The movie “Arrival”

arrivalposterRecently I watched the 2016 movie “Arrival“. It depicts the story of the arrival, at twelve separate locations around the earth, of twelve mysterious spacecraft. The key character, a linguistics professor, Louise Banks is seconded by the military to interpret the language of alien visitors.

The movie is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (1998).1 It was directed by Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.

Here is the trailer from Paramount Pictures:

The 7-foot tall aliens, heptapods,2 which look something like octopuses with 7 tentacles and a human hand, are depicted as enormously technologically advanced on humans. Their 7 tentacles each have 7 tendrils, out of the centre of which they eject an ink-like substance. Remember octopuses produce a black ink like substance. (And you might ask why all the 7’s. It’s science fiction after all.)

Alien language and perception of time

These alien heptapods use a vocal communication that is unpronounceable by humans (classified as Heptapod A), but, as professor Banks discovers, they also have a written script (Heptapod B), which can be dissected and interpreted. But strangely enough the vocal and writing components are unrelated, in the sense that Heptapod B does not represent sound. Heptapod B is written with the ink-like substance they eject from their tendrils and they are able to manipulate it in space to form the characters of Heptapod B.

We are told that a deep understanding of their language can induce a non-linear perception of time in those who learn it. This idea is where it really gets crazy.arrival_2016_heptapod_and_doctor

The story introduces the concept of when one learns a new language, one also learns to think the same way that the producers of that language think–the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis–because one’s brain is rewired to think that way.

Then, with this new perception of time, time-like loops are introduced (really time paradoxes) where, because the professor experiences (in her thoughts or perception) the future, she gets knowledge (of future events) that she then uses to determine the future events she perceives.

The concept here of our perception of time does have some basis in real physics. It is still an open question of why do we remember the past and not the future. That might sound strange to some but most of the laws of physics are time reversible. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, where entropy never decreases in a closed system, but generally increases, is an exception and the primary reason we always perceive the forward arrow of time.

However, for particle physics (including electromagnetism) there is no preference to which way time flows. Physicists call this a symmetry. And in this movie this is highlighted by the name, Hannah, of the yet to be conceived daughter of Prof. Banks, about whom she experiences future memories. The word “HannaH” is a palindrome–a sequence of letters or characters that can be read either forward or backward and produce the same word.

arrival-movie-symbolsHeptapod B is written in a circular way and is palindromic. At least that is what I understood it was intended to be. Looking at one of the alien sentences (on the right) it does not seem to have reversible symmetry, in the structures that form their words (spiky bits that stick out), though, of course, a circle is not linear in one sense as it is represented on a plane.

Of course, this story is just that, a story and total fiction. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining one.  Continue reading

Materialists believe in dark unseen life

Awhile ago I wrote about Lisa Randall, Professor of Science at Harvard University, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who proposed that the dinosaurs went extinct due to the actions of unseen dark matter.¹ There now appears again an article in the popular science magazine Nautilus with the title “Does Dark Matter Harbor Life? An invisible civilization could be living right under your nose.”² It would appear to be excerpted from Randall’s book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs. In the article Randall asserts that we may, in fact, be kind of racist against dark matter, well, at least, we are biased towards ordinary matter, where, she claims, in fact, that dark matter is the stuff that holds galaxies together so it is really important stuff.

The common assumption is that dark matter is the “glue” that holds together galaxies and galaxy clusters, but resides only in amorphous clouds around them. But what if this assumption isn’t true and it is only our prejudice—and ignorance, which is after all the root of most prejudice—that led us down this potentially misleading path?

People in foreign relations make a mistake when they lump together another country’s cultures—assuming they don’t exhibit the diversity of societies that is evident in our own. Just as a good negotiator doesn’t assume the primacy of one sector of society over another when attempting to place the different cultures on equal footing, an unbiased scientist shouldn’t assume that dark matter isn’t as interesting as ordinary matter and necessarily lacks a diversity of matter similar to our own.² (emphasis added)


Illustration by Jackie Ferrentino from Nautilus article, representing (I assume) dark life.

She goes on to promote the possibility of dark life, invisible creatures living on dark planets around dark stars in dark parts of galaxies. She suggests dark matter may be much more than just amorphous matter, but have a rich life with dark forces and therefore this implies a dark invisible universe of creatures we cannot detect. Sure sounds like good material for a sci-fi story.

Partially interacting dark matter certainly makes for fertile ground for speculation and encourages us to consider possibilities we otherwise might not have. Writers and moviegoers especially would find a scenario with such additional forces and consequences in the dark sector very enticing. They would probably even suggest dark life coexisting with our own. In this scenario, rather than the usual animated creatures fighting other animated creatures or on rare occasions cooperating with them, armies of dark matter creatures could march across the screen and monopolize all the action.

