Atom Wave: January 2007

Atom Wave

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Burnt String

The greatest adventure in physics has been in play this last thirty years with the invention and development of Superstring Theory, the long promised land of theoretical physics that is advertised as the theory of everything. With the potential of combining the four forces of nature and Relativity with the oddball Quantum Mechanics, it has long been the holy grail of science.
The theory has been getting burnt lately.
To make a long story short, the four forces are the strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational force. The strong force binds quarks together, producing the protons and neutrons we enjoy today. The weak force is the mediator of radioactive decay, while the electromagnetic force governs charged particles. The gravitational force is clearly gravity and remains the sole domain of Relativity.
The genius behind Superstring is that it seeks to express all particles and their interactions by remodeling them as strings of energy. These strings of energy are of the Planck length (~10^-35 meters) and vibrate at resonant frequencies to produce the particle or particles. All superstrings must vibrate in 10, 11, or 26 dimensions to produce valid solutions; anything else is nonsense. Nonsense is also the outcome of previous attempts to integrate Relativity and Quantum Mechanics equations directly. String Theory resolves this problem, but it replaces it with a mind-boggling number of possible solutions. A theory of everything can also be a theory of nothing!
The time has finally come for the physics community to reevaluate alternative theories in its quest for the theory of everything.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hubble Telescope Reprise

NASA Schedules Flight to Update Hubble Space Telescope

Back in 2004, NASA was considering the possibility of either scrapping the Hubble Space Telescope or sending a risky untested robotic mission to refurbish the beast in the wake of the Columbia disaster. As you might know, I advocated the construction and launch of a replacement Hubble in, as it would be the UK magazine Astronomy Now in October of that year. The original unedited version is below. Today the New York Times reported that NASA is finalizing plans to launch a shuttle to the telescope in 2008 to rebuild it. While I am undeniably joyful of the news, it is still a mistake. When it costs nearly half a billion to simply get one shuttle into orbit, that money would still be better spent building a upgraded replacement and sending it up on a much cheaper expendable. In any matter, I still give a tip of my hat to NASA for their decision of the skies.

Hubble Telescope Robot Rescue Mission

Within the next three years, NASA is planning to launch a robotic rescue mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. With the shuttle mission SM-4 grounded last January, the only option left to service the Hubble is a highly ambitious, risky, and expensive robotic mission scheduled to lift off in late 2007. If executed, this mission will be a mistake in that it will incorporate experimental technology which may not work and will endanger the already fragile Hubble Telescope, plus it will waste more money in a already high cost ineffective program. If NASA is intent on extending the Hubble Program, then it should launch an upgraded Hubble to fill in the void until the James Webb Telescope becomes operational by 2012 or so.

The proposed mission that is currently under study at the Goddard Center is designed to be composed of two parts, service and sustain. The mission would begin with a launch of the spacecraft from the Cape in late 2007 aboard a heavy-lift Atlas 5 or Delta 4 booster. After a two to twelve day voyage, the robot would mate with the Hubble in orbit and then the servicing mission would begin and last about 30 days. The first stage of the mission would be to connect the telescope to a new set of batteries via an umbilical to the spacecraft, which would further be wired to the solar arrays. This would be followed by the installation of the new Wide Field Camera with replacement gyros attached and the installation of the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. Once the upgrade is complete, the robot along with the old instruments is ejected to decay in the atmosphere. A deorbit rocket would be left on the Hubble to bring it down at the end of its life. While the plan is ingenious, nothing resembling it has ever been done in practice. If history is any guide, than we can expect most experimental technologies to fail because the engineers simply have no previous experience with it. The execution of this mission would be a gamble at best.

Besides the risks of the mission, the expected costs should be a showstopper. In terms of cost effectiveness, the Hubble Space Telescope has already been a horrible bust in respect to what has been scientifically accomplished to the funds expended. The Hubble Telescope was explicitly built to be serviced by the Space Shuttle, which is no small expense when the cost per flight of the Shuttle is nearly half of a billion dollars. Aside from the enormous cost of servicing the Hubble is the practicality of the affair. Since the Hubble was designed to be launched by the Shuttle, it missed its targeted opportunity to be deployed in the early 1980's in part due to the Challenger Disaster. When the Hubble Telescope finally reached orbit in 1990, its optics were already a decade out of date. The three Shuttle missions to the telescope over the past 14 years have upgraded the machine, but its basic technology is still in excess of 24 years old. Now the proposed robotic mission is expected to cost upwards of a billion dollars, which at that price is well within the cost of a replacement Hubble Telescope. Riccardo Giacconi, former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, once said that seven similar space telescopes could have been built and launched on expendable rockets for the amount of money which has been spent so far on just one.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rumors of Pinnacle

