Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi as Opher names the DM atoms and sub-atomic particles.

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sc-fi as Opher names the DM atoms and sub-atomic particles.

 

I’ve put this out before but as I was tidying up my anecdotes for publication I found myself amused by this piece. So I’m putting it out again. I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi as Opher names the DM atoms and sub-atomic particles.

It appears that only 4% of the universe is visible, the rest is made of Dark Matter. That’s right – 96% of the known universe is made of something we can’t see.

And as for Dark Energy (DE to us buffs), that accounts for 70% of all the energy in the known universe and we haven’t a clue what it is.

All the ‘ordinary’ matter in the universe is made of atoms and all atoms are made of quarks. Everything is made of the same building blocks.

But Dark Matter (DM to us authorities on the subject) is made of something else. It does not appear to be quarks. So I will deign to name them prior to their discovery. I want it noted that the subatomic particles that make up the ‘atoms’ (or Goodwins, as they are now termed) of Dark Matter are to henceforth be known as Ophers.

I predict that there will be a number of different Ophers just as there are with quarks. Rather than calling them upward, downward, strange and charm as with quarks I want them named after my favourite Rock stars. So, depending on how many we later discover, in descending order, I want them named Roys (after Roy Harper), Dylans (after Bob Dylan) Beefies (After Captain Beefheart), Jimis (After Jimi Hendrix and Woodys (after Woody Guthrie). If there are more discovered then I would like them called Elmores (after Elmore James) and Nicks (after Nick Harper). Hopefully we’ll eventually discovered loads more and we can deploy Howlins (after Howlin Wolf) and Muddy’s (after Muddy Waters) as well as Beatles and Countrys (after the Fab Four and Country Joe and the Fish).

The interesting thing about Dark Matter is that it is probably all around us but we cannot see it or feel it. It is only detectable by its gravitational effect. There is a whole world out there made of Ophers all constructed out of Roys, Dylans, Jimis, Beefies, Nicks, Elmores and Woodys. There are people just like us moving through us right now having a conversation that is a conjecture about what the other 4% of their Dark Matter (our matter) might be made of.

I told you it was weirder than imagination.

Anthropocene Apocalypse – Malthus and the catastrophe of overpopulation.

Anthropocene Apocalypse – Malthus and the catastrophe of overpopulation.

Overpopulation

Thomas Robert Malthus was a reverend from the eighteenth century who foresaw the effects of a huge burgeoning world population. He thought it would be a catastrophe. It would take room, use up resources and create famine and pestilence. He proposed that measures needed to be taken in order to restrict the population.

He was a man of vision.

Unfortunately Malthus’s ideas were aimed at restricting the increase of the working class! He was a trifle elitist.

Malthus is being proved right though. The population increase is building in pace, threatening food, water, mineral resources, the natural environment and most wild animals. It is changing the climate of the planet.

The answer does not lie in forcing poor people from breeding. It requires a much greater application of intelligence. We have to address the social issues that create the need for big families, the religious stupidity that is preventing people from regulating the number of progeny, the political policies that encourage big families and do not penalise  having too many children and the means to access contraception and use it effectively.

Education and social change is the answer.

Step 1 – recognise that we have a major global problem.

Step 2 – bring in social changes so that there is health care and pensions which remove the need for large families

Step 3 – Bring in contraception and education to limit children

Step 4 – begin an awareness raising campaign to highlight the need to reduce population

Step 5 – limit the places that humans can live, exploit nature or hunt and conserve the wilderness (50% for humans – 50% for the rest of life)

Step 6 – Stop religions going through their silly games to try to win through sheer weight of numbers by encouraging large families

Step 7 – Bring in political inducements and disincentives to encourage small families.

If action is not taken now we will be heading for disaster – a virus, a catastrophe, famine, starvation, emigration, climate change and the devastation of the wilderness.

I don’t want that. I want a beautiful world for my beautiful grandchildren. I want action!

The future and saviour of the world – Fusion energy!

The future and saviour of the world – Fusion energy!

 

fusion fusion 2

No not fracking or burning fossil fuels. That way leads to climate change and the same old scene.

Not even solar, wind and alternatives.

The future lies in Fusion. Once we have created the technology to do this industrially we will have unlimited power. It will be unpolluting and transformative.

We can have unlimited electricity for transport, producing fresh water to irrigate, and power to light the world.

