Advanced Atomic Energy ConvertersCopyright Ó 1995,1998, 2000 by Brian Fraser.
Many years ago I was browsing in a college book store, looking for three good books on quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a heavily mathematical theory that deals with the behavior of things that are very small, such as atoms. The theory involves bizarre concepts like "matter waves," "quantum tunneling," and "non-locality." Despite this, it has had many impressive successes, and because my field of study was chemical engineering, I felt a background in quantum mechanics could be useful. But good books on the subject were very hard to find.
As I was reading the preface of one of the books I had found, I noticed it said something like this: "After you study the entire book, do all the exercises, and get an A in the course, you will then thoroughly understand why quantum mechanics is completely beyond the comprehension of the human mind."
At that time I was a naive student attending college with the equally naive intent of getting an education, not just getting a degree. I was astonished that a science author would say such a thing, and reread it in disbelief. To say that we do not understand the universe is one thing. But to say that it is certifiably incomprehensible in its intrinsic nature is quite another matter. This made the universe seem downright unfriendly. It was also a betrayal of the idea of education. I wanted to understand the universe, not be "educated" in why it was incomprehensible! Was the author saying that after I took the class and did all that hard work, I would know less? This seemed to be a kind of "negative knowledge"the more I learned, the less I would know. By the time I graduated, I would be an idiot! J (Not long after that I dropped out of college.)
As the years went by I encountered more of this negative knowledge, but with a difference. I was not in college anymore. I was getting my education and I was in control of it. I got a feeling of liberation every time I managed to cast off one of these intellectual power drains. You have seen many such examples in the pages of this booklet. I would like to share one more with you. It is about how stars produce energy.
Stellar Power Production
The astronomy textbooks say that stars like our sun produce energy by a special set of nuclear reactions called "hydrogen burning." In the notation of science, it looks like this:
1H1 + 1H1 ® 1H2 + e+ + n + energy
1H2 + 1H1 ® 2He3 + g + energy
2He3 + 2He3 ® 2He4 + 1H1 + 1H1 + energy
Some explanation of the notation will be helpful. The subscripts denote atomic number and the superscripts denote atomic mass. The Greek letters, g (gamma) and n (nu) are the symbols for gamma rays and neutrinos, respectively. The e+ stands for the positron.
H1 is the common "protium" isotope of hydrogen. This type of hydrogen is extremely abundant in the universe and in the sun. H2 is the much less abundant "deuterium" isotope that is used in the hydrogen bomb. He4 is common helium, and He3 is a very rare isotope of helium. These equations state that energy can be produced by the "fusion" of hydrogen atoms into helium atoms (this is not, however, the particular type of reaction that takes place in the hydrogen bomb).
This scheme was proposed in 1939 and has become widely accepted for more than half a century. Few scientists would suspect that it is totally wrong. Nor would most scientists suspect that this "knowledge" actually decreases our understanding of the universe. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of this paper.
Stars do not generate their power by the conversion of hydrogen into helium.
As explained above, stars such as our sun are thought to generate their power by converting hydrogen into helium. There are some blatant problems with this "fact" however:
1. There is no hydrogen in the core of the sun. The commonly accepted belief is that the sun generates most of its power by fusing hydrogen into helium in its hot central core. The sun does contain enormous amounts of hydrogen and helium but there is no reason to believe that these elements exist in the central core of the sun. Spectroscopic studies show that there are at least 67 atomic elements in the sun. This represents a range of atomic mass from 1 (hydrogen) to 238 (uranium). The sun is so hot that all the chemical/molecular compounds and atomic aggregates break up into single atoms and exist in the form of gas. Atoms with the highest atomic mass numbers will therefore gravitate towards the center of the sun. This will displace lighter elements like hydrogen and helium outward towards the surface. The central core of the sun will therefore contain elements that are heavierindeed much heavierthan hydrogen and helium (helium itself is four times as massive as mono-atomic hydrogen)
Critics will point out that hydrogen is 1,000 to 10,000 times more abundant than heavier elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, neon, and iron. In fact all elements beyond the iron-cobalt-nickel group are very scarce, so only the first 28 elements in the Periodic Table of chemical elements would seem to have a significant bearing on the structure of the sun. According to the critics, these elements would just be contaminants in an ocean of hydrogen and would not be enough to exclude hydrogen from the intensely hot central region of the sun.
However, the elemental composition of the sun is derived from spectroscopic studies of its atmosphere. This does not tell us much about the composition of the interior:
"Spectral lines reveal much about the chemical composition of the Suns outer layers, but they do not hint at the internal chemical composition of the Sun, which is quite different from the outer layers." (Understanding the Universe, Philip Flower, 1990, p.426)
Suppose a truckload of cork balls were to be mixed with the water in a swimming pool. The corks would eventually come to the surface where they can be seen. This may leave the impression that the pool is filled with them, but in fact they are only in the upper couple of feet. Hydrogen is the lightest of all elements. It will come to the surface region of the sun just like the corks in the swimming pool.
The central region of the sun is also the region of highest temperature. The outer layers of the sun may be 5,000-10,000 Kelvins but the central interior, 15 million Kelvins. Massive atoms like iron, therefore, not only gravitate to the center, they also get heated up the hottest. And the hotter the gas, the more volume it takes up. The iron would be 1000 times hotter than the hydrogen and atom for atom would take up 1000 times the volume of hydrogen at the cooler temperatures. This is also true of the other elements heavier than hydrogen. The fact that these elements are much more massive than hydrogen, and the fact that they gravitate to the hottest region and require more "elbow room," both conspire to push the hydrogen to the cooler outer regions.
