28 December 2008

Exit Pinter, Enter Cretins

Two "liberal" journalists, who both seem to be, implicitly and explicitly (not to mention lazily), very angry at the late Harold Pinter because he didn't support the wars they like.

07 December 2008

Zimbabwe

Interesting and dispassionate article on the history of the Mugabe regime.

I've always maintained the fuss over the guy wouldn't have been nearly so big if white people hadn't lost their property.

06 December 2008

Question for Astrophysicists

I have no formal qualifications in physics past Double Science GCSE. I also have a copy of wikipedia and a theory to explain the weakness of gravity. If this should ever be found by a bored, good-natured scientist, or someone who knows one, could you explain to me why it’s probably wrong?

Basically, I’m not convinced that gravity is weak. I think that the matter we can see and are made of is actually just really light. Some bloke called Frank Wilczek seems to have had a similar idea, but while actually having done some science at big school:
the question is not, "Why is gravity so feeble?" but rather, "Why is the proton's mass so small?"[...]It is true that the electrostatic repulsive force between two protons (alone in free space) greatly exceeds the gravitational attractive force between the same two protons, and that is because the charge on the protons are approximately a natural unit of charge but the mass of the protons are far, far less than the natural unit of mass.


I think there is a fairly simple reason why this might be true. I reckon the matter we know about is at the low end of the mass scale, the rest is made up of other particles that we’ve never seen. If we divide all the matter in the universe into (say) very heavy, quite heavy, medium, quite light and very light. Being less attracted to each other, the lighter particles would have been scattered further by the big bang, and would have found their way back together more slowly. The very heavy, heavy, medium and light particles could be clumped together out of sight, leaving us with the very light. Maybe that’s what the dark flow thing I read about in xkcd is.

Maybe the heavier (than very light) particles are not all together. Maybe some of them are still floating around the visible universe and making up a lot of the dark matter. This would fit the description of dark matter, because they would have a strong gravitational effect but could be undetectable due to size, emitting less electromagnetic radiation and so on. Unless it doesn’t work like that and I’m just being stupid.

Then there’s anti-matter asymmetry. In the big mass annihilation at the start of the universe, the heavier matter and anti-matter would have been disproportionately drawn together and therefore disproportionately annihilated. If the ratio was a billion to a billion-and-one, we are probably getting the lighter one two-billion-and-oneth, if it is less, we would still be getting the lighter bits. Indeed, if one were a proper physicist with an AS-level and everything, one might even be able to work backwards from the relative lightness of existing matter to guess at the original ratio. If there was a continuous process of annihilation and creation going on, which apparently there was, then lighter matter would have escaped more and heavier matter would have been sucked back in more, and a process of evolution would have given us disproportionately light matter

Anyway, as I mentioned, I don’t know anything about this, and would be most grateful if someone would come and point out the flaws or provide a list of proper physicists who had a better version of the same idea fifteen years ago and have since been discredited many times over.