But this wouldn’t be too interesting to watch. The problem is that cinematographers would have trouble filming this dark life, which is of course invisible to us—and to them. Even if the dark creatures were there (and maybe they have been) we wouldn’t know. You have no idea how cute dark matter life could be—and you almost certainly never will.

Though it’s entertaining to speculate about the possibility of dark life, it’s a lot harder to figure out a way to observe it—or even detect its existence in more indirect ways. It’s challenging enough to find life made up of the same stuff we are, though extrasolar planet searches are under way and trying hard. But the evidence for dark life, should it exist, would be far more elusive even than the evidence for ordinary life in distant realms.

Dark objects or dark life could be very close—but if the dark stuff’s net mass isn’t very big, we wouldn’t have any way to know. Even with the most current technology, or any technology that we can currently imagine, only some very specialized possibilities might be testable. “Shadow life,” exciting as that would be, won’t necessarily have any visible consequences that we would notice, making it a tantalizing possibility but one immune to observations. In fairness, dark life is a tall order. Science-fiction writers may have no problem creating it, but the universe has a lot more obstacles to overcome. Out of all possible chemistries, it’s very unclear how many could sustain life, and even among those that could, we don’t know the type of environments that would be necessary.² (emphasis added)

Continue reading

Evidence against the big bang — new video

A new video has been released by Real Science Radio (RSR), and available in DVD, Download, and Blu-ray formats! I recommend you buy and watch it. I made some critical suggestions during its production and find it to be an excellent product. To download it or buy a DVD or Blu-Ray disk click this link RSR’s Evidence Against the Big Bang.

evidence-against-bb-banner-rsrDuring RSR’s on-air debate with Lawrence Krauss, this leading big bang proponent said that, “All evidence overwhelmingly supports the big bang“. So Bob Enyart began assembling a bulleted list of mostly peer-reviewed scientific evidence against the paradigm. That assemblage led to the production of this video RSR’s Evidence Against the Big Bang!

The makers PRODUCT DESCRIPTION is as follows.

Evidence Against the Big Bang – Blu-ray, DVD or Download

When people wonder what evidence exists for the Big Bang, many ask Google. And not surprisingly, when folks search for: evidence against the Big Bang, Google sends most of them on over to Real Science Radio’s List of Evidence Against the Big Bang. Yet this is surprising: When NASA urges you to trust the theory because of its confirmed “predictions”, folks who Google: big bang predictions, also find RSR’s article ranked #1!

This video can help prepare you for the coming revolution in cosmology. The nine pieces of evidence presented herein are bringing people out of the failed science of the 1900s and into the 21st century demanding truth regarding both the origin of universe and ultimately, the origin of ourselves.

And now, let’s leave out the word “predictions” and leave out the word “against”. Increasingly, when scientists and others just Google: big bang evidence, the search engine is sending them on over to RSR’s evidence AGAINST the Big Bang! So whether you are a creationist or even if you’re dug in still defending the old scheme on the origin of the cosmos, you’ll want to watch this video to catch up with the latest amazing science on the big bang!

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Antimatter matters for the big bang origin of the Universe

In what physicists have called a “technical tour-de-force”, scientists have for the first time made measurements of how antimatter atoms absorb light.1

The ALPHA antimatter experiment at CERN has measured an energy transition in anti-hydrogen.

The ALPHA antimatter experiment at CERN has measured an energy transition in anti-hydrogen. Credit: CERN

Researchers from the ALPHA collaboration team at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory outside Geneva, collected cold antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic “bottle” and irradiated them with an ultraviolet laser to test what frequency of light is needed to excite the antimatter atoms into an excited state. This was done to test to see if antimatter atoms behave the same way as their normal matter counterparts. No discrepancy (a null result) was found with standard theory, which predicts that antihydrogen should have the same energy levels as normal hydrogen.

The null result is still a thrill for researchers who have been working for decades towards antimatter spectroscopy, the study of how light is absorbed and emitted by antimatter. The hope is that this field could provide a new test of a fundamental symmetry of the known laws of physics, called CPT (charge-parity-time) symmetry.

CPT symmetry predicts that energy levels in antimatter and matter should be the same. Even the tiniest violation of this rule would require a serious rethink of the standard model of particle physics.

Cosmological implications

So what? you might ask! Continue reading

Warp drive

Gene Roddenberry’s classic sci-fi drama, Star Trek, made famous the warp drive, a theoretical concept whereby a spacecraft travels Faster Than Light (FTL).

I was once told by a ‘trekky’ enthusiast that the warp speeds they describe on the television shows and in the movies, may be calculated as follows. Warp factor w, from the original Star Trek series, means that the spacecraft travels at w3 times the canonical speed of light (c @ 300,000 km/s or 186,000 miles/s).3 Therefore warp factor w = 7 means the spacecraft travels at 73 = 343 c.  It would be unusual to hear that the starship the USS Enterprise (see Fig. 1) had exceeded warp factor 9, which is about 729 times the speed of light.


