Einstein 1, Old Testament nil

A sad day for flat-earthers…

“Nearly half a century in the planning, armed with 13 new technologies and four of the most perfect spheres ever created, NASA’s $750 million Gravity Probe B (GP-B)’s troubled mission is finally over.

After 16 months of in-orbit data gathering and almost five years of data analysis, GP-B has mapped the space-time vortex that Einstein predicted would be created by the Earth’s movement in space. That prediction, which required instruments of exquisite sensitivity, has been confirmed to “… a geodetic precession of 6.600 plus or minus 0.017 arcseconds and a frame dragging effect of 0.039 plus or minus 0.007 arcseconds,” according to Stanford University physicist Francis Everitt, principal investigator of the Gravity Probe B mission.

The figures are not as precise as those gathered by other experiments, including laser rangefinding of mirrors left on the Moon by Apollo mission astronauts, although they do provide independent corroboration through entirely novel means and close loopholes of uncertainty that left some of the other results still open to question.  (N.B.: these mirrors were not in Arizona!) 

“This is an epic result,” said Clifford Will of Washington University in St. Louis, chair of the National Research Council panel set up by NASA to monitor GP-B. “One day,” he said, “this will be written up in textbooks as one of the classic experiments in the history of physics.” However, a NASA review panel had recommended in 2008 that the data analysis be abandoned due to operational problems, leaving the researchers dependent on private funding.

The most subtle effect being detected, frame dragging, is the way that the gravitational distortion of space and time caused by an object changes when that object moves. GP-B detected this through a set of four gyroscopes, which remained spinning in one direction no matter how they are moved. However, if space-time was distorted around them, they remained true to that direction – but the direction relative to the rest of the universe changes.

That effect is very small and easy to mask by external noise. Thus, the GP-B gyroscopes are by a very large factor the most precise ever made. Each is based on a ball around an inch and a half across, made from fused quartz and within forty atoms of precisely spherical. The balls are coated in a very thin layer of superconducting niobium, which generates a small magnetic field when it rotates.

That field is precisely aligned with the direction of spin of the balls; it was measured on the satellite by SQUIDs — Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices — that introduced no drag on the rotation. The balls span at 10,000 RPM in extreme vacuum, kept much freer of gas than the space surrounding the satellite in its 400 mile-high orbit, and would have lost less than one percent of their rotational speed in a thousand years.

All this was kept within a superconducting shield that blocked the Earth’s magnetic field. The satellite itself monitored the position of one of the balls to within a nanometre, and constantly adjusted its position with microthrusters as it orbited around the planet to prevent any of the balls touching the rest of the apparatus. It also monitored the position of a microwave-emitting star 329 light years away, IM Pegasi, whose position was precisely measured by radiotelescope from Earth and used as a reference against which the gyroscopes’ alignment can be measured.

Such lavish use of superconductivity needed huge amounts of cooling, to around two degrees above absolute zero. The spacecraft started with 400 kg of liquid helium, which both provided the cooling and, as it slowly boiled off, was used to power the microthrusters that maintained alignment.

GP-B launched in 2004 during the one-second launch window necessary to hit the precise orbit required, and at first checked out well.

However, interference from solar flares made the data much noisier than expected, and other unexpected effects reduced the amount and quality of information returned. For example, the gyroscopes exhibited unexpectedly complex rotational behaviour called Polhode motion that had to be modelled after the data had been collected, and retrospectively allowed for.

Perhaps most dangerously, electrostatic forces and magnetic interactions within the spacecraft put twisting forces on the gyroscopes that couldn’t be distinguished from those caused by the relativistic effects being sought, threatening the entire mission. The controllers deliberately misaligned the satellite for a few days, which changed the direction of the internal errors but left the external forces unchanged; by using this to measure the errors, they could apply a correction factor to all data collected and recover all of the external measurements.

Nonetheless, the increased chance of error caused by such a concatenation of factors helped lead to NASA’s decision to halt work on the data in 2008, due to doubts that the results would be sufficiently rigorous. The Saudi Royal Family contributed most of the $3.2 million funding that let the investigators finish the job.”

Emphasis mine.

see: http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/mixed-signals-10000051/epic-gp-b-nasa-probe-proves-einstein-right-10022363/

If one can deny Evolution, they can deny any scientific result

Last week I sent out an electronic epistle on the similarity of the anti-scientific stance of global warming deniers and Evolution deniers.  While I have not yet researched if there is any data on the overlap of the deniers, I maintain it is very important because our space program succeeded in part because both science and science education became respected and trusted: today, that is no longer true, and we are paying the price in pollution, cost, inefficiency, and vulnerability, as well as the premature extinction of our and many other species.

N.B.: I Capitalize ‘Evolution’ and ‘Climate Change’ not only for emphasis, but because they are more important than many things that are capitalized, e.g. St.Patrick’s Day.

N.B.: We are not going to succeed in the 21st century with a generation home schooled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

The Mar 3 edition of the NY Times addressed this linking of anti-Evolution, and Climate Change denial :

“Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.

In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”

The bill, which has yet to be voted on, is patterned on even more aggressive efforts in other states to fuse such issues. In Louisiana, a law passed in 2008 says the state board of education may assist teachers in promoting “critical thinking” on all of those subjects.

Last year, the Texas Board of Education adopted language requiring that teachers present all sides of the evidence on evolution and global warming.

Oklahoma introduced a bill with similar goals in 2009, although it was not enacted.

The linkage of evolution and global warming is partly a legal strategy: courts have found that singling out evolution for criticism in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state. By insisting that global warming also be debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply championing academic freedom in general.

Yet they are also capitalizing on rising public resistance in some quarters to accepting the science of global warming, particularly among political conservatives who oppose efforts to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases.

In South Dakota, a resolution calling for the “balanced teaching of global warming in public schools” passed the Legislature this week.

“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant,” the resolution said, “but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life.”

The measure made no mention of evolution, but opponents of efforts to dilute the teaching of evolution noted that the language was similar to that of bills in other states that had included both. The vote split almost entirely along partisan lines in both houses, with Republican voting for it and Democrats voting against.

For mainstream scientists, there is no credible challenge to evolutionary theory. They oppose the teaching of alternative views like intelligent design, the proposition that life is so complex that it must be the design of an intelligent being. And there is wide agreement among scientists that global warming is occurring and that human activities are probably driving it. Yet many conservative evangelical Christians assert that both are examples of scientists’ overstepping their bounds.

John G. West, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a group that advocates intelligent design and has led the campaign for teaching critiques of evolution in the schools, said that the institute was not specifically promoting opposition to accepted science on climate change. Still, Mr. West said, he is sympathetic to that cause.

“There is a lot of similar dogmatism on this issue,” he said, “with scientists being persecuted for findings that are not in keeping with the orthodoxy. We think analyzing and evaluating scientific evidence is a good thing, whether that is about global warming or evolution.”

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist who directs the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and has spoken against efforts to water down the teaching of evolution to school boards in Texas and Ohio, described the move toward climate-change skepticism as a predictable offshoot of creationism.

Wherever there is a battle over evolution now,” he said, “there is a secondary battle to diminish other hot-button issues like Big Bang and, increasingly, climate change. It is all about casting doubt on the veracity of science — to say it is just one view of the world, just another story, no better or more valid than fundamentalism.”

Not all evangelical Christians reject the notion of climate change, of course. There is a budding green evangelical movement in the country driven partly by a belief that because God created the earth, humans are obligated to care for it.

Yet there is little doubt that the skepticism about global warming resonates more strongly among conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular. A survey published in October by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that white evangelical Protestants were among those least likely to believe that there was “solid evidence” that the Earth was warming because of human activity.

Only 23 percent of those surveyed accepted that idea, compared with 36 percent of the American population as a whole….”

By LESLIE KAUFMAN

see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/science/earth/04climate.html?ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=print