It will lead to an age of plenty, the end of fundamentalism, migration, poverty and war.

Fusion is the future.

This is where we need to be investing big-time right now.

Fusion is beautiful! The sun works on it. We will bring a little sun on Earth. The old Sun Gods will be worshipped all over again (in a non-religious way).

Science and education are the saviours of mankind just as fundamentalism and fanaticism are its major threats.

Give me the power of fusion any day! Free energy for all mankind!

(The one caveat is that we will need to reduce our population so that there is room for the rest of life on this tiny planet!)

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi.

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi.

IMG_6336

Dark Matter becomes weirder than Sci-fi.

It appears that only 4% of the universe is visible, the rest is made of Dark Matter. That’s right – 96% of the known universe is made of something we can’t see.

And as for Dark Energy (DE to us buffs), that accounts for 70% of all the energy in the known universe and we haven’t a clue what it is.

All the ‘ordinary’ matter in the universe is made of atoms and all atoms are made of quarks. Everything is made of the same building blocks.

But Dark Matter (DM to us authorities on the subject) is made of something else. It does not appear to be quarks. So I will deign to name them prior to their discovery. I want it noted that the subatomic particles that make up the ‘atoms’ (or Goodwins, as they are now termed) of Dark Matter are to henceforth be known as Ophers.

I predict that there will be a number of different Ophers just as there are with quarks. Rather than calling them upward, downward, strange and charm as with quarks I want them named after my favourite Rock stars. So, depending on how many we later discover, in descending order, I want them named Roys (after Roy Harper), Dylans (after Bob Dylan) Beefies (After Captain Beefheart), Jimis (After Jimi Hendrix and Woodys (after Woody Guthrie). If there are more discovered then I would like them called Elmores (after Elmore James) and Nicks (after Nick Harper). Hopefully we’ll eventually discovered loads more and we can deploy Howlins (after Howlin Wolf) and Muddy’s (after Muddy Waters) as well as Beatles and Countrys (after the Fab Four and Country Joe and the Fish).

The interesting thing about Dark Matter is that it is probably all around us but we cannot see it or feel it. It is only detectable by its gravitational effect. There is a whole world out there made of Ophers all constructed out of Roys, Dylans, Jimis, Beefies, Nicks, Elmores and Woodys. There are people just like us moving through us right now having a conversation that is a conjecture about what the other 4% of their Dark Matter might be made of.

I told you it was weirder than imagination.

GM – Genetically Modified food – Are we being Luddites? Is it time for us to embrace GM or are there too many uncertainties?

GM – Genetically Modified food – Are we being Luddites? Is it time for us to embrace GM or are there too many uncertainties?

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The question is whether it is the right time to embrace Genetically modified crops and animals and solve all the world’s food problems or are there too many unknowns?

On one hand there are always people who will oppose new ideas on the basis of ‘fear of change’.

On the other hand we have a long history of big corporations (and governments) lying to us so that we don’t know the true story (Nuclear energy and waste disposal is a good example – they even covered up the meltdown in Windscale for fear of upsetting the public even though they knew it would result in many deaths).

I am a Biologist. I am excited by the possibilities that GM opens up. I am also extremely wary of all information put out by the authorities. They spin and manipulate for their own ends.

What is Genetic Modification (GM)?

Science has progressed to the point where we are able to take a gene from one organism and put it into another.

That means we could take the chlorophyll producing gene and introduce it into humans. We would all become green and produce oxygen and sugar when exposed to light. Now that might be a silly idea and have lots of implications. But it is feasible. We could even introduce genes from jelly fish that would make us glow in the dark and cut down road deaths.

There is nothing intrinsically unnatural about this process. I mean – we are not manufacturing ‘new’ genes.

What it means is that any beneficial genes that have evolved in one species could be introduced into another.

That seems extremely useful so far.

The Benefits of GM

1. We could introduce a gene from one plant into another that would give it a defence against crop pests. This would save having to spray it with insecticide. That would prevent pollution and run-off of pesticides into waterways and prevent nearby plants being plastered with pesticides indiscriminately killing off bees and other insects.

2. We could introduce a gene that increased yield. This would result in more produce per acre and less land being needed to grow crops. It would enable us to feed people without encroaching on more wilderness and killing off wild-life and habitat.

3. We could introduce a gene that would enable crops to grow in arid lands. We could grow crops in deserts and not have to use water from rivers to irrigate. This would benefit aquatic wild-life. Fresh water is rapidly becoming a major problem. We have droughts and shortages.

4. We could introduce a herbicide resistance gene that would enable us to spray herbicides and reduce the need for weeding.

5. We could introduce genes that would fix nitrogen and enable plants to be grown in poor soil.

6. It would make farming less labour intensive. There would be less chemicals and less need to spray. This would reduce fossil fuel use.

7. We could introduce genes that would enrich the protein, vitamin and mineral content of food. We could produce crops with omega 3 fish oil. This would make food healthier.

8. We could introduce genes that would produce oil, plastic or other useful chemicals. This would reduce the need to drill or strip mine.

9. We could use the technique to introduce genes into human beings to treat terrible genetic diseases such as Huntingdon’s Chorea, Cystic Fibrosis or Haemophilia.

10. We could introduce genes that would enhance flavour or texture or give other benefits e.g. Golden Rice – a GM variety with a gene that produces Vitamin A (over a million children a year die from lack of Vitamin A – this would save them, their eyesight, and provide numerous other health benefits).

The Case against Genetic Modification (GM).

1. It is not natural. God would not like it.

2. It has been set up by huge multinational companies for profit. They are lying, cheating, unscrupulous and not to be trusted. They have a history of lying, bribing officials, using legal loopholes to flout legislation and spinning the downside. Their only interest is profit. They don’t care about people, health or wild-life.

3. It encourages large-scale farming and monoculture. This would be to the detriment of the small-scale farmer and biodiversity. It would encourage greater mechanisation.

4. There is a health risk from the products of these genes in our foods e.g. the chemicals the plants would produce to provide immunity against pests or as herbicide resistance might be harmful to animals or humans. It would end up in our food.

5. The herbicide tolerance promotes over-spraying with pesticide. The resultant residue on food is a health risk. The run off and airborne spray is a pollutant that would damage the environment.

6. There is a danger of cross-fertilisation and breeding introducing these genes into weeds, animals and plants that we do not want. We end up with weeds being immune to herbicide and get an even bigger problem.

7. There is a risk of transmigration of genes (via virus vectors) from the crops to other organisms. It would create huge resistance problems.

My view for what it is worth.

a. I do not trust multinationals. They have too much money and power. They can circumvent laws.

b. This is not a religious issue. Superstition should not come into it. This is science.

c. I think the transmigration and cross-fertilisation issues need objectively studying to see if there is a danger. I think there won’t be. These genes have been around for millions of years in the host organisms.

d. Likewise with the health issues.

e. I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

What I would like to see happen

1. I would like an independent overseeing body to regulate. They would have the power to look at all aspects and make judgements on global health and environmental basis.

2. I would like lots more research (unhampered by protesters) so that we can ascertain the facts about health risks, cross-fertilisation, transmigration etc.

3. I would like strict regulation, erring on the side of caution, with stiff penalties for transgression. This would create barriers for cross-fertilisation, establish impact on environment and regulate things such as chemical use and spraying.

4. I would like to see GM used wisely for the benefit of humans and everything else on this planet.

For me the production of sufficient food is crucial. We have a population spiralling out of control. We have to feed it. I am for anything that is more efficient so that we are less polluting and encroach on wilderness to a far lesser degree.

I believe, with due regulation and stringent enforcement, that it may be time to embrace GM.

What have I missed out?

What do you think?

Is there intelligence in space?

Is there intelligence in space?

While the possibility for life is hugely likely, given the immense time and enormous quantity of planets, the evolution of intelligence is another matter. That requires even greater overcoming of limitations. Intelligence requires sophisticated cells. The development of such sophistication is an immensely unlikely event on a par with that of the formation and incorporation of DNA.

On this planet the incorporation of DNA took place early on when the Earth had cooled and conditions were right. The formation of Eukaryotic cells (sophisticated cells that would support complex multi-celled life) requires two incredible occurrences. Firstly they have to incorporate or evolve cellular powerhouses to provide energy. On Earth this happened when bacteria (that were mitochondria-like) became symbiotically incorporated into cells. Secondly they have to have incorporated chlorophyll-rich chloroplasts to break down water to release oxygen and produce food.

The plants incorporated chlorophyll rich bacteria symbiotically. In so doing they changed the atmosphere of the planet and the oxygen enabled life to become more complex.

These two limiting factors are incredibly difficult leaps.

Not only do planets have to be in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ and have given rise to life that incorporates DNA (or its equivalent) but it would also have to evolve through these two other immensely difficult bottle-necks in order to achieve the complexity necessary for intelligence.

The consensus is that this will only occur on an incredibly small number of occasions.

Fortunately – with the zillions of planets out there and the colossal periods of time involved even the most unlikely events will occur. That is what is so incredibly awesome.

All things are possible given enough time and an almost infinite system.

There are probably billions of planets on which life will have occurred and there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of planets out there supporting intelligent life!

Which is more scary? Having a universe with other intelligent life or that we are the only ones?

If there is intelligence out there! How do we contact it?

Is there life out there?

Is there life out there?

 

In order for life to have evolved on a planet conditions have to be perfect. The planet has to be in a narrow band the right distance away from a sun. This is called the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ (not too hot and not too cold). Not only that but it has to be the right sort of star; one that will be stable and not give out devastating radiation.

That narrows the possibilities down substantially.

Fortunately the number of stars out there with planets just in our own galaxy is trillions. When you narrow it down there are billions of suns with the right attributes and planets that exist in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’.

Given the early emergence of life on this planet shortly after it had cooled (it took one and a half billion years to cool and is now four and a half billion years old) it is extremely likely that there is life on hundreds of thousands of planets. The limiting factor here is the formation and incorporation of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) to create the replication, information, organisation, mutation, change and stability necessary for life to reproduce and undergo evolution.

Time is the factor here. Given enough time (a billion years or so) anything that can happen does.

The consensus is that our galaxy alone is probably teeming with life. If it wasn’t for the vast, as yet insurmountable, distances involved we would already had discovered it. As it is we are unlikely to in the foreseeable future because distances between stars are too large. Even light takes hundreds and thousands of years to get here.

There are possibilities that we will discover extra-terrestrial life in our own solar system. It could be on Mars or the moon Europa. Time will tell. What we can be sure of is that this life is not likely to be as complex as us.

This life will probably be in the form of prokaryotic slime (bacterial scum).

We are not alone! There is life out there!

The bigger question is does this life ever evolve to create intelligence?

I’ll look at that next!

Wonder and Awe – Human Evolution.

Wonder and Awe – Human Evolution.

evolution evolution6

We were not always alone as we are now. Although we share 99% of our genes with chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest living relatives, we are different. The prime difference being the size of our brains and our intelligence. Once there were a whole host of different humans.

We evolved in the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. We are all of African descent. We are all one species.

The fossil and DNA evidence is conclusive. Racists and creationists have nowhere to hide. All they can do is deny.

A mere five million years ago our common ancestor split off from the chimp line. The Australopithecines had a brain weight of 500 grams (slightly bigger than a chimp). By 1.8 million years ago there were numerous groups of hominids living in the Rift Valley region. We were not alone. They included Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

Life in the Rift Valley was precarious. There was a lot of climatic change.

By 1.4 million years ago only Homo erectus had survived. But their brain size had evolved to 1000 grams.

800,000 years ago Homo heidelbergensis had evolved. Their brain weight had jumped to 1400 grams (comparable to modern man). They gave rise to both the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens evolved with a brain weight of 1500 grams only 200,000 years ago. We lived alongside our close, and more intelligent, cousins Homo Neanderthal until 45,000 years ago.

We have only been alone for 45,000 years. What a mess we’ve made of things in such a short time!

We are so new that if you took a baby from 200,000 years ago and brought them up in the present day they could be a nuclear scientist, president or rocket scientist without any trouble. We haven’t changed. Our brains are the same.

I like to imagine that somewhere, in a secluded garden of Eden, hidden away, a group of surviving Neanderthals have set up home. Despairing of the destructive violence of their cousins they cloistered themselves away.

I wonder what they would make of the world we have made and our invention of war, religion, pollution, overpopulation, politics, climate change, cruel ways to kill other animals and enough greed, selfishness and power-madness to destroy the planet.

Perhaps with their wisdom and intelligence they could convince us that there is a better way of living. We could take a lesson from the whales and dolphins. We could be gentle and live in a self-sustaining manner in harmony with each other and the planet.

