Archive for the ‘Astronomy & Space’ Category



As a response to the problem of a universe that looks increasing fine tuned for life (see here ), the multi verse (many universe’s) theory has been brought forward to answer the teleologists claim of apparent design.

Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of our universe’s current low entropy condition being obtained by chance alone, are on the order of 1:1010 -I wouldn’t bet my worldview on those odds, but many people are willing to; in order to escape the teleological implications of a fine tuned universe just right for intelligent life.

Even if we have a multi verse situation, the chances of us being able to observe our universe are infinitesimally small -leading to the inference that this theory is a case of the cart leading the horse, -that is the metaphysical presuppositions of the theory maker demand another theory other than the accepted one,based , not on evidence but on a priori prejudice.


I found this interesting quote by Physicist Brian Greene on Peter Williams excellent blog ‘‘:


‘If true, the idea of a multiverse would be a Copernican Revolution realized on a cosmic scale. It would be a rich and astounding upheaval, but one with potentially hazardous consequences. Beyond the inherent difficulty in assessing its validity, when should we allow the multiverse framework to be invoked in lieu of a more traditional scientific explanation? Had this idea surfaced a hundred years ago, might researchers have chalked up various mysteries to how things just happen to be in our corner of the multiverse and not pressed on to discover all the wondrous science of the last century? …The danger, if the multiverse idea takes root, is that researchers may too quickly give up the search for underlying explanations. When faced with seemingly inexplicable observations, researchers may invoke the framework of the multiverse prematurely – proclaiming some phenomenon or other to merely reflect conditions in our own bubble universe and thereby failing to discover the deeper understanding that awaits us. ‘


William Lane Craig says:


‘if our universe is but one member of a multiverse, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since these are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.’




Silencing the witness

Posted: August 6, 2006 in Astronomy & Space




As a resident of the most densely populated city in Europe ,I have never seen skies anything like those to be had in Utah, seen in this great picture above.I wish we had skies half as good as those!
Light polution I think by most is considered a joke and irrelevant,but the sodium glare we now witness night after night,effects much wildlife and plant life as well as hindering UK astronomy plus cost to the environment.The campaign for Dark Skies (see here ) recon that Money wasted by inefficient UK street-lights in the last 12 months equals £ 103,532,791,guess who has to pay for sending all that light up into the nights sky?

“Half of our environment is above the horizon. Half of our environment is not protected by the force of law. The night sky, by its very nature a site of special scientific interest and an area of outstanding natural beauty, has been quietly and gradually taken away, over the last fifty years, from those dwelling in towns and urban fringe areas, throughout the developed world. Sky-glow and obtrusive waste upward lighting also detract from the character of the night-time scene and are detrimental to local amenity, not just for astronomers, but for the public in general”.
Bob Mizon, head of the UK Campaign for Dark Skies

Image from APOD


Posted: July 7, 2006 in Astronomy & Space, Intelligent Design



I have joined the search for extra terrestrial intelligence (ETI), my desktop is currently working through data obtained from the Arecibo radio telescope in 1999.

There are 2 reasons why I joined:

1.The desktop looks pretty.

2.To look for ET/Dalek’s/Time Lords/Monoliths/Cybermen and Borg.

I have to admit I fully expect not to find any ETI’s, not now and most likely not ever. Our cosmic horizon is around +/- 13 billion light years in any one direction, that is our sample size. The criteria for life is so very very specific-that this sample size is not big enough to make the idea of contact with Intelligent off worlders, an idea that will fly.

So if I don’t expect to find any extra terrestrials why add seti@home to my pc?

For me there is a correlation between the amount of data returned as white noise from seti and the creeping sense that the Earth is not a run of the mill place in an out of the way corner of the galaxy but is incredibly significant and rare.

Carl Sagan said regarding a picture taken from the edge of the universe by a probe::

“… Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives… Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. “

This notion of the Earth as a not very important rock is known as ‘The Mediocrity principle’ it is based on nothing more than opinion and convenience.

It is convenient to believe we are not significant, it fits perfectly the dominant view of our time, that of metaphysical Naturalism. To impute significance to the Earth is to suggest that, intent could be behind the Earths characteristics including its galactic position and the nature of our local star, rather than merely accident. Naturalism frowns on the idea of agency, everything is reduced down to

My opinion is that the Earth is rare and unique. For this attitude most of the blame must be heaped onto the shoulders of Guillermo Gonzales and Jay. W. Richards, who had the audacity to have written  ‘The Privileged Planet’ and the gall to produce a crackin’ film based on the book!

Their main thesis is that contrary to the Mediocrity principle, conditions for life are very specific and far more rare than was/is supposed. Throughout the book they add layer upon layer of factors that need to be added to the mix in order that life can begin and continue. Each new factor added reduces the probability of finding intelligent life.

The minor theme of the book is for me as important-briefly the world and its location is ripe for discovery. There is data to be found everywhere; in tree rings, ice cores in Antarctica, sedimentation, solar eclipses etc.

This ubiquitous data is an invitation to look and see, to think, Kepler defined Science as “Thinking Gods thoughts after him”.

Isn’t it also possible that life flourishes where data is most accessible?

As a simplified example, our position with the milkyway galaxy is in a relatively dust free lane off of a spiral arm, within the Galactic Habitable zone. This has two implications:

  1. We are less likely to suffer the effects of a nearby star going supernova with all the radiation that accompanies which is deadly to life. One estimate is that any supernova exploding anywhere within about 30 light years of Earth could destroy most surface life on the planet.
  2. We can also see out toward other galaxies and, for instance, extrapolate what we see in these galaxies to our own

Within our own galaxy as the dust is much less dense and so does not absorb light to the same extent as dust in the dust lanes, we have a perfect view of space, which opens up the universe to discovery.

The bible says in Proverbs chapter 25 verse 2:

 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. ”

So where are the ETI’s? As Fermi says, “Where are they?”


Posted: June 27, 2006 in Astronomy & Space

Now and then I have episodes of Astronomy, here’s my latest:

Its cold in space, I mean really really cold! Despite the temperature, gravity has a knack of twisting things back and forth causing friction, heat and action.

Enceladus a small shiny icy moon of Saturn, about the size of Arizona or jolly old blighty, has been under the spotlight recently. Professors Nimmo and Pappalardo have this month published a paper in Nature, nailing their theory to the church door.

Why would a 504km in diameter ice ball 1.3 billion Km from Earth (in old money that’s 744 million miles) induce a flurry of thoughts, words, phone calls, emails and calculations in Messer Nimmo and Pappalardo?

Enceladus has a hot spot on its southern polar region. We all know that hot spots are not usually associated with Polar Regions; think Antarctica, think polar ice on Mars.

The professors think Enceladus, which has an errant Hot spot where no hot spot has any business being. There theory is that Enceladus must have changed its rotational axis.

A stable rotational globe has general characteristics such as:



This proposed change in rotational axis was due to a decrease in the density of the equatorial region of Enceladus.

Why would such a change be a reasonable proposition? I hear you cry?

Enceladus orbits Saturn within the ring system and is in a 2:1 orbital resonance with another moon Dione, this constant change in gravitational forces acts to heat the interior of Enceladus up, much like Uri Gellers spoons.

This has caused a diapir (I spelled it right-see here) this is Wikis definition:’ Diapirs commonly intrude vertically upward along fractures or zones of structural weakness through more dense overlying rocks because of density contrast between a less dense, lower rock mass and overlying denser rocks. The density contrast manifests as a force of buoyancy. The process is known as diapirism.’

Here , in this longitudinal section of Enceladus is  what they propose:




The change in axis is in the order of 30 degrees; they propose that this effect of tidal gravitational forces may have effected other moons.The possible subsurface ocean is currently venting water into space making Enceladus the Astrobiologist moon of choice for life Jim but not as we know it.



Canali and slip check!

Posted: June 5, 2006 in Astronomy & Space



What a long way our technology has brought us, in 1877 an Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli was director of the Milan Observatory described canals on the surface of Mars, canali meaning channels in Italian. Percival Lowell also saw these canali, mistranslated canali into canals and decided that they were the work of intelligent beings. Schiaparelli himself remaining sceptical of claims that these canals were artificial

Today, of the two Mars rovers, Opportunity has had a slip check, reports: 'Opportunity is less than 1 kilometer (just over half a mile) from reaching Victoria Crater – its destination for several months. During the last planned drive on May 28, on sol, or Martin day, 833, the rover became embedded in a soft dune. As designed, mission controllers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory stopped the drive by a slip check.’ The onboard slip check uses visual odometry to compare nearby features and determine the actual distance traveled. Software computes the amount of slip based on the difference between the actual distance traveled versus commanded wheel rotations. The team has defined a maximum allowable percentage of slip, and if the computed slippage exceeds the maximum allowable, further driving is precluded.

Current distance of Mars from Earth (and the distance the image above has traveled) is 328.523 million km


Image from JPL website 

Gravitational lensing

Posted: May 27, 2006 in Astronomy & Space


The NASA Hubble telescope has captured probably one of the best images demonstrating the gravitational lensing effect.

What happens is that the light behind a supermassive object such as a cluster of galaxies or a black hole is bent by the force of gravity as it travels past that object giving a  repeated (due to the different paths to the viewer the light can take) and distorted (lensing arc)images.A mere seven billion light years away there a cluster of galaxies designated SDSS J1004+4112.Behind this cluster of galaxies at a distance of ten billion light years is a quasar(the brightest objects in the universe,which are found near the edge of the observable universe) .From the viewpoint of the Hubble telescope the light is bent so much that there are 5 images of the same quasar and several images of the same galaxy.Deflection of light by gravity was predicted by Einstiens Theory of general relativity

(Hat tip to


Just found this award winning website by an astronomer Roeland van der marel  regarding Black holes  -well worth a visit,check it out!  Here is  the link: