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Saturday, September 24, 2011


The news flash from Italy and Switzerland that the speed of a neutrino particle exceeding the speed of light made me wonder about the miracle of our Universe.  Here, numbers become almost meaningless when contemplating everything there is.  Ten to the first power is ten, and ten to the second power is 100.  Ten to the 100th power is a googol, which is one followed by 100 zeroes, and the googolplex is one followed by a googol of zeros.  How large is this?   The size of an eight point character is


Imagine a 1 point font, and how small that is.  A one point character is about 0.001 inch, something you can hardly see, and maybe can't.   However, if you attempt to write a googolplex, that one point font zero, end on end, would stretch beyond the diameter of our observable Universe.

So back to reality, sort of, the mass in pounds of our globe is 1 followed by 25 zeroes.  All living matter is guessed to be about one followed by 11 zeroes.   Humans represent 0.33% of all living matter, which is a lot more than I thought.  Just the bacteria in our ocean amount to 150 times human mass. So we Homo sapiens represent this infinitesimal amount of Planet Earth.  As our Sun in pounds is 4.4 times 1 followed by 34 zeroes, we are, approximately...well, almost nothing, and our Sun is, relatively, even less, when compared to the mass of our Universe.

Here is the part, though, that truly confounds.  At one time we thought that everything could be represented by atoms:  protons, neutrons and electrons.  Call them baryonic matter.  Then only recently (say a quarter century ago), it was determined that all this baryonic matter (you, me, bacteria, all the stars, everything theoretically observable) only represents 4.6% of the Universe.  Now, we learn from astrophysicists that dark energy, something we can't even detect, is 72% of our universe, and dark matter, something we can't see, is 23%.  Doesn't quite add up to 100%, but who cares at this point, so let's toss in neutrinos, that elusive particle that supposedly now can exceed the speed of light (packets of energy), into that mix.

First the obvious.  According to Einstein, energy equals mass times the speed of light times the speed of light, or

E = mc2   

This is the most famous equation of all time.  How beautiful and simple and elegant and utterly counterintuitive, for the concept of energy and matter being related, and only by the speed of light squared, is not logical.  There is something about space, time, energy and matter that just does not make any sense to me.

Albert Einstein, born in Germany, was not an extraordinary child, but when 15 or 16 (photo of him about then to the right) sent to his mother's brother (his weekly tutor, an uncle) a paper entitled "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields."  Aether, or ether, from Einstein?  He failed in his first attempt to gain entrance into a university, got his first real job as an assistant examiner in a patent office, then received a PhD at the age of 26 from the University of Zurich.  About a decade later he first wrote on his general theory of relativity, gaining a Nobel Prize at the age of 41.  In 1939 at the age of 60 he signed that famous letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which resulted in the Atomic Bomb, something he later admitted was the one great mistake he ever made.

Enough about history, as now comes the really confusing part:  neutrinos (mean small neutral ones in Italian and are kind of like electrons, but with no electrical charge--no scientist can draw a neutrino, but some seventh and eight graders tried, to the left).  First, there are various types, and second, there are anti-neutrinos.  Don't ask.  Sixty five billion of them, mostly from our Sun (neutrinos are produced in many ways, but for the purpose of this discussion, also in the fusion process of hydrogen being converted into energy, or sunshine), pass through (they go right through, like a bullet going through fog) each square centimeter of our planet each second.  They supposedly travel at the speed of light, but only last year evidence was found that neutrinos have mass.  But if matter reaches the speed of light (which has no mass), according to Einstein, the mass becomes infinite!  So how can neutrinos reach, and, I guess now, even exceed, the speed of light?

Of particular relevance is the pioneering research John Learned of the University of Hawaii has accomplished, for he has been at the forefront of both the neutrino mass and velocity developments.  He was quoted in the New York Times yesterday, stating that:

"if the results of the Opera researchers turned out to be true, it could be the first hint that neutrinos can take a shortcut through space, through extra dimensions."

He even finds interest in SETI, for with his colleagues, suggested are notions that an advanced civilization would not be so gauche as to communicate using electromagnetic signals which decay over distance.  They think that the use of a terrestrial (actually on the bottom of the ocean or perhaps through the Antarctic ice) neutrino telescope, or, maybe, from the other end, the application of Cepheid variable stars as beacons.  No idea what they are?  Just click on those options.

You should be totally confused by now, but just accept the fact that the laws of physics are changing. Yes, there are terrorists, our society will no doubt fall into another economic recession, if not depression, and yet another potential doomsday might well be around the corner. However, in the totality of what is our Dark Universe, what is truly important? Perhaps for us recent intruders* into this space-time-energy-mass warp, Homo sapiens, will all this eclectic research lead to saving Planet Earth and Humanity in time? And, for 92% (but this embarrassingly high percentage actually was 98% half a century ago) of Americans, does this change the nature of God, and will their afterlife somehow be affected? But that was Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. *If the time from the Big Bang till today can be represented in a 24-hour clock, Homo sapiens appeared at half a second to midnight.

There are six ocean storms, but only one, Hurricane Hillary, at 140 MPH, is of any interest, and she will weaken before getting anywhere close to Hawaii:


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