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Archive for June, 2007

Landmarks in stupidity

Friday, June 15th, 2007


“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity … and I’m not sure about the universe.”
Albert Einstein

Received a link this morning to a PBS news report ‘Landmark’ Study Changes Long-held DNA Beliefs posted yesterday. The report begins:

“A four-year international study of the human genome has prompted scientists to rethink some of their most basic ideas about how DNA functions.

“The researchers found that individual genes interact with one another in more complex ways than previously suspected. They also found that large stretches of DNA once called “junk DNA” because they had no known purpose may actually play a significant role in regulating biological processes.”

Is this really any surprise? What seems far more incredible is that scientists should have possessed the arrogance and ignorance to label sections of DNA as ‘junk’ just because they had no idea what its function was!

Fairford Two acquitted!

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

“You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”
Václav Havel

From last Saturday’s Guardian newspaper:

“If they were to do it over again, Phil Pritchard says, they would bring less stuff. He and Toby Olditch were carrying “silly amounts” when they broke into RAF Fairford on the eve of the Iraq war: bolts and screws to be placed inside the B-52s’ engines, pictures of smiling Iraqi children to be stuck on to the payload doors, toothbrushes and stamps to be used in prison, and flashing headbands in the hope that they would look too ridiculous to be shot.

“Somewhat inevitably, they were arrested before they got anywhere near one of the bombers. “At that stage,” says Mr Pritchard, “I think the word that went through our heads was: arse.” Instead of preventing the jets from taking off for Iraq, the two men were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage, remanded in custody for three months, and told to expect a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

“But while their mission may have been, in Mr Olditch’s words, “a bit Keystone Cops”, it was not criminal. That was the remarkable verdict of a jury at Bristol crown court this week, which unanimously acquitted the two men, having accepted their defence that they were acting to prevent the US air force planes from committing war crimes.”

More …

No lightweight matter

Friday, June 1st, 2007
3c438 optical
3c438 xray

In this comparison, an apparently ordinary star field in optical light (above) is shown to be dramatically different when observed in X-rays (below). Chandra’s image of 3C438, the central galaxy within a massive cluster, reveals evidence for one of the most energetic events in the local Universe.

Following last month’s proving-inspired addition of a new article to the site (Does it matter?) which, among other things, suggests that black holes are massless, an interesting discovery has been reported by NASA.

“Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence for an “awesome upheaval” in a massive cluster of galaxies. A bright arc of ferociously hot gas extending more than two million light years requires one of the most energetic events ever detected.”

“The huge feature we detected in the cluster combined with its high temperature (170 million°C) points to an exceptionally dramatic event in the nearby Universe,” says Ralph Kraft of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, leader of a team of astronomers involved in this research. “While we’re not sure what caused it, we have narrowed it down to a couple of exciting possibilities.”

“There is no reality in the absence of observation.”
Neils Bohr & Werner Heisenberg

Two possible explanations are offered. Either a collision between two large galaxies or a supermassive black hole. The observed data favours the latter explanation since there is only a single source for the massive emission of energy. The really interesting part comes right at the end.

“If this event was an outburst from a supermassive black hole, then it’s by far the most powerful one ever seen,” says team member Bill Forman, also from the Center for Astrophysics.

The phenomenal amount of energy involved implies a very large amount of mass swallowed by the black hole, about 30 billion times the Sun’s mass consumed over a period of 200 million years. The authors consider this rate of black hole growth implausible.

“These values have never been seen before and, truthfully, are hard to believe,” notes Kraft. Until these issues are sorted out, the awesome upheaval remains a mystery.

3c438 jets

A radio map of 3C438 reveals jets spewing from the galaxy’s core – a sign of explosive activity.

It is indeed highly implausible that a black hole could have ‘swallowed’ such an incredible amount of matter, but then the whole idea of black holes swallowing and compressing matter to the extent suggested by the prevailing theory is rather implausible to begin with. It’s good to see that astrophysicists have now been brought to the point where a re-evaluation of present theory is apparently being demanded by this discovery.

“All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward internal dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.”
H P Lovecraft

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard