The transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics is applied to the “interaction-free” measurement scenario of Elitzur and Vaidman and to the Quantum Zeno Eﬀect version of the measurement scenario by Kwiat, et al. It is shown that the non-classical information provided by the measurement scheme is supplied by the probing of the intervening object by incomplete oﬀer and conﬁrmation waves that do not form complete transactions or lead to real interactions.
One of the great and persistent technological dreams of science fiction has been the invention which would nullify or reverse the force of gravity. H. G. Wells in The First Men in the Moon did it in 1901 with Cavorite, a substance which shields objects behind it from gravitational lines of force. James Blish in the Cities in Flight series used the Spindizzy, a device which converts rotation and magnetism into gravity fields and forces. And, of course, "floaters", "null-g speeders" (...) and "grav sleds" have abounded as techno-props in science fiction stories for many years. (shrink)
This AV Column is about the Universal Solvent of modern physics which we call antimatter, and about a bottle in which it can be and has been kept. However, before getting to the hardware I want to talk about antimatter as it relates to the fundamental symmetries of the universe.
Then, as soon as my column was safely submitted, hot new results on antigravity appeared. The lead article in the January 6, 1986 issue of Physical Review Letters had the unassuming title: "A Reanalysis of the Eötvös Experiment" by E. Fischbach, et al. Two days later the New York Times ran an article with the headline: "Hints of Fifth Force in Universe Challenge Galileo's Findings" describing the importance of Fischbach's work. Peculiar experimental results from terrestrial gravity measurements and from the (...) behavior of "strange" K-mesons (kaons) had been explained by a new theory proposing a "hypercharge" force, a new fifth force of nature which is gravity-like but which repels rather than attracting nearby masses. This new antigravity force is the subject of this AV column. (shrink)
The transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics is summarized and various points concerning the transactional interpretation and its relation to the Copenhagen interpretation are considered. Questions concerning mapping the transactional interpretation onto the Copenhagen interpretation, of advanced waves as solutions to proper wave equations, of collapse and the quantum formalism, and of the relation of quantum mechanical interpretations to experimental tests and results are discussed.
As the author of these columns describing cutting edge physics and astronomy, I get quite a few letters and E-mail from readers who are more interested in Â“over-the-edge physics and astronomyÂ”. One recurring theme is various alternatives to the standard model of Big Bang cosmology. Perhaps the universe is not expanding; itÂ’s just that light Â“gets tiredÂ” on its path from far away and loses some of its energy. Perhaps quasars are closer than we think, particularly since some of them (...) appear to be linked to closer galaxies. Perhaps relativity is wrong, and itÂ’s the speed of light that is different in different parts of the universe or changing with time. Perhaps quasars are the tailpipes of nearby alien spaceships, and they have such large red shifts because we only see them when they are moving away from us. And so onÂ…. (shrink)
Last Saturday I made my first journey into virtual reality . I walked with giant strides around a city called Seattle. I leaped the Columbia Center, the tallest building in the city, with a single bound. I dove beneath the surface of Puget Sound and watched a pod of whales heading north toward Canada. I hovered above the Space Needle, then dropped inside to enjoy its panoramic view and to examine its structural details. I raced a Washington State ferry across (...) the Sound from Seattle to Bremerton. I caught up with it just as it approached the Bremerton dock and was able to watch the docking operation from a perch on the roof of the bridge. Then I flew back across the Sound and peered down into the Kingdome, looking in vain for a winning team. Finally, I pointed my magic glove across the Sound to the Olympic Peninsula, flew there, and examined a group of towering snow-capped peaks from all angles. I did all of this without leaving a small building on the campus of the University of Washington. (shrink)
Two years ago, astrophysicists studying Type Ia supernovas discovered that our universe is a much stranger place than we had imagined, with invisible vacuum energy accelerating its expansion.Â (See my column about this in the May-1999 Analog.) However, new astrophysical observations from the BOOMERanG experiment (BalloonÂ Observations Of Millimetric Extragalactic Radiation and Geomagnetics), a balloon-borne cryogenic microwave telescope measurement that flew at an altitude ofÂ about 24 miles over the Antarctic, indicate that our universe is also rather ordinary, in that (...) its space is maximally flat.Â The term Â“flatÂ” as used here means that the space of our universe is neither positively curved like a ball or negatively curved like a potato chip.Â It appears that in our universe, the tendencies of space toward positive curvature from gravitational attraction and towards negative curvature from expansion kinetic energy are precisely in balance, leaving space on the average completely free of curvature. (shrink)
to energies of 160 GeV/nucleon, a total energy of 33.3 TeV (3.33 × 1013 electron volts) for each lead nucleus. Now, with a week of beam time remaining, we are working very hard and the experiment is beginning to collect good data. In this column, I want to describe the situation here at CERN. I'll return to the experiment after that.