In the sun, power is apparently produced in bursts rather than continuously. The bursts occur in eleven year cycles. This behavior itself appears to be incompatible with the "hydrogen burning" hypothesis, which would seem to favor continuous burning.
See also the fifth objection.
Links:Sun's Iron Core May Be Cause Of Solar Flares, Dr. Oliver Manuel, (3 November 2003) http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20031002191731data_trunc_sys.shtml
2. The conversion of hydrogen into helium requires very improbable atomic transformations:
"It happens that the proton-proton chain, very important in the sun, begins with a most improbable event: the collision of two protons resulting in the formation of . . . the heavy isotope of hydrogen called deuterium. Usually the formation of a compound nucleus of two protons simply breaks up into two protons again, rather than ejecting a positron and turning into a deuteron, and very many compound nuclei must form to produce appreciable amounts of deuterium. But even at the high temperatures of stellar interiors . . . it is extremely hard for two positively charged nuclei to come together to undergo any kind of reaction. . . . One might not expect nuclear reactions to occur at all in stars." (Exploration of the Universe, George Ogden Abell, D. Morrison, S.C. Wolff, 5th edition, 1987, p. 520.)
Reread that a few times. Do nuclear reactions of "any kind" that produce "appreciable amounts" of the right kind of atoms sound very likely at stellar temperatures? How would stars that are even cooler than the sun power themselves? (I respect this textbook, incidentally, as one of the more honest ones in the field of astronomy)
The overall equation here is that of a very stable isotope of hydrogen converting itself into a very stable isotope of helium by a very improbable route. Nature simply does not work this way.
Even if the deuterium could be produced by quantum tunneling, it must combine with ordinary hydrogen to produce helium-3. Natural helium has a composition of 99.99986% He4 and 0.00014% He3. If the reaction went this way, there should be much more He3 around.
Furthermore, two atoms of rare He3 would have to find each other in the vast volumes of hydrogen and He4 and combine to produce one atom of He4 and two atoms of ordinary hydrogen. I think it is clear that the only thing that can drive an equation like this is the need physicists feel to offer some kind of explanation for the origin of stellar power!
3. Stars can produce enormous bursts of energy extremely rapidly.
An entire starwhich may be a couple million miles in diametercan blow itself to pieces in a stupendous explosion called a "supernova."
"Briefly outshining its home galaxy, the explosion, known as a type 1a supernova, unleashes the equivalent of 1028 megatons of TNTenough energy to destroy an entire solar system." (Science News, August 15, 2009, p. 22)
During a supernova explosion the material ejected can move outward at initial speeds as high as 10,000 to 20,000 km/sec (at least a couple thousand times faster than a detonation wave in a high explosive like TNT). This kind of energy production cannot be based on improbable meetings of widely separated rare isotopes which combine through improbable nuclear reactions. Rather, there is quick energy here in abundance! The commonly accepted power process and its relatives cannot account for it.
Another problem is that the explosion of a star is believed to occur when the conventional fuel is all used up:
"It is our present understanding that the supernova explosion happens at the end of the stellar evolution and therefore most of the nuclear energy has been used up already. There must be another energy source." (Introduction to Stellar Astrophysics, Volume 1, Erika Böhm-Vitense, 1989 (Cambridge), p. 179)
This other energy source, known as "gravitational collapse," turns out to be another myth of modern stellar astrophysics (one which I will not pursue in this paper). It is enough to realize that a power source that can blow up a star can also power it in the steady state for a long time.
It is worth noting that the production of steady state power is itself a problem. Blue supergiantsstars that have 50 to 100 times the mass of the sunshine with luminosities a million times greater than the sun. The commonly accepted power processes cannot account for the power output of blue super giants like Rigel (the brightest star in the constellation Orion).
4. The neutrino flux from the sun is much less than expected.
According to the Standard Solar Model there are several neutrino producing nuclear reactions in the sun. The neutrino flux at the earth's surface should be about 66 billion/cm2/sec. A very small proportion of these should be detectable. The standard theories predict that a chlorine 37 type of detector should see a flux of 7.9 ± 2.6 Solar Neutrino Units (SNU), but the actual results have been about 2.1 ± 0.3 SNU. Overall, experiments of differing experimental design and more than 25 years of observation and refinements have detected less than one-third to one half the expected number of neutrinos. This has left astronomers in quite a quandary:
"Any modifications of the solar model . . . would have profound implications for astronomy. The only direct signal of the stellar nuclear reactions predicted by the standard model is the neutrino flux from the sun. The problem is, the prediction seems to be wrong." (Scientific American, May 1990, p.56; see also Sky & Telescope, "Closing in on the Solar-Neutrino Problem", Daniel Fischer, October, 1992, p. 378)
Ill have more to say about neutrinos later in this paper.
5. A supernova explosion reveals the interior composition to be high in elements heavier than hydrogen.
During a supernova explosion, the "outrushing gas has a higher abundance of such . . . elements as silicon, sulfur, argon, and calcium than does the sun. In Type I, but not in Type II, supernovae, the abundances of nickel, iron, and cobalt are also abnormally high". (Abell, op. cit., p. 567)
I suspect two things here. One is that the elemental composition of the sun, instead of being almost entirely hydrogen, is proportionally more like that of all the planets combined, with an extra abundance of hydrogen and helium, especially in the outer observable regions. Another is that when stars blow up, their composition is mainly that of all elements from hydrogen to the iron-cobalt-nickel group and relatively little else (in terms of percentages).
