Monday, September 01, 2014

I don't Believe Any of it

Case in point - I no longer believe the "Western Press" is the free press, or believable at all. I used to spend so much time watching news analysis until a few years ago. Now I challenge the basic premises of the article at hand (using logic) and I find them wanting. Not just a little bit wanting, but completely off the wall out and out lies. 

Another case in point - I struggle to even read articles to do with evolution or abiogenesis, because I think they are not being scientific enough. They jump to too many conclusions about the overall structure of the question at hand - not because I think I know the correct structure, but because the structure is never questioned, and is almost certainly wrong.

I don't want to necessarily get into specific examples, but it is quite frustrating to feel like I am the only one who sees a problem. Peer pressure, blindly following authority, parsimony, groupthink, loyalty to country, loyalty to like-minded individuals, inability to overturn a precedent, fitting new data into an old way of thinking, rather than letting new information speak for itself and allow new forms of thinking to shine through. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August astrobiology rant

INot really a rant, but I recommend people keep up with the Rosetta Blog - just google it. Answers to astrobiology start in our studies of comets, one way or another. 

I am at peace with feeling that I know that space scientists, namely what I refer to as the "NASA block" are completely wrong about the distribution and markers of life in the solar system outside of Earth, and of their relationship to and plausibility of "abiogenesis". The "Wickramasinge block" of scientists, plenty of which are ex-NASA astrobiologists, will be demonstrably closer to the ideal of "predicting new facts" when more and more obvious evidence of biology manifests itself both in comets and plenty of other places besides.

Neither of these groups are looking at comets as the proximal precedent to life as we know it, as things that reproduce (in an analogous way to bacterial "fission") , demonstrate metabolism (utilising energy and expelling unwanted waste products) and do something special, ie. use the interplanetary superhighway with the occasional orbit corrections performed by changing the rotation rate and shape of the comet using jets and internal fluid movements. Thus over thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of years, can move from planetary distances, back out to the Oort Cloud and back again. My view is that "comets" are usually completely invisible, and the only ones we see are putting on a show as they are in the process of reproduction, or an orbit correction requiring considerable jet power.

Thus this is why 4 out of 6 comet nuclei visited are bi-lobed, the most detailed views showing the connection between lobes to be smoother and younger and quite circular in cross section rather than looking anything like a "rubble pile" "pristine" , "dirty snowball" "snowy dirtball" "unchanged from the birth of the solar system" . The Whipple model should be dead in the water, but keeps getting propped up as proven by observation, even as observation after observation contradicts it. 

Images that I get when I google "Whipple model" a model with the name Whipple, and a mathematical bicycle model also called the Whipple model.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cherry-Jerry is not an icy dirtball

Here's my latest prediction of the structure of comet Churyumov Geramisenko. It is not a "rubble-pile". It is a complex layered structure. It has an outer protective crust which seals off a certain level of pressure, say 1/100th of an atmosphere or so. Under that is a chambered atmosphere layer. Like a quilt it absorbs impacts and the convection of gas acts like a thermal exchange from the crust to the centre.

The middle of the comet is seperated as the outside into at least 2 sections. There is a fine soil and lakes in each section. Since centrifugal forces approximately match mutual gravitation between the two sections, convection and capillary action drives any movement of fluid and gas, rather than gravity. Jets are driven from a complex network powered from the thermal exchange near the surface but traveling transversely and vertically through various sections.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Liquid water in comets

Conditions required for liquid water is a temperature and pressure above the triple point of water. The surfaces of comets are certainly warm enough, based on measurements taken by probes and earth based. Pressure only needs to be .006 Atmospheres. Since jets are powered by the thermal energy absorbed by the surface, there must be some gas pressure being held in the surface- ie. a subsurface atmosphere. Thus liquid water could flow in the microgravity environment. Some Stardust probe sample return minerals found can only be formed in liquid water. Deep impact probe excavated clays which are suggestive of liquid water. Capillary action, microgravity, centrifugal forces and internal wind would affect the movement of water and material inside the comet.

Long live the wet comet model.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How does a comet outgass?

From the latest direct evidence from robotic satellites, comets mainly outgass from "jets". Most of the volatiles, dust and larger particles come out of the jets. Some out gassing of volatiles happens in areas with no jets see Hartley. 

The energy for the sublimation of ices happens near the surface (in the top metre or so) based on temperature readings. Thus the volatiles travel from where they are heated under the black surface to the jets, picking up solid particles as they go. There is considerable mass loss in each orbit, while the position of the jets remains relatively stable. Thus the black "skin" needs to shrink with the comet, in the places where the volatiles are sublimated. 

The jets appear not to collapse in on themselves, and thus have a more solid structure around them.

The combination of observations would contradict the models of "fissures" ie cracks. Cracks causing the out gassing cannot be reconciled with the observations of discrete jets and temperature profile. 

Models of regularly collapsing and new jets cannot be reconciled with non gravitational accelerations for Halley class comets that are consistent from apparition to apparition despite substantial mass loss. Jets need to be in the same configuration from apparition to apparition for the adjustments to work the way they do for Halley. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Interview with lead researcher in team which discovered alien intelligent life

Dateline: November 5 2045 Interview between Ivan Felson and Prof Henry Parson.

IF: So, Professor Parson - Have we discovered Alien intelligent life? Should we be afraid or excited? and Can we communicate with them?

HP:To answer these questions - Yes, we believe we have. At this stage we should be excited, not afraid, but we should probably tread carefully, and not yet. We have a few ideas about how we should proceed with communication, but admittedly, we are a bit stumped.

IF: So, before we get ahead of ourselves, how did it all happen, and what have we done in the past that we may regret with our new knowledge.

HP: Well, it all started to dawn on us from the Rosetta probe onwards. Rosetta discovered not just a liquid water core, but four liquid interior water lakes seperated by solid structures. The surface analysis of the chemistry revealed a rich organic chemistry akin to crude oil, with PAH's, long chain hydrocarbons, with optical properties (chirality) just as crude oil from biotic origin rather than racemic as you would expect from synthetic or non-biotic origin sources. 

The surface that the Philae lander was on, was therefore spongy rather than solid. Even though gravity was negligible, it seemed obvious that it would probably eventually sink. Experiments were accelerated and adjusted with the given constraints, and as the comet started to form a coma, the surface started to subside downwards and eventually Philae got subsumed into the comet and could not operate any further.

The orbiting Rosetta craft continued to observe the comet, and its mission was extended and continued to operate for another decade and the whole cometary orbit cycle was observed up close.

At that point, the main regret was not to have specific life detection equipment on board - The spacecraft were not even sterilised as would be normal where possible alien life were to be detected.

With these discoveries, a plethora of new comet missions were financed from all spacefaring nations.

Comets that had already been visited were visited again with orbiters. "peanut shaped" comets Borrely and Hartley 2 were found to have liquid water within both "nuts" and the two ends were noticably further apart, and the neck separating them were thinner. There were various surface structures like jets (round holes in the surface) that had no gas or dust coming out. Finally, a probe was sent into one of those holes and a sample returned with complex DNA similar to a megavirus, as well as biotic material of various kinds.

The shape of the jets below the surface was a network of tunnels something like a huge set of lungs. The shape of the non jet holes were vertical towards the centre of one of the liquid lakes or other. Surface features were sculpted from below - hills welling up from heated hydrocarbon pumping up, and valleys were where warming volatiles were directed towards the "lungs", causing the surface to subsume. The temperature in the interior of the comet remained quite stable, and the liquid lakes stayed a constant volume and overall shape over the period of the comet.

Deep Impact mission appeared to be more of a mistake at this point. We basically shot a copper bullet into what now appears to be a living organism. It is no wonder the comet changed rotation and thus future orbit quite substantially.

2014 was a watershed year for comets - Not only Rosetta, but also the flyby of Comet Siding Spring past Mars also. Comet was also pitch black - Why is that interesting? It was supposedly the first time in from the Oort Cloud. Comets were supposed to be pristine and icy - Time and time again they have proven to be black - the opposite of pristine.

Rosetta took some of the interest away from Dawn's also amazing discoveries at Ceres in 2015. Subsurface liquid water doesn't seem to be such a big deal if it exists on every comet, as well as other places such as Ceres and Jupiter's icy moons. It is just easier to get on, off, and around a comet or dormant comets

Saturday, May 03, 2014

You have to spend money to Make money

The Queensland Government in the campaign for "Strong Choices" and also the federal Government commisioning a report on "cutting expenditure" and what can only be described as levvies, or new taxes. Debt is portrayed as the elephant in the room - the future Achilles heel of the Australian economy on its road to eventual default given "business as usual" or in this case "the current borrow and spend path"

This is a very simplistic and politically motivated picture painted by the current Government. However, it ignores unintended consequences. 

Many more times than it is supposed, an increase in a tax rate ends up reducing the overall tax intake - reductions in expenditure can reduce growth or cause recessions which further reduce tax intake. In essence, inceases in borrowing to invest can actually be a better tactic to bring a country back to "profit", even in a situation in which debt appears already high. Profit, in this case means a budget surplus. 

For all the push for austerity around the world, it doesn't appear to do a lot of good except as a punitive measure for not paying your bills on time. It does not make it easier to pay future bills on time.

The focus has to be on how the expenditure is an investment rather than consumption, and a view of the overall demographic direction of the country. Thus an older retirement age is a must no matter what, but lower pension rate not necessarily so. Of course investing in the youth througn generous family payment and youth allowance is an excellent long term investment, but it is often seen as an indulgent expenditure on middle class welfare.

Thus I am troubled by the simple-minded model of "you have to save money so that you have it to spend on important things later", and I think that Government has to just focus on a wide base of taxation, and long term investments and infrasructure.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why are oil and tar black?

Not sure if Dr Chris Fellows should do this as a research project. The main thing is that I am conjecturing that what makes comet's nucleus' surfaces black is crude oil (in a solid gel form) rather than agglomerated soot. 

I was not sure what it was about crude oil that made it black, but apparently neither is anybody else. I had it in my head that it was the "impurities" that made it black, ie possibly soot particles within the crude oil or something like that, because distilled oil is usually *not* black. Soft enough to absorb micrometeoric impacts, but solid enough that it keeps its form, especially jets, from collapsing in on themselves on a comet.

Why are oil and tar black?

I am afraid that at present, no one can answer this deceptively simple question. Even the most basic structural properties of the asphaltenes and their aggregates remain conjectural. I believe that optical properties reflect collective electronic transitions in the PAH aggregates, but this is nothing more than an educated guess.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Evolution and Abiogenesis

I find a continuing mental journey away from both religious thought and standard evolutionary synthesis.
I am not happy about religion because what they say about origins is not based on observable facts.
I am not happy about science because what they say about origins is not based on observable facts.

The presumption of abiogenesis is the assumption that there was a time that there was no life. The philosophical necessity for random unguided processes to move from non life to life does not exist in my brain. Neither does the philosophical necessity of an omnipotent deity exist just to defy the other necessity.

My current theory is that life as we don't know it is an emergent property of the Big Bang, and that life as we do know it has been designed on the fly in a multi stage process. The only stage of the process that is accessible to humans observations is the last one - Life as we don't even perceive as life designing life as we know it.

Of course this theory suffers for the same reasons as why I am not happy with religion and science. 

Predicting new facts is the gold standard here - What new facts does religion, abiogenesis or standard evolutionary synthesis predict about what we will find on other planets, asteroids and comets? Not really anything, but we can be pretty sure to be able to fit them into our theories for the moment.

