Anglican Samizdat

April 26, 2010

The world’s biggest telescope

Filed under: Anglican,Science — David Jenkins @ 6:03 pm

Is being built in Chile.Add an Image

When it is finished, Bishop Michael Bird plans to rent it for the weekend, to scour the universe for a same-sex couple to marry.

The observatory will be constructed on Cerro Armazones, a 3,000m-high mountain in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

The E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) will have a primary mirror 42m in diameter – about five times the width of today’s best telescopes.

Astronomers say the next-generation observatory will be so powerful it will be able to image directly rocky planets beyond our Solar System.

It should also be able to provide major insights into the nature of black holes, galaxy formation, the mysterious “dark matter” that pervades the Universe, and the even more mysterious “dark energy” which appears to be pushing the cosmos apart at an accelerating rate.


March 27, 2010

Something else for Earth Hour

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 9:17 pm

The Orbo bunch are still at it: if they are to be believed, they have produced a motor that returns more energy than it consumes, which means – free energy. The problem is, it violates the first law of thermodynamics and even Richard Dawkins knows that is impossible.

February 20, 2010

Weightlifting ant

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 12:33 pm

From the BBCAdd an Image

An amazing image of an ant lifting 100 times its body weight has won first prize in a science photography contest.

The image shows an Asian weaver ant hanging upside down on a glass-like surface and holding a 500mg (0.02oz) weight in its jaws.

It was taken by zoology specialist Dr Thomas Endlein of Cambridge University as he researched insects’ sticky feet.

Dr Endlein won £700 in photographic vouchers from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The research shows how ants change the size and shape of the pads on their feet to enable them to carry heavier loads.

He hopes it could help scientists develop better glues.

“The pads on ants’ feet are self-cleaning and can stick to almost any type of surface,” he said.

“No man-made glue or adhesive system can match this. Understanding how animals can control their adhesive systems should help us come up with clever adhesives in the future.”

I just want to make sure that everyone understands that no Design was used in the making of this ant.

February 11, 2010

Traces of Dark Matter discovered

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 4:17 pm

From here:

Scientists may have caught their first ever glimpse of “dark matter” – the mysterious, invisible substance that makes up three quarters of the matter of the universe.

Traces of two “dark matter particles” were picked up by highly sensitive detectors buried 2,000 ft below the ground at the bottom of an old iron mine, researchers report today.

The scientists say there is a three in four chance that the observations are genuine particles of dark matter, rather than just background noise.

Dark matter is one of the big mysteries of physics and its discovery would be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the last 100 years.

In the 1930s astronomers first realised that the stars, gas and dust only made up a fraction of the matter of the universe. They concluded that galaxies would fall apart unless they were held in place by the gravitational pull of some vast, invisible substance.

For more than 80 years, scientists have debated what this dark matter could be and why we can’t see it.

One of the most likely candidates is a tiny object called a “weakly interactive massive particle” or Wimp which bombards the earth from space.

And to prove that even science can be funny:

Researchers have been looking for traces of Wimps for the last nine years at the bottom of a disused Soudan iron mine in Minnesota.

The perfect place for a wimp to hide.

February 8, 2010

The quantum phone

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 10:51 pm

I remember sometime in the early 1980s John Bothwell, then Bishop of Niagara, writing an article in the – by today’s measure – much thicker Niagara Anglican denouncing the frivolity of fibre optic research, since its only application appeared to be in decorative lamps. Bothwell was, of course, almost as ignorant of technology as he was of theology, so he was quite shocked when someone pointed out that fibre optics made his phone work.

The clergy – bishops in particular – seem to be natural Luddites and so, had Bothwell heard of quantum physics, he would have had no use for it either. Today his phone probably has chips in it, so now quantum mechanics is making his phone work; and will soon make it work better:Add an Image

Handheld devices could soon have pressure-sensitive touch-screens and keys, thanks to a UK firm’s material that exploits a quantum physics trick.

The technology allows, for example, scrolling down a long list or webpage faster as more pressure is applied.

A division of Samsung that distributes mobile phone components to several handset manufacturers has now licensed the “Quantum Tunnelling Composite”.

The approach could find use in devices from phones to games to GPS handsets.

In January, Japanese touch-screen maker Nissha also licensed the approach from Yorkshire-based Peratech, who make the composite material QTC.

However, as part of the licensing agreements, Peratech could not reveal the phone, gaming, and device makers that could soon be using the technology to bring pressure sensitivity to a raft of new devices.

Quantum mace

The composite works by using spiky conducting nanoparticles, similar to tiny medieval maces, dispersed evenly in a polymer.

None of these spiky balls actually touch, but the closer they get to each other, the more likely they are to undergo a quantum physics phenomenon known as tunnelling.

Tunnelling is one of several effects in quantum mechanics that defies explanation in terms of the “classical” physics that preceded it.

Simply put, quantum mechanics says that there is a tiny probability that a particle shot at a wall will pass through it in an effect known as tunnelling.

Similarly, the material that surrounds the spiky balls acts like a wall to electric current. But as the balls draw closer together, when squashed or deformed by a finger’s pressure, the probability of a charge tunnelling through increases.

The net result is that pressing harder on the material leads to a smooth increase in the current through it.

December 20, 2009

The perpetual motion machine

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 8:45 pm
Add an Image

Water Screw perpetual motion machine

The quest to build a perpetual motion machine has been around for at least 400 years; for a perpetual motion machine to be “perpetual”, it has to generate more energy than it consumes – if it did not, the energy lost in overcoming friction and in heat generation would leave insufficient energy to drive the machine and it would stop. The problem is, a perpetual motion machine violates the first and possibly the second law of thermodynamics, two foundational laws of physics.

An early effort to generate a perpetual motion machine was the Water Screw.

It was a dismal failure.

In fact all attempts at a perpetual motion machine have been dismal failures and, today, no one bothers to try – we all believe those laws of thermodynamics.

Everyone, that is, but an Irishman call Sean McCarthy, CEO of Steorn, who claims to have discovered some hitherto unknown property of electromagnetism that allows a generator to produce more energy than is fed in to power it, essentially creating a free energy source. The only tiny problem is that the generator violates the first law of thermodynamics – meaning it is impossible.

Early attempts to demonstrate a working model of this Orbo – as it is called – machine failed in 2007 to howls of derision from sceptics. The Orbo generator is fed from a battery which it, in turn, recharges; with an intact 1st law of thermodynamics, less energy must be generated than consumed and so the battery will run down and the machine stop. Not so for Orbo, says Sean McCarthy because it uses “time variant magnetic interactions, i.e. magnetic interactions whose efficiency varies as a function of transaction timeframes.” No, I have no idea what that is either, but Steorn attempts to explain:

It is this variation of energy exchanged as a function of transaction time frame that lies at the heart of Orbo technology, and its ability to contravene the principle of the conservation of energy. Why? Conservation of energy requires that the total energy exchanged using interactions are invariant in time. This principle of time invariance is enshrined in Noether’s Theorem.

The time variant nature of Orbo interactions can be engineered using two basic techniques. The first technique utilizes a method of controlling the response time of magnetic materials to make them time variant. This is achieved by controlling the MH position of materials during permanent magnetic interactions.

The second technique decouples the Counter Electromotive Force (CEMF) from torque for electromagnetic interactions. This decoupling of CEMF allows time variant magnetic interactions in electromagnetic systems.

That didn’t help me, much, but I know from the comments on my blog that most readers are much brighter than I, so I expect someone will understand.

Wired had some critical things to say about the initial 2007 demonstration and seems to be convinced that there is a “man behind the curtain” making the allegedly successful 2009 version of the generator work. You can see it for yourself as a live stream on the Steorn website along with some other experiments and talks.

There is a December 2009 experiment that can be viewed and a January 2010 experiment still to come. The December experiment shows a more or less conventional DC motor with a permanent magnet rotor and a stator wound with toroidal coils; this is an odd choice since toroidal wound coils produce a small external magnetic field and so make very inefficient motors. Nevertheless, it does appear to run and, unless the whole exercise is a hoax, produces no back EMF – something else that should be impossible.

So, Sean McCarthy is either a conman busy making a useless 21st C perpetual Water Screw, or is about to be everyone’s hero – except Al Gore’s whose green energy companies would lose billions; for that reason alone I am cheering on McCarthy.

Watch the videos – they are interesting. Here’s the Orbo for dummies video:

August 23, 2009

Science and Christianity

Filed under: Christianity,John Lennox,Science — David Jenkins @ 5:11 pm
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The incomparable John Lennox on science and Christianity:

A superb series; listen to it all starting Here.

July 30, 2009

Science and Magic

Filed under: Materialism,Science — David Jenkins @ 9:25 pm
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The other evening I watched the new Harry Potter film, The Half-Blood Prince; it isn’t as good as the book. But it did get me thinking about the hypothetical existence of magic and its relationship to the material and supernatural. According to Arthur C. Clarke, magic cannot exist and, if it seems to, that is merely because any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic; magic, in Clarke’s view, is simply science in disguise. David Bentley Hart makes an interestingly similar – but considerably more subtle – point: magic is preoccupied with the manipulation of the material world and, as such, has more in common with science than the transcendent:

In truth, the rise of modem science and the early modern obsession with sorcery were not merely contemporaneous currents within Western society but were two closely allied manifestations of the development of a new post-Christian sense of human mastery over the world. There is nothing especially outrageous in such a claim. After all, magic is essentially a species of materialism; if it invokes any agencies beyond the visible sphere, they are not supernatural—in the theological sense of “transcendent”—but at most preternatural: they are merely, that is to say, subtler, more potent aspects of the physical cosmos. Hermetic magic and modem science (in its most Baconian form at least) are both concerned with hidden forces within the material order, forces that are largely impersonal and morally neutral, which one can learn to manipulate, and which may be turned to ends fair or foul; both, that is to say, are concerned with domination of the physical cosmos, the instrumental subjection of nature to humanity, and the constant increase of human power. Hence, there was not really any late modem triumph of science over magic, so much as there was a natural dissolution of the latter into the former, as the power of science to accomplish what magic could only adumbrate became progressively more obvious. Or, rather, “magic” and “science” in the modern period are distinguishable only retrospectively, according to relative degrees of efficacy. There never was, however, an antagonism between the two: metaphysically, morally, and conceptually, they belonged to a single continuum.

I’m not sure what Albus Dumbledore would make of that but, for any atheist who might be eager to comment, please use your God-given grey cells to understand the point before using them to animate your fingers at the keyboard.

July 12, 2009

God and science

Filed under: Christianity,Science — David Jenkins @ 7:40 pm
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Contrary to contemporary atheist superstition, a scientist can be a Christian:

Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, has been named by President Obama to head the National Institutes of Health. What makes this news is the breathtaking idea that someone could be both a scientist and a believer in God.

Like Isaac Newton. Or Johannes Kepler. Or Galileo Galilei. Or most of the other leaders of the Scientific Revolution. And a large number of scientists today.

This isn’t news. What is news instead is the continuing ignorance of people who think that science and belief in God are incompatible. They are not.

May 5, 2009

Mind games

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 5:21 pm
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A fascinating article in Discover Magazine makes the case for a biocentric universe: a universe that is brought into being by a biological entity – specifically, consciousness or mind – rather than the reverse. Both quantum theory, which has demonstrated that the behaviour of a particle is determined by observing it and relativity, which has proved that things like distance and time are not as absolute as common sense would dictate, make the case for a universe that is shaped by consciousness.

Figuring out the nature of the real world has obsessed scientists and philosophers for millennia. Three hundred years ago, the Irish empiricist George Berkeley contributed a particularly prescient observation: The only thing we can perceive are our perceptions. In other words, consciousness is the matrix upon which the cosmos is apprehended. Color, sound, temperature, and the like exist only as perceptions in our head, not as absolute essences. In the broadest sense, we cannot be sure of an outside universe at all.

For centuries, scientists regarded Berkeley’s argument as a philosophical sideshow and continued to build physical models based on the assumption of a separate universe “out there” into which we have each individually arrived. These models presume the existence of one essential reality that prevails with us or without us. Yet since the 1920s, quantum physics experiments have routinely shown the opposite: Results do depend on whether anyone is observing. This is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the famous two-slit experiment. When someone watches a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass through the slits, the particle behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave that can inhabit all possibilities—including somehow passing through both holes at the same time.

Some of the greatest physicists have described these results as so confounding they are impossible to comprehend fully, beyond the reach of metaphor, visualization, and language itself. But there is another interpretation that makes them sensible. Instead of assuming a reality that predates life and even creates it, we propose a biocentric picture of reality. From this point of view, life—particularly consciousness—creates the universe, and the universe could not exist without us.

One of the consequences of this is that it creates a scientifically plausible case for both the origin of the universe being in God’s mind and for the idea that his mind alters the universe now: if our minds shape reality, how much more can God’s in what we call the miraculous.

February 16, 2009

The truth is out there

Filed under: Science — David Jenkins @ 5:02 pm
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I’ve always enjoyed reading science fiction from H. G. Wells to Arthur C Clark; and now the BBC:

Alien life ‘may exist among us’

Never mind Mars, alien life may be thriving right here on Earth, a major science conference has heard.

Our planet may harbour forms of “weird life” unrelated to life as we know it, according to Professor Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona State University.

This “shadow life” may be hidden in toxic arsenic lakes or in boiling deep sea hydrothermal vents, he says.

He has called on scientists to launch a “mission to Earth” by trawling hostile environments for signs of bio-activity.

“It could be right in front of our noses – or even in our noses,” said the physicist.

After a good deal of digging, I have discovered an alien life form that lives up people’s noses.

Here it is:birdie2

October 17, 2008


Filed under: Christianity — David Jenkins @ 5:10 pm
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Just as there is matter and anti-matter, there is Dawkins and Anti-Dawkins. And Anti-Dawkins is called John Lennox, MA, MA (Bioethics), PhD, DPhil, DSc, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Advisor at Green College.

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