The idea that stellar power is not generated by any of the commonly accepted reaction chains has another consequence, namely that our beliefs about stellar ages will be wrong.
Stellar ages are inferred from our beliefs that stars derive their power from converting hydrogen into helium. If our beliefs about this process are erroneous, then stellar ages will have to be revised. Generally this will mean that what are currently believed to be old stars are actually young, and that the young stars are actually old. Because of the implications of this, our views on the evolution of the universe must also change drastically.
Principles outlined in a previous article, Advanced Stellar Propulsion Systems, give us reason to believe that the age of a stellar system will correlate directly with the total mass of that system. A binary star system would be older than a single star. A globular cluster (currently viewed as "very old") would be regarded as much younger than a spiral arm galaxy. The oldest star systems would be the giant spheroidal galaxies like the one in M87.
Mainstream scientists are now beginning to realize that stars may be older than galaxies. (Science News April 15, 1995, Vol 147, No. 15, p. 230 "Keck finding: Did stars predate galaxies?") They are also perplexed by evidence that the universe appears to be younger than the oldest stars in the universe. Again, these problems originate largely because of misunderstandings about the true mechanism of stellar power, as well as their belief in the "Big Bang" origin of the universe. (Science News 10/8, 10/22, 10/29 (1994) V146, Nos. 15,17,18, pp. 232-234, 265, 278; 9/9/95 V148. No. 11, p. 166).
An Alternative Theory of Stellar Power
Stars obviously generate power. But how do they do it? Here is what the facts suggest to me:
1. Heavy elements gravitate to the center of a star.
2. The center is the hottest part of the star.
3. Heavy elements are probably less stable thermally than lighter elements.
4. If atomic power could be generated by simple, direct, purely thermal degradation of heavy elements, this would account for the extremely quick and energetic burst of power seen in supernova. It would also be a process abundant in steady state power because there are a lot of elements between iron (element number 26) and the end of the Periodic Table (position number 118). Heavy elements are actually rather scarce, but this is consistent with the idea that such elements are burned up in the stars. And such a thermal process would not directly produce neutrinos.
The picture that develops here is that heavy elements must be produced in the vast volumes of interstellar space and that the production process is low in kinetic energy. These elements are then gradually pulled into a star by gravitation. The thermal energy of the star causes them to decrease in atomic number and release a great deal of energy in the form of gamma rays. (I call this process "thermal reversion.") The heavy elements lose mass and are swept downwards in the Periodic Table towards the iron-cobalt-nickel group. These three elements are especially stable, very abundant, and concentrate in the center of the star in very large quantities. If the thermal energy of the star ever gets great enough to revert this groupas it would in massive blue supergiantsthe star will quickly generate far more power than its structure can handle and the entire star will instantly explode. It will be no surprise that supernovae spectra show abnormally high abundances of "nickel, iron, and cobalt" just as mentioned above.
The idea that heavy elements are produced in interstellar space will not receive an enthusiastic welcome by astronomers. But it would explain a couple of perplexing problems. First, there are "peculiar A stars" that show unusually strong spectral lines of yttrium, silicon, strontium, chromium, europium, and other "rare earth" metals:
"Spectrum analysis indicates abundances which are increased by factors of up to 1000 for the rare earth elements. Astronomers found it hard to believe that the rare earth elements, especially, should be enhanced by such large factors in these stars. . . . There is also the peculiar observation that the enhancement of line strengths depends on the effective temperature of the stars. For the hotter stars, we see strong Si lines; the cooler stars have strong Eu, Sr, and Cr lines" (Böhm-Vitense, op. cit., pp. 128, 135)
The main problem here is that, according to current theory, high abundances of heavy elements are not expected to be found in the atmospheres of cool stars. The existence of barium-rich and mercury-rich stars present similar difficulties. These problems disappear however, if these heavy elements are produced in interstellar space and are actually on their way in to the star instead of being boiled up from the stellar interior.
Second, the element technetium has been detected in S, M, and N type stars. In so far as we can determine, technetium does not occur naturally on earth. It is produced here artificially in atomic reactors and cyclotrons, hence its name. It is radioactive and has a half-life of "only" about 4.2 million years. If it is produced in the supposed "nuclear furnace" in the interior of a star, this half-life is too short for it to reach the stars atmosphere where it can be seen in stellar spectra. So what produces this unstable element?
Again, the explanation is that whatever process produces the other heavy elements can produce this one just as well. Production is not the problem; it is the instability of the technetium atom. The implication is that the technetium in interstellar space must be more stable than the technetium near the star. Yet radioactive half-lives are remarkably constant and are not affected by changes in temperature, pressure, electric fields, gravity, etc. Why would technetium, or even the transuranium elements, be any more stable in interstellar space than here on earth?
Some insights about atomic stability can be gleaned from the Periodic Table of chemical elements. (The Periodic Table is that big chart of chemical symbols that is customarily displayed in chemistry and physics classrooms.) The periodicity in this table implies that there should be 118 elements. But elements 93 to 118 (the transuranium elements) are all unstable and do not occur naturally in the terrestrial environment. They decay radioactively primarily by mass ejection (alpha particle emission and spontaneous fission), implying that they are too massive for local stability. Note that the mass limit implied by the Periodic table is 2 x 118 or 236. It is thus no coincidence that all atoms that have a mass near or above 236 are radioactive and decay into elements that have less mass.
