An Investigation of Modern Physics by Brian Williams
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  • The Design of Space Craft.

    Posted on July 28th, 2011 Brian 2 comments

    This post was  triggered by the following BBC report.

    What should spaceships look like?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14291992.

    Science fiction (SF) has always fascinated me since I was a child. It is the type of fiction that opens the mind of the reader to concepts that are far outside the mundane realities of everyday life. Many of the SF writers also have an impressive grasp of psychology that could make other main-stream writers envious.  Note that there is a considerable difference between SF and Science fantasy in that SF writers tend to remain within the realms of scientific possibilities whilst science fantasy writers tend to wander into the areas of the ridiculous.

    Science fiction illustrators nearly always produce artwork that is total fantasy in having no scientific basis. This is particularly obvious in their portrayal of spacecraft. The designs are generally totally unworkable as spacecraft and are mainly just strange shapes full of odd bits stuck on to make them look more ‘scientific’.

    The design of the “Starship Enterprise”, the most famous spaceship design ever produced, would be be totally useless for space flight outside the influence of a gravity source.  Note; I am not a ‘Trekie’ so I am expecting lots of repudiations of my comment.

    Why is this?

    It is the same reason that bullets, war-shells, guided missiles etcetera all have symmetrical shapes. This allows balance in the forces acting.

    Even the spin on bullets is there to there to counterbalance any imperfections in manufacturing that would cause them to deviate from their planned trajectory.

    Aircraft have all sorts of imbalanced forces operating on them such as tail fins, landing gear, wing tanks, outboard weapons systems, etcetera that all affect the flight of the aircraft. However gravity exerts a major force that means that providing the imbalances are equal on both sides of the vertical plane, they do not upset the handling too much whilst travelling horizontally.

    In space flight outside gravitational force, even slight imbalances become more serious. During acceleration the power must be applied through the centre of mass and in the direction that you want to travel. Any slight variation in the centre of mass will cause the spacecraft to rotate. If it rotates by I degree in the first second of a 10 second ‘burn’ it will rotate by 10 degrees (Approximately) during the 10 second burn.

    To prevent this from happening a compensating force will be required. which wastes fuel.

    How would the pilot know exactly where the centre of mass is? Generally he wouldn’t know, he would only have a calculated location. If a pilot put out his hand to operate a control, this would change to centre of mass of the spacecraft. If you had people walking about this would cause the centre of mass to continually change.

    Let us now consider the starship Enterprise. Let us assume that it has lots of computer equipment to handle variations in the centre of mass and everyone on board is tagged to allow the computer to be aware of their locations.

    The shape of the enterprise is quite pleasing and is not embellished with too much external junk. It could fly in Earth’s atmosphere or under a gravitational force. However, the position of it’s drives means that it would be impossible for the force to act through the centre of mass. It would need a large amount of energy to correct the imbalanced forces attempting to spin the spacecraft.

    Another major problem with shapes of spacecraft designs is that they are not streamlined. If space was a total vacuum then the shape would not matter if the driving force operated through the centre of mass. However, space is not a vacuum and therefore there is something there to cause resistance. Due to the non-streamlined nature of most designs this resistance of the various ‘stuck on’ appendages would cause deviations in the path of the spacecraft.

    Author

    Brian Williams

  • Facts and Fallacies about Modern Physics – 2

    Posted on July 19th, 2011 Brian 14 comments
    1. Einstein did not invent the atom bomb. See Einstein and the Bomb.
    2. Physicists have not discovered dozens of sub-atomic particles. In fact they haven’t even discovered one. Even the electron is only at the ‘theory’ stage, but there is reasonable circumstantial evidence for its existence. See How Physicists “Find” their Particles.
    3. The speed of light is not a constant. See Physics or Fantasy – Section 1. Michelson – Morley made some basic errors in their maths (simple trigonometry).  Einstein and the physics establishment accepted the maths without checking them, and arrived at the constant speed of light mythology.
    4. There is no such thing as the ‘wavelength of light’. Waves can be ‘created’ in streams of light just as they can be ‘created’ in streams of water, but you would look silly if you started talking about the ‘wavelength’ of water. ‘Waves’ in light are created by the apparatus itself. In fact all waves in anything you consider are either ‘created’, i.e. something other than the material or fluid itself actually causes the waves, or are ‘generated’ as in Radio and television waves. or just like alternating power supplies. If you hold a stick in a flowing stream of water, waves are ‘created’ around the stick. The ripples (Waves) in the sand are ‘created’ by the rush of water up the beach and have nothing to do with the waves in the water itself. The sand ‘waves’ in deserts are created by the wind and do not indicate that wind or sand are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Physicists just do not understand the nature of waves because it is mechanics.
    5. Blue light does not have more energy than other colours, in fact it has the lowest energy level. See the posts on colour.
    6. No-one has ever seen an electron. No-one has ever seen an atom. However, we see by the quantity and speed of electrons entering our eyes. Yes, I do mean electrons, not Photons, there is no requirement for the hypothetical photon particle to explain vision.

