek Generations

Star Trek Generations:

Kirk: You left spacedock without a tractor beam?
Harriman: It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday.

The Telegraph:

A space probe launched 30 years ago has come under the influence of a mysterious force that has baffled scientists and could rewrite the laws of physics. Researchers say Pioneer 10, which took the first close-up pictures of Jupiter before leaving our solar system in 1983, is being pulled back to the sun by an unknown force. The effect shows no sign of getting weaker as the spacecraft travels deeper into space, and scientists are considering the possibility that the probe has revealed a new force of nature.

Tractorbeam arriving on Tuesday

“If the effect is real, it will have a big impact on cosmology and spacecraft navigation,” said Dr Laing, of the Aerospace Corporation of California. Pioneer 10 was launched by Nasa on March 2 1972, and with Pioneer 11, its twin, revolutionised astronomy with detailed images of Jupiter and Saturn. In June 1983, Pioneer 10 passed Pluto, the most distant planet in our solar system.

pt:Trajectória da sonda Pioneer 10 em Jupiter

Pioneer 10 trajectory

Research to be published shortly in The Physical Review, a leading physics journal, will show that the speed of the two probes is being changed by about 6 mph per century – a barely-perceptible effect about 10 billion times weaker than gravity.

Assertions by some scientists that the force is due to a quirk in the Pioneer probes have also been discounted by the discovery that the effect seems to be affecting Galileo and Ulysses, two other space probes still in the solar system. Data from these two probes suggests the force is of the same strength as that found for the Pioneers.

Dr Duncan Steel, a space scientist at Salford University, says even such a weak force could have huge effects on a cosmic scale. “It might alter the number of comets that come towards us over millions of years, which would have consequences for life on Earth. It also raises the question of whether we know enough about the law of gravity.”


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