Friday, October 30, 2009

That's Why Special Relativity is so Special

It seems there's some news from the Big Bang. The recent gamma ray bursts from the bowels of cosmic history (13.1 billion years ago) have given us a bit of experimental evidence to confirm special relativity down to the Planck Scale. Physics reports that the "speed of light does not vary with wavelength down to distance scales below that of the Planck length. They say that this disfavours certain theories of quantum gravity that postulate the violation of Lorentz invariance."

The reason for this is some quantum gravity theories modify special relativity in order to balance the macro with the quantum world. Specifically Quantum Loop Gravity theory takes a hit but others have to do some reconsidering as these data get examined and absorbed into the physics community.

This is cool stuff here, Sam, don't you think? Not only does it add to the discussion and help us whittle down the GUT options but having information like this arrive 'out of the blue' as it were, reminds us that an untold amount of information is coming at us from afar every day.

Who knows what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dear Sam,

It's hard to keep up with a blog when finding time to write anything is hard enough. When I do, I'm trying to finish my novel. My apologies to my probable one reader who may look forward to my cursory look at the physics/SF conundrum to get them past their morning cuppa.

After watching a series of lectures and panels streaming from the Perimeter Institute's Q2C Festival all last week, I came to the conclusion that I'm drawn to the quantum gravity theories more than dark matter and dark energy. Not being a physicist, I can't draw these conclusions on my own and rely on the books and material I read from those in the field.

What I discover from a variety of sources is that, while pro-dark matter advocates insist a breakthrough is imminent and there is no other way to describe the universe, the question is still wide open. The anecdotal evidence on the dark matter side of the equation relies heavily on past scientists concluding the existence of atoms, magnetic fields, etc., without evidential proof only to be vindicated when experiments caught up with theory. All well and good, I suppose but it isn't enough on it's own to hang one's hat.

On the other side, Loop Gravity, MOG, and other space-time fabricators, imagine, as Einstein did, that the universe is complicated enough without having to invent new particles. So, while we don't have the answer, it doesn't mean we need to add complexities just to balance the equations. That notion appeals to me. The idea that space-time is the fabric of existence rather than a background to existence also appeals to me.

I intend to explore these avenues, both in science and SF, to better understand and to create possible universes for storytelling. For now, I think I'll make up some flash fiction for the blog and also publish the Evan Kovachi Particles of Time theory here for you to mull over.

Maybe I should give my solo reader a name. How about Sam? That would cover both genders.

Monday, October 19, 2009

q2c Festival 2009 Online

There's a wonderful event this week at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. It's called the Quantum2Cosmos Festival and they have great lectures, panels and ideas. The good news for us far away is that all the discussions are on live streaming video at their website or on file to watch whenever you like at
Take a look!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Quantum Chaos Propulsion Drive

Reading some articles on dark matter theory, I came across an interesting quantum chaos theory on Essentially, chaos theory suggests that all events connect through a series of seemingly unrelated events. Therefore if a dog fart in Alabama can affect a typhoon's intensity on the Pacific Rim. The connection string is long and impossible to follow but it essentially implies, we're all in the same soup together, like it or not. Cause and effect on a grand scale.

The new concept in this theory is taking it to a quantum scale so that if a string shivers in a Planck universe, the mass of a graviton on the other side of the galaxy might get a GUT ache.
If it sounds like I'm not taking this too seriously it's because I'm not. Chaos is a great concept but you can't prove or disprove it. Randomness is just that. However, in the spirit of Douglas Adams, I had an interesting notion. What about a Chaos Propulsion System?

If the basic purpose of the universe is to transfer energy, why not create a Chaos Drive that randomly disturbs a quantum particle in order to feed a rocket system down the chaotic vibe?

Anyone want to tackle the logistics of that?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bombing the Moon for Fun and Profit

I loved today's moon mission attempting to find water by dropping a missile near the pole! I've been disappointed ever since Apollo that we didn't pursue a moon base and realize the importance of a permanent human footprint on the Moon, instead of just a shoeprint.

I watched the gab on the news shows as the missiles struck and they all talked about being disappointed that there was no plume, and lost expectations and what a failure it must have been, etc, blah blah blah. What did they want? Krakatoa erupting before their very eyes?

These turkeys have no idea what astronomy and astrophysics is. They've been watching too much Star Wars and CSI. Somehow they think that scientists really do have computers where you press a button and a 3D image of the brain they just scanned rotates around in front of them, showing where the lesions are. Or grabbing a cheap image off an ATM surveillance camera and managing to magically regenerate the focus of a black spot driving by at 40 miles an hour into a recognizable face.

We're starting to believe our own hype. Special effects in SF at least say 'its the future' but in crime dramas and military shows, they expect you to believe they actually have this far out equipment. It sets reality up to be a real let down.

What the general public needs to remember is that astronomy includes a healthy dose of imagination. Flights of fancy into the improbable where we dream about future reality. Today's demonstration was for NASA to learn, not for the public to get a YouTube rush and then go back to dancing hamsters and fish that sing pop tunes, forgetting completely that this was the friggin' Moon, man and we are looking for ways to survive there!.