Figure 1: The starship the USS Enterprise, from the original Star Trek TV series, which could travel faster than light by engaging its warp drive.

To travel even around the local neighbourhood of our galaxy warp factor 9 (from the original TV series) just won’t do it. The nearest star to our solar system is about 4 light-years away. So travelling at warp 9, you would take 2 days to get there. Not too bad but what about to other star systems?

To travel 50 light-years, which is a very small distance in the Galaxy and which includes very few stars—only 64 Sun-like stars—would take you 25 days at this speed. Within a distance of 100 light-years from Earth there are known to be only 512 stars of the same spectral class as our sun1 and very few of those might be candidates for a solar system that could potentially support life.2 So it would be much better to be able to travel 100 light-years quite quickly but that would take you 50 days, nearly 2 months. However in the TV shows they often arrive in just a matter of hours. Continue reading

Why look for a new theory of gravity if the big bang cosmology is correct?

Occasionally we read in the popular press, especially online, that someone has come up with a new theory of gravity. Why is that even necessary if the current theory describing the evolution of the universe is so correct?

The standard ΛCDM big bang cosmology is derived from an application of certain non-biblical boundary conditions to the physics of Einstein’s general relativity theory. But when that was applied to the universe as a whole, two problems developed for the secular model. One is the need to add in dark energy (or the cosmological constant, Λ (Lambda), to Einstein’s field equations) and the other is the need for a significant amount of invisible cold dark matter (CDM).

On the scale of galaxies and even clusters of galaxies Newtonian physics is used as it is the low gravity limit of general relativity. But without the addition of dark matter the resulting theory, using the known density of visible matter in galaxies (see Fig. 1) and clusters, does not match observations. But for more than 40 years now dark matter has been sought in various lab experiments with consistently negative results. This has developed into what is called the dark matter crisis.1


Figure 1: Typical rotation curve of a spiral galaxy: Speeds (V) in km/s units as a function of distance from the centre of the galaxy (R) in 1000 light-year (ly) units. The upper curve shows the speeds of the stars in disk region determined from their visible light and the gasses beyond that determined from radio frequency emissions. The lower curve shows what standard Newtonian physics predicts should be observed. The discrepancy is made up by positing the existence of invisible dark matter. Credit: Wikipedia

Occasionally a claim is made that a theorist has some inkling of what dark matter particles might be but the crisis remains.2 Dark matter particles have been sought without success in the Galaxy using very sensitive detectors deep in underground mines,3 or with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over 10 years of experiments looking for the lowest mass stable particle in a theorised class of as-yet-undiscovered supersymmetric particles.4

The observational data from thousands of galaxies together with the negative outcome of all the experiments searching for Dark Matter particles indicate that either something is wrong with the physics we use or that the expected dark matter is much more elusive than supposed, or, indeed, does not, in fact, exist—which gets us back to something being wrong with the physics. Continue reading

Did aliens hack the Voyager 2 space probe in 2010?

I don’t know how I missed this news item back from 2010! Then NASA reported a single bit-flip error occurred in Voyager 2’s software code used to communicate with Earth. That sounds pretty mundane in today’s IT savvy world where we are all used to software errors and corrupt code.

Artist's concept of Voyager in flight.

Artist’s concept of Voyager 2 in flight.

But sometime the corruption of code is due to deliberate interference. Hackers hack into computers everyday for fun or more nefarious reasons. In this instance several scientists suggested that the on-board computer was hacked by an alien race (from another star system) who were trying to communicate with us.

But note the Voyager 2 space craft at that time was nearly about to cross over into what we would call interstellar space. It was about to leave the solar system in 2010 at a distance of 90 times the distance between the sun and the earth. That is about 8.6 billion miles or about 14 billion kms. That means it takes a light signal nearly 13 hours, travelling at nearly 300,000 km/s, to travel from the space probe to Earth. For NASA to send and receive a signal that would take twice that time, nearly 26 hours. It is certainly at a distance where one can easily discount any Earth based hacker.

The following is excerpted an online news item from 6 years ago and is typical of the several available.1

NASA space probe Voyager 2, which left earth 33 years ago, may have been hijacked by aliens who are now trying to make contact with earth according to a German academic.

The craft, which is 8.6 billion miles from earth on the very edge of the solar system, has been sending back data ever since it was launched – until last month when it briefly stopped transmitting before starting to send strange messages that scientists cannot decipher.

German academic Hartwig Hausdorf believes the change could be down to extraterrestrials. He says that because the rest of the spacecraft is still working normally there may be more to the cryptic messages than meets the eye.

“It seems almost as if someone has reprogrammed or hijacked the probe,” he told German newspaper Bild. “Thus perhaps we do not yet know the whole truth.”

NASA was much more circumspect stating that they believe it was due to this one corrupt bit of code. That may have occurred due to radiation in space or impact by a highly energetic particle which flipped the bit. Continue reading