    I will add more as I think of them.

  • Oldest Living Creature?

    Posted on July 18th, 2011 Brian 44 comments

    Amoeba, Memory and Intelligence.

    Strictly for amusement.

    The oldest living creature on the planet must be one of the amoeba or one of the similar type of creatures that recreate themselves by  binary fission, i.e.  each creature divides into two new identical ones.  I nominate this creature on the basis that it is clearly a creature, being capable of planned movement with an obvious purpose in mind, (I’ve known many a drunken human who couldn’t claim that much.)

    I have no idea how long they have been around, but it is obvious that each ‘individual’  must be the ‘same individual’ as the original one. Therefore each one must be millions of years old.

    You would think that having been alive all that time they would be super intelligent, but you could also argue that as each one only gets half a brain from each binary fission, then they must be getting less intelligent as time goes on. (This is not a valid argument because the human brain is really only a single cell organism in its early stages.)

    Do they have a brain? I suspect that they do because all deliberate movements in other creatures are controlled by the brain. There are many living things that move, such as plants but in general their movements are controlled by external stimuli such as the Sun or rainfall.(Possibly the drunk operates under the same external stimuli, such as the smell of alcohol.)

    Many biologists consider that the amoeba doesn’t have a brain, but it really depends on what are the functions needed to qualify for the definition of a brain.

    I think the definition that it can control its movements must be one of the main definitions of a brain.

    Reproduction is not a requirement, as even crystals reproduce themselves.

    Possibly memory is the main requirement, because memory is another survival trait.  It allows a creature to recognize dangers from previous situations. If the amoeba can modify its behaviour in response to danger, then this means that it probably has at least a rudimentary memory.

    We are coming to an obvious crucial point which is the very small brain (nucleus) capacity. Memory requires storage space, just like your computer. The small brain indicates that it has a very limited amount of memory storage, and will therefore only be able to remember a few things.

    So, is ‘intelligence’ dependant on the number of memory cells? Is a computer with 1 gigabyte of memory more intelligent than one having only one megabyte?

    Obviously not, because memory use in a computer is controlled by the CPU (Central processing unit), and in a similar way, biological memory requires control from the biological CPU. Memory storage is completely none intelligent. A book does not have intelligence even though it may be packed with useful information. ( Of course, this means that the same argument could be applied to the human brain. Is a vast amount of knowledge the same as intelligence?)

    A problem here is the word itself. Intelligence is derived from Intellect which comes from the French word Intellectus, meaning to choose between. This infers the ability to make decisions, (assuming intelligent decisions) therefore knowledge itself is not necessarily indicative of intelligence.

    The amoeba, therefore, may still qualify as an intelligent creature. It is evident that the amoeba has sufficient intelligence and memory to survive for millions of years in its environment. Does it actually need to be more intelligent or have more memory? A more important question is ‘Is the accumulation of knowledge in itself intelligent?’

    In many ways I find some sympathy with the amoeba. We both are uninterested in the names of the members of pop groups or the lives of long dead kings and queens.  We both cannot  find interest in every game played by the New York Yankees. Why swot up on history if no-one ever learns by it. Why waste memory on useless information storage. It would be useful if we could clear out  all useless information in our memories as you can on a computer.

    The human brain is rather strange in that it seems to able to store a vast amount of knowledge that appears to be almost unlimited. This cannot be actually  true even though scientist consider that only a small proportion of the brain is used. Recent research has been carried out on London taxi drivers who have to “Have the Knowledge” [ Note: London taxi drivers have to take a test on their knowledge of the London area before they can operate a taxi . This knowledge can take  up to 4 years to learn. This includes the best and fastest routes between any two points in London, a very complex problem.

    The research found that areas of the brain of London taxi drivers increased in size during the accumulation of  “The Knowledge”. Therefore the brain itself cannot have that much spare capacity.

    Maybe the amoeba will still be around when humanity is extinct, in which case the question would be “Who was the more intelligent, the amoeba or the extinct humans”.

    In binary fission can we be in any doubt that both the biological CPU and the memory take part in the fission process? This means that both halves of the original would have the same memories and the same ‘skills’.

    Although normally stated to be a single cell creature this is not strictly correct. It actually consists of thousands of cells.

    Author; Brian Williams