The prospect of nuclear war seems remote in this age, a relic of the Cold War. Unfortunately, the nightmare that we thought had finally left us may be aiming for a sequel. Rumors have recently come to light that Israel may be planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities using American supplied bunker buster bombs .
It is undeniable that this age is proving to be a tight squeeze for the nation of Israel. Between 2001 and 2006, the country has been involved in two bloody strife’s. The first being the Al-Aqsa Intifada that involved a long series of suicide bombs detonating within Israel and the recent war with Lebanon.
To only make matters worse, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has been saying recently how swell it would be to destroy Israel. Plus he has his own nuclear program in development to build a nuclear bomb in cynical disregard of the United Nations.
Zev Chafets of the Los Angeles Times said that maybe Israel should respond by blasting Iran’s facilities, a mistake. Once the lightning strikes, it would thunder as a battle cry across the Middle East. Assuming that they were even successful in their raid, Iran almost certainly would retaliate with full-scale war to avenge the unprovoked attack. Along with many of its Arab neighbors once they got whiff of the actual and political fallout. It would be the battle cry to solidify Iran’s anti-Israeli position across the region for generations to come. Besides, the facilities would just be rebuilt within a few years and the process would begin anew.
Israel could instead bide its time with Iran. They are at least a few years away from constructing their first atomic bomb. Better to wait and see if it can be resolved by other means. Regrettably, that opens the window for Iran to launch a pre-emptive strike of its own at a future date.
Each of the two extremes presents great risks to Israel. Either scenario could very well witness its end, or at least leave it very diminished along with much of the Middle East after the dust settled.
There is a middle road; Israel should launch a full-scale effort of covert sabotage. Better to operate in the shadows beneath the world’s view. You get to pick your targets of opportunity over time instead of a desperate all-out nuclear strike. A few well-placed bombs over time can be as crippling as a nuclear strike with the right choice of assets. Why do you think they use guided bombs today instead of carpet-bombing? All that is needed is the patience and skill to see the project out, one thing that I am sure the Israeli’s can handle.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Celebrity Bliss

As it would be, I was recently in New York City visiting my family over the holidays. Walking the streets of the city, it reminded me that one of my most adored musical genre’s originated here, hip hop. It would be magnificent to be a rap star or something like that. The pay is excellent and you get to pick your jobs, and work only a few months of the year. That would be awesome, just look at comedians like Stephen Colbert. Than I remembered the rest of the deal, that part about the paparazzi always being on your tail and if not than your fans. It would be enough to make someone feel like a fugitive.
Now I am all for making people feel like fugitives, as long as they really are one. This whole paparazzi scheme and celebrity stalking has been overdone, and it is time to call an armistice with our favorite friends. (as claimed by the IMDB). Call it an incentive for them to create better music, television shows, and movies. Actually, that is misguided. Where will they get their practice? Some rap stars and actors play villains, and will need the practice to get their parts right. Only being stalked by your fans daily will bring out the real anger needed to turn them into the stone cold killer for that part in the next movie.
On second thought, being a celebrity may be more trouble than it is worth. Best to be left to the experts, or those who don’t mind being stalked every time they leave their home for a box of candy.
Don’t get me wrong; there are undisclosed celebrities out there that I appreciate, but I can’t deny that I probably couldn’t name most of them on a bet even if I did see them on the street, train, or airplane.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fighting The System

As you know, the new-year is a time for new resolutions and for some of us, new taxes. Now I have never had a love for taxes, unless they are fair and serve some tangible purpose. The new Twin’s Stadium tax that just took effect here in Minnesota represent a new low from our “so called” leaders. Now I don’t always agree with David Drake but he is undeniably right about this matter. It is not the business of private citizens to subsidize private business.
That is why I am offering a modest proposal to my fellow Minnesota citizens that are tired of being molested by our alleged political leaders that in many cases we would be better off without.

Number one: Avoid purchasing taxable items in Hennepin County. Now I know that this is difficult if you live here, but it is worthwhile for high priced items. Certainly our friends at some online stores can sell you many goods at comparable prices and to the exclusion of local sales taxes.

Number two: Write your politicians and unkindly remind them that terrible things could happen to their reelection dreams if the project is not destroyed. You don’t need to be kind; they betrayed us by letting the Twin’s steal from our wallet to build their stadium. It will only take a few minutes of your time.
Minnesota State Legislature

I will assume that some of you will do nothing about this outrage. Remember this, you can fight the system and win; every singe time that you say no!