Frame of Reference - Index

Tertius Stele

Physics - Atoms

1) Man has always made use of physics: making tools and using them. As Homo sapiens developed they would have taken with them the talents of their predecessors which included using sticks, rocks and bones for weapons and utensils. These ancients would have learned the simple lessons from nature all around: damn building from the beaver, home making from the birds and the bees, and the convenience of cave dwelling and den making from even the wolf. The production and use of tools, clothing, levers, wheels, fire and smelting developed hand in hand with progressively more sophisticated tribal traditions. One generation passed knowledge of physics to the next, expanding on their primal instincts for food gathering, nurturing and safety, improving communication skills, developing specialization of labor in families and competing to create hierarchies of leadership.

Security and conquest, based on the instinct for survival, were strong motivating forces. Then, as well as now, this base animal instinct gives rise to ever more forceful and effective weapons; this necessity, being the mother of many inventions and developments, led to the expansion of Physics. Those who mastered more Physics, first, were victorious and dominant; the bow and arrow being a more sophisticated weapon than the spear. Today the "Super Power" is the nation with the most lethal toys; they can bring to bare the most sophisticated understanding of Physics.

2) "In true karma-yoga, or the life of perfect action, there is a proper adjustment between the material and the spiritual aspects of life...The mind is not allowed to be immersed in the material life of gnawing wants, nor is it allowed to be merged in spiritual bliss. It is used to face and tackle the problems of life from the point of view of spiritual understanding...The spirit must and ever will have an inviolable primacy over matter; however, the primacy is not expressed by avoiding or rejecting matter but rather by using it as an adequate vehicle for the expressions of the spirit...a musical instrument is valuable only if it gives expression to the song of a musician and becomes a hindrance if it does not yield complete subservience, matter is valuable if it gives free and adequate expression to the creative flow of life and becomes an obstacle if it interferes with it." (Meher Baba, Discourses, 1967)

Taming "matter" is, in part, the job of physicists. The "music" we make and the culture we create surrounding our use of matter--the "expression of the song"--is determined by how well we use our knowledge, and that is everyone's responsibility. There is a real risk that our technology will swallow us like the proverbial snake that eats its own tail until it disappears.

3) Johannes Kepler is often considered the father of Physics, considering his development of the first three "laws" of planetary orbits. The first law reveals that all planets follow an elliptical orbit around Sun.

The second "law" shows that the orbital velocity of each planet increases when it is closest to Sun. Thus if one charts the motion of Mars over a period of one month when it is far from Sun, the thin triangle inscribed with Sun will be equal in area to that of any other one month triangle in any other region of the orbit.

The third "law" is somewhat more complex; the cube of the semi-major axis (half the long axis) of each planet's elliptical orbit is proportional to the square of the planet's orbital period.

Modern Astronomy is populated by physicists since learning about atomic particles, gravitational forces, magnetism and thermo-nuclear dynamics is achieved both in the laboratory of Universe and in the experimental laboratory.

4) In the 21st century, as we will see, the study of physics is the study of paradox and often confusing, counter-intuitive theories. Physicists, by the 14th century, had grown accustomed to certain basic ideas concerning the way things move. There was an invested faith, or "paradigm," relating to motion and optics that eventually became described as "Newtonian" or the classical mechanical picture of matter in motion. This picture described motion as a continuous blend of changing positions. The object in question, whether light or a falling object, moved in a flow from one point to another.

5) Isaac Newton (1643-1727) came into a world already benefiting from the new scientific discoveries of Kepler and Galileo; water power and navigation thrived, making life more comfortable. Aristotle and Euclid were still authorities and the method of natural philosophy established by Greeks was still prominent. The most intellectual people were accustomed to seeking solutions to their problems by speculating (i.e., Descartes), by meditating, and by pondering rather than by experiment, observation, or measurement.

The problem with this logic, however, is that a priori reasoning can spawn quite different answers all with the same legitimate claim to having been developed by "pure thought," as if that by itself was a virtue. The only answer more perverse than one that comes from pure thought is one that is given by a beneficent god through the power structure of a religious hierarchy. Experimentation, it was thought, is trivial, a rather pedestrian proceeding with which thinkers need not concern themselves; these experiments are just as likely to be misleading. Now we know better.

6) Greek philosophers were interested in finding causes; they wanted to know what matter is and why it behaves as it does. Even so, it was Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) who was the first man to have a clear notion about inertia, the first to use the telescope to look at the night sky, but not the first nor the last to have been persecuted by religious authority for his pragmatic creativity. It is a sad irony of humanity that the most artistic expression of wonder and most sincere celebration of the mystery of Universe comes from obdurate religious beliefs that even in the most advanced societies became a barrier to scientific study and discovery.

7) One of Newton's greatest achievements was to explain the movement of heavenly bodies on the basis of laws of motion and of universal gravitation, improving on Kepler's ideas. He developed laws of motion that governed the movement of both earthly and heavenly bodies. Newton was a devoutly religious man, however, and in many ways a mystic. He did not believe that religion or mystery had anything to do with the mathematical laws of planetary motion, although they had to do with the First Cause. "Such a wonderful Uniformity in the Planetary System must be allowed to Effect of Choice..." that is, it must be admitted to come about by design and not by chance (more on this later).

8) Shortly after the founding of The Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge in 1660, Newton became a member and eventually (1703) the President. The Royal Society took as its motto: "We don't take anybody's word for it." This organization sounded the death knell for the Aristotelian method and body of science. Newton became the standard barer for the objective approach to science through experiment and the rigorous testing of hypotheses.

Early in Newton's career he stated: "...the Theory, which I propound, was evinced by me, not by inferring "tis thus because not otherwise, that is, not by deducing it only from a confutation of contrary suppositions, but by deriving it from Experiments concluding positively and directly." Later in his life he stated when challenged about apparent contradictions: "It may be so, there is no arguing against facts and experiments."

This is a common argument to justify belief in religion: such and such a doctrine is true because there is no better explanation, it is true because you can't prove it is wrong. But the burden of proof is on the proponent of belief, not the skeptic. Newton makes this clear. INFERRING "TIS THUS BECAUSE NOT OTHERWISE..." IS A FALLACY.

9) Frame of Reference will disclose the fallacies in the logic of even modern thinkers when they conclude..."'tis thus because not otherwise..." It is a weakness in Man to jump to conclusions, and there is an almost irresistible tendency to philosophize and make theories to fit the pieces of facts together (as with a puzzle) first, and find out later if nature (and society) follows the theoretical pattern. Rash judgment and the rush to judgment are the bane of too many otherwise quite capable thinkers and both lead to the development of superstitions and even foster an acceptance of the belief in gods.

10) Newton made many contributions to science after his publication of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first written in Latin. Besides explaining the motions of Jupiter, Saturn and Earth in terms of his gravitational theory, he showed how to find the masses of Sun and the planets from the mass of Earth. He got a value quite close to that which is found by the latest methods; the density of Earth is between five and six times that of water. Today we know it is in a ratio of 5.5 to one. He showed that Earth is flattened at the poles, as are other planets, and showed the mathematics describing the shape which agrees well with the latest measurements.

11) Newton also described "the precession of the equinoxes." Our Earth is tilted at an angle of about 66.5 degrees with the plane of its orbit which accounts for the occurrence of Summer and Winter as the relative perspective to Sun changes. However, Earth's axis does not keep precisely parallel to itself, but very slowly changes its angle so as to trace a cone in the heavens. It takes nearly 26,000 years to complete the cone (precession). Newton also calculated the irregularities of Moon's motion caused by the pull of Sun and explained that the tides of the sea are due to the pull of both Moon and Sun.