The largest flying creature alive today is the Andean condor Vultur gryphus. At maximum size it weighs about 22 pounds and has a wingspread of about 10 feet. But 65 million years ago in the late cretaceous period, the last age of dinosaurs, there was another larger flying animal, the giant pterosaur Quetzalcotalus. It had a wingspread of over 40 feet, the size of a small airplane. Other pterosaurs were also quite large. The pteranodons of the late jurassic period, the (...) classic flying dinosaurs of magazine illustrations, had a maximum wingspan of about 33 feet. (shrink)
Albert Einstein taught us that c, the speed of light in vacuum, is nature's ultimate speed limit, the highest speed at which matter, energy, and information can travel through space-time. In several AV columns I've discussed ways for getting around this annoying natural law, the law that SF writers and fans most wish to violate. Two AV columns discussed the possibility of getting around the lightspeed limit by popping through a trans-spatial wormhole shortcut. See [ Analog-6-89, "Wormholes and Time Machines"] (...) and [Analog-5-90, "Wormholes II: Getting There in No Time"]. Two others discussed the possible use the faster-than-light nonlocal handshaking implicit in quantum mechanics for FTL messages and travel. See [Analog-11-86, "The Quantum Handshake"] and [Analog-9-88, "Paradoxes and FTL Communication"]. Both of those methods, however, are beyond our present technology, and the latter is probably impossible. (shrink)
In October-2010 the headlines of the science press were dominated by the announcement of the discovery of a â€œGoldilocks Planetâ€, Gleise 581g, which has a mass not too different from that of the Earth and has an orbit squarely in the middle of the habitable zone of its parent star. It was supposed to be not too hot, not too cold, but just right for the evolution of life. Steven Vogt of UC Santa Cruz, the lead author of the paper, (...) was quoted (out of context) as saying, â€œThe chances of life on the planet are 100%.â€ Now that some of the dust has settled concerning this reported discovery, Iâ€™d like to have a look at the work behind the announcement and consider its present status. (shrink)
We human beings have evolved with brains that have amazing capabilities for rational thought, pattern recognition, judgment, creativity, and imagination, none of which can be readily duplicated by the best computer simulations. However, there is one area, in which the human brain is sadly lacking: the ability to accurately assess probabilities and act on these assessments. The successes of lotteries, Las Vegas, and tribal casinos provide ample evidence that when it comes to estimating the odds and acting accordingly, we humans (...) as a species are really deficient. We think that â€œwinning streaksâ€ are real, that slot machines are â€œoverdueâ€ for a jackpot, that the past pattern of random events somehow influences the odds for the next event. (shrink)
The purpose of this AV Column is to describe a physical paradox involving what seems to be an loophole in a well established physical law, the famous Second Law of Thermodynamics. The 2nd Law states that the amount of disorder (entropy) always either increases or remains constant for any isolated system of particles, whether they are gas molecules or light photons. An yet, as we will see, laser physicists seem to have provided us with a way of making the 2nd (...) Law work backwards for a system of photons, so that the disorder decreases. (shrink)
The "four-wave mixer", a laser technique for reversing the motion direction of light waves so that they can be turned around and returned to their point of origin was the subject of my last Alternate View column (ANALOG, June-1985). In this AV column I want to go one step further by examining a hypothetical kind of time-reversed light wave which should actually go backward in time. As we shall see, such backward waves could be used to send information from the (...) present to the past, resulting in a sort of "poor man's" time travel. Recent science fiction novels like Jim Hogan's Thrice in Time and Greg Benford's Timescape have been based on backwards-in-time communication and the situations that might arise from it. In both books a world disaster is averted by sending a message to the past. In Timescape a side-effect of the signalling prevents Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President Kennedy, irreversibly altering the course of events after 1963. (shrink)
This column is a followup to a previous Alternate View column [Analog, June-'89] about "wormholes", faster-than-light travel, and time machines, which was based on a spectacular theoretical breakthrough in general relativity. It described how a sufficiently advanced civilization might construct a stable wormhole (a curved-space shortcut between one region of space and another) and use it both for faster-than-light travel and for time travel, with no laws of physics violated in the process except causality (the principle that a cause must (...) precede its effects). (shrink)
Why is gravity so weak? Why are the color forces between quarks so strong? In the standard model of particle physics, why are there so many different energies at which distinct fundamental forces are supposed to "unify", and what determines these widely separated energies? The answers to these questions may be provided by extra dimensions curled into loops a millimeter around. In other words, our universe may be only a millimeter across, in directions we are not yet able to perceive. (...) In this column we'll consider millimeter-size extra-dimensional loops and their implications. (shrink)
I live in Seattle, the city which last Fall was host to two major international conferences of interest to science fiction readers: The Annual International IEEE Symposium on Virtual Reality (VRAIS- 93) and The 5th ACM Conference on Hypertext (Hypertext-93). I was able to attend both conferences, and I'll use this column to provide an overview of what I learned there.
My previous Alternate View column (ANALOG 9/84) described the widely accepted "inflationary scenario" of modern cosmology in which our Universe is just one among very many "bubble universes", all popping out of the general medium of the Big Bang like bubbles forming in a glass of beer. Somewhere perhaps there are many universes more or less like ours, some very similar to and others radically different from the universe we call "home".
If you measured the radiation present in our environment with sufficient sensitivity, you would find that the Earth is a rather radioactive place. Radon (half-life 3.82 days), a radioactive inert gas that decays by emitting energetic 8 MeV alpha particles, is..