I don't think predicting new facts is given enough weight in science of origins. We keep our overall theories vague enough and keep strictly to a nearly social need for a democratic concensus between scientists who spend most of their time studying these things. This instead of the need for a myriad of competing ideas which will predict different facts when we eplore the far reaches of our World and universe.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The new NBN = the old Telstra deja vu

One picture of a redhead animee character does not a tweet make, so I will see what I can make of the coalition's rearrangement of the NBN. Although the ideology behind the new NBN stinks, the circumstances of the policy takeover are such that the changes in direction are mostly harmless. The reason that they are mostly harmless is that the unprofitable country areas were front-ended and fast tracked into the original NBN, such that the countrywide backbone and country capacity is basically there already and will not be dismantled. The NBN co. is now scrambling to do the exact opposite, by frontending and fast tracking fibre capacity to profitable city areas before competing telco's try to cherry-pick them through loopholes in the new NBN structure. The "last mile" is the most expensive bit of the conversion to Fibre, but at least now Fibre to the node is equivalent in accessibility in country areas as it is in city areas. Now the question is who gets to be connected to what and when? Once the cherrypickers have been headed off, the sensible thing would be to improve the most blackest spots in the quickest time without locking in to inferior technology unnecessarily.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


From when this flight went missing, it gradually dawned on me that this could be (an attempt of) the perfect crime. Perhaps somewhat inspired by the show "Lost", the plane could just vanish without a trace. In spite of modern technology  - it was entirely plausible that it may never be found. Luck and technology seemed to be failing the search team. Luck, clever detective work or a combination was desperately needed.

Just in time, perhaps on a best bet calculation, the black box detector was sent out. I refuse to believe it was entirely luck - I believe a tiger team using classified defence based technology, as well as satellite data calculated the most likely place scientifically. Luck finally changed and humanity's pride should be salvaged with the likely retrieval of black boxes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blogging Again

Not sure where to start. I kind of want to say how I think Australia's policy is going with the new government. I thought it strange and difficult for Australia to successfully negotiate a trade agreement with a country we just challenged successfully in the court of blubber ball hunting. Then with the renegade mainland provinces as a kind of double whammy. It gives me the impression of Asian countries competing to gain favour with Australia - to sell us stuff or to thank us for finding a plane or something. Tail wagging the dog again. The mercantilistic approach of the new government contrasting with the more self righteous lecturing style of the previous. 

I believe the new NBN plan is still worse than the old plan, but at least a lot of the country back haul is built, and the fact that the "inclusive" portion which would not be profitable for private network builders is also developed. The main problem is that the new plan is a mess and puts a lot of power to Telstra to suit itself. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

comets flying in formation in the main belt

Fragmented main belt comet is a tough one to explain given standard explanations of where comets come from and why they "fragment". Standard theory is that close encounters with the sun or planets cause excessive tidal forces which break comets apart. My theory is that the comets are already fragmented, and tidal forces from close encounters just separate the cometary "fragments" into new comets in their own right.

Get your meats at the strand

Strand Gourmet Meats

Would someone let me know when this is googleable?


Monday, November 04, 2013

Bushfires, Climate change and carbon tax
Interesting stats on people's views on the carbon tax, related to demography and voting intentions.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Carbon Tax vs emissions trading vs direct action

It is hard to discuss tax policy, or indeed anything without agreeing on premises.
There is an equivalence between a carbon tax and emissions trading with a fixed price. There is also an equivalence between a carbon tax with a variable price that is set to match the market price of emissions in an international emissions trading scheme, and being part of that emissions trading scheme.

Any scheme can be "gamed" in the sense that the European scheme allocated or grandfathered too many credits, to appease emitters and to bribe them to get in the scheme, and then allowed financial pressures of the debt crisis to further water down the scheme.

In Australia, the scheme seems scheduled to be gamed by lobbying from industrials for the tax to be scrapped. Either way, instead of acceptance, and long term plans to avoid the price efficiently by moving away from carbon intensive industries, plans are on hold on a wait and see with the hedge on what one can bet the future scheme to be. Hold back plans for renewables in the hope of a fat grant from the new "direct action" plan, rather than do what makes sense now, with the energy prices as they are with the carbon tax and assuming they will stay at the relative level.

Avoid the tax by switching to low carbon, or avoid the tax by switching the Government? I prefer the first. Grudging acceptance that the tax may effectively be there for a while. Even the thought that it will be gone soon changes the behaviour of industrials to bet on a low effective carbon price.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Whatever You do, don't copy Germany

results of naive energy policy

We have already gone a dangerous step into German territory by having super long agreements on price-fixing of feed-in tarriffs for a large enough chunk of electricity to distort the market. Reading the linked article, the embarrassing thing is that Germany still has a large carbon footprint and a much higher carbon intensity than neighbouring France. A negative price for a commodity is not a sign of achievement, it is a sign of a dysfunctional market structure. There is a perverse incentive to keep fossil fuel powered stations going because of the market necessity of the utilities to not go broke keeping a reasonably steady power supply.

If you want to understand my seemingly contrarian views on feed-in tariffs, read the link in its entirity. For a functional market, wholesale cost of a commodity needs to asymptote to the marginal cost of production. Thus solar electricity needs to be set up that - sure, generate your electricity for your own use first, saving you the retail price, but your excess needs to go to the grid for free. If that doesn't pay back the cost of investment quick enough, subsidies should be to reduce the capital investment, not to artificially increase the return for eternity.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Deal of the Century

Dear reader(s), My proposal for the generation of electricity at our commercial place of business involves selling the electricity excess to our daytime needs back to the grid. Our price is not the exorbitant feed-in prices that the evil Bligh government set at 44c/KWh I would refuse on principle to partake in any such outrageous out of market contract. Our price is not the 1:1 favoured by the ignorant majority - After all that would be selling the electricity back at around 21c/KWh which is about as much as the utility can get retail and doesn't allow for the costs of upgrading, maintaining etc. required on the grid, which far outweighs the marginal cost of generating a unit of electricity. Our price is not 8c/KWh which is the fallback wholesale cost estimated to be the cost of a utility purchasing electricity on the wholesale market. The excess electricity is fed back into the grid at ZERO cost to the utitilility. That's right Zip Zilch Gratis. It is unclear whether this is still a better deal for me than the utility, but certainly, if electricity prices do not drop from their current level, our solar plant will pay itself off within 3 years. Our use is virtually all daytime, and greater in summer and less when it is cloudy/rainy or dark. 30 KW ought to do it, plus a 2 KW off grid unit for emergencies. Regards

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Where I'm at with evolution and science

First of all science - To me the gold standard on science and scientific theories is "the prediction of new facts". Not to be confused with model fitting the data, this predicts what future data will be. If a climate model predicts global temperatures correctly in advance, then it is of a gold standard compared to if it would have predicted current temperatures correctly given past data.

The basis of modern technology is this ability to know that a design will work before going to the effort of building it. 

Modern evolutionary synthesis of itself does not predict new facts. It has been built from a consensus of scientists to explain how evolution works, but is not a basis in itself for predicting new facts. It does show that surviving species will be more adapted to an environment than species in which the environment causes them to become extinct or depleted. However, a teleological approach to genetic variation will lead to the same new facts, ie. species, than an approach based on random variation. Thus, the modern evolutionary synthesis has not reached the gold standard by me. This makes me very impatient with some types of evolutionary articles and theses.

Astrobiology - ie. the research and study of organics and biology in space allows us a unique opportunity to test competing theories on abiogenesis and evolution. The "strong" version of panspermia espoused by Wickramasinghe etc. will predict different future facts than geogenesis or other alternative theories on the origin and distribution of life. Whether a prediction about what a robotic spaceship's experiments will show in advance of that experiment being made will give credence to the narrative behind that prediction.

Predictions about what spacecraft would find looking at comets up close have been very wrong based on the narrative that they are pristine and unchanged from the birth of the solar system. The narrative won't change, however, as it is too entrenched. It is more convenient to fit unexpected facts into the same narrative than to think of a new narrative that would have predicted these facts. The narrative is very vague on details anyway. Virtually any new discovery can be fitted into it - It is, for the most part unfalsifiable. I can see why Wickramasinghe prefers to be on the fringe, and outside of the consensus. He is not disputing any of the data from say NASA scientists. For the most part, other scientists are not  disputing his data and rigour. It is a battle of narratives, and the prediction of future facts should be the gold standard in the battle of narratives.