Skip to comments.Top 10 Space Mysteries for 2003
Posted on 12/28/2002 4:46:38 AM PST by The Raven
Dec. 26 The funny thing about discoveries is that they often produce new mysteries, too. This year was no exception, as many remarkable space science findings generated puzzling problems for astronomers to look into.
IN SOME CASES the puzzles are brand new. Other times a discovery merely confirms how little we knew. Either way, theres plenty for astronomers to do.
Here then are the Top 10 Space Mysteries that astronomers will be pondering in the New Year and beyond:
1. Dark energy:
Nobody knows what the heck it is, but it is officially repulsive. And man, is it powerful! More powerful than gravity, even.
While gravity holds things together at the local level (and by local I mean within galaxies and even between them, forming galactic clusters), some unknown force is working behind the scenes and across the universe to pull everything apart. Scientists have only come to realize this dark force in recent years, by discovering that the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing pace.
Having no clue what it is, theyve labeled it dark energy.
The past year was a good one for proving that dark energy is at work. Calculations have been refined: The repulsive force dominates the universe, comprising 65 percent of its makeup.
(Similarly unseen and exotic dark matter makes up 30 percent of the universe, leaving us with a universe that contains just 5 percent normal matter and energy.)
Two curious ideas related to the accelerating expansion, both of which emerged in 2002: All galaxies are destined to become frozen in time or, perhaps, time never ends.
2. Water on Mars?
Mars simply will not give up its most coveted secrets. Ultimately, the big quest for NASA and all the Mars scientists is about whether there is life, but before thats answered, there is the question of liquid water, a requirement for life as we know it.
Despite two major discoveries of water ice in 2002, nobody can figure out yet whether any of it might exist in the melted state.
Meanwhile, clues mount. In one compelling study released in December, dark streaks on the surface were attributed to salty, running water. But many experts remain unconvinced. NASAs Odyssey spacecraft is circling Mars as you read this, hunting for more evidence.
3. The Milky Ways middle:
Something is eating at the black hole at the center of our galaxy. And whatever is bugging the gravity monster manifests as an utter lack of appetite.
In October, astronomers announced theyd watched a star zip around the black hole that anchors the Milky Way, all but proving the impossible-to-see object is actually there. Meanwhile, the region around the black hole is an active place, as the Chandra X-ray Observatory showed early this year.
However, the black hole is not devouring enough matter to generate the tremendous X-ray output seen with other supermassive black holes. Scientists are so far unable to fully explain the stark contrasts theyve seen, this tremendous diversity in black hole behavior.
Hints emerged this year, however. A study in January suggested mergers between two black holes might serve as an on-off switch for the activity. Then observations announced in November showed two black holes involved in a pending merger. Astronomers now need to tie all this to a firm explanation of the differences between the mediocre output of our black hole and the brilliant illumination surrounding others in many distant galaxies.
4. The origin of life:
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you try to run from a monster and youre legs go round and round but you dont get anywhere? The quest to understand the origin of life isnt much different.
In fairness, it must be pointed out that there is little data to work with. Earth does not retain a record of what went on billions of years ago, when life got going.
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of wild ideas. Scientists now generally agree that life could survive a trip to Earth from Mars, in the belly of a rock kicked up by an asteroid impact. A study in November revealed why a Mars rock lands on Earth once a month, on average. A wilder idea, that bugs simply rain down from space inside comet dust, gained support from a second scientist in December, who claimed to have found some of these space bugs in Earths atmosphere.
Most mainstream scientists, however, figure theres a good chance that life on Earth was cooked up in a soup of pre-biotic chemicals right here on the planet. The ingredients water and organic chemicals may well have come from space, but Earth likely acted as the incubator.
The answer (and a lot of well-funded researchers are asking the question and debating the possibilities) bears on how likely it is that life might have begun elsewhere, on Mars or around another star.
More at the link
(Excerpt) Read more at space.com ...
Which begs the question, who was the cook? The space bugs theory has more credibility than random emergence of human life from primordial soup.
I suppose some day, this may all be figured out. If anyone is interested in some mindblowing extremely speculative fiction about what happens when we actually DO find out how everything works, I would suggest the book Distress, by Greg Egan.
The space bugs theory simply defers the questions -- who is the cook and did life come from primordial soup?
BTW, I don't see any evidence that would point to how life could survive a fall to earth.
So, if life were found on Mars, it very well could have just come from Earth.
Former Space Mystery #11: 'What does the turtle stand on?"
Ans. "It's turtles all the way down!"
I'm firmly convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with our current view of the mechanics of the universe. I'm not sure exactly what it is though. It is more of a feeling sprung from casual study over the years.
I don't believe that modern physicists are completely off base. It is more like they seem to be missing some small set of fundamental facts, or maybe have made some assumptions that seem to fit observational data, but is nonetheless wrong. The best analogy would be that Newtonian physics and Euclidian geometry seemed to explain the workings of the universe really well for quite a while. Both have been shown to have fundamental flaws that cause them to fail in both the macro and microsopic scales.
Once we are able to more fully quantify and understand conciousness we may have more of a clue. I don't really know, but enjoy the quest.
I've read that red-shift might be explainable by a reduction in the speed of light over the life of the universe. I have not read that earth-based measurements support this possibility.
Can you recommend a summary of this evidence? Thanks.
[This ping list for the evolution -- not creationism -- side of evolution threads, and sometimes for other science topics. To be included, or dropped, let me know via freepmail.]
The redshift is not a feature of the speed of light, but of the recession of the source of the light. So yes, you're correct up to this point.
Now, look at the historical record of the velocity of light measurements over the few hundred years it's been done. It's slowing down.
Do you have a reliable source for this?
That's an easy one. The democRAT party.
They did. His name is Robert Reich.
I would say that we actually do, though not everyone is on board at this moment. There has been a lot of really good grounding work in this area over the last few years. The real problem is that even fairly smart people can get really stupid when they approach this particular problem (e.g. Penrose), so it is almost like arguing religion for many people. Fortunately, there is a small contingent of individuals who don't go brain-dead when working on things like this and can keep things strict and rigorous without waxing eloquent about vague abstractions in the utter absence of evidence.
We can learn many interesting things from this, but it isn't an answer in the big scheme of things. At best it gives us the proper perspective on the nature of the computational mechanics of the universe.
Who's to say that a Creator doesn't use randomness.
I would have used the word, God....but that's a rather simplistic, man made term for something that is well beyond our ability to comprehend.
I did a quick Google search. This work seems to be mentioned only by creationist-oriented websites. No peer-reviewed journal seems to have heard of the authors. So I'm skeptical.
It's even worse. Lambert Dolphin is the the primary funder of Barry Setterfield and his C-decay model, which is the advancement of the Montgomery & Dolphin paper. The C-decay model is a primary exhibit of what happens when people don't pay attention to significant figures in their work. Garbage in, Garbage out.
I figured. If the speed of light were discovered to be variable, I'm certain I would have come across it in a mainstreem publication. Actually, it would be headlines, worldwide. Nobel Prize stuff, not hidden away in cultish websites.
There isn't observed quantization of redshift, no matter how much Tifft can massage the data. Why hasn't he released a new catalog in the past 11 years?
12. If quasars are supposed to be unbelievably bright objects out on the edge of the universe, how to explain their unmistakable association with relatively close, low redshift galaxies?
So unmistakable that none of the associations have ever definitively been shown to actually be anything more than line of sight projections. Not only that, the number density of "associations" aren't indistinguishable from the number density of "associations" that are generated from an isotropic and homogeneous population of quasars and galaxies. Strange, eh?
13. Given 11 and 12, how to explain their distribution by quantization values and non-random alignment across these galaxies?
Since 11 and 12 are not given, why bother with the rest?
15. Based on 11-14, why are such findings regularly suppressed by reviewers for major astronomy journals and by their editors?
Maybe because the findings are not good science, and never will be good science? Having worked within the current paradigm (MA, astronomy), I can say that the BB interpretation has a lot going for it. I always wonder how Arp etal would interpret the findings of the Gunn-Peterson trough, a prediction of the BB paradigm that was found to exist in a distant quasar recently. Unfortunately, they appear to be silent on the issue...
These points are detailed in a book titled "Seeing Red" by Halton Arp. IMHO, Arp makes some very good points about the distribution of quasars around active galaxies, and the quantization of red shifts. On the other hand he devotes a significant portion (perhaps justified) of the book bitterly complaining about the treatment he has received from the scientific mainstream.
You can find the book here: Seeing Red
It's also a mystery that could kill the human species eventually, if they don't kill each other first.
Earth has very limited resources as our populations steadily increase. Eventually, Earth will be completely overcrowded and it's resources depleted. If the human race doesn't start cracking some of those mysteries, the human race will be doomed within the next thousand years or so.
If our state of knowledge of the tools available to science [math, mainly] is viewed as the skin of a balloon, a bumpy balloon with us inside, then imagine we can see the "mechanics" of the universe only from where we look through the skin of the balloon. Then through modern math research we are steadily pushing the skin of the balloon outward but only at certain points. Eventually, --here is an article of faith,-- part of the skin of the balloon will be pushed out far enough that we can see the "mechanics" in a new and more useful way. The view still won't be correct, it can never be, but it will at least answer our trivial questions of today while posing new questions we lack the math to ask today.
A couple of generations of cannibalism would go a long way to reducing the pressure.
Actually no. It is totally ridiculous and only fitting for the Art Bell crowd. First of all it just puts off the problem to another planet we know little about. Second of all that planet is apparently unable to support life at all so there is no reason to believe that life arising there is anymore likely than on earth. It is just desperation by atheists who need to show that God does not exist but in spite of all their efforts they cannot.
He was all of the above. He was also well known for his 1980 wager with Stanford University ecologist Paul Erlich that the prices of natural resources would fall because resources would not be depleted, and because any higher costs would lead to alternatives or searches for new supplies. Erlich bet that the cost of the resources would increase because they would become more scarce. In 1990, Erlich paid Simon $576.07, the amount the prices of five resources had fallen in 10 years.
Excerpts from Simons obituaries painted a portrait of a complex, unconventional, and controversial thinker.
Associated Press: Simon believed that human beings, with their imagination and spirit, are the ultimate resource. His writings challenge more widely held beliefs about scarcity of energy and natural resources, pollution, and the effects of overpopulation.
The Washington Post: ... an iconoclast population economist who challenged conventional thinking with his predictions that world populations and standards of living could increase simultaneously and infinitely. ... He insisted there is no conclusive proof of serious ozone depletion, acid rain, or greenhouse warming or that extinction of species is increasing.
The doomsayers have been wrong for 25 years, he wrote in a 1995 essay. Every measure of material human welfare in the world has improved rather than deteriorated. ...
To many environmentalists and ecologists, Dr. Simons arguments were worse than nonsense. They fostered complacency in the face of impending crises of overpopulation and dwindling natural resources.
The New York Times: His views, generally optimistic about the benefits humans bring to the planet and about mans prospects for the future, were widely debated. ... He argued that mankind would rise to any challenges and problems by devising new technologies to not only cope, but thrive. ... Mr. Simons views were widely contested by a large coterie of the academic and scientific community, many of whose members believe that more people create more problems, straining the earth and its resources in the process. ...
Fortunately for this planet, Mr. Simon said in response to the Global 2000 Report, these gloomy assertions about resources and environment are baseless.
Stephen Rosenfeld, The Washington Post: He felt there was a cultural conspiracy to protect and praise the theoreticians of early resource exhaustion, explosive population growth, imminent mass starvation and choking chemical pollution. Meanwhile, fact-oriented scholars, as he considered himself, were widely dismissed as agents of a mindless, profit-driven right wing. ...
Due to people like Julian Simon, a noticeable dent has been made in a largely unspoken assumption that underlines one tendency of environmental appreciation, namely, that man in general and perhaps capitalist man in particular are flawed creatures who lack full respect for their precious natural inheritance. ...
The bitterness of the battle between doomsayers and doomslayers has alternately amused and turned off the public. Many people come to the Malthusian question looking not to enlist in a cultural war but simply to understand things better. Julian Simon had a certainty to his judgments the family obituary declared that his 30 years of forecasts had been completely borne out by events that did not exactly encourage discussion.
Erlich- Simon Bet on the price of five non-renewable resources
One of the reasons that ZPG has received a tarnished reputation is due to some of the doomsday predictions of Paul Erlich, founder of ZPG and author of "The Population Bomb." Among other things, Erlich predicted world-wide famine and rising prices of energy and metals before the turn of the century. Julian Simon (author of "Population Matters" and "The Ultimate Resource") made a $1,000 bet with Erlich that the real price of non-renewable resources (five metals) would fall between 1970 and 1980. Simon won the bet and challenged Erlich to another bet. Erlich did not renew the bet (this indicates his own confidence in predictions had declined). Simon's predictions about human welfare for the year 2000 appear more accurate that Erlich's predictions. For instance, we now have more known oil reserves than we did in 1970! In part due to winning the bet, Julian Simon earned the nickname "doomslayer."
South- Simon Bet on the price of one renewable resource
Julian Simon believed population growth benefits the human race and that there is no inherent "carrying capacity" for humans on this earth. He believed that human ability to solve problems would cause the price of all resources to decline in real dollars (thus improving the welfare of all humans). Before his death in February of this year, Simon said the real price of ALL natural resources has declined over time. Since this statement was not true for sawtimber, I challenged Simon to a $1,000 bet. We bet on the future price of pine sawtimber stumpage in south Alabama (details of the bet can be found at: www.forestry.auburn.edu/sfnmc/web/bet.html
Soon after we made the bet, Simon began to doubt that he would win. Historical data from Simon's own book indicated a real increase in sawtimber price over the last century. He decided that to protect his reputation, he should withdraw from the bet. After a little more than a year into the bet, Simon sent me a check for $1,000. While this bet does not prove anything about future price trends, it does show that nobody has 20/20 vision when it comes to predicting the future. Not even the "doomslayer" has a perfect record when it comes to betting against doomsayers.
I've responded to your freepmail on this point.
Where did JESSE JACKSON get all his money???????
Calculations for the speed of light over the years have been done in different ways. If the same methods were employed over the years and the results showed a decrease, you might be able to make this argument. Not saying it isn't true, but I haven't seen the data to support it.
Still, if we accept your premise as true that light is slowing down, don't we then have to explain how that is happening? The concept of light slowing down throughout the universe is no easier for me to explain than the idea that the expansion of the universe is accellerating.
If the human race doesn't start cracking some of those mysteries, the human race will be doomed within the next thousand years or so.
I didnt mean to imply that we shouldnt learn as much as possible. I personally would like to see cheap Startrek type travel in my lifetime. I was referring to discovering the ultimate First Cause of the Universe.