The theory of inflation and Marilyn Monroe

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OK, here’s one of those complicated science stories that make sense to maybe three dozen people on the planet. The chart above represents a confirmation of a hyphothesis on the Big Bang theory. As the chart says, physicists have been studying this for the past decade, and the result is one of those things that end up winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, but I can’t understand it any more than I can explain the theory of relativity. However, if you ever saw the movie “Insignificance,” you saw Marilyn Monroe (played by Theresa Russell) give a pretty good explanation of it to Albert Einstein (played by Michael Emil):

Anyway, the theory of relativity and the Big Bang theory are two of the most important findings in physics. In the scientific community, the discovery of the waves shown in the chart above is huge. According to the Washington Post:

Yet the theory of inflation has an even more profound implication. It suggests that the universe we can observe, everything we have seen or known on Earth and in the sky and ever will, is just an accident, and that the forces that caused inflation — whatever they may be — might have created other universes elsewhere, forever hidden from us by the laws of physics. What “elsewhere” means in this context, though, is uncertain.

But the theoretical physicists who posited the theory of inflation, an explanation that the universe went from nothing to … the universe in “a billionth of a billionth of billionth of a millionth of a second,” was overwhelmed to find his theory was proved.

Again, the physicist and his wife hear what was only random numbers to me, but they realize “discovery.”

So, why do I believe this, even though I don’t understand it, but I can’t believe the creationist concept that the world was created 9,000 years ago and man roamed the land with the dinosaur, which is a hell of a lot easier to understand?

I’ll quote an architect here. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said:

“God is in the details.”

He was talking about restraint in design. The physicists who gave us relativity and Big Bang and inflation are what “intelligent design” should stand for … a meticulous examination of science and physics delving into billions of years of possibility. A theory is presented and they test it and test, in this case over decades, it until it’s either proved or disproved. That’s the epitome of restraint in design.

And the result of scientific discovery is that we live in a world where our everyday luxuries are things that would have been designated as “magic” a century ago. Think of smartphones and iPads. Things that weren’t even conceivable 40 years ago. These are the products of physics and chemistry and science.

But the “intelligent design” of creationism boils down to: “I can’t figure this out, so let’s just say God did it. After all God is all knowing and all seeing, and I’m not God, so why should I worry my beautiful mind about it.” And what do we get out of that? At its high point, witch burning. At its low point, an embrace of ignorance that has set us back centuries in development and brought us closer to extinction.

I posted a few days ago on the mistake Bill Nye “The Science Guy” made in going to the Creation Museum in Kentucky to hold a debate on evolution. Today I read something that boiled down in fewer words what I meant to say in that post:

The choir hears someone saying “Hey, can you believe that in 2014, some crazy person still believes the earth is flat?” But someone else hears, “Some people still believe the earth is flat. Others call them ‘crazy.’ ” Every time the Round Earthers resoundingly win a debate, you perpetuate the notion that it’s a debate, not a set of facts that are simply not up for discussion. This is probably making a mountain out of a little good-natured Twitter fun. Still, it’s worth considering every time you “win” an argument over a fact that you SHOULD NOT EVEN BE ARGUING ABOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

So the way to win arguments is to make discoveries like the theory of inflation. And don’t “debate” the matter with people who are unwilling to examine their own theories because their belief system encourages them to to ask questions.

Bill Nye (the creationists’ guy)

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Bill Nye, a creationists’ best friend, at a Feb. 4 debate on evolution at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

Remember a few weeks ago when Bill Nye “The Science Guy” went to the Creation Museum in Kentucky to hold a debate on evolution. In my non-blogging real life, I was telling anyone who would listen that he was a complete idiot for doing that.

Why?

Because there is no debate. Creationism is religion. Evolution is science. The only thing Nye would end up doing would be to draw more attention to the Creation Museum. And in the real world, publicity goes a lot further than “book learnin’.”

But Nye went and did it anyway. And the result was a disaster.

Why?

Because this was the state of things for the Creation Museum in 2012 (Via Yahoo News):

The people behind this museum are looking to erect something much bigger: a 160-acre park with a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark built to stand 500 feet long and 80 feet high. …

The group initially announced that it expected to break ground on the park in 2011, before eventually pushing that date back to 2014. But in June, in an interview in the Creation Museum’s “Noah’s Cafe,” Ark Encounter vice president Michael Zovath told Yahoo News that the group no longer has a date in mind for the construction to begin. It has been unable to raise sufficient amounts of money, despite pleas to the Creation Museum’s visitors to donate to the project.

“Fundraising is really tough,” Zovath said, blaming the recession. “It’s not moving so fast as we hoped.” The private LLC that is building the park would need to raise another $20 million before it can break ground, he said. So far, it’s taken in $5.6 million in donations and $17 million in private investments.

To add to the bad news, the Creation Museum is having its lowest attendance year yet. Last fiscal year, 280,000 people visited, compared to 404,000 the first year it opened in 2007.

And what happened after the Bill Nye debate? (Via NPR)

Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum who last month debated TV personality Bill Nye “The Science Guy” pitting his Biblical literalism against Darwinian evolution, says the highly publicized showdown has been like manna from heaven for a foundering $73 million Noah’s Ark theme park. …

Nye is widely viewed as having won that debate, but Ham may have gotten the last word: On [Feb. 27] he announced that his Creation Museum’s proposed Noah’s Ark theme park, including a 510-foot replica of the Biblical vessel, had against all odds secured a last-minute $62 million municipal bond offering. The miracle was God’s, he said, but Nye also had something to do with it:

“The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God’s timing, not ours—and although the bond registration had already closed before February 4 and no more bonds could be purchased— the high-profile debate prompted some people who had registered for the bonds to make sure they followed through with submitting the necessary and sometimes complicated paperwork.”

And that’s why Bill Nye can now take full responsibility for ratcheting up the dumbing down of America. He owes us all an apology.

As I’ve said before, there is more legitimate science in the theme song of “The Big Bang Theory” than there is in the entire Creation Museum.

‘My Love from the Star’: A Korean hit in China

According to a major news outlets, the following Korean soap opera is the most popular show in China, much to the chagrin of Chinese officials:

The show’s called “My Love from the Star.” If I have this straight, a guy from outer space who’s 400 years old is hanging out with a pop star. And that’s putting half the world in a frenzy.

Chinese officials are upset because, it seems, China can’t put together entertainment that’s popular enough to keep its citizens enthralled. For example, the Washington Post says:

It’s not the first time popular foreign entertainment has led to hand-wringing in China. In 2008, when Dreamworks’ “Kung Fu Panda” became a runaway hit in China, it led to similar soul-searching. Why did it take American producers to find the drama and humor in a fat panda learning kung fu in China, many asked.

I didn’t know “Kung Fu Panda” had created an international incident.

Oh, for the full first episode of “My Love from the Star,” click here.

Watching planes land from outer space

I guess this video (which won’t embed, so click here) is kind of cool, but I’ve been on enough flights to know it’s not much different than watching planes land from a plane flying overhead. You see this all the time on those clear days when you’re at a window seat only halfway through your trip and flying over any major airport.

What is cool, by the way, is riding on a train and setting your Google map app on hybrid then hitting your location button. It’s like you’re flying overhead and watching your dot move across country. Zoom in and you feel like you’re moving faster than you actually are. And as you look at the map, you see what the buildings you’re going by look like from the skies. Give it a try sometime when you’re riding Amtrak.

A customs form for the Moon

i read recently (though I should have known this a long time ago), that when the Apollo 11 astronauts came back from the Moon, they had to fill our a form with Customs.

Which is kind of odd, because at the time, everyone on the planet knew that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins had just come from the Moon.

Anyway, here’s their customs form:

Apollo-11-Immigration-02

The most disconcerting part of this form though is the line that says:

Any other condition on board which may lead to the spread of disease:

TO BE DETERMINED

Because who knew what kind of killer moon virus they would be bringing back? (Yeah, I was probably one of the three people who saw the movie “Apollo 18.”)

 

 

‘Gravity’: Sound and space

‘Gravity’ is a truly impressive movie. It seems like it has a bunch of actors, but the only two who appear on screen are George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. And Clooney really isn’t in it that much.

I suspect it will be Bullock’s second Oscar.

If that’s uncertain one thing for sure is that it will win tons of technical awards. The Vimeo video above explains how the filmmakers handled the concept of sound in space.

What if? XKCD knows.

There’s an extension of the XKCD site that poses the question “What if” on various scenarios. Like:

If you could teleport to a random place of the surface of the Earth, what are the odds that you’ll see signs of intelligent life?

Of course, the first answer is you’ll probably land in water.

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But the most interesting answer is this:

Wait for nightfall.

At any given time, there are hundreds of satellites in the sky. Most of them are too faint to see, but if you’re in an area without much light pollution, and you look carefully enough, there’s virtually always a satellite visible. Their rapid motion across the sky and various highly inclined orbits make them unlikely to be anything but artificial.

It’s often said that the Great Wall of China is the only human artifact that can be seen from space. This is wrong.

But in my opinion, the real problem with this factoid isn’t that it’s wrong—it’s that it overlooks a much cooler point. The Great Wall of China may not be the only artifact on Earth that you can see from a satellite … but our satellites are the only human artifacts that you can see from everywhere on Earth.

Want to see signs of intelligent life? Just look up.

When I lived in England, I used to go out at night and watch the satellites in the sky. Since I was living in the countryside, there was no light pollution, and the sky was always loaded with more stars than I had ever seen in my life. And amid all those stars, you could see shiny objects move across the sky, very small, but always there. If you live in the city, you’ll never see that.

The astronaut who almost drowned in space

Did you know that one of the astronauts on the International Space Station almost drowned during a spacewalk a few weeks ago?Luca-smiling-ESA

Really. This has been circulating around the Internet, and NASA has been giving the impression that it was no big deal. But Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano had a post a couple of weeks ago on a malfunction in his space suit that resulted in water floating in his helmet around his head.

And when you’re in space, that means you’re in a hell of a lot of trouble. Here’s a small portion of his post from his blog on the European Space Agency Web site:

As I move back along my route towards the airlock, I become more and more certain that the water is increasing. I feel it covering the sponge on my earphones and I wonder whether I’ll lose audio contact. The water has also almost completely covered the front of my visor, sticking to it and obscuring my vision. I realise that to get over one of the antennae on my route I will have to move my body into a vertical position, also in order for my safety cable to rewind normally. At that moment, as I turn ‘upside-down’, two things happen: the Sun sets, and my ability to see – already compromised by the water – completely vanishes, making my eyes useless; but worse than that, the water covers my nose – a really awful sensation that I make worse by my vain attempts to move the water by shaking my head. By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid. To make matters worse, I realise that I can’t even understand which direction I should head in to get back to the airlock. I can’t see more than a few centimetres in front of me, not even enough to make out the handles we use to move around the Station.

You’ve got to read the whole thing to see how close this guy was to drowning in an infinite ocean of emptiness.