EPR experiments demonstrate that standard quantum mechanics exhibits the property of nonlocality , the enforcement of correlations between separated parts of an entangled quantum systems across spacelike separations. Nonlocality will be clarified using the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the possibility of superluminal effects (e.g., faster-than-light communication) from nonlocality and non-linear quantum mechanics will be examined.
The territory of time travel has, from the days of H. G. Wells to the mid-1980's, been the exclusive province of writers of science fiction and fantasy. SF critics have even argued that time travel stories are so scientifically unlikely that they should be considered fantasy, not science fiction.
In the December-1989 issue of Analog, I wrote an AV Column entitled “Cold Fusion, Pro-fusion, and Con-fusion” that described and gave my opinions about the recently announced “discovery of cold fusion” by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. These University of Utah electro-chemists claimed that by electrolyzing D2O (heavy water) on a tabletop, they had produced the nuclear fusion of deuterium (mass-2 hydrogen) nuclei..
Nanocon 1: The First Northwest Conference on Nanotechnology was held at the University Plaza Hotel in Seattle, Washington, on February 17-19, 1989. The conference was sponsored by the Seattle Nanotechnology Study Group and the University of Washington Student Nanotechnology Study Group. This AV column is a report on the conference.
This Alternate View column marks three milestones: This is the 3rd anniversary of my start as an AV columnist for Analog, this is the 20th AV column I've written, and it is also the 7th anniversary of my first publication in Analog. I enjoy writing these columns on scientific subjects, but it can be frustrating. Science is continually changing as new experimental results and observations are made, as new ideas and theories are conceived and old ideas are rejected. Often by (...) the time an Alternate View column on some new development in physics or astronomy appears in these pages the field has already progressed further and there is more to be said. So this third anniversary column will be used as an occasion for a backward look at some of the subjects covered in previous columns and articles, giving an update on more recent developments. An index of my first 20 AV columns and articles is provided below. This can be used as a reference guide to indicate which topics were discussed in which columns and articles. (shrink)
The path to a new discovery in physics is often a very twisted one. The subject of this Alternate View column is an example of this process. A major accelerator, built with with the prospect of discovering super-heavy elements, is now being used in an experiment to produce "super-atoms" with very large electric fields, and this work has quite unexpectedly revealed what looks like a new and mysterious particle. It is reminiscent of the SF of the 1930's where one of (...) the standard science gimmicks was the discovery of a new element with amazing properties. It also sounds a bit like the Paul Preuss novel Broken Symmetries, where the plot revolves around the discovery at a large accelerator laboratory of a mysterious new particle. But this is real science, folks. Honest! (shrink)
On a mountain top on a clear moonless night the brilliant stars strewn across the sky press down almost oppressively, the Milky Way so full of them it seems about to burst. And yet, we have been learning in the past decade that the visible matter of the universe, the stars that we see, represent only a tiny fraction, perhaps less than one part in 200, of the mass of the universe. The question of what the remainder of the universe (...) is made of is called the Dark Matter Problem. It is one of the most vexing in modern physics. (shrink)
This column is about the apparent quantization of cosmological red-shifts, the persistent astronomical observation that the red-shifts and velocities of distant galaxies are not randomly distributed but rather grouped in clumps of similar values. About eight years ago I had considered an AV column on this mysterious phenomenon, but after looking at the data then available I decided against it. As an experimental physicist I've seen too many "structures" in poor-statistics data that vanished as the statistics improved. Over the years, (...) however, the red-shift data has improved to the point where the evidence that this is a real effect is now fairly convincing. So here it is, a persistent and puzzling astronomical observation that does not fit with our present understanding of the laws of physics and the universe and that has no accepted explanation. (shrink)
I'm an experimental physicist. The basic physics research I do is funded primarily by the U. S. Government. As I write this, it is less than two weeks before the 1993 Presidential Inauguration. The new Clinton Administration is still of an unknown quantity. A new Presidential Science Advisor with excellent qualifications, Dr. John H. Gibbons, has just been appointed, but little is know about the science policies of the new administration.