But if the Periodic table has a mass limit of 2 x 118, then element number 92 (uranium) "should" have a mass of 2 x 92 or 184. The mass of its most common isotope is actually 238. What accounts for this "excess mass" of 54 atomic mass units? Also, elements in the middle of the Periodic Table have excess mass. Are they also unstable?
Atomic stability is related to both mass and atomic number. When an atom has too much overall mass (mass above 236), it undergoes alpha (a ) decay. Alpha emission causes an atom to decrease by four units of atomic mass and to decrease by two in atomic number. For example, uranium decays into thorium by alpha emission: 92U235 ® 90Th231 ( the subscripts denote atomic number and the superscripts denote atomic mass).
When an atom has too little or too much mass in relation to atomic number, it will undergo one of two types of beta (b ) decay. This type of radioactive decay has no effect on mass but causes the atomic number to increase or decrease. Iodine (element 53), for example, has isotopic masses ranging from 110 to 140. The natural isotope is 127 which is about midway (125) in this range. The lower mass isotopes decay by b + (positron emission) thereby causing a decrease in atomic number (53I110 ® 52Te110). The higher mass isotopes decay by b - (electron emission) thereby causing an increase in atomic number (53I140 ® 54Xe140). The so-called "daughter" isotopes may themselves be unstable and the process may repeat several more times (a so-called "decay chain").
Each type of atom thus has a zone of stability for the relationship between atomic mass and atomic number. Radioactive decay attempts to move the atom to some combination that is more nearly in the middle of this zone. For technetium (and promethium) this zone is very narrow, but technetium should have at least one inherently stable isotope. However, the center of the zone of stability is not simply twice the atomic number. Iodine, for instance, "should" have a mass of 2 x 53 (106) and this should be the center of its zone of stability. But as explained above, the most stable isotope has a mass of 127. Something has caused the mass of this atom to increase, and something has also displaced the center of the stability zone upwards. The same is true for most other atoms in the Periodic Table.
My beliefs about what causes this are strongly influenced by my studies in "scriptural physics." Consider what the Bible has to say about the literal physical heavens:
From Heb 1:10-12, (NKJV):
You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail.
From Ps 102:25-26 (NIV):
Your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
From Isaiah 51:6, (NKJV):
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished."
If someone asked me "How are heaven and earth like a garment?", I would never have guessed that they are alike in that they both grow old and wear out! What a comparison! I have no doubt that the followers of Jesus were just as dumbfounded by his strange talk that "Heaven and earth shall perish". (Mat 5:18, 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17, 21:33)
These scriptures refer to the ordinary created heavens, the work of Gods hands. They are contrasting the idea of Gods utter permanence and unchangability with the impermanence of his own physical creation, the heavens and the earth. Things which are very long lived from our standpoint, are in fact impermanent and transitory from Gods standpoint. The language here is that of created things becoming old, being changed, wearing out, passing on, passing through, completing their turn, being altered, being dispersed (not necessarily being destroyed outright). Age and "wear and tear" are thus built-in, major features of this physical universe. (See also Job 13:28, Isaiah 34:4)
How would we recognize the existence of old, worn out matter? The oldest matter should be in the same location as the oldest stars. As mentioned above, the age of a stellar system will correlate directly with the total mass of that system. Therefore the oldest stars will be found in large, tightly wound spiral galaxies or in the supermassive giant spheroidal galaxies. Further, the oldest regions of these galaxies will be their central cores. These galactic cores should therefore be undergoing processes that are capable of dispersing matter into space much like Isaiahs firewood was dispersed "like smoke" blown away by the wind.
Such "active galaxies" are in fact well-known to astronomers. M87 and Centaurus A (NGC 5128) are dramatic examples. The Seyfert galaxies and N-galaxies are probably close relatives. (Astronomers do not attribute this energetic activity to age, however. They instead attribute it to "blackholes"another myth of modern stellar astrophysics.)
Asserting that old matter is somewhere in a galaxy does not locate it very specifically. Is it in stars? Interstellar gas clouds? Planets? The references in the Bible refer to both the heavens and the earth. The Milky Way galaxy in which our earth resides is one of moderate size and therefore one of moderate age. Apparently some examples of this old, worn out matter must be "on the earth"in the dirt that we stand on. An aging clock would have to be concealed in something that can experience the passage of a great deal of time. Only atoms have lifetimes anywhere near long enough, and are complex enough to accommodate a clock. Isaiahs "earth beneath" and the heavens above are constructed of atoms, and so the clockthe "wear and tear recorder"is probably in atoms. As already explained, it is evidently related to the phenomenon of excess mass. The effect shows up most clearly in the heavier two-thirds of the Periodic Table (elements heavier than the iron-cobalt-nickel group). It does not appear to be a random effect because the square of the atomic number divided by the excess mass is approximately constant for a wide range of elements.
If old, worn out, unstable atoms exist, then "young" stable atoms must exist too. For the case at hand, this means there must be such a thing as both young and old technetium atoms. The young technetium atoms would be stable (non-radioactive) and this would allow them to be produced in the vast volumes of interstellar and intergalactic space and much later be pulled into a star under the influence of gravitation. As they enter the stars environment, they emit their telltale spectral lines. The technetium problem is therefore resolved by the concept of atomic age.
We will, of course, be interested in knowing what makes this aging clock tick. Electric clocks have to be plugged into a power source to record time. An hourglass requires a gravitational field to operate. A sunbather requires ultraviolet rays to record time in the form of a sunburn. In a similar vein, if atoms record age by an increase in mass, then what causes the mass increase? What keeps the wear and tear recorder ticking away for billions of years? (Imagine designing something that had to run this long!)
One clear candidate is the all-pervasive flux of neutrinos. The universe is full of neutrinos much like it is full of starlight. Like atoms, neutrinos are also stable and presumably possess enormous lifetimes. Further, they interact so extremely weakly with matter that most of them will pass right through the earth (and even stars) as though nothing were in their path. Additionally, the neutrino flux is much higher near a star than in interstellar space. These characteristics are exactly those required to drive a long-period atomic aging mechanism.
Unfortunately, we do not know much about neutrinos. They are extremely hard to study even though they are very plentiful. They are believed to be massless. The exact mechanism by which they would build up excess atomic mass is unknown, but as implied by a previous article, Advanced Stellar Propulsion Systems, the mass increment must come from the space/time ratio that constitutes the neutrino itself, or the space/time that constitutes its motion, or both. These ratios are apparently not operative in the three space/time dimensions required for something to be recognized as gravitational mass. The mass increment of the neutrino would therefore be only potential until it can be associated with, or trapped by an atom. Also, the build up of excess mass and the build up of normal mass probably result from two different physical processes.
If radioactive half-lives can be affected by the presence or absence of neutrinos, then chronological ages, as currently determined by radioactive dating methods, will all be questionable. (See also Brian Fraser's Adventures in Energy Destruction for more insights about a process that can affect radioactive decay rates.)
Update 11-27-08: Researchers believe they have seen variations in the radioactive decay rates of silicon 32, chlorine 36, manganese 54, radium 226, and possibly plutonium 238. The variations are typically a few tenths of one percent and seem to correlate with the yearly variations in Earth-Sun distance. The scattered quotes below are from "Half-Life (more or less)", by Davide Castelvecchi, Science News, Nov 22, 2008, p. 20-23:
" . . . when researchers suggested in August that the sun causes variations in the decay rates of isotopes of silicon, chlorine, radium, and manganese, the physics community reacted with curiosity, but mostly with skepticism."
"Both experiments had lasted several years, and both had seen seasonal variations of a few tenths of a percent in the decay rates of the respective isotopes."
"In those experiments, the decay rate changes may have been related to Earth's orbit around the sun, the Purdue teams says. In the Northern Hemisphere, Earth is closer to the sun in the winter than in the summer. So the sun may have been affecting the rate of decay, possibly through some physical mechanism that had never before been observed."
"The closer to the sun, the denser the shower of neutrinos."
"If the results are confirmed, and nuclear decay is not immutable, perhaps physicists could find a way to speed it up to help get rid of waste from nuclear power plants." (See Adventures in Energy Destruction for more on this topic)
"About 7 percent fewer solar neutrinos hit detectors when Earth is furthest from the sun, compared with when it's closest, says Arthur B. McDonald, director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario." Science News, Vol 160, No. 8, August 25, 2001, p. 115
See "Evidence for Correlations Between Nuclear Decay Rates and Earth-Sun Distance", J. H. Jenkins, et al. Available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/0808.3283
Fix the Thinking, Not Just the Theory
One fallacy that I have repeatedly warned about in this series of science articles is that of a key premise or "fact" being wrong, and much "scientific knowledge" thereafter being derived from this faulty premise or set of facts. Astronomer Halton Arp, in defending his controversial views about quasars and redshifts, encountered this same problem and offered this insight:
"Finally , in response to the authority problem presented by many professional scientists who have an awesome amount of scientific knowledge and competence, I can only say this: it may sometimes be that not to know one thing that is wrong could be more important than knowing a hundred things that are right." (Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies, Halton Arp, 1987, p. 179)
The way in which modern science has handled these issues reminds me of the story about the farmer and his high-jumping cow. "My cow jumped over the moon," the farmer states matter-of-factly. But how did the cow escape earths gravity? What did the cow breathe when it was up there? Why didnt it burn up on re-entry? "Those are just theoretical problems," says the farmer. "We dont understand those theoretical details very much. The fact is that the cow jumped over the moon. I am kind of embarrassed to prove this to people, so I just admit that it is true!" If we accept thisthat cows can jump over the moon and return to earth intactthen vast new possibilities and opportunities for the entire human race open up before us. These possibilities will all seem reasonable, provided we accept the key premise about this one high jumping cow!
When we find that our conclusions are getting ever more ridiculous and problematic, we especially need to reexamine our facts. We need to find out which facts are really facts and which facts only look like facts. And we can apply the principle, as many physicists would, that "The kind of thinking that got us into this mess is not the kind of thinking that can get us out of it." Indeed, if people were good at separating fact from fiction, and in spotting the mental ruts they get into, we would have a much different society, as well as much different science.
"In questions of science the
authority of a thousand is
not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual."
The promise of atomic power has been with us for many decades but historically it has proven to be more "pain" than promise. But the realization that stars power themselves by thermal reversion of heavy elements (elements with atomic weights higher than that of iron) offers another possible route to producing clean and safe atomic power.
Thermal reversion should be clean and safe because it does not generate neutrons and requires only ounce quantities of stable, readily available fuel. In contrast, a conventional "nuclear reactor" requires tons of hard-to-obtain, unstable elements such as uranium, and produces tons of radioactive by-products with a wide range of half-lives, and tons of obsolete, radioactive machinery.
A pilot sized, pulsed reactor operating on the reversion principle would heat a microgram of a heavy element to 1013 Kelvins for at least 10-16 seconds (fantastically hot for an extremely short time). The atoms that undergo reversion would give up two atomic mass units, decrease one unit in atomic number, and emit two gamma ray photons with a total energy of about 1.8 GeV per atom. An unwanted side-effect of this extremely energetic reaction would be the initiation of a radioactive decay sequence. But the initial heavy element fuel could be chosen such that the intermediate radioactive products would have short half-lives and transform into a stable element through beta decay. (Decay sequences that produce neutrons or alpha particles should be avoided by the designer.) Two examples:
1. Lead 208 would revert to thallium 206. This form of thallium has a half-life of 4.2 minutes and will decay into lead 206 byb - emission. Both lead 208 and 206 are very common, stable, non-radioactive isotopes. (The lead you get at your local plumbing shop is 52% lead 208, 24% lead 206, and 22% lead 207.)
2. Mercury 199 would revert directly to gold 197 without producing intermediate radioisotopes. Gold 197 is the common gold used in jewelry. Mercury 199 comprises 17% of the ordinary elemental mercury found in thermometers.
In principle this type of reactor creates no radioactive waste. In its perfected form, it could "obviate" J the radioactive waste problem.
Economically creating a tiny environment that has the radiative and kinetic properties of 1013 Kelvins would be quite an engineering challenge. But these energies are within reach of desktop petawatt lasers. They are also within range of modern 200-300 MeV heavy ion accelerators. The latter are not small machines, but could be made 1000 times smaller, more efficient, and cheaper by adapting superconducting RF quadrupole technologies to laser frequencies. Another promising technology is laser driven wakefield accelerators which could give accelerations as high as 1 TeV per meter. (R&D Magazine, April 1993, p. 54-58)
There are undoubtedly all sorts of ways of reaching these energies. I do not have the time, resources, or background to begin to sort them out. I can only purport to find the right questions, and hope that others more qualified and better equipped than I am will find the answers. In any case, the possibility of producing atomic energy by thermal reversion of heavy elements can certainly be investigated with equipment available to scientists today.
Those who are skeptical of such possibilities should keep in mind that mainstream physicists have themselves contemplated generating atomic power cheaply and safely through simple means. One area of recent interest is the production of hydrogen fusion in a "single bubble sonoluminescence chamber." These devices consist of a couple of ultrasonic speakers and a container of water. There is evidence that they can produce temperatures in a tiny bubble that could be as high as several million Kelvin. This has favorable implications for inexpensive atomic power:
"Conditions might be sufficient to combine atoms of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, yielding helium nuclei and energy. The reaction would also produce neutrons, which researchers look for as a sign that fusion is occurring. . . . Using fusion as a power source remains a major goal of modern physics. . . . Doing it in the laboratory at a cost of only a couple of thousand dollars seems almost beyond belief." (Science News, Vol. 147, No. 17, April 29, 1995, "Inferno in a Bubble," pp. 266-267)
I believe that there are lots of good gifts tucked away in the Periodic Table of chemical elements, and that these gifts are more likely to be harvested by a thoughtful combination of inexpensive technologies than by the inconceivably expensive government science projects. Our conceptual understanding of atomic physics is still rather primitive and I believe that accurate theoretical concepts will produce huge and rapid advances in the field of atomic power.
As you read and ponder this article you will probably come to the following realizations:
- "Scientifically proven fact" may not be as factual as most of us think.
- Beliefs that are "proven beyond question" are worth reexamining periodically.
- It is sometimes necessary to circumvent "the system" and use the backdoors when the front doors dont work.
- The non-expert can make meaningful contributions in almost any field of endeavor.
- The efforts of one person can make a big difference.
- With sufficient effort and will, any individual can rise above the predominate culture.
- Knowingcannot substitute for doing. Action, even in the face of overwhelming odds, is required.
- Things are frequently "impossible" because we merely think they are.
- Examples, especially examples in people, can have a powerful and lasting effect, for better or for worse.
I call these items "strategic principles," and this list is a merely a sample.
This paper was originally intended to illustrate the concept of "stealth values" and "value practice." The premise is that values can be taught through a medium that seemingly has nothing to do with values per se. The priniciples and values are not explicitly taught. They are supposed to rub off on you as you read and contemplate this paper on atomic power. You may not even realize the extent to which this happens. Or that some of the principles and values you learn in physics become part of your inner nature and affect how you relate to your neighbors and marriage mate. If you want to "teach values" find a vehicle that is "fun" for your target audience. If people enjoy it, they will continue to participate. But think out the values carefully.
One stealthy strategic principle keeps showing up in my articles on physics. Have you gradually become aware of it? It is simplicity. The idea that the atom is the nucleus instead of has a nucleus can make atomic physics a lot simpler conceptually. (See An Atom or a Nucleus?) Have you ever wondered why and how gravity operates? The best scientific minds have tried unsuccessfully to explain the origins of gravitation for hundreds of years. But the answer is startlingly simple and liberating. (See Advanced Stellar Propulsion Systems) Simplicity is very useful in our society and propagates very well. Eventually, I hope to present ideas that will substantially simplify heavily mathematical and "conceptually impossible" branches of physics like quantum mechanics. And you can be sure I will have fun doing it!
I am convinced that there is a need for my efforts and insights in this narrow field. George Gamow, a noted physicist, contrasted the startling progress in physics during the first three decades of this century with progress during the next three decades:
"We are still waiting for a breakthrough in the solid wall of difficulties which prevent us from understanding the very existence of elementary particles, their masses, charges, magnetic moments, and interactions. There is hardly any doubt that when such a breakthrough is achieved, it will involve concepts that will be as different from those of today as todays concepts are different from those of classical physics. . . .
After the thirty fat years in the beginning of the present century, we are now dragging through the lean and infertile years, and looking for better luck in the years to come. . . . In spite of all the efforts of the old-timers . . . theoretical physics has made very little progress during the last three decades, as compared with the three previous decades. . . . Let us hope that in a decade or two, or at least, just before the beginning of the twenty first-century, the present meager years of theoretical physics will come to an end in a burst of entirely new revolutionary ideas similar to those which heralded the beginning of the twentieth century." (Thirty Years that Shook Physics, Dr. George Gamow, 1966, pp. 4-5,162-163; 155)
The ingredients for that revolution in physics are now at hand. And lest our knowledge of physics outrun the ability of our culture to handle it constructively, we need a revolution in social thought to go with it!
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Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science (Halton Arp, 1998)
This is a new book by Dr. Halton Arp, a maverick professional astronomer who has for decades been pointing out glaring inconsistencies and problems with the current theories of institutional astronomy and astrophysics. Arp received his bachelors degree from Harvard College in 1949 and his Ph. D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1953, both cum laude. He states one of the major aims of this book: ". . . one must fundamentally change the structure of academic science. Communication must be directly to fellow researchers and the public with no possibility of censorship. This is the major aim of this book." (p. 245)
And true to his purpose, the book is full data from astronomy that will turn the current paradigms upside down. It also has a lot of quotables about Academia. Watch for the theme of Negative Knowledge in the following excerpts (which are by no means exhaustive):
"The current beliefs are the crowning achievement of our research and learning institutions, and if they are so completely wrongand have been for so long in the face of glaring evidence to the contrarythen we must consider whether there has been an overwhelming breakdown in our academic system. If so, we must find out what went wrong and whether it is possible to fix it." (p. 2)
"Scientists, particularly at the most prestigious institutions, regularly suppress and ridicule findings which contradict their current theories and assumptions. . . . astronomers now feel compelled to fit the observations to the theory and not vice versa" (p. 12)
". . . it is a clear case of falsifying data for personal advantagea violation of the primary ethic of science." (p. 15)
"As we will have occasion to mention a number of times during this book, amateurs have a much better grasp of the realities of astronomy because they really look at pictures of galaxies and stars. Professionals start out with a theory and only see those details which can be interpreted in terms of that theory." (p. 23)
"The reason we have not had any useful progress is that astronomers don't even look at their own observations." (p. 282; see also 135, 239, 246)
"I thought it would be routine to publish in the journal which was carrying most of the European X-ray results of archival value. How wrong I was! The referee's report came back accusing me of "manipulating the data" and trying to claim an association of quasars with galaxies, which has "long ago been disproved." The editor forwarded these comments and rejected the paper on the ground that he saw no need to reopen the debate. The extraordinary aspect was that four papers in addition to my own had just appeared in the same journal giving strong additional evidence for just such associations! The figures appear here [in Arp's book] for the first time, and the tabular X-ray data is still unpublished." (p. 47)
"I gloomily came to the ironic conclusion that if you take a highly intelligent person and give them the best possible, elite education, then you will most likely wind up with an academic who is completely impervious to reality." (p. 131)
"Jubilation that the paper was finally published has to be tempered with the cold experience that much fewer than 1/3 of the referees in this field are objective." (p. 83 )
"Refereeing, or "peer review" as it is rather pompously called, is now unworkable. It has increasingly shown that it lets in the bad papers and excludes the good ones, exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do. . . . Many reports read like an emotional session of psychotherapymanipulative, sly, insulting, arrogant and above all angry. A sample of these should be published because it would allow people to evaluate the objectivity of the information they are being allowed to read. Their best use would be to enliven the ends of controversial articles with short replies from the authors." (p. 270, 271; see also 47, 83, 19, 101, 244)
"Astrophysical Journal Letters is the normal journal for publishing new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope cost billions of dollars of public funds. The vast majority of page charges which pay for the publication of the journal come from government supported contracts. The overriding, first directive of the editor is to communicate important new astronomical results. If the editorial process violates its primary responsibility, it misuses public funds." (p. 175)
"Everyone must make up their own mind on the basis of the evidence and the experts should not be allowed to control the presentation." (p. 274)
"The mission of academia should be to explorenot to perpetuate myth and superstition." (p. ??)
"Investigative journalism so far as science is concerned is clearly dead in the water." (p. 260)
". . . it is well justified today that people view institutional claims with skepticism and even hostility. And it is important to always keep in mind who have the vested interests and what they have to gain. (p. 261)
"When I was faced with a directive to renounce observations of new phenomena, I chose early retirement." (p. 275)
"If the data is hijacked at the last moment by a group with a need to control beliefs, the whole enterprise is a failure. (p. 275)
"One lesson from all of this, which seems obvious, is that scientists have to be absolutely honest and straightforward with the public, the people who are paying their salary. Their primary moral obligation is to report the facts and make available a range of interpretations. They have no paternalistic excuse to guard the public from "misunderstandings" or "alarm." If they cannot explain a matter so that a non-specialist can understand it, they don't understand it themselves and they should not cover up this important situation." (p. 266)
Please re-read the last couple of citations and then compare them with this one that I found in the Perspectives section of the Scottsdale Tribune:
"To assert that a supposed process whose very origins, and whose fundamental mechanisms, remain the subject of intense speculation by the brightest minds of science is an established, incontrovertible factand to then dismiss the legitimate questions that assertion raisesis not education. It is indoctrination."
It might come as a surprise, but this is a quote from an article about human evolution, not astronomy ("Evolution's Holy Grail grows ever more elusive", by Gary Nelson, in the Scottsdale Tribune, June 18, 2000, page F4). Furthermore, I do not regard the issues raised by either of these writers as unusual. As history has shown repeatedly, this is simply the way institutionalized science works. As Arp reflects, "Astronomy is not so much a science as a series of scandals." (p. 64) The same is true about most any other kind of institutionalized science. Overall, it offers a lot that is good, but the good is freely mixed in with a lot of other "science" that is worthless, misleading, and outright destructive to our society. King Solomon described it succinctly: "Fools are put in many high positions." (Ecclesiastes 10:6, NIV)
It is our own tax dollars that support the suppression of data and the breakdown of the scientific process. This case hits close to home with me because I live in Arizona, and Arizona is informally known as "the astronomy capital of the world." So when I read the newspaper article about evolution, I whipped off an email thanking the writer, and just for good measure, pointed out that the same kind of problems occur in astronomy. I (of course) pasted Arp's comments about Academia into the email. I also expressed my view that the professional astronomy community ought to be required to answer all of Arp's serious charges or face cuts in public funding. People who are doing this kind of damage to science should not be allowed to play with such expensive toys, nor have a tax supported forum to infect the public with such blatant rubbish!
If these charges ever see newsprint, I am sure the high priests of the reigning paradigm will respond with another blast of DOGMA, all carefully worded to please and reassure the ignorant public, who are expected to do the prescribed number of genuflections during their apologetic retreat. But once alerted, the public is not so easily fooled. And as Arp points out, experienced amateur astronomers can see right through this kind of scam because they look at the evidence. And I am sure there are professional astronomers who, like Arp, will speak their minds about the suppressive environment and the childish innuendos made by "professionals" on refereed papers.
But to me, Seeing Red is about much more than the troubles endemic to institutionalized science. This book, and Arp's previous book (Quasars, Redshifts, and Controversies, 1987) have helped me a great deal in understanding the meaning of statements in the Bible about how the heavens "wear out like a garment." This was discussed briefly in the Advanced Atomic Energy Converters article (above) in connection with active galaxies and neutrinos. Much more can be said about this now and I hope to eventually write something on this most fascinating topic.
html Prelim 6/00b
Andromeda and our Milky Way may have been ejected from M87
(this article has not been written and is not scheduled)
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
unverified references and possible source material:
- Sky and Telescope:
book review, 55:64.
The Crucial Assumption about Redshifts, 75:42. letter,
Vol 85 No 2, p. 6;
Vol 87, No 3, p. 9.
On the Origin of Arms in Spiral Galaxies, 38:385.
Related Galaxies with Different Redshifts? 65:307.
Arp, Halton C., and David L. Block, The Myth of Overgrown Spirals, 81:373.
Arp, Halton C., Geoffrey Burbidge, and Adelaide Hewitt, letter, 90:2:9.
Suppression of the Scientific Process
The Suppression of Inconvenient Facts in Physics, Rochus Börner, Ph.D., 2004.
"Any contradiction between a particular scientific notion and the facts of experience will be explained by other scientific notions; there is a ready reserve of possible scientific hypotheses available to explain any conceivable event. Secured by its circularity and defended further by its epicyclical reserves, science may deny, or at least cast aside as of no scientific interest, whole ranges of experience which to the unscientific mind appear both massive and vital. . . . Scientists were satisfied with speaking of the 'anomalies of strong electrolytes', without doubting for a moment their behavior was in fact governed by the law that they failed to obey. . . . Contradictions to current scientific conceptions are often disposed of by calling them 'anomalies'; this is the handiest assumption in the epicyclical reserve of any theory." (Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi, 1962, p. 293)
Science today is locked into paradigms. Every avenue is blocked by
beliefs that are wrong, and if you try to get anything published by
a journal today, you will run up against a paradigm, and the
editors will turn it down. A quote from Sir Fred Hoyle in
Horgan, J., 1995, Profile: Fred Hoyle. Scientific American
History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Andrew Dickson White, 1895,
From Magic to Chemistry and Physics (chapter 12)
Non-Mainstream Views of Astronomy and Astrophysics
"The Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 . . . actually did not give the result required by relativity! It admittedly substantiated its authors' claim that the relative motion of the earth and the 'ether' did not exceed a quarter of the earth's orbital velocity. But the actually observed effect was not negligible; or has, at any rate, not been proved negligible up to this day. The presence of a positive effect . . . was pointed out . . . as corresponding to an 'ether-drift' of eight to nine kilometres per second. Moreover, an effect of the same magnitude was reproduced by D. C. Miller and his collaborators in a long series of experiments extending from 1902 to 1926, in which they repeated the Michelson-Morley experiment with new, more accurate apparatus, many thousands of times. . . . The experience of D. C. Miller demonstrates quite plainly the hollowness of the assertion that science is simply based on experiments which anybody can repeat at will." [i.e.: the experiment was repeated but "science" simply ignored the result -BF] (Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi, 1962, p. 12-13)
Dissident View of Relativity Theory by William H. Cantrell, Ph.D.
The Einstein Myths
The Universe of Motion, Dewey B. Larson, 1984
The Reciprocal System, http://www.rsystem.org
The Collected works of Dewey B. Larson, http://www.rsystem.org/dbl/index.htm
Cold Fusion, Remediation of Radioactive Waste, etc
You might also want to read my comments about Cold Fusion.
See also Brian Fraser's Adventures in Energy Destruction for more insights about a process that can affect radioactive decay rates.
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