With all this he did not speculate on the cause of the power of gravity: "It is enough that gravity does really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea." Thus the facts of nature and Universe have no moral authority and exist as ontological laws up to the point that these same 'laws' are refuted by new experimental data.

12) In 1704 Newton finally published his seminal work: Opticks: or a Treatise on the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. In the second edition he wrote: "These Principles I consider not as occult Qualities, supposed to result from the specifick Forms of Things, but as general Laws of Nature, by which the Things themselves are form'd: their Truth appearing to us by Phaenomena, though their Causes be not yet discover'd...To tell us that every Species of Things is endow'd with an occult specifick Quality by which it acts and produces manifest Effects is to tell us nothing." Newton proved that all colors are produced by mixtures of pure spectral colors. The colors of flowers, clothes and paints are called absorption or subtraction colors. The apparent color is due to subtraction of colors from the light of Sun or from other sources of light, and the apparent colors are those available to be reflected. A piece of pure red cloth looks red because it absorbs the whole blue, green, yellow, and orange parts of the spectrum of natural light but reflects the red.

13) The next big advance in physics came in 1905 when Albert Einstein (1879-1955) published four papers including his memoirs on special relativity. According to his principle of relativity, light should have the same properties for all observers in uniform relative motion, and its velocity in a vacuum should therefore be the same for all observers. The velocity of light (186,282 miles per second) is constant and a maximum in the electromagnetic and the mechanical worlds. Light would thus travel with a constant velocity that was independent of the bodies emitting or receiving it. In 1916 Einstein published "General Theory of Relativity" in which he sought to extend the principle of relativity to frames of reference (and observers) in all types of relative motion.

The reader is invited to look at other sources to find a detailed description of these principles. Einstein maintained that the laws of nature discoverable by physics are deterministic. Although the consequences of a physical theory must be tested empirically, its axioms are not automatic inferences from experience but are free creations of the human mind, which is guided by considerations of a mathematical nature. (see verse 36)

14) The strict material nature of Universe found a champion in Hugh Elliot (1881-1930). He put forth three principles:

"(1) the laws of the universe are uniform, and while the universe may appear disorderly, careful scrutiny by science reveals that these universal laws are to be obeyed;
(2) teleology is a myth, for there is no such thing as a purpose to the universe and all events are due to the interaction of matter in motion;
(3) all forms of existence must have some kind of palpable material characteristics and qualities."
He stated further that "An act of consciousness or mental process is a thing of which we are immediately and indubitably aware: . . .But that it differs in any sort of way from a material process, that is to say, from the ordinary transformations of matter and energy, is a belief which I very strenuously deny. . . There exists no kind of spiritual substance or entity of a different nature from that of which matter is composed. . . there are not two kinds of fundamental existence, material and spiritual, but one kind only. . ."

He was fortunate to have lived in a time when his heretical views were not the justification for persecution, imprisonment and death as has been the case with other freethinkers in the past.

15) Now, Physics is dominated by Quantum Mechanics which discloses three paradoxes. First, quantum mechanics proves that motion could not take place in the classical way. Instead, things move in a disjointed or discontinuous manner. They jumped from one place to another, seemingly without effort and without bothering to go between the two places.

16) The second paradox contradicts the view that science is a reasonable, orderly process of observing nature and describing what is observed objectively. The former view that whatever one observed as being out there - was really out there - has changed. Quantum mechanics indicated that what researchers used, the apparatus, to observe nature on an atomic scale in a real way creates and determines what is found. Even the most basic idea of matter, the concept of a "particle," turns out to be misunderstood if one assumes that the particle has properties totally independent of the observer. Likewise, what one observes may depend on what one chooses to observe.

17) The third paradox: despite the natural disorder apparent in many phenomena, quantum mechanics establishes that there is an order to Universe. It simply isn't the order we expected. Even describing the true order is difficult because it involves something more than the physical world. It involves us, our minds, and our thoughts. Just how physics and our minds are to be brought together is a controversial subject. Our minds may enter into nature in a way we had not imagined possible. "The thought that atoms may not exist without observers of atoms is curious, but perhaps much of what is taken to be real is mainly determined by thought. Perhaps the appearance of the physical world is magical because the orderly processes of science fail to take the observer into account. The order of the universe may be the order of our own minds." (Fred Alan Wolf, Taking the Quantum Leap, 1981) (see Undecimus Stele: Agnosticism, verse 31)

18) "Men whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science, i.e. for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition. . . Acquisition of a paradigm and of the more esoteric type of research it permits is a sign of maturity in the development of any given scientific field." (Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962)

The Big Bang theory and quantum mechanics are examples of contemporary paradigms.

19) During recent years radar has become the most important means to study meteors. Radar can see by day as well as by night, in cloudy weather as well as in clear. It was in 1938 that J. A. Pierce of Harvard got the first echoes of radio signals from the incandescent trails of meteors. The signals were reflected from the gases rather than passing through them. This led to further refinements in the use of radar which remained an important military secret during World War II.

Stay tuned, there is a huge culture of physics that is interested in tuning into Universe for extraneous noise or messages. Nothing intelligible has been received.

20) In February of 1931 Einstein addressed several hundred students in Pasadena, California, and asked why science had brought such little happiness. In war it had enabled men to mutilate one another more efficiently and in peace it had enslaved man to the machine. "If you want your life's work to be useful to mankind, it is not enough that you understand applied science as such. Concern for Man himself must always constitute the chief objective of all technological effort, concern for the big, unsolved problems of how to organize human work and the distribution of commodities in such a manner as to assure that the results of our scientific thinking may be a blessing to mankind, and not a curse. . . You feel that this old chap in front of you is singing an ugly tune. . ." A wise caution.

21) The conception of the atom has changed dramatically in the twentieth century. If atoms are not things, then what are they? Werner Heisenberg answered that question in an important way: All classical ideas about the world had to be abandoned. Motion could no longer be described in terms of the classical concept of a thing moving continuously from one place to another (see verse 4). This idea only made sense for large objects; it did not make sense if the 'thing' was atom-sized. Concepts are reasonable only when they describe our actual observations rather than our ideas about what we think is happening. Since an atom was not seen, it was not a meaningful concept.


Crystal Ball

We are tempted to peek
Into a crystal ball.
If we do this magic
Would it be wise to know?
If we perceived our Fate
What need is there to think?
Would advanced knowledge help
Create virtue in Man?
What credit can we take
If life is prearranged?
Singing music soothes us
But is not a sacred act
If life is like a song,
Verses known, sung in time.
Where would be the glory?
What challenge is there then?
What test is harmony
When words rhyme so easily?
Can each soul grow and bloom
When led by fate alone?
The force of nature then
Would be a tyranny.
So with Love, as Virtue
Constrained it disappears.
Which coincidences of science
Do we see as design?
Which part of life is chance
How can we be so sure?
This is my wish: to thrive
Challenging and blessed
Forever by freedom's effort --
I seek the art in life.
What other proof is there?
Except I wrote this poem.   (IJ - 1995)

23) We have moved a long way from the original discovery in 1802 (see Primus Stele: Heavens, verse 26) leading to the spectroscope to where we are today, using basically the same technology. In January, 2001, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, NASA, planned to launch a High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) to explore the basic physics of particle acceleration and energy release in solar flares. This launch and satellite will cost $40 million dollars to develop and deploy.

Physics is concerned about the most infinitesimally small objects and waves and about the most dynamically large objects distributed chaotically [influenced by waves] around Universe.

24) It is common for consumers to find labels and even warnings on grocery products and even clothing. Imagine the surprise and confusion if these product labels reflected the discoveries of physics during the 20th century. They might read:

The Mass of This Product Contains the Energy Equivalent of 85 Million Tons of TNT per Net Ounce of Weight.

This Product Contains Minute Electrically Charged Particles Moving at Velocities in Excess of Five Hundred Million Miles Per Hour.

Despite Any Other Listing of Product Contents Found Hereon, the Consumer is Advised That, in Actuality, This Product Consists of 99.9999999% Empty Space.

Some Quantum Physics Theories Suggest That When the Consumer Is Not Directly Observing This Product, It May Cease to Exist or Will Exist Only in a Vague and Undetermined State. (Susan Hewitt and Edward Subitzky, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, 1991)

25) A neutron star is the last resort for a sun which might condense even further into what has been identified as a black hole (something of a toxic waste disposal receptacle for spent nuclear fusion reactors -- old stars). A black hole is where matter is converted into energy at an astounding rate. If a large sun implodes to a sufficiently small and dense state its gravity will overwhelm all remaining forces that might prop it up and it will disappear from view, taking all light in its vicinity into it like a trash compactor. The resulting black hole is surrounded by an oblate zone, the event horizon, into which nothing can venture with any hope of return. As suggested, Milky Way may have a black hole as its central attraction.

The center of Milky Way has a complex structure, barely visible through the interstellar gas and dust that accumulate in the 28,000 light years between here and there. Looking with radio waves and with infrared light we see a chalice-like congress of rapidly orbiting stars, a pair of jets about 4 light-years long, a stable ring of orbiting gas clouds, another ring rushing outward and an array of lacy arcs and threads standing 70 light-years high. Dynamic studies indicate a mass in excess of a million Suns within three-quarters of a lightyear around the center with only a hundred thousand stars visible, the rest of the mass, 900,000 solar masses, could be involved in the black hole. The area is engulfed in a powerful electromagnetic field, like a dynamo. (see Primus Stele: Heavens - Universe, verse 37)

26) In 1971 it was shown that X-rays coming from Cygnus X-1 were of irregular intensity. The source of the X-rays and radio waves were near a visible star, HD-226868, about 10,000 light years away, about 1,000 times as far as Sirius (close star), and thirty times the mass of Sun. This star was orbiting around another object every 5.6 days, but there is no trace of this object. It is considered too massive to be a White Dwarf or a Neutron star; neither could be so massive without collapsing further. So this was thought to be the first known black hole.

Stephen Hawking is one of the masters of black hole psychology, as it were. Most theorists agree that black holes can explode releasing a massive dose of X-rays into inter-galactic space. Part of the convincing force of Hawking's theory is that it unites relativity, thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, three otherwise distinct fields of science previously not combined in a single set of equations. ". . .It all fitted together so perfectly that it just had to be right. . .Nature wouldn't have set up anything as elegant as that if it were wrong." (Stephen Hawking) Fostering such 'belief statements' in the scientific community is not very constructive.

27) Neutron star binaries are rare (like true love) in Universe and difficult to detect from their electromagnetic radiation. Astronomers have catalogued more than 400 neutron stars (as of 1992) but they have confirmed only four pairs of orbiting neutron stars in Milky Way galaxy. From these four, relatively close, we can calculate how many neutron stars collide somewhere in Universe every year. Experts estimate that a few pair of neutron stars are likely to merge every year within about 650 million light-years of Earth. (If this were the same frequency of the existence of life on other planets and of extra-terrestrial human evolution, it would not be a surprise.) Binary neutron stars are a source of gravitational waves whose strength can be predicted from fundamental principles of physics. These conditions are ideal for observing effects consistent with Einstein's theory of relativity, the orbital period should be "gradually decreasing as the system loses energy in the form of gravitational waves." These waves can be measured on Earth, and changes can be detected and used to confirm the theory.

28) In 1962 when the US Mariner 2 headed toward Venus, near Sun, the probe ran into a headwind gusting to 1 million miles an hour. This solar wind is a continuous flow of electrons, protons and atomic nuclei. This is part of an expanding solar corona, the effects of which are visible in the tails of comets which always point away from Sun as they travel their elliptical orbits. The region between Sun and Earth is filled with 'star stuff' fragments of solar particles, photons moving at the speed of light from all visible sources, a veritable tidal wave of neutrinos, all making up what is called 'plasma.'

When Apollo astronauts arrived on Moon, they unrolled banners of aluminum foil, facing Sun. These were brought back and carefully analyzed revealing atoms of hydrogen and helium embedded in the foil--matter discharged as part of the solar wind. Solar flares release these particles along with the energy of 10 million hydrogen bombs. Gas in the explosion often reaches 20 million degrees Celsius, hotter than the center of Sun. If flares weren't so short-lived, their incredible temperatures might set off fusion reactions in Sun's corona. A big explosion there, without the great mass of Sun to muffle it, could be a catastrophe for life on Earth. Thus, we are lucky that solar flares are brief. There is an 11 year cycle of geomagnetic storms on Earth; that cycle being linked to sunspots. There is also a 27 day cycle that occurs for several months, coincident with the solar spinning. Sun acts like a strobe light in these events, with the 'coronal holes' pouring out an extrapowerful stream of solar wind like a focused lighthouse beacon.

29) I remember the rare occurrence of the Northern Lights visible in Oregon. As a child I stared in fascination as I still do now on such rare occasions. These have been explained by geophysicist Syun-Ichi Akasofu (University of Alaska) who left Japan for Alaska so he could devote his life to the study of the aurora. The solar wind, plasma, includes the motion of electrons and solar magnetism that create an electric current. When these two magnetic fields combine in a complex way they become a natural electric generator creating as much as 1 million megawatts. This power accelerates some particles of solar wind that manage to penetrate Earth's magnetic force field, and these particles hurtle toward Earth. They spiral toward the polar regions (both north and south) following the lines of Earth's magnetic field shaped like funnels. As the solar particles collide with atoms and molecules in our upper atmosphere, these atmospheric particles are ionized -- they lose electrons -- and emit light. Low energy solar particles reach an altitude of about 150 miles and when they hit oxygen atoms they emit red light. High energy particles penetrate farther, as low as 60 or even 50 miles and they strike oxygen harder and give off a pale green light. From below on Earth we see rippling arcs and sheets, the aurora; from above, satellites see a halo sitting on Earth as if to beatify our existence. "Our planet is a giant television tube," says professor Akasofu.

30) What is life? It is a basic tenet of physics that phenomenon in Universe tend to run downhill, from order to disorder and at last to chaos. This principle is known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It is known to the public as the concept 'entropy.' It is sort of incorporated into a famous sociological principle: Murphy's Law, "Anything that can go wrong, will." So how is life sustained? Life is a huge and intricate molecular contraption that manages for a while to reverse the general trend, at least as long as it takes to replicate itself. A living system is a triumph of order, and in a Universe that is otherwise running downhill, life is matter that goes against the flow (thanks to Earth's open system fed by Sun). Each little creature's victory of self-preservation is achieved at such great expense of energy that the inanimate world deteriorates slightly faster in consequence of life's presence. Each life must eventually come to an end, Universe declines eventually, but only to possibly give rise to new beginnings and potentially new life. (We can only imagine this process of regeneration, we won't be around to see it.)

31) An important theorist in the physics of Universe is Andrei Linde (from Russia). Linde's concept involves beginning with an absolute minimum of initial conditions -- the state we call chaos. "One just considers all possible kinds and values of scalar fields in the early universe and then checks to see if any of them leads to inflation. Those places where inflation does not occur remain small. Those domains where inflation takes place become exponentially large and dominate the total volume of the universe." This may require a universe precedent to ours, and it implies the existence of countless other universes. Linde's is a theory of a multiverse.

"When I was in high school, I developed a nice theory of how extrasensory perception might work. But then I learned that it violated the special theory of relativity. I realized that unless I learn physics I may come up with all sorts of ideas that will sound nice, but always I will be talking nonsense. . . It is a very dangerous feeling, this feeling that you're not totally secure in what you're doing. But it makes life so exciting."
In Linde's cosmological picture, there are many events similar to the Big Bang that ballooned Universe to its enormous present size. "In essence, one inflationary universe sprouts other inflationary bubbles, which in turn produce other inflationary bubbles. . ." The multiverse contains innumerable bubbles like the one in which we find ourselves, and other regions even larger, and still other regions in which inflation is going on right now--a theory of eternal inflation. "The classical big bang theory is dead. . . [it is] a very interesting theory that we must study, but the original big bang is somewhere in the distant past. . . The evolution of the universe as a whole has no end, and it may have had no beginning. . ."

32) Come back to Earth for a moment. For an aquatic plant such as a seaweed to evolve into a land plant of any considerable size, it would need to develop strength and stiffness to overcome the pull of gravity and replace the buoyancy of water. At the same time, it would have to develop some way of preventing loss of water from its tissues to the air. A stranded seaweed, without this protection, soon shrivels and hardens. This is the nature of the physics and engineering problems associated with the first formation of plants on Earth's surface.

In widely scattered parts of the southern hemisphere live the last remnants -- three species -- of the most ancient group of true land plants. The psilotales, are the size of ferns but lack such fern-like refinements as roots and well developed leaves. Their narrow, aerial stems which spring upright from creeping underground stems, are well adapted for life out of water. These contain woody tubes that conduct water from undergournd to all parts of the plant. Other vessels conduct liquid foodstuffs, and the presence of these specialized vessels explains the term vascular plants, of which the psilotales are the oldest and most primitive survivors. Remnants of this plant survive in the tropics; in Hawaii it colonizes lava flows and is known as the Moa plant.

It may be that the liverwort (closely related to mosses) is a transition species between water dependent plants and land-lubbing plants. Liverworts need to live partly submerged, as mosses need to live in moist climates. The thallus, plant body, of the liverwort consists of irregularly-shaped green lobes, which are held to the bank it grows on by rootlike rhizoids, simpler than roots. The liverwort reproduces itself by the fertilization of an egg with a motile sperm that swims to the egg, thus it needs water in the same way seaweed does. In these primitive developments, one can see the laws of physics and chemistry coming together to produce a complex and successful Nature.

33) The gyroscope Earth we inhabit is traveling a bumpy road, so to speak. It wobbles like a top beginning to slow. One of the most prominent of Earth's wobbles is a repeated 433-day lurch known as the Chandler wobble. This wobble is presumably reinforced by pressure changes on the ocean floor. Richard Gross of NASA, suggested that two-thirds of the wobble effect is due to oceanic pressure the remaining third comes from pressure changes in the atmosphere. The wobble probably occurs because Earth's crust is asymmetrical and lumpy. As a result, the weight of the oceans and atmosphere is distributed unevenly, creating pressure differentials that nudge the spin of Earth just a small percentage of its motion. Understanding the source of the Chandler wobble could enable NASA to measure it and help position spacecraft. (Popular Science, December 2000)

34) Just when we thought there were laws of physics that limited what living organisms could withstand, we discover a new microbe that breaks all those rules. A new organism called 'nanobes' has been discovered deep (three miles) below the surface of the Australian landscape. Found in solid rock, surviving temperatures as high as 338 degrees Fahrenheit, seen only with an electron microscope magnifying them 20,000 times, they are smaller than any cell, fungus or bacterium ever found on Earth. They are measured at between 20-150 nanometers in length and contain DNA as well as distinct cell membranes, grow spontaneously, and are packed with carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, essential for life. These 'creatures' not only degrade toxic organic compounds but are also capable of producing antibiotics, enzymes and biologically friendly pigments to stain larger microbes. (Discover, January, 2001)

35) "The year 2000 was the most exciting for cosmology since the 1930's" says Max Tegmark, a Princeton physicist. New experiments confirm the theory of inflation which casts a new light on the Big Bang theory. In 1992 NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite confirmed the echo of the Big Bang, a one-thousandth of a percent of variation in the brightness of the cosmic background radiation. Not unlike heat waves rising from hot pavement on a hot summer day distort the horizon.

In 1999 Saul Perlmutter and a team at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, California, and another team at Harvard University Center for Astrophysics have calculated the expansion of Universe is actually increasing. They looked at a group of 10,000 galaxies every few days to find a few newborn supernovae, these occur in each galaxy at a rate of about two each thousand years, but randomly. Follow-up pictures reveal the color of the fading supernova flash that lasts a week. Comparing 40 such events, (they had seen 82 by the end of 2000) they found "The expansion of the universe is speeding up."

In order for Universe to expand the total mass must be greater than the gravitational force that would tend to pull it back into its presumptive center. Using the best current estimates of the mass density of Universe, Perlmutter's team calculated how much dark energy was needed to account for the observed acceleration. They found that they needed a lot -- about 60 percent of the critical density, which is the same extra mass needed to make the Universe flat. Recent results from three telescopes measuring microwave background 'noise' confirm that Universe is flat. But if this is the case, where is and what is all the dark energy and matter that makes it so. They are trying again to weigh the oceans of dark matter by observing the warp and distortion of light as it passes from far distant galaxies to our point of observation. If they succeed in measuring this matter, the standard Big Bang theory will have to be changed. "No current theory, not even inflation, predicts the presence of dark energy" so stay tuned for a new theory to describe Universe. (, February 2001)

36) The reader will notice that in this discussion of physics there is no mention of mechanical aspects such as the details of leverage, pressure, temperature exchange or hydraulics. None of these engineering details have much to do with religion or ethics, except as these testify against the claims of miracles, such as parting of the Red Sea by Moses, or turning water into wine. These fanciful stories, to the extent that they have any incidental historical relevance, tend to be distorted by oral histories and exaggerated in the retelling. If someone begins a discussion about ethics or morality with a reference to miracles, prophecy or knowledge from extra-terrestrial beings, it is reasonably certain that their information can be suspect to the extent that it violates the physical laws of nature, mechanics, etc. If these physical laws were in any way arbitrary and could be suspended by the exercise of some mental power, such as telepathy, or a god, someone would have taken out a patent and made a fortune by its use. A religious faith that depends in any way on the suspension of the laws of physics ought to be discarded in favor of a simpler belief system, or none at all.

37) When you go to the ocean, you had better appreciate it while it lasts. James F. Kasting of Penn State U., predicts that the oceans may evaporate much earlier than previously predicted based on the expected evolution of Sun. Sun, now 4.5 billion years old, is about halfway to becoming a red giant. The thermonuclear furnace of Sun consumes hydrogen, but once this is complete it will begin to use Helium and become hotter. This is a gradual process, and as soon as you get a 10% increase in solar luminosity, that's enough to drive water into the stratosphere where the molecules brake apart under the more intense radiation. Eventually Earth would look like Mars, and this could be as soon as 1 billion years from now.

38) The energy coming from Sun exhibits the rule of The Special Theory of Relativity expressed in the now famous equation, E = mc2. "The equation expresses the convertibility of matter into energy, and vice versa. It extends the law of the conservation of energy into a law of conservation of energy and mass that can be neither created nor destroyed. . . 'E' stands for the energy equivalent of the mass 'm'. . .'c' is the velocity of light. . . The complete conversion of one gram of mass into energy releases. . .a thousand tons of TNT. Enormous energy resources are contained in tiny amounts of matter, if only we knew how to extract the energy." (Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain, 1974)

On to Quartus Stele