Thursday, 18 August 2016

Our precious planet. Part 1: a safe place in the cosmos (updated 2016)



[This is an updated version of the post initially published 3 years ago]
In the next four posts (including this one)  I hope to show the strange combination of circumstances which have led to our civilization. You could dismiss it as the god of chance, since chance can be used to explain anything or nothing. Or you could say it had to be like this or we would not be here to witness it. Fortunately, early man didn't take this defeatest attitude: if he had there would be no science.

As far as I know I’m not saying anything new or cranky here; only trying, as a layman who follows science, to list the factors that make our planet unusual and tailor-made to our requirements. If you can find anything in the following that needs challenging, correcting or clarifying please let me know. 

Part 1 shows how the Earth and Sun are placed in a benign part of a hostile universe and in a region where the 92 elements of the periodic table are available (e.g.carbon,  oxygen, silicon, iron, uranium).

Part 2 will show how the Earth and its companion Moon have provided the conditions needed for biological evolution.

Part 3 will show that our civilization’s development also depended on the properties of the Earth and the Moon.

Part 4 will show how life and civilization could only have emerged not just where they did, but when they did.

 Part 1. A safe place in the cosmos

The universe contains of the order of a hundred billion galaxies which basically fall into three different types: irregular, elliptical and spiral.  Each galaxy contains around a hundred billon stars but only spiral galaxies, like the one in which the Earth and Sun are situated, are likely to have safe zones.

About 25% of galaxies are irregular chaotic swarms of stars with abundant gas and dust. Any planetary system attached to one of these stars is likely to be bathed in radiation hostile to life and subject to a randomly changing interstellar environment in which ‘nearby’ supernovas explode frequently. This is unfortunate since they contain a lot of young stars, not too dissimilar to the Sun, which synthesise the elements (e.g. carbon) needed for life.

Some 65% are elliptical galaxies in which the stars rotate around a central black hole in an ellipse. Because of its oval shaped orbit a star within such a galaxy is periodically brought in close to the black hole and bathed in lethal radiation. In addition, the stars in elliptical galaxies are smaller than the Sun and unable to manufacture the elements needed for life.

The remaining 10% are spiral galaxies, which include our own Milky Way. Although largely hostile to life these have safe regions and the Sun with its companion planets is in one of them. The Sun orbits the galaxy in a rare circular path so that it is not transported too near the central black hole, which give off dangerous radiation.  Also, it is in a ‘young star zone’ where the 92 chemical elements found and needed on Earth have been produced by supernovas (exploding stars) and not in a globular cluster (see below) or other regions of our galaxy where these chemicals are not present.
Supermassive black holes seem to be a normal feature of spiral galaxies but the one at the centre of ours is unusually small (4 million solar masses) and appears to have optimized  the production and distribution of supernovae. Somehow a balance has been achieved between two conflicting requirements for life: the abundance of elements needed for life and a radiation environment which is, by cosmic standards, benign. The halo of dark matter around and at right angles to the Milky Way Galaxy is also appears to be playing a life crucial role

See also ET life should be local

These are densely packed masses of stars within galaxies and any star inside a cluster is unlikely to have life-bearing planets because they are made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium and because the orbit of a star within a cluster is  unstable. Globular clusters were made in the early life of the universe, before most chemical elements were manufactured in large stars and released into interstellar space to form the clouds of matter out of which new stars, planets and life itself are formed. 

Several things about the Sun are optimum for life:
  • It is a  rare G2 yellow dwarf which emits light suitable for photosynthesis (needed to power plant life and produce oxygen) and which is maximally transmitted through water (important for submarine life). 
  • The Sun is also the right size and mass (a large majority of stars are not). The overall stability of a star is closely related to these.
  • It is situated well away from damaging gamma rays and X-rays, i.e.  from gamma-ray bursts, black holes or supernovas.
  • Unlike many stars, it is not part of a multiple star system, which would give us chaotic conditions alien to life.
  • It does not behave violently (by cosmic standards!) in its present quiescent phase which began 50,000 years ago and will end in 50,000 years time. Outside this time window even the relatively stable sun flares up enough to preclude advanced life.
All this adds up to our galaxy, our position in it and the nature of the Sun, providing a rare cosmic opportunity for life to evolve. This combination of circumstances is on top of the extraordinary fine tuning of the physics of the universe to permit life to exist. (How it starts we don't know. We don't even know what it is, i.e what holds the multifarious multitude of diverse, integrated processes within a living organism in being and  what causes continual correction to the millions of errors each day, until death sets in.)
John
Author, 2077: Knights of Peace



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Sunday, 7 August 2016

Unicorn multiverse, a more rational multiverse and Ockham's razor (Aug 7




I grew up in a rational world of cause and effect in which the only supernatural events were those attributable to our Creator, e.g. the Resurrection of Christ and the creation by God of the universe from existential nothingness.

Also, everyone I knew  adhered to the Oxford English dictionary definition of the universe:
All existing things; the whole creation; the cosmos 

Since the confirmation of the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe there have been attempts to skate around the conclusion that every single entity in creation, from a quark to a human being, ultimately originates with an uncaused first cause – God. In this sense everything is spiritual or supernatural. Nobody can pretend that anything is truly secular.  Moreover, this God has made us in God’s image,  having concepts of love, justice, truth and beauty regardless of gender, physical appearance, health, sexual preference, intelligence, race or creed. 

It has also become established that the probability of morally aware, truth seeking sentient beings like us emerging out of nothingness is zero without invoking a Creator with the properties of personhood. This follows from the unimaginable degree of fine tuning of the physical constants, initial entropy conditions and much else to allow life of any kind to exist anywhere in the universe.  For human civilisation to emerge there are innumerable extra conditions, such as protection from cosmic rays, the availability of the minerals for technology, visibility of an ordered firmament, fertile soil and a freely available abundance of water in liquid form. It all had to be done by an act of will which also imbued humans with the imago dei.

For some obscure reason (the italics are to vent my exasperation)  certain people, including some who purport to base their life on logic and reason, refuse to accept this state of affairs. Instead they have resorted to desperate hypotheses, the most well known of which is the multiverse.

image credit: beforeitsnews.com
 The implication is, if you can’t stomach living in one universe having a Creator who has made one universe tailored to  achieve the birth of humanity (it is now beyond reasonable doubt that our universe had to be precisely the size and structure it is for humanity to exist) then why not imagine there are an infinite number of eternal universes of which we happen to be one?  That removes the need for  a God since the whole ensemble of universes is eternal, i.e. self existing and having no beginning. And we don’t have to worry about relating to or praising or satisfying or understanding any deity.

Quite apart from the multiverse concept being wholly against the foundation on which the exponential growth of peer reviewed science rests this leads to bizarre conclusions, i.e it is invalidated  by reductio ad absurdum.

For example, the unicorn. 

It is necessary to be clear on just what infinity means. The OED defines ‘infinite’ as greater than any assignable quantity or countable number. This means greater than any number or quantity you can imagine. It means that you can multiply infinity by itself an infinite number of times and the result is still infinity, since both results fit the definition. It is also defined mathematically as any number divided by zero.

To dispense with God (again, why in the name of God would you want to dispense with God and reduce reality to a meaningless conglomerate of energy configurations with epiphenomena giving the illusion of consciousness and meaning?) you also have to invoke eternity, which is infinity applied to time.  An eternal infinite array of ‘universes’ would have to have existed forever, otherwise you would have to invoke a Creator to start the whole show and, heaven forbid, you would then have to try to understand this God.

It is not surprising that the use of the words ‘infinite’ and ‘eternal’ to describe reality is going to lead to bizarre and unscientific conclusions.  Applied to a hypothetical ‘multiverse’ it means that any conceivable event or being or set of laws can occur at any time in any place without anyone having to explain it. If one accepts the multiverse fantasy unicorns would be inevitable, along with anything you care to imagine, from Santa Claus to a flat earth.

 Every conceivable thing happens and it happens an infinite number of times. There are an infinite number of yous who have lived identical lives an infinite number of times and this will continue for eternity. There are also an infinite number of yous with one extra atom, and an infinite number with two extra atoms, etc. etc. ad infinitum. There are also an infinite number of different worlds in which the concept of an infinite multiverse does not exist.

Even if we cheat and accept that our own universe started at the observed point 13.8 billion years ago, if we regard this as a purely random spontaneous irrational godless creation out of 'nothingness' (the term is sometimes incorrectly used to denote the energy filled quantum vacuum) then anything goes; there are no constraints. If a whole universe can come out of nothing, so can a unicorn. Even within our own universe the laws could break down at any point, say in the place you are now sitting, and so permit crazy things to happen without need of explanation - unicorns, vampires, tooth fairies  or anything you care to imagine.

Not surprisingly, if the whole ensemble of universes is eternal it does not obey the second law of thermodynamics because it would by now have decayed into total disorder.

The whole idea is an offense against the cherished foundational principle of Ockham's Razor (after William of Ockham, a priest, philosopher and scientist, 1285-1349) . This states that 'entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity' (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy). In formulating a new scientific theory always look for the simplest explanation. Western science has advanced since the Christian universities were set up in medieval Europe by sticking to this principle. The infinite eternal multiverse violates this principle.

There  are more rational concepts of a 'multiverse' which really mean one universe with parts that are separated and which could conceivably interact in some way. They are finite in time and space and must have been created, being regimes of the same universe with the same laws as the one we know. They only need to be invoked if we find aspects of our observable universe which could be explained by assuming such additional regimes. For example, one could postulate that  the Big Bang singularity generated more than one expanding pocket of space-time during the initial inflation stage. It would necessitate invoking extra dimensions beyond the space-time realm in which we live our material lives and construct our scientific theories.

If we are to continue sticking to the Ockham's razor principle we should be looking at our universe as imaginatively and creatively as possible. There is plenty in the real universe to explore and stretch our minds: over 95% of it is either dark energy or dark matter, the Standard Model of elementary particles  is incomplete, quantum phenomena seem beyond reductionist physics, consciousness has been shown beyond reasonable doubt to exist beyond the body, no testable theory of biological evolution exists and life has not even been defined.

If you want to believe in an eternal, infinite ensemble of universes (i.e. return to an ancient, pre-Christian view of reality) rather than a rational loving Creator and just the one magnificent tailor-made universe you live in, no one can stop you. But please do not claim it is rational.

John Sears, author
2077: Knights of Peace.

Reach me via cosmik.jo@gmail.com

Friday, 5 August 2016

Solar powered green communities for refugees




The problem of displaced populations

The basic objective is to give victims of IS, jihad fascism and corrupt governments a source of hope by building a series of green communities on the shores of deserts.  These could also house climate change refugees.Moreover, they could form a knowledge economy with R&D laboratories, making it a desirable destination not only for the desperate but for researchers and innovators  in any country.  As large ecoprojects they could stimulate world economic growth without damaging the environment or contributing to global warming.
 
Tens of thousands of people are being driven to benevolent regimes with problems for both the migrants and the host countries which could lead to conflict and social instability. It has been estimated by the United Nations that there are around 60 million displaced persons in the world as a whole. With jihad groups still on the offensive and climate change displacing those living in low lying coastal and river cities this figure could grow rapidly.

Immediate measures

These victims of human sin and folly have to go somewhere now, while super communities are just an idea. It could take 5-10 years to turn the idea into reality. The very first step is to start putting money and expertise into the present refugee camps. Equally important, if not more so, is the provision of hope, because without this no human being can survive spiritually.

The realization that a well funded international operation was underway to provide a pleasant environment with plenty of accommodation, fresh water at the turn of a tap, power at the throw of a switch, sanitation, education, employment, culture, entertainment and places of worship would remove the sense of despair and desperation presently felt by many victims.

But what about the pressing problem of mounting queues at borders and understandably desperate measures resulting in death, injury and the break up of migrant families? 

To reduce these queues the border controls of the destination countries and of those which the refugees have to traverse must be made  sufficiently  tight to discourage most would-be immigrants from even trying to beat them.The emphasis in the short term needs to be on improving the refugee centres and providing victims of oppression, violence, corruption, economic incompetence and climate change with the hope of a better life in the kind of community being proposed here. Exceptions are no doubt possible but it would be wicked folly to pretend that indiscriminately allowing in large floods of immigrants to a nation or city would not  cause great practical  and social problems, such as
 
  • Infrastructure overload (water, drainage, power, roads, railways, airports, seaports)
  •  Strained welfare systems (demands on health service, support of the poor, disabled, elderly and unemployed)
  • Growth in bureaucracy needed for extra translation, allowance for cultural differences and expanded security controls
  • Strain on police and secret service needed to prevent terrorism and crime
  • Restriction of employment opportunities for the indigenous  population
  • Unwanted and oppressive cultural change
  • Hostility  by locals if the influx is  sufficient to raise these problems above a critical level.
This is not to say that a certain amount of immigration cannot be mutually beneficial but allowing huge numbers into a country indiscriminately can be bad for both the native people and the immigrants.

A free society
In the west we take for granted the 4 freedoms listed by the US President Roosevelt in 1941
  • Freedom of speech and worship
  • Freedom from want and fear
It would be made clear to the refugees that these are important to westerners and that only a society built on these values is stable and prosperous in the longer term. These freedoms can only be available when they are not abused and in a society that has trust running through it by default. No democracy can survive and thrive without trust being the norm throughout parliament, business, banking, welfare services, the military, the police, the security services, the  civil institutions, the church and every conceivable aspect of society.

Anyone wanting to join the community would have to swear an oath of citizenship which reflected these ideals. This means accepting their sanctity and this can only derive from God’s presence in humanity, so anyone who seriously wants to live in this kind of society must believe that humanity has been sanctified by Christ.  Many victims of Islamic, Hindu and Atheist suppression, as well as many not being particularly oppressed, are now turning to Christ and would be sure to be attracted by a community in which Christ, love and truth are held sacred and in which public prayer is not only not suppressed, but common, reverent and joyful. 
Freedom of speech  is not a problem in a Christian society and indeed it goes with freedom of choice. Free will is important. One cannot become a child of God without freely accepting the living God into one’s soul and that means submission to Christ. Other religions could be present but measures would have to be taken to prevent them stifling the Christian beliefs on which freedom and democracy are founded. There could even be Mosques and temples for minorities ((e.g. for Hindus and Atheists), and they would be guaranteed freedom from harassment and protection under the law. Presumably these believers would be present in a Christian society mainly  through family connections or conversions but economic immigration into the community by non-Christians would be discouraged. and all members of the community would have to swear not to act against the 4 freedoms of Roosevelt listed above,

Once  such a community was made to work on a Christian foundation others could be set up under, say, Islamic principles. It would not be a democracy but operate under Sharia Law. While the values characterizing such a society would be anathema to many westerners they should be satisfying to Muslims. Although freedom would be difficult at least the inhabitants would have secure lives. So why deny them the chance? Hindus, Buddhists , Jews and Sheiks might be more likely to incorporate the 4 freedoms into their super communities because their religions are less prescriptive.


Power and fresh water

The power would come from mirrors focusing solar energy onto boilers which would generate steam to drive electricity generating turbines. The energy produced during daylight hours would be used to


  • power the city
  • power electric vehicles
  • power agriculture (irrigation system and farm technology)
  • purify seawater
  • pump seawater
  • produce molten salt from the seawater
  • power the sewage and waste disposal system

The molten salt would serve to produce steam for the turbo-generators at night. Any surplus electricity could be fed into a national or transnational energy grid.

See, e.g., the
Ivanpah solar power facility for an example of this kind of technology.

Fresh water would be a by-product of the solar power generation and would enable the city to be located in a desert which was either near the sea or above a salt water aquifer.  Also, Africa has large reserves of underground fresh water for which solar power could be used for pumping without purification. See, e.g.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18875385
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2133339/Massive-underground-reserves-water-Africa.html

Your comments to me by email to cosmik.jo@gmail.com would be more than welcome.

Location
 
What are the criteria for the siting of such a city? 

If solar thermal power with energy storage based on molten salt is stipulated the site must be near the  sea and in a place where strong sunlight is the norm. Large amounts of fresh water would be needed to keep the city green and well fed with irrigated crops. Being close to the sea would provide both salt and freshwater after desalination without long distance pumping. Combined with the need for sunlight this narrows down the location to equatorial or sub-equatorial. 

To avoid having to displace people from their homes it would have to be built in an area of zero population density and to minimize the cost of the land it would use terrain of little agricultural value. This strongly suggests a desert location.

It would have to be near a large seaport so that materials could be brought in from around the world. Being near an airport would also be desirable. These ports could of course be built from scratch but this would add to the capital cost and to the time scale. Pre-existing roads and railways would be an advantage but providing the ports were close these would not be too much of a problem to build.
Probably the biggest location problem would be political. The site would have to be within the borders of a country led by a person or persons not hostile to its objective of providing a place for those fleeing extreme Islamic regimes or corrupt regimes with strong tribal cultures and run on democratic principles with  the four freedoms listed above. There would also have to be internationally funded security forces to guard against jihad attacks. 

One possible location that seems to me, with very limited information and understanding of the geography, cultures and socio-political systems involved, is on the coast of Tunisia. It has had a chequered history since the Arab Spring, its population is 99% Sunni Islam (same as IS but I suspect the latter is not welcome there) and before the recent IS attack on UK tourists it was a successful tourist centre for westerners. It might be pleased to have the opportunity to host an international project of this kind. Tunisia has an airport at Houmt Souq on Jerba Island in the Gulf of Gabes with rail links to the south and southwest. It also has a seaport so the super communities could be located in the desert terrain nearby, even on the mainland coast, and have good transport links for both people and trade.

This is just one top of the head suggestion to set a framework for discussion so please contact me at cosmic.jo@gmail.com if you have ideas on this,

First steps
How do you get a project like this started and pushed through to the unstoppable phase?  You need to locate, enlist and lead individuals committed to the realization of such a city and having access to finance, resources and relevant contacts, perhaps with experience of crowd funding. People with knowledge, skill and experience in areas such as the following would have to be brought rapidly into play, in many cases aided by software, including AI and expert systems:
  • project control 
  • urban planning and environmental design
  • transportation and design of integrated air, road and rail networks
  • IT and communication infrastructure
  • civil engineering, architecture, urban ergonomics
  •  power engineering, solar thermal technology
  • sewage system design, and water purification
  • permaculture, agriculture and irrigation
  • security against hostile attacks, e.g. from ‘Islamic’ State
This is to give an impression of the range of activities and skills which will have to be initiated and used as quickly as possible because lives are being lost or ruined as countries in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia experience the real force of evil in and on society.

The types of organization I envisage being involved are: Private individuals (e.g., wealthy philanthropists), large international charities, Churches, think tanks and government departments devoted to international development, universities and private corporations. 

 Apart from the people it is designed to help there could be numerous spin offs:
  • Improving individual, corporate and political relations
  • Technology and expertise gained by the implementation itself
  • Trade opportunities for the countries and companies involved
  • A new tourist destination for the future
  • A centre of R&D expertise for scientists and engineers worldwide
  • inspiration for other green projects around the world
Above all it needs a few committed leaders having the ability, with God’s will, to make it happen.


Immediate action needed: build  new refugee camps and expand the present ones NOW.

People are being uprooted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq who can only be described as under satanic influence, convinced that evil is good and bad is evil, a tendency which is beginning to emerge in the western world as values once held sacred are systematically undermined from within.

Whether you think you believe in the Christian God or you are a modern, decent Muslim  or you believe in some other idea of God, or you are wholly indifferent to the question of God, or if you think there is no God or that you are your own God,  you can’t afford to ignore the plight of these brutally displaced families, even for reasons of self interest or the well being of your children. In the long term the supercity will hopefully deal with the problem of long term migration to Europe and other parts of Christendom (sorry, the West)  brought about not only by aggressive Islamic expansion  but  by tribalism in African nominally Christian countries and the climate change caused mainly by the West, China, India and Japan.

Refugee camps with sound prefabricated houses, electricity,  sanitation and medical facilities are  needed immediately. There is excellent building and infrastructure technology available  as a result of aid undertakings around the world. The Salvation Army and other charities have enormous experience and competence and would be well able to work in cooperation  with the armed forces using their expertise in logistics and providing security for those building the refugee camps and those living in tents while waiting.
Once there are some key decision makers rounding up support and organizing resources I feel sure that money would flow into this international emergency project, which over time would morph into a supercity project.

This is an emergency and one can’t afford to skate around the truth, which is that Christian migrants will be easier to house than Moslems, not because all Moslems are problematic but because it is difficult to tell which ones subscribe to the concept of a democracy.  Perhaps we could build some Moslem camps operated under Sharia  law but these will need to be carefully monitored for security reasons.
If you are someone with expertise, leadership ability, access to resources and relevant contacts, please act NOW to save not only these victims of evil but to help prevent the social disintegration and street violence that could easily become endemic to the comparatively secure,  comfortable,  free and blessed world which westerners  have inhabited in recent decades.

My aim is to find the necessary initiators and put them together with a sense of commitment. I do not want any money or recognition or acknowledgement. Seeing the idea adopted in some way would be its own reward.  

If you or your employer want to get involved in some way please send me an e-mail saying how you think you may contribute or even take a lead and I will do my best to start the ball rolling.

John Sears

An earlier version of this post, more detailed in parts, is available here