This column is about a new development in the theory of wormholes. At Vanderbilt University, David Hochberg and Thomas W. Kephart have discovered that gravity itself can produce regions of negative energy. Within these regions, we may conjecture, stable wormholes may form naturally, particularly during the early Big Bang. A wormhole is a geometrical shortcut in curved space-time with the topology of a cup handle which, in principle, allows movement from one point in space-time to another without the necessity of (...) traversing the intervening space-time interval. This provides a physical basis for two traditional gimmicks of science fiction: faster-than-light travel and time travel into the past and the future. (shrink)
This year I am on sabbatical at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, Germany, which by a happy coincidence was also the site of the 17th Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics held here two weeks ago (December 12-15, 1994). I was able to attend the Symposium, to learn quite a bit about the present state of astrophysics, and to contribute a paper co-authored by SF writers Forward, Benford, and Landis and wormhole theorists Visser and Morris [see my recent (...) AV column on this in the mid-December-94 Analog]. (shrink)
The plane of the present is a concept that is useful for discussing the various paradigms of time. Here by ‘plane of the present’ we mean the temporal interface that represents the present instant and that forms the boundary between the past and the future. We use the geometrical term ‘plane’ to indicate an extended surface in the space-time continuum, as opposed to a ‘point’ on some time axis. This point/plane dichotomy is intended to raise issues of extension and simultaneity (...) and to examine the degree to which these are meaningful concepts from various physical viewpoints. We will show by example in the present work that the plane of the present is a pivotal concept that offers considerable power in differentiating between various views of the nature of time. The concept of time within the main stream of physics thinking has followed a rather convoluted path over the past three millennia. Anticipating the modern motion picture, Zeno of Elea (c.490-c.430 B.C) questioned whether time should appropriately be viewed as a continuously flowing river, or should more properly be considered as a rapid sequence of stop-motion ‘freeze-frames’, in effect rendering geometrical each instant as a separate infinitesimal point on the line of time. Adopting this view, he asked how physical motion could occur. He argued paradoxically that motion is not possible, since it appears to happen only between the frozen frames of time instants.1 From the viewpoint of Zeno, the plane of the present would be simply the last and most recent in this sequence of freeze-frames. It would be that frozen instant, spanning the universe, which changes progressively as the instant we call ‘now’ becomes the frozen past and future possibility freezes into the ‘now’ of present reality. We note that the plane of the present as a concept does not resolve the arrow paradox that Zeno raised. It only provides a way of thinking about it. (shrink)
Light speed, c = 3 × 108 meters per second, is the ultimate speed limit of the universe. The welltested physics orthodoxy of special relativity tells us that nothing can go faster than c. When any massive object with rest mass M (taken to be in energy units) has velocity v=c (or relativistic velocity ß = v/c = 1), the object's mass-energy becomes infinite. This is because the relativistic..
Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics deals with these problems is reviewed. A new interpretation of the formalism of quantum mechanics, the transactional interpretation, is presented. The basic element of this interpretation is the transaction describing a quantum event as an exchange of advanced and retarded waves, as implied by the work of Wheeler and Feynman, Dirac, and others. The transactional interpretation is explicitly nonlocal and thereby consistent with recent tests of the Bell inequality, yet is relativistically invariant and fully causal. (...) A detailed comparison of the transactional and Copenhagen interpretations is made in the context of well-known quantum-mechanical Gedankenexperimenre and "paradoxes." The transactional interpretation permits quantum-mechanical wave functions to be interpreted as real waves physically present in space rather than as "mathematical representations of knowledge" as in the Copenhagen interpretation. The transactional interpretation is shown to provide insight into the complex character of the quantum-mechanical state vector and the mechanism associated with its "collapse." It also leads in a natural way to justification of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the Born probability law (P = ii iij*), basic elements of the Copenhagen interpretation. (shrink)
A gedanken experiment is proposed for distinguishing between two models accounting for the macroscopic arrow of time. The experiment involves the velocity reversal of components of an isolated system. The two models give contrasting predictions as to its behavior.
I'm sure you know the plot: a lost magical formula has eluded the wisest practitioners of the arcane art down through the ages. Now a cabal of young upstarts, with disdain for conventional wisdom and working against all odds, discovers the key ingredients that make the magic spell work, with spectacular results.
This column is about experimental tests of the various interpretations of quantum mechanics. The question at issue is whether we can perform experiments that can show whether there is an "observer-created reality" as suggested by the Copenhagen Interpretation, or a peacock’s tail of rapidly branching alternate universes, as suggested by the Many-Worlds Interpretation, or forward-backward in time handshakes, as suggested by the Transactional Interpretation? Until recently, I would have said that this was an impossible task, but a new experiment has (...) changed my view, and I now believe that the Copenhagen and Many-Worlds Interpretations (at least as they are usually presented) have been falsified by experiment. (shrink)
My interest in the physics of space station gravity developed because last year Vonda McIntyre was writing a book with a space station setting, and she asked my advice. The book, Barbary, is about a teenager who leaves Earth to live in a space station with spin-generated gravity. I helped Vonda in a very minor way by identifying the physical effects that the heroine would experience in that environment. What's it like to ride an elevator in a space station? How (...) would a ball game look if it were played there? If you woke up in a strange location, what simple tests would tell if you were in a rotating space station rather than at rest on the ground? And so on ... I found that there are some interesting side-effects of artificial gravity, perhaps well known to NASA experts but obscure to the rest of us. And I was surprised to find that some recent SF hasn't been too accurate in describing the space habitat environment. (shrink)
This Alternate View column is about two new reports of possible antigravity breakthroughs. Perhaps, like the Dean Drive, they will prove to be bogus. But the subject continues to have interesting SF implications, and the payoff, if an antigravity route out of Earth's gravity well could be found, would be enormous.
Yet normal particle interactions produce matter and antimatter in equal amounts. If matter and antimatter in the early universe had been in perfect balance, they would long since have been annihilated out of existence, leaving behind a universe of photons and a few electrons. We would not be here to study such a universe, since our very existence depends on the gross excess of matter over antimatter now present. Where did the matter come from? What happened in the early stages (...) of the Big Bang that produced the contemporary dominance of matter? (shrink)
The "groupie" tendency of bosons has recently been demonstrated in a breakthrough experiment by Carl Wieman of the University of Colorado and Eric Cornell of the National Institute for Standards and Technology and their group. They were able to cool a gas of rubidium-87 atoms to a temperature so low that thousands of atoms coalesced into the same quantum state, forming a new state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This column is about that work.
The physics behind the limerick is that within Einstein’s special theory of relativity there is a subtle connection between faster-than-light and backwards-in-time travel. If you could do one, then in principle you could also do the other. But relativity is carefully contrived to prevent superluminal and back-in-time travel and communication.
This column is about a new alternative to standard Big Bang cosmology that reaches back in time to the era before the Big Bang in an effort to remove some of the arbitrary assumptions from the model. It's in part the work of Gabriele Veneziano, a theorist at CERN, and it is called pre-Big-Bang cosmology. We'll begin by reviewing the standard scenario of the origin of the universe.
So far this has been a lonely and unrewarding quest. New experiments occasionally come along which point to a breakdown of the Standard Model, but up to now they have invariably been proved wrong by more careful analysis or subsequent experiments with better data. A case in point is the energetic jet data from the CDF experiment at FermiLab which suggested possible substructure of the quark. (See my AV column "Inside the Quark" in the September-1996 issue of Analog.) The CDF (...) group found an unexpected excess of "jets" (clumps of energetic particles moving in the same direction) with energies above 200 GeV in their data. They found that they could not explain this excess of high energy jets using the Standard Model, as interpreted by standard theoretical procedures, and they pointed out that the data might represent new physics, possibly an indication that the quark is a composite object made of even more fundamental particles. (shrink)
Nevertheless, the problem of nuclear waste disposal is not insoluble. Good technical solutions have existed for at least 20 years, but for political reasons none has ever been implemented. This could be changing. New accelerator-based technical solutions are perhaps more politically acceptable. This column is about this emerging technology.
In this column, however, I'm not going to talk about my own experiment here, but about CERN's fast-track plans for building a new and more powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadronic Collider or LHC. The LHC is to come into operation around 1999. It is the principal competition for the SSC, the huge U. S. accelerator presently under construction in and around Waxahachie, Texas. [See my AV column "The Coming of the SSC", Analog March, 1988 for a description of that (...) project.]. (shrink)
What perhaps you did not know is that centrifugal force is, strictly speaking, not a force at all. It is a pseudo-force. It is, in a sense, an illusion produced by changing coordinate systems. This is a slippery idea which will require some explanation. So to understand why centrifugal force is not a true physical force, let's start by considering what the true forces of nature are.
In the remote deserts of Utah, at a location selected for clear air and remoteness from the lights of civilization is the Fly's Eye, a group of "compound eye" light detectors with photomultipliers for facets. It watches the night sky for the light made by the most energetic cosmic rays as they enter the upper atmosphere. Physicists using the Fly's Eye have found an exciting new result, the upper energy limit of cosmic rays. And they have also observed something else, (...) something entering the atmosphere from the direction of the Swan. (shrink)
Last Thursday, a front page headline in the New York Times announced Astronomers' New Data Jolt Vital Part of Big Bang Theory ". Newly analyzed data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, the Times reported, show conclusively that these vast structures are not isolated oddities. Instead, the structures are normal features of our universe which has an intrinsic lumpiness that is far larger and more uneven than can be reconciled with the best current theories about when and how our universe formed.
In this AV column we will have a look at the DUMAND project, a new $10 million detector funded by the US Department of Energy for the detection of ultra-high energy neutrinos. DUMAND stands for Deep Underwater Muon And Neutrino Detector. It is now under construction in Hawaii and will come into operation in 1993-94. It is to be placed almost 3 miles deep on a level stretch of Pacific Ocean bottom about 18 miles west of Keahole Point on the (...) Island of Hawaii. Floats anchored to the ocean bottom about 40 meters apart and arranged in an octagon around a central junction point will support nine long vertical strings of sensitive light detectors. DUMAND will be connected to its land-based laboratory by bundles of fiber optics cables. AT&T will lay the cables to shore, and the US Navy's manned deep submersible DSV Sea Cliff will be used to connect, service, and repair the parts of the detector. (shrink)
Freeman Dyson has a well-deserved reputation as a truly original thinker. He helped to conceive Project Orion, a hydrogen-bomb-powered starship concept, and his name is associated with the Dyson sphere, the ultimate solar-energy based civilization. Whenever there are two conflicting opinions on a controversial technical subject, be it disarmament, nuclear power, or construction of big accelerators, Dyson can be depended upon to propose a strikingly original third opinion, always logical and well-considered, which bears little resemblance to either of the other (...) two. In the case of the space program his views stand in striking contrast to those of both the "Get humans into space at whatever cost" camp and the "Dump manned spaceflight and do space science with machines" advocates. (shrink)
For three days in April, 2005, I was a speaker and panelist at the NASA-sponsored “Physics for the rd Millennium II Conference” in Huntsville, Alabama, where twelve of us, including two Nobel Laureates, were invited to give 50-minute lectures about cutting-edge physics to an audience of NASA engineers, teachers, students, parents, and other interested attendees. In this column, I want to tell you about the work described in one of the talks, given by Dr. George Chapline of the Lawrence Livermore (...) Laboratory. (shrink)
emerging field of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology gets its name from the nanometer, a distance of 10 -9 meters or roughly the diameter of a molecule, and the term refers to the technology for structuring matter with precise control at the nanometer scale, atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule, to form a pre-specified pattern. In other words, nanotechnology is the general ability to build large or small structures to complex atomic specifications.
Last June I was an invited speaker at the symposium “Frontiers of Time: Reverse Causation—Experiment and Theory,” part of a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held on the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego. (Here, reverse causation means a violation of that most mysterious law of physics, the Principle of Causality, which requires that any cause must precede its effects in all reference frames.) I had originally intended to just talk about my (...) work on the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics and its somewhat retrocausal aspects (i.e., back-in-time handshakes of quantum waves, etc.). However, a new idea involving signaling with nonlocal quantum processes had come my way, and I decided to present it as a retrocausal quantum paradox at the symposium. It made a big splash there, but none of the experts present could identify any problem with the proposed thought experiment or resolve the paradox. In this column I want to tell you about this causality-violating communications scheme and its possible consequences. (shrink)
Einstein's "spookiness" is now called nonlocality, the mysterious ability of Nature to enforce correlations between separated but entangled parts of a quantum system that are out of speed-of-light contact, to reach faster-than-light across vast spatial distances or even across time itself to ensure that the parts of a quantum system are made to match. This column is about nonlocality, and how, through Bell's theorem, the nonlocality implicit in nature has been demonstrated in the laboratory.
There are a number of geophysical and astrophysical problems with Burroughs' s setting. Perhaps it is pointless to complain, 75 years too late, about the "hardness" of such science fantasies, for the strong suit of Burroughs' writings always lay in their imaginative sweep, never their scientific accuracy. In the case of Pellucidar, however, Burroughs committed a blunder that sets the teeth of every physicist on edge: he assumed that gravity would pull toward the inner surface of a hollow sphere.
This column is a milestone. It's the 100 th Alternate View column that I've written for Analog over a period of 16 years beginning in 1983. I was on a sabbatical in Berlin when Stan recruited me to write the column after Jerry Pournelle, my predecessor as AV columnist, decided to step down. The AV columns are a soapbox that was too attractive to pass up, and I've used them to promote an interst in science and to feed cutting-edge science (...) ideas, primarily in the areas of physics and astrophysics, to the readers and writers of science fiction. (shrink)
Our galaxy contains a remarkable "faster-than-light" object discovered only a few months ago by radio astronomers. The object, a blob of hot radio-emitting matter thrown off from gamma ray source GRS1915+105, was observed to separate from its larger parent object at an apparent speed of 1.25 times the velocity of light. The operant word here is "apparent". The faster-than-light separation speed (separation distance divided by time) is believed to be a consequence of the same relativistic illusion previously observed for radio (...) objects ejected by quasars. We will start with some facts about quasars. (shrink)
Curiously, in some ways gravity is also the strongest force in the universe. It always adds, never subtracts, and can build up until it overwhelms all other forces.. In normal stars gravity is balanced by heat energy from fusion reactions in the star's core. Eventually, however, the hydrogen and heavier elements fueling these reactions are used up, gravity takes over, and the star collapses in on itself. The result is a supernova explosion, which converts a sizable fraction of the star's (...) mass-energy to light, neutrinos, and gravity waves. (shrink)
Seattle, the city where I live, teach, and do physics research, is the home of Paul Allen’s new Science Fiction Museum (SFM), located in the Experience Music Project building at Seattle Center, in the shadow of the Space Needle. The SFM is well worth a visit, offering a fascinating display of collected TV and movie props (e.g., Captain Kirk’s Chair from Star Trek ), SF memorabilia, and treasured books and manuscripts from the classic works of science fiction. In early December (...) 2005, Stephen Hawking was on a fund-raising tour in celebration of.. (shrink)
About a decade ago the concept of chaos burst upon scientific community as a new paradigm for viewing the certain of the workings of nature and the structures of mathematics. It embodied two key concepts: (1) that certain systems that are classified as "chaotic", while completely determined by initial conditions and the laws of physics, are nevertheless so unstable as to be inherently unpredictable; and (2) that the behavior of chaotic systems is not arbitrarily random, but instead shows regularities, repeating (...) patterns, and self-similarities. The new science of chaos thus staked out its territory in the middle ground between order and randomness, a ground that in the real world is occupied by systems ranging from energy levels in nuclei, to turbulence in plasmas, to the spread of gypsy moths, to weather patterns of Earth and Jupiter, to the stock and commodities markets. (shrink)
"Did anyone read on the front page of the Times that matter is decaying? Am I the only one who saw that? The universe is gradually breaking down. There's not going to be anything left. I'm not talking about my stupid little films here. Eventually there's not going to be any Beethoven or Shakespeare or ...".
Particle physicists, over the last 50 years, have discovered several hundred strongly interacting “elementary” particles. The list of such particles begins with the proton and the p meson and goes up from there. We now understand that all of these particles are actually composites, formed from various combinations of quarks. Such particles are normally classified in two types. Mesons (the name implies medium weight) are particles with masses that go up from 140 MeV/c 2 and have an intrinsic angular momentum (...) or “spin” that is an integer in units of ħ (Planck’s constant over p). Baryons (the name implies heavy weight) are particles with masses that go up from 938 MeV/c 2 and have half-integer spin. This column is about the discovery of the pentaquark, a brand new form of matter that represents a new particle species, neither meson nor baryon, but a combination of both. (shrink)
CDF (the acronym stands for Collider Detector at Fermilab) is the experiment that in 1994 and 1995 suggested and then confirmed the discovery of the top quark, using 1.8 TeV collisions of protons with antiprotons at the Fermilab Tevatron. To assemble convincing evidence for the top quark, the CDF group collected data from a large number of proton-antiproton collisions during the 1992-93 running period. Then, with the top quark safely salted away, the CDF group has been examining their accumulated data (...) for other aspects of the p+p-bar collisions. One such study of the CDF group focuses on "jets" from the p+p-bar collisions. "Jet" is high-energy physics jargon for a cluster of high energy particles emitted in the same direction. Free unattached quarks are not permitted by the rules of QCD. Within the colliding protons, the constituent quarks are tied together with gluons that form "color strings" connecting the quarks. If a quark strikes another quark in a head-on collision and is ejected from its surrounding proton, its attempted escape from this confinement stretches the string until it breaks, with a new quark and anti-quark forming at the broken string ends. The resulting multitude of new quarks combine to form a multitude of new particles, all moving in the same direction as the original quark, thereby forming a "jet". When a very high energy quark is ejected from a collision, a jet is what actually reaches the detector. (shrink)
As it turns out, odds are about 2.4 times greater that you will be killed by a asteroid or comet than by an air crash or tornado, both taken together. Asteroid are surprisingly dangerous. If big one hit the Earth at the wrong place, it could kill many people. And a sufficiently big one could kill..
But there may be another way. Laser powered launching to orbit is an emerging space technology that may eventually provide a techno-fix for the large expense of getting payloads into orbit, a way around the high cost of Shuttle payloads. Extremely powerful lasers are now on the hi-tech horizon, and their development promises to make this new technology feasible. In July of 1986 a group of experts gathered at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to consider the key issues of laser propulsion. (...) They focused on three basic questions: (1) What laser launching will be possible with the big lasers now under development? (2) What groundwork of research and development is needed to prepare for launch testing when the big lasers are ready? And (3) What characteristics should be pushed for in these big lasers so that they will be more useful for such launching? This Alternate View column follows some of their discussion. (shrink)
This column is about recent evidence from the Super Kamiokande detector in Japan indicating that at least one of the three known neutrino flavors, the mu-neutrino, has a non-zero rest mass. To put this result in the proper context, I'll briefly review parts of the standard model of particle physics.
In this column I want to focus on three things. First, the nature of the HST problem, its origins, and its cure. Second some observations on the difference between scientific funding agencies (in particular, DOE and NASA) in dealing with scientific megaprojects (i.e., any scientific project costing over $100 million). Finally, I want to offer a modest proposal for fixing our ailing national space program.
The neutrino is the massless and electrically neutral weak-interaction partner of the electron, always traveling at the speed of light and rarely interacting with anything. The sun makes lots of neutrinos. About 61,000,000,000 neutrinos per second from the sun pass through each square centimeter of cross section on the surface of the Earth. If your body presents an area to the sun of 10,000 square centimeters, this means that 610 trillion neutrinos are passing right through your body in the second (...) it takes to read this line. But you don't notice this; neutrinos can pass through light years of lead without impediment. They pass through your body and through the Earth as if neither was there. As you might imagine, this makes the detection of neutrinos very difficult ... but not impossible. (shrink)
Would-be wormhole engineers face the challenging problem of how to stabilize a wormhole, a topological shortcut from one part of the universe to another. Wormholes have a strong tendency to pinch off and disappear. It is well established that a sizable quantity of negative mass-energy is needed to overcome this tendency. That requirement has been perceived as a "show-stopper" because our universe does not seem to contain "exotic matter" objects with negative masses. The only known way of producing negative mass-energy (...) in the laboratory, the Casimir Effect, can only make it in exceedingly tiny quantities. (shrink)
Wolfgang Pauli first suggested the existence of what we now call the neutrino in order to preserve the law of conservation of energy. Previously, in 1911, James Chadwick had demonstrated that in the radioactive process called beta decay the emitted "beta particle" (now known to be an electron) was emitted with some random amount of its kinetic energy missing. Instead of the expected sharp spike of well-defined kinetic energy, a sample of many such emitted electrons showed that their kinetic energies (...) were distributed over a broad bump-like distribution. (shrink)
* Solar Neutrinos are Up - My column about recent results in neutrino physics Analog - September-1992 ] (no neutrino counts at SAGE and negative mass-squared data suggesting that the e-neutrino may be a tachyon) prompted more reader response than any other column in recent memory . Two months after I wrote it, a new result from GALLEX, the European gallium neutrino-detection experiment housed in the Grand Sasso underground laboratory in Italy, was announced. GALLEX uses the same technique as the (...) SAGE neutrino experiment described in my September column: many million dollars worth of elemental gallium (element 31) is purified and placed in underground tanks where solar neutrinos transmute stable gallium 71 to radioactive germanium 71 (half life 11.4 days). A chemical process separates the new radioactive germanium atoms from the bulk gallium and transports them to a sensitive detector where their decays are counted. (shrink)
The neutrino is one of nature's most peculiar particles. It has 1/2 unit of spin but no electric charge, a near-zero rest-mass, and it interacts with other particles only through gravity and the weak interaction. It can pass through light years of lead without an interaction. There is good experimental evidence that the Earth receives only about 1/3 of the neutrinos that the Sun should be producing and sending in our direction.
This page now has an access count of: nuclear salt water rocket , a radical new concept for propulsion in space. It is the idea of Robert M. Zubrin of the Martin Marietta Corp., author of the fascinating recent Analog science-fact article "The Magnetic Sail", which the cover described as " a liberating new concept in space travel". The nuclear salt..
Much of what you thought you knew about the universe and its expansion may be wrong. That expansion appears to be speeding up rather than slowing E = mc 2). down. This column is about recent astronomical evidence for a positive cosmological constant, suggesting that space itself has mass-energy..
I have written a number of columns in this magazine about wormholes, warp drives, and other constructs of Einstein’s general relativity (GR) that appear to offer a good physics foundation for faster-than-light travel and even for travel back in time. All of these GR constructs come from a particular non-standard way of using Einstein’s theory, an approach that might be described as "metric engineering." Instead of considering a particular arrangement of mass and energy and asking how space would be warped (...) and what effects would be produced by such an arrangement, in metric engineering we specify how we want space to be warped in order to produce these effects, and then ask what arrangement of mass and energy would be required to accomplish this. The usual outcome of this kind of GR calculation is that a certain quantity of negative mass-energy would be needed. For example, to stabilize a wormhole, a significant quantity of negative mass-energy is needed near the wormhole’s throat. (shrink)
An example of the second situation is the most famous of the paradoxes of Zeno, the Greek philosopher who lived during the Golden Age of Greece on the island of Elea. Zeno proposed the following "thought experiment". Achilles, a young athlete, runs a race with a tortoise. Achilles can run exactly twice as fast as the tortoise, so to make it fair he gives the tortoise a head start of exactly half the distance from the starting line to the finish (...) line. The starting signal is given and the race begins. Achilles runs to the starting position of the tortoise. In the time it takes to do that, the tortoise has advanced half the distance from his starting position and the finish line. Achilles then advances to the new position of the tortoise. During that time the tortoise again advances half the distance to the finish line. And so on ... Every time Achilles moves ahead by a given distance, the tortoise moves ahead by half that distance. Zeno concluded that Achilles can never catch the tortoise, because in every time interval in which Achilles moves to the tortoise's former position, the tortoise always moves ahead by half that distance. (shrink)
As the aging Baby Boom generation nears retirement age in the next two decades, there is already a rising concern about how the retirement of this demographic tidal wave can be funded. But on the horizon there looms another development, not yet widely recognized, which threatens a far greater impact -- a cure for human aging may be almost at hand.
Now imagine that this accelerated gold nucleus has a head-on collision with a second nuclear pancake, a gold nucleus accelerated to the same ultra-relativistic velocity but in the opposite direction. Momentarily, the two pancakes in this light-speed head-on collision will overlap. The masses of the nuclei have been increased by a factor of 108, and the mass of each is contained in a volume that has been reduced by a factor of 108. As a result, neglecting the fuzzing effects of (...) the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the instantaneous density of.. (shrink)
SN1987A also brought into focus the central problem of supernova astrophysics: that massive stars explode far more readily in the real universe than they do in the simulated world within large computers. Computer models are used by astrophysicists to test their understanding of how a supernova works. Within such models supernovas either refuse to explode or do so with great reluctance.
Announcement: Would you like to see back issues of this column? Electronic copies are now available on Internet/WorldWideWeb as HTML files, with both subject and chronological indexes. About 80 of my columns are available, published in Analog between July-1984 and a few months ago. I plan to add one column to this archive each time a new one is published in Analog. The URL address for this Alternate View column archive is.
The novel is set in Waxahachie, Texas after the Superconducting Super Collider comes into operation. It's about high energy physics, wormholes, alien contact, time travel, and the killing of the SSC project.
unlikely name of Sanduleak -69 o202 had exploded, becoming type II supernova SN1987A. The discovery was broadcast to a data-hungry world, and the astronomy/astrophysics community has been in an uproar ever since. Sanduleak -69 o202 before exploding had a mass 15-20 times greater than that of our sun and was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a sort of suburb of our galaxy some 160,000 light years distant. To the despair of residents of North America, SN1987A is visible only in (...) the southern hemisphere. A friend just back from Argentina tells me that it's still quite visible there and is about as bright as the stars of the Southern Cross constellation. (shrink)
I do not usually write about my own scientific work, but I’m going to make an exception for this column and tell you about a physics puzzle and how we solved it. Back in 1991, almost a decade before the facility actually went into operation, I wrote a column ("RHIC: Big Bangs in the Lab", Analog, June 1991) about the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a large accelerator project that was then in the early stages of construction. The column was (...) written a few months after I joined what is now called the STAR Collaboration, a group of physicists (now numbering 577) who ultimately built a large "time-projection chamber" detector for tracking and making measurements on the charged particles produced in RHIC collisions. (shrink)