Monday, May 26, 2008

Dose of Science (Phenomenal Cosmic Power!!!)


Links have been fixed. :D ~ JT


Hey all you Astronomy nuts out there...


...NASA probe Phoenix has touched down on Mars and is already sending back images. They have dropped Phoenix into an area where they hope to find ice, and have offered up some very optimistic appraisals for their chances. I hope they're right!

Also, the date for the activation of the Large Hadron Collider (See the Wikipedia entry here) has been pushed back to late August with no date set in stone yet. Preliminary test runs are going incredibly smoothly. The machine has already been used to smash particles at lower speeds and everything appears normal. A few people have asked me how happy I will be if we do, in fact, discover a Higgs Boson Particle (or "God Particle" as Physicists refer to it), since such a discovery would put a lock down on many theories about our universe, as well as being further evidence for string theory and, hence, multiverse theory, which will take us many steps closer to affirming that no creation was necessary for our universe. My answer is that we've already established this. A closed manifold universe is just one possibility out of several that would preclude a creation event, so yet another one won't really change anything.

Oh, there's also some people pissing and moaning about how it might destroy the Earth, and this has gotten a fair amount of media time. The thing is, the equations that suggest that a collision at 7 TeVs (Tetraelectronvolts) would cause a black hole to form also predict that the black hole will immediately evaporate courtesy of Hawking Radiation. As Phil Plait points out, those worried that a created black hole won't evaporate shouldn't be worried they'd be created in the first place. For more on how we have nothing to worry about, listen to what the Bad Astronomer has to say about it. We're gonna be ok here, and we're going to learn a lot about how reality works¹.

Speaking of Science, you'll recall how Ben Stein said that science leads you to kill people. Never mind that science has provided us with every single means (as in, religion has provided none of them) by which we have lengthened our lives and allowed the disabled or otherwise afflicted with handicaps to live, but new discoveries by scientists that allow us to survive in an indifferent universe are being made continuously. A recent example comes from a 16 year-old boy from Canada who has determined a means to make plastic deteriorate faster - we're talking like, 1,000 years faster². The benefits to the environment will be phenomenal since 97% of the plastic bags we've ever made still exist (the other 3% were incinerated - See "Polymers are Forever" by Weisman).

Such is the power of science, and why I can't help but shake my head when people assert that science is a matter of faith. Science provides actual results we can test and it is bound by how reality appears to work, unlike any religion. I submit to you this young lad's experimental steps as an example:

He knew plastic does eventually degrade, and figured microorganisms must be behind it. His goal was to isolate the microorganisms that can break down plastic -- not an easy task because they don't exist in high numbers in nature.

First, he ground plastic bags into a powder. Next, he used ordinary household chemicals, yeast and tap water to create a solution that would encourage microbe growth. To that, he added the plastic powder and dirt. Then the solution sat in a shaker at 30 degrees.

After three months of upping the concentration of plastic-eating microbes, Burd filtered out the remaining plastic powder and put his bacterial culture into three flasks with strips of plastic cut from grocery bags. As a control, he also added plastic to flasks containing boiled and therefore dead bacterial culture.

Six weeks later, he weighed the strips of plastic. The control strips were the same. But the ones that had been in the live bacterial culture weighed an average of 17 per cent less.

That wasn't good enough for Burd. To identify the bacteria in his culture, he let them grow on agar plates and found he had four types of microbes. He tested those on more plastic strips and found only the second was capable of significant plastic degradation.

Next, Burd tried mixing his most effective strain with the others. He found strains one and two together produced a 32 per cent weight loss in his plastic strips. His theory is strain one helps strain two reproduce.

Hypotheses, test, view results, new hypotheses to improve the old one, so on and so forth. Sure enough, his improved hypotheses was later confirmed: his plastic-eating bacteria was Sphingomonas and the helper bacteria was Pseudomonas. I submit to you that you will never come across a story that reads this way (I guess you might in something like The Daily Christian News, but never in anything whose standards for truth aren't equivalent to Humpty Dumpty):

The lead scientist noted that paper decomposes faster than plastic and, realizing that we have no idea why, elected to kneel down and pray to Jesus for the answer. Later, he recorded the results of his prayer as inspired by god and the bible, concluding that the eternal god of the bible is all his deserved glory was, in fact, responsible for paper's faster rate of decomposing†.
Congratulations to Daniel Burd for his contribution. Indeed, he has given mankind more of a helping hand than god ever has, with none of the insane baggage that comes with treating your feelings as though they were facts.

I love living, and I love being able to see the world how it truly is. Reality is gorgeous, and all of it we have come to know has been revealed to us by science. Fairy tales and myths cannot compare, and certainly cannot explain any of it with such eloquence and concise reason.

I think I'll go for a walk and smell some flowers now. :D

¹ There are people who claim to have knowledge about the universe's origins or how reality functions that no Cosmologist has, though they have no data or experiment to corroborate that claim - they call this "faith". They go under many different names such as Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. While the label is different, the use of "faith" as an attempt to support their claims is consistent. Many of them say that science, such as the LHC, is equally bereft of explanatory power and is also a matter of faith. They are wrong .

² Lauren actually found the article and was gracious enough to let me use it to make this point.

It was later discovered by scientists, using their usual secular methods, that god accomplishes this by the existence elements in our world, such as insects and bacteria, that help certain bonds dissolve and their inherent elements to change state, which is the process we refer to as decomposition. Scientists have isolated these elements and have provided us with everything we know about them, yet we knew way before the scientists that god put them on Earth to help us (he just didn't tell us anything about them). Too bad we beat those faith-ridden scientists to the punch with that positive prediction and useful conclusion, right? Hallelujah for the power of prayer!


LA said...

I rock faces at finding teh omg articles!


nisemono3.14 said...

We really should pull out the telescope soon, since it is stargazing weather again. Perhaps next week??

Brian said...

Phoenix is at Mars, not Mercury. And your Myspace links are down.

Nice stuff otherwise, though.

JT said...

Doh! Thanks Brian. :P


Riflwifl said...

Hey guys. I just wanted to say that I'm popping over through Pharyngula (with a stop at beautiful flower and penis) and so far I loved your blog, although as brian has noted your myspace links are down. Thanks for writing, I'll come by more frequently now that I know about you guys. Night all!

Walt G. said...

It is expected that Micro Black Holes will be created at the rate of one per second. To reassure the public, CERN has stated that these MBHs will instantly evaporate in the LHC based on the "Hawking Radiation" theory and they would already have been created by naturally occurring high-energy cosmic rays. HOWEVER, "Hawking Radiation" is only a theory, is disputed by other physicists and Stephen himself no longer believes it.

As for naturally occurring high-energy cosmic rays creating MBHs, this is theoretical also and has never been observed or proven.

"What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc." From 'New York Times'

On May 5, an inquisitive teacher's letter to CERN experiment team ATLAS concerning MBH creation was met with this condescending response(including this passage; "Now talk about fussing about nothing: first of all, a hole, black to boot, and microscopic on top of that! If tiny, weeny little holes are going to get a big grown-up man like you all scared, holy banana, what would a big white bump do to you?") and this unretouched photo at left.(Note phrase; 'Microscopic Black Hole Factory'.)

Additionally Aurélien Barrau and Julien Grain speaking on behalf of CERN say "...these black holes are not dangerous and do not threaten to swallow up our already much-abused planet." the obvious implication being the Earth is damaged goods and therefore experiments that cause a black hole would just put it out of it's misery anyway? Black Hole Info.