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Science & Technology

What Ockham really said

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In the arsenal of eternal skeptics there are few tools more dramatically and more commonly used than Ockham’s razor. It is triumphantly applied to resolve arguments about ghosts (more parsimoniously seen as misperceptions by distraught family members or the suggestible), UFOs (evidently hoaxes and mistaken observations of natural phenomena) and telepathy (a “delusion” of wishful thinking and poorly-constructed tests).

Born in England, Franciscan monk William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347) is among the most prominent figures in the history of philosophy during the High Middle Ages. The Skeptics Dictionary quotes the Razor as Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, or “plurality should not be posited without necessity,” while Wikipedia defines Ockham’s razor as follows:

“Among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected.”

And it gives the following example of its application:

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“It is possible to describe the other planets in the Solar System as revolving around the Earth, but that explanation is unnecessarily complex compared to the contemporary consensus that all planets in the Solar System revolve around the Sun.” Another often-quoted formulation of the principle is that “one should not multiply entities beyond necessity.”

Brother Ockham, however, said nothing of the kind. Later philosophers have put these words into his mouth for their own convenience.

Here is what he wrote, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.”

So let’s come back to the planets, and apply Ockham’s razor–as formulated by the man himself–to a comparison between two different hypotheses about their motion.

The contemporary consensus states that they revolve around the sun according to the Copernican system, Kepler’s laws of motion and Newton’s model of gravity, as demonstrated by complex observations and significant mathematical underpinning.

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Our alternative hypothesis simply states that they are moved around the sky by angels, as illustrated in this beautiful painting from the Breviari d’amor of Matfre Ermengaud, where a convenient gear mechanism is gracefully activated to regulate planetary motion. Ermengaud was a contemporary of Ockham and, like him, a Franciscan friar.

Were we to apply Ockham’s formulation of the razor literally, the choice between these two hypotheses is clear. It does not favor the first hypothesis, the standard scientific interpretation. The Scriptures clearly state that angels do exist, and their reality was re-affirmed by Pope John Paul II as recently as August 1986. Since they manifest through their actions in the heavens, the second hypothesis appears far more parsimonious and elegant than the complicated rationalizations used by mathematicians and astronomers, which involve unseen entities such as the acceleration of gravity, centrifugal force, and mass, which – to this day – raise issues that science is yet to resolve. If you seriously believe in angels, then the contemporary consensus about planetary motion is a case of “plurality without necessity.”

The second hypothesis is also more powerful since angels can just as easily move the planets around the earth as around the sun. They can do whatever they like—and thereby explain any phenomena.

Perhaps we should be more careful when we quote ancient authors out of context, or twist their words to fit the convenient modern tenets of skepticism in the name of Reason.  The Scriptures are full of ghosts, UFOs and examples of telepathy – which means that such phenomena cannot be dissected and thrown out using Ockham’s razor anyway.

We know, of course, that the planets revolve around the Sun, an idea that would have shocked Ockham. And I firmly believe that, in philosophy and in science we should go on selecting the hypothesis that makes the fewest assumption when confronted with competing explanations, and one should not multiply entities beyond necessity — even if Brother William never said so.

But we should also remember that nature is not parsimonious at all.

Science & Technology

Do Advanced Extraterrestrial Civilizations extract energy from black holes?

Researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow in the UK have proven a half-century hypothesis that suggests that technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations could potentially extract energy from spinning black holes. An article by researchers is published in the journal Nature Physics.

In 1969, the British physicist Roger Penrose suggested that aliens can extract energy from a rotating black hole due to the fact that particles or waves flying through the ergosphere take away the energy of rotation of the black hole (this phenomenon became known as the Penrose process). 

The Soviet physicist Yakov Zeldovich developed this idea and put forward the hypothesis that a rapidly rotating cylinder is capable of amplifying the “swirling” electromagnetic waves incident on it (that is, having a certain orbital angular momentum), including quantum fluctuations in a vacuum. 

However, this effect has not yet been experimentally verified, since the cylinder had to rotate at a frequency of at least a billion times per second.

In a new work, scientists for the first time managed to observe the Zeldovich effect, achieved using acoustic waves with a frequency of 60 hertz. 

During the experiment, the researchers installed 16 speakers in the form of a ring and directed the sound toward a rotating disk made of noise-absorbing foam. In this case, the acoustic waves from one speaker lagged behind in phase from the waves from another speaker, which made it possible to simulate the orbital angular momentum. Conditions satisfying the Zeldovich effect were achieved by rotating the disk with a frequency of only 15-30 revolutions per second.

The experimental results confirmed that low-frequency modes can be amplified by up to 30 percent, passing through the noise-absorbing layer of the disk. As the speed of the disk increases, the frequency of sound waves decreases due to the Doppler effect, however, when a certain speed is reached, it again returns to its previous value, while the volume (i.e. the amplitude) increases. This is due to the fact that the waves took part of the rotational energy from the disk.

The Penrose process occurs when the body has two parts, one of which falls beyond the horizon of events. If two fragments have certain speeds, a special position relative to each other and fly along the correct paths, then the fall of one fragment transfers the energy to the other part, greater than the energy that the body had originally.

 For an outside observer, it looks as if the body was divided into a part with positive energy and a part with “negative energy”, which when falling beyond the horizon reduces the angular momentum of the black hole. As a result, the first fragment takes off from the ergosphere, “taking” the energy of rotation of the black hole.

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Science & Technology

What if we could create antigravitу?

Are уou tired of cramped citу life? Then anti-gravitу is just what уou need! We still don’t know the technologу, but if we do, it will completelу change our world.

How can this change the waу we build our cities? Whу would this allow us to travel further into space? And how can this help us colonize alien worlds?

According to astronomers, gravitу is “the force bу which a planet or other bodу pulls objects to its center. We reallу don’t know whу gravitу behaves like this; we just know that this is so, and that’s all we need for this.

As we talk about things that we know too little about, let’s get to know her better. Antigravitу, as the name implies, is a hуpothetical means of counteracting the effects of gravitу.

Although manу scholars saу this is not possible, this does not stop us from reasoning. But if we ever find out, we will have to delve into an even more mуsterious part of our universe – antimatter.

To understand what antimatter is and how it relates to antigravitу, we will go back during the Big Bang. When the Big Bang occurred, he created matter and antimatter. Matter consists of atoms – the building blocks of chemical elements such as helium, oxуgen and hуdrogen.

Inside the atoms уou will find particles, such as protons, which have a positive electric charge, and electrons, which usuallу have a negative charge. For antimatter, the electric charge of these particles is reversed.

This led to some speculations that other properties will also be changed, such as how theу react to gravitу. We could not verifу how antimatter reacts to gravitу – for now. However, some theories saу that when we do this, we will find that antimatter particles do not fall, giving us our first real example of antigravitу.

If so, this could lead to a scientific and technological revolution. We could theoreticallу use antimatter to develop technologу that protects people or objects from gravitational forces. In other words, we can make so manу things float in the air.

So what would we do with this crazу technologу? Well, firstlу, there should be hoverboards, right? We’re talking about real hoverboards that don’t touch the ground!

We could build floating cities to accommodate our ever-growing population. Massive structures can be suspended over ponds or rockу terrain that we could not build. But perhaps we will see the greatest importance of anti-gravitу technologу, if we look even further – at the stars.

Space travel will be much safer and cheaper. Space shuttles will not need rocket fuel to launch from our atmosphere. Instead, we could just stop the effects of gravitу on them.

Antigravitу will not onlу help us get to space; It can also help us find a new home there. We no longer need to worrу about planets with gravitу too strong for human habitation, since we can simplу use antigravitу to protect ourselves from it.

Yes, we understand that there is a lot of unknown and hуpothetical with this, but here’s what happens when we talk about something as mуsterious as antimatter.

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Science & Technology

Can new technologies make space travel a reality?

What has long been considered science fiction is commonplace today. So, most recently, in real time, the whole world watched an amazing space show – the launch of the manned Dragon Crew spacecraft on the ISS. 

Today it may seem that the first manned flight into space was a very long time ago, but if you look at the speed of technological development, it is staggering: the first rocket in history to study the parameters of the air environment was launched only 83 years ago! 

During this time, the Internet appeared in the world, as well as Falcon9 rockets from SpaceX, which return and land automatically. So maybe the technology of the future will make space travel a reality?

Science fiction inspires inventors, do not forget about it

Interstellar travel

Which of us in childhood did not dream of interstellar travel? Yes there, many of us dream that one day a flying saucer will land next to the house and invite us on a tour of the boundless Universe. Is it any wonder, because interstellar travel is the main product of science fiction series. One way or another, as technology develops – from the famous Boston Dynamics songs and the beautiful Sofia robot to the more advanced rockets and space probes – the question arises: is it hoped that someday we will colonize the stars? Or, if we discard this distant dream, can we send space probes to alien planets and use them to see what is happening there?

The truth is that interstellar travel and exploration are technically possible. There is no such law of physics that would directly forbid it. But this does not mean that humanity will soon invent such technologies. Interstellar travels are a real headache and in our century, people will definitely not fly to colonize other stars. But there is good news – we have already reached the status of interstellar research. Several spacecraft are moving to the edge of the solar system, and leaving it will never return. The missions of NASA Voyager, Pioneer and New Horizons began their long journey outside.

Agree, it sounds great: we have interstellar space probes that work. But the problem is that they are in no hurry. Each of these fearless interstellar explorers travels at a speed of tens of thousands of kilometers per hour. They do not move in the direction of any particular star, because their missions were designed to study the planets inside the solar system. But if any of these spacecraft were headed for our closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, located just 4 light years from Earth, they would have reached it in about 80,000 years.

Soon people will return to the moon, but will this put an end to theories of the lunar conspiracy?

All of this is very cool, but NASA’s budget is unlikely to last. In addition, by the time the probes have reached something interesting, their instruments will stop working and ultimately will simply fly through the void. In fact, this is a kind of success: human ancestors did not look like children who could launch robotic vehicles with gold plates on board into space .

Speed ​​matters

To make interstellar flights more “reasonable,” the probe must move very fast. About one tenth of the speed of light. At this speed, the spacecraft can reach Proxima Centauri in a few decades, and in a few years send pictures back – and all this within the limits of human life. Is it really so stupid to want the same person who started the mission to finish it?

But driving at such speeds requires a huge amount of energy. One option is to contain this energy on board the spacecraft as fuel. But if so, then additional fuel adds weight, which makes it even more difficult to accelerate to the desired speeds. There are projects and sketches of atomic spacecraft that are trying to achieve just that, but if we do not want to start building thousands and thousands of nuclear bombs just to put them in a rocket, we need to come up with something else.

Voyager 2 probe went beyond the heliosphere

According to Discover, perhaps one of the most promising ideas is to keep the energy source of the spacecraft stationary and somehow transport this energy to the spacecraft as it moves. One way to do this is with lasers. Radiation transfers energy well from one place to another, especially over vast distances in space. Then the spaceship can capture this energy and move forward.

But when it comes to making the spacecraft move at the required speed, the laser itself, with a capacity of 100 gigawatts, is many orders of magnitude more powerful than any laser we have ever designed. A spacecraft, the mass of which should not exceed the mass of the paper clip, should include a camera, computer, power source, circuit, shell, antenna for communication with the house and a perfectly reflecting light sail. 

The real journey will begin after accelerating to one tenth of the speed of light. For 40 years, this small spaceship will have to withstand all the tests of interstellar space. And although such technologies today seem to be something of the category of science fiction, there is no such law of physics that would prohibit its existence. The question is: are we willing to spend enough money.

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