I hope we find them soon. I’m scared of being alone with the megalomaniacs raging around me.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

I believe there is truth. It might not be absolute but it is near enough.
Science has brought us an amazing advancement in technology that has altered the world and transformed our lives. Some of that is for the best and some of that is far worse. Mostly it has improved.
We are always very keen to seize the fruits of this work – transport, energy, computers, medicine, materials, gadgets……… but we are keen to bash scientists and experts if they are not one hundred percent certain.
We have gone from the horse and cart and oil lanterns to nuclear fusion and space stations in no time at all.
So we will place our trust in the latest jet-liner but will reject evolution. We will try the latest cancer drug treatment but deny climate change.

And science is still in its infancy.

The truth? What is that? It has many levels. Is it a factual concept of what has occurred, how it has occurred and how that operates?
That is what we are investigating. We are in the infancy of science. We have understood so much so quickly. We still have a lot to learn. But we have made great progress. Scientists and experts have a pretty good handle on what is going on – far better than any of the ‘public’ or politicians.

I contend that Social Cohesion is much more important than the careers of politicians.

We need to put an end to this politicisation of information – both the perversion of science and the constant crying of Fake News and Project Fear. It is tearing apart the fabric of society.

Populism is destroying cohesion. It is tearing our societies apart and playing into the hands of those who want us to fall.
It’s time we put more faith into scientists and experts. They do not all talk rubbish.
Species extinction is real.
Climate change is real.
Evolution is real.
Brexit will badly damage our country.
Trump is actively causing division and hatred.

A healthy scepticism is one thing. Total rejection of all the evidence is something else. We are throwing the baby out with the bath water and allowing the religious lunatics and political extremists to spout their stupidity unopposed.
Look at the lunatics that are raising their heads with their fundamentalist claptrap!

Brexit – Huge damage to Science!!

I am appalled by the huge damage being done to my country by this Brexit farce!!

UK scientists are appalled at the havoc Brexit will wreak
by Quentin Peel | 23.10.2018

The profoundly pessimistic views on Brexit revealed by an internal survey of more than 1,000 scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard the frustration and despair felt by leading researchers in the UK since the referendum vote. Yet up till now their plight seems to have registered very little in the chaotic infighting that has dominated the government’s attempts to negotiate its way out of the Brexit dead end in Brussels.
In its gleaming new building opposite St Pancras station, right beside the British Library, the Crick is the biggest biomedical research laboratory under one roof in Europe, a cutting-edge joint venture of six institutions that has attracted the best and brightest from the rest of the world. It is the premier UK centre for biomedical science. More than 60% of its laboratory scientists come from the rest of the world, more than 40% from the other member states of the EU.
Over 1,000 scientists took part in the survey (three quarters of the staff), and 97% said Brexit would be “bad for UK science” and “bad for the Crick”. Just 3% thought the scientific community was being listened to, and only 4% thought the government was committed to getting a good deal for science. Even if it is not wholly true, that perception confirms the hopeless state of government communications.

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What was most striking was the sense of destabilisation revealed by the survey. Only 10% of the scientists expressed confidence in the future of UK science. Only 4% are confident in the future of science funding, and only 7% trust the UK’s ability to attract the best talent after Brexit. As a result, half of all the scientists say they are less likely to stay in the UK, half say they are most likely to move elsewhere in the EU, and a quarter to other countries, such as the US. Of those coming from other EU countries, 78% said they were less likely to stay in the UK after Brexit.
Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and director of the Crick, is clearly appalled at the looming disaster. He thinks that the scientific establishment has been too quiet for too long. A hard Brexit could “cripple” UK science, he says, and the government “needs to sit up and listen.”
“I can’t tell you how depressed our young scientists are about the messages coming out of government,” he told Sam Gyimah, universities minister, on the BBC Today programme. The minister could only splutter the tired old answer that he couldn’t reveal details of negotiations. That is a shocking abdication of responsibility.
Students, young scientists, and learned professors were all out on the march for a People’s Vote last Saturday. They are virtually unanimous in their belief that their life’s work, and their livelihoods, are threatened by Brexit: not just the fear of no deal, but any sort of hard Brexit as favoured by the hard-line Brexiters. For how much longer will Theresa May continue to ignore the devastation that her Brexit strategy is wreaking on the most successful parts of the British economy? That is why we need a People’s Vote.