About Me

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I've had a varied career, mostly as a technical writer for various high-tech firms in eastern Massachusetts, which is my home of origin. I enjoy speculating about many kinds of technical and philosophical concepts far beyond my level of education. I hope this blog will be an opportunity for me to express some of the ideas that have been percolating for years in my mind. I would consider a respectful exchange of ideas to be the ideal result of this effort.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gravity I, II, III

Gravity I/II/III

Gravity I: The Challenge

"If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, perhaps you just don't understand the gravity of the situation." A paraphrase of an old, twisted statement that fits this post perfectly. It has bothered me no end that nobody seems to know just what gravity is, and that includes most of the great minds of science, including Albert Einstein. Al spent the last 20 years of his life engrossed in an effort to understand just what gravity is and how it propagates through space. He needed that understanding if he was to integrate the four powers in nature that hold our universe together. These powers are the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and, of course, gravity. He failed. Of course his many successes made that failure about as important as a fleabite on a rhinoceros.

In the light of that opening statement, I'm sure that what is to follow will probably cast me as the most arrogant blogger in blogland. For that reason, I have to lead off this post with a disclaimer, painful as it is, that I have no advanced degrees in physics, chemistry, mathematics, astrophysics or even Shiatsu Massage. Never mind 'advanced' degrees, but no degrees at all. Since retiring I have far too much time on my hands, especially late at night when I can't sleep. I find myself thinking about the world and its challenges and problems and searching for answers. Many of the other posts in this blog are the result of those long nights when sleep refuses to come and release me from my mundane world.

One of those challenges is the understanding of the force we call gravity -- what it is, how it works and how it propagates for millions of miles through space. Sir Isaac Newton supposedly developed the concept of gravity while sitting in an orchard watching ripe apples fall from the trees, pulled to the earth (not striking him on the head) by some mysterious force. Until that time apparently nobody had questioned why, when they detatched from the tree branch, apples fell down and didn't remain floating in the air, drifting up into the sky and moving to and fro under the influence of gentle summer breezes.

Now I hasten to assure my readers, if in fact any such exist, that I do not consider myself superior to or even equal to those two, or any other, giants of science. In fact, I do not even consider myself qualified to brush Albert Einstein's runaway hair or make cider from Isaac Newton's apples. It's just that I seem unable to ignore these challenges and instead, perhaps, take up weaving gimp into whistle lanyards or making crude leather wallets. Having made these disclaimers, however, I find I must make an attempt to explain my thoughts about these issues, placing them before you for your perusal. So here we go.

From Whence Comes Gravity?

We do know that gravity seems to be directly connected with, and related to, the mass of objects -- objects like planets, moons and stars. I asked myself what comprised the mass of these objects. The answer seems to be the nuclei of the atoms of the elements. These nuclei, of course, consist of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons. What within these nuclei could be responsible for this strange force? My first thought was the positive charge of the protons that holds the almost massless and incredibly fast-moving negatively charged electrons in orbit around the nucleus. Of course one would expect that the effect of the positive charge emanating from such a tiny piece of matter would not extend beyond the orbit of the electrons. I believe, however, that the charge level of the proton holding the electrons in thrall is slightly higher than that needed to secure the electrons. Not high enough, however, to hold more than one electron per proton, but still slightly more than needed.

If this supposition is true, this slight excess of charge might be able to leak past the orbit of the electron to have an attractive effect on the electrons of other nearby atoms. It's doubful that this 'leakage affect' generated by the single protons of a relatively small number of hydrogen atoms, for instance, would be strong enough to be noticeable. Consider, however, the cumulative leakage from much more complex atoms, like for instance Uranium, with it's hundreds of protons in each nucleus. The cumulative leakage effect of the vast number of protons in a body such as a star, planet or even a moon, could easily affect nearby masses. This begs the question, of course, of how these miniscule charges could possibly affect objects literally millions of miles away, as the outer planets of our system are held in place by the gravity generated by the sun. By this time, of course, you suspect that I have some kind of cockamamie answer for even that question. Your suspicions are correct.

Not So Empty Outer Space

Recently, 'real' scientists have begun to suspect that space is not actually as empty as we have assumed. The concept proferred by them is that space is actually filled to overflowing with the tiniest of subatomic particles which they feel are either flashing into and out of existence or are being spontaneously created and then almost instantly destroyed. Let's assume that something like this is actually happening, with, of course, some modifications.

My naieve and untrained mind has some difficulty grasping a process of continuous creation and destruction of some form of matter or it's alternating states of existence. I'm much more comfortable, however, with the concept that this matter has existed since the beginning of time and, rather than appearing or disappearing, may simply be physically flipping back and forth at an incredible rate, exposing first a positively charged end and then a negatively charged end. This would appear to be matter appearing and disappearing or flashing in and out of existence. It seems reasonable to assume that these particles, if in fact that is what they are, would quickly, after their creation in the big bang, align themselves with positive and negative charges alternatively attracting and repelling each other, into a universe-wide three-dimentional matrix.
The closer to a large attractive body, the stronger would be the attraction of the negative charges to the leaking positive charges of the protons in that body. With it's alternating positive and negative charges this matter could conceivably serve as a conduit for the gravitational forces generated by a large chunk of matter like a star or planet. The closer this 'strange matter' is to the gravitational mass, the stronger the attraction, with the attraction bleeding through into space while creating a gravity-density gradient that can project for many millions of miles through this matter.

When Isaac Newton postulated his theory of gravity he was able to create a brand new field of mathematics to describe it. This new mathematics is called Calculus. In all honesty, I have never studied Calculus and barely made it through Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. And that was about 100 years ago. In any event, I offer my hypothesis on gravity for examination and likely destruction by wiser heads than mine. In a later post, however, I hope to build upon this hypothesis to offer a possible answer, regardless of how bizarre, of a rationale for the limitation of light speed.

If you are still here reading, I want to thank you sincerely and honor your dogged and, possibly, masochistic nature. Please don't hesitate to comment on this post, hopefully without an excess of profanity.

Gravity II: Light Speed

As the concept of gravity formed in my mind I found that it carried on into other areas. Specifically it seems to have an effect on the speed of light. Light speed has been measured at 186,000 miles per second or 300,000 kilometers per second. So far I haven't seen any statements indicating why this speed is such and how it is maintained over the trillions of miles that light travels through space. One light year, the distance light travels in a year, is stated to be about 6,000,000,000 miles. That's 6 trillion miles. Here on earth we are able to see and record light emanating from stars and galaxies that are billions of light years distant. That's billions of trillions of miles. A long way to walk on a hot day with a pebble in your shoe.

I found myself wondering how the photons, the supposed particles that are in fact light, can possibly travel all that distance at that speed over those billions of years and still have enough energy to register on our eyes and our telescopes. I can't recall anyone else asking that question and certainly not offering an explanation. Well, I'm going to go way, way out on a limb and attempt to answer those questions. If you think I'm being unbelievably arrogant to think I can answer such questions I certainly couldn't blame you.

If you've had the patience to wade through my previous post on gravity you may remember that one of the crucial elements I proposed for the propagation of the gravitational force through space was the supposed existence of some form of subatomic particles that fill space to overflowing and rapidly flip back and forth exposing first a positive and then a negative charge. I hasten to assure the kind reader that these particles are not my construct but have been proposed by real scientists who should know what they are talking about. My concept was that the positive attractive force of the protons in a large mass would attract these particles creating a gravitational gradient that decreased with distance from the gravitational source but still affected other bodies at great distances. Others answers to the action of gravity over great distances include, but are not limited to, gravity passing through a multitude of alternate universes and being carried great distances by them. This is a much more complex concept than the one I have proposed. Very often, simpler is more likely.

Since these particles supposedly fill what we call 'space' light must pass through them to go anywhere. The question, of course is what effect do they have, if any, on photons passing through the matrix created by their presence. Photons or light, are boiled off the surface of stars and ejected from them. We can assume, I believe, that they begin their journey with some velocity and some level of energy. To travel these great distances over such incredibly long times there should be something operating to preserve both their energy and velocity. It is my belief that the subatomic particles, whatever they actually are, perform this task.

First, we must assume that the photons have some charge, positive or negative. As they pass through this particle matrix they will be attracted to the end of particles with unlike charges and repelled by particles with like charges, much as are magnets. What I believe occurs is that as the photons pass through the matrix in space they are attracted momentarily by unlike charges. However, since these particles are continuously flipping back and forth they will then be repelled by the appearance of a like charge. The end result, I believe, is that each particle is alternately attracted and repelled and therefore does not follow a straight path. In addition, this alternating push and pull would maintain the velocity and energy the photon carried when it entered the matrix. The photon follows a sinuous path through the matrix, being alternately attracted and repelled. It's path would resemble what we call a sinusoidal wave through space. With a symmetrical matrix, that I believe would be created, some of the photons would pass through moving up and down and others, probably about half, would move from side to side.

This is significant because of an experiment that has been performed testing the status of light. The question has always existed as to whether light is a particle or a wave. The experiment in question created two very narrow slits in a wall. One slit was vertical and the other horizontal. Light passing through the vertical slit produced a vertical line on a screen behind the wall. Light passing through the horizontal slit, however, produced a horizontal line which created an interference pattern. As I understand it, the conclusion of the experiment was that sometimes light is a particle and sometimes it is a wave. My belief is that light is always and only a particle.

I believe that the differences can be easily explained if the subatomic particle matrix in 'space' is accepted. Quite simply stated, photons that are moving in an up and down sinusoidal manner would easily pass through the vertical slit but not through the horizontal slit. Alternatively, the photons moving in a horizontal sinusoidal manner would easily pass through the horizontal slit but not through the vertical slit. Ergo, light is always a particle but it moves in a wavelike motion through the subatomic-particle matrix in space with its velocity and direction maintained.

This concept could also explain how very-high-energy particles, cast off by supernovae or quasars, can travel at such great velocities while retaining their energy. The combination of size, velocity and energy level would be maintained in the same manner as is that of the photon. This would seem to indicate, however, that the speed of light is not really a barrier except for light itself. A very crude, and really not relevant comparison would be the 'sound barrier'. The only barrier that actually exists is to the speed of sound itself. We now routinely exceed that velocity without any real problems.

In a subsequent post, I will attempt to offer some hope for what we would call 'faster-than-light' travel. I hope you will read on if you aren't busy trying to get me committed for my own safety and that of the scientific world. Until then, keep on shinin'.

Gravity III: Faster Than Light

I've been a science-fiction fan for more years than I'd care to count. But if I was going to count, it would have to be at least 60 years. (I hate reminding myself of how old I actually am.) Our Milky Way galaxy alone is over 100,000 light years in diameter. At the speed of light it would take us well over 25,000 years traveling at 186,000 miles per second just to get to the galactic core. What a haul! There have been so many fictional ways to traverse the incredible distances of the galaxy and the universe. Of course, there's always the warp drive. "Scotty, give me warp 9!" "Captain, I canna do it. She'll tear herself apart. The dilithium crystal matrix is unstable and she'll blow up in our faces!" Ahh, those carefree days of the Next Generation.

These so-called warp drives supposedly operate on the principle of bending or 'warping' space to defeat the light-speed limit. In my estimation, however, there's a small problem with bending space. I don't believe that there is such a physical thing as 'space' that can be bent or warped or whatever. Space, in my humble opinion, does not actually exist as a thing. Space is simply the distance between two locations. Warping a distance, therefore, makes no sense, at least to me in my all-encompassing arrogance. If it were possible, the energy needed to warp the space between, say, two star systems would be absolutely unimaginable. Having said that, however, I think there may, some day, actually be a way for us to travel at velocities exceeding the speed of light.

First, however, I'd like to point out some down to earth techniques that already have and may someday be able to move terrestrial objects at great speeds. Take the Polaris and Trident intercontinental guided missiles that are launched from submerged submarines. When a submerged launch was first attempted, the missile could not be accelerated enough to pass through the water between the submarine and the air outside. Not only did the drag created by the water make it impossible to get the missile into the air, but the intervening sea water raised havoc with the electronics and the solid rocket propellant.

Then someone had a bright idea. A cover was installed atop the missile tube beneath the heavy missile tube cover. The outer cover needed to be strong enough to withstand the water pressure encountered at the operating depths of the submarine, several hundred feet. The inner cover, however, only needed to be strong enough to resist the water pressure at launch depth, which depth is classified but is not too deep. The inner cover is constructed in segments which are held in place by the water pressure when the outer hatch is opened.

Then, when the missile is to be launched, a small rocket motor just outside the missile tube is fired. The output of this rocket fires directly into a container of water. With the intense heat, the water boils instantly, creating a large quantity of steam at a very high pressure. This steam is piped into the launch tube and, almost instantly, blows off the inner hatch and launches the missile through the water. The steam bubbles surround the missile, protecting it from contact with the sea water and propelling it into the air. As the missile stops rising in the air, an accelerometer senses this and fires the rocket motor. Kaboom! Goodbye someplace that used to be nice.

Another similar project is reported to be currently on the drawing boards. In this case a torpedo, powered by a rocket motor rather than a propeller, is launched from a torpedo tube in the sub. As it leaves the tube, a generator internal to the torpedo begins generating large quantities of steam. The steam exits the torpedo through a very large number of perforations in its case. As with the missile, the steam bubbles provide a barrier between the torpedo and the water. It is believed that such a torpedo could conceivably move at speeds up to 600 miles per hour....under water!

And now we return to travelling faster than the speed of light. In Gravity I and II a matrix of subatomic particles were postulated (not by me I hasten to add) filling 'space'. In my concept, these particles were directly involved in the distribution of gravitational energy throughout space. Additionally, it was suggested that they are instrumental in maintaining the velocity of light (photons) over long distances.

I suspect that these particles are the reason that FTL (Faster Than Light) travel is difficult, if not downright impossible. I suspect that when a physical object such as a spacecraft is moving at speeds that are significantly close to light speed these particles will actually create drag, similar to that encountered by aircraft in the air and torpedoes in the water. At our current speeds, this drag is probably totally as insignificant as the drag created by a person walking down the street on a clear windless day.

Although, in my humble opinion, the energy required to warp space (if such were even possible) would probably be in the order of the energy created if several supermassive black holes were to collide. I suspect, however, that at some time in the future we may be able to create some type of force field requiring just a portion of the energy output of a portable fusion generator in a space vehicle. This field would probably act in a similar fashion to the steam bubbles used in the missile and torpedo launches, in that it would radiate outward from the ship and more or less gently move the subatomic particles far enough apart to allow the ship to pass through. At this point, the only limit to speed would be the power needed to push the ship along. It's possible that as the particles moved back into their previous positions they would exert a pressure to the stern, aft, tail of the vessel pushing it along. As a matter of fact, however, it is possible that this could provide all the impetus the ship would need to move at over light speed. Perhaps the further the particles could be moved from the surface of the ship the faster the ship would move without the need for any added injection of energy.

Well, I think this is all I have to say about gravity, light speed and space travel, at least for now. I hope you found at least some of this interesting and I would be very pleased to hear any and all comments from you.

Thank you.