As SF writers and dreamers, we need to lower expectations of the visible and inspire the imagination for the possible. It'll make it easier for the public who want the spectacular or nothing at all to realize that what happened today was spectacular.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Have Space, Will Travel

I've been meaning to do a video short of all the different spaceship designs that have graced fiction over the past 75 years. When I do, I'll post it here. In the meantime, a quick overview of where they've been and what comes next could be fun.

The original rockets blasted off with fires raging out their tails, much like the real thing. We all have images of cartoon and movie rockets from the 50's: basically missiles with some poor slobs strapped inside. Then came flying saucers. I don't know why the aliens always got the cool saucers and we had the exploding rockets. "The Day The Earth Stood Still" flying saucer barely impacted the crowd that gathered on the ground. SF during the early days of nuclear testing, called them 'nuclear powered'. Whatever that meant. I guess if it had nuclear power it could rise slowly into the air to the tinny strains of the theremin.

I think that the Jupiter II on Lost In Space was the first human flying saucer. It, too, ran on "nuclear" power so it just floated away on whimsy. Star Trek, way ahead of it's time on this, created the Enterprise, a ship that never landed and was powered by something completely unprecedented - crystals that held unimaginable power. They transferred this power to their engines, which had the capacity to accelerate them beyond the speed of light on a 'time warp factor'. A very nice gimmick to get them across great gaps in space in a short time.

This was followed up, a decade later by Star Wars and 'hyper drive'. These engines catapulted the ship across the galaxy in seconds by passing through hyperspace, which I suppose occupies a different dimension of space and is quicker to cross.

Since then, we've stuck with that basic concept for SF space travel. Hit the button, see you next Thursday. There are logistic problems but they're easy to gloss over because all we're trying to do is cover great distances in a hurry.

As an alternative, and we have to give Star Trek some more innovative credit, there is the personal transportation idea. Beam me up by transferring matter into coded energy and then reassembling it in its original form. This works better for short distances because the energy only travels at the speed of light. But there are gimmick ways around that, too. Ion propulsion, graviton waves, halcyon particles, the works.

A nod has to be given here Doug Adams "Hitchhiker's Guide" series and his improbability drive. Using the Heisenberg Principle, he fantastically imagined a mode of transportation that works on unlikely, and therefore necessary probabilities.

The big joke there is that modern physics experiments with particle transfer puts Adams ideas closer to the mark than any warp engine or hyper drive. The nifty thing that's going on right now is that a muon or lepton or some such teeny speck of a particle has been sent from New York to London by breaking it down and transporting it.

Here's the rub. What actually happened was that the original particle was broken down to the quantum level and then a new, identical particle was created in the destination location. You might think this is cloning. In a way it is. But the only way to succeed in this transfer was to destroy the original when it was sent. So you now have a clone but no original. The clone would be so identical that it might as well be the original.

Here's where the hand rubbing, speculative SF ideas get to come into the mix. New York to London sounds like going from Detroit to Flint. Who cares? But if we can extend the trip using the quantum principle where two identical particles can communicate across the galaxy instantaneously, then we got ourselves a quantum rapid transit system that requires no warp drive or stable worm holes.

Let's dehumanize this for a sec. Don't send people, send nano satellites that can gather data and send it back from, say, the core of our universe. Seriously, if the only data that reaches us from the center of the universe is 14 billion years old, wouldn't it be something to find out in a flash what's going on there right now? We could send quantum satellites all over the universe with one mission: signs of life. They could be designed to send signals back only if they are tampered with.

Scientists are already considering nano satellites launched from Earth, but transporting them on a quantum wave would be a cheapo way to explore the galaxy. We can work on how to shrink an astronaut into one later on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Stepping off topic today, I was climbing a tree with my seven year old grandson last summer talking about writing a story. I asked what he'd call his story and he said 'The Witches Daughter'.

I love this idea. There are so many angles to what you could do with a concept like this. Imagine the witches daughter going to school, her gingerbread house off the beaten track, an outcast because of her mom. This could be a picture book or a novel.

How about the witches daughter as a teen torn between her mom's life and the village life. Would she protect her mom from the torch wielding mob or join them because of peer pressure.

Imagine the middle aged woman dealing with her young life in therapy after being raised under the shadow of her mother's wicked life.

Of course, there is the version where she is an acolyte into the world of witches, either ala Samantha Stevens or a dark tale of being inducted into the world of evil.

There are so many richly complex notions in this one title that I almost wish I wrote magic tales.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


M Theory, the composite string theory, supposes that there are 11 dimensions (10 spatial and one of time). All these dimensions above and beyond the 3 we see around us are supposedly curled up and so tiny that they fit right in a planck scale pocket (that is 10-33). The universe, according to this theory, is made up of countless compacted dimensions rolled up in "Chalabi-Yau" shapes, which are multi dimensional units.

These ideas, still completely conceptual, are great fertile ground for Quantum SF. What would a life form be like in a curled up dimension like that? If these dimensions are that small they can be living among us by the bazillions right now, more prolific than dust mites or amoeba, or atoms. The concept that we could be living with alternate dimension life forms blows my mind.

Here are two questions that start the ball rolling for me. How do we define life forms (always a great science and SF question)? Second, if they exist here, do we call them Earthlings or alien?

Hey, who knows, they may be our ticket out of here to